At the stage of external baqa – following the Will of God – everything happens rather simply. The Sufi receives the impulse of Will and acts according to it. In fact, the energy necessary for completing the action is brought with the very same impulse of Will, and if we do not take into account that the demands at times can be hard to fulfill, there are no other problems here. The Sufi carries out his service, meanwhile receiving new experience and the Grace of God. All of this can go on for a fairly long time – in my case, the stage of following Will lasted almost 10 years. Then everything changed – suddenly, without any portent or warning, and a completely new stage of the Way began.
A person must himself accept the Will of God – a choice exists here. The stage of internal fana – disappearance – begins as an irreversible process which he cannot direct, although he can resist it. Of course, only up to a certain stage. But the difference between following the Will of God and disappearance in Him are so striking, that for the first while, the Sufi who has embarked on this stage of the Way has a very hard time.
First, the sensation of the open Heart disappears, and then along with it, the sensation of the constant connection to the Source, to the Creator. At first, this is experienced as a fall, as a return to a long-forgotten state of alienation from God. In place of the endless space which was in the open Heart comes the ordinary sensation of internal space, that is essentially all there is. This disappearance contains a real shock, but the next shock is the disappearance of the impulses of Will to which you had become accustomed to living for all the recent years. It is as if you find yourself weightless, because the energy that sustained and supported you suddenly ceases to come. This change demands a radical change in your lifestyle, and it becomes clear why the Sufis say that while on the stage of internal fana, you must retreat and distance yourself from people. To continue living as if you are still following the Will is a very serious mistake. This will lead to an excessive strain on forces, and slows the process of dissolving and the new transformation. The first test on the stage of disappearance into God will be the ability to accept the first changes of your state and to be able to arrange your life according to them. The force which the Will gave you is gone; the old experience is not useful, and the previous opportunities for interaction with the Supreme and work with energies also seem to fall away or become very weak. Acting and living are as if from nothing, but the old motivations providing the energy of Will also cease to work.
The entire preceding Way gives the seeker both endurance and patience. At the stage of disappearance into God, these two qualities become extremely necessary. At a certain moment, you begin to lose interest in everything, and it is impossible to go on living on the strength of will, because it is also already gone. There remains only to endure your powerless state, and remain an observer of what is happening around you, and of course within you, as well. Such states occur with seekers at early stages of the Way as well, but they pass “in a soft form,” so to say. At a certain moment, motivation falls away, interest in performing practices is lost, and in general in the achievement of previous goals. Depression does not ensue, but everything that a person lived with all the previous time suddenly becomes pointless for him. As a rule, such a state does not last for a long time, and it comes on the eve of transformation, as a consequence of the impulse of the Grace of God received before this. Then, everything gradually comes full circle, and motivation once again returns and awareness of the need for a searching, but a person becomes somewhat different, having gone through what is a transformation nevertheless, albeit not a deep one. The disappearance into God is accompanied by a most profound transformation, and therefore here it is all far more vivid and more difficult.
The Will of God is directly connected with action and with various forms of activity. Disappearance into God – especially at the beginning – requires inaction. Therefore, those who embark on this stage of the Way had better limit external action to the minimum amount possible. It is activity that makes painful the process of internal dissolution, which is unleashed at the stage of internal fana. As soon as the shock passes, provoked by the sudden internal changes, staying in the state of disappearance becomes quite comfortable. The need to overcome yourself and be occupied with external affairs is what brings the greatest discomfort at this moment. Furthermore, the matters related to fulfillment of daily needs are also not burdensome. The main difficulty is the matters related to other people and obligations not directly related to you yourself. It is hard to force energy to move outside in order to do what is not in the scope of your life’s requirements and needs. A super-effort must be made all the time, which exhausts you yourself, and slows the process of disappearance. Outside of these efforts, you are calm, satisfied and detached from everything, and there is nothing – neither internally or externally – that could seriously disturb you. You gradually cease to exist for the external world, and internally as well, you do not feel any particular heaviness in the presence of yourself. You become an empty vessel, but as before, you cannot act from this emptiness.
It cannot be said that from the moment of the beginning of internal fana, the Sufi no longer has any connection with the Supreme at all. Direct instructions continue to come from time to time, and even at that stage, the Sufi may take part in serious Work, for which, as a rule, the Lord gives him particular motivation. These instructions very much differ from the impulses of Will which came before. Now the Sufi simply knows what must be done; in fact this knowledge emerges seemingly by itself, without prior reflections or contemplation. This is not an apparition, not the manifestation of spiritual vision, and not a particularly transcendental experience. It is simply knowledge of what must be done here and now. It does not come very often, but in the event a Sufi takes part in a certain mystical Work, the appearance of such knowledge becomes regular. At any rate, it comes until the Work is completed. Moreover, dreams remain, in which the Sufi may receive instructions and warnings, and the vision does not go away -- it is direct perception which is developed to the extent awareness grows. That is, it cannot be said at all that a person who reaches the stage of internal fana immediately loses everything previously attained along the Way. It is simply that his situation changes – and first of all, in the mystical sense, and as for the spiritual side of his development, it also changes, although not as obviously.
The length of the passage through each of the stages of the Way is very individual, and depends on many factors. Here it is both readiness for changes which a person possesses, and what Work he must fulfill, and finally, the destiny preordained for him. All factors may change to the extent of passage along the Way, but the Way is nevertheless tied to the factor of time. Some processes cannot be accelerated no matter how hard you try, and certain external events must be experienced even so. Thus, all stages of the Way last according to the individuality of each person, and all the above-mentioned factors that are formed by him himself or personally for him.
The loss of the feeling of connection with God which comes at the very beginning of the stage of disappearance is somewhat later compensated by the fact that the Sufi begins to lose the borders of his internal space as he finds unity with Infinity. There is no individual God, but the individual space of a person begins to disappear, which suddenly is sensed as one whole with the endless space of Being, and even Non-Being as well. The Sufi becomes united with what is almost impossible to describe – with endless energy, with a feeling of joining in which his physical shell ceases to be an obstacle. God, earlier lost as the Source, manifests Himself anew, but there is no object about which one could say: here He is, God! If such an object existed in the connection which originated in the Heart of a Sufi, and the Source of Creation was perceived quite clearly, now there is nothing like this. There is the sensation of dissolution, the loss of distinction between the internal space and the outer, although it does not relate to physical reality, of course – and there is Infinity, in which there is no time, and we somehow do not have to speak of space, either.
The process of disappearing into God is reflected on all the bodies except, apparently, the physical. Although a certain re-organization takes place in it, it is nevertheless minimal. The energies of the ethereal body change, but I will not undertake to describe this process in more detail. Various transformational processes take place, and they are sometimes perceived ambiguously. For example, once in the course of several weeks, I had the sensation that my ethereal body was filled with a dark, cool water – to be more precise, an energy which created such a sensation. The “water,” which appeared in the area of my heels, gradually rose until finally it flooded over my head. Virtually at once, after this feeling of otherness, the energies flooding me disappeared, although I did not notice any radical changes. Transformational processes flow undetected, and far from always will you see a specific result from this or that transformation.
The changes of the mind are the most obvious for a person who is on the stage of internal fana. Part of the “living” memory is erased – that is, many formerly relevant recollections lose their vividness, and it becomes hard to recall various types of matters and obligations. Presence in the “here and now” is reflected on the mind – it cannot hold in its memory lists of various tasks. Even vitally important things may be forgotten by virtue of the fact that the general state of unification with Infinity influences the mind in such a fashion; it is simpler for it to stop than to think purposely and hard. If it has no dominants concerning the Work and proceeding from God (even if He is sensed differently now), then all the rest has an entirely trivial value and is poorly remembered. It is not only the insufficiency of energy of Will that makes performing external tasks difficult, but the new state of mind as well, which from the perspective of external effectiveness begins to work more poorly. The rest of its functions, as far as I can see, do not suffer at all.