The inner world, in contrast to the outer world (although, of course, there is only one world), is the world of spirit, of the soul, and of God. It is an invisible, hidden world, veiled from our sight by the outer world and by an inflated sense of an individuated self. Its essence – an unseen realm of perfect beauty, goodness, harmony, bliss, intelligence, and universal sovereignty – is not accessible to the senses or to reason, to man’s rational intellect, to feelings, imagination, or logic.
One can access it only through the highest or innermost part of one’s being – a disinterested cognitive faculty that apperceives the inner world’s reality. That is, this faculty apprehends the inner world’s essence as it simultaneously contemplates its own reality, thereby relating its perceptions to its own experiences. For lack of a better term, we will call this remarkable faculty the heart.
By “heart,” we do not mean the physiological organ in the chest. Rather, the heart is a numinous state of creative imagination, otherwise known as mystical intuition, that supranaturally receives revelations from the One, the Absolute ineffable reality. Countless seers, sages, and mystics throughout the ages and across diverse cultures have described and celebrated the heart. It is the seat of the highest and immortal part of the soul, capable of transcending the senses and conceptual thinking and, in so doing, experiencing the ultimate Ground of Being through mystical vision.
According to Sufi tradition, for example, seeing with the heart (ru’yat al-qalb) is an ability possessed by only a few rare individuals, such as the true Friends of God (prophets and saints), or the Perfect Man (one who embodies and reflects God’s attributes perfectly). To see with the heart is to see beyond the veils of everyday phenomena to the phenomena’s essence, reality, and meaning, which lie in a realm that is invisible to our physical eyes. This unveiling or kashf, as it’s called in Arabic, allows the prophets, saints, and Perfect Men to apprehend, receive and reflect the Reality of Realities, by which is meant something akin to the Christian Logos; that is, the animating principle of all things.
The revelations that come during these periods of unveiling, the gifts of glad tidings, the inspired visions, the conversations with the Divine Source, the disclosures of ultimate truths and the workings of God, all come to the heart unexpectedly and often uninvited. They arrive in a torrent that overwhelms the recipient’s reasoning faculties and shatters his or her old beliefs and habits, completely transforming the individual.
These dazzling epiphanies come to the receptive soul by the grace of God and under His guidance. The capacity to receive and absorb this type of knowledge is completely independent of one’s own exertion, skill, or aptitude for learning. You cannot develop it through the reading of scripture, the performance of religious rituals, or through intellectual reasoning, academic studies, good works, or through any other kind of personal effort.
Rather, you attain this capacity by cleansing the mind of all natural and acquired impurities and by discarding all preoccupations with the body. You must cultivate a pure heart, submit your will completely to providential will, and, above all, love God unconditionally. For only those who love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and who remain conscious of nothing other than Him at all times attain this purity and this capacity.
The direct encounter between God and the soul is the highest state to which an embodied soul can ascend. Communing with God effects a profound transformation in the soul through the soul’s identification with the revelations it receives and with their Source. The knowledge the soul (re)gains – burns away – the dross of the individual’s personality, which is primarily the base ego, and expunges all impurities from the heart. This is the cleansing, as it were, that enables the soul to detach itself from worldly concerns and the welfare of the body. The soul is then free to contemplate its Source in accordance with the soul’s primordial nature, which is essentially one with the One Mind. In receiving this revelatory knowledge, therefore, the soul participates in the Self-consciousness of the universe.
With the identification with the One Mind, one’s sense of individuality is transformed. Although you don’t lose your personality entirely, you do acquire a new way of looking at and relating to things. You retain a sense of your I-ness, but no longer think, “I am this,” or “I am that.” It’s more a sense of simply “I am.” Your I-ness is now less identified with outer material things or with people because their essential non-existence was revealed to you during your experience. Your sense of I-ness now ineffably identifies more with the existents inner reality, a reality that you now see is identical to yours and has always been.
When you see with the heart, you see that the essence of the inner world is formless, immutable, and eternal. You see all things and beings pervaded by a Consciousness that is the same in each, including yourself. For you, the unseen spiritual realm becomes the real world, the real life. You see directly by apperception that Consciousness is the substratum of all, there being no other reality. When you see with the heart, all things in the manifest universe become to you reminders of the inner world and ceaselessly direct your attention there. In the intelligible realm, you find meaning and purpose in existence and obtain the peace that surpasses all understanding.
It is in this blessed numinous state, where our soul is united with the One Mind, that God reveals Himself in our heart through His perpetual self-disclosure to Himself.
Article by Salah Abed
This article appears as a chapter in What It All Means: Recognizing the Divine Self Within, by Salah, and may be found at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com