Shah, Idries - A Perfumed Scorpion - Human well-being is the minimum, not the maximum, duty of humanity
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
THE CONDITIONS OF THE HUMAN SELF:
The Self, called the Nafs, goes through certain stages in Sufi development, first existing as a mixture of physical reactions, conditioned behaviour and various subjective aspirations.
The seven stages of the Self constitute the transformation process, ending with the stage of perfection and clarification. Some have called this process the 'refinement of the Ego'. The stages are:
The Commanding Self
The Accusing Self
The Inspired Self
The Tranquil Self
The Satisfied Self
The Satisfying Self
The Purified and Completed Self
Each one of the words given above signifies a major characteristic of the Self in its upward ascent, hence, in Sufi eyes, most people in all cultures are generally familiar only with the first stage of the self as represented in their ethical systems as something which seeks only its own interests. The ordinary person, staying at the level of ordinary religious and moral teaching, is at the stage which the Sufis would regard as only struggling with the Commanding Self, with, in action, the Accusing Self reproaching itself for its shortcomings. It is because of this scheme that observers have styled Sufi development as going five stages beyond that known to the ordinarily 'Moral' person.
It cannot be denied that in Sufi eyes the stages of human service, for instance, and concern for others, are regarded as not very great achievements, though lauded to the skies in moralistic-centred systems as almost impossible of attainment. Hence when Sa'adi says in the l3th century:
All Adam's sons are limbs of one another,
Each of the self-same substance as his brothers,
So, while one member suffers ache and grief,
The other members cannot win relief.
Thou, who are heedless of thy brother's pain,
It is not right at all to name thee man . . .
(Gulistan, tr. Browne)
he means that the Sufis, though recognizing its vital importance, still keep the door open for many stages of greater function for humankind. They maintain that to regard human well-being, though essential, as the highest possible, the sublime, achievement
of humanity, is to limit oneself so much that it is, effectively, a pessimistic and unacceptably limited stance. Again, the desire for human well-being is the minimum, not the maximum, duty of humanity.
The Commanding Self is the origin of the individual controlled by a composite consciousness, which is a mixture of hopes and fears, of training and imagination, of emotional and other factors, which make up the person in his or her 'normal' State, as one would ordinarily call it. It is the state of most of the people who have not undergone the clarification process.
The Accusing Self is the state of the Self when it is able to monitor its behaviour and perceive the secondary nature of so many things formerly imagined to be primary, the actual relativity of assumed absolutes, and so on. This part of the man or woman is
both the check on imperfect action and also the area through which the legitimate reproach of others or of the environment gets through to the individual. This is the stage of ordinary conscience.
Most people stop and mill around here.
When the depraved or commanding self and the reproaching or accusing selves have done their work, the organ of perception and action becomes susceptible to the entry of perceptions formerly blocked. For this reason it is termed the Inspired Self. In this stage come the first indications, albeit imperfect ones, of the existence and operation of a reliable higher element, force, power or communications system.
Although people have often translated the word Nafs,which we call 'Self' here, as 'soul', it is in fact not such at all, but what might be called the real Personality of the individual. The word for soul is 'rouh', spirit.
The so-called lower self the Nafs, passes through the stages in which it is said to 'die', and be transformed. Since it also is held to die on physical death, the phrase for this process is 'dying before you die'. Hence the death and rebirth cycle takes place in this life instead of being assigned, to supposed literal reincarnation births and deaths.
Attempts to cause the self to operate out of sequence; that is, to receive perceptions when the third stage has not been reached, or to provoke and benefit from mystical experience before the fifth stage, produces the sort of confusion - and sometimes worse - which is reflected in some current literature of experimenters who choose their own sequence of events, and may cause developments which they cannot handle.
It also makes people crazy or nearly so.
Many of these imagine themselves to be spiritual teachers, and some of them convince
others that they are, too.
The inner psychological problems of people who try to force developments in their psychic life are a matter for clinical, or even experimental, psychology. But there are many who stop short of this, who have not even got to the stage where they realize that their superficial interest in metaphysics bars them from something deeper, and who try exercises mechanically or spasmodically. No wonder they try to store up with emotion.
Some of these are often otherwise quite nice peopte. They get superficial delusions, because of a rationalizing tendency.
It is Sufi experience that people who can keep calm enough to realise that there might be a time and a place - and other requirements - for anything, are more, not less, able to benefit from that thing.
The source of the experienceShah, Idries
Concepts, symbols and science items
Sin [and vice]