Agha Malki Tabrizi states that if you have to courage to be of the People of Recognition and to become a perfect person, if you want to be such a spiritual person who is the peer (equal) and friend of angels, and if you want to be the companion of the Prophets, then take hold of all of your courage so that first of all you terminate all animalistic attributes (qualities) and acquire luminous (visible) attributes. Do not agree with those people who say that you are like an animal, which eats, drinks, dies, and produces offspring. This is the level of animals and minerals. You should not be content with this; this mud and water of which you are made is only (your) exterior, for your true home is a higher world. The station of the soul which man possesses is very exalted. It is equal to the rank of the peer of angels. That is why it is a tradition, “Whoever recognizes himself, recognizes his Lord.”
It is narrated in Misbah as-Shariah that the Apostle of God was asked what recognition of the self referred to. Which path should one utilize for recognition of God? The Apostle of God replied that one way is by means of recognition of the self. Now what does recognition of the self refers to? Man should recognize himself; man’s humanity is not in appearance. The appearance shows in a photograph or the mirror. Even animals have this appearance. Humanity is not in the body. You see that even all the unclean animals possess bodies. Then, what is recognition? Man should attain recognition; what does this mean? Since even animals see it, recognition does not refer to examining the body that these are two hands and these are two eyes. Animals also have this primary level of knowledge for such recognition. So, what is knowledge? It is in tradition that “knowledge is not in the sky”, “nor is it above you”, “nor is it in the earth” “that it comes out of the earth for you.” Hence, what is knowledge? It is in your hearts, but it will manifest itself only when you make your ethics spiritual. Then that knowledge will automatically come out of your heart and reveal itself. True knowledge, which comes from the heart, is related to the soul. We should recognize ourselves; our relation is not to animals. The power of anger and the power of lust are found even in dogs and pigs. One does not recognize himself if these powers are found in animals as well as human beings. Man should recognize himself and that he is not an animal.
My true origin is spiritual. God said, “We created man and breathed in him Our spirit.” Hence, man has to recognize himself and recognize this spirit which God has attributed to Himself. Thus, man should recognize himself. The first level is of knowledge, but not the apparent knowledge. Great Scholar Ja’far Sadiq (A) declares that knowledge cannot be attained from books. True, they are a means; the way books instruct us to develop ethics is a means. Yet, what is knowledge? If you follow whatever is in the books, you are following the author and what he wrote. Knowledge is a light. The Imam says that when your ethics (moral principles) will be spiritual, then knowledge will manifest itself upon you. Thus, it is evident that man cannot recognize himself unless his animalistic manners are eliminated and he transforms them into spiritual manners. Until then he will not have knowledge, so he cannot recognize himself. If he does not recognize himself, he cannot recognize God. This is the situation. The Apostle of God was asked how recognition of God can be achieved. He replied through your self, i.e. by means of recognizing yourself. Now, how do we recognize ourselves? It does not just mean recognizing your hands, feet, and body. Even an animal recognizes this much. Recognize yourselves by means of knowledge; what are we? He said that knowledge by which you recognize yourself and then recognize God is not obtained by reading books (true, by studying books you will receive knowledge on how to improve you ethics). In fact, if you improve your spiritual ethics, then that knowledge will automatically manifest itself. Consequently, man possesses the true knowledge, but it is a pearl. Every human being has it, but it will not present itself while man possesses in him anger, jealousy, malice, and love of the world. As long as all the animalistic and satanic traits exist, this knowledge will not reveal itself. The revelation of knowledge will occur when all these characteristics are eliminated. It is stated in the Qur’an that We revealed to the bee, i.e. We inspired (encouraged) it (Jibra’il did not descend upon the honeybee) how to make a hive. It was God’s inspiration that it should take nectar and make a hive (An-Nahl: 68-69). Then, man, who is the most noble of creation (ashraf-ul-makhluqat) also possesses these faculties; yet, when does he receive this inspiration? It will only be when animalistic traits are eliminated. Mulla Sadra says likewise, “Near a village I improved the diligence (paintaking) of the ethics of my worship; thus, such truths descended upon my heart which I had neither read in any book nor heard from any scholar. Fountains of knowledge from the Divine began to burst forth.” True recognition is that man recognizes himself so then he can recognize God. Recognition of the self is achieved through knowledge, and one will attain knowledge when ethics are spiritual. Thus, that is true knowledge. These (others) are not true knowledge; they are stages for improving ethics, and then the real seeker or knowledge will reveal himself.