The Nature of Man
By 'Abd al-Haqq Sayf al-Ilm

From: Nuradeen Magazine

From the Nuradeen Magazine Vol. 2, No. 2 -- March/April 1982

Every baby born is an expression of absolute purity. Anyone who has been present at a birth must acknowledge this. Each new birth is a bursting out of life-itself. Every baby is a container for the re-emergence of raw life-energy -- unadulterated, undifferentiated. However, each container has a definite form and each is contained in an environment. Each baby has genetic coding determining its physical shape and temperamental balance. Each is born into surroundings of a particular nature, both physical and emotional. These circumstances, together with the chain of events that make up its early life, bring about the individualization of the new child. They combine to make the child, in its own unique way, begin to feel itself separate from its surroundings. Some receive affirmation and satisfaction and so view the world as a friendly, warm, safe place. Others are negated and denied and experience the world as hostile, alien and fearful. Between these two are millions of possibilities and variations different for each child. On the other hand, the kinds of human situations confronted by the child are quite limited and predictable, just as its own specific temperament is of a given type. The end result is a being in every case unique, and at the same time falling within a clearly recognizable category, just as no two individuals are sick in the same way, and yet a particular illness can be diagnosed.

At a certain point after roughly two years, a picture built up of all the various elements mentioned above takes on a more or less definite shape, and the child says, 'This is me!' This 'me' is in fact by no means solid, changing from one minute to the next, but it is established enough as a shape to be claimed as an identity. It is vitally important to realize that this 'identity' has no real existence. What has happened is that the pure life energy and undifferentiated consciousness of the new born baby have, over a period of time and through exposure to a particular environment, together with the baby's genetic coding, identified in a particular way with their body-container and become limited and individualized in it. Through the process of existing the child has acquired a more or less fixed image of itself which it calls 'me', completely losing sight of the unconstrained, undefined, pure life-energy which was its birthright. This assumed identity is accidental, made up of contingent circumstances and passing time. Given a different environment, a child would adopt a different self-form. The reality of the child lies in the pure life energy and undifferentiated consciousness it starts with, not the limited and constricted self-picture it later develops.

This circumstantially constructed, and quite arbitrarily imposed first self-image now becomes for us the basis of all our future dealings with ourselves and with the world which surrounds us. It dictates to us the pattern of our life which is, from now on, spent preserving and perpetuating the existence of this assumed identity we have inextricably associated ourselves with. As far as we are concerned, it is what we are. However, just look at any two year old and you will find a very unbridled raw-edged being; willful, autocratic, demanding, easily angered, often destructive, attention seeking, extremely selfish -- in a word, monstrous! In its naked form this 'self is obviously not acceptable. Gradually we learn, by experience, to negotiate with existence. We find out how much we can get away with, what needs to be honed down, what we can express, what we must hold back, what brings about desired reactions and so on. In other words, we try to find a balance between the raw material of our acquired self-picture to which we have given absolute reality, and the hampering social environment in which we find ourselves where total 'self' expression is not permissible or possible. In this way, the original self-picture becomes covered over, layer upon layer, according to the demands of different life situations.

Our lives continue to be the playing-out of the first patterning, more and more refined and in an ever larger arena. In cases where a completely free rein is given to the inclinations of the primary self-image, the individual will return to his infantile form as in the recent case of the fabulously rich man who reverted absolutely to a tyrannical infant, concerned only with the gratification of his capricious whims and unbounded appetites. It also occurs to some extent in senility when the old person loses grip on the cover-up which has been so successfully maintained for so many years. This is the inevitable description of one who has given absolute reality to his acquired self-picture. If this was all that there was, we would have no other option than to be slaves to our own assumed identities, our lives spent hopelessly trying to assuage the appetites and gratify the desires of a two year old child. And this is in fact the lot of a large proportion of the human race.

This assumed self image is not the whole picture. The reality of the self stretches beyond it, before it, to the life energy that preceded it and provided the dynamic for its formation. You can only escape a hopelessly trapped, self-destructive existence taken up in vain pursuit of endlessly elusive gratification of the infantile self-form by consciously and repeatedly acknowledging the reality which permitted this existence.

If you look about you at the phenomena of existence in the universe, or inside you at the workings of your own body, you will find clearly discernible laws at work, holding everything in harmony and balance -- in the vastness of the galaxies and the overwhelming beauty of the stars with their patterns and movement; in the solar system and the wonderful way the planets keep to their orbits held by an unbelievably intricate system of forces; in the Earth's atmosphere and how it provides exactly the right conditions for the life on its surface; in the climates and how they preserve the animal and vegetable life in their different zones; in the forest and the desert and how each is a delicately balanced ecological system providing everything necessary for its continued existence; in the separate organisms, each with its own inexplicable breathtaking beauty and its own perfectly balanced cycle of growth and decay; in our own bodies with their perfect co-ordination. You will find that laws govern the senses, each with its own field of perception; the digestive system and its extraction of what is beneficial and rejection of what is superfluous; the brain and its ability to store information and release it in the right situation; the way the body naturally sets right any disruption of its equilibrium. The examples are endless, but the indications are quite clear. Whether you look at the whole universe or a particular system or a single organism or the smallest subatomic particle, it is abundantly apparent that there is a universal law at work tending to order and balance in every situation.

Apart from the case of man, it is quite apparent that everything submits involuntarily and unconsciously, just by being what it is, to the universal order manifest in existence, or we could say by extension, to the divine reality which it indicates. Each thing in its own unique way, contributes to the upholding of the balance and is itself in itself an indication of its Creator/ Source -- in the same way that any artifact indicates the person who made it. It is this activity of submission and participation in the unfolding of existence, this acknowledgement, even if unconscious, of the source of existence that constitutes real worship. At this point you must jettison any concept you may previously have held of worship being connected to 'religion'. Worship is organic, inevitable. It is an integral part of all existence. By fulfilling its natural function for which it is perfectly adapted, every creature is at the same time performing an act of worship by playing its own part in manifesting and indicating the one reality. All things in spite of the diversity of their different forms and activities have this one thing in common. This is the common denominator in existence. This is the common purpose.

Now we come back to the human species, to ourselves. By use of the intellect, we must arrive at the conclusion that what is true for everything else in the universe must also be true for us, since we are an inseparable part of the whole structure. Just as the basic function of everything in the universe is worship, so worship must also be the keynote of our own existence. However, whereas everything else does so outwardly by its natural unconscious submission to the way things are, we have the capacity of both outward submission to, and inner awareness of, the one reality. This then is our purpose, our reason for being here, and also what defines our outward form -- that we both outwardly conform to the natural boundaries imposed on us by the form which we have been given and that we inwardly realize our capacity for decoding what we see around us and accept that existence is what it is, a generous and compassionate outpouring, the self-manifestation of the essence of the One God, the Lord of the heavens and the earth and everything between them.

These boundaries delineating the natural form of man, showing what it is to be a human creature, have always been available to people, accepted by some, rejected by others, together with the knowledge of the true picture of existence. All creatures except man have their form indelibly stamped in them so that they have no need of external stimuli to bring it out of them. But in our case we have to choose to be human. We have to choose the form that is in reality our nature. It is very important to grasp this. Even though we have to learn what it is to be human, all we are doing is removing ignorance and uncovering what is in fact our organic natural pattern. Recognized morality is not something imposed on man out of social convenience, but something that is inherent in us and required by our form for the proper functioning of the human social nexus. It is a natural patterning coming from within them and appearing in a social context. The unlicensed behavior, the unrestricted giving way to the infantile appetites which is the present hallmark of the human situation is in fact unnatural. It constitutes a covering-up of the simple morality which is the true reality of human nature and leads inevitably to the total disruption of human social order. Morality is the organic result of a natural patterning allowed to express itself in the moral sphere.

We have noted that every creature knows its form and it is not in the evidently compassionate nature of existence that we, the human species, should alone be left with no way to know the form we should take on to truly fulfill our humanness and of course the simple fact is that we have not been neglected. At regular intervals throughout the time that human beings have inhabited the earth we have been reminded of the total knowledge we are capable of containing and shown the form which is naturally ours by men who have been directly inspired by the Reality Itself to carry out this task. These teachings have in part survived to this day in the form of the so-called 'religions'. And this explains the clear similarities that exist between them. But they are for the most part just archeological fragments of the original teaching which have been distorted, vitiated, pieced together and adapted to man's lower nature. This has made them separate and antagonistic to each other, thus obscuring the fact that they are in reality successive manifestations of one continuously repeated teaching -- men sent to men by their Creator to show them and tell them how to be human. Show and tell. The teaching has been both by example and by word. The two must go together for the necessary transformation to take place. In each case, a transmission took place from the Messengers to the human communities where they appeared, whereby communities, who had relapsed into ignorance and squalid sensual gratification, who had on a mass scale allowed their infantile self-form to take over and become the dominant influence in their society, were purified, lifted up, and transformed by the transmitted process into radiant examples of true humanity. They were communities where generosity, justice, compassion, and humility were the rule rather than the exception and the people lived within clear moral limits which are in reality the picture of truly human nature.

It is these messengers from reality and their communities who gave rise to what are now known as the 'world religions' which have in every case, in one way or another, been altered beyond recognition, so that the original purpose, to show humans how to be human, has been completely obscured. Two examples briefly illustrate how the original clear teaching has disappeared. They are what are now called Judaism and Christianity. In Judaism, the word of the Messenger has been exalted above the example so that the humanizing, transformative process brought and demonstrated by Moses to his people has become the rigidly structured hair-splitting laws of the rabbinical tradition which are inhuman and tyrannical rather than compassionate and liberating.

In Christianity, the example of Jesus was romanticized almost to the exclusion of what he said (it must be remembered that he was always a practicing Jew and nowhere renounced the Mosaic law, but came to breathe into it the humanity and compassion that had been squeezed out), but what has transpired is that his clear example was made into a mystery and the moral parameters blurred, allowing the amorphous moral chaos which now exists in the so-called 'Christian' countries. Examination of each one of the 'religions' will reveal the same thing -- how an original pure teaching has been perverted and distorted leading in most cases to the very opposite of what was originally intended.

The final complete version of the pure human teaching was the one revealed to Muhammad in Arabia in the early seventh century of the Christian era. It was transmitted by him to some of those around him and practiced by them in Medina. It is known as Islam. This is where we must look if we desire to find the picture of the true human form and to know the knowledge that we are capable of containing since, of all the teachings, it is the only one that we know for certain to be completely intact. The message is there, unchanged by a single word, in the form of the Qur`an, giving us directly from Reality Itself the picture of the whole of existence and telling us exactly our part in it. The example of the Messenger himself was minutely recorded showing us the perfection of the human form and how those around him took it on and therefore how we ourselves can do the same. This is not to say that the Muslims have not gone the way of previous communities and distorted and misapplied and misunderstood the original teaching. They clearly have. But the original teaching is still totally available and accessible for those who want it. The chain of transmission leading from the last of the Messengers, Muhammad, is unbroken and continues to this day.

Awareness of our predicament is an essential step but it is only the first step. To escape from the tyranny we have imposed on ourselves, the endless appeasement of our insatiable infantile self-forms, which is all that we have allowed ourselves to be, a basic transformation is necessary. What has to be transformed is the heart and there is no way to it except by embarking on action -- immediately. The action that is necessary is the taking on of the truly human form which was recorded for the last time in the revelation of Qur`an and perfectly demonstrated in the life of the last of those sent for that purpose by the One God, the Messenger Muhammad. This will give us real inner awareness and acceptance of the true nature of the universe and what is beyond it and hidden within it. The two together, the practice and the acceptance, will lead to the liberation which we all desire; the overwhelmingly intoxicating experience of tasting the timeless space-less presence of the One from Whom we have come and to Whom we inevitably must return. Set out and you will arrive.