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On proving God – III

Close up of woman eye

Pascal was right: proofs of the existence of God are of no avail when it comes to giving faith to the faithless. To realise that a divine scheme is at work in the universe requires more than rational arguments. What, then, is needed? In Knowing the Spirit (p. 45), Ostad Elahi provides the reader with a clue. He speaks of the voice of conscience as an inner device capable of attesting to the existence of God. Now, what does voice of conscience mean? Where does it come from and how exactly can it lead us to acknowledge the existence of God?

The word conscience usually refers to that part of the mind which tells us whether what we did, what we are doing or intend to do is right or wrong. For Ostad Elahi, the capacity for ethical discrimination belongs to the celestial soul which is part and parcel of human individuality. The celestial soul is in fact responsible for initiating as well as nurturing spiritual perception. There exist various spiritual perceptions suggesting, one way or the other, the reality of a pervasive divine presence. For Ostad Elahi the celestial soul, which has a formative function in the development of the human psyche, is a direct emanation from the divine Source. So it’s only natural that it should be attracted to it, just as sea-turtles instinctively head for the sea as soon as they are hatched. Proceeding from the supreme Source, the soul bears the indelible stamp of the Divine that makes it receptive to spirituality and capable of grasping divine truths.

The voice of conscience, arising from the celestial soul and offering evidence to the existence of God, does not reduce to the moral sense of right or wrong regarding what we think or do. In fact, it gives voice to a wider range of intimations coming from what Ostad Elahi calls the inspiring conscience and the certifying conscience. The function of the inspiring conscience is to impart useful suggestions about the management of one’s own process of perfection; that of the certifying conscience is to set its seal of approval on what has been imparted, thus confirming its truth. Without this internal process of authentication, how could one ever really be cognisant of any truth? Plato taught that to be cognisant of a truth is to re-cognise it, which means that as long as inside one’s mind, a statement has not been recognised as true, as long as one merely hears that it’s a true statement without perceiving inwardly the reality of that truth, one cannot make it one’s own. And this internal recognition can be achieved only if within oneself a faculty exists that is capable of recognising the truth and attest to it. The same holds for the existence of God who, by the way, is called in the mystical Persian tradition “Haqq”, which also means truth and right. It is everybody’s birthright to have the potential of recognising the truth of the existence of God; that is to identify its manifestations inside and outside themselves.

In traditional spirituality, there are those who give their faith to a person whom they identify as a manifestation of God. For example, at the time of Christ, some found God manifested in him, some others didn’t. How can such a divergence of views be explained? It’s like the difference between a medical student at the beginning of his studies and a full-fledged doctor. When they are shown a lung X- ray, they are looking at the same thing but they do not see the same thing. And if it’s commonly agreed that the interpretation of the second is more reliable, it is because he has been more fully trained to accurately decipher X-rays and has thus gained valuable insight into the matter. Recognition of the Divine is also a matter of insight. “Haqq (God – truth – right) is in all things, says Ostad Elahi, but one needs the eyes to see it”. So, the point at issue is not so much finding proofs of the existence of God, as developing the inner vision that sees God.

“What prevents people from getting to know God is the screen of smoke created by their imperious self”, says Malak Jan Ne’mati. This clearly points to the core of the problem: the imperious self. There is a current perception that human beings are blinded by their passions. Anger prevents us from viewing the limitations of our rights in a dispassionate way. Ingratitude prevents us from seeing the good things we benefit from. Jealousy leads us to focus on the negative points of people, even the minor ones. Greed blinds us to the needs of others. And so on… The point to be made here is that every time we act the way we shouldn’t, when for instance we give free rein to our selfishness or negative desires, we generate a thick haze that clouds our vision, inwardly as well as outwardly.

Once we realise that it is our imperious self that prevents us from seeing God, the solution becomes clear: it is to commit ourselves to what Ostad Elahi calls the struggle against the imperious self. Put briefly, this struggle consists in trying, on a daily basis, not to give free rein to our negative urges (jealousy, greed, anger, animosity, etc.), but on the contrary, to develop altruistic ways by trying to be mindful of others, of their rights and well-being, thus ensuring the respect we owe ourselves. Such a practice, if sustained long enough, will result in a progressive clearing of the haze that dims the soul. This will eventually enable us to identify the divine imprint that is stamped on our souls. This is where faith is attained. Not an imitative faith, conditioned by a dogmatic education, but a dedication that leads to a virtuous circle: the recognition of the Divine prompts us to struggle against the imperious self, while in turn the struggle against the imperious self makes the presence of God ever more palpable, until faith blossoms into certitude.

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  1. nahjaf Jan 25, 2011 6:29 am 1

    How rationally, clear and succinctly the interactions between the different components of the self are argued. The function and interaction of each these components leading to the internal process of authentication, in which overcoming the obstacles caused by the imperious self facilitates cognition of the truth and recognition of the Divine, are effectively articulated. Thank you for such an insightful rationalisation that allows objectification of the seemingly abstract notions that are instrumental in developing our inner vision that sees God.

  2. NN Feb 04, 2011 8:38 pm 2

    While it is true the fight against our imperious self is a daily struggle, and we should not give free rein to our daily urges, how does faith come into the mix? If a person has the faith and certitude of the divine, what is the role of faith in this daily struggle, and how can we best utilize it?

  3. juneone Feb 13, 2011 2:21 am 3

    @NN perhaps faith becomes especially useful when we think about the final section of this article – fighting our imperious self. As I read that section, I could only think of how my struggles to see God are so clearly explained here. When I contemplate conquering these blocks on my own, I become overwhelmed and hopeless, but when I remember that He is here to help, if I ask, then there is a chance for success. Without faith, I wouldn’t be able to even get myself to this kind of thinking. It’s a thought anyway.

  4. Noel Feb 13, 2011 7:54 pm 4

    @NN: The magazine article Spirituality in everyday life, an interview with Dr. Bahram Elahi, under the Resources section discusses the role of faith in the process of perfection at length as well as the fundamental principles of “natural spirituality”, which I found very helpful.

  5. NN Feb 14, 2011 5:32 am 5

    @juneone and Noel thank you for your responses!

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