For those of us whose physical bodies are “over the hill”, by this I mean over the age of fifty or so, we must face the fact that, no matter how well we look after ourselves, our physical powers are gradually deteriorating: step by step we are approaching death.
But as for our spiritual condition, there is no such limit, no age when powers are at their maximum, then recede. Spiritual power may continue to grow strongly throughout our lives, but we must seek out conditions conducive to that continuing growth, and weed out those qualities which threaten to choke the precious plant.
One of the most harmful weeds, the most inimical to our spiritual growth is the anger generated by the vanity of our egos. When anger rages it engulfs the light of faith, transforming in into fire. The light of Faith is the pure light of God, but when it is transformed into fire it no longer illumines, it burns.
When you find yourself overcome with anger you must quickly run to a mirror and behold your own face. That ugly spectacle will be enough to calm your anger: for who wants to look like the devil himself? When a person is angry his actions are satanic – destructive and self-destructive. Our Grandsheikh stressed the necessity of abandoning anger, for when the ego’s anger dominates a person he may readily deny even the sovereignty of God, and put himself in rebellion against the Overwhelming One – and that is very dangerous. Anger also wreaks havoc on our physical bodies, causing illness and premature aging, especially when a high level of anger is maintained over a long period of time.
Very few people can turn back anger when it assaults them. This is why so few people advance spiritually. The reason that anger is so difficult to defeat is simply because it is an intrinsic part of our physical and spiritual constitution. Anger corresponds to the element of fire in our make-up, which is a balance of fire, water, earth and air. Only those who are trained from a very early age by enlightened parents or teachers will have learned to keep these elements in balance. As for most people, each of these elements may predominate on different occasions according to exterior circumstances and intrinsic propensities, setting the equilibrium off center. Fire flares up in the face of provocation and teasing, aggression or attempts to subdue the will (of the child). Since these occasions are usually frequent in our early lives, we are all adept at getting angry, and from a very early age.
Our Grandsheikh also suggested that we perform a special Dhikr (prayer-meditation) at night in order to gain the upper hand in our struggle against anger. When you arise in the last third of the night to perform superrogatory prayers, after performing your ablutions, start by turning your face to the House of God and implore Him to aid you in your attempt to subdue anger. Then repeat one-hundred times. “Ya Halim” which means “Oh (God, who is) Forbearing and Slow to Anger” This name, al-Halim, is a Divine attribute of God which He wishes to bestow generously upon us, should we seek to receive it.
The first step is to ask God, in this manner, to help us become forbearing; then we must meditate on that Divine Attribute, that it may be absorbed into our being. We are literally calling it upon ourselves. Next we must adopt a practice in our everyday lives that will further our purposes. This practice is, simply, not to show anger, even when you feel it welling up inside. Don’t spit that anger out at those around you and poison the atmosphere, like a fire-breathing dragon. Hold it in, but not like a lump of undigested food; no, you must digest it. A certain amount of anger is part and parcel of every personality. Without some of that fire in our constitution we would die; therefore, it is possible for us to digest a certain amount of anger without suffering adverse side-effects. Of course, if we were to remain unchanged over a long period of time and swallow the same amount of anger, we would overdose; but that is not the case, for in time our intake of anger decreases as we learn, and are granted the ability not to react angrily to provocation in the first place. So, just as a baby initially drinks great quantities of milk, then graduates to solid food, decreasing its milk consumption drastically, we can swallow and digest anger, in the full knowledge that other forms of nourishment are soon forthcoming.
If you can manage to refrain from showing anger for forty days, you will have passed a great milestone. When it assails you, you must evade it, and when it is going to issue from you, you must swallow it. If you can successfully avoid it for forty days, anger will begin to assault you less frequently: once every forty days. If you can manage to keep yourself in this manner the initial forty days, and thereafter, in the face of forty more assaults (forty periods of forty days, a little more than four years), Satan will announce to his helpers: “Don’t bother attacking that person; you are just wasting your time and energy. His defenses are impenetrable: one thousand attacks are just as futile as one. Leave him alone, he has escaped from our hands”. Satan’s helpers are the selfish ego, vain desires and worldliness: these are our four great enemies, and whoso learns to control his anger will be victorious against these base influences.
Whenever you feel anger arising you must be aware that you are being tested. Such tests are sent your way from the spiritual world in order to ascertain your trustworthiness. Disliked events are sent from that realm so that you may have the chance to forbear, and thereby advance toward your goal. If there were not some benefit to be found in anger it would not exist. The benefit is found in being patient in the face of it. Without passing this test there can be no improvement.
Forbearance is a key to Divine Stations, and that key is forged by facing odious events with patience and controlling our anger. So, anger is a two-edged sword: if you can grasp its handle firmly you may rent the veils that blind your heart’s eyes, but if it is in the hands of your enemies your faith will be severed.