Pupil: I find it hard to get any real conception of the ego as being the imaginary idea of myself. The nearest I get to it is to see myself reacting in a situation and think 'This is the way I go into fear' and so on.
Abdullah: The imaginary idea you have of yourself is as your body – you think you are your body. When you say 'I want this' or 'Bill did that' you are talking about your bodies. When you look at other people you see their bodies, which you think are them. You identify with the body. This identification or idea of yourself is the ego. The real you is something inside, something quite different. Otherwise we would have to agree with atheists or materialists who say that when you are dead that is the end, it is all over. We believe there is something else, that you may call soul or whatever you want, and that this is the real you.
When you are trying to understand this, sometimes you fall into the trap of believing you are thought. Thoughts are apart from the body, in another dimension, and can live for a long time – Plato's thoughts are still alive, although his body has died. You can set some store by thoughts, but thoughts are not you, and after a certain time they too disappear. Of all the untold millions of thoughts that have been in the world, most have gone. Most have gone west! In your life you will have had thousands of thoughts and a lot of these will still be floating around somewhere, although thousands are trapped in your own computer system. In time, all will go. So, although imagining that you are thought is one step further than imagining you are body, it still is not the real you. Mind is only a part of body and thought is the product of mind.
Pupil: When people have what they think is a spiritual experience – being surrounded by golden light or something – is this usually imagination?
Abdullah: Each case would have to be assessed on its merits. Some experiences would be spiritual, many are nothing but imagination.
Pupil: Sometimes when I have felt I have done the sensing exercise properly, as the Sun was rising, I have had a feeling of rapport with the Sun in my head. How can I know this is not imagination?
Abdullah: If you have been looking at the Sun rising and then close your eyes, you can still see the Sun – it would not be imagination but a physical thing that was happening to you. When the Sun is operating through you as a force it does this through the solar plexus, not your head, and radiates throughout your whole body, going out all ways at once. This is a remarkable feeling and you would certainly know it was not imagination. Abdullah is aware as a Sufi that in another way the Sun does appear in your head, as light, but this is a quite different situation.