All of us have both a lower and higher nature. Every good habit or noble quality belongs to man’s spiritual nature, whereas all his imperfections and sinful actions are born of his material nature. In the lower nature, we live for the world alone; in the higher, we approach God.
In our material nature man expresses untruth, cruelty and injustice; whereas in his Divine nature we find love, mercy, kindness, truth and justice.
All the imperfections found in the animal are found in man (antagonism, hatred and selfish struggle for existence; jealousy, revenge, ferocity, cunning, hypocrisy, greed, injustice and tyranny). On the other hand, we also find in him justice, sincerity, faithfulness, knowledge, wisdom, illumination, mercy and pity coupled with intellect, comprehension, the power to grasp the realities of things and the ability to penetrate the truths of existence.
None of us spend our lives entirely in one world or another – our reality stands between the two natures. If man’s animal side becomes predominant, he becomes lower than the brute, whereas if his heavenly powers become predominant, he becomes the most superior being in the world of existence.
We all have the ability to choose good or evil. If our power for good predominates and our inclination to do wrong is conquered, we can be called saints.
The choice is up to us.
Everyone’s life has both a dark and bright side. The key is to turn our backs to the darkness and our faces to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
Why do we have a dual nature?
We seem to need contrasts. If there was no wrong, how would we recognize the right? If there was no sin, how would we appreciate virtue? If evil deeds were unknown how could you commend good actions? If sickness did not exist how would we understand health?
How do we tell the difference between inspiration from the lower nature or higher?
Knowledge is of two kinds: Divine and Satanic. The one comes from the fountain of divine inspiration; the other is a reflection of vain and obscure thoughts. The source of the former is God Himself; the motive of the latter comes from the whisperings of selfish desire.
How can we tell if an inspiration comes from God or our lower nature, when both are the influx of the human heart?
It’s simple! Every good thing is of God, and every evil thing is from us.
If we are turned towards the Kingdom of God, we can have conversations with our higher selves and we can hear ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s voice in our hearts.
What We Know About Our Lower Nature
What is Our Lower Nature?
Anything that is contrary to the will of God comes from our lower nature, or ego. Whatever is interpreted as evil refers to the lower nature in man. Our baser nature is symbolized in various ways. Often, it’s symbolized as Satan, described as the evil ego within us rather than an evil personality outside. God never created an evil spirit – these ideas have always been symbols of our earthly nature:
The greatest of degradation for man is to leave the Shadow of God and enter under the shadow of Satan (or our ego or lower nature).
Characteristics of the Lower Nature
All the imperfections found in animals are also found in man. Innate in man is rancour; the struggle for existence; the propensity for warfare; love of self; jealousy; hypocrisy, slyness, greed, ignorance, injustice, tyranny and so on. Our reality, therefore, is clad in the garment of the animal or the world of nature. It’s a world of darkness; imperfection, and infinite baseness.
Whenever we see Sins such as injustice, tyranny, hatred, hostility, strife jealousy, greed, the struggle for survival, deception, hypocrisy, tyranny, oppression, disputes, strife, bloodshed, looting and pillaging, which all emanate from the world of nature, we realize that we are all immersed in the world of nature to one degree or another.
The lower nature appeals to everyone differently, according to each person’s own way.
The lower nature can be manipulated by others.
Other people will try to mislead us through temptations which arouse our selfish desires and cause us to follow our own lower natures, taking us away from God.
We need to do everything we can to protect ourselves, because if our lower nature has its way, we will be stuck in it, with no promptings from our higher nature to help us get free.
Why do we Have a Lower Nature?
We seem to need opposites in life. In this case, we see that even the world of nature is defective. It’s in our nature to find enjoyment in that which is gratifying to the senses, yet the struggle between our lower nature and the Divine teachings draw us towards our true station.
Effects of Living in our Lower Nature
Most of us are oblivious to the existence of our dual nature, so we do things because they’ve become habit. These habits, when coming from our lower nature, keep us pursuing the dictates of self and ego and leave us vanquished and defeated. The ego then takes the reins from our hands so we’re no longer able to judge good from evil. We become blind to divine attributes and our evil, routine thoughts become the dominant notes of our lives.
When we are captives of our self and desire, engulfed in the passions of our lower nature, we find wealth and fame and enjoy the comforts of life, but in the end, the outcome is always utter evanescence and oblivion. No trace of us remains; no fruit; no result; no benefit to carry forward to eternity.
When we follow the promptings of the self, it takes us insistently to wickedness and lust.
Our lower nature subverts our individuality to such a degree that the poison of darkness becomes the means of our existence. Our nature becomes so degraded and our individuality so deflected that our one purpose in life will be to obtain the death-dealing drug of darkness.
If the spiritual qualities of the soul are never used, they become atrophied, enfeebled, and at last incapable. Unhappy and misguided, we become more savage; more unjust; more vile; more cruel and more malevolent than the lower animals themselves. When all our aspirations and desires are being strengthened by the lower side of our soul’s nature, we become more and more brutal, until our whole being is worse than the beasts that perish.
Our lower nature and those of the people around us are dangerous because, by standing as “observation posts”, they prevent us from taking the path to God, by every means of deception and ruse possible:
‘Abdu’l-Bahá compares those who chose to stay in their lower natures to the earthworm, whose highest aim is to struggle to dig down to the depths of the earth despite the fact that they are bound by a thousand cares and sorrows; never safe from danger, or secure from sudden death. After a brief span, they are utterly effaced, and no sign remains to tell of them, and no word of them is ever heard again.
Is this really the life we want to live?
How do we stay trapped in our lower nature?
Since we were created noble; in the image of God; a mine rich in gems of inestimable value, what causes us to change?
We acquire evil habits.
God originally endowed us with an individuality which enjoyed that which was beneficial to us but man, through his evil habits, changed God’s creation into satanic darkness.
We stop paying attention to the Kingdom of God, and step off His path. We remain attached to worldly attractions. We’ve become defiled with qualities which are not praiseworthy in the sight of God. We have become so completely steeped in material issues and tendencies that we fail to partake of the virtues of humanity.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us that man can become conscious; discover the mysteries and realities of life; be in touch with the realm of God; use his mighty will to rule over his lower nature; modify the influence of his instincts; voluntarily discontinue vices; acquire divine virtues and make progress:
He can’t do it by himself, though. The soul needs training and guidance to get beyond the lower nature:
Man’s outlook on life is too crude and materialistic to enable us to elevate ourselves into the higher realms of the spirit, so religion’s role is to improve and transform us.
The Manifestations of God come into the world to dispel the darkness of our animal nature and purify us from our imperfections so that our spiritual nature can become quickened, our divine qualities awakened, our perfections made visible, our potential powers revealed and all the virtues of the world of humanity latent within us to come to life.
They are the educators, trainers and teachers able to liberate us from the darkness of our lower nature, deliver us from despair, error, ignorance, imperfections and all evil qualities.
They clothe us in the garment of perfections and virtues; make us wise and lead us into kingdoms of light and love. They cause us to become just; sever us from self and desire; make us meek, humble and friendly. They make us heavenly; transform us and develop us into maturity. They endow us with wealth and uplift us into dignity, nobility and loftiness.
Religion teaches that moderation and daily vigilance are necessary, if we want to be in control of our carnal desires and corrupt inclinations.
Religion teaches us to protect ourselves and shun anyone who tells you to do anything against the commandments of God, even though they may be quoting from all the right books.
Religion teaches us it’s important to turn away from satanic promptings, because divine bestowals bring forth unity and agreement, whereas satanic leadings induce hatred and war.
Religion teaches us we need to use our free will; exert ourselves and make an effort.
Religion teaches we must be prepared to go through pain; suffering; tests; deprivation and sacrifice in order to subdue the self. This is because there is always a reaction when a force is suppressed.
To be freed from every bond and become attached to the Kingdom of God, we need to strive to become characterized with His attributes.
Very few of us have been freed from this darkness and ascended from the world of nature. Those who have been freed, have followed the divine Teachings and served the world of humanity, and, as a result, are resplendent, merciful, illumined and like unto a rose garden:
Benefits to Breaking Free
When we make a sacrifice something of material value in the path of God and wholly for His sake, we are rewarded spiritually. We become detached from the material world and are able to draw closer to God, and thereby fulfil the purpose of our lives.
If we can dominate our lower nature, we can become detached from this world.
Shifting from the Lower Nature to the Higher
Man is captive of nature and ignorant of the divine world until the breaths of the Holy Spirit lead him out of the physical conditions of limitation and deprivation.
Then we get out of our lower natures by letting the flame of God’s love burn brightly within our hearts; and feeding that love with His guidance (reading the Writings morning and night). We protect it with our constancy; and guard it with trust and detachment from everything save God; so that the evil whisperings of others won’t extinguish its light.
We make a conscious choice to pay attention to what’s going on around us, and use our powers of discernment, so that if someone tells you something from their lower natures, you put them behind you.
We close our eyes and stop listening to the people of the world and drink from the water of God’s knowledge.
Benefits of living in our Higher Nature
When we live in our higher nature, we are thankful, desiring to fly only in the high heavens and sing out our songs to the best of our ability.
Those of us who understand the dual nature of man have a responsibility to strengthen; train; assist; nurse; love; inform and educate others, to restore them to health. This takes extreme patience; sympathy and love.
How has this helped you understand your dual nature? Post your comments below.