No matter how we succeed in the realms of spirituality, materially, in science, arts, sports, intellectually or success in any field, there is always a great danger of being destroyed by our greatest enemy within us. Our ego and better put an insisting and never resting self who can make a lifetime of achievements to disappear in an instant. It can manifest its self in the form of a gesture, a look, a word or an action, but the end result is the same. Its dominance on our behavior can be interpreted as a victory for the negativity and a defeat for the forces of passivity or evil winning over goodness. It is always with us and is like a volcano ready to erupt which has to be constantly under the supervision by the higher nature. Baha’i Faith has numerous Writings to prepare us to face this test and handling it. Our Writings differentiate between our two selves: our animal, material or lower nature and our spiritual, divine or higher nature.
“In man there are two natures; his spiritual or higher nature and his material or lower nature. In one he approaches God, in the other he lives for the world alone. Signs of both these natures are to be found in man. In his material aspects he expresses untruth, cruelty and injustice; all these are the outcomes of his lower nature. The attributes of his divine nature are shown forth in love, mercy, kindness, truth and justice, one and all being expressions of his higher nature. Every good habit, every noble quality belongs to man’s spiritual nature, whereas all his imperfections and sinful actions are born of his material nature.” -‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 60
We can find in the history of our Faith and the history of different religions many of examples of how even good-hearted and spiritual men and women were the victims and this hidden enemy which is ready to destroy in an instant the great achievements earned in a lifetime.
Not many are aware of this lurking hunter and are ill prepared for its assaults. It has been the cause of the downfall of a great many leaders and learners of man in all walks life, of art and of sciences, of spirituality and morality. They could not see it coming or recognized its imminent danger until it was too late. Being aware of it and recognizing its signs are one way of dealing with it and finding ways combat it or to keep it under control is essential for those who want to progress in life both materially and spiritually. It is a lifelong conversation that we have to have with ourselves.
“A man may converse with the ego within saying “May I do this? Would it be advisable for me to do this work?” Such as this is conversation with the high self.” -‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 179
Great men of religions, philosophers, poets, and men of vision have recognized it and warned us to be aware of this invisible and elusive enemy.
“Though one should conquer a 1000 times a 1000 men in battle, he who conquers his own self is the greatest of all conquerors.” -Buddha
“The lowliest and most abject of all things holdeth sway over thee, and that is none other than self and passion, which have ever been reprehensible.” – Bahá’u’lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Host, Lawh-i-Rais, p.170
Though very difficult but there are ways that insistent self can be contained and subordinated with the help of old age methods used by different spiritual disciplines. Here are two of them to start with.
It is like taking an inventory of you with honestly and intention of discovering more about oneself to discover what abilities one has to face it and also finding the areas where one will be tested, where there could be a possibility of failure. This process of self-examination needs the courage to face ourselves as who we are and not what we wish to be. We cannot fool ourselves because the consequence of that would be catastrophic.
An added benefit of self-knowledge is the spiritual growth and depth of knowledge that comes with this process.
“O, My servants! Could ye apprehend with what wonders of My munificence and bounty I have willed to entrust your souls, ye would, of a truth, rid yourselves of attachment to all created things, and would gain a true knowledge of your own selves — a knowledge which is the same as the comprehension of Mine own Being.” – Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, sec. CLIII, p. 326–27
Meditation and prayers
It is well understood that meditation can strengthen your powers the higher nature to deal with the challenges of life, and no challenge is bigger than the insistent-self residing within.
“By obeying the laws of God, seeking to live the life laid down in our teachings, and prayer and struggle, we can subdue our egos. We call people “saints” who have achieved the highest degree of mastery over their ego.” -Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 453
We have to deal with our insistent self or ego; otherwise, it can undo any success or progress. It is to be recognized as a serious threat to our good efforts. As a human being our life in this world and our progress in the next world depend on the decisions we make. Some say we make our own heaven and hell here on earth as a result of the choices we make. It is sad if we do not make the right decision and give our higher nature the upper hand. Because we are surrounded by materialism and consumerism so nurturing our higher nature is very difficult, and that is why we need to tune ourselves spiritually to make the right choice so that we get the rewards and benefits of those choices. When we read the spiritual writings and meditate our souls are uplifted, and that affects our decision making. Our souls are tuned by reading the writings and bringing ourselves to account each day. It is like a spiritual balance sheet so that we can perceive the good and the bad in our ways. This is such an important matter with great concrescences in our lives, and we need to take the opportunity to fully deal with it so that our lifelong achievements are not left at the hand of our ego.