Self-Knowledge and the Practice of Ethics: Ostad Elahi's Concept of the "Imperious Self"
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 2011 Oct; 1234(1): 149-57
When approaching the perplexing issue of self-knowledge, two questions should be kept in mind: What type of knowledge do we expect? and, more importantly, Why does this knowledge matter for us? Among the motivations behind such an endeavor, the ethical project of self-transformation is of particular interest, for it sheds light on the inherently constructive nature of self-knowledge. Psychologists dealing with the issue of self-realization and identity formation, however, generally tend to overlook the resources offered by ethics considered as a genuine self-transformative practice (in contrast to morality as a set of rules or principles to be applied in specific contexts). The tradition of "spiritual exercises" is considered from this self-transformative perspective, as well as Plato's conception of self-knowledge ("know thyself"). Finally, Ostad Elahi's concept of the "imperious self" is examined in detail: beyond the particular context to which it belongs (spiritual ethics), the "imperious self" appears as a valuable tool for understanding the active part played by self-modeling in the process of self-transformation.
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