An Interview with Bahram Elahi, MD, Ostad Elahi’s son and the repository of his philosophy, published in “L’être et l’esprit” to mark the release of his book, Foundations of Natural Spirituality
In your book Foundations of Natural Spirituality, you present a revolutionary approach to spirituality. Could you summarize your definition of spirituality for us?
Spirituality is the knowledge that allows human beings to reach their perfection, meaning the state in which their primordial nature is realized. It can be considered as a complete experimental science that can guide us toward true knowledge of our rights and duties, which exist in any authentic spirituality. From this perspective, spirituality should be approached with a scientific mindset. As with any experimental science, we have to learn step by step, understand, practice, experience, absorb, assimilate, and advance until we reach total knowledge of the ‘self’ and the laws that shape its development. Of course, this process does not end with the death of the physical body, which is a temporary albeit necessary tool for laying the foundations of our future development. If I speak of ‘natural spirituality,’ it is because spirituality can lead to realization only if it is adapted to our true nature and our authentic spiritual needs. Like the human body, the human soul requires nourishment. But just as there are harmful foods for the body, there are poisonous spiritual foods as well. For example, when we put a falsified divine principle into practice, or one that is not of divine origin, we are poisoning our true self. We need to implement a spirituality therefore that is able to nourish our spirit and ensure its gradual maturation and natural growth. Natural spirituality fulfills this need by teaching us the original divine principles that correspond to the nature of our true self.
These principles, which are common to all religions, can be summarized in a few relatively simple points: battling against our weak points until we are able to establish perfect equilibrium between our excesses and deficiencies; considering the Creator present and observant, with the certitude that He is both benevolent and an educator, while seeking divine contentment in everything that we do; and acting appropriately toward others in the sense of respecting their rights and observing the fundamental principles of ethics and religion. These principles are the basis for order and peace in society and serve to establish equilibrium between our spiritual and material lives. The application of these principles requires that each of us lead an active social life.
In this “process of spiritual perfection,” what is the role of faith in the Source?
As we just alluded to, the function of spirituality is to harmoniously develop the souls of human beings so that they can realize their primordial nature and reach perfection. Faith plays a central role in this process and provides us with the necessary motivation for advancement. Faith can be defined as an attraction toward transcendence or the divine. Consequently, the greater our faith, the more we are attracted toward the divine and the greater our desire to advance. Considering that our souls have a metaphysical origin, only metaphysical energy derived from the true Source can ensure this advancement. Natural meditation or constant attention makes it possible for us to benefit from this metacausal energy. In natural meditation, we seek to consider the Source present and observant in all states, and strive for our actions to be in accord with His contentment. It is through a profound understanding of the basic principles and their application that we can gradually attain a level of spiritual knowledge and experience that allows us to recognize where divine contentment lies in each situation and to act accordingly. Faith also helps us to identify teachings that are appropriate for the harmonious development of our spiritual dimension. Although the Creator always extends a rope of guidance on earth, there are numerous negative forces that are quite active as well. How, then, can we properly distinguish between true guidance and the false ones? Here again, it is only faith that can help us to identify the correct guidance and lead us toward perfection, protecting us from falling into the ravines of misguidance.
When we speak of faith, we mean a pure and sincere faith in the true Source, not in imaginary mental conceptions. Indeed, if our faith is insincere, or if we have faith in a false source, we will be deprived of the positive effects of having faith. Sincere faith causes the Source to awaken the faculty of discerning the truth within us, which prevents us from being deceived by spiritual peddlers.
To grow and develop, human beings need what we have called ‘divine warmth’ and ‘divine light.’ Divine light refers to spiritual knowledge, or the ensemble of authentic ethical principles of divine origin whose application enables us to achieve sufficient comprehension and thereby to internally assimilate them. Divine warmth, on the other hand, refers to divine love, the love that we feel toward the Creator, which generates within us the necessary motivation and energy for action.
Faith causes us to absorb divine warmth and light in the right proportions—that is why it is indispensable at every stage. In addition, faith constitutes a solid barrier against the pathogenic elements that threaten to weaken and sicken the souls of all human beings; it should be noted here that everyone is susceptible to these pathogenic elements. Faith also plays a primary role in the process that enables human beings to dominate their weak points, while also enabling us to eliminate or at least diminish the side effects that may result from the inappropriate struggle against them (such as the creation of a complex). In general, faith is the primary reason that we can attract divine energy to overcome our weak points. As such, sincere faith in the true Source can be considered as the cornerstone of spiritual perfection.
It seems as though you are attributing a great deal of importance to the practice of spirituality in our daily lives. Could you elaborate on this point?
Although the classical spirituality of the past was a process that was undertaken away from society, there is no contradiction between spirituality and social life. Given that the goal of spirituality is the perfection of the soul, society is the best environment in which to develop positive human qualities, for it is only in society that we are in constant interaction with our fellow beings. If at every time and in every place we perceive every occurrence from a spiritual perspective, and at the same time strive in our daily lives to adhere our thoughts and actions to the principles of natural spirituality, every action will become spiritual and it is no longer necessary to devote a separate time or place for the observance of our spiritual practice. Spirituality in daily life means that we should feel the Creator’s presence in all of the moments of our lives; that we should remember we are not alone, and a compassionate yet exacting Source is watching after us; and that we should strive to act in accordance with His contentment in everything that we do. This state of constant attention to the Source creates a positive motivation and mobilizing energy within us to have greater focus on the attainment of self-knowledge and greater trust in our relationship with the Source. Likewise, constant attention strengthens our confidence and our sense of inner peace. Practicing natural spirituality expands and deepens our field of perception little by little, to the point that we can find answers to our own questions. From a different perspective, the other meaning of spirituality is to respect the rights of others in our interactions with them—that is, to want for others what we would want for ourselves. This does not mean, however, that we should neglect to defend our own rights when it is necessary to do so.
Spirituality also teaches us that ‘evil’ has no substantive existence, but rather results from the dysfunction of responsible beings such as humans. Therefore, we have a duty to fight against evil, but this does not imply that we should perceive others as being evil or to wish ill upon them. It is in this context that forgiveness and forbearance find true meaning, and tolerance and empathy become important.
In summary, spirituality in our ordinary daily lives means having constant attention to our inner self (self-knowledge), to others (observing rights), and to the Source (attention).