THE HUMANIZATION OF NATURE AND OUR CONTEMPORARY ILLNESS PART TWO: ON BEING A REAL HUMAN
In ancient times, people believed that ultimate reality – like God or The Tao – was unknowable. As perceived by them, God and The Tao are without limits, yet Man’s intelligence is limited. So how can that which is limited know the limitless? It was futile, not to mention foolish, for man to attempt to define ultimate reality.
Though ultimate reality could not be known, man could know nature. For the ancients, that which is decreed by Heaven is called ‘nature’ and that which is in accord with one’s nature is called the ‘way.’ Everything has its own intrinsic nature as decreed by heaven – that is its essence and its reason for being. Following that ‘nature’ is the ‘way’. Man is no exception.
Man has an innate set of purposes, which are typically human. These belong to his nature as decreed by heaven; indeed, following these is what makes him a human. So for man to be in accord with the way, he must manifest what it means to be human – distinct from non-humans. This means he has to live a life in a way befitting his humanity, which according to the ancients, is through his virtues.
Each and every Man is born with this inherent nature as a human. It is imperative that Man examines his conduct at all times and makes sure that it is aligned with his humanity, i.e., his virtuous nature. Otherwise, the ancients maintained, one is not worthy of calling himself a human, for what is human without his ‘virtues’, i.e., his humaneness?
If a person becomes ‘bad’, it’s not the fault of the stuff he is made of. Virtue belongs to man’s essence; it is what defines him as a human. A man becomes bad because he starves his natural impulses. He is lost; not bad by nature.
The key is to return to this original state of humaneness, goodness and virtuous living, which man can do by letting his heart/mind [soul] blossom and unfold naturally. By doing so, man would become a Real Human.
The ancients saw life as the offspring of the indivisible cosmic nature. It is like the blossoms on a tree; they come and go but the tree always remains. It is essential to find oneness with nature – and the Tree of Life. This is not to be achieved only on a philosophical or conceptual level, but also in the real cultivation of the inner eternal life – or man’s spiritual nature.
As they saw it, the best way of finding oneness with nature and the cosmos is by way of dissolving duality and eliminating or integrating polarity. This is first of all to be done by aligning oneself with the rhythms and cycles of nature, both on a material and immaterial level.
Then through the cultivation of the self and the continuous study of human nature, as well as, the constant adherence to the ways and means of nature as decreed by heaven, that duality is dissolved and the principles of human nature are revealed.
If this can be done successfully, one will naturally blossom and unfold one’s true nature as a “Real” human – as one who has merged his thoughts and actions with the ever-changing transformations of the universe.
Once at one with the Universe, one acts from his innermost being; he no longer deliberates or thinks about his actions. He responds in the only possible way, which is the perfectly appropriate way – the way of a Real human.
With this clarity of mind and vision, brought about by dependence on doing what is right as dictated by the soul, the Real human will be manifesting his natural heavenly qualities. Thus by developing one’s mind to the utmost, one knows one’s nature, and by knowing one’s nature, one knows Heaven.
Thus, in becoming a Real human, one knows his nature. In knowing his [real] nature, he reaches the highest achievement of his humanity, which is the elevation of the mind and the identification of the individual with his soul and through it, the universal oneness, or the Tao.
For the Real human, knowledge and virtue are one and the same. His philosophy requires that he lives it; he himself is the vehicle. The object of knowing is not the truth or falsity of empirical facts, but rather the good and evil or right and wrong of moral values. Knowing right from wrong – morality – is the innate knowing of the good – and true knowledge.
This gives Man a unity of purpose. For in finding out ‘what’ the nature of the universe is leads man to an understanding of ‘why’ he is here. Because of this ‘knowledge’, man can know ‘how’ to live his life – in concert and in harmony with this understanding.
But knowing how to live life is not enough; one must act on what is known. That is real knowledge, when knowledge is put into practice; knowledge is the beginning of action, and the action is the completion of knowledge.
Thus, learning to be a Real human involves only one effort: Knowledge and action should not be separated. Real knowledge is the manifestation of one’s essence in terms of his behavior; it is the integration of the inner and outer worlds. It is manifest in man’s oneness, not in his separation.
The key is ‘pure’ action. This is not easy or to be taken for granted, either. The Real human needs to make constant and uninterrupted spiritual effort to bring the innate of the good to light. These spiritual efforts signify eliminating selfish desires and becoming one with the whole.
Doing what one knows does not mean doing what has been taught or learned; it means applying one’s heart/mind and being totally sincere when doing it, without any selfish desires. This is the highest form of a Real human’s behavior.
When the Real human obeys the command of his soul, there can be no regrets; neither can there be thoughts of sorrow or joy. For there is no alternative to acting as one does, in harmony with one’s soul; this is naturally accepted as his destiny and the ongoing perfection of his virtue and his innermost essence.
In this way of perceiving reality, the mind plays a mediating role between the “lesser self” [the needs
of the body] and the “greater self” [the needs of the virtuous or spiritual self]. Getting the priorities right, between the two leads to the blossoming or unfolding of one’s true nature. This leads to the happy life.
The ancient’s perception of reality was inclusive, holistic and unitary. It saw man as a vital link between Heaven and earth; indeed, it placed man at the center of both, since only through man could the nature and spirit of both pass through and manifest.
Thus, Man was both the axis of Heaven and earth and the mover of their will, too. For only through Man were these two [polar] forces able to come together and find expression as one integrated whole system.
In the cosmos was perfect order, coherence and unity; and through Man these forces could manifest and develop perfectly. By bringing these qualities out, Man was expressing his reason for being; and by expressing his purpose in life, he was bringing to expression the indivisible forces of nature and the cosmic order.
This perception of reality gave a sense of unity and purpose to both the cosmos and to Man – each member of the cosmos playing its part in the holistic system of purpose, integrity and unity, in which each and every part is connected to and dependent on the other for its existence.
Nowadays, however, there is no such concept of order and balance. People are not coming together and playing their part in the universal symphony of life. It is dog eat dog; only the strong survive. It’s a competitive world and those who can develop their bodies and minds best are those most likely to develop – and survive – best.
This is the mentality of today’s world, it is a mentality based on the body consciousness and its survival, not a spiritual and holistic one. Man is no longer focusing on seeking oneness with the cosmos or with nature; on the contrary, he is doing his best to separate from and to get control over both.
For the moderns, Life isn’t about seeking oneness with nature and its eternal laws, either; it’s about making the most out of your life, following your dreams and desires. It’s about individuality and Man becoming successful. There is no concept of an intrinsic nature of man and following the ‘way’, nor is there an innate set of purposes to bring out.
The object of life is development and each individual should be free to develop all that he is capable of attaining. There are no essences to nurture and bring to light, nor are there indivisible forces of nature to blossom and unfold. It’s not about self-cultivation and self-realization on a spiritual level, either; it’s about self-actualization and self-attainment on a material level.
Not since the time of Descartes has Man felt any sense of real connection and unity with Nature. Instead of looking to and bringing out essences and the intrinsic nature of things and people, Man has come to see intellect and reason as real and true and all else as superstition and illusory.
Consequently, Man has cut off his links to nature, the divine and any concept of eternal mediums, like the soul, and out of this divorce we get, instead, the birth of materialist and intellectual absolutism. Man becomes the heart and soul of this planet and it is his to exploit and conquer as he chooses and wills.
Man is not here anymore to be one with nature and to manifest her ways through a spiritual existence; nor is he here to sublimate his desires for more ethereal and holier ones. He is here to develop and he will do that by bringing out – not his heavenly qualities – but his Man-made and artificial ones.
For this is now a world defined by Man, gone are the days of purpose-driven worlds as exhibited by the cultivation of the soul [through meditation, contemplation and self-examination] and as manifest by his virtuous deeds. Nature is not heavenly anymore, nor is it spiritual. Nothing is passing through it to link Man to other worlds and other realities.
Nature is a thing like everything else on this plane, and like all other things on this planet, it is driven by bio-chemical mechanisms, which exist for no other reason but to self-perpetuate. Nature is no longer the mysterious force behind life; it is a thing to exploit and to develop.
For the moderns, the purpose of Nature is the advancement and unfoldment of life; likewise, the purpose of man is the advancement and unfoldment of ‘his’ life. This means that man’s purpose in life is in doing that which comes naturally to him, i.e., in doing what he wants to do.
But this is a materialistic world, so Man can only do what he wants to do by making use of things. And he can have the free use of things only as he becomes rich enough to buy them. So it is imperative to, first of all, learn how to make the best use of things, since they are what we need to develop to be free, then to have enough money to buy those things.
Therefore, to understand the science of getting rich is the most essential of all knowledge in today’s world, since by being rich we will be free and real humans. Thus, being rich is the key to being a Real human.
Thus in a huge departure from ancient thought in which being a Real human was determined by his pure – virtuous – action and his constant and uninterrupted spiritual effort to bring the innate good – divine – to light, modern man is here to develop his natural cravings and to learn how to buy and use things so as to satisfy them.
Man is not here to learn what Nature is and on how to become one with Nature anymore; nor is he here to bring out his intrinsic nature or in being one with his soul, either; it’s all about learning how to develop, to profit from and to exploit Nature.
As for virtues and virtuous living, forget about it. Not only is this an anachronistic belief in today’s world, it is incomprehensible. Forget about the offspring of the indivisible cosmic nature, too, and the flowers blossoming on the tree, or the Tree of Life.
Man is here to get rich, not on a figurative level, but on a literal level. That is the Real human in today’s world – being a rich man.