The Feeling of Respect

Since the beginning of awareness, people have tried to explain human behaviour, ascribing our actions, for example, to various motives such as the need to compete for food or the urge to reproduce.  As Hazrat Inayat Khan points out in his very interesting text on nature’s religion, begun here, we also have a desire to idealise or to worship. In the second portion of the text, he explains that such a desire can bring a person, at a certain stage of evolution, to bow before a tree or a rock, although that may in time be replaced by another ideal.

That which a person idealises depends on the growth of each one’s horizon.  In the final portion of the the text, Hazrat Inayat gives a very insightful description of certain stages: there is the person who is concerned only with the physical, to whom comfort is all; there is another person who has begun to experience the pleasures of the mental world, who can appreciate a graceful thought or a poem, for example, and whom Hazrat Inayat characterises as a ‘gentleman’; and there is one who has begun to awaken to the level of the heart, and who finds happiness in being able to make a sacrifice for another.

We can recognise the tendency to idealise, and the mutability of the ideal as we grow, in the innocent mind of a child.  A very young child usually sees its parents are absolutely infallible, until it goes to school; then the parents may one day be startled by the child proclaiming their teacher as the authority.  ‘No,’ the child may say, ‘that’s wrong.   Teacher says it’s like this…’

So, if it is a natural inclination to idealise, we could learn something about ourselves by examining what it is just now that awakens our feelings of respect. It need not be a religious ideal, but surely every person will have something before which they will willingly bend or bow.  We can never say that one’s ideal is ‘wrong;’ it will always be unique to our understanding and reflect our stage of evolution.  But by recognising it, we can give a more complete expression to our feelings of respect–and it is that sincere expression that will help our ideal to evolve.

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