There are many analogies which have been used to portray the soul’s relationship to God. The following is a brief summary of some of them, highlighting features that offer an insight into this basic spiritual relationship.
A servant and his Lord
A true servant serves his Lord selflessly, without any thought for himself.
If the Lord is entertaining someone, he acts invisibly, coming and going, tending to the guest’s needs before he is himself aware of them. The guest feels loved and cared for, without realizing the cause of this care. He is aware only of the Lord’s graciousness.
The servant is ever watchful to see what his Lord will need, and strives to act before the command is given.
Usually he has very few possessions, only enough to maintain his health and ability to serve, and is not occupied with a private life.
He lives to serve, and finds joy in fulfilling his Lord’s desire.
The lover and the Beloved
The lover is devoted to his beloved, and seeks at every moment to be with her, or pay her some service.
If the beloved should speak to him, or write a letter, or give him a gift, he relates everything to the beloved. That is, he sees in her words a proof of interest: in truth he does not care which words are used, only that they confirm the bond. If she writes him a letter, the words are secondary to their meaning, which likewise is secondary to the significance of the letter itself – did she write it to say goodbye, or ask him to return? And if she gives him a gift, the gift is ignored next to the fact that it was a gift given to him by his beloved. He hardly notices the gift itself, seeing in it only the token of his beloved’s favor.
When apart, he dwells only on the next time they will be together. He cannot help but mention her to everyone he meets. His longing to see her is not from duty, or obligation; in fact, any other activity is painful since it means being away from her.
The valley and the Mountain
The valley magnifies the grandeur of the mountain; that is, by its lowliness it emphasizes the height of the mountain.
It gathers all the waters that flow down from the mountain, since it dwells in the lowest place.
Anyone who wishes to make a pilgrimage to that mountain, their way is made easier by entering through the valley.
The drop and the ocean
A drop has independent form and substance, while the ocean is a vast reservoir of this substance. When the drop merges with the ocean it disappears, yet its substance remains.
The Father and his son
A father is forever anxious for his son’s growth and well-being. He would never do anything to harm him. And any harshness he shows is always for the son’s future benefit.
The mirror and the Sun
A mirror reflects the light of the sun faithfully. When one looks at a perfect mirror, they cannot see the mirror itself – only what is reflected in it.
The painter and his painting
The painting reveals the genius of the author, and allows others to see the products of his imagination. Yet, the painting does not excel the author. Its essence is of another kind entirely, and serves always the painter’s fame, not its own.