The Two Natures of Man

The choice that which each of us makes at every moment is between the various urges to which we are subject. We cannot do anything, either good or bad, unless we first desire to do it. Baha’u’llah refers to the receptacle of desire as the human heart of man’s body.

Desire may be directed towards heavenly or towards earthly things; that is to say, to divine qualities such as love, justice, mercy, radiance, or to things of this world such as material satisfaction, self-aggrandizement, and earthly power. At all times, the will of man has to choose between these urges, acting as a kind of filter which passes some and suppresses others. The desire passing through may not wholly belong to heaven or to earth; it is more likely to be composite, since human motives are seldom wholly pure. But to the extent that the will accepts heavenly urges, the heart and soul are purified. The desire of the heart becomes more heavenly, less earthly, and the soul itself is readier next time to accept the heavenly alternative. Speaking in Paris of this process, 'Abdu’l-Baha said:


“In man there are two natures; his spiritual or higher nature and his material or lower nature. In one he approaches God, in the other he lives for the world alone. Signs of both of these natures are to be found in man. In his material aspect he expresses untruth, cruelty and injustice; all these are the outcome of his lower nature. The attributes of his divine nature are shown forth in love, mercy, kindness, truth and justice, one and all being expressions of his higher nature. Every good habit, every noble quality belongs to man’s spiritual nature, whereas all his imperfections and sinful actions are born of his material nature. If man’s Divine nature dominates his human nature, we have a saint. Man has the power both to do good and to do evil; if his power for good predominates and his inclinations to do wrong are conquered, then man in truth may be called a saint. But if, on the contrary, he rejects the things of God and allows his evil passions to conquer him, then he is no better than an animal. Saints are men who have freed themselves from the world of matter and who have overcome sin. They live in the world of the spirit. Their lives are spent in holiness, and their deeds show forth love, justice and godliness. They are illumined from the places of the earth. These are the saints of God. The apostles, who were the disciples of Jesus Christ, where just as other men are; they, like their fellows, were attracted by the things of the world, and each thought only of his own advantage. They knew little of justice, nor were they the Divine perfections found in their midst. But when they followed Christ and believed in him, their ignorance gave place to understanding, cruelty was changed to justice, falsehood to truth, darkness into light. They had been children of darkness, they became sons of God, they became saints! Strive therefore to follow in their steps, leaving all worldly things behind, and striving to attain to the spiritual Kingdom.”

The heart of man has been described by Baha’u’llah as His own, His exclusive possession. He proclaims:

“He hath chosen out of whole world the hearts of His servants, and made them each a seat for the revelation of His glory. Wherefore, sanctify them from every defilement, that the thing for which they were created may be engraven upon them.”
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