A necessary and determining introduction to theological discussions, is
the spirit or the incorporeal dimension of human being. This reality is
recognized under different names such as self, nature, ego, soul, and... .
However there is a slight difference between these words in some of the
sciences. Here, it's the reality which human knows beyond his body which he
recalls when speaking of his states and actions; like the time when he says I
am writing, I am happy, I am sad, I am in a hurry, I am awake and... . In daily
life sometimes certain things occur which makes human being notice the duality
of these two realities. Like the time when we cry in sleep and wake up while
crying and the cry still continues. A few seconds ago your body was motionless
while you were screaming and now that you are awake your scream is accompanied
with tears, and commotion of your body; while you are sure that in the two
cases it was you who were crying and now it's you who is still awake crying.
This indicates that there are two realities in you which were not together when
you were asleep but bound together when you woke up.
Another example is when after death, the deceased appears in the relatives' dream and brings pieces of news for them that only he was aware of. This is while his body is buried under the ground and might have been decayed with the passage of time. The above examples are not the proof for duality of spirit and body or self and flesh; they have merely been given to bear in mind that this duality is an inner affair. An affair which everyone is conscientiously aware of but because for so many years everywhere no always have experienced self and body together, automatically assumes these two as one and has become negligent of the duality of these two.
1-the existential reality of human consists of two parts: self and body
2-the essence of human's personality is his self not body, it's him who decides, becomes happy or gets upset, or acquires bad or good traits. If a person is proud or modest, a believer or disbeliever, glad or gloomy, wise or stupid is the quality of his self not body.
3- Self and body in spite of their separation of existential reality, in action and conduct are extremely dependent on each other as one's mood influences another. For example, so many physical pains are due to emotional depressions and vice versa when human's body is in pain; his soul is stopped from thinking and contemplation.
4-in medicine, psychics who assume so many qualities for spirit have got material or physical representation. For example, happiness or sadness is the result of hormone's secretion in mind and fear or embarrassment is said to be caused by increase or decrease of a certain substance in blood and it's even said that if a certain part of the brain stops functioning, some spiritual affairs of human such as memory or thinking will also finish off.
Physicalists consider the above medical findings as a proof for unity of
spirit and body and based on these proofs they deny the existence of an incorporeal
matter, spirit, which along with body constructs human's personality.
On the contrary, psychics are engaged in gathering proofs which indicates the independence of spirit. In this field the findings of psychic groups which have been founded in different countries in the recent years and which are engaged in doing research about this issue deserve some thinking. John Hick, a great contemporary philosopher, states:
“in spite of all our differences nowadays, we take for granted that for every change which takes place in consciousness, a parallel change occurs in part of the brain but the danger which has penetrated most writings, is to consider correlation as sameness."(Rose, 2005, 238)
A significant thing is that no matter how much the new science can justify various events and states of human by secretion of hormones, he can never justify self and knowledge of nature with these things. Even if one can justify all different deeds such as memory, happiness, sadness, grief and... With medical findings, the reality of self can't be determined with these things. As an example, if you can erase someone's memory with scientific methods and specific drugs, his self-awareness still remains and you can't take his self-awareness with any methods. In the mentioned example, after memory loss it's again this person that asks from himself and others who am I? this question indicates that although his peripheral information is gone, still he feels his selfhood. He has lost his connection with his surrounding people and environment; thus he asks; what is the relationship between this self with this environment and these people. This question is shown in forms like who are you? Who am I? Where is this?
Various philosophical and non-philosophical evidences in works of psychics
have been given to indicate the distinction of spirit from body. But because
here we don't have the intention to argue philosophically, we avoid expressing it
and we invite those who are interested to study the works of psychic
In the world of science, human's mind is considered as a huge computer which is the body's commander and guides human's mental course. In each moment, human's mind issues hundreds of calculations and thousands of commands. These commands in the form of software are the cause of human's body direction. These soft wares consist of physical soft wares like controlling vital functions such as breathing, controlling heart rate, defense mechanism, reaction against weather conditions (perspiration, shaking,...), soft wares of mental activities such as learning, imagination, memorizing, analyzing, and..., soft wares of emotions like enthusiasm, surprise, affection, excitement and tens of other systems and soft wares which function together and the result of their interaction is body health and mechanism. A huge computer with so many different soft wares can't work without an operator. Not having the assumption of an incorporeal agent for directing the body and connecting all deeds in the body to hormones’ secretion is not possible without incorporeal comprehension and knowledge, for an unwise substance can't design a software or system and also can't manage and operate it.
The book of the principles of philosophy and realism method, written by Allame Tabatabaii, with margins of Motahari and similar works can satisfy the zest of those who are interested in finding philosophical proofs in this matter.
The influences and benefits of autognosis:
Understanding who is self and what is self and what parts does it have many influences including:
1- autognosis is a good beginning for better understanding the world. To
confess there is a reality beyond the body and knowing self is the first thing
of incorporeal dimension which human pays attention to. Before, accepting
incorporeal dimensions in the world and the possibility of communication with
it was meaningless but now which he feels this reality so close to himself
accepting it in the world will be so much easy and naturally its comprehension
will be possible.2- autognosis is an important introduction to moral
perfection. Normally, doing an ethical deed without accepting the incorporeal
dimension is not that much meaningful. If one has not accepted anything beyond
material and physical assumption, how can he do ethical activities such as
sacrifice for others? for someone who knows this body only as self and does not
recognize anything except body cells in himself and others, to carry out a
moral deed and donation is meaningless, and thus doing that is an unreasonable
and foolish thing.
It may be asked that we know some materialists who do lots of philanthropic activities thus accepting an incorporeal part as a prerequisite of doing moral deed is incorrect. Of those thinkers who consider themselves as inspirer of materialist conduct, is the contemporary philosopher Bertrand Russell. He considers ethics as a combination of consciousness, foresightedness and profiteering. He brings forth an example to clarify his ethical perspective and states that: suppose I see that my neighbor has a good cow; he has no doubt that at first my feeling to gain profit directs me to steal the neighbor's cow but my consciousness and foresightedness says that if I steal the neighbor's cow, tomorrow the neighbor will come to steal my cow. Thus, me not stealing the neighbor's cow is not because of spiritual and immaterialistic values; but is to secure my future materialistic benefits. To the extent that man is wiser and more conscious, and pays attention to reactions, sees the far future,
his old age, his future generation and to think that my children don't get upset he will try more to adapt his benefits with others. Thus, morality means wise and conscious selfishness, and we should seek the root of this morality in consciousness and intellect and thus according to him for development of good conduct in society, we should make society wiser and more conscious and aware of the reaction of their deeds. One of the biggest flaws in Russell's statements is that the oppression of the weak by powerful people is not a problem ethically. Like American government with consideration of all possibilities and reactions of his behavior which massacred thousands of Japanese in one day in the two cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, did not do anything immoral; as he did that with consciousness and discreet and based on evaluation of his benefits. And in general, if the strong becomes certain that the weak can't react against him, no matter what he does, his conduct is not immoral because it's a calculated and conscious gaining of profit and normally with lowering of morality to materialistic profit seeking and foresightedness, no morality remains anymore. Can any conscience accept this rule? Based on Russell's we can have an ethical activity in the society when all are weak and afraid of other's reaction, While one benefit of morality is to control the powerful and to protect the rights of the weak in society. With reference to those materialists who don't believe in anything spiritual like God, heaven and hell and... but are obligated to do some moral behaviors, according to the author's opinion, it seems that these people claim the denial of spiritual and even may have written some books in rejection of spirituality, but deep down because of their childhood education, there still remains a slight belief in spiritual. Such a person on some occasions, negligent of his philosophical knowledge only relying on old familial and social education carries out an ethical conduct such as assisting someone who is helpless or maybe due to some calculated reasons do some ethical acts. But you will never see these people sacrifice for others unless they have given up their beliefs. It is not possible that such a person sacrifice his life because he knows nothing in return for his material life. It's not possible that someone doesn't believe in spiritual but can willfully and voluntarily sacrifice his life to save others or for purposes of saving his country or his countrymen. It's meaningless that if someone who doesn't believe in spiritual go after the owner of a huge sum of money which he found and return it to his owner with no expectation. Based on his principles, this is nothing except stupidity. These are in case that a humanistic society, admires things such as sacrifice, helping the poor or a person who gives the money back to his owner as examples of moral acts. One who says I do these because of humanity, in fact accepts the sanctity of something known as humanity and certainly a developed monkey is not sacred. Human's sanctity becomes meaningful when a divine and sacred thing is placed within his body. Thus, the people mentioned, unconsciously believe in something spiritual; however in appearance they think that they don't believe in these things. Although, certainly the mentioned spirituality is different from what is presented in religion but they are from one origin. Based on Islam, human's spirit is divine breath and has its root in God. Therefore, it is sacred, and believes in God by nature. 3- autognosis is a good introduction to theism
This sentence is the theme of a famous Hadith by the immaculate leaders:
"Whoever knows himself, knows his God"
This speech by the immaculate leader points out many anthropological, ethical
and mystic issues. So many people with hearing this Hadith immediately think
that if human pays a meticulous attention to his hand, feet, and limbs by
looking at their wonderful discipline realizes God's existence, wisdom, knowledge and power. Thus,
it seems that Hadith is also revealing another point. Because paying attention
to body parts is not exclusive to human body; but looking at the body of each
animal and its order can bring about the same result and even further. Looking
at any entity has this quality. As Sadi states: The leaf of the green trees in
the sight of a conscious individual Is each like a notebook, an epitome for
Thus, to understand Hadith we need to pay attention to another dimension except the body and that is nothing except the spiritual dimension of human ,means the soul. Spirit is an incorporeal affair and can have certain elevated features and supreme traits. For example, human can feel kindness, creativity and innovation (especially in the domain of mind which can make things).... Based on this, we can say that our Lord has the complete and utmost level of these features. If I am kind, he is the endless source of kindness and affection. If I can create (even in my mind) he is the absolute origin of creation. Therefore, we can acquire knowledge about God by getting to know ourselves. In later sections, we will talk about the conditions and principles of God's description and correct way of understanding God's qualities. A group of great Mystics, consider reaching the highest spiritual position by getting knowledge about self. In this perspective self knowledge is not a series of mental information, but a practical method that the wayfarer reaches the elevated positions of knowledge about God by passing inner religious steps. This method is carried out by constant worship, fighting with physical and satanic tendencies, observing legitimate dos and don'ts, saying prayers, concentration and remaining in solitude. 4-Autognosis is a good tool for resolving mental problems Without doubt so many problems in contemporary human society is due to human's inner problems. Today's world is the world of prevalence of anxieties, concerns and addictions. These problems have their root in the point that contemporary human is ignorant of his elevated self and unfortunately considers his bodily, physical and as a result sexual dimension as the main feature of his personality and as a result immoral behavior will be common in society. The second result of this condition is the increase of crime rate, human loneliness, inconsistency and, discord. If human pays enough attention to his spiritual dimension and respect spiritual values in his life, naturally the rate of immoral behavior will decrease and as a result personal and social problems will decrease in human society.