A glimpse of physics, Psychology and Eschatology in philosophy of illumination

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A. Physics
In putting forth his view on physics, Suhrawardi begins with a discussion regarding the nature of the universe, which from his point of view is pure light. The views of the Ash’ani’te Atomists, who were one of the predominant intellectual school of the time, were based on the principality of form and matter and therefore the study of physics for them became the study of matter.

1) Study of light and Nature
Suhrawardi argued against them by saying that since material bodies are constituted of light, the study of physics is the study of light.

Having defined the nature of things as light, Suhrawardi goes on to classify thing according to the degree of their transparency. For example, all those entities which allow light to pass through them, such as air, are in a higher ontological category them those which obstruct light, such as the earth.

2) Importance of qualitative change in Ishraqi philosophy
In explaining meteorological phenomena, Suhrawardi follows Ibn Sina and Aristotle, but he rejects their views with regard to the occurrence of change within the nature of thing. For example, Aristotle, argues that boiling water is due to the coming in contact of the atoms of fire and water. Suhrawardi states that boiling is because there exists a quality in water such that when it comes close to fire this potentiality actualized. He argues that fire does not come in contact with the water, nor does the volume of water change. Therefore, the only conclusion one can draw is to argue for the existence of special quality or attribute within water. As he states:

Qualitative change is due rather to the coming into being of a quality which is intermediate between the qualities of the original bodies and which is shared by all the particles of the new compound.

It is obvious that such a theory has implications not only for the field of physics, but also as an esoteric doctrine that seeks to explain how the association of different things may bring about a qualitative change. This principle is one of the crucial elements in the development of spiritual alchemy which appears in Islamic esoteric writings.

B. Psychology
1) The relationship between psychology and epistemology
Suhrawardi’s views on psychology are closely related to his concept of epistemology, which in turn is directly related to the ontological hierarchy that serves as the foundation of his philosophy.

Light of lights → Angelic order →Souls →Heavens→Bodies of lights
Universal Intellect →Intelligence →Souls →Heavens

Such a hierarchy influences the human psyche in the following manner; The ontological status of a being necessitates a certain psychological apparatus, and how the psyche and the faculties of this being function depends on their place within the hierachial structure of the universe.

Suhrawardi’s view of psychology, though influenced by Aristote’s psychology as discussed in the De Anima, does not follow Aristote’s classification, and in fact is closer to Ibn Sina than to Aristote Suhrawardi classifies all being into three categories: vegetable, animal and human. The only major difference between his view and the Peripatetics lies in his notion of body as the theurgy of Ispahbad.

2) Classification of soul faculties
According to Suhrawardi, the classification of different faculties can be illustrated by the following diagram:

Vegetable Soul:
Feeding (ghadiyyah) -Attraction (jadhibah)
Growth (namiyy) -Retention (masikan)
Reproduction (muwallidah)- Digestion(hadimah)

Animal Soul
Power of motion (muharrikah) power of lust(shahwah)
Power of desire (nuzui’yyah) Power of anger (ghadhad)

Sensus Communis (hiss mushtarik):
The center where all the information and data of the external world is collected. The location is in the front of the brain.

Fantasy (khiyat):
The place where sensus communis is stored.It is located in the back of the cavity.

Apprehension (wahm):
Governs sensible things which the senses are not capable of gathering and it is located in the middle cavity.

Imagination (mutakhayyilah):
Often identified with apprehension but its function goes further and it synthesizes and analyzes.

(hafizah) The place where apprehension is stored. It is located in the back of the middle cavity.

C) Eschatology
Suhrawardi’s notion of eschatology is derived from his notion of psychology. He concludes that the goal of man is to become illuminated and return to his origin in the other world. The other world is only a continuation of this one, and the status of the soul in the hereafter depends on the degree to which a person is purified here and now.

Suhrawardi identifies three groups of people with respect to the degree of their purity and illumination and establishes a causal connection between their purity and their ontological status in the other world .Three three groups are:
1. Those who remained in the darkness of ignorance(ashqiya).
2. Those who purified themselves to some extent (sudad).
3. Those who purified themselves and reached illumination (mutaallihun)

In his book Yazdan shinakht, he demonstrates the type of connection that he establishes between one’s ontological status in this world and that of the other world. He argues that regardless of the degree of one’s purity, The soul is essence immortal this argument is as follows: Know that the soul remains, it is inconceivable for to perish since its cause (of coming to be ) which is the active intellect, is eternal, therefore, it remains eternal because of its cause (which is eternal).


suhrawardi and illumination school


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