Human life is characterized by desires for joy and happiness. But why do religious traditions in general abhor or discourage chasing desires? In Traditional metaphysics however, “desire” in itself per se alludes to a deeper Truth and is not frowned upon in essence. Why is there dynamism in life anyway? Why does life move? What moves life? What/who ignites desire? In esoteric metaphysics, it is God fundamentally who is the ultimate attractor through all the things that are attractive/desired. Why do human beings chase beauty and other forms of enjoyment? This is because fundamentally God is beauty and (ground of) bliss and it is God who attracts human beings through various diverse manifestations. There is no power besides God that can engender attraction or movement.
What is important is realization/perception of divine. “Chasing desires” is discouraged because usually people tend to chase and enjoy things “outside of God” i.e. they get restricted to few things/manifestations and end up absolutizing a “relative” thing which is a huge error. They see object as objects in final analysis- independent in themselves- without recognizing their poverty before God, the real ground of existence. These desires (when not seen as limited manifestations of God’s beauty) become distractive forces that take us away the absolute. A person sufficing with a woman/man, money, fame, etc in a sort of a selfish obsessive way unnecessarily arrests himself within “relative” and thus misses God and the distance from God amounts to pain of hell.
One wishes to ask scientists and psychologists as to why there is an “ego energy” at all? Where does it come from? Why is “everything for me or about me” for individuals? Why are human beings (generally as a default case) egotistical? Why are we “selfish”? Why do we show off? Why do we love ourselves? It seems that sufi metaphysicians (like other esoteric traditions) better take note of this critical point.
Now, we need to remind ourselves of a very important fact and that is the human being loves everything by virtue of his self. Only “self” is loved for its own sake, rest everything is dear only because of its relation with self. Whether it be people around, or money or comfort, everything is loved because of its relation with ‘self’. But why is life or self so dear? This is a very crucial question which does not receive proportionate reflection. As Quran says “wa fee anfusikum afalaa tubsiroon”. This invitation to know one’s own self is a common theme in all religious/wisdom traditions across the world. Modern man, whose whole life is “self-ish”, least bothers to ponder over the question of what actually is this “self” and why does it attract so much of my love and attention? Cosmetics (beauty products)- the motor of self-love- is a multibillion dollar industry; such tremendous “force” that ignites motion/dynamism in life needs a serious reflection. Pretty much all activities of a human being are mostly driven by the “love for self”. Walker Percy, who wrote a book called Lost in the Cosmos: the Last Self-Help, notes that our popular culture is drowning under the plethora of self-help books amidst the crises that few care to ask as to what is this “self” that we are trying to help.
Traditional metaphysics tells us that life/self is dear because it is a manifestation of God (the very ground of self) who is inherently, in his nature, joy and bliss. Self in its deepest essence is made up of joy so to say. Reality in its deepest essence is joy- a sort of a free playful activity. Therefore greater joy does not lie in running after objects “out there” per se but returning back to true self (God) which is the source (ground) of all joy and happiness.
There are few more important things that we need to internalize. We may put them in following words. Whether it be love for self or yearning for enjoyment; this fundamental tendency which is at the centre of human existence alludes to a deeper truth (as we have stated above) & that is life/reality in essence is a blissful “playful” activity. Norman O Brown in his illuminating book called “Life against Death: The psychoanalytic meaning of history” explains how even economic wars and other macro human activities whether individual or societal across human history are eruptions of various forms of “couched” play activities (in sublimated forms i.e. channelized through various ways) even though we may not realize. Modern man even after inventing comfortable “concretized” city life, still today, when he imagines a blissful life projects his inner fantasy in movies as “a man and a woman living together- a simple life- in a jungle in a small wooden house”; an ideal sort of simple playful life but as Carl Jung says “simple things are most difficult” particularly in modern setting where man is automized/robotocized within a rigid constricting formal routine, sucking out all play element from his life (pretty much the main cause for prevalent psychological trauma and restlessness).
This play activity is what is displayed in “ideal” human stage of “infancy” where man is free from all mental abstractions and psychological traumas. As mystics would say that one should live his life like a “child” who is sort of an ibn ul waqt i.e. “the child of the moment” because the little child “plays” whilst being in the moment- carefree of past and future. Play activity points towards God, the ground of being which is blissful. Human finite self “loving himself” basically points towards the very ground of being (God) which is blissful. Human error lies in localizing/restricting this enjoyment in selfish ego’s achievements which rather than enjoying everything as a detached spectator tries to get control of everything and own everything, causing trouble for self and others.
(The Author is Pursuing Masters in Philosophy from JNU, Delhi. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)