MASTERS OF THE PATH have divided mono­theism into four stages. The first stage con­sists in repeating, vocally, without any inner conviction, “There is no God save Allâh.”* This is hypocrisy, and does not profit on the day of resurrection. The second stage consists in repeat­ing the said logion vocally with an inner conviction based upon conventional imitation (as in the case of ordinary people), or some form of reasoning (as in the case of an intellectual theist). This is verily the visible body of monotheism, frees one from gross polytheism and from hell, and leads to heaven. This second stage, though safer than the first, and less unstable, is for all that a low one, fit for old women.* The third stage consists in Light shining in the heart, which reveals the One Agent alone as the root of all phenomena, and the non-agency of all else. This is quite unlike the conviction of ordinary people or that of an intellectual theist. Such a conviction is a fetter to the soul, whereas the vision of the Light breaks all fetters. There must be difference between one who believes a certain gentleman to be in his house, on the testi­mony of others (as in the case of ordinary people), another who infers the residence of that gentleman in the house, because he sees his horses and servants at the gate (as in the case of the intellectual theist), and another who actually sees the gentleman in the house (as in the case of the third stage). In the third stage one sees the creatures and the Creator, and distinguishes them from Him. This much of separation still persists—hence it is not perfect union in the eyes of the Masters.

The fourth stage consists in the pouring forth of the Divine Light so profusely, that it absorbs all individual existences in the eyes of the pilgrim. As in the case of the absorption of particles floating in the atmosphere in the light of the sun, the particles become invisible—they do not cease to exist, nor do they become the sun, but they are inevitably lost to sight in the overpowering glare of the sun—so, here, a creature does not become God, nor does it cease to exist. Ceasing to exist is one thing, invisibility is another … When thou lookest through a mirror, thou dost not see the mirror, for thou mergest it into the reflexion of thy face, and yet thou canst not say that the mirror has ceased to exist, or that it has become that reflexion, or that the reflexion has become the mirror. Such is the vision of the Divine Energy in all beings with­out distinction. This state is called by the Sûfîs, absorption in monotheism. Many have lost their balance here: no one can pass through this forest without the help of the Divine Grace and the guidance of a Teacher, perfect, open-eyed, experi­enced in the elevations and depressions of the Path and inured to its blessings and sufferings … Some pilgrims attain to this lofty state only for an hour a week, some for an hour a day, some for two hours a day, some remain absorbed for the greater portion of their time …

Beyond the four is the stage of complete absorp­tion, i. e., losing the very consciousness of being absorbed and of seeking after God—for such a consciousness still implies separation. Here, the soul merges itself and the universe into the Divine Light, and loses the consciousness of merging as well. “Merge into Him, this is monotheism: lose the sense of merging, this is unity.” Here there are neither formulæ nor ceremonies, neither being nor non-being, neither description nor allusion, neither heaven nor earth. It is this stage alone that unveils the mystery: “All are non-existent save Him;” “All things are perishable save His Face;” “I am the True and the Holy One.” Abso­lute unity without duality is realised here. “Do not be deluded, but know: every one who merges in God is not God.”

The first stage of monotheism is like the outer­most shell of the almond; the second stage is like the second shell; the third stage is like the core; the fourth stage is like the essence of the core— the oil of the almond. All these are known by the name of the almond, but each differs immensely from the others in status, result, and use.

This note should be studied patiently and intelli­gently, since it deals with the basis of all develop­ments, activities, and supersensuous phenomena. It will explain the phraseology and the allusions in the writings of the saints, and throw light on the verses on monotheism and the stages thereof.

O brother! though an ant, thou mayest turn out to be a Solomon. Do not think thou art an impure sinner: though a gnat, thou mayest become a lion… God raises the monotheist out of the dualist, the faithful out of the faithless, and the devotee out of the sinner.—Letter 1.

[The following extracts on monotheism from “The Series of 28 Letters,” another work of the author, may be aptly added.—Trs.]

According to a tradition of the Prophet, all beings were created out of Darkness, but each took in Light according to its capacity, and thus became luminous. Hence all beings are sparks of the Divine Light, and their luminosity is derived from It. Now one can fully understand the sacred verse: “God is the Light of heaven and earth.”—Letter 17.

Thou-ness and I-ness pertain to our world. They do not exist in the region of the Beloved. He is the one Reality: futile is the assertion of any existence but His.—Letter 2.