Sensual Man and Spiritual Man

“Now in humanity the lower is not supreme; it is an accompaniment; but neither does the better rule unfailingly; the lower element also has a footing. Man, therefore, lives in part under sensation, for he has the organs of sensation, and in large part even by the merely vegetative principle, for the body grows and propagates. …
“This is why we must break away toward the High: we dare not keep ourselves set toward the sensuous principle, following the images of sense, or toward the merely vegetative, intent upon the gratification of eating and procreation; our life must be pointed toward the Intellective, toward the Intellectual-Principle, towards God.” ~Plotinus

Sensual Man

When Plotinus and other ancient philosophers and spiritual teachers talk about “sensual man”, they are not referring only to the extremes of those who have sex daily, often with strangers, those who will eat and eat until they pop, or those who collect piles and piles of money with no concern for those they deprive by doing so. They mean anyone who allows material pleasures to be the primary driving force of their lives. They mean the person who claims to be religious, but skips church if some more materialistic event is going on at the same time. They mean the person who claims to want to raise the level of his consciousness, but is doing nothing to make it happen. They mean the person who just drifts along with whatever is popular like a piece of driftwood. They mean those who have no spiritual goals in their lives and no plan or process for achieving those goals.

Spiritual Man

The spiritual man is not a ghost hunter or a fortune-teller. He is a person who places spiritual things higher in priority than the material. He does not give up his comfortable home and move into a cave but he doesn’t think of his home and other material possessions as something so important they need to be defended against others, even to the point of killing them. He doesn’t stop eating, but he eats primarily for nourishment rather than pleasure and rarely overeats. Most important of all, he seeks to develop his spiritual faculties and consciousness to the highest level possible (Plotinus mistakenly calls this “intellect”, but it isn’t. The spiritual is the soul and “consciousness” which is not intellect). He does his spiritual work, even if it occasionally means missing out on some material activity that he would like to indulge in.

In short, the truly spiritual man (or woman) doesn’t have to live in a monastery and sleep on a wooden platform. He can live in a house, wear nice clothes, eat regularly, and engage in social activities with friends and co-workers; but he always puts his spiritual growth above and material activities. He always seeks to climb higher and higher on the ladder of consciousness and spirituality, rather than just floating along where he currently is. And because of this, he can look forward to an afterlife that is denied to the materialist.

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