Oriental Mysticism, by E.H. Palmer, , at sacred-texts.com
Man's upward Progress.WHEN Man has become assured of the truth of Revelation he has reached the stage of Belief, and has the name of Múmin, "Believer." When he further acts in obedience to the will of God, and apportions the night and day for earnest prayer, he has reached the stage of worship, and is called an ’Abid, or "Worshipper." When he has expelled the love of this world from his heart, and occupies himself
with a contemplation of the mighty Whole, he reaches the next stage, and becomes a Záhid, or "Recluse." When in addition to all this he knows God, and subsequently learns the mysteries of nature, he reaches the stage of Acquaintance, and is called ’Árif, "One who knows." The next stage is that in which he attains to the love of God, and is called a Welí or "Saint." When he is moreover gifted with inspiration and the power of working miracles, he becomes a Nebí, "Prophet;" and when entrusted next with the delivery of God's own message, he is called an "Apostle," Rusúl. When he is appointed to abrogate a previous dispensation and preach a new one, he is called Ulu ’l ’Azm, "One who has a mission." When this mission is final he has arrived at the stage called Khatm, or "the Seal." This is the Upward Progress of Man. The first stage is the "Believer," the last the "Seal."
After separation from the body, the soul of Destination of the soul, Man returns to that Heaven which corresponds to the stage which he has attained; thus the Believer at last dwells in the first or lowest Heaven, and the Seal in the Heaven of Heavens; for it will be noticed that the stages of upward progress correspond to the number of degrees in the Heavenly Spheres, namely, seven inferior and two superior.
The metaphysicians say that these stages and metaphysically explained. degrees do not in reality exist, but that the Heavenly Intelligence which corresponds to the degree of intelligence attained by Man attracts and absorbs his soul into itself after separation from the body.
[paragraph continues] Thus every one who has attained intelligence corresponding to that of the highest sphere, his soul returns thereto; and he who has attained intelligence corresponding to the lowest sphere, his soul in like manner returns to that; those who have not attained intelligence corresponding to any of these will be placed in Hell, which is situate below the lowest sphere.
As each of the Heavenly Spheres is furnished with knowledge and purity in proportion to its position, the rank of Man's soul in the future state will, according to this last account, be in proportion to his degree of knowledge and purity of life while upon the earth.
The Upward Progress infinite.}The Unitarians say that man's Upward Progress has no end, for if he strive for a thousand years, each day will teach him something that he knew not before, inasmuch as the knowledge of God has no limit. So Mohammed says, "He who progresses daily is yet of feeble mind."
Simile illustrating the foregoing. The religious account says that the soul of every man returns to an individual place after separation from the body. This the metaphysicians deny; for how, say they, can the soul of a man return to a certain place when it has not originally come from a certain place? The soul of man is the Primal Spirit, and if a thousand persons live, it is the same spirit that animates them all; and in like manner if a thousand die, the same spirit returns to itself, and is not lessened or diminished. If a myriad persons build houses and make windows therein the same
sun illumines them all, and though every one of them should be destroyed, the sun would not be lessened or diminished. The sun is the lord of the sensible world, and the exponent of the attributes of the Primal Spirit. The Primal Spirit is the lord of the invisible world and the exponent of the Nature of God 1.
When the heart of man has been revivified and Intelligence the aim of the Upward Progress.illumined by the Primal Spirit, he has arrived at Intelligence; for Intelligence is a light in the heart, distinguishing between truth and vanity, Until he has been so revivified and illumined, it is impossible for him to attain to intelligence at all. But having attained to intelligence, then, and not till then, is the time for the attainment of knowledge, for becoming Wise. Intelligence is a Primal Element, and knowledge the attribute thereof. When from knowledge he has successively proceeded to the attainment of the Divine Light, and acquaintance with the mysteries of nature, his last step will be Perfection, with which his Upward Progress concludes.
But dive he ever so deeply into the treasury of Retrogression how avoided.
mysteries and knowledge, unless he examine himself and confess that after all he knows naught, all that he has acquired will slip through his hands, and leave him far poorer than before. His treasure of to-day should as much exceed the treasure of yesterday as an ocean exceeds a drop; but this can never be, unless he, leaving all else for contemplation and self-examination, have freedom and leisure to learn how poor he really is, and how much he needs the saving help of God.
Unitarian account.One class of Unitarians explain the Upward Progress of Man thus. They say that every atom of existent beings is filled with light;
but that man walks abroad in darkness, blinded by the lusts of life, and laments the want of light that would, were he but aware of it, involve him in the glorious sheen of brightest day:
Upward ProgressWhat they mean is this, that all existent beings are compounded of two things, darkness and light, which are indistinguishably blended together. The light belongs to the Invisible, and the darkness to the Sensible world; but the two are intimately connected, and the former exercises a paramount influence upon the latter. The object of man, according to them, is to separate the light from the darkness, that its nature and attributes may be understood, and in this consists his Upward Progress.
Although the light and the darkness can never be entirely separated, for the one is as it were the veil of the other, the light can be made to prevail, so that its attributes may become manifest.
Now it is possible to separate thus far the light from the darkness in certain cases; in the bodies of men and animals, for instance, there are certain organs always at work, whose sole object is this separation. Thus, when food is introduced consists in the separation of Light and Darkness.into the stomach, the liver receives the cream and essence of it and transmits it to the heart; the heart, in like manner, extracts the essence of this, which is the life, and transmits it to the brain; lastly, the brain extracts the essence of this, and transforms it into the elixir of life, the real light of all.
The elixir evolved by the brain is the instinctive spirit, and is as it were a lamp in a lantern; but it gives forth after all but a flickering and cloudy light, and man's object should therefore be to strengthen and purify it by Renunciation and Contemplation, until it give forth the true light which is the Spirit of Humanity. When man has attained to this he necessarily becomes free from all that is evil, and is adorned instead with every good and noble quality.
The body of man is like a lantern, the Vegetative Man likened to a lamp. Spirit is the lamp, the Animal Spirit is the wick, the Instinctive Spirit the oil, and the Spirit of Humanity the fire that kindles all. "Verily its oil would almost shine even though no fire kindled it." (Cor. cap. 24, v. 35). In other words, the Instinctive
[paragraph continues] Spirit should feed and supply the Spirit of Humanity, as the oil feeds and supplies the flame in a lamp. The Traveller must aim at completing this lamp, so that his heart may be illumined, and he may see things as they really are. When the Spirit of Humanity a "light upon light" (Cor. cap. 24, y. 35) has thus kindled the Instinctive Spirit, God "guideth whom He pleaseth to His own light" (idem), that is, to the divine light of His own nature, reaching which the Traveller's Upward Progress is complete; for "from Him they spring, and unto Him return."
61:1 The following from Tennyson's In Memoriam forms a beautiful protest against the ideas here set forth:
Is faith as vague as all unsweet:
Eternal form shall still divide
The eternal soul from all beside;
And I shall know him when we meet.