Consciousness is the intelligence; the intelligence is the soul; the soul is the spirit; and the spirit is God. Therefore, consciousness is the divine element. Consciousness is the God part in us. It is through consciousness that we become small or great, through consciousness that either we rise or fall, and through consciousness that we become narrow or we expand. You have perhaps seen in the Greek mystical symbolism the two wings of the eagle. Two wings are always taken as a mystical symbol. That symbol is the symbol of consciousness, and the wings are open showing the expansion of consciousness. What is called the unfolding of the soul is the expansion of consciousness. Therefore, in anything in the way of religion, occultism, philosophy, mysticism, any path you take when you wish to go further in the spiritual journey to attain to the spiritual goal, you have to come to the expansion of consciousness.
Let us look at the word consciousness. What is it, consciousness? When we say: a loaded gun, we mean that there is a bullet with it. Consciousness means the loaded intelligence; intelligence charged with knowledge, with an impression that is carrying an idea in it. In other words, we say: moving picture; but what is it? The curtain. But we do not see the curtain; we see moving pictures. When we say consciousness, what is it? It is pure intelligence. The intelligence impregnated with some idea is consciousness, because it is conscious of something. And what is intelligence? Intelligence is the soul. There is no other trace of the soul to be found except the intelligence. Very often people, not understanding, say the seat of the soul is in the heart, or the right or left side of a human being. But really speaking, there is something more expressive than any side in the human body, and that is intelligence.
I will demonstrate the idea of consciousness that is apart from individual consciousness, the universal or general consciousness, by a little story. There was a magician who imagined that he was fluid, liquid, moving, rising and falling, and turning into the sea. Then he thought, “But I am still solid.” Atoms grouped together, frozen cold, turned into ice. Then he thought, “I am not so cold. I can try and be stable, and will not melt.” He turned into stone. Then he said, “I want to come out. I do not want to remain stone; I want to come out.” So, he came out as a tree. “But,” he said, “still I am not moving, not working.” He twisted and turned, and turned into an insect. Then the magician thought, “How helpless it is to live as an insect! I should like to play and sing.” He turned into a bird. Then he said, “I want to be more gross and dense, and feel myself more intelligible.” He turned into an animal. He said, “I want to stand on my hind legs, to stretch my spine.” He turned into a human being. This is the phenomenon of one magician who wanted, who imagined something and became it. Now we shall think of this idea in connection with the scriptures. In the Koran it is said, “Be” and it became. It was the magician’s work: what he was conscious of, he became it. First was the consciousness, and the same idea turned into something.
But now there is another question: if the Magician was so powerful as to think and turn into something, then why did the Magician become obscured? The idea is this, that when a person has said, “I would like to rest, to go to sleep,” naturally they have lost their action. Turning into something naturally made that consciousness that is divine or universal consciousness limited; and this limitation robbed from it its own consciousness. That is the deepest point of metaphysics. For instance, when the consciousness thought, “I should turn into a rock, I am a rock,” it became a rock. The consciousness did not lose its fluid substance, but intelligence no longer knew its own existence. When the Magician thought, “I should turn into a rock,” what went into the rock? Just one little thought of the Magician. Only through the thought he could not express himself, not feel as he felt in the condition of being a Magician. When the magician turned into a rock he did not feel through this thought. He only felt nothing.
The more we understand this idea, the more we shall see that consciousness is to be seen in two different aspects. In one aspect, consciousness is buried under the dense aspects of creation such as mountains, rocks, trees, plants, earth and sea. Yet the tendency of consciousness is, even through those dense aspects, to come out, to express itself. A person can see that tendency by getting in touch with nature. For instance, those who sit before the rocks in the caves of the mountains, in the midst of the forest, and those who get in touch with nature and whose mind is free from the worries and anxieties and troubles of the world, they get a sort of peace first. After having experienced peace and rest, the second thing that comes is a kind of communication between themselves and nature. What does nature express to them? With every action, with the rising and falling of the waves, and with the up-reaching tendency of the mountains, and with the moving of the graceful branches of the tree, and with the blowing of the wind, and the fluttering of leaves, every little move of nature seems to whisper in their ears. That is the consciousness that wants to come out; through trees and rocks, water and plants it wishes to unfold itself. It wants to express itself because it was not dead, but living, buried in the rock, in the tree, in the plant, in water, earth and air. That living being tries to make itself audible, intelligible; it wants to communicate, trying for years and years and years to break through this dense imprisonment, to come out to its original source.
Just as in the story of the Magician. He now wants to break it, and wants to come out and see himself. What did he turn into, and how did he turn out? As a human being. There is a saying of the Sufis that “God slept in the rock, God dreamed in the tree, God became self-conscious in the animal, but God sought for Itself, recognized Itself as a human being.” Therefore, that denotes clearly humanity’s main purpose, that whatever be their occupation, whatever may please them, whatever they may admire, there is only one motive. That one motive is working for their unfolding, again to recognize, “What I have made, how great it is and how wonderful. How beautiful it is to recognize it, to see it.” It is this inclination that is working through every soul. Whether a person is wanting to become spiritual or not, unconsciously every soul is striving toward the unfolding of the soul.
Now coming to consciousness. Naturally when consciousness has turned into something, it has limited itself. Although in comparison with trees and plants and rocks and mountains the consciousness of humanity is fully wakened, yet every human being is not wakened. They are still in captivity. As Rumi says in the Masnavi, “a person is captive in an imprisonment,” and their every effort, their every desire is to break through in order to realize inspiration, greatness, beauty, happiness, peace, independent of all things of this world. One comes to this sooner or later, but there is a continual yearning; wise and foolish, everyone is striving for it consciously or unconsciously. There is one person who is perhaps very interested in their own self, their health or mind, or thoughts or feelings, or affairs. Their consciousness does not go any further than that little horizon. It does not mean that in that way they are not right. They occupy that much space in the sphere of consciousness. There is another person who has forgotten their own self. This person says, “There is my family, my friends, I love them,” and then their consciousness is larger. They might say, “For my citizens, for my country, for the education of the children of my country, for the good health of the people in my town;” their consciousness is larger still. It means, not that their consciousness is larger, but they occupy a larger horizon in the sphere of consciousness. So, do not be surprised if a poet like Nizam says, “If the heart is large enough, it can contain the whole universe.” That is a consciousness such that the universe is too small compared to that consciousness. The sphere of that consciousness is the Absolute.
There is no piece of consciousness cut out for humanity. A person occupies a certain horizon, as far as they can expand; for them the Absolute can be their consciousness. Therefore, on the outside the person is individual, but in reality, you cannot say what they are. It is this idea that is hinted at in the Bible when it is said, “Be ye perfect as your father in heaven.” What does it mean? That the Absolute Consciousness is the sign of perfection, and you are not put out of it. All move and live in it. Only we occupy so much horizon, as much as is within our consciousness, or as much as we are conscious of. This shows to us that every individual has their own world, and the world of one individual is as tiny as a grain of lentil and of another as large as the whole world. Yet, on the outside all human beings are more or less equal in size, one somewhat taller than the other; in size every person is about the same; but in their inner world there is no comparison of how different one person can be from another. There can be as many varieties of the difference of worlds in human beings as there are creatures from ant to elephant.
There is a question about what has been called in the scriptures heaven and hell. What is it? It is our world, our consciousness. What we live in day after day and year after year, and what continues in another world is heaven or the other place. Whatever we have made it, it is this that we are experiencing today. When it is said by the prophets that after death all will be brought to evidence, it only means that in this earthly plane we are so little conscious of our inner world, so absorbed in the outer world, that we do not know what kind of world we have created within ourselves. We are so much occupied in the outer world, in our desires, ambitions and striving, that we hardly know our own world like the person who works in the factory; they are tired at night. When they come home, they read the newspaper. It is the same with every person. In every person’s life there is so much of the outside world all day long, from outside everything to attract them, thousands of advertisements, shops sparkling in electricity. There will come a time when their eyes are closed to the outside world that occupies all their mind, to become conscious of the world within. That is what is said in the scriptures as: “One will find what one has made.” One need not say, “What will become of me tomorrow?” If you can put your mind into yourself, you can see what is within the consciousness, what it is composed of, what it contains; then you will know the hereafter today.
The Sufis have in all ages tried their best to train their consciousness. How did they train it? The first training is analysis, and the second training is synthesis. The analytic striving is to analyse and examine your own consciousness, in other words your own conscience. Ask your conscience, addressing it, “My friend, all my happiness depends on you, and my unhappiness also. If you are pleased, I am happy. Now, to tell you truly, what I like and what I do not like is what is in consonance with your approval.” Speak to your conscience as you go to the priest to make your confessions: “Look here, look at what I have done. Maybe it is wrong, maybe it is right; but you know it, you have your share of it, the influence of it on you and your condition is my condition, your realization is my realization. If you are happy, then alone can I be happy. Now I want to make you happy; how can I make you happy?” At once a voice of guidance will come from the conscience: “You should do this, and not this; and say this and not this. In this way you should act, and not in this way.” Conscience can give you better guidance than any teacher or book. It is a living teacher wakened in yourself, your own conscience. Even the Teachers, the Gurus, the Murshids, their way is to wake the conscience in the pupil, that which has become unclear, confused, to awaken it, to make it clear. Sometimes they adopt such a wonderful way, such a gentle way that even the pupil does not know.
There is an amusing story of a Teacher. A man went to a Teacher and said, “Will you take me as your pupil?” The Teacher first looked at him, and then said, “Yes, with great pleasure.” The man said, “Think about it before you tell me yes. There are many bad things in me.” The Teacher said, “What are these bad things?” The man said, “I like to drink.” The Teacher said, “That does not matter.” “But,” the man said, “I like to gamble.” The Teacher said, “That does not matter.” “But,” he said, “there are many other things, there are numberless things.” The Teacher said, “That does not matter.” The man was very glad. “But,” the Teacher said, “Now I have agreed with all the bad things you have said about yourself; you must agree with one condition.” The disciple said yes. The Teacher said, “Do not do any of these things that you consider wrong in my presence.” The pupil said, “That is easy,” and went away. As the days passed and months passed, this pupil who was very deep and developed and keen, came back beaming, his soul unfolding every moment of the day, and happy to thank the Teacher. The Teacher said, “Well, how have you been?” “Very well,” he said. The Teacher said, “Have you done your practices that I have given you?” “Yes,” he said, “very faithfully.” “But what about the habits you had of going to different places?” the Teacher asked. “Well,” he said, “very often I tried to go to gamble or to drink, but wherever I went I saw you. You did not leave me alone; whenever I wanted to drink, I saw your face before me. I cannot do it.” That is the gentle way that Teachers handle their disciples. They do not say, “You must not drink, you must not gamble;” they never do. The wonderful way of the Teacher is to teach without words, to correct a person without saying. What the Teacher wants to say, they say without saying. When it is put in words it is lost. You can teach and help as much as you can without words. That is fine; that helps much more.
Now coming to the most important subject of the expansion of consciousness. There are two directions or two dimensions in which to expand. The one is outward, the other the inner dimension. One dimension is pictured as horizontal, the other as perpendicular. These two dimensions are pictured as a cross, the symbol of the Christian religion. However, before the Christian religion existed, in Egypt and Tibet, this symbol existed. Today in the ancient pictures of Buddhist and Tibetan symbols you will find the symbol of the cross. One direction is inner, the other direction is without. What is represented by the horizontal line is without. What is represented by the perpendicular line is within. The direction of expanding within is to close the eyes and mind from the outer world, and, instead of reaching out, we reach within. The soul has an action to reach out and upwards and straight forward or at the sides or backward or in ellipse. It is like the sun; its light reaches out; it sends currents out. So, the soul sends currents out through the five senses. But when the five senses are controlled, when the breath is thrown within, the ears no more hear and the mouth no more speaks. Then the five senses are directed within. When once the senses are closed by the help of meditation, then the soul, which has been accustomed to reach outward, begins to reach within. In the same way as we get experience and power from the outer world, so we get experience and power from the inner world. So, it can reach further and further and further until it has reached its original Source, and that is the Spirit of God. That is one way, the way of reaching within. Then there is the way of reaching without; that is expanding, which comes by changing the outlook. Because we are narrow our outlook is narrow. We think, “I am different, she is different.” We are making barriers with our own concepts. If we lived and communicated with the souls of all people, of all beings, our horizon would naturally expand so much that we would occupy the sphere unseen. It is in this way that spiritual perfection is attained. Spiritual perfection, in other words, is the expansion of consciousness.
The question is sometimes asked: what is cosmic consciousness, what is the nature of that state? It is a state that cannot be very well explained in words. If an explanation can be given, it is only by saying that when we see we do not hear, and when we hear fully, we do not see. In this way every sense is doing its work fully when only that sense is doing work. When we are seeing something, if somebody is speaking to us, we do not see fully. I have seen a child most interested in music who closed their eyes; then alone could they enjoy hearing fully. To hear music while drinking lemonade and eating ice cream is something different. The condition of meditation is different from that; it is not limited to a rule. When meditating, at that time, every sense is evenly balanced. In meditation every sense is wakened and yet every sense is asleep. To be closed from outside and yet to be wakened evenly, that experience is something that cannot be said in words; it must be experienced.
As to meditation, meditation practice is prescribed individually; the method for one may not be good for another. At the same time, there is a Japanese symbol, a kind of toy, three monkeys, one holding their nose, the other their ears and the other their mouth. This is the keynote to meditation, the key to inner expansion. In everyday life we can understand this ethically, from a moral point of view, and that is: hear no evil, see no evil and say no evil. If you can take that vow, it can do a great deal. It can take us very far on the way, if these three things are practised in every-day life: never speak against anyone, never hear about anyone, against anyone, and never see any evil. If we close our eyes without closing our ears and without closing our lips, we cannot accomplish anything.
The question comes, does the development of the inner consciousness tend to personal isolation, to separation from the world? We are in the world, and therefore, however much we tried to run away to spiritual spheres, again we are thrown back onto the earth. We are bound here as long as we have this earthly body. So, the best thing is to do the process in another way, to have inner expansion of consciousness—at that time no doubt we must go within, close ourselves to the outer world—but at the same time strive to practise the outer expansion of consciousness. In this way there is balance. Those who only evolve spiritually become one-sided; they expand the inner consciousness and not the outward consciousness. Then they become unbalanced. Maybe spiritually they have extraordinary powers, but they have no balance. For this reason, many people think of a spiritual person as somebody who has something wrong with their brain. If that is the opinion of the world, we should be most conscientious in order not to give the world a wrong impression. If we have a profession, if we are in business, in industry, do it fully, proving to the world that we are as practical as everybody else can be, most economical, regular in every way, systematic, persevering, enthusiastic. We must show all these qualities and at the same time evolve spiritually. That must give the proof.