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The imperious self (1): definition

Having just celebrated its 10th birthday, e-OstadElahi is launching a new type of thematic series based on “close reading. The goal is to encourage reflection and interaction around key concepts from Ostad Elahi’s thought through collective analysis and discussion, both from a theoretical standpoint and with a view to drawing practical conclusions. The recent publication, in French, of a new edition of The Path of Perfection (La Voie de la Perfection) by Bahram Elahi provides an ideal resource and reference text for such a project.

The theme selected for this first series is the imperious self. This fundamental psychological energy plays such an important role in our spiritual life that an entire chapter of The Path of Perfection is dedicated to it. A series of articles will invite us to undertake a progressive and methodical reading of that chapter. Guiding questions will help us structure our personal reflection and fuel our interactions with other participants. By trying to answer them, we will improve our understanding of particular concepts and achieve a clearer view of the way we perceive ourselves. These questions also provide a common framework for sharing our experiences.

NB: Before reading this series of articles, it is important to familiarize oneself with the figures representing the functional structure of the human soul, as described by Bahram Elahi. Some of those figures were originally presented in a series of lectures: they are available here and here. One may also find them at the beginning of the latest French edition of The Path of Perfection (p. 17-19). The following excerpt is an unpublished translation from the French edition (all rights reserved).

The Path of Perfection –
Chapter 7, excerpt no 1:
The Imperious Self

If our celestial soul is shrouded in the dark smoke produced by the imperious self, our soul will cease to reflect the divine light [spark] within it.

The imperious self is a powerful psychological energy that is harmful for the soul. This energy is continuously produced by the activity of our character weak points (flaws) and results in unethical and undivine impulses and desires at the level of our ego. The activation of our weak points can be triggered either from within (by our own thoughts) or from without (especially by other people). The imperious self most often expresses itself at the level of our conscious self through impulsive attacks that pressure our psyche for their immediate satisfaction. It also seeks to deceive us, however, by cunningly intruding into our reason and placing it at its own disposal to satisfy its desires. Whereas its impulsive attacks are easily detectable, the detection of its deceptive attacks requires greater development of our sound reason. The imperious self drives us to do evil both to ourselves (our soul) and to others through the various transgressions of their rights.

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1. You think explicitly about your imperious self:

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2. Has the activation of your weak points (flaws) been triggered lately mainly by yourself (your own thoughts) or by others?

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3. The activation of our weak points can be triggered from within (by our own thoughts).
Think about the past hours: are you able to pinpoint the thoughts within you that might have activated a character weak point?

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4. The activation of our weak points can be triggered by others.
Think about the past hours: are you able to pinpoint what came from others and might have activated a character weak point?

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5. The imperious self most often expresses itself at the level of our conscious self through impulsive attacks that pressure our psyche for their immediate satisfaction. Go over your day: since this morning, have you felt its pressure on your psyche?
6. The imperious self expresses itself through impulsive attacks but it also seeks to deceive us. Look back on this past week: are you able to detect an obvious way the imperious self tried to deceive you?
7. The imperious self drives us to do evil both to ourselves (our soul) and to others through the various transgressions of their rights. Think about this past week or during this coming week:

  • Find an example where the imperious self drove you to harm yourself.
  • Find an example where the imperious self drove you to harm others.
  • For each case, try to identify the weak point that, by being activated in you, caused harm.

Feel free to share your thoughts, examples and experiences in the comments section!

Creative Commons License This work is offered under a Creative Commons licence

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  1. Azita Soroush Dec 13, 2018 7:05 am 1

    Thank you

  2. Bahram M Dec 13, 2018 2:37 pm 2

    I was having some internal struggles about those around me thinking that my rights were being violated and it was time to put my foot down. The very same afternoon I was in a similar situation that I created for myself yet I was very happy with that because of a bigger material reward. It showed me how insincere I was and that my imperious self had deceived me greatly. Thankfully God put me in a situation to show me the error in my thoughts.

  3. Link Dec 13, 2018 5:14 pm 3

    The imperious self never ceases its attack from our first breath until our last since it stems from our own character weakpoints. However it is the opposition to our sound reason and through fighting it we can develop said sound reason. The other day I was in a situation where my imperious self attempted to trick me into not doing work and instead failing an assignment since I had not much time to complete it and I was very tired. However I fought against the impulse to be lazy and to complete the assignment and did well on it. Yet I had succumbed to its earlier attack and was in this position through procrastination. This is why we must always be vigilant in our efforts and try to be aware of its deceit as much as possible.

  4. Rara Dec 13, 2018 11:02 pm 4

    I am very much behind on my studies as well as some organizing work around the house which can make my life much easier. But instead, I’ve been binge watching a TV show every evening after work and was telling myself well, my brain needs to rest and not think of important stuff for a bit. I’ve been harming myself and losing time which could have been otherwise well spent. The weak point that was activated in me was seeking only material pleasure, which has been harming my interest.

  5. mahnaz Dec 14, 2018 12:17 am 5

    Thank you so much it is very helpful.

  6. SM Dec 14, 2018 6:27 am 6

    One of the most difficult weakness that I find hard to battle is abstaining from gossiping. This weakness not only harms myself (makes me look bad, promotes negative thinking, feeds my ego) but also harms the person I am gossiping to + the person I am gossiping about whether they know it or not. Typically, before I gossip, I tell myself internally “don’t do it” and more times than not, I am unable to control my impulse and my imperious self takes over and I do it. Upon much thought, I have come to realize that the weak point that triggers this dishonorable act is due to my arrogance as much as I am ashamed to admit it. I tend to think of myself in a very positive light which ironically leads to a very negative action: gossiping. On the surface, it seems as though my gossiping is triggered by others actions, but in reality, it is actually triggered by my own character imbalance of feeling unwarranted superiority.

  7. A. Dec 14, 2018 10:24 am 7

    <Find an example where the imperious self drove you to harm yourself.>
    I set myself the task of doing a prayer before going to bed. But more often than not, my imperious self convinces me to lay down and pray with the lights turned off. I thus end up falling asleep without doing/finishing my prayer.
    It is true that I am often tired, but (after dinner) I also waste a bit of time in front of the computer procrastinating saying my prayer. Arguments used by my imperious self to rivet my eyes on the screen: a) “I need to finish such material task, and it is only going to take me a few minutes”, b) “my psyche needs to be amused, I worked too hard today” etc..

    <Find an example where the imperious self drove you to harm others.>
    Very often, when my wife comes back from work, she starts talking about work-related matters without paying too much attention to what I am doing. A typical argument used by my imperious self is: “here she goes again, talking about materiality, no ethical/spiritual thinking, just materiality”. The end result is that I listen to 50% of what she says.

    <For each case, try to identify the weak point that, by being activated in you, caused harm.>
    The first example: attachments and laziness
    The second example: selfishness

  8. Ia Dec 14, 2018 2:31 pm 8

    The other day, I began to work on a character weak point I believe is predominant in me: having too high expectations of others, my environment, and myself. I set off on my day without putting up my guard and I was led full on to an emotional overwhelm because of something someone said. Instead of remembering my practice and intention for the day (for these days), I forgot and became extremely angry at the stupidity and unfairness of the other person’s behaviour. By the pressure I felt on my thoughts and emotions, I can be sure that I was under attack of the imperious self. There is a correlation between outer influence and inner thoughts as the thoughts transform what is going on on the outside and turn it into a narrative that puts the pressure on!!!!

  9. Sam Dec 14, 2018 2:40 pm 9

    The problem with me is that I cannot find any weak point in myself that causes harm to others although I am sure there are many. I am not sure how can one get over this spiritual blindness and pride. The three obvious things that I am aware of are lack of willpower, laziness toward praying and being unorganized. Would you please share some thoughts on how to pinpoint one’s flaws and weak points? How to see and distinguish them?

    1. A. Dec 16, 2018 4:27 pm 9.1

      Hello Sam

      If you observe other people’s reactions when they interact with you, do you see anyone getting unnerved, upset, etc..? Does anyone criticize you? and if so, why?

      It may be that you get late to certain appointments because of your laziness, or do not deliver as promised because you are unorganized.



    2. tom Dec 18, 2018 2:32 pm 9.2

      I also struggle with this. I recommend keeping a log about your thoughts, actions, and behaviors during the day and noting those moments where you suspect your imperious self is acting. It can be as simple as having negative thoughts about someone on a subway, or becoming impatient to get in an elevator! Doing this for a few days will help you to pay attention to yourself and self-reflect. I have a note app on my smartphone where I simply write things like “called this person annoying” or “rolled my eyes at this coworker” and it helped me to see that I backbite a lot, and upon some more reflection, I realized this was because of a weakness in my own pride.

  10. Calm Dec 14, 2018 8:20 pm 10

    It has recently become clear to me that the activation of my weak points are greatly fueled by my imperious self, through my negative though spirals. This has been a profound realization, as up until now I attributed the onset of my weak points to external events or people.

    By blaming others, I was blind to the fact that the “story” I was telling myself was false. I’ve started challenging my thoughts and asking myself: “is this thought Realistic?” and “is this thought Useful?”

    In putting this exercise into practice I have been able to catch my imperious self in action and fight against its attacks. Anger for example is not bad, it’s simply an internal message that something is wrong; the negative action urge on the other hand, is likely the impulse of my imperious self.

    If I am able to shift my perspective, recognize the impulses of my imperious self, and challenge my faulty thoughts, my feelings of anger could translate into useful positive action (or maybe even just no immediate action).

  11. Yan Dec 14, 2018 9:49 pm 11

    For a while, I have been struggling to find the right balance between freewill and determinism, in other words, to determine when I should stop pursuing my part of duty through causality channels, leave the rest to Him, and submit?

    I recently noticed, most of the time, I have overdone my part of duty (exercising material due diligence), and over and over, it’s been proven to me that I shouldn’t have gone that far, and that the additional effort I put after a certain point had been almost always fruitless.

    I am thinking that my imperious self attacks through deception, by arguing like “it’s true that you should submit, but you haven’t completely done your part yet, there is still more you can do, this case is different, if you don’t do your part how can you expect to get a result, etc…”.
    I always listen to it and then after failing in the scenario that He planed for me, it becomes apparent that I have overdone my part, and that I should have submitted long before that. I tell myself this is the last time that I listen to you, imperious self, next time I won’t be fooled if you tell me I should do more. But sadly, the next time my imperious self comes up with something totally new and intuitive, it fools me again, and the story continues….

    1. A. Dec 16, 2018 4:48 pm 11.1

      Thank you Yan for your comment.

      I found some similarities with some points I have been working on. I have been trying to find a new job, bent myself over backwards to activate my personal network, family’s network, even tried to find a job as an independent agent, set up an activity on my own etc… but just every project went belly up. This has been lasting for years now.

      A clear lesson showing me that the efficient in everything is Him, and there is no point killing oneself and putting all of one’s hope in causal means- as soon as I put all my hope (or even just part of my hope) in causal means, the projects were somehow scuppered.

  12. Maryam Dec 15, 2018 1:43 am 12

    When I think negatively about others, I harm my soul by darkening it and if I don’t become aware of that, the negativity in me towards them might hurt their feelings too.

  13. Noel Dec 16, 2018 2:36 am 13

    Looking back over my week through the lens of this exercise I realized that my imperious self used my heavy work schedule as an excuse to skip my prayer at the time I had designated for it. For the same reason, I justified snapping at a close family member. The imperious self easily deceived and defeated me both times.

    This article and the questions posed in it are extremely useful. Thank you!

  14. hsh Dec 18, 2018 9:29 pm 14

    Thank you for such a helpful article.

    I felt ashamed after filling in the answers. Once again (as I have most recently), I’ve decided to watch out for my imperious self, while, of course asking for His help.

  15. Naghme Dec 19, 2018 10:54 pm 15

    I’ve started to practice in order to stop myself from annoying my family, especially my husband, and colleagues, and develop my humanity as well. I identified that most of the time I was not even aware that my behavior was annoying or my manners unethical. It was not my intention to upset or harm or undermine anyone but when I practiced on it, and then checked what I had written in my log book, I found a lot of ‘crossed the line’. The analysis of the daily conversations I have revealed that I should be more humble and teachable. No one likes bragging and arrogance. So I started to consider my tongue as a most dangerous instrument, for it can cause the most harm. I decided to omit the word “I” as much as possible when I should be listening to another person, specifically my husband, or even when texting him!
    I try to watch my tone of voice and use medium tones, and to stop constant complaining about people around me. Of course it isn’t always easy to find the motivation to refrain from uttering words that often come out of my mouth without a thought, through an instinctive process.

  16. B Dec 21, 2018 12:03 am 16

    1) My boss critized me a couple months ago and I did not like being critized. He got demoted a couple of days ago and I caught myself feeling good about his demotion.
    2) I got anry at one of my parents and hurt their feeling.
    3) The first one is revenge and the second one is anger.

  17. NM Dec 22, 2018 12:47 am 17

    A friend invited me to attend a Cystic Fibrosis gala benefiting children in October. I ended up making a donation of $500 towards toys for the CF pediatric patients. The first round of the auction the toy donation was set at $1000 and when they lowered it to recruit more money I purchased it. Initially, I purchased it because I thought, “Wow, what a great way to benefit the children and especially during Christmas time when the toys would be distributed!” Yesterday, I attended the toy donation. At the end when they asked us to take a picture behind the plaque with our names I noticed my name wasn’t on it. I became internally furious and humiliated. Mainly because I was embarrassed that other people there saw my name wasn’t on it and then I stood behind it to take the picture. I am assuming my name wasn’t printed on the plaque because I didn’t donate during the first round of donations set at a higher value. After the picture was taken I began to complain to my friend. So that was my imperious self harming me. The initial donation I made out of the goodness of my heart turned into a self-serving desire of wanting recognition by others. As my friend and I walked out of the building I kept complaining and all of a sudden of a charity coordinator walked past us and I am almost accurate she heard me voicing my complaints. That was so disrespectful to them because I am sure they had a rationale as to why I wasn’t placed on the plaque. So my imperious self harmed others by the hurtful words I was voicing about the foundation.

    Collectively the weak point that caused me and others harm was my ego and pride. I successfully turned something that I was aiming to do for divine contentment into pleasing my ego. My ego wasn’t happy I wasn’t recognized and my ego wanted to bad mouth the foundation for it. I hope that I am able to learn from this embarrassing mistake next time I decide to make a donation and remember that all that matters is that I made a contribution for the sake of divine contement and not to be recognized by others for it.

  18. pzlz Dec 22, 2018 4:11 pm 18

    Great idea of breaking down the chapter into series! Big THX! I got the book and the figures at the beginning are quite comprehensive. I also absolutely loved your translation of “… either from within…or from without.” I have never heard it that way before. It’s so complete and perfect!

    Question: Translation says: “This energy is continuously produced by the activity of our character weak points (flaws) and results in unethical and undivine impulses and desires at the level of our ego.” If it results in the ego, does it mean it will definitely translate into action? I have noticed that the energy although very powerful, once manifested in my ego, I still have time to fight it occasionally. I have developed some cues to help facilitate pushing the energy out. Could it be because statistically the likelihood of success is so low that you can confidently say once the energy reaches the ego, it will result in both impulse and action?

  19. Yan Dec 23, 2018 11:24 pm 19

    Great question Pzlz. Made me reflect. I would say, it depends on how we define action? I belive an action is not necessarily an external demonstration of a thought or desire. In certain cases, not stopping a thought could be considered a passive action in itself; for example, if a negative thought or judgement comes to my mind, and I continue developing that thought, this means that I took action to continue that unethical and undivine impulse. Because I had a choice to stop it and I didn’t. Of course, if I opened my mouth and said something it is even worst. On the contrary, if I managed to spot the negative thought when it came to my mind and to stop it, by asking for His help, then it means that I didn’t act upon it. If we define “action” this way, then we could say that not all thoughts and desires will translate into action if we can enter into our inner guide and make the right choice.

    1. pzlz Dec 24, 2018 9:31 pm 19.1

      I like the way you think Yan! So this way, the word “result” is the perfect word to describe the function! Hence the importance of being aware of the divine presence at the time that the impulse is detected. This is so much more developed and advanced than what I am used to: thoughts really don’t matter as long as they don’t turn into actions. Is it fair to say that our first line of defense is to regulate our weaknesses, second line would be detecting the impulses at the level of the ego, and immediately by all means in our power, try and stop them, and there is no third line of defense because after that we have kind of lost the battle?

      1. Yan Jan 01, 2019 10:22 pm 19.1.1

        @pzlz I would say our ultimate goal is to regulate our weaknesses by detecting unethical and undivine impulses at the level of our ego and then fighting them. However, detection of these impulses might not always be possible, to be done on the spot, hence, I believe there is a third line of defense; and that’s when you’ve already lost the battle and you think and strategize on how you will react the next time a similar scenario happens.

        The way that I would do it is: to rewind the scene in my mind and visualize how I would react the very next time this happens. For example, if I got impatient and spoke rudely to someone, later when I am calm again, I would rebuild the scene in my mind, imagining that moment of frustration and then acknowledge that “now I am in my ego”; next, I would answer that person, in my mind, calmly and kindly using my inner guide. This way I familiarize and prepare myself for the next possible scenario. Although it’s NOT very improbable that the next time, or even the time after that, I will fail again, this method has proven to be effective in the long-run. It’s kind of an in vitro practice.

        On the thing that really helps me in the detection of my imperious self impulses, is to write my daily diary; that is when I can analyze my actions, thoughts, and intentions, and hence spot my imperious self’s attacks and my character weaknesses. It is very unlikely that I could spot them during my daily interactions if I didn’t analyze and write them thereafter.

        My sample diary would be something like this (I use hashtags to define my weaknesses): ” my colleague disagreed with me in front of my manager which made me angry and hence I spoke to him rudely and unkindly. #pride #arrogance #anger #unkindness “

      2. pzlz Jan 05, 2019 7:13 pm 19.1.2

        @Yan #kudos! I may use your idea for diary and hashtag system!

  20. Paris Dec 24, 2018 5:26 am 20

    Thank you for this article. I have noticed that once I set out to fight against any character weak point, I may be able to work internally on the flaw but will quickly be challenged from the outside and fail at fighting against the same flaw. For example, if I am working on fighting against the impulse of anger, I can sometimes internally calm myself down. But when in that situation someone asks me to calm down, I get more aggrevated and start voicing the reasons why I am getting upset over something. And the opposite also applies. For example, if I am able to hold my tounge and not participate in gossiping, internally while listening to the gossip I am agreeing with the negative comments just not saying anything. I can’t recall a time when I have been able to succeed on any flaws internally and externally. Depending on the weakness, one is always more challenging than the other. This goes to show that my imperious self never takes a break and if it can’t penetrate from within, it will find a plethora of excuses and deceptions from the outside.

  21. Yan Dec 24, 2018 9:44 pm 21

    I had a similar challenge with fighting anger, but recently I have been able to manage it more effectively after learning that the main cause of anger is pride and arrogance.

    My issue with fighting anger was that I would still see the evil outside and then try to fight my imperious self inside by calming myself down, by saying things like “you shouldn’t be angry, anger is bad for your soul, you should be patient” but the imperious-self would simultaneously convince me that “…others behaved inappropriately, they were evil, and now you should be good and not to get angry at them”. Now that I have learned that the main source of anger is my pride and arrogance and that I should fix these two things, which are detrimental, like a cancer to my soul, I don’t need to calm myself down any more.

    I found this article very helpful in fighting against my imperious self in general: https://www.e-ostadelahi.com/eoe-en/repression-without-reflection-plays-havoc-with-the-soul/ (Repression without reflection plays havoc with the soul). The key point is as clear and the title of the article: “…repressing a negative feeling is one thing and to get rid of it is quite another.”

  22. hsh Dec 28, 2018 8:02 pm 22

    I agree with you Van/pzlz. Most of the time I engage with my imperious self in my mind. All kinds of nasty thoughts come to my mind and it is very difficult to stop them all even when asking for His help. Of course, it has to do with my week points.

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