One of the most beautiful classification ever – by my beloved Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Khan.
The heart of man can be likened to water. Either it is frozen and then it is snow, or it is water and then it is liquid. When it is frozen it has turned into a crystal; when it is liquid it is in running order, and it is natural for water to be running.
Then there are two principal kinds of water: salt water and sweet water. The sea which is quite contented in itself, indifferent to everything else, has salt water because it is independent of anything else. It gives health, happiness and pleasure to those who walk along it, because it represents perfection. It asks nothing from anyone, it rises and falls within itself, it is independent, it is immense. In that way it shows perfection. But with that independent perfection its water is not sweet, and the ascetic who has closed his heart, with the perfection of God and with the realization of truth is like the sea, independent, indifferent to all things. His presence heals people, his contact gives them joy, gives them peace, and yet his personality is uninteresting: the water of the sea is salt water.
When the sea is calm it is a pleasure to travel on it, and when the sea is rough there is no worse illness than seasickness. So is the powerful mind, the mind of a soul that has touched perfection: it is with tranquillity, calmness and peace that this mind gives everyone a way into it, as the sea lays itself with open heart before those who Journey on it. Ships and boats pass through it, those who journey enjoy their travelling. But when the sea is disturbed by the wind, by storm, it is perfect in its annoyance, it can shake boats and steamers. And so the mind of the sage can have an effect upon all things in nature; it can cause volcanic eruptions, it can cause disasters, revolutions, all manner of things once its tranquillity is disturbed. Knowing this nature of the sage’s heart and knowing the great powers that a man who has touched divine perfection possesses, people in the East regard closely the pleasure and displeasure of the sage. They think that to annoy a sage is like annoying the whole of nature, to disturb his tranquillity means to shake the whole universe. A storm in the sea is a very small thing, whereas the heart that has touched perfection, if once upset, can upset the whole universe.
The water of the river is sweet. It is sweet because it is attracted to the sea, it is longing to reach the sea. The river represents the loving quality, a quality that is seeking for the object it loves. A heart that loves God and His perfection is likened to the river that seeks the sea. It is therefore that the personality of the seeker is more pleasant than the personality of the one who is contented with what he knows. There is little danger in travelling on the river, there is great joy in swimming in the river, and there is a fine scenery along it to look at. So it is with the personality which is like the river: that running of the feeling of sympathy, that continual running, means a living sympathy. The river helps the trees and plants and the earth along it. So does the kind, sympathetic person whose feeling is liquid: everywhere he goes he takes with him that influence which nourishes, which helps souls to flourish and to progress.
Then one sometimes sees a little stream. It runs, it is not a river, it is a small little stream running, and it is even more beautiful to look at for it expresses modesty, it expresses fineness of character, it expresses purity. For always the water of a little stream is pure. It expresses the nature of an innocent heart, the heart that cannot be prevented from being sympathetic, from being loving, by any experience of the world which makes water turn bitter. The bitter experience has not touched it, and it is pure and clear. It inspires poets, it uplifts a composer, it quenches the thirst of the thirsty one, it is an ideal spot for a painter to paint. With its modesty it has purity and with its purity it has life.
There is also the water of a little pool. It is sometimes muddy, sometimes dirty. Why? Because of its narrowness, because it is small. In the same way the narrowness of the heart has always mud in it. Because it is narrow and because it is not deep enough, all the elements of the earth enter it and take away its purity.
Then there is the water of a large pool, where water-lilies grow, where little fishes swim, where the sun is reflected and the moonlight produces a beautiful vision, where one would like to sit and look at it because it expresses to everyone that sees it the liquid nature of the heart, the heart that is not frozen, the heart that is like water. It is still, it is calm, it can make one’s heart tranquil to sit by its side. One can see one’s reflection in it, for it is calm, it is tranquil.
The water of the spring is most healing and most inspiring because it comes from above and falls on to the earth; that is the character of the inspirational mind. The heart that, like a spring, pours out water in the form of inspiration—be it in poetry, be it in music, in whatever form—has beauty, it has a healing quality, it can take away all the worries, anxieties, difficulties and troubles of those who come to it. Like the water of the spring it not only inspires but it heals.
Then there is a fountain that rises and falls in so many drops. It is man-made as the personality also is man-made. When man has made a personality, then the feeling that rises from the heart through that personality is like the fountain: each drop falling from it comes in the form of a virtue.
The water that rises from the sea towards the sky in the form of vapor represents the aspiration of the heart. The heart that aspires upward, that wishes to reach upward, that heart shows the quality of vapor. It is the heart of the devotee, of the seeker, the heart of the one who is always conscientiously seeking the higher ideal, touching the higher principles. In the form of clouds that heart of aspiration forms itself and pours down just like the rain, bringing celestial beauty in the form of art, poetry or music, or of anything that is good and beautiful.
There are hearts that have been impregnated with fire for a long, long time; there comes a sulphury water from them, purifying and healing. The heart has gone through fire, it has gone through suffering and therefore it can heal those who suffer.
There are hearts with many different qualities, like water may contain different chemical substances: those who have suffered, those who have gone through the test of patience, those who have contemplated. These hearts all represent one or the other kind of the water that heals and so do the personalities. Persons who have had deep experiences of any kind—of suffering, of agony, of love, of hate, of solitude, of association, of success, of failure—all have a particular quality, a quality which has a particular use for others.
Knowing this we will come to this conclusion: “Whatever has been my life’s destiny, my heart through sorrow or pain, through joy or pleasure, has prepared a chemical substance that serves a certain purpose for humanity. And I can only give that chemical substance for the use of humanity if I can keep my heart awake and open.” Once the heart is closed, once it is frozen, once it has turned from a warm heart into a stone, the person is no longer living. It does not matter what he has gone through, for even the worst poison can be of some use. There is no person therefore, however wicked, who is of no use, if only he knows that there is one condition for being useful to humanity, and that is to keep the heart open.
Source here: The smiling forhead.