The new man
With the new year almost upon us, the topic of the new man might serve as motivation toward developing a new being within oneself.
What is meant by “the new man”? The new man is that part within us that is born from spiritual wisdom (that is, esoteric knowledge), and developed by putting that wisdom into practice. As Peter Ouspensky so often said, we must transform our knowledge into being.
The old man is the voice we have had since birth. It is the voice focused on seeking acceptance, security, comfort, and pleasure—both by amassing material things and by ensuring that one’s own psychology remains unchanged and unchallenged. The old man has no interest in advancing one's spiritual evolution. He is content to row gently down the stream, without the awareness that life is but a dream.
The new man seeks and embraces spiritual wisdom, allowing this wisdom to guide him through the day and through his life. Those who have begun to study and to work earnestly within a spiritual teaching that illuminates a path towards reality learn to recognize the voice of the new man. It is the voice calling one to be in the moment, to remember one's higher Self, and to follow the precepts of one's teaching.
Unlike the old man, the new man is no longer content to accept the literal meaning of esoteric myths of virgin births, sacrificial deaths, heroic quests, and demonic temptations. Instead, the new man seeks to understand the hidden spiritual meanings that are innate to sacred literature, art, architecture, and prayer.
The evolution of the new man hinges on how frequently he can overcome the soothing and rational voice of the old man, who always chooses the path of least resistance. This is particularly true regarding the transformation of suffering.
The new man understands that the transformation of suffering is the greatest of all methods for developing being, that is, for increasing one’s ability to act more frequently from spiritual rather than worldly wisdom.
Usually, however, when we experience suffering or friction, our first response is from the old man—“How can I get rid of this suffering as quickly as possible?” Because the old man cannot accept suffering, he attempts to cover it over by expressing negative emotions, blaming himself or others, drinking too much, eating too much, lapsing into resentment or self-pity, or complaining to anyone who will listen to his tale of woe.
The new man, however, has been taught to engage a more spiritual response when suffering arrives. This is the transforming of suffering into acceptance, and ultimately, into love. The transformation of suffering is not accomplished through mind activity, but through the active, internal struggle of the new man to remember his divine higher Self in the midst of his suffering.
The quotations offered below illustrate how the principle of transforming suffering is approached in several spiritual traditions.
"The reason why the sage meets suffering without being sad and encounters pleasure with being happy is that he has lost self [that is, the old man]." Bodhidharma
"Think of suffering as being washed." Hafiz
"Suffering is not a result of one’s bad Karma; it is divine grace bestowed upon man." Hindu Texts
"According to the law that governs the universe, all sufferings are your labor of love to unveil your real self." Meher Baba
"O Seeker, pain and suffering make one aware of God." Rumi
Lastly, it is important to understand that the new man is not immediately capable of acting upon the spiritual wisdom that he receives from his teaching. Our knowledge of what to do is a few years ahead of our ability to do it. Yet with patience, practice, and assistance from Higher Forces, the new man will become his own light as he travels the path towards awakening.