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Introduction

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THE JOURNEY OF THE SELF
(Excerpts Only)

By: Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri

Introduction

This book is an attempt to present the Western reader with a basic Islamic conception of the self. It is a concept that can be found within the revealed spiritual teachings of several world religions and, in particular, the Judaic, Christian and Islamic traditions. The knowledge and science of the self exists in the Islamic tradition in greater clarity and applicability because its teachings are more recent and have not been distorted, and they continue to be practiced up to the present day.

The basis of this knowledge of the self is that all humanity is one in its essence and origin. There is a primal or basic self which is the same in all human beings. We may differ biologically but the root of our motivations in life is similar. This model of the one adamic self is the pillar of all Islamic teachings and is to be found in the Qur`an, the Prophetic traditions and the teachings of the masters and saints.

We have all come from one source, and that one essential reality pervades all dual manifestations in existence. The physical world is based on duality, and everything in nature is created in pairs of opposites. All experiences, events, causal relationships and mental and intellectual appreciation are based on experiencing those opposites. We seek to understand, balance and reconcile the experienced opposite forces, driven as we are by the awareness of the essential unity within. This inner drive is unconscious and lies beyond our intellect and reason. As full appreciation of the natural law of opposites and complementarity sets in, we move beyond intellect and reason to our original unitive state, which is innate in all of us.

Man has always been searching for a fundamental law of nature which underlies the great variety of natural phenomena. Classical physicists answered many of the physical observations through the Newtonian mechanistic model of the universe. With the development of subatomic physics as well as new advances in astrophysics, we find a disappearance of the old atomic building block. The quantum theory introduced the concept of the participation of the observer, thus making invalid the idea of an objective description of nature and absolute objectivity of scientific experimentation. In atomic physics, one cannot talk about its nature without speaking about the observer and his position.

Modem physicists are viewing the universe more and more as a unified whole which is interconnected in subtle ways. The concept of unbroken wholeness and the interdependence of mind and matter are increasingly being discussed among scientists.

It is very interesting also, to reflect upon the fact that no longer can physics talk about space without talking about time. It is curious to think that atomic particles traveling at high speeds appear to have a longer lifespan, and that at high velocities size seems to shrink. The three-dimensional world which we experience seems like only an image or a shadow of the relativistic, four-dimensional, space-time world. Doesn't this coincide with the spiritual teachings that remind us that this world is only a shadow of reality? By focusing on the shadow and being absorbed in its motion, surely we miss the reality that is causing it. The practice of meditation and sublimation seems to produce an effect of diminishing and finally disappearance of all experiential entities. This vanishing of space brings about the disappearance of time.

The practice is that if the identifiable self – the subjective you and I – is taken away, the concept of time and space will also be sublimated, Then the original reality (of one self), which was there before, now remains without a shadow to veil it.

Nowadays contemporary physicists, as well as other scientists, are looking for an all-embracing order and unifying factor upon which physical reality is founded. More and more, cosmologists are faced with the questions of how, when and why did everything begin. There is a general consensus to answer the first two questions: 10 to 20 billion years ago the universe came into being from a non-bounded state; and, after its full expansion and the big crunch, will return once more to its original, non-bounded state. Within this cosmic overlapping a number of modes of thought and theories have been put forth, to varying degrees of accuracy, to describe it. But the ongoing pre-creational state, being non-space-time related, lies beyond the realm of contemporary science and verges on the mystical or religious type of belief or experience.

The third question, why was the universe created, also lies beyond the grasp of science. It was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad that the essence of all creation is the greatest hidden treasure, and that it loved to be known; so it created, in order that it might be known. The Islamic viewpoint is that man, being the highest of all creation, is able to qualify for that knowledge, otherwise he will remain chasing the shadow of the images within the limitation of time and space in this world, without ever achieving freedom, true contentment or satisfaction.

The path to this experiential awakening is by understanding, inner abandonment and purification. The science of the self is indispensable for the preparation of attaining inner freedom.

This life, then, is a training-ground for us to witness how perfect are the universal laws of nature which in fact drive us towards seeking that limitless source of unity. We are born with an inner tendency which constantly motivates us towards our unitive origins. Our purpose in this life is to discover and know the basic nature of the self and the spiritual foundation which underlies it. We will only attain contentment when our potential as a spiritual being is fulfilled. No matter what we do in this world, it will never be totally satisfying. In other words, no matter how hard we try to attain fulfillment, harmony and peace, in the physical, emotional or intellectual sense, we will never be satisfied.

Our conception of the self shows that life is a journey of unfolding discovery towards self-knowledge, and that knowledge begins with physical and material consciousness at birth and evolves into emotional, mental and intellectual consciousness, then culminates at maturity with higher spiritual consciousness, or pure awareness.

It is by reason of this progression that we try to obtain fulfillment, first by seeking contentment physically and materially, then emotionally, mentally and intellectually, and then spiritually; and ultimately, simply in pure contentment, which is contentment for and by itself.

Any activity that leads us towards realizing our inner potential and essential nature we will find to be nourishing, enriching and conducive to fulfillment; and any other activity will be palliative, detractive to growth, and even destructive.

According to our conception of the self, then, conditions of imbalance or disturbance in the self are symptoms of something that has gone wrong in the natural progression of self-unfoldment or because of our not moving forward along the intended journey of self-discovery.

From this point of view, many who are considered in need of care could be individuals who are highly sensitive and possess greater spiritual potential than others. They may be persons who primarily need spiritual remedies and should be treated and corrected in this way, because they find the physical world does not fully answer their questions or fill their needs.

Any suffering from the world, then, could be considered as a positive experience; for it is a reminder that one is misdirecting one's energies, and could lead one back to the intended path of self-knowledge. It is for one to take corrective action – not to disconnect from one's experiential wholeness by being given chemical pills or analysis, neither of which reaches the root of the problem – which is to discover the true nature of the self.

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Within this model of the self, aspects of ancient Eastern spiritual teachings as well as Middle Eastern religions or Western philosophies can be found to exist. Islam, being the primal adamic code, predates all of these teachings, although it was unveiled in its totality only fourteen centuries ago. Orientalists, for example, have referred to aspects of the Islamic teachings on the self as neoplatonic. The truth is that Plato's writings are an aspect of the Adamic teachings and in themselves are incomplete.

One of the reasons that the Islamic cosmology of the self and higher consciousness is not more widely known in the West could lie in its multidimensional nature, and the difficulty of unraveling one strand from its total wholeness. The Qur`an, for example, talks about man's outer code of social responsibility and his path of inner purification in the same breath. It speaks about higher consciousness and Islamic law in parallel. It talks about this world and the next in complete harmony and relatedness. For a reader who has not accepted revealed laws in this world, it will be a greater challenge to accept or understand the Qur`an as it relates to the self and higher awareness.

The reader needs to approach this work with an open heart and without prejudice in order to benefit. These teachings can only be useful if accepted and applied; they are of little benefit for purposes of discussion, debate or similar academic pursuits.

Our conception of the self is intended for use by the layman and expert alike, as a basic foundation or blueprint for any system of self-knowledge or the psychological sciences. Irrespective of whether or not one believes in or accepts the unific reality that underpins the self and all of creation, one will still find that this conception can be applied to any system as a blueprint that explains human behavior and provides for it remedies and cures.

The sole intention of our present work is to provide a basic model of the self, which others may then wish to take and develop further by building upon it. Usable and successful techniques that have been developed in the West over the past may be added and integrated. A review of contemporary theories and techniques can be made, and those parts which fit within this conception will be useful and will last, and those which do not fit within this conception will eventually be found not to stand the test of time and will be discarded. Others may wish to apply their knowledge and field experience to this blueprint of self-knowledge in order to develop it further towards greater applicability. This book is only a first step towards developing and evolving a comprehensive and pragmatic model of the self in this field.

Although we attempt in this work to describe all aspects of the self and its journey towards enlightenment, the achievement of this is rarely possible without a realized teacher. The enlightened person will guide others in a wise and inspired way towards the ultimate goal, whereas a treatise such as this is a mere description of the basic field of activity. In fact, a deep criticism of this work is that by our merely presenting it, it may lead the individual seeker to assume that the cure is in sight; however, having a simple, Analytical knowledge of a situation is very different from actually arriving at the results.

So once the appropriate recipe for life is found, the next step is to be amongst the experts who have applied it and, thereby, have been transformed by it. There is a vast difference between reading a menu and deriving nourishment from a meal; but the sincere seeker of wisdom will end up by being amongst the wise.

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Acknowledgements ] Foreword ] [ Introduction ] Stepping-Stones to Self-Knowledge ] The Nature and Spectrum of the Self ] The Journey of the Self ] The World of Absolute Unitive Reality ] The World of Inner Dependence ] The World of Outer Dependence ] The World of Interdependence ] Towards Phase Five of Inner Reliance ] Phase Five: The World of Inner Reliance ] Treatment, Cure and Fulfillment ] Treatment, Cure and Fulfillment ] Treatment, Cure and Fulfillment ] The Unified Self ] Authors Quoted ] Bibliography ]