One of the reasons some of our youth today feel alienated- facing existential crises, meaning crises and related issues- particularly in modern and post modern milieu, is because they have lost their acquaintance & understanding of "who they are actually in themselves?". This is in fact important for all of us to understand in general i.e. "who or what a human being is"? The moment we lose an overall comprehensive understanding of this critical question, the more alienated we are going to feel. As Jung would say that knowledge or truth might not fully erase concrete “detailed” suffering of day-to-day lives but the fact of mere lighting up of a candle in dark (getting a sense of where one is) helps one walk more comfortably and ward off a great deal of fear and alienation.
When it comes to the question of Man; i.e. who or what a Man is? It needs to be answered on three levels. If we begin to appreciate that then it will start to make positive difference in our lives and really help us see ourselves, others and life in general in a better light. When man knows himself, his past, his present, his essence- he begins to feel at home. Man according to Traditional wisdom comprises of three main realities viz; 1) "Spirit"- which is the ground of intelligence/awareness in man; the very category of “knowing”. It grounds man in Sacred. It is this "spirit" that makes human form "theomorphic". 2) Second is "Psyche"- this is man's internal world (sub-structure of mind so to say). It has its own realm of subconscious & unconscious (beneath conscious mind). 3) And then finally third is his "physical body" which is the product of physical biology and together with "psyche" is responsible for millions & billions of varied dynamics that man goes through on unconscious, subconscious & conscious levels. Unlike spirit (ground of awareness/consciousness), both psyche & body are product of space & time.
Forgetting one's nature of spirit produces its own sets of diseases. Forgetting happenings of unconscious & subconscious psyche produces its own dangerous complexes or neurotic diseases. And finally, mishandling physical body leads to its own kind of diseases. To begin to cure alienation, therefore, we need to re-emphasize integral knowledge of all these three different realities. It includes Knowledge of Metaphysics (spirit), Depth Psychology (soul/psyche) & Body (evolutionary biology).
When one looks at his physical body and understands its relation with other life forms around, he begins to feel at home. This is akin to lighting up of a small candle. Similarly, when he begins to understand the history of his own psyche; its functions, complexities, origins, archetypes, etc he starts to come out of the dark slumber a little more i.e. a yet another bit of alienation is treated. And then finally when one understands one's essential rootedness in Sacred or what Quran calls "rooh", one begins to appreciate the creation as manifestation of Divine names. God is Sacred/Spirit/Source who discloses His infinite possibilities of manifestation. The world and human existence are one of the possibilities and thus we are here. Here one begins to appreciate the source/origin/essence of the whole reality. Why creation/manifestation happens? Here the science of metaphysics (Sacred Science) helps which is filtered through the receptacle of religion/revelation. “Spirit” tells us why we are here and what is our inner most essence- to quench our thirst for meaning, psyche on the other hand in tandem with body, tells us how we ‘think’, ‘react’ and ‘behave’- knowledge of which helps us to live a good harmonious peaceful lives by avoiding unnecessary unconscious neurotic puppetry.
When one wakes up to what or who one is; what is around & what is its history, one instantly feels at home (or appreciates where one is) and that has a curing and a liberating effect. Human being (as mentioned above) has three levels of being i.e. material, psychological and spiritual. He has a body, a psyche/soul and spirit/awareness. The main solution presented by Traditional wisdom to cure our ills is the dictum of ‘self-knowledge’. Knowing one’s own self is the road to salvation. To reiterate once again, man’s ignorance about any of the three levels of his own being generates its own sets of corresponding diseases and alienations. If man ignores his body, he is going to get physically ill. Similarly, if he is completely negligent about the dynamics of his psyche, he may be attacked by dangerous psychological abnormalities which are more worrisome than physical diseases. One can see that psychological diseases are always hard to treat. People go to “peers” or psychiatrists- but they are always hard nuts to crack. Similarly, if man becomes totally ignorant of the ground of spirit/awareness which is the innermost and “real” most reality of man then he remains caught up in relative illusions of phenomena, the suffering of which, he fails to interpret or understand. Without the light of spirit/God, man is haunted by the meaninglessness and senselessness of brute facts and groundless existence.
Knowledge of the psyche, its constituents, its mechanisms helps us live more peacefully simply because the irrational and unconscious contents (that otherwise unconsciously drag us here and there, making us say, do and think things that we don’t control on conscious level) are discovered and we become more alert and cognizant of our own inner demons. Our deep shadow part which is hidden and repressed often surfaces up in our heat of the moment hurtful remarks against people, fights, hasty decisions followed by immense regret when one comes back to “consciousness” so to speak- which then exposes to us how deeply conditioned we are owing to our inner complexes. Whether it be ugly fights between friends (over petty issues) or spats even in “masaajid” between elders, up to the point of larger political megalomania- almost all peace disturbing and soul frustrating events that creep into human and societal consciousness have largely to do with unconscious psychological projections. A basic knowledge of psychopathology can significantly create a positive impact on people as individuals and as well as reflect on collective societal level. Knowledge or proximity to “Spirit” on the other hand creates meaning and one instantly feels at home (with God), the source/ground of all existence.
As we saw in one of our previous articles on Relationships and heartbreaks (Rising Kashmir, 26th May 2022), that not knowing the inner workings of one’s own psyche may lead to “unconscious” fixations of people or things which have proper reasons for appearing the way they appear to our conscious minds. Whether it be infatuations, anger, jealousy, fear, inferiority complex/superiority complex, mother/father complex or any kind of “complexes” (understood technically in Jungian terms)- the only way to solve one’s “evil” is to “face” them (by self analysis), seeing one’s own shadow, tracking down repressed unconscious causes of psychic abnormalities, de-connecting their routes and thus treating oneself. “Truth leads to piety” as Prophet Muhammad PBUH said or “Truth sets you free” as Jesus PBUH said. Modern psychoanalysts testify to this fact in their clinics. The only way to treat a severely psychologically ill patient is to extract “truths” out of the patient (during analysis sessions) which they have repressed/buried/hid under their subconscious and unconscious.
Similarly, understanding one’s personality type gives one enlightening knowledge about one’s own propensities, inclinations, nature of being which blesses one with countless insights about his/her own behavior. This leads to identification of many repeated errors and problems of oneself owing to certain unconscious elements. Realizing whether one is dominated by extroversion or introversion explains a host of curious questions about oneself.
After doing fair bit of “islah” of inner psyche/ego, we move on to the knowledge of “spirit” (i.e. a life lived outside of ego) which pushes us beyond ego complexes i.e. when we focus on life as an entirety taking away the focus from our own egos, then instantly we are cured of all diseases. This is the traditionalist mystical critique of almost all modern ideologies which rest on the edifice of “ego” when in fact the joyous life is the life of “spirit”. What is the life of spirit? It is the life when we participate in the “other” i.e. outside of ourselves whether in engaging conversation with family and friends, or whilst playing a game, or watching a drama/movie/story, or reflecting over a problem, or preparing food for a feast, or engaging in any other activity- we are thrown out of our own egos into the life of larger general eternal spirit. This life of the spirit i.e. bypassing ego, solves all the tiring job of ego work and ego analysis. Let us now make some concluding remarks.
Quran considers the criterion for salvation as the right use of the intelligence (only people of knowledge are saved says Quran). Man is intelligence; by intelligence we mean awareness/consciousness/knowledge or the very category of being able to “know” something. By intelligence we mean “maarifa”. It is “maarifa” which is royal road to salvation. “Maarifa” of the “nafs”, “maarifa” of the “aafaaq” leads to enlightenment and liberation. We may end with some lines of Bulleh Shah when he says, “yes, yes; you’ve read thousands of books but you’ve never tried to read your own self”.
(Author is Pursuing Masters in Philosophy from JNU Delhi. Email: email@example.com)