SPIRITUAL NATURE OF MAN
"Living Islam – East & West"
we believe in any religion, or in God, or in any other value system,
there are certain aspects of life that concern us all. These aspects
are so fundamental that they do not depend upon one's background,
heritage, or belief. The best way to approaching this subject is to
first consider the nature of man's spirit. In this way one can avoid
becoming bogged down in linguistic and philosophical definitions.
in the English language, may mean essence, cause, or nature. If we
try to look into our essence, where does it take us to? What is this
thing within every other human being that guides us or misguides us?
What is it that drives us to do anything? What is it that causes us
to want something or not want something else? What is it that makes
us tick? What creates desires in us and what satisfies these
desires? What do we feel or experience when a desire is satisfied?
Why are we constantly searching for satisfaction, never satisfied?
What is the nature of man that makes him constantly dissatisfied?
things are beyond creed, nationality, religion or systems of belief.
They are basic. The Arabic term is fitri (primal). This is
our nature: we are always looking for something else. Whenever one
obtains satisfaction or tranquility from that which one was seeking,
the mind by its nature moves to something else. This process does
not cease. One is tired and wants to sleep; one has slept long
enough and thus wants to get up. One is hungry and wants food; after
filling the stomach, one wants to stop eating. One wants to be
sheltered from environmental pressures, to control the ecological
situation. As soon as a modicum of control is attained, one wants to
know what to do within the system.
us examine libraries for example. Once these enormous places are
built, those responsible must worry about how they are going to fill
the building with books. What, one wonders, is the value of all
these books? We now have more information and less knowledge. In
this age we have such an accumulation of facts, which can be useful,
but no method of knowledge to utilize those facts so that we can
attain the satisfaction that we are all seeking.
if we look at the nature of man's spirit, what drives us on at all
times, wherever we are, in whatever environment, is this need to
achieve desires that are never constant. The desires of a child
change all the time and so do the desires of an adult. The higher we
move biologically or intellectually, the subtler our desires become.
At a lower basic level, we are very physical; we want to be clothed
and fed in order to be in a reasonable balance, without agitation.
We want to have enough food in order not to be disturbed, because
biologically the stomach signals until a pang of pain disturbs us.
Equally we want to avid that which impinges on us from the outside
and is not conducive to a state of tranquility, therefore, we close
the door so that we are not disturbed, to make sure that we have
reasonable protection from the sound and noise. Thus, at all times,
whatever we perceive, conceive, desire, anything that motivates us
from within or without fits into this scheme.
into this deeply, contemplate upon it and you will find that what
drives us, what makes us act or think, is basically a state of
dynamism seeking equilibrium, seeking a position of neutrality. It
is a very strange affair. At all times the spirit of man is guided,
driven and propelled by the pursuit of peace. Yet, at the same time,
we are the creators of that agitation. It is incredible if we really
reflect upon it.
drives man is an ongoing quest, sometimes rational, sometimes not,
sometimes emotional, sometimes intellectual. There is a natural,
primal hierarchy which fluctuates up or down, generally moving from
the physical towards the subtle. The equilibrium that a child seeks
is physical. The equilibrium sought by those who have satisfied
their basic needs is intellectual. We try to keep our bodies in a
reasonable state of equilibrium because, unless we have done this,
we cannot progress further.
the bodily level comes the mental level. Our mind has to be at rest.
If my mind is agitated about something or some situation, then this
irritation will disrupt my equilibrium, sapping the strength of my
are here discussing aspects of knowledge that go beyond
quantification and formulation. Formulas can be applied to them if
one wishes and those formulas will change from system to system. But
the fundamental issue remains the same: if the physical, mental and
intellectual levels are disturbed, equilibrium and balance are not
possible. That to which our spirit drives us one may describe it
loosely by the term happiness cannot be achieved. If we wish to
express this as a mathematical equation, we may say that happiness
equals desires satisfied over desires unsatisfied. Thus, if one has
one hundred desires and fifty are satisfied, happiness is fifty
percent achieved. So, mentally we also seek to be at ease, to avoid
any issue that disturbs the mind. Mental expectations and
attachments that are not met will cause disappointment which is a
state of imbalance; and that is not desirable. We do not want to be
disappointed, we want to be appointed.
how people who are wealthy and do not wish to be disturbed place
layers of secretaries as barriers between themselves and the outside
world. Think of Howard Hughes: he died in a corner from
malnutrition. We want peace, there is no way out of it. Those who
are exposed to any spiritual system know that peace is a high
attribute. Those who are Muslims know that peace is from as-Salaam,
one of the attributes of Allah, glory be to Him. We all want peace
yet are constantly in dynamic agitation at all these levels the
physical, the mental and the intellectual. Those who seek knowledge
do so because they have discovered within themselves an aspect
referred to as ignorance and this is disquieting. That is why so
many people move across from one corridor of an ivory tower to
another saying, 'Well, the intellectual atmosphere of this college
or school was not conducive.' This can often mean also that there
was a nasty head of department. Man's agitations and troubles are
everywhere. It makes no difference whether one is in the academic
world, the business world, or the political world. Everyone is
subjected to the same types of experience, and this is a proof, in
fact, of the All-Encompassing Merciful One. Even the sanitation
engineers and janitors feel jealousies. Be assured that there is a
hierarchy among the bathroom cleaners.
desire to avert disturbance and find equilibrium causes him to form
alliances with people of the same orientation: "Birds of a
feather flock together." It is natural and unavoidable. We
ourselves are a proof of this basic cybernetic process. We do not
want to be jolted out of our system, thus we find people of the same
belief, lifestyle, or creed banding together.
process of unification, in this case unifying desires with what will
neutralize them, is a selective process. The child, as he starts
crawling, tries to assimilate everything he encounters in order to
unify with his environment. He picks up things and puts them in his
mouth because this is the first and primary organ of unification
mouth to breast. Suddenly the child's mouth is frothing: he is
spitting the thing out because it is not in unison with his system.
If systems, whether they be psychological, social, ecological or
mechanical, do not adapt, then they self-destruct. If a happy person
sees someone else who is unhappy and informs him of his happiness,
this is perceived as a challenge. The result is conflict, either
overt or covert. This is why we see political systems continuously
have spoken about a simple proportional equation relating to
happiness. Can that formula be equal to one? The number of desires
satisfied equal to the number of desires? As we know, as soon as a
situation is satisfied and brought into equilibrium, something else
goes wrong. There is an old saying: "As soon as you plug it
here, it bursts from there." We are caught in a non-stoppable
dynamic situation. And yet, at all times we wish it would stop. If a
situation is incongruous, we want it to cease. If it is agreeable,
we want to stop it in time so that it will continue. This is why we
take photographs, to remind ourselves of the state we were in when
we saw our child smiling, or when we won the football game. The
trophy is placed on the mantelpiece to remind oneself of the moments
of achievement, the experience of tranquility.
to the point, we will never be able to avoid having desires, nor
will we be able to achieve all our desires. So it seems, in a sense,
a losing battle. But is the nature of reality so cruel? How can God,
if we believe in Him, do this to us? How can we all be seeking
happiness knowing full well that, by our own definition, it is
unattainable? There is a basic incongruity in this situation. Here
we are wanting to fixate things and we can only do it on Kodak film.
This is not possible. Here we are desirous of unending peace and we
cannot attain it even for a few seconds?
and attain a total peace for five seconds. Try and sit completely
and utterly tranquil with not a single thought in the mind. One may
be aware of peace, silence, or tranquility, but this is not what we
are talking about. We are talking about pure consciousness that
admits no awareness of itself; that is total, absolute peace. One
may be aware of something nice, that is very tranquil, but that is
agitation. One may also be aware of awareness, and also aware of the
awareness of one's awareness. Two mirrors opposite each other
illustrate well this condition. But can one be purely, simply,
totally just awareness itself? Pure awareness.