He may have lived far away in the forest, or on a mountain, or in a cave, or on the bank of a river – he may have lived anywhere for that matter – but wherever he has lived man has built something resembling a temple; something has come out of his consciousness. There is no blind imitation in it; they were not constructed by looking at other temples. So all temples have been of different shapes and types, but they have always existed.
There is a lot of difference between a temple and a masjid; their arrangement and design are quite different from each other. But there is no difference between men in their aspiration or inner urge. A man may be anywhere; however unfamiliar and unacquainted he is with others, still he carries the same latent seed somewhere in his consciousness.
Another thing worth noting is that though thousands of years have passed, and now we have no clue about the locks or the hidden treasures, still we continue to carry these strange keys as if under the spell of some lingering memory. Despite all the attacks on it – reason tries to shatter it from all sides, and the so-called modern intellectual does not accept it – the human heart still treasures this memory and continues to be fascinated by it. So we ought to remember that although he is not aware of it today, somewhere in man's unconscious is a resounding echo which tells him that locks which used to open once existed.
Why is this stored in the unconscious? It is because none of us are new to this world. All of us are born again and again, and there was never a time when we did not exist. What we knew consciously in days past has now, today, become unconscious – buried within us under thousands of layers as the unconscious. If in days past we once knew the significance and deeper secrets of some temple, and had experienced the opening of some inner door, then somewhere in the deep recesses of the unconscious that memory still lies dormant. The intellect may totally deny its existence, but intellect cannot reach the depth where the memory is retained.
So despite all obstacles, despite its apparent meaninglessness, it is something which persists, which cannot be removed. It may take new forms – but it continues. Still, this is only possible because we have known something an infinite number of times on our infinitely long journey of births and deaths – even though we may not remember it today.
Apart from having an outward use – as a means to an end – each of these things also has a deeper significance and purpose.
The universal urge to build temples is inherent only in man. Animals make their dwellings and birds build nests, but they do not build temples. When distinguishing man from animals, one prominent feature is that man is a temple-making animal – no other animal makes temples. To provide some shelter for oneself is absolutely natural; it is done by every creature; birds and animals do it, even small insects do it – but to build a house for the divine is a distinctive feature of man.