The Traditional View Of Man
The traditional view distinguishes three aspects of man: Spirit, Psyche (which includes our usual thinking processes), and Body. In Islam they are called ruh, nafs and jism. However, our psyches (including our subconscious drives, our egos and our thinking processes), are notoriously unstable (what we think or feel at any given time easily shifts and changes), and what is worse they fail to embrace the totality of what we are as human beings.
But Truth, Justice and a host of other values (and not the least the necessity to find our way in the existential djungle), cannot (and should not) depend upon our feelings or even our personal thoughts. There has to be some external and objective source for criteria to which one can appeal, or to which one's thoughts can conform.
Unfortunately for the modern world, there has been a shift away and a denial of this age-old wisdom. A proponent of the dualism of Body and Mind was Decartes*, for whom all reality was encompassed and limited by what he called "res extensa" (basically, what had extension and therefore could be measured) and "res cogitans" (or what we could think about).
However the traditional world has another perspective, which is the one of Oneness and transcendence. Unfortunately, we remain stuck with our modern self-image and stubbornly refuse to consider other alternatives.
*see also: R Guenon: "Descartes limited intelligence to reason"
Religions Or Beliefsystems?
A modern credo is that "all religions and belief systems are of equal value". On a practical, or personal level this might make sense, "whatever works" for an individual is considered acceptable. A person's psyche & thoughts or beliefs are "equal" to any person's - or so it seems.
At the same time, people are sincerely convinced in the perfectability of the world, and above all of man. And this is a secular, utopian vision which has replaced the principle of Gloria Dei - Glory of God - with the principle of Homo Mensura - man as measure of all things.
A "belief system", by contrast, is based upon what some individual has thought was worthy of belief, and accepted because the "collective unconscious" of the prevailing society finds it acceptable.
However an authentic, tradition or religion is based on Revelation, on a code, cult and creed that is fixed (not rigid!) and external to the individual. It is focussed on an "adoration of God, as expressed in formal worship - in obedience to divine commands."
On the practical level it is clear that one can center one's life in the Body, in the Psyche or in the Spirit. The latter of course demands that we not do "as we like," but "as we should."
From a metaphysical viewpoint, to choose to center our lives in our psyches is to ascribe to ourselves the property of discerning what is true and false - and to make oneself the source of truth is the greatest form of idolatry, ie. that "we will not serve," that we are gods unto ourselves, a condition which in the last analysis is nothing other than pride.
The Inner War
Traditional psychologies hold that man also has a higher or inner Self. This is the Spirit, or Intellect, or the Hindu "source of the breaths" or Atman, or the Arabic Ruh. The traditional outlook further presumes that the average person is "at war with himself" precisely because these two selves (the unstable "self"/"ego" and the higher "Self"/"Spirit") are in conflict, and true sanity or wholeness is ultimately to be found only in the saint whose two selves are "at one".
see also: On The Doctrine Of Non-Duality
Tradition (here: St. Thomas Aquinas) tells us that tranquility and happiness can only result from the ordered life, i.e. that Spirit, Psyche and Body must be ordered properly - any departure from the hierarchy being sinful. It is in this sense that we speak of being in control of one-self.
The fact that man is endowed with an Intellect (the organ to know the Truth) and a Will (by which he can choose between right and wrong) is almost forgotten. Belief systems based on the Psyche rarely have a fixed morality with which to face f.ex. harmful or infernal influences. Their moral codes are based on public opinion.
The Light Of The DivineThe Light of the Absolute is like a "ray" of the Divine intersecting with the light (Intellect) of the human soul, and as such it is the ultimate witness of all that is happening, either on the plane of the Spirit or within the Psyche. The important thing is that it transcends one's individual subjectivity, for we always tend to "see through a glass darkly". books:
Charles Upton; The System of Antichrist
R Guenon; The Crisis of the Modern World
The roots of the islamic tradition are Quran & Sunnah
To subject man to the necessity of obedience to divine commands immediately arouses the protests of those who declare the individual mind to be free and not subject to any external [or transcendant] authority. They insist that all matters are subject to the human mind, which is free to decide all things for itself. (see: Decartes)
If Body and Psyche were the only components of man, then indeed, the protest might be valid, for the mind and body of any one individual has no more authority necessarily than that of any other.
The danger is to rely on the mind (psyche) divorced from the Spirit, when it comes to understand reality. Our thinking capability can easily be distorted, "we see through a glass darkly." Meaning our intellects, while capable of apprehending Truth and Reality, are distorted by our passions and personal opinions.
Another danger is to misuse traditional practices by divorcing them from their original tradition. Various methods of "meditation" and "yoga" are taught which also allow for self-hypnosis, and not infrequently leave the soul open to invasion by negative influences.
The opening of the Psyche to external influences, is always of great danger, as there are evil forces both within and outside us, against which the Psyche in isolation has very poor defenses.
(see: Yoga & New Age)
R G: Antitradition
Nowadays, on the one hand, even many representatives of traditional religions currently attack the revealed basis of their faith in an attempt to accommodate them to the values of the modern world, which in effect reduces them to the same level as other belief systems.
And False Spirituality
On the other hand, there is also a tendency among scholars to regard authentic religions as popularly established "belief systems", although this fails to recognize the nature of true religions.
see: R G: What is a religion?
This false spirituality is a "spirituality" based more on feeling than on principle, a kind of "fraud-spirituality" grounded in the Psyche rather than the Spirit. I.e. One tries to seek for answers in the realm of the Psyche, and not in the Spirit, whose existence is slighted if not ignored.
Some religions have then even become a discouraging collection of cliches and sentimentalities, more concerned with social issues than with Truth. Quite a few of our contemporary theologians and religious spokespersons (from various religions) are no longer trusted or respected, for they too, despite lip service, are Cartesians.edf:
Rama P. Coomaraswamy,
The Problems that result from locating Spirituality in the Psyche