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Spirituality, natural spirituality

Spirituality Natural Spirituality

“Spirituality” commonly refers to anything that relates to the life of the spirit, which is sometimes called “inner life”. The extreme vagueness of such a characterization clearly leaves room for all kinds of associations and generalisations. Spirituality today refers to a vast array of beliefs and practices—from monastic life to yoga workshops, alchemy, Taoism, tarot-reading or astral travel, to name only a few. The supermarket of spiritualities is not bothered by contradictions—even atheism may lay claim to a certain idea of the spiritual.

For Ostad Elahi, spirituality is much more specific in meaning. On one level, it is in line with the religious or mystical understanding of the matter. Indeed, spirituality is first and foremost the life of the spirit considered in its true essence: distinct from corporeal things and, in particular—with regard to human beings—distinct from their animal part. Spirituality is inseparable from the process of self-transformation, that is from specific practices that make it possible to achieve a greater knowledge and a sharper perception of oneself and the world. The “life” of the spirit is oriented towards this end. According to Ostad Elahi, the idea of perfection defines this orientation.

In summary, spirituality, as defined by Ostad Elahi, involves two main theses:

  • Human beings have a bi-dimensional nature—their real self being spiritual in nature.
  • This spiritual part of human beings is capable of transforming itself according to certain patterns of development that are adapted to its nature, lend themselves to knowledge, and can be acted upon.

Any form of spirituality that excludes either of these two points deviates from its true purpose. This, in itself, sets down criteria to sift through the variety of practices and discourses inherited from religious traditions of the past or reinvented in contemporary times. Spirituality in the form of “natural spirituality”, as defined by Ostad Elahi, differs in particular from purely instrumental—and sometimes deviated—approaches to spirituality (such as meditation, the search for extra-sensory experiences, altered states of consciousness, etc.), but also from strictly speculative or philosophical approaches (metaphysics, erudite esotericism, etc.). Considered as a discipline in its full right, involving both knowledge and practice, spirituality is not a technique aimed at developing one’s well-being or intended to relieve the ills of modern life. Its goal is first and foremost to provide the conditions for the development and perfection of the soul.

The reference to spirituality as “natural” consequently foregrounds three points:

  1. Spirituality must correspond to the true nature of human beings, i.e. their constitution, their disposition and their true needs.
  2. It must be adapted to the spirit and way of life of the time, including the most common situations of daily life—in contrast to forms of spirituality that seek to artificially revive outdated lifestyles, or even to classical spirituality to the extent that it systematically values emotions at the expense of reason.
  3. Finally—and this point relates to the previous one—spirituality must be in keeping with the rational requirements for understanding, analysis and experimentation. In this sense it is in line with the scientific stance. It is literally the “medicine of the soul”.

The latter idea has been systematically developed by Bahram Elahi in Spirituality is a Science and Medicine of the Soul. The medicine of the soul defines the conditions for the balanced and harmonious growth of the real self, which can be described as a psycho-spiritual organism.

If spirituality is a science, it should deal like any other science with objective phenomena that show sufficient stability to be studied experimentally. In other words, it too must rest on the principle of causality. The maturation process of the self—or “process of perfection”—follows chains of causality that can be cognised and acted upon, and that define—beyond our individual selves—a whole ecosystem governed by laws of its own.

Another significant result of this definition of spirituality is that it frees us from the temptation to give in to some cult of the past by “fetishising” principles or forms we only vaguely understand. Indeed this approach forces us to admit the possibility for new advances and new discoveries in the field of spirituality. Spirituality then is neither a supermarket that displays just about anything, nor a museum where principles are archived: it is a construction site and it is open to all provided that the stakes have been clearly defined.


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11 comments

  1. mike Sep 04, 2011 12:08 am 1

    very good and clear definition, thank you.

  2. JW Sep 04, 2011 6:22 pm 2

    I hope this will not be out of context but this post reminded me of one of my favorite “Oscar Wilde” quotes, all though he is not a spiritual master as a poet and fellow man I think we can always find positive value and inspiration on others.

    “The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly – that is what each of us is here for.” Oscar Wilde

    Thank you for sharing. In hope of a wiser & kinder return.

  3. wire Sep 06, 2011 3:03 pm 3

    This is a very well-written and clear article. The section that describes observation, in the scientific sense, makes me think of self-knowledge, and how a spiritual student must seek out this knowledge, in much the same way a scientist seeks out answers to their questions…

  4. k Sep 06, 2011 11:34 pm 4

    I really liked this article; especially the beginning. It teaches that one has to be careful when using the word *spirituality* because different people understand different things by this term.

    But I have a “question”(it is actually not so much a question for me anymore, since I think I understand it now but I just want to share what I have been thinking about):
    We say *humans* are bi-dimensional (i.e. a body and a soul). But animals, for example, are also bi-dimensional! Because at one point I thought that “bi-dimensional” meant the opposition between the terrestrial soul and the celestial soul.

    I think this article is helpful for understanding this: http://www.ostadelahi.com/english/philosophy/html/descartes.html (I actually have to re-read this article a couple time again). There are of course also many other references that can help one to understand this.

  5. wire Sep 07, 2011 3:04 pm 5

    @k

    why do you say that animals are bi-dimensional when they are not endowed with celestial soul? If i have understood the causal process of perfection correctly, I am not sure this is true… can you elaborate?

  6. SM Sep 07, 2011 6:14 pm 6

    @ k

    I’m not understanding your conclusion; are you saying that all beings are “bi-dimensional” because all beings consist of a body and a soul (the nature of that soul to be put aside for the moment)?

  7. k Sep 08, 2011 12:40 pm 7

    @SM and wire:
    Let us first make clear what we are discussing:
    I say—at least, that is my understanding—, that the statement “animals are bi-dimensional” is a correct statement based on the idea that every being has an invisible dimension (a vital essence or a soul): “The invisible dimension of beings is what we call the vital essence or soul, while their visible dimension is called the body.” (The Path of Perfection, page 25).
    Look up chapter 3 of Path of Perfection and also in chapter 2 of the Spirituality is a Science (where one of the important axioms is The Vital essence, page 23), and argue why the statement “animals are bi-dimensional” is wrong.
    Thanks

  8. Tiger Sep 10, 2011 11:25 am 8

    @k
    Yes, animals are bi-dimensional in the sense that you say (visible/invisible), just like any other being (stone, molecule, you name it). Most of them are even three-dimensional if you consider the fact that they are extended in space (length/width/height)!
    But we shouldn’t be arguing over words. I guess the point is: what invisible dimension, what soul are we talking about? The vital essence of the animal, its animal soul, is what sustains the vital functions of its physical organism. In so called higher animals, it comes with psychological and cognitive attributes of a very rudimentary kind. But in terms of overall behavior and life orientation, this duality between body and soul does not translate into the kind of two-fold concern that we find in humans endowed with a celestial soul. No trace of the tension between egoistic, self-interested desires and a higher purpose. No inner struggle. No genuine “bi-dimensionality”. Can we agree on this (restrained) use of words?

  9. SM Sep 10, 2011 8:09 pm 9

    @ k: I was merely clarifying your statement, I wasn’t disagreeing with you (tone sometimes gets lost in Internet posts). If by bi-dimensional we are pointing out that a being is more than just a physical body and also has a spirit, then that word applies to all beings. Of course, Tiger’s point is well taken, too, that in certain contexts, particularly when we are differentiating human beings from other beings on earth, we use the word bi-dimensional to specifically reference the existence of a celestial dimension in human beings, which is absent from other beings. I think all three of us are saying the same thing, though. The rest is semantics.

  10. happi Sep 13, 2011 5:31 am 10

    What caught my attention in this article “Spirituality…the process of self-transformation”: if I relate this to the social dimension of life, since we are social beings, our greatest progress is made through living in association with others. Dealing and close association with others and cooperation is essential to the process of spiritual growth and self-transformation.

  11. Emily Feb 06, 2012 4:33 pm 11

    Spirituality is neither a supermarket nor a museum but rather “a construction site, provided the stakes have been clearly defined.” The phrase spirituality is a “construction site” really resonates with me, in the sense that I feel it really involves working in the trenches, requiring digging, drilling of ones self, and getting oneself dirty in the mud, in order to gain self knowledge.

    Too often though I must admit that I treat spirituality like a museum, thinking that merely learning spiritual principles is sufficient! Unfortunately, the same way that by going to the museum and looking at masterpiece I will never become a renowned artist, the same applies in spirituality, by just archiving spiritual principles in my mind I will never become a learned student in the spiritual path, I must practice it.

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