The individual experience of the Master cannot help but leave a mark on all of his Work, including what concerns his work with students as well. He cannot impose his experience, because doing so would suppress the student’s individuality and his uniqueness in what concerns the Way to God. Nevertheless, there exist keys by which inner doors are opened and they are the same for everyone. For example, the opening of the Heart does not occur without an act of acceptance – when a person passes through internal or external situations which previously were unacceptable for him – accepting them, letting go and relaxing. This moment is what serves as a key, leading to the miracle of the opening of the Heart. Acceptance is one of the main keys on the Way, and the easier the student can accept what is given him by life, the Master and God, the faster he advances, changes, and grows.
If the Master teaches only from his own experience, his teaching will suit only a small number of people close to him in construction of essence. If he can detach himself from his own experience, choosing the most important – the very keys to passage of the Way and attaining spiritual transformation, the keys to interaction with God – then his Work maybe useful for the most diverse types of people. If he detaches completely from himself, becoming a pure conduit of the Supreme, then he may work with everyone, but the gulf between him and people will become too great, and instead of learning from him, they will make of him an idol. For effective work with people, the Master must have something within in him that would enable people to see the human in him; this enables him to avoid deification on the one hand, and also provides hope for a breakthrough to those who are still concerned about their imperfection and are tormented from inferiority complexes.
If the Master is too far from the human, an even more acute sensation of their own inferiority and “deformity” arises in those who associate with him. They lose any hope of changes of their being and rapidly fall into the temptation of worship and praise of the Master, hoping now only for a miracle or for his “all-powerful” help. Therefore, of course, the false master always strives to manifest as much inhumanity as possible in his behavior, and demands from his followers the observation of almost inhuman asceticism and sacrifices. Thus a break is artificially created, thanks to which the false teacher obtains reverence and authority.
Following God’s Will enables one to surpass prior individual mystical experience, but gradually from following new experience arises that which also must be surpassed. Only the keys must be left through which the stage of renunciation of one’s own will in favor of God’s Will may be passed by others to maximum effectiveness. They should be taught.
When the Master’s individual experience is received within the framework of following a certain Way, then the Way becomes the context in which the transmission is carried out. Then what is called the line of Transmission appears; that is, the chain of succession of Knowledge and Work appears. In Sufism, the line of Transmission from the living Master is called the silsila and is traced usually from the Prophet Muhammad and the righteous caliphs to our times. Affiliation with the line of Transmission of silsila involves obtaining permission to teach people and automatically confirms the legitimacy of a sheikh’s or Master’s actions. This, so to speak, is a visible and documented line of Transmission which enables the protection of the Work from invasion by imposters and the preservation of mystical knowledge. And also to transmit spiritual power to him who really deserves it.
Silsila – in the ideal – is supposed to be a mystical transmission of both experience and knowledge. Despite a certain bureaucratism which is expressed in the obtaining of the ijaza by a newly-made mentor, the essence of silsila should be to remain mystical. Ijaza is official permission to teach people – it is formulated in writing, and is essentially an official Sufi document which must be presented upon demand and necessity. But the new sheikh or Master becomes the preserver and conduit of Knowledge, as I have already noted above.