Ethics and Spiritual Growth

Ethics and Spiritual Growth

Every human being that is born in this world, regardless of its individual or social circumstances, aspires to its own perfection in accordance with its innate nature and its inborn intellect. It puts up with all kinds of sufferings and hardships for its hope of a brighter future. Its starting point is deficiency and its […]

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    Every human being that is born in this world, regardless of its individual or social circumstances, aspires to its own perfection in accordance with its innate nature and its inborn intellect. It puts up with all kinds of sufferings and hardships for its hope of a brighter future. Its starting point is deficiency and its movement is directed towards perfection. It grows and develops with every step forward on the path of perfection. Man's intellect and spirit give such a profundity, power and speed to his movement towards perfection that there is no time limit to it except eternity itself. This innate love for perfection is strong in the human being, but it is also present in the animals. They overcome every hindrance that they encounter in its way, avoid every thing that they consider as harmful, and advance towards their instinctive goals. It may be said that all the phenomena that exist in nature, from infinitesimal atomic particles to the magnificent world of the galaxies, all are part of this caravan. A scholar writes: The wheat plant has been given a movement that enables it to give a greater yield and the red rose a motion that gives it beauty and aroma. Man, too, has a motion by mean of which he advances on the path of wisdom and love. So if we observe certain ills that affect the growth of the wheat or the beauty or aroma of the rose or the purity of the human soul, we must not ascribe them to the motion itself but rather to a contrary cause that emerged in the course of motion. Now we can understand to what extent the word 'purpose' assists us in thinking properly. It makes us understand that the universe, of which we find ourselves to be a small member, is moral and conscious, that we do not live in a dark and disorderly cosmos, that there is certainly a mover behind all this motion and that there exists a great consciousness and intellect behind all things. That is sufficient to convince us that life is something great and glorious, and it is here that we can at least prepare ourselves to co-operate and go along with the world's conscious spirit, knowing that opposing it is harmful for our life. Man's physical development lies beyond his will, whereas his spiritual development is voluntary. Hence it is not worthy of him that man should deviate from the general evolutionary trend of the universe and remain deficient in the cosmic system of progression. It is evident that inner development and perfection is something immaterial. Physical experiment and study lead him to make discoveries of a material nature, but he can never place himself on the highway of perfection and attain to the peaks of spiritual ascension with the means of physical methods. In order that a tree may realise the full potential of its growth it must be freed of such hindrances to its growth as weeds and rocks and be provided the benefit of such agents as water, sun and air, which are essential for its growth. Man, too, in the process of developing the different dimensions of his being (body, spirit, and mind) must equip himself with the potent factors that contribute to his ascent towards eternity and infinitude. That is, he must employ them as the means that help him to achieve his ends and combat such factors that hinder his movement towards that goal. Man must regulate the dimensions of his being in different directions in such a manner that would enable him to meet all his material and spiritual demands and needs and live worthily by basing his life on a precise and accurately worked-out plan. He must build an orderly society free from conflict, injustice, aggression, ignorance and sin, in which human beings can attain purity, light and intellectual sublimity and reach the high peaks of humanity. Man's being is a turbulent aggregate of various urges. These urges in their natural and balanced state are not only not useless or harmful, rather each of them plays a vital role in man's spiritual makeup. However, an uncontrolled and unrestrained satisfaction of these urges is contrary to development. Should these urges be left free and uncontrolled in a person, he will become a slave of his savage and primordial urges and desires. Falling down from the high peaks of humanity, excellence and freedom he will sink into the mire of decadence and destruction. An animal is compliant and submissive to its urges, but a human being is loyal to his interests and obedient to his reason. He has the power to oppose his injurious tendencies and to affirm his beneficial and advantageous inclinations. For in the same way as physical instincts spring from man's nature, so do his positive, benign and truth-seeking impulses originate in his being, giving rise to his titanic, effulgent spiritual powers that can give birth to purity, dignity, power and righteousness. Self-Purification as Agent of Development There is no doubt that if one wants to follow definite principles in life-whether of a religious or a non-religious character-one must adopt a well-defined approach. In order to adopt a well-defined approach it is essential to select a single goal and move in a single direction. Hence one must avoid desultory involvements that may suit one's passing desires but are contrary to one's principles and goals in life. Hence self-control and self-discipline is essential in life for every man who wants to lead a human and rational existence. Man is a being equipped with the power of intellect and possessing unlimited desires. Should he recognise no restraint in life, he can become a bloodthirsty beast that can cause great destruction. Man's perfection and greatness does not depend on physical matters, which can affect his experience only on a sensible plane. Scientific advancements do not bring about an improvement in all the aspects of man. Man's real perfection lies in his liberating himself from the straits of illusory lusts and physical pleasures and in advancing on the path of humanity by edifying his sensibilities, disciplining himself and becoming acquainted with higher ideas and a wider horizon. The idea of a sumum bonum is deeply rooted in the human spirit, otherwise man would not have been its seeker during his childhood days nor would he have been able to take flights on its vast horizons. The radiance of sublime values is so much attractive that men fall in love with them willingly and voluntarily pursue them. There is an upsurge of passion for strength from one's inner depths which is followed by the endeavour to acquire it. All of these are indications of the fact that love for perfection has deep roots in the human spirit and it begins to reveal itself once there arises a suitable opportunity. The muscles become strong and powerful as a result of exercise. This is also true of the spiritual faculties, which become strong as a result of exercise and persisting effort, with the difference that the physical energies of the human body are limited and its powers are limited by the capacities of the body's sinews and cells. However, the wonders revealed by man's history are all manifestations of the power of the developed soul, whose growth is the result of a gradual emancipation from the limits and obstacles of material things. The horizons of self-knowledge and self-consciousness expand only when it is realised that the human spirit is a great and wonderful masterpiece of creation. It reveals itself in its show of strength, in its dynamism, its domination over material things, and specially in its capacity to lift man from the depths of decadence, weakness and inadequacy to the heights of communion with the Divine. Of course, in the same way as the body is forced to endure a certain amount of hardship in order to fulfil its vital functions, so also the spirit must put up with pain and toil in the course of moral development. All the various concepts and principles in the field of character building revolve around the axis of the soul or the spirit. It is spirit which is capable of reform and discipline. It is spirit which is capable of attaining sublimity and acquiring higher human qualities and excellences, loving as it does spiritual perfection. And finally, it is spirit which generates a series of ethical laws for the human being that the animal neither possess nor require. Dr. Alexis Carrel, a French scholar, says: We must habituate ourselves to distinguish between good and evil with the same perspicacity that we distinguish between light and darkness and between noise and silence, and then commit ourselves to avoid vice and embrace virtue. However, abstinence from vice requires a healthy physical and psychological makeup. The purposive growth of the body and the soul is not possible except with the help of self-purification. For those seeking spiritual edification, no kind of extravagance is permissible. The inner order always takes its own requital. The physiological and psychological state makes up the essential basis of personality and is like a spring-board from which the soul can take its flight. The path of edification is directed upwards in time and the travellers mostly slide into swamps or fall into ravines in the course of the journey, or stay behind by the side of riverside gardens and go into an endless sleep, whether in happiness or suffering, in affluence or poverty, health or sickness. Nevertheless, one must carry on his endeavour and rise to his feet after every fall and, little by little, acquire the zeal, faith and the will to aspire and the spirit of mutual help, the capacity to love and, ultimately, salvation. There is an absence of a precise equilibrium, order and balance in the world today between individual and society and between the body and the spirit. When man allows his human specialities to remain idle and suppresses the subtle, critical and vital aspects of his own being, which are a necessary part of his unique vicegerency of God on the world stage, when he repudiates his human dignity although created as a human being, flouts his God-given nature and, ultimately, programmes his life on the basis of hedonism and pursuit of desires, that amounts to a negation of his own being and his raison d'ĂȘtre. When that happens, it is inevitable that the God-given nature should exact severe damages for his unprincipled thinking and foolish conduct and wreck its revenge upon him. Right now humanity is paying a heavy compensation for its conduct in terms of peace, happiness and its essential human characteristics. The effect of this disorder and misconduct emerges in the shape of various kinds of crimes and perversions. In the societies of today perhaps no minute passes without there occurring a heinous crime and such crimes as adultery, rape, theft and so on. This is one of the biggest problems of the world's nations today and it must be considered a great human crisis of world-wide dimensions. The yearly expenditure incurred for the purpose of preventing crime or on the search, prosecution, trial and punishment of criminals makes up a stupendous sum. One of the factors responsible for the prevalence of callousness in human relations, widespread cruelty, and the daily increasing moral insensitivity in Western society lies in the way of thinking of some of its teachers and philosophers. Nietzsche, the well-known German philosopher, based his philosophy on pitilessness and racial superiority, which became a motive that lay behind the savage bloodshed and destructive wars of the last century. Such is the logic of this Western philosopher: Pity stands opposed to the tonic emotions which heighten our vitality; it has a depressing effect. We are deprived of strength when we feel pity... Quite in general, pity crosses the law of development, which is the law of selection. It preserves what is ripe for destruction, it defends those who have been disinherited and condemned by life, and by the abundance of the failures of all kinds which it keeps alive, it gives life itself a gloomy and questionable aspect.... Pity is the practice of nihilism. To repeat: this depressive and contagious instinct arouses those instincts which aim at the preservation of life and at the enhancement of its value. It multiplies misery and conserves all that is miserable, and thus is a prime instrument of the advancement of decadence.... [3] An "altruistic" morality-a morality in which self-interest wilts away-remains a bad sign under all circumstances. This is true of individuals; it is particularly true of nations. The best is lacking when self-interest begins to be lacking. Instinctively to choose what is harmful for oneself, to feel attracted by "disinterested" motives, that is virtually the formula of decadence... Strong ages, noble cultures, consider pity, "neighbour-love" and the lack of self and self-assurance something contemptible.. Sensual pleasure, lust for power, selfishness: these three have hitherto been cursed the most and held in the worst and most unjust repute-these three will I weigh well and humanly. ... Source Alhassanain.com

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