Spiritual Sufi Training is a Process of Individuation Leading Into the Infinite
This paper was presented to the VIII International Conference of the International Transpersonal Association at Davos, Switzerland, Sept 1st, 1983
In his writings C.G. Jung emphasized repeatedly that the process of individuation is purely a psychological and not a spiritual one. Consequently, the title of my talk, "Spiritual Sufi training is a process of individuation leading into the infinite" would appear misleading. Still, there are far too many similarities between both of these processes not to allow us to draw significant parallels.
As we all know well, the ultimate goal of individuation is to make a human being whole, complete so to say; in order that all the conscious and the unconscious contents of his psyche may work in unison; the ultimate result should be that he becomes a valid member of human society. The ultimate goal of Sufi training is to live a guided life, guided from within by that which is the Infinite, able to catch the Divine Hint and act accordingly.
From the moment that my Teacher took me seriously in hand, it became increasingly clear to me that the spiritual training was a continuation of the Jungian integration process, but on a higher octave, if I may put it this way. Especially when happenings began to gather momentum, I became more and more fascinated by the discovery that the training devised by the tradition of Yoga thousands of years ago is absolutely identical with certain modern psychological criteria of today.
Jung says—as quoted in The Way of Individuation by Jolande Jacobi:
The experience of God in the form of an encounter or 'unio mystica' is the only possible and authentic way to a genuine belief in God for modern man. The individuation process can 'prepare' a man for such an experience. It can open him to the influence of a world beyond his rational consciousness, and give him insight into it. One might say that in the course of the individuation process a man arrives at the entrance to the house of God.
The Teacher takes the human being further along the way. That is all.
It is not my intention to bore you with the description as to how this is done; all I will try to do is to show you that the Teacher is apt to use the same methods as an analyst—or more correctly, the Teacher will invariably use his yogic powers to help the pupil step by step on the steep ladder of spiritual unfoldment.
How many of us know how the energies work? And how to use them to get the human being exactly to the point needed at this particular moment? I think very, very few.
Every analyst knows about the dangers of inflation. Again and again Jung draws our attention to the danger of being "puffed up."
The inflation has nothing to do with the kind of knowledge, but simply and solely with the fact that any new knowledge can so seize hold of a weak head that he no longer sees and hears anything else. He is hypnotized by it, and instantly believes he has solved the riddle of the universe. But that is equivalent to almighty self-deceit. (Collected Works, Volume 7, p. 243)
I often wondered how many Cleopatras and Napoleons are in mental hospitals because of this inflation turning a weak mind if left unchecked.
Jung himself had had his personal battle with inflation. He tells us in his posthumous work Memories, Dreams, Reflections, how, on awakening from a dream in which he killed 'Siegfried', he felt an irresistible urge to fathom out the meaning of the dream which at first eluded him. He knew that his whole future depended on his right understanding of it. It soon dawned on him that he had absolutely to abandon the Siegfried attitude, the arrogance and confidence of the self-important ego, for Siegfried was himself, his conscious, cock-sure ego; unless that was completely eliminated it would spell disaster in any confrontation with the unconscious. Commenting upon this Helen Luke remarks:
Thinking to conquer and mould the forces of the unconscious to his will, Jung himself would most probably have been psychically "killed". In the imagery of Dante, he was in great danger, as he stood upon this threshold of looking upon the Gorgon's head; and so he would have turned to stone, his humanity lost in the coldness of insanity, or despair or uncontrollable inflation. The gate of Dis (a classical name for the underworld) can only be safely passed by those who have come to the kind of faith and humility which brought the angel to Dante's aid. This Jung knew the moment he understood his dream. ("Dark wood to white rose, a study of meanings in Dante's Divine Comedy", 1975, p. 22)
In my case it was slightly different. The Teacher was there, pointing in the right direction. Here is one example:
A time came when I thought that I was progressing only because much understanding had come to me. One day, on a lovely and cool morning, I was sitting in his garden, My Teacher was in his big chair, the beads of his mala (a kind of rosary) were gliding soundlessly through his fingers. Only two or three people were around, immersed in a deep state of dhyana. The air was fragrant. A bird was singing on a nearby tree. Slow peaceful thoughts were drifting through my mind.
Suddenly he made a quick movement with his wrist, gathered the mala in his hand and said:
"Why are you trying to become a human being?"
The sudden sentence and the tone of the voice startled me, it was as if he had thrown a ball right into my face.
"Am I not a human being?" I stammered. Could not see what he was driving at...
I stared at his stern, forbidding face.
"Hm," he said. Once more the mala began to glide rhythmically, bead after bead through his slender fingers; and slowly came the words.
"What you are I don't know, but a human being you are not. Only when you will become less than the dust under my feet, only then will you be balanced, only then can you rightly be called a human being."
I went cold. I instantly understood. Of course, inflation, I thought... Merciful God! How on earth did I not see it? Thinking that I was progressing, the moment of elation, of greatness, fleeting feelings of divinity... How dangerous... The word "balanced" gave me the clue. Of course, less than the dust under his feet, in deep humility, how can there be any inflation then?
Boundless was my admiration for him at that moment...
On another occasion when I was complaining a great deal about the excessive suffering to which he was subjecting me, he remarked "Your situation was the worst possible one; past karmas are part and parcel of the blood; it all has to be cleared, all of it, otherwise how will you be free?"
The phrase "Unconscious memories are stored in the bloodstream" flashed into my mind. I had read this sentence in Jung's Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Here were two identical statements, one by a Yogi who had no idea of modern psychology, and the other by one of the greatest psychiatrists of our time.
I would like to say something about the synchronicity of events which was especially evident when I was with my Teacher.
When my Teacher subjected me to a test I always had the uncanny feeling that there were three of us; my Teacher, myself and a third factor, a "mysterious Something" which one could perhaps call God, or destiny, or could it be a "meaningful coincidence"? Each time it happened in such a way that all the circumstances came together, in perfect meaningful order, exactly as it was required by the situation. I will give you one example as to how it worked.
The last two tests at the end of the training are the test of hunger and the test of acceptance of death. I would like to mention the first one, the test of hunger, because in this case the synchronistic events were really astounding.
To transfer money to India via bank draft took about six weeks. I had found out that if I sent to my friend in London a cheque on my bank, she would cash it and make out a postal order of the same amount addressed to me in India; then the whole transaction would take only three to four days. That is how we did it and I received my pension regularly this way. Now, it happened that my friend in London had builders repairing a wall in her house and she was also otherwise busy and not being able to go to the Post office personally, she asked an acquaintance of hers to do it for her, and to send the amount by registered air mail to my address in India. The woman did send the money registered, but by sea mail, which takes six weeks. I was waiting and waiting for the money to arrive, not understanding why it did not come... I was reduced to eating only potatoes, then the peelings of the potatoes left over, and after that, only water to drink. The attitude of my Teacher gave me a clear indication that he was subjecting me to a test.
I thought that I passed this test and I told him so a few weeks afterwards. He only laughed and changed the subject.
And it was always so; the circumstances arranged themselves in such a way that not only tests, but the whole of my life, were regulated by them to a far more obvious degree than happens ordinarily.
At that time it was a great mystery to me; I did not understand it. Now when more than twenty years have passed and with the knowledge I have acquired, it seems to me that there is really nothing to understand, it is all quite natural. Coincidences do not exist, all is part of the Wholeness, ourselves, our environment, our state of mind, everything! Subjected to an unusual psychological pressure as I was, my own psyche created the necessary conditions at that particular moment.
Anyone of us who has had at least a glimpse of the interlinkedness that underlies all things in the universe; or, to put differently, anyone who has had the experience of the absolute one-ness of all life, of causation, transition, time, space, in one word, anyone who has embraced the whole as one glorious chord resounding forever in eternity, such a one, I think, might get at least an idea of how it works.
The Upanishads tell us:
Brahma before you, Brahma behind you, Brahma above and below you,
Brahma to the right and to the left, and there is nothing but Brahma.
It is outside and inside you and you cannot see it, nor touch it,
nor smell it, but you can realize it, if you desire realization.
Similarly says the Bhagavad Gita:
I am the beginning, the middle and also the end of all beings (10.20)
Nor is there aught, moving or unmoving, that may exist bereft of me. (10.39)
And Saint Paul said (I quote from memory): "Like fish in water are we in Him and have our being."
Perhaps we can grasp this intellectually; but then it means little. Only if it is for us a living experience, a widening of our horizon, without frontiers, without borders, losing ourselves into the endlessness, then and only then could we understand. It is said somewhere, "Like the dewdrop slipping into the shining sea." I would rather put it, Alike the shining sea flowing into the dew drop." And you feel yourself flowing out like a river, flowing out endlessly without ever diminishing... It is the most one can say, it is impossible for the mind to grasp it entirely, nor can one express it adequately in words.
On this subject C. G. Jung in volume 8 of his Collected Works, quotes Pico della Mirandola:
Firstly there is the unity in things whereby each thing is at one with itself, consists of itself, and coheres with itself. Secondly, there is the unity whereby one creature is united with the others and all parts of the world constitute one world. The third and most important (unity) is that whereby the whole universe is one with the Creator, as an army with its commander. (Heptaplus VI proem, in Opera omnia, Basel 1557, p. 40; Jung, Collected Works, Volume 8, pp. 490-1.)
Jung comments thus:
For him the world is One being, a visible God, in which everything is naturally arranged from the very beginning like the parts of a living organism. The world appears as the Corpus Mysticum of God... Just as in a living body the different parts work in harmony and are meaningfully adjusted to one another, so events in the world stand in a meaningful relationship which cannot be derived from any immanent causality. The reason for this is that in either case the behaviour of the parts depends on a central control which is supraordinate to them. (Collected Works, Volume 8, p. 491)
In fact Jung defines synchronicity as a "meaningful coincidence". All happens within the oneness, that Oneness which Plotinus, the greatest of the Neo-Platonic School of philosophy, described thus:
For there (in the oneness) everything is transparent, nothing dark, nothing resistant: every being is lucid to every other, in breadth and depth, light runs through light. And each of them contains all within itself, and at the same times sees all in every other, so that everywhere there is all, all is all, and each all, and infinite the glory. Each of them is great; the small is great; the sun, there, is all the stars, and every star again is all the stars and sun..."(Ennead, V. 8)
As one proceeds on the path of Spirituality one realizes more and more the meaningful relation of the One to its parts. I think the secret is to see the detail as part of the whole.
What is the inner mechanism of synchronicity? How does it work?
It works by mirroring, by reflection. Everything mirrors itself into everything else. We are exposed to impressions from morning to evening from everyone with whom we come into contact.
At this moment my mind mirrors itself into your mind and your mind into my mind. It helps me to speak to you and it helps you to understand what I am talking about. Only, in reality, the understanding does not depend on speech; it is the atmosphere that matters. Speech, language, are external means by which we communicate with each other at the mental level, but the natural communication is this reflection which is mirrored from one to another.
For instance, if we are with peaceful people we feel peaceful, the aura of peace is around them. If we are among restless people, or gloomy people, we will feel restless or gloomy; one does not even need to speak to another or show one's gloom, everyone can feel it.
Very often we develop the attribute belonging to the object which we hold in our thought. Reflection always works unconsciously but one can become aware of it and influence it with the conscious mind. We will be that which has come from the impression that we have received from someone else. We must not forget how creative the mind is. If you think of failure, failure will be attracted to you and you will fail constantly whatever you do. If there is anything that is reflected in our mind, we reflect it in outer life; and every sphere that our heart has touched is charged with the heart's impression. As my teacher said:
What is in the heart becomes expressed outwardly. The exterior reflects the inner attitude. (Daughter of Fire, p. 222)
The Upanishads tell us that what one thinks, that one becomes; it is true; we become identified with the object of our thought; it becomes our own property, our own quality. Therefore the Upanishads add: Meditate on God.
After the death of my Teacher, when I was in the solitude of the Himalayan hills undergoing an inner transformation, even Nature around me reflected my state of mind; the storms, the cloud-capped peaks, the mists, the rainbows, the incredibly still nights full of stars, so near; all of it nearly always reflected what I felt within. And I was perfectly aware of the fact that it was not I reflecting happenings around myself; no; it was Nature mirroring outwardly what was happening within myself.
The mind becomes more and more one-pointed like an arrow pointing to its target. Very powerful is the one-pointed mind. The mind of every human being is powerful, but the mind aimed directly towards its goal is omnipotent.
"Unto the Eternal verily shall he go who, in his action reflects wholly upon the Eternal" says the Bhagavad Gita (4.24).
One has to be careful how one thinks because that which we have thought actually becomes! Here lies the explanation of the so-called miracles and wonder-working. These are nothing else but the very one-pointed mind at work.
Synchronicity is a fact. Chance does not exist. Cannot exist; it only looks to us, in our ignorance, like chance. It only looks thus to those of us who do not know the inner workings of the Law.
At the time when the darkness in me was rapidly coming up and the worst in my character was being brought out and had to be faced—otherwise how would it be possible to go ahead on the way my Teacher was leading me?—he would switch off my mind; yes, switch it off, I mean it literally. His repeated assertions that this path is effortless only served to increase my rebellion. Did I not know how much and how great an effort it cost me? But he was right. It is effortless. What is given is an act of Grace; a gift; how can a gift be an act of effort on the part of the one who receives it? The effort lies somewhere else... "in the power or endurance, the capacity for sacrifice, the will to go on, to hold out at any cost..." (Daughter of Fire, p. 194) One has to be worthy of the Grace. The cup has to be cleaned and emptied.
So from time to time my Teacher switched off my mind, the result being that the mind would work to a quarter of its strength or half according as it was switched off, twenty-five percent, or fifty percent or sometimes even seventy-five percent. In the latter case one could hardly think. It was never done for a long time; one cannot live without the mind! It was done to help me so that the quality of the Higher Principle, the spiritual insight, could come through, otherwise the mind clutters the channel of communication with its restless modifications.
The state of mindlessness is quite painless and very peaceful; one just cannot think. That is all.
The world around me became so lovely, full of light, a strange luminosity, a kind of elevated feeling, of special meaning. But it was also quite bewildering. Two very important factors were:
1. Firstly, the restricted physical vision. When it happens one cannot see except right in front as if one had blinkers such as are seen on horses. Also if I tried to look sideways turning my eyes either to the right or to the left, I became giddy.
2. Secondly, the mind itself, the thinking process would work in a kind of slow motion. To give an example: When leaving my Teacher's garden where I usually sat, and walking down the street to go to my small Indian-style dwelling, all I could do was to be careful where to put my feet and watch the traffic, the crazy traffic of an Indian street. Cycles, rickshaws dashing along furiously ringing their bells non stop, cows wandering about aimlessly, chickens darting in and out between all and everything, taxis weaving about to avoid dogs and rickshaws and pedestrians, and hooting wildly, and I just able to look straight ahead, hardly taking anything in, only vaguely conscious of my surroundings.
To go home was a rather complicated undertaking. My Indian style accommodation consisted of a small courtyard round a tiny kitchen, a shower and a toilet cubicle, a small veranda and two small rooms opening onto the veranda. All surrounded by a nine foot wall which made it very private. To judge by Indian standards it was a very nice flat.
Arrived at the narrow door leading to the courtyard, I would stop. A door... it must be my door... It is familiar, so it must be mine. I kept thinking. To open it I would need a key. A key... a key... Ah! yes, in my bag... I began to rummage my bag in search of the key. Found it... Put it into the key hole, opened and closed the door behind me. Kept standing at the door... Am hungry... If hungry I must eat... eat... eat.... What? I did not remember what I had at home. I stared in front of me at the kitchen which had no door, was open to all elements. See some potatoes on the shelf. Stare at the potatoes. At first do not register what they are... Oh, yes, potatoes. Potatoes one has to cook... To cook them one has to peel them. To peel... to peel. Oh yes, one needs a knife... a knife, a knife... I keep looking at the knife before I am able to understand what it is. When I realise that it is what I want, I can begin to peel the potatoes. And so it went on with every action, with every thought. Everything was very much slowed down, for when I looked at things it took time to understand what they were, or what they were for, and what to do with them, and what the next action should be.
Life becomes rather complicated, but as I said it never lasted too long. Never longer than half a day and sometimes only for a few hours. And it is painless, as I have already mentioned.
When back in London, I was giving a lecture and explaining all that I have just said here. At the end of my talk a Canadian psychiatrist, who happened to be in the audience, asked me if I knew what was happening. I did not know; all I knew was that my Teacher was switching off my mind.
"Those symptoms you were describing," explained the psychiatrist, Aare symptoms of schizophrenia. Thinking in slow motion, tunnel vision above all, sensation of light, of brilliance, of unreality. Your Teacher was creating an artificial schizophrenia. When a human being is standing with both feet firmly on the ground, with both legs on this earth, he is 'quite normal' as we medical practitioners call it, spiritual life is very difficult, perhaps even impossible. But if something is not quite right in the mind, a little wheel not properly working in the clockwork of the mind, then spiritual life is easy."
We in the West have no idea of what the spiritual life implies in reality. Spiritual life is hard and rough; it means that one is taken into the arena, to fight one's ultimate battle... The Master who knows his job will make one bite the dust; training is an analysis "plus", in the sense that yogic power is used to bring the human being to the "cooking point", at the maturity point the Teacher wants him to be.
For the self will not go in gladness and with caresses; it must be chased with sorrow, drowned in tears... (a Persian song)
When my Teacher sent me back to London in the spring of 1963 his wish was that I should lecture. When I asked him what he wanted me to speak on: "About Sufism, of course," he answered. I had never lectured in my life before. I knew hardly anything about Sufism when I came to him, and I felt he taught me practically nothing. I told him so. I had a smattering of Hindu Scriptures, knew something about Hindu philosophy, but Sufism is different and I was puzzled. "If you are in despair you will cry for help and... it is always there."
I had to be content with that.
In England many people knew that I had been in India with a Teacher, so it happened that I was asked to talk about India, about my Teacher and as the time went on, I found myself speaking on all sorts of subjects.
Later, when I had the opportunity to read some Sufi books I found that on whatever subject I happened to lecture, the point of view I presented was always the Sufi point of view. I wrote about it to my Teacher, but in his few letters to me he never commented on it. This, however, was not unusual; as a rule he explained very little to us.
After the death of my Teacher I stayed for a few months in a Vedic Sadhak Ashram in North India, near Dehra Dun. Twice a day a fire ceremony was performed with the chanting of the sacred Gayatri mantra. In the lovely, warm evenings, at dusk, I had interesting discussions with the learned, orange-robed swamis. Many spoke good English. I talked a lot about my Teacher who had died so recently. I felt so bereft. Once I happened to mention in conversation the fact that though I knew nothing about Sufism, its philosophy, it metaphysics, somehow it seemed to be quite naturally part of my mind as if I always knew it.
"Oh yes," said one of the swamis, "It is hirdambara buddhi; the knowledge which is not learned, it is reflected into the tranquil mind of a yogi when the animal tendencies of like and dislike have ceased to be."
I must confess, I did not particularly think that my mind was all that tranquil, but after all a certain amount of yogic detachment must have been achieved after being several years with my Teacher.
There exists a knowledge which is not learned. It is infused, or rather reflected directly into the mind from another plane of being. As everything in the universe is reflected from the Inner plane, the Unmanifested plane into the plane of Manifestation, so knowledge can also be directly reflected into the mind of an individual. The Upanishads have a beautiful symbolic expression for this:
Under the banyan tree sits the boy teacher amidst his aged disciples.
Silent remains the Teacher, and all the doubts of the disciples dissolve.
Through the tranquil pool of his mind the disciple learns to reflect the mind of his teacher, to catch his hint and finally to catch the Divine Hint. As my Teacher himself put it:
First one learns how to catch the hint of the guru, and afterwards, when one is well merged, the Divine Hint, which is faster than lightning. The guru will hint first; if the hint is not understood, then he orders. An order is easy to understand, but the guru trains the disciple to catch the Divine Hint rather. The guru can give orders again and again if the disciple does not understand; but God does not do so and the Hint is lost, and one may wait for a long time to get it again.
To grasp it one must be deeply merged, so merged that one even looks for a place to stand upon, but there seems to be none.
To grasp the hint is to act accordingly, and not even try to understand it. Acting accordingly is necessary rather than understanding. The Grace of God cannot be seized; it descends.
All of us must have seen the old black and white film of Carl Jung being interviewed by a journalist of the BBC. In it Jung is asked if he believes in God and his answer is: "I don't believe; I know." In the same film toward the end Carl Jung says: "Trust the meaning and make the meaning your Goal."
I think this is the message to humanity for centuries to come. It does not matter whether the meaning be to become a successful greengrocer—or to realize the Truth. It is the Meaning which makes the whole of life worth while.
Yes; to trust the meaning and to make it the goal; and the world thereby could be changed.