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Pleasures and Pains

Pleasure is a condition experienced by the soul when it perceives something harmonious with its own nature. Pain and suffering is occasioned when the soul comes into contact with things which are in disharmony with its nature. Since the powers of the soul are four in number, it follows that the pleasures and pains of the soul must also be divided into four categories, each corresponding to one of the four faculties.

Pleasure of the reasoning faculty lies in gaining knowledge about the real nature of things, and its pain lies in ignorance and deprivation from such knowledge.

Pleasure of the faculty of anger and fierceness lies in the feeling of being victorious and in satisfaction at overcoming an enemy and taking one's revenge. Its pain lies in the feeling of being overpowered and defeated.

Delight of the faculty of desire and passion is enjoyment of foods, drinks, and sexual association while its pain lies in denial of such experiences.

Pleasure of the imaginative faculty lies in the visualization of particulars which lead to the appearance of carnal desires and demonic tendencies, while its pain lies in the insufficiency and inadequacy of these visions.

The strongest and the purest of pleasures is the pleasure experienced by the faculty of reason. This is a form of pleasure which is both inherent and natural to man. It is a pleasure which is constant, not subject to the changing experiences in his daily life.

It is unlike the other pleasures, which belonging to the body and being animalistic, are transitory in nature and without any lasting value. These animal pleasures are in fact so low and trivial that man is ashamed of them and tries to conceal them. If it were to be said of a man that he derives great pleasure from eating, drinking, and engaging in sexual intercourse, he shall be ashamed and upset about it. While, if such activities and pleasures were becoming for man, not only would he not be ashamed of them, he would in fact be glad if such a matter were published widely and be proud of it.

We can conclude, then, that the kind of pleasure that is becoming for man and could be said to be really gratifying, and not be such in appearance alone, is the kind 'of pleasure experienced by the soul's reasoning faculty. This sort of pleasure has many degrees, the highest of which is experienced in nearness to God. This most sublime of pleasures is attained through love and knowledge of God, and acquired through abiding effort to be ever nearer to Him. When one's whole effort is directed towards attaining this real and lasting pleasure, sensual pleasures will be overshadowed; they shall take their proper place in man's life, being pursued in moderation.

Goodness and Happiness

The ultimate aim of the purification of the soul and aquirement of a moral and ethical character is to attain felicity and happiness. The most consummate felicity and happiness for man is to be the embodiment and manifestation of Divine attributes and characteristics. The soul of a truly happy man is developed with the knowledge and the love of God; it is illuminated by the effulgence emanating from the God head. When that happens, nothing but beauty shall emanate from him; since beauty can emanate only from what is beautiful.

It should be kept in mind that true felicity can not be attained or retained unless all the faculties and powers of the soul are purified and reformed. By reforming some faculties of the soul, or all of them, for a short period of time, happiness will not be attained. It is similar to physical health. A body can be said to be healthy only when all its limbs and organs are healthy. Therefore, the individual who seeks to attain ultimate and perfect happiness, must free himself or herself from the clutches of demonic and animal forces and tendencies and step on the ladder of ascension to the higher realms.

Adapted from: "Jami' al-Sa'adat" by: "Muhammad Mahdi al-Naraqi"

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