Whence and Whither


The soul during its journey towards manifestation, and during its stay in any plane, whether in the heaven of the angels, the sphere of the jinn, or the plane of human beings, feels drawn towards its source and goal. Some souls feel more drawn than others; but there is a conscious or unconscious inner attraction felt by every soul. It is the ignorant soul, ignorant of its source and goal, which fears leaving the spheres to which it has become attached. It is the soul that knows not what is beyond which is afraid of being lifted up above the ground its feet are touching. –Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Soul Whence and Whither

My father died recently, and it has been a curious process for me, dealing with it. I often envy those who had loving relationships with their parents, because they are able to experience true grief and true love when the parent moves on, instead of the uncomfortable mixture of rage, nostalgia, unresolved emotions and unspoken words that someone like me has to deal with, where both my parents are concerned. I notice that as the years go on, these do resolve themselves naturally, simply in the newfound freedom to be myself, which gives me the freedom, then, to forgive, and to hope that I may be forgiven. I have no doubt many people feel at least some of this when their parents die, but I have come to feel a great tenderness toward those whose parents were truly troubled, whether by alcoholism, narcissism, abuse, personality disorders or other extreme burdens that some souls carry in this life, and which they so often leave as a terrible legacy. Too, I have always wished I could be one of those people who “puts up with” a troubled parent all their lives, subjugating themselves to the needs of the parent….but not really. Just couldn’t do it. After a certain point, it seemed to me that my life was my own to screw up as I chose, and I went to work on that with a will, striving for a relationship of benign indifference with my parents, who never really changed. But just as the abused child loves the abuser, there is always a nostalgia that carries something of the pain of love, even if only for the parent one never had.

I have been wondering, for these last years, what it would be like for my father: he was well-liked in his own community, because he was a man who kept his feelings to himself and came across as honorable and kind…although with his children, he was able to be free with a diffuse, generalized rage over nearly anything, particularly me as the youngest birth child, the inner child he never accepted in himself, and between these opposing reactions, he coped with a sad life by, basically, working. Working at his job, working in his workshop, always busy, busy, busy. I guess they call that workaholism these days, and it was an effective way for him to cope, because it kept him strong and uninvolved….with just about everyone, although I believe he loved my mother dearly, even when he couldn’t stand to be too close to her. My father exemplified the old adage about biting the hand that feeds you: one had to be extremely careful in one’s approach to him, lest they come away mangled, as I often did, because I never had the good sense to do what the women of our family told me to do: “Just keep your mouth shut!  Then he won’t hit you!”  But not me, I was always a crusader.  Yet I never stopped trying to make Daddy happy, no matter how futile it was to try.

But that’s over, and I now revel in a world where those close to me do indeed love me and, in most cases, even like me. It is a revelation, and took me quite awhile to get used to. I am so grateful to my beloved family; they are the joy of my life.

What I’m working on now, having given the rest of it up long ago, is my concern over my father’s being so unprepared to die. He was 94; you’d think he’d have been ready, but I noticed, for all his years, that he was not able to contemplate the deeper issues of life and death, and I didn’t see much more of this as the end approached. I believe he tried to avoid it for as long as possible, with some success;  but finally even he couldn’t find a reason to linger. When he did pass on, I wasn’t sure whether it was my projection, or whether he really did go through a period of confusion and fear, shortly after death. It has been my experience that some souls tend to linger a bit after death, to say their farewells and perhaps clear up a few things.  But I think it was a tough transition for my father (who I often judgmentally referred to as the “once-born”), although I do believe he had some guidance and support.  But perhaps all that is just my imagination.

Inayat Khan speaks, in the passage above, of how the soul which is impressed by certain things takes those impressions into the afterlife, literally creating what comes next; whatever we expect is that happens, he says, after a period of inactivity:

What is purgatory? The Sufis call it Naza, a suspension of activity. If there is any death it is stillness and inactivity. It is like a clock which for some time is stopped; it wants winding, and a little movement sets a clock going. So there comes the impulse of life which, breaking through this cloud of mortality, makes the soul see the daylight after the darkness of the night. In Sufi terms this may be called Nahazat. And what does the soul see in this bright daylight? It sees itself living as before, having the same name and form and yet progressing. The soul finds a greater freedom in this sphere, and less limitation than it has previously experienced in its life on the earth. Before the soul now is a world, a world not strange to it, but which it had made during its life on the earth. That which the soul had known as mind, that very mind is now to the soul a world; that which the soul while on earth called imagination is now before it a reality. If this world is artistic it is the art produced by the soul. If there is absence of beauty, that is also caused by the neglect of beauty by the soul while on earth. The picture of Jannat, paradise, the ideas about heaven, and the conception of the infernal regions, is now to the soul an experience.  — Inayat Khan

I also wonder if the soul that is confused, in its attachment to the earth plane, may not leave behind some of the impressions made on others, and if this can be troublesome. Just the action of moving away from the earth, in and of itself, may be very frightening if the soul is not ready, at least to some extent. I felt “haunted” for some time after my mother died, even though I was entirely aware that a large part of this was my guilt-based projection over my lack of grief for her passing. I suspect that not all souls leave willingly, even if only because they are confused, and feel that they still need to resolve things that would be better left in order that they contemplate their next steps. At the deepest level of reality, we are so profoundly interconnected…and if we haven’t been able to keep our sacred commitments to each other, what is the impact of that?

Is the soul sent to the one or the other place, among many who are rejoicing there or suffering for their sins? No, this is the kingdom that the soul had made while on earth, as some creatures build nests to stay in during the winter. It is the winter of the soul which is the immediate hereafter. It passes this winter in the world which it has made either agreeable or disagreeable for itself. But one might ask, ‘Does the soul live a solitary life in this world that it has made?’ No, how can it be solitary? The mind, whose secret so few in the world know, can be as large as the world, and larger still. This mind can contain all that exists in the world, and even all that the universe holds within itself though some might say, ‘What a wonderful phenomenon; I never thought that the mind could be so large; I thought my mind was even smaller than my body, that it was hidden somewhere in a corner of my brain.’ The understanding of mind indeed widens one’s outlook on life. It first produces bewilderment, and then the vision of the nature of God, which is a phenomenon in itself, becomes revealed. Does one see, then, all those whom one has known while on the earth? Yes, especially those whom one has loved most, or hated most. What will be the atmosphere of that world? It will be the echo of the same atmosphere which one has created in this. If one has learned while on earth to create joy and happiness for oneself and for others, in the other world that joy and happiness surrounds one; and if one has sown the seeds of poison while on earth the fruits of these one must reap there; that is where one sees justice as the nature of life.  — Inayat Khan

A far cry from “Bible-belt” mentality, yes? But I find that the comfort and ease produced by this kind of thinking proves its accuracy. Nothing is ever lost, and all can be regained. It is comforting to think that one’s thoughts and dreams produce a further reality, and I have noticed this happening more and more as I progress on this plane–or rather, I notice that I have a sense of my fantasies in the imaginal realm beginning to seem more and more real, more and more…imminent. Who knows?

“For now we see through a glass darkly, but then…face to face.” –1st Corinthians 13

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