“Only he who dies while living can obtain pearls of higher consciousness.”
“The whole world keeps dying after death, for no one dies the real death. I have died a death that will make me never die again. So long as you do not know how to die while living, you will not gain freedom from the cycle of birth and death.”
Esoteric teachings of the Sikhs.
Before the advent of Islam, recluses and esoteric communities were found in profusion in Egypt, Syria and India. They were reputed to possess superhuman knowledge and to work miracles. These hermits and magicians attracted pupils and devotees and their places became centers of learning and atonement. When they passed from this world their tombs became places of pilgrimage.
One such place was Busra in Syria. It is known as the place where the Prophet Muhammad was foretold his great destiny by a Christian monk having esoteric knowledge. Muhammad then twelve years old, accompanied his uncle with his caravan. When the caravan passed the monk’s cell, the monk called Muhammad and invited him to a feast. He inquired especially about young Muhammad’s dreams and after analyzing them predicted his prophet hood.
When Islam penetrated and conquered these areas the veneration shown to extraordinary persons was transferred to the early saints of Islam and resulted in the cult of Sufi saints and powers associated with their persons (Pilgrimage to the tombs of holy men is called ziarat in Arabic. The tomb itself is called mazar).
Pilgrimage to the tombs of saints is an aspect of Sufism. The purpose of the visit is to establish a contact with the subtle reality of the Perfect Man who lies buried there.
Exoterically people believe that a saint is physically alive in his tomb. Esoteric sources speak of a subtle presence of the saint and of subtle forces emanating from the tomb. Dervishes assert that a person who has realized Perfection has developed and accumulated a subtle force or baraka which radiates as well after his death as during his lifetime. To be influenced by this substance is essential and necessary for the development of the Sufi. The influence of this refining element can effect the manifestation of hidden organs of subtle perception and energy. It must have been such a radiation of subtle force together with psychic energy which Jalal ud-Din Rumi experienced when he met the wandering dervish Shams-i-Tabriz. It changed his life entirely. Until that moment he had been a mental mystic. His heart was opened and he became fully energized.
Sufis profess that man has, in addition to his physical body, an astral body. While they conceive the physical body as being a crystallization of a form abiding in a creative dimension, they say that the astral body should in no way be confounded with that archetypal form. The astral body is the result of a physical body being born and living in this world. Whenever a physical body is born an astral body is created as well. The substance is ingrained in the body, the astral body is modeled out of it. Some astral bodies are denser than others.
All persons have an astral body, but consciousness has to be developed in it. This can happen incidentally or by means of particular exercises. The more an individual is free and detached from his emotional and mental impulses, the more he has a chance to become conscious of and in control of his astral body. Advanced masters can help by means of their psychic power to develop consciousness in the astral body.
After death the substance of the astral body decomposes. The body in which dead saints appear is not the ordinary astral body. Besides the astral body there is the astral mind. The astral mind can detach itself from the astral body and clothe itself by its own power in a body of its choice. The astral mind can take any shape. Most astral operations are accomplished with the astral mind. Astral entities can be perceived when the ‘eye of the heart’ is developed.
In order to attain Perfection an individual must have attained mastery in the astral worlds. The astral worlds consist of the Alam-i-Barzakh or World of the Barrier and the Alam-i-Arvah or World of the Spirits. These worlds comprise several planes and degrees. They are not separated from each other, they intersect in many ways.
Strange entities and forces exist in all worlds and planes. These may attach themselves to any human being and exert a positive or negative power. Many individuals are throughout their life accompanied by hidden entities without ever having knowledge of it.
Especially in the World of the Barrier dwell thought-forms and entities which have no control over their actions. The entities in that world do not lead a conscious life. They are in a state of dreaming without realizing that they are dreaming. It is said that philosophers and theologians are stuck in that in-between-world, puzzling in their heads, writing books and talking endlessly. Dreams engendered by the instincts and emotions also are related to the Alam-i-Barzakh.
The World of the Barrier is a place of struggle. Messengers from the saints or spiritual masters may come to help when one is in difficulty in that plane, but ultimately one’s own merit will decide whether one will be victorious in crossing it. Most astral beings live in the shadow of their good or bad works achieved while living on earth. The Prophet has said: “Whoever is blind here, shall be blind in the hereafter and more erring from the way.” A man’s state after death is always a reflection of the mental-spiritual stage reached in his life.
There are different states after death. Most people do not go beyond the state of being a nucleus of thought-forms. They have an astral body, but no higher discernment. They have no developed astral mind and when they die, they become helpless ghosts. The mind of most men disintegrates because they have not realized a detached and undefiled state of awareness. This is why so-called contact with dead persons is always fragmentary. Fakirs do not hold beliefs concerning the transmigration of the individual ego. They say that there is only a continuous transmigration of diverse mental nuclei. Man during his life creates thought-forms which form a network that affects and impresses the minds around him. When he dies he releases these thought-forms which go to the Alam-i-Barzakh. When a child is born, nuclei of thought-forms from the living and the dead enter its mind, beset it and determine for a great part its future life.
The nature of the thoughts released by the living and the dying constitutes the heavens and hells. To every individual corresponds a particular heaven and hell. The happy residents of paradise are not more conscious of Allah than the dwellers of hell in their states of torment. Therefore neither heaven nor hell has any value for the true dervish.
One must learn to die many times. It is important to learn to die if one wants to perfect oneself. One should not have fear of risking too much when learning how to die, but one should have fear of not knowing how to die. It is good to prepare oneself to cross the World of the Barrier while one still lives in a body here on earth.
A hakim (Hakim (Arab.): traditional doctor; physician) told me about the sufferings of people who in the final stage of their agony can not get out of their body. He used to ‘cut’ their physical body by making small incisions in the forearms and chest to facilitate the release of the astral body.
If the mind at the moment of dying is still conditioned by the habitual ways of thinking and acting, one will not get across the World of the Barrier because the experience of time, as we know it, is nonexistent there. The ordinary mind can not cope with the astral time and quickly loses control. This state can best be compared to ordinary dreaming in which the dreamer is a helpless actor in the succeeding sequences.
Ibn al-Arabi professed control in dreams in order to obtain command over instincts and hidden thoughts when crossing the Alam-i-Barzakh. To be certain that one has control over the emotional-mental impulses one has to remain conscious throughout one’s dreams. If one has not mastered consciousness in dreams one will not have control over the mind at death. Spiritual masters have control over their astral body and mind during their lifetime and after death. They can appear at any moment and at any place in dreams and in visions. It is known of Hazrat Inayat Khan that he first saw his future teacher in visions and in dreams before he met him in his physical body.
Perfect masters can influence and penetrate a physical body and mind.
Saints can appear in many forms, even in the form of an animal. Sometimes the animal apparition is a jinn in the service of a saint or a spiritual quality of him. There are various records about a lion transmitting messages from the Prophet to a saint and of the apparition of a pigeon when a saint passed away.
In the abstract structure of many mazars in Afghanistan the form of an animal can be perceived. These primitive tombs made out of sunbaked clay and modeled by hand are extremely expressive. The ‘animalistic’ vibrations radiated by the forms have the effect of conveying hidden forces. These tombs, in harmony with the surrounding landscape, are powerful reflections of the enshrined Presence. In Kandahar there is a shrine called Sher Sorkh or Red Lion. The shrine originated with the discovery in a garden of an enormous red head of a lion. The head was found at a place where some days before a wandering dervish had been given hospitality. The lion’s head was recognized as being a metamorphosis of the dervish and subsequently enshrined.
Besides the ordinary astral double, dervishes mention another body which they call ‘inner man’. The appearance of the ‘inner man’ is not identical with the outward man. The form of the ‘inner man’ is molded by his hidden thoughts. It is a reflection of his real moral state expressed in the matter of the astral plane. Mostly the ‘inner man’ appears ugly, deformed and beastlike, almost beyond recognition, but one does not fail to recognize the person. A fakir told me about dreams he used to have of people wherein their real personality was revealed to him. The dream usually was not dramatic and unconnected with anything that previously happened, but never failed in showing the real state of mind of the person concerned.
Perfect dervishes have during their time on earth transformed their bodies into receptacles of subtle energy. These precious bodies are preserved in the holy tombs. Living in such tombs is a blessing. The spiritual influence radiating from mazars neutralizes the ordinary condition of thinking and acting, and its coercive results, and opens latent psychic possibilities in accordance with the degree of perception of the person involved.
Doing zikr at the tombs of holy men is calling up these men. If the ‘eye of the heart’ is awake they will appear in their resurrection body, and if the heart is clean they will confer special powers. Subtle energy is the main factor in the transformation of the individual. To open one’s heart to it and to be able to generate it is of primordial importance in one’s effort to transform the nafs-i-ammara (Nafs-i-ammara: the self commanded by instinctive and emotional-mental impulses. The nafs is described as a seat of energy located above the navel. Although the nafs is considered as being negative, in essence it is neither good nor bad. Only when the nafs is beset with instinctive and emotional-mental tendencies it is functioning in a negative way. The dervish aims at transforming his nafs. Ali said: ‘He who knows his nafs knows Allah.’ Al-Hujwiri writes (Kashf al-Mahjub p. 206. Luzac. London 1976) ‘the nafs can be mastered by discipline, but its essence and substance do not perish. If it is rightly known and under control, the seeker need not care though it continues to exist in him. Hence the purpose of mortifying the nafs is to destroy its attributes, not to annihilate its reality.’ There is a teaching story about a dervish who by ignorance had killed his nafs and who was therefore unable to work any further on his transformation. Every form creates a field of radiation. Form is condensation of waves, radiations and vibrations. Specific forms placed in a definite proportion create a specific field of power. In Torbat-i-Jam in North-East Persia, uninitiated restorers in 1971 had completely removed the crumbled front wall of the shrine of Ahmad-i-Jami and replaced it by an iron fence which caused a leak in the energy-preserving building. In 1975 the error was recognized and a new wall was constructed. Just as sounds are canalized by forms, so too are etheric vibrations conducted by them. It is known that tombs have become empty because the area around them has been cut to pieces for the construction of buildings and roads. Geometric designs on the walls of mosques and mazars express the eternal laws of creation. These archetypal designs activate corresponding subtle energies in the subconscious of the visitor. The patterns on walls are reflections of currents of energy and powers in the universe and in man.).
Mazars are gates to the astral worlds. While traversing the heavens and hells by the speed of thought one learns to transcend the emotional-mental level.