Learn to identify, grab and control your thoughts. Immature persons are largely unconscious of the conspiracies set up and hoaxes played by haphazard thoughts on their now and therby their future. With thoughts I would include moods and emotions as well. These residents of the human of the human consciousness are like a wild horde wrecking a pillaging the well-being of the person whose mind they are inhabiting. The victim, the immature person, loves and hates the wrong things, reasons deficiently, fails to learn from experience (and therefore keeps repeating the same mistakes with the same painful results) and in general is trampled underfoot by every passer-by through his consciousness on top of the oppression exercised by the thoughts and memories stacked in his subconscious levels of the mind. A demagogue arrives and playing with people’s racial biases drives them into racial violence and the immature person will follow him. A guru arrives and threatens with the end of the world on a fixed date and promises salvation at a price payable to himself and the immature person will fall for it. Even minor things like a gloomy headline in a newspaper or a weather forecast on the television will plunge him into gloom and despair. Another will commit suicide because the store where she rushed to get the red coloured version of a fashionable coat has sold out and there is no prospect of wearing it at tomorrow’s tea party.
In other words an immature person is only dimly conscious which means although he sees and hears what goes on around him in a physical sense – like a cat or dog would do – internally he is so programmed with haphazardly accumulated, silly beliefs, biased preconceptions, shallow values, unrealistic assumptions etc., that he reacts to most stimuli as a robot would – without really thinking, without internal critique and rational judgement. Press one of his pre-programmed buttons, like racial hatred or macho or feminist tendencies and he or she will react in a perfectly predictable and exploitable way. Because, on the main he or she is a physical robot and not fully conscious, self-responsible and independently reasoning conscious person. Such people unfortunately constitute the vast majority in every society and constitute the raw exploitable material awaiting the attention of any demagogue, greedy salesmen or self-seeking guru.
All such helplessness against our haphazard thoughts, moods and emotions is totally unnecessary and preposterous. We should be the masters of our own house and we should dictate how we should feel about everything and how we should act in every situation. This is called self-mastery and without this rest assured that there can be no spiritual advancement, no salvation. Your time on this earth will be wasted and come to nothing as you will throughout your life be blown from place to place like a feather caught in the whirlpools of haphazard winds each blowing from another direction at different speeds and at different temperatures, like a Pacific weather monstrosity. That is no life at all, it is sheer torture and a meaningless one at that.
The remedy is waking up to the arcane reality that the world that you perceive is not real, independent and objective world you fancy it is. Each person has his world etc., as a result of which a subjective soup is kept boiling on whose diet the person prospers or despairs all his life.
Let us take an example. Two people are watching a heavily raining day from the comfort of their living room. One is mature and the other one is immature. The latter comments like this: “Damn, it is April in the year and still no warmth, no sunshine, no permission to enjoy yourself in the open. The old man up there (he means God) should be ashamed of himself. I feel like burning down the house or beating up someone”. The other interferes, “Come on my friend, you are being silly and unjust. I do not see these dark clouds and heavy drops as disasters ruining our happiness. Rather, I see them as lovely flowers, verdant forests, fields bursting with rich crops and well-fed farm animals with delicious milk and tender flesh. I see it as people happy with plentiful and cheap food, buoyant business and triumphant welfare for all. And I thank God for it. I am so grateful towards Him. Unlike you I feel like re-decorating and re-furbishing this house, going out and hugging and kissing every person that I meet and give some sweets to children…”.
You see: The very same exterior world produces two diametrically opposed world-views in two people under similar material circumstances. Whence this incredible difference? Certainly not from the exterior world but from the minds inhabiting and ruling these two men. Awake to the fact that (if you have not awakened already) the first man is a satanical* soul, or rather a man in the palm of Satan who refuses to entertain the optimistic outlook but is pathologically fascinated by the pessimistic outlook which consists of painful interpretations, sour and bitter moods and vehemently accusing attitudes. The man is simply full of fire and storm and will pour out burning lava or sickly puss any time he opens his mouth. All religious, ideological and political fanatics and terror-mongers are of this satanical cast whether on the ‘right’ or on the ‘left’ and I am afraid all are bound for hell – or rather they are in hell as Allah said:
“Indeed, the Hell has encircled the unbelievers” (29:54)
You may ask “Are there no personal or social injustices to be bitter about”? Sure there are. But these should be viewed realistically and dealt with apiece without disproportionate emphasis on anything, with a constructive attitude. That is virtuous and necessary. What is satanical is exploiting these with hysterically exaggerated indignation and ferocity. It is like killing a person just because he has a puss-filled pimple on his nose which you say is ‘intolerable’.
To return to our subject squarely: learn and develop the skill of watching all your thoughts, moods, emotions and attitudes etc. within the now’s you are living through, see them for what they are, like correct, beneficial, useless, harmful, dangerous, mean etc. without being emotional about it as if you are a divine angel inspecting the inmates in your spiritual world. Dissolve away those which look self-defeating, pathological and encourage those which look healthy and self-elevating; what is more ‘create’ new thoughts, moods, emotions and attitudes to order – designed to propel you onwards to your spiritual goal. These shall be optimistic, pleasant, wise, charitable etc. products of your mind that will work for your happiness and not against it. In other words you must develop the skill to manufacture from existing input data your constructive and optimistic thoughts and moods, like a skilful chemist. That is why the famous Imam Ghazali named one of his greatest books ‘The Chemistry of Happiness’. It is not falsehood or artificiality to manufacture your world-view. Whether you know it or not you either are manufacturing it subconsciously or adopting views manufactured by others outside your control and without necessarily being serviceable to your interests. There is no escaping from this.
You may ask, “How shall I know I am succeeding?”. I can give you a fail-proof test to apply any time anywhere.
If you are succeeding in controlling your thoughts, moods, emotions and attitudes to your spiritual advantage:
Your problems in life will gradually decrease both in number and intensity.
You will sove any problems with less straining, faster and more radically.
You will feel happier by the day, more optimistic and secure- in fact near – absolute security will not be far away. Your many illnesses will strangely disappear!
Especially the fears that once terrorised and tyrannised you, from seperation from something or someone loved to your own death-these fears will gradually abate and at last may well vanish altogether.
Your popularity will sour as your new found maturity will develop. People of whatever sort will find you attractive because they will unconsciously read from your appearance that you are not threatening them any more but instead you have a lot to offer in benefits, be a sweet word or a tolerant gaze. The only exception may be satanical people who are too blind to see even the sun itself and will attack any target like a mad bull all the same. However, you shall know how to steer clear off them.
To sum up: Be your own guardian angel presiding over your mental house, curing your sick mental inmates and giving full power to your healthy troops to work for you – towards the company of Allah.
Examine every guest of your mental house, be it an anger or a sarcastic view. Dismiss those who are bad for you – for good. Instead tend to and nurture and even manufacture those that are good. This is the top art of spiritual development. Claim it.
Know that Will and Imagination are the two greatest gifts together with their superior the Reason that Allah granted you when He blew into man of His Spirit. They are your tools for you to create your own universe obedient and subservient to you as your Maker created His which included you. In this wisdom there is the key to everything you desire if you but knew.
Learn to recognise myths and acquire the skill of putting them to good use. Or else discard them.
Every religion, every faith, ideology or philosophy has a component of myth in it, and you may be surprised or upset to hear it – this includes Islam.
But before you react like an automaton wait to see what I mean by ‘myth’.
First of all there are two kinds of myths. One is the truthful myth and the other is the false myth.
Truthful myths originate from the heavenly realms of the human subconscious mind which is a spiritual space extended to the borders of the Divine (sidrat al munteha). The truthful myths consist of moral and spiritual realities clothes in and expressed as imaginary anthropomorphic (human-formed) stories. In them angels, animals, plants and even abstract things like love, virtue, anger etc. become men and woman, talk and interact in many ways. To each are attributed reason, emotions and drives - The sky talks to the earth, the rain speaks to the clouds and birds counsel the kings in matters of high policy.
As far as a truthful myth is concerned these are not lies in the ordinary and ethical sense of the word. Rather they are solid truths expressed in symbol and metaphor. Why symbol and metaphor? Because the human mind is not a single or monobloc system but a multi-layered edifice reflecting the brain structure itself which houses it. The brain is built in the form of layers, the most primitive one shared with the likes of the fish and the reptiles forming the lowest one. Structures like the cerebellum and the medulla oblongata serve similarly basic primitive purposes absolutely essential to our existence. The mammalian skills are housed in the outer brain regions and the most outer part, called the cerebrum is most developed in the humans and is believed to house the human intellect and consciousness.
It is obvious to Neuro-psychologists that the human mind is a composite system with the brain-forms of all lower animals combined within his skull topped by the human cerebrum. Childhood and primitive man’s brains are also retained. As you know children(and primitive man) have more of their imaginative sides developed than the intellectual and they are therefore more interested in and capable of utilising imaginative inputs with strong sensory elements like impressive forms, sounds and feelings. That is why primitive cultures produce myths and legends and children are fascinated by fairy tales and magical stories. The important thing to remember is that these myths, legends, tales and magical stories are not lies in the ordinary sense of lying but allegorical expressions of everyday truths which penetrate people’s minds more easily and permanently then rational and literal expressions of the same truths. Although we grow up and become adults are educated to become sophisticated rational people we do not lose our earlier capacities for imaginative methods of influencing our minds.
Hence, perfectly grown up man can enjoy myths and legends and can be influenced by mythical expressions of truths. This is why all religions employ and retain them and it is most foolish to try to discredit and discard them on the grounds that they are either primitive or irrational or both. Modern psychology and psychiatry is very cognizant and appreciative of these cultural vehicles and what is more our brains insist to function on mythical and symbolic forms while we are asleep when it produces dreams most of which may look silly on the surface but whose skilful and insightful interpretation delivers rich results, a lot of it of high guidance value.
The Messenger of Allah instructed us in a dream-guidance method called Istikhara (seeking the right option) whereby the believer prays two rak’ats of salat and recites a prescribed prayer just before going to bed. We are told that he will see an explanation and/or a solution to the dilemma troubling his mind and all who tried it, including this humble writer couldn’t agree more.
For example: Once I desired to move to a supposedly safer place than where I was but I could not decide one way or another. I resorted to Istikhara and saw in my dream a huge water melon broken at one end where its red interiors with black seeds were exposed. The outside of the melon was of course green. Now the Prophet(s.a.s) informed us that red and black are signs of evil while green and white are signs of good. Hence, the message of this spiritual dream was obvious: yur desired destination looks good from the outside, but inside it is bad. Now this is a symbolic message and normally our dreaming brain functions best in this mode. The message could also come in a literal way, such as somebody appearing and telling me “do not move to that place”, but the Creator apparently decided that the symbolic way is better. In fact if I wanted I could describe my dream in more detail and my interpretations of all details I saw would need a sizable booklet. Obviously the symbolic presentation lasting a few seconds is more economical and far more expressive than a literal, analytical narrative.
What am I driving at? AS a seeker you may at times be disturbed by the mythical elements you are bound to meet in the Qur’an, Hadith, the sacred history and Sufi stories and theories, having been educated more on literalist and analytical and rational lines. You need not to if you can understand and appreciate what I am disclosing. You will wisely and approvingly see that such myths are not lies or delusions but allegorical ways of expressing truths, which expressions you can interpret as you would interpret similarly expressed dreams.
Having said all this I must add that not all myths are truthful. AS we said, there is a false kind which is produced by misguided and even plainly malicious men. In the spiritual guidance field, there are many who are fakes and charlatans, too brilliant and skilful to be detected by many. These quacks, drawing on their fertile imaginations and employing their velvety tongues, entral many into their circle of brainwashing and exploitation. It is estimated that, no matter their level of education and intelligence, and skilful to be detected by many. These quacks, drawing on their fertile imaginations and employing their velvety tongues, enthral many into their circle of brainwashing and exploitation. It is estimated that, no matter their level of education and intelligence, about ten percent of all people are sufficiently suggestible to be hypnotised and/or brainwashed by skilful operators in these fields. Hence no would be guru or sheikh will fail to form his own flock to milk and fleece provided he has a degree of skill in spiritual quackery. That is why totally absurd spiritual claims like flat-earthiesm, ‘space-visitors’, etc. have always been able to attract adherents and their astronomical donations. People claimed to be re-incarnated
To simplify the issue let us confine ourselves to Islam. The claimant will call himself a wali, sheikh and most ambitiously still, the expected Mahdi(a.s.).
If we disregard the too ambitious Mahdi claim how, you may wonder, can we tell a true wali or sheikh from a false one?
My answer is as follows: First of all a wali is a sincere believer who works hard enough to please Allah for Allah to grant him kinds of knowledge hidden from others as well as spiritual powers which in other people are yet dormant. In other words a wali is a spiritually awakened mumin (believer) and his excellence of manners and character testifies to his advancement. For example, he is truthful, honest, fair, patient, tolerant, generous, helpful, brave, incapable of keeping a grudge and not a liar, a cheat, impatient, bad tempered and ill mannered person. As a matter of priniciple apparent or reported miracles do not count. The Sufi motto is “Ajallu al-karamet dawam al-tawfiq” which means “greatest miracle(proving sainthood) is the continuation of the success(in morality; compare this with the naive popular concept of a wali who is basically conceived as a magician). In other words a Wali cannot be caught in any mean act or improper behaviour however hardly tried.
Secondly, a wali (and a true sheikh) is fully observant of all the commandments and Sunni tradition of Islam as well as the reputable forms of behaviour and etiquette in the Muslim society he lives in.
Thirdly, he is fond of learning and even if he may not be able to learn much about the formal sciences of Islam he admits his failings and shows genuine deference to Ulema in matters they are more competent then him.
Fourthly, he will not pronounce revolting claims or disturbing interpretations on Islam that he cannot soundly and legitimately defend. For example, if he says “Allah is now speaking to me personally” or “I ordered Gabriel to carry these mountains away” he is either a madman or a calculating sensationalist, because both claims are contrary to the teachings of Islam. Allah does not talk to people directly like one person to another except in extraordinary circumstances, like the Day of Judgment and no person can order around Gabriel without first Allah presenting Gabriel to his service, like He did to His Messenger during the battle of Uhud, when the Prophet’s blood was spilt whereupon Gabriel asked his permission by the permission of Allah to let him destroy the polytheists, if the Prophet so wished. He declined the offer saying “I am the prophet of mercy and not of curse”.
(Some over-zealous Sufis defend sayings(Shahatat) like ‘Ana’l Haqq’ as excusable due to spiritual intoxication and some even go as far as saying that such ‘shahatat’ are meritious. To them we answer:the Prophet(s.a.s)said “All intoxicants are haram”. Islam came to make us wise and reasonable and not intoxicated. But whether Allah forgives such drunkards or not we cannot say. Who are we?)
Fifthly, a wali or sheikh will not manufacture myths to add to the truthful myths of Islam. And it is here that most quacks expose themselves to those who can see fakery. They predict the day and the hour of the Day of Judgment, or the coming of the Mahdi (a.s), or a war or other disaster expected or feared and are always found to be wrong. Not only that, they deliberately lie about their and their accomplices’ qualifications calculating thereby to improve their public image and become more dominant. For example school-deserters claim doctorates or those who never held a gun may claim having been decorated for valour in a great war. Compulsive boastful liars, whether in praise of themselves or their teachers are dangerous demagogues and cheats.
Sixthly, quacks are quick and insatiable in imposing taxes and taking liberties with their adherents’ assets, and at the worst even sexually abusing their trust. (A common trait among American cults)
As a result some adherents are awakened and desert his circle in disgust while the rest continue their slavery, some with total naïve abandon and some with inner resentment wondering why on earth they cannot leave. The answer to the last point is that they have been hypnotised and like all genuinely hypnotised people they cannot break away from the compulsion that trapped them. Such need a lot of competent de-programming before they can be de-hypnotised and set free from the claws of the quacks.
To sum up: Recognise and appreciate truthful myths in religion and mysticism and do not try to get rid of them as you may harm the faith of the believers and yours. Myths contain more truths than meets the eye at first. However, do not manufacture your own myths and do look carefully to detect quacks peddling home-made myths and getting material and social benefits in return.
Anyone for whose teaching and mentoring the established myths of Islam are not sufficient and he resorts to newer and wilder claims(like being a prophet or greater than all prophets or know everything from past to future eternity or able to raise the dead if he so wishes) is a quack and your fear of them is their chief asset against you. Disown them or face ruin in both worlds.