The Second Level of Pretension
From what we have stated, it is learned from our greatest professor and best teacher of ethics, Imām al-Khomeini, may his shade be prolonged, that [the above-stated level of] pretension occupies in the principles of beliefs the first, the most intense and the ugliest of all.
As for the second level of pretension, it lies in the virtuous demeanors and the commendable ethics. It, too, according to what is stated by the imām, may his shade be prolonged, has two stations: The first is that a person demonstrates the commendable characteristics and the virtuous demeanors in order to attract people's hearts towards him. The second is that he declares he dissociates himself from the contemptible characteristics and ugly demeanors for the same purpose.
Our professor has said the following in this regard: "Pretension in this level, although it does not lie in the intensity of ugliness as is the case with the first station, but after attention is drawn to something that may drag the pretender in this level, too, to what places him in the first level. There is an image for man in the spiritual world that could be non-human because it is connected to the domain of the nafs and to its faculties. So, if it has virtuous human faculties, these faculties would make your spiritual picture human, if you are gathered in [the form of] these faculties once you do not get out of moderation; the faculties are virtuous when the evil-insinuating nafs does not play havoc with it, nor the path of the nafs interferes in forming it.
Actually, our professor/mentor, may his shade be prolonged, used to say that the scales in the wrongful practice and in the right legitimate practice is actually the path of the nafs or the path of righteousness: If the one treading the path does so seeking what is right, going in the direction of Allāh, his practice is right and legitimate, and Allāh, Praise and Exaltation belong to Him, will help him in his effort according to the text of this sacred verse:
"(As for) those who strive in Our (cause),We will certainly guide them to Our paths, for truly Allāh is with those who do what is right" (Qur'ān, 29:69).
He will thus be attracted towards happiness, abandoning the insinuations of egotism, leaving behind the will of the nafs. It is well known that one who demonstrates to people his good manners and virtuous demeanors is prompted thus by his egotistical impetus, feeling conceited, loving and adoring himself. Loving Allāh can never coexist with egotism. Seeing Him can never coexist with seeing the nafs; it is simply impossible, a mere fancy.
So long as the domain of your presence is represented by your egotism, as you love power, prominence, fame and dominance over Allāh's servants, your faculties can never be virtuous, nor can your manners be divine because the real factor in the domain of your existence is Satan; neither your angelic aspect nor your inner-self reflect those of a human. After the angelic barzakh eye opens, it will portray you not as a human being but, say, as one of the demons.
It is impossible for the divine norms of knowledge and the sound belief in the Unity of the Almighty to exist in a heart that is an abode for the demons. If your domain does not become human, and as long as your heart is not purified of such crookedness, from any form of conceit, your heart will never be an abode for the Truthful One, the Almighty. One qudsi tradition states the following: "My earth has no sufficient room for Me nor my heavens, but there is room for Me in the heart of My believing servant."
So, there is none in existence that is a mirror reflecting the beauty of the loved One except the heart of a believer. The One Who fares with the believer's heart is the Almighty, not the nafs, and the factor in its existence is the loved One. The heart of a believer is not one of a person who sticks to his view no matter what, prattling; the heart of the believer is in the fingers of the most Merciful One, turning it however He pleases. The One who fares with the domain of a human heart is Allāh. Turning and alternating it is done through the will of Allāh Almighty.
You, poor soul, who is worshipping himself, with whose heart Satan and ignorance fare, having put an end to the faring of the Truthful Almighty with your heart, through what belief do you expect to be a source for the manifestation of the Truthful One and of [His] absolute domain? Be informed that as long as you remain thus, as long as this vice, the dominance of the will of the nafs over you, you are a disbeliever in Allāh, treading the path of the hypocrites even if you imagine yourself as being a Muslim, a believer in Allāh.