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Human beings are bi-dimensional

The progression towards perfection has often been described by the spiritual traditions of the past as a change of plane, a drastic separation between body and soul, matter and spirit, eternity and impermanence, this world and the other. The reason why they did this is that human beings are bi-dimensional by essence. Ostad Elahi puts a special emphasis on this human bi-dimensionality: human beings are, on the one hand, this animal body endowed with a psyche and an intellect that enables them to evolve in a natural environment, regulated by physical and social determinisms, and on the other, this spirit with which they spontaneously identify themselves, because it is the source of moral consciousness, willpower and free-will, and because they feel that the spirit has its origin in a Principle that transcends the entire material order.

This Principle, which is also called the “Source” by Ostad Elahi, is considered by him also as the true destination of human beings. The aspiration for returning to the Source is the motive that underlies human progress; but human beings cannot attain this goal unless they themselves succeed in developing the quality homogeneous with that of the Source, a trace of which they carry in their innermost self.

As bi-dimensional beings, humans may achieve this goal only by delving deep into themselves and finding a way towards the perfection of their real being. It is natural to think of the process of perfection as a relentless struggle for transcending the animal or terrestrial part of our nature.  It is on this ground that the terrestrial world appears to us as what it is: a temporary abode and a transitory stage. According to Aristotle, to become human is to “strive to live like an immortal”. This maxim becomes even more meaningful if we acknowledge the fact that in every human being, there is a part that is immortal, literally imperishable, it is the basis of our identity and the source of our selfhood, that is, our celestial part (or celestial soul).

In practice, the bi-dimensional character of human beings manifests itself through constant tension between the terrestrial part, which is dominated by the pleasure principle, and the celestial part, which is the seat of reason and the willpower that is capable of transcending the animal desires and impulses, to attain freedom and self-control, which evolve hand in hand with knowledge and reason.

We human beings are intrinsically inclined towards transcendence, but this is a predisposition that can be made to bear fruit only through conscious efforts and persistent practice. Our nature being what it is (essentially tending towards imbalance), if we stand still and remain inactive, our terrestrial part will eventually get the upper-hand, overwhelming our psyche, prompting our thoughts and leading to our spiritual downfall. To avoid imbalance, we should resort to the power of ethics to control the impulsive and assertive animal part of our nature, called the “imperious self”, which, left to itself, begins by pervading our personality and ends up by taking full control of it.

Ostad Elahi does not prescribe annihilation of the imperious self through rigorous asceticism as many spiritual masters of the past did in order to attain spiritual salvation. His prescription is that we make the best possible use of the terrestrial part of the self in order to foster the qualities of true humanity within ourselves. The terrestrial part, therefore, should not be eliminated, but harnessed and put to the service of the celestial part, to help it attain maturation.

In sum, the two human dimensions are not merely juxtaposed, but closely connected. According to Ostad Elahi, the terrestrial part consisting of the body, psyche and intellect should not be allowed to become obstacles to spiritual progress, but rather be instrumental in boosting the process of perfection. Terrestrial life is not only a transit area, but also a place of exercise, a laboratory of sorts. Let us now find out what this laboratory has in store for us.

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6 comments

  1. Mat Oct 21, 2009 4:54 pm 1

    Well defined and excellent analytic article on the subject matter. Denying or neglecting this dimension would defeat the purpose. One question arises, how do we remind ourselves of the existence of this imperishable part in the course of our everyday life?

  2. Zulu Nov 08, 2009 12:35 pm 2

    Mat, I think the first step is to get ourselves familiarized with the anatomy of this imperishable (celestial) part. As we learn what it is comprised of, we better understand what its needs are and how it manifests itself in our consciousness. When we incorporate activities in our routine that nourish it – the same way we do for our perishable part – it will grow healthier and become more prominent, and little by little we will feel its presence in our daily life. And hopefully this part will be in charge when we make our decisions.

  3. ramin Nov 10, 2009 5:41 am 3

    To respond to Mat, I think if you know there is higher power and attention needs to be given to him, then we will be on the right track to enstill this character in ourselves with his help.

  4. Mat Nov 11, 2009 8:15 pm 4

    Thanks for the replies. I feel like I’m back to the step one with my imperious-self. The point is that it’s always there, never sleeps. I tried to set myself some practices like reading the related books and literature everyday, saying prayers on time, being patient in my everyday interactions (work, home), set goals for discipline and organization but at the end of the day when I look back to evaluate my day I finds shortcomings ( incomplete tasks, little bit of negativity here, little gossip there) indicating that it has been ruling me again.

  5. Zulu Nov 26, 2009 9:37 pm 5

    @Mat

    You mentioned a very critical aspect of the spiritual journey: What counts is our effort, not the result. Some divine virtues take many lives to cultivate. I have also experienced some sense of being hopeless recently with regard to fighting against my imperious self. The most valuable lesson I learned is that I should only focus on my effort rather than the result. At certain times in our journey we just need to be patient and at the same time resort to the Source.

  6. Q Jul 26, 2011 8:00 am 6

    Well said Zulu. The only thing I would like to emphasize more is the importance of “resorting to the Source”.
    The imperious self and its energy, which is opposite to celestial energy and is at work from within us by instinct, together with all the negative energies from outside of our selves, are working against our celestial part without any interruption. In order to be able to maintain control, we have to tap into a source of positive energy, THE DIVINE ENERGY. In the same way that negative energy is attacking us constantly, we need to connect to that source constantly. Only then will we be able to see, realize and fight back against that huge group of negative energies. This requires that, all the time, at any moment during our daily activities or inactivity, we create, or at least we try to create that connection with the divine and seek for help, so that we can stand up to the attacks of negative energies (from inside or form outside of our selves) and gradually become able to control opposite forces within us.
    It is this challenge that enables us to grow and fulfill our duties in the university that this planet earth is (the need for the existence of negative energy becomes more obvious once we see that it results in our growth). It is a very long long process, but receiving Divine help through creating that connection and absorbing positive energy at all times (natural meditation if you like) is a must.

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