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Rethinking the Human Person

Moral Landscape and Ethical Literacy

Nahal Jafroudi

Recent developments in the natural and social sciences have brought great benefits to humanity, both in terms of our material wellbeing and our intellectual and conceptual capacities. Yet, despite a broad ethical consensus and highly developed innate faculties of reason and conscience, there seems to be a significant discrepancy between how we ought to behave and how we actually behave, leading to a disregard for the dignity of human persons across the globe. This book suggests that the problem arises from various misunderstandings of the nature of the self and that the solution could lie in adopting a holistic concept of the human person within the context of a carefully cultivated ethical literacy. It argues that the ideas of the Iranian philosopher Ostad Elahi (1895–1974) provide a powerful and compelling alternative to the dominant post-Enlightenment understanding of selfhood, education and morality.

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Chapter 8: Ostad Elahi’s Bi-dimensional Model of the Self


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Ostad Elahi’s Bi-dimensional Model of the Self

According to Ostad Elahi, human beings are bi-dimensional in essence and as they are constituted by a terrestrial mortal component and a divine celestial immortal component, there is a distinction between their corporeality and physical embodiment and their spirit or essence.1 Equally, in considering the true defining aspect of human beings, as well as all other beings, whether visible and known to humans or otherwise, to be their spirit, Ostad Elahi draws a distinction between “the angelic ‘truly human’ (insân) spirit from the lower ‘human-animal’ (bashar) and other lower ‘souls’ (nafs)”,2 which constitute the different dimensions of the human self, including the mineral, vegetal and animal composite souls. That is, while, in the modern vernacular, the soul is generally understood as a religious or philosophical term describing the immaterial aspect or essence of a human being, and is often considered synonymous with the mind or the self that survives the death of the body, the divine Spirit, or rūh, is that which highlights “the universality, immortality, and divine origin of the life principle […] across all its outwardly different manifestations”.3 For, the physical or visible component of human beings, being a mammal from the order of primates and resulting from the fusion of male and female gametes, consisting of bones, muscles, neurons, etc., “is the materialization of a primordial spiritual archetype, which establishes the order of material elements and results in...

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