The Ideal Man: The Viceregent of God

Developing Just Leadership

Ali Shariati

Rajab 25, 1398 1978-07-01

Occasional Paper

by Ali Shariati

(Translated from Islamshinasi, Vol 1, pp. 98 104.)

THE IDEAL MAN is the theomorphic man in whom the spirit of God has overcome the half of his being that relates to Iblis, to clay and to sediment. He has been freed from hesitation and the contradiction between the "two infinites." "Take on the characteristics of God"‑this is our whole philosophy of education, our sole standard! For it is a negation of all fixed and conventional standards in favor of assuming the characteristics and attributes of God. It is a progression toward the absolute goal and absolute perfection, an eternal and infinite evolution, not a molding in stereotyped forms of uniform men.

This man, the man that ought to be but is not, is a bi-­dimensional man, a bird capable of flying with both wings. He is not the man of those cultures and civilizations that Cultivate good men and powerful men separately from each other‑on the one hand, men pure and pious but with weak consciousness and awareness, and on the other hand, powerful and brilliant geniuses, but with narrow hearts and hands polluted by sin. There are, on the one hand, men whose hearts are devoted to the inner life, to beauty and the mysteries of the spirit, but whose lives are spent in poverty, decline, humiliation and weakness, like those hundreds of thousands of Indian ascetics who despite their spirituality, their inner wonders, their subtle and exalted feelings, were for long years the playthings and wretched pri­soners of a handful of English colonels. On the other hand, there are men who fend the earth, the mountains, the sea and the heavens, with the power of their industry, who create a life overflowing with abundance, enjoyment and prosperity, but in whom feeling and all sense of value have been suspended, and the peculiarly human capacity to perceive the spirit of the world, the profundity Of life, the creation of beauty, and the belief in something higher than nature and history has been weakened or paralyzed.

Ideal man passes through the very midst of nature and comes to understand God; he seeks out mankind and thus attains God. He does not bypass nature and turn his back on mankind. He holds the sword of Caesar in his hand and fie has the heart of Jesus in his breast. He thinks with the brain of Socrates and loves God with the heart of Hallaj. As Alexis Carrel desired, he is a man who understands the beauty of science and the beauty of God; lie listens to the words of Pascal and the words of Descartes.

Like the Buddha, he is delivered from the dungeon of pleasure‑seeking and egoism; like Lao Tse, he reflects on the profundity of his primordial nature; and like Confucius, he meditates on the fate of society.

Like Spartacus, he is a rebel against slaveowners, and like Abu Dharr, lie scatters the seed for the revolution of the hungry.

Like Jesus, he bears a message of love and reconciliation, and like Moses, lie is the messenger of jihad and deliverance.

He is a man whom philosophical thought does not make inattentive to the fate of mankind, and whose involvement in politics does not lead to demagoguery and fame‑seeking. Science has not deprived him of the taste of faith, and faith has not paralyzed his power of thought and logical deduction. Piety has not made of him a harmless ascetic, and activism and commitment have not stained his hands with immorality. He is a man of jihad and ijtihad, of poetry and the sword, of solitude and commitment, of emotion and genius, of strength and love, of faith and knowledge. He is a man uniting all the dimensions of true humanity. He is a man whom life has not made a one‑dimensional, fractured and defeated creature, alienated from his own self. Through servitude to God, he has delivered himself from servitude to things and to people, and his submis­sion to the absolute will of God has summoned him to rebellion against all forms of compulsion. He is a man who has dissolved his transient individuality in the eternal identity of the human race, who through the negation of self becomes everlasting.

He has accepted the heavy Trust of God, and for this very reason, lie is a responsible and committed being, with the free exercise of his will. He does not perceive his perfection as lying in the creation of a private relationship with God, to the exclu­sion of men; it is, rather, in struggle for the perfection of the human race, in enduring hardship, hunger, deprivation and torment for the sake of the liberty, livelihood and well‑being of men, in the furnace of intellectual and social struggle, that he attains piety, perfection and closeness to God.

He is not a man who has been formed by his environment; on the contrary, it is he who has formed his environment. He has delivered himself from all the forms of compulsion that con­stanly press down upon man and impose their stereotypes on him by means of science, technology, sociology and self­awareness, through faith and awareness. He is free of the com­pulsion of nature and heredity, the compulsion of history, the compulsion of society and environment; guided by science and technology, he has freed himself from these three prisons. As for the fourth prison, that of the self, he has liberated himself from it by means of love. He has rebelled against the ego, sub­dued it and refashioned it.

Liberating his character from the inherited norms of his race and the conventions of his society – all of which are relative and the product of environment‑and discovering eternal and divine values, he takes on the characteristics of God and attains the nature of the absolute. He no longer acts virtuously as a duty imposed upon him, and his ethics are no longer a collection of restraints forced upon him by the social conscience. To be good has become identical with his nature, and exalted values are the fundamental components of his essence; they are inherent to his being, his living, his thinking, his loving.

Art is not a plaything in his hands; it is not a means for gaining pleasure, for diversion, for stupefaction, for the expen­diture of accumulated energy. It is not a servant to sexuality, politics or capital. Art is the special trust given to mail by God. It is the creative pen of the Maker, given by Him to his vicere­gent so that lie might make a second earth and a second para­dise, new forms of life, beauty, thought, Spirit, message, a new heaven, a new time. God possesses absolute freedom, absolute awareness and absolute creative power. Ideal man, the bearer of God's trust, he whom God has fashioned in His own form, is an eternal will overflowing with beauty, virtue and wisdom. In all of nature, only man has attained to a relative freedom, a relative awareness, and a relative creative power. For God created him in His own image and made of him His relative, telling him, "If you seek Me, take your own self as an indication."

Ideal man has three aspects: truth, goodness and beauty‑in other words, knowledge, ethics and art.

In nature, he is the viceregent of God; he is a committed will with the three dimensions of awareness, freedom and creativity.

He is a theomorphic being exiled on earth; with the com­bined wealth of love and knowledge, he rules overall beings; in front of him, the angels prostrate themselves.

He is the great rebel of the world. His existence is a smooth path trodden by the will of God, Who desires to accomplish the ultimate purpose of His creation in him and by him. He has descended from the paradise of nature to the desert of self­awareness and exile to create there the paradise of man.

He who is now the viceregent of God has traversed the diffi­cult path of servitude, and carrying the burden of the Trust, he has now come to the end of history and the last frontier of nature.

Resurrection is about to begin, and a project unfolds among God, man and love, a project for the creation of a new world, for telling the tale of a new creation.

Thus it was that the Trust God proposed to the earth, the heavens and the mountains, they all forebore from assuming; it was only man that accepted it.

Man, this rebel against God
Who has given one hand to the devil‑intellect
And the other hand to Eve‑love,
Who bears on his back the heavy burden of the Trust,
Descended from the paradise of painless enjoyment,
Alone and a stranger in this world.
He is a rebel, but constantly yearning to return,
And now lie has learned through worship how to attain the path of salvation.
And through Submission to the constraints of the beloved,
After escaping blind constraint through his rebellion,
He is now delivered too from the torment of the escape of desperation.
He who fled from God
Was tested and purged in the furnaces of this world­
Awareness, solitude, decision­
And now lie knows
The path Of return toward God,
That great Friend Who is awaiting him,
The path that leads to Him by becoming Him.

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