The whole universe is contained within a single human being – You. Everything that you see around, including the things you might not be fond of and even the people you despise or abhor, is present within you in varying degrees. Therefore do not look for Satan outside of yourself either. The devil is not an extraordinary force that attacks from without. It is an ordinary voice within. If you get to know yourself fully, facing with honesty and hardness both your dark and light sides, you will arrive at a supreme form of consciousness. When a person knows himself or herself, he or she knows God.
The holographic secret which was announced by mystics of all time could create fear. All, which is, this vast universe, this endless amount of information, this huge range of feelings, motivations, ideas and attitudes, should be inside of me? How should I ever deal with that universe and find myself in it? There are so many things I would like to get rid of and forget about, there is so much as burden on my shoulders from my soul and my mind, all I finally want is rest and nothing more than my own affairs to take care of.
The mystic is not interested in theories about the world and humankind. She wants to influence the practical life of people: How to free them from suffering and how to create a better way of shared living among people.
For us, as we went through the age of enlightenment and post-enlightenment, it is easier to cope with mystical statements when we see them as working hypothesis: We adopt the concept experimentally as if it were true and keep the possibility in the back of our heads to revise it when it does not work. What would it mean for our social interactions and for our social perception if the whole social universe would be contained inside of us?
So when all phenomena and variations of interactive behavior can be found in us, when according to Cicero “nothing human is foreign to me”, we can see that the others are presenting us a mirror by behaving in a disturbing way. What annoys us about others demonstrates to us, what our problems with the world are and with what we cannot cope. We see our own imperfections when we get angry about someone. When we despise the avarice in someone else, it means that we know about avarice, and we only know about things which are represented inside ourselves. As something inside of us causes our chagrin, shows that we cannot cope with this experience productively or creatively but only with rejection and damnation. Without noticing, we direct this defense against ourselves.
Again, our opportunity to grow is in creating awareness. We use the working hypothesis that others present a mirror to us as soon as we get angry at them or decline their behavior. Thus we can redirect our perception from the outside to the inside and find still undiscovered aspects of ourselves there. And at this point, the devil comes in as a help.
All too long, the devil has been demonized: As a power hidden somewhere in the dark and bringing misery to the life of people from an ambush. All evil must have its root in an ultimate evildoer. This is how we create an excuse and a scapegoat: The goat legged horned satan. Almighty as he is, no wonder that we get weak over and over again.
The mystic is not interested in theological questions about the origin or the source of evil. He points at people and their inclination to act in an evil way and to forget about doing good things. For this, a devil as origin is of no use. As soon as bad actions happen, the genuine devil is at work, our imperfection, our daily voice of self entanglement, not more and not less.
This means that the true power lies in us. Is it up to us, to decide in any moment whether we follow love or the devil? When we look closer into ourselves, we might realize that we never intentionally and consciously chose for the devil. More so, that there is something inside ourselves which is seemingly not under our control, directing our actions. Afterwards, we wake up and tell ourselves that we should have reacted differently. For instance, we get an attack of rage because we were treated unfairly and become even more unjust as we were treated before. Looking back later, we might think that we overreacted and hurt the other person even more as they had hurt us. And we realize that there was no conscious intention to do so.
The part of us which we cannot control and which possesses us in certain dark moments and causes evil actions then is no entity outside of us but a pattern which has taken root inside of us as a fear directed mechanism of reaction which can be activated at the push of a button from outside and can change us from a loving to an abhorrent being in the next moment.
Again, we are challenged to look inside, into the depth of our heart, to explore the den of darkness. Eventually, we are encountering no one less than the devil there, and he is not one to joke with easily. But this inner devil just lives by his skill to hide and camouflage. As soon as we are able to fearlessly meet him and confront him, he and his dark power fade. With every victory we decide for is in this struggle, we win in terms of consciousness and expand the free land inside of us where milk and honey flow.
The rules are taken from Elif Shafak's novel “The Forty Rules of Love” (Viking 2010). They are inspired by the Sufi tradition and worded by the autor's imagination. www.elifshafak.com