PSYCHE A. TRADITIONAL PERSPECTIVE
After discussing Hinduism and the Greek thought, it seems appropriate to briefly present the ideas of Taoism on the same subject. However, it is no more than a passing reference. Its primary reason is the non- availability of material; secondly, it suffices for the purpose of this research to concern ourselves mainly with the major traditions.
Taoism is known in the Western world as one of the great movements in Chinese thought. It is one of the most ancient religious traditions of the world. It is purely mystical in it’s approach and those who wish to study the universe, man, all creatures and phenomena in it, will find that Taoism is primarily a cosmic religion the central concept of this tradition is Tao. The word Tao is always left untranslated as it is regarded as indefinable. Lao Tzu regards it as the transcendental First cause, the priomordial Unity, the ineffable, the all-pervading principle of the universe. The Tao is a dynamic vital force with all innate powers. “The Tao is the realm of man’s true being. It is the light that sees and is sought, even as Brahman, in Upanishads, is the principle of search as well as the object sought, the animating idea and it’s fulfilment”.
The second basic concept of Taoism is yin-yang, it is the symbol of two great regulating forces of cosmic order in the phenomenal world. Yin-yang are the dark and light, negative an positive, female and male, passive and active - together they control everything in the realm of manifestation. The yin principle is the negative, dark side and also symbolizes the feminine element. It is the primordial chaos of darkness from which the phenomenal world emerged into the light of creation. It is eternally creative, the Great Mother, that is why the yin is always placed before the yang, since the yang was born of the potential and is the light which emerged from the darkness to become the actual, the essential, the spirit or the intellect. Every manifest being participates in the two principles and so does man. In man’s self these two principles are present and the perfect balance among them can only be achieved in the Perfect Man or Sage. The critical, rational, analysing mind is the yang. “By itself, it is prone to hardening; it names, defies and limits and mistaking the naming of a thing of the understanding of it, sees itself as all- powerful and all-wise.” The feelings or emotions are related to yin- and feelings without the control of mind tend towards dispersal and dissipation, thus a balance is essential.
As feelings and mind the yin-yang is also being and thought. The feminine, instinctive, intuitional and emotional is also depth, as the masculine, intellectual, rational is height. Each should inform and reconcile the other.
According to the Taoist cosmology, the world is in a perpetual state of flux and man is in a state of becoming which is not necessarily a forward movement. Man himself is d universe in miniature, being made up physically of the five elements and mentally and spiritually of the yin and kwei and yang and shen spirits. As with the macrocosm so with the microcosm of man all these parts are in a continual state of flux, of creation and emanation, of dissolution and withdrawl. All Taoist writings and allegories emphasize the oneness of all creation; mankind and all things that live are fragmentary manifestations of the whole. Tao is the centre of man’s self. Around this centre the subtle part of man’s being is situated which corresponds to two essences or principles of Tao, i.e. yin-yang; emotion to yin and mind to yang, which means that volitional and intellecltual faculty of man corresponds to yang, whereas effectual and feeling faculty corresponds to yin. In agreement with all great traditions Taoism lso sees man as a microcosm composed of the dual nature of the yin-yang and reconciling-and unifying these in himself, is the masculine spirit and feminine soul united, from which the third, the son, the unifying principle emerges. It is said in Taoist writings that man stands between the Heaven and the Earth symbolically. Earth is seen as man’s body whereas Heaven is the spirit therefore man’s psyche is the intermediate realm between spirit and body or between Heaven and Earth. This intermediate realm is what gives man his specifically human character with such as the thinking faculty, imagination, reason, etc; he remains in this world yet being is touch with the higher realm which is the realm to Tao as well as centre of his being. Buddhism:
Buddhism is generally defined as a non-theist religion i.e. a religion without the central concept of one Divine Being, “God” or “Diety”. This does not mean that Buddhism is without the concept of an Absolute Reality. What is absent in this great tradition is the idea of an anthropomorphic and objectivized Divinity. But there is an underlying concept of Divine principle-the “Void” or “Extinction”. It is the Supra-ontological Reality and Being inwardly regarded. Buddha as the innermost Being of man is the centre of man’s Selfhood and it is this Absolute reality of which the individual man is a manifestation. The human microcosm is like a circle whose centre is situated on the circumference of a larger circle namely the sensible macrocosm, and the centre of this second circle is in it’s turn situated on a still larger circumference representing the total macrocosm. Hence it can be inferred that man is related to he non-material and supra-individual realm through the subtle part of his self i.e. his soul or psyche which is non-material itself.
Just as Buddhism is attributed to have a non-theistic character, it is also said to be without a conception of the soul as an entity. But this notion is refuted by Frithjof Schuon. He holds that in Buddhism, Nirvana is the prototype of soul.Although Buddhists do not present soul as an entity, they admit both essentially and in practice the “Karmic” continuity or the moral casualty of that living and conscious nucleus that is the human ego.
The Lankavatara Sutra, one of the sacred discourses, says that “the objective word derives form Mind itself and the whole system of thought like-wise derives from Mind ----there is but a single Essence”. This single Essence or Reality which is self, becomes individualized in the form of souls, “just as water when shaken becomes dispered in innumerable drops” with the movement of cosmic wheel, the dispersal of souls takes place i.e. Individuation with it’s numberless modalities. The ego is a quasi-physical consequence of this universal rotation. The empirical “I” is nothing but a shifting tissue of images or tendencies - the Milinda Panha illustrates this theme. The Buddha rejected an eternally abiding pure ego (atta) and described the universe in terms of the arising, decay and dissolution of all things. The mind is a dynamic continuum which is described by Buddha by means of a number of analogies. Sometimes it is compared to a flame, whose existence depends upon a number of factors the wick, oil, etc.; sometimes it is compared to a stream (sota) and again the movements of a monkey jumping from branch to branch are used. Buddha also denies the existence of any permanent entity which would be called mind or soul. Man’s self is realy a psycho- physical complex (Nama-Rupa). Nama is used to refer to your non- material groups (Khandhas) these are; vedana (feeling) sanna (sense impressions, ideas, images, concepts), Sankhara (conative activity, dispositions) and vinnana (consciousness). The term rupa refers to the four great elements: extension, cohesion, heat and the material shape derived from them. the mental and physical constituents form one complex and there is a mutual dependency of the mind on the body and of the body on the mind.
“The mind according to Buddhist psychology is a dynamic continuum which extends to an innumerable number of births”. It consists of both a conscious and unconscious mind, the later containing the residue of memories extending beyond persona] life, and also contains the centre of man’s self. ‘-’I’ is related to the ‘Self’ in the same way as creation is related to the creator. Intellect (vinnava) appears to be the chief term which comprehensively covers mental phenomena. Of the four psychical aggregates the first is the feeling (Vedana), a term wide enough to cover sensation but predominantly indicates pleasure pain and a. neutral feeling. The term Sanna is often rendered as “perception”. It is further divided into patigha - sanna and adivacana-sana: Sanna that arises out of contact with he sense organs and the conceptual ability and sense-images.
Third aggregate Sainkhara denotes dispositions or tendencies and it covers will, attention, application, concentration, zest, faith, mindfulness, insight, rectitude, modesty, discretion, disinterestedness and various other volitional activities whereas Vinnana may be rendered and sanikhara also serve as links in the formula of dependent origination. Vinnana as total consciousness includes the residual memories of the individual as well.
From the descriptions it is evident that Buddhist thought does not treat man’s subtle self as an entity but as a continuum which is composed of psychical functions (thinking, perception, volitional and affective activities) but there is a deeper level of his self as well, that which attains Nirvana through exercising virtue and following the right path. It becomes a Jivan mukti (a liberated soul). The relationship of ego or individual consciousness of the self on the one hand and to matter on the other hand is described in following terms: The Self or Absolute Reality is dispersed into souls by process of individuation and these souls are hardened and dissipated into matter attracted by it.
No account of traditional wisdom could be complete without mentioning the Christian tradition as it flourished in it’s original form in the mediavel ages. However it is not possible to discuss the Christian concept of psyche in such a manner as to encompass all dominant trends of thought as well as the biblical concept itself; such a task demands tremendous amount of time and resources. So we will confine our discussion to one prominent and central source in Christian theology and philosophy i.e. Meister Eckhart the 14th century mystic and scholastic thinker. After the decline or, one could say, fading our or Greek creative spirit the psychology that did take shape was that of the Church Fathers, based upon orthodox Christian doctrines. They were also greatly influenced by the Hermetic as well as the Greek thought… Hence the essential unity of Holy spirit with God and Logos and the nature of man have analogous concepts in the two above-mentioned traditions as well. The ideas presented in the writings of St. Paul, Origen and St. Augustine bear the traces of the Plationian thought. They believed that essential nature of man’s inner self or soul was beyond the reach of those principles of explanation which held generally for natural objects, since man was not only body and mind but composed of body, soul and spirit, the last of which contained or reflected the Logos or the Divine Word. As regards mental processes of man, St. Augustine pondering over such functions as memory, excercise of will and the conception of universal ideas, came to characterize psyche as free, immortal and super-sensual. In the work of Thomas Acquin as a memory of the Platonian and Aristotelian thought as well as ideas of Church Fathers can be seen. But once Aristotle was rediscovered it came into sharper focus than other sources and became central in Post- renaissance psychology. That man is divine in essence can be infered from the famous and oft-quoted saying of Christ, “Kingdom of Heaven is within you”. This refers to the same truth which is present in many other, rather every, tradition, that the inner most core of man’s being is identical with the supreme reality, with the Divine Principle, with God.
Meister Eckhart is essentially a mystic and his approach is primarily gnostic. He can not be called strictly a representative of the orthodox Christian thought, because he was accused of heresy at one time, however his writings or rather sermons expound the primordial tradition in all it’s profundity and original form and he also refers to the sayings of Jesus Christ and taking the disciples of Christ as well as later theologians as the original source of reference, he interprets and elaborates their ideas. M. Eckhart says that a person is not one but two persons. One is called the outward man -the sensorial person. He is served by the five senses which function by means of the soul’s agents. The other is the inner man- the spiritual person. Whatever strength the soul possesses, beyond what it devotes to the five senses, it gives to the inner man. There are people who waste the strength of their souls in the outward man; but a good man is one who withdraws his outward person of the soul’s agents and uses them for higher pursuits. He illustrates this dual nature of man by the simile of a door; a door swings to and fro through an angle. He compares the breadth of the door to the outward man and the hinge to the inner person. When the door swings to and fro, the breadth of the door moves back and forth, bat the hinge is still unmoved and unchanged. This hinge is the inner person which is the core of our being; the I which is central as regards to our outward personality. Regarding the nature of the soul Meister Eckhart quotes an authority (whom he does not name) as saying that the soul is made between one and two. The one is eternal, that remains always aloof and changeless. The two is time, which changes and multiplies. He elaborates further, that, with it’s highest agents, the soul touches enternity-that is, God - and with it’s lower agents, touches time and thereby becomes changeable, degraded and inclined to material things. He explains the purpose of creation in the following manner; if the soul had known God as perfectly as do the angels, it would never have entered the body, If the soul could have known God without the world, the world would never have been created. Thus the world was created so that the soul’s eye could be accustomed to bear the divine light. St. Augustine says that the soul is created so much higher in rank than any other creature that no mortal thing can communicate with the soul, or affect it, except through mediation of messengers. These mediators are the eyes, the ears, and the five senses; these are the ways the soul gets out to the world and, reciprocally, the world gets back into the soul. The highest agents of the soul as described by M. Eckhart are three; the first in intuition, the second, irascibilis which is the upsurging agents (Acquinas rated irascibilis among the lower sensitive part of the soul); and the third is the will. All these three agents, help man to reach God. They form a natural impulse in man to be attracted towards God. There is an element is soul that is untreated i.e. the intellect. This is untouched by time and flesh and proceeds out of the spirit and remains forever in the spirit. In this element God is perpetually present. The presence of Jesus in the heart of man is shown or poured out in good deeds, in joy, in love and in generosity. Unless the agents of soul are directed inward and the eye of heart is opened, this presence can not be discerned by man; he can not achieve self-knowledge.
For Meister Eckhart man is essentially a creature “made in the image of God”. Since it is a manifestation of the Divine Self, it strives to gain knowledge of God or to achieve closeness. However it is not possible for him unless he shuts out the knowledge of the phenomenal world i.e. cuts short the sensory stimulation and uses all his psychic energy to concentrate on inward awareness. Man is composed of body, psyche or soul and spirit. Eckhart calls the sense faculties of the psyche as the lower part of man’s soul and the spiritual element of the intellect as the higher part which is capable of receiving the divine word (Logos) as well as achieving unity with God. Whatever motivation we call “the natural desires” are in fact merely the desires of flesh or relating to this world because they rise out of soul’s attachment with body. Whereas “Theosis” is a craving for supra-rational, supra-human levels of being.
In the preceding discussion, it was mentioned with reference to the traditional wisdom (sophia perennis) that among the followers of each tradition, a revelation was believed to be source or basis of this wisdom. In the semetic religions, as well as in ancient Greeks, all wisdom (containing all sciences and arts) was believed to be derived from the teachings of the ancient prophets ranging back to Adam, and “the father of traditional sciences and arts” was said to be none other than the prophet Hermes, known as Hermes Tismegistos of ancient Alexandria, and identified in Islamic world with Enoch (prophet Idris). Hermetism or Hermetic wisdom is thus one of the most ancient traditions of the world and it had greatly influenced the later traditions; the Greek thought as well as sciences of three semetic religions i.e. Judaism, Christianity and Islam bear its stamp. Thus it seems appropriate to discuss this tradition in the end precisely because it sums up the diverse traditional views and it concepts are echoed through most of the subsequent traditions.
The Hermetic wisdom lays claim to a complete knowledge of nature and concerns itself with all branches of knowledge which are after all interrelated since nature is one in essence and all reality essentially stems forth from the same origin. The sciences or various branches of knowledge contained in this tradition are, among others; medicine, physics, geology, metaphysics, cosmology, astronomy, astrology, botany, and alchemy (which includes chemistry as well as metalurgy). It is this last one i.e. alchemy which is defined as “a science of the soul”. We will see at the end of this chapter how Hermetism has influenced Greek, Christian and Muslim traditions. For the present we confine our discussion to the hermetic doctrines.
“The perspective of Hermetism proceeds from the view that the universe (or macrocosm) and man (or the microcosm) correspond to one another as reflections; whatever there is in the one, must also in some manner be present in the other. This correspondence may best- be understood by reducing it to the mutual relationship of subject and object of knower and known. Human understanding however is specifically limited in itself, and in this sense there is no such thing as a purely objective knowledge of the world standing outside the sphere of the human subject. Neither the agreement of all possible individual observations, nor the use of means which extend the reach of the senses can get beyond this sphere, which conditions both the world as a knowable objective and man as a knowing being. the logical coherence of the world--that which makes it’s manifold appearances a more or less graspable whole -belongs just as much to the world as to the unitary nature of the human subject. Nevertheless in every knowledge there is something unconditional; Otherwise there would be no bridge from the subject to the object, form ‘I’ to ‘thou’ no truth and no unity behind the countless ‘worlds’ as seen by so many so widely varying individuals. This unconditional and immutable element, which is the source of the more or less hidden ‘truth content’ in every piece of knowledge and without which it would not be knowledge at all-is the pure spirit or Intellect, which as knower and known is absolutely and indivisibly present in every being. Of all beings in this world, man is the most perfect reflection of the universal (and divine) Intellect and in this respect he can be regarded as the mirror or total image of the cosmos”.
The different realities which stand facing each other like mirrors are the following: first and the foremost is the universal Intellect or “transcendental subject”, whose object is not only the outward physical world, but also the inner world of the soul-as well as the reason; for the operations of the reason can be the object of knowledge, whereas the universal intellect is incapable of any objectification whatsoever. Though Intellect has direct and immediate knowledge of itself, this knowledge is not available to the perception, and therefore seems non-existent. Then there is human subject who is endowed with the faculties of thought, imagination and memory and depends on sensory perception for knowledge of the external world. It is from the Universal Intellect the human subject derives, it’s capacity for knowing. Man himself is composed of spirit (or intellect), soul, and body who is both part of the cosmos which is the object of his knowledge and who also, in view of his spiritual nature, appears as small cosmos within the larger one. This idea is not a special prerogative of Herrnetism alone; in all traditional doctrines it is present, however in the writings of Hermes Trismegistos, it is expanded with particular clarity. In one of these writings it is said that the soul (psyche) is present in the body in the same manner as the intellect (nous) is present in the soul and as the Divine word (Logos) is present in the intellect. This order could be seen from an other angle i.e. from outer to the inner; body is in the soul and the Word. God is called the Father of all.
Intellect (nous) is described as derived from the substance (ousia of God, in so far as one may speak of God having a substance; only god knows what is the nature of this substance.) The intellect radiates from god as light shines forth from the sun. “In man, this Intellect is God”. But as the cognitive pole of the universal existence, Intellect is not accessible to discursive thought or reason. Reason as compared to Intellect is like a convex lens which directs the light of the Intellect or spirit in a particular direction and on a limited field. For traditional science truth is the expression or “congelation” (in a from accesible to reason) of a possibility contained in the unviersal Intellect. And since this possibility is contained permanently in the
Intellect, it must manifest itself in the outward world. Thus in the traditional science the idea of truth is absolute. However the grasp of truth by reason is only symbolic of the possibilities contained in the eternal Intellect. From the traditional point of view, experience is nothing without that core of truth which comes from the Intellect and around which individual experiences can crystallize. Thus Hermetic tradition like all traditional wisdom, is a combination of experience as well as Intellection but the former is interpreted in the light of the latter.
The Hermetic view of man can be briefly described as follows: man being a microcosm reflects the macrocosm. He is composed of a body, a soul or mind and spirit; these levels of selfhood correspond to the levels of reality. Firstly there is the body which corresponds to the terrestrial realm. Then the mind which corresponds to the intermediate realm, then the soul which corresponds to the celestial and finally the spirit which corresponds to the Infinite. What we call psyche is the intermediate and he celestial realm, mind and soul. thus the sense faculties or the lower part of the soul, generally known as mind, is nearer to the body and the upper part of the soul is nearer to the Spirit or the Intellect. This description is at best an over-simplification of the hermetic theory but it is not possible to go into the lengthy and complex descriptions here which necessitates explanation of many basic concepts. The abvoe mentioned concept of man is represented in a chart on the next page. Now we will try to explain this concept further.
In his book, Ruysbrock writes: in all men there is by nature a three fold unity. The first and the highest unity to be found in man is God, for all creatures depend upon Divine Unity for their very being, life and existence. A second unity is likewise present in us by nature. This is the unity of the higher faculties, a unity which derives from the fact that, as regards their activity, these faculties spring naturally from the unity of the spirit itself. This second unity is same as the first unity except that it is viewed from the point, of view of activity rather than essence. This we posses in ourselves, quite above the realm of senses. From it derive thought, reason, will and all possibilities of spiritual activity. Here the soul bears the name of spirit., “The third unity in us, consists of the domain of the lower faculties which have their seat in the heart the basis and source of animal life. It is in the body and especially in the action of the heart that the soul possesses this unity from which all activities of the body and the five senses proceed. Here it bears its own name of soul, for it is the “form’’ of the body which it animates, the body which it makes to live and keeps alive. These three unities which are in man by nature constitute a single life and a single realm. In its lowest unity this life is sensory and animal; in the middle unity it is rational and spiritual and in the highest unity it is contained in it’s own essence. This belongs to all men be nature…”
Ruysbrock characterizes the soul in the literal sense of the word (anima, psyche) by it’s tendency towards the sensory faculties by which he means the level of the, ego-bound empirical soul in contradistinction to the spirit’. But the relationship spirit-soul can also be looked at in another way. When we speak of the soul as the materia of the spirit, we do not mean the mere tissue of ego-consciousness, but rather the passive and receptive capacity which lies much deeper and which precisely is veiled by the habitual attachment of the soul to the senses. In the hermetic science of alchemy, what corresponds to the chaotic soul on the mineral plane is the condition of base metal especially lead which in it’s obscurity and heaviness resembles crude mass. According to the alchemists, the metals cannot be transmuted into silver or gold without first being reduced to their materia prima (the original substance of which they are made). If the base metals are regarded as being analogous to the fragmented state of the soul, then the materia prima to which it must be reduced, is none other than their underlying “fundamental substance” that is the say the soul in it’s original state, as yet unconditioned by impressions and passions and “uncongealed” into any definite form. Only when the soul is freed form all it’s rigidities and inner. contradictions, does it become the plastic substance on which the spirit or Intellect can imprint a new “form”. Materia prima can be called substance in English which is a complementary pole of essence. The essence is the form of the matter. Together these two poles make possible all manifestation of the principle. Materia prima is the passive receptive pole whereas forma is the active pole. The substantial pole of the soul (or it’s materia) is expressed in it’s capacity to take on and to maintain forms. The forms taken on by the substance of material of the soul come form without as well s from within. When they correspond to the immutable prototypes contained in the Intellect which constitute the real ‘content of all knowledge, they are essential forms. The essential pole of the soul is thus the Intellect.
It contains the forma or essential predetermination of things as “prototypes” or “archetypes”. These archetypes are the immutable possibilities and are to be found above reason. They can only be discerned fully when soul returns or unifies with the spirit and then they are reflected in formal consciences, i.e. in reason and imagination in the form of symbols.
Materia prima, the fundamental substance of the soul (psyche) is in the first place the substance of the individual or ego-bound consciousness; then of all psychic forms regardless of the individual beings and finally of the whole world. Symbolically it lies ‘below’ because it is completely passive and it appears as “dark” because being absolutely unformed it eludes intelligence. But it must not be confused with the collective unconscious of modern psychology. Materia prima is not a source of irrational and “exclusively psychic “impulses but he passive basis of all perceptions.
Now a distinction must be made between, on the one hand a more or less darksome layer of consciousness lying beneath everyday consciousness (which can not be completely unconscious because it does enter consciousness) and on the other hand, the true, purely passive and unformed ground of the soul. The darksome layer referred to, is filled with the sediments of psychic impressions and behavioral modes. The true ground of the soul on the other hand is in itself neither dark nor light nor is it what T. Burckhart calls “a brooding vulcano of irrational eruptions”. On the contrary it is capable of mirroring it’s complementary pole, the universal spirit.
In alchemical symbolism, sulpher corresponds to the essence or active pole and quicksilver to substance or passive pole. The relation of the two primordial forces to each other is thus similar to that of man and woman in sexual union. Sulpher represents the essence or the spirit, whereas quicksilver corresponds to the soul itself in it’s, receptive and passive role. The Spiritus (a name for the vital spirit) is a subtle power which unites the individual soul with the body. According to T. Burckhardt the Arabic expression rule can also have the same meaning. Though, of course, it has a metaphysical meaning as well. This vital spirit is a source of nourishment for the subtle ‘body’ and extent throughout cosmic space. It is seen as corresponding to quicksilver because it is only partially and loosely attached to the sphere of the ego.
On the one hand soul is seen in correspondence with metals and on the other the planetary qualities are applied to the human being. Saturn whose orbit is the widest from the point of view of the earth, corresponds to intelligence or more exactly to the intellect, while the moon, whose orbit is nearest to the earth-centre, is analogous to the “vital spirit”, which binds soul and body to each .other. These are the two outermost poles of the soul’s capacity, for the vital spirit which governs the involuntary activities of the body, such as growth and digestion and which for this reason has an “existential” rather than a “rational” character, is a certain sense opposed to the intellect. Between these two poles, the other faculties of the soul are ranged. They are variously designated and related to the planets. In every case the sun corresponds to a faculty which lies midway between the two poles and in a sense unites them. According to Marcobius (who expounds hermetic ideas) the sun is analogous to the faculty which animates the five senses and synthesizes their impressions. The sun is thus the prototype of the life of the “sensory soul”. Whereas ‘Abd al-karim Jill views this in a more profound way and writes in his book (al-Insanul-kamil) that sun is analogous to the heart (al-qalb), the organ of intuitive, knowledge which completely transcends all other faculties of the soul. Just as the sun gives the planets their light so the light of the heart (seat of the spirit or intellect) illunines all other faculties of the soul.
“Intelligence” is here used to translate ratio in the old sense of the word. (Greek; noun, Arabic: al-’aql). As a faculty of fundamental and comprehensive thought intelligence or the human intellect is related to the Divine Intellect. In the later, knowledge and being both are present whereas human intellect is knowledge alone; it is separate from what it knows. The vital spirit is on the other hand immersed in corporeal existence. These are two outermost limits of the ego-bound or individual consciousness and it can be said that this consciousness is split between mind (noul) and body.
On the other planets, Jupiter is usually compared to the faculty of decision. It thus represents the spiritual or intellectual form of the will. To Mars belongs courage; whereas Venus is seen as symbol of amorous passion. Mercury is the prototype of analytical thought. And to Moon is attributed the faculty of generation and bodily movement. Here we come closer to astrology which also attributes to the planets, the power to induce certain tendecnies in human nature. To the alchemist, the soul, as it is attached to the body, is encumbered with passions and habits and mixed with “earth”. The bodily consciousness is chaotic and opaque like base-metals. On the other hand, through alchemical procedures, the soul is extracted form base metal of body and thus it is able to receive the imprint of the spirit.
It is easy to see how the concepts discussed above are echoed in the later Greek thought and the Christian and Muslim sciences. The hierarchy of spirit (Intellect), soul, body is present in Platonian as well as Aristotalian ideas. The immutable possibilities of Intellect or the prototypes of things is called “archetypes” or “ideas” by Plato. To him God or Divine Principle alone is the origin and essence of all existence. Similarly the doctrine of Logos is very close to the Johanian theology is Christianity.
Among the muslim thinkers, a man of no less calibre than Ibn-e-Arabi (known as Shaikh-ul-Akbar) has expounded the hermetic ideals. Relating soul to it’s alchemical counterparts, Ibn-e-Arabi compares the sound and original condition of the soul to gold. He has also discussed the concept of universal nature (tabi’at al-Kull) and sees it as the feminine or material side of the creative act. She is “merciful breathing out” of God (Nafs ar-rehman) Abd-al-Karim Jill is another great Muslim scholar whose ideas resemble the hermetic doctrine. He was mentioned earlier in reference to the analogy of the sun to the heart (al-qalb). He has also expounded the astronomical side of nature and according to him the active imagination, (alwahm) is attributable to Mars, wheras Venus is the prototype of passive imagination (al-Khiyal ) Other muslim thinkers such as Ibn-e-Sina, Ibn-e-Bajah, Ghazzali, Suhrawardi, etc. can be regarded as influenced by Hermetism in as much as they were influenced by the Greek thought; since Greek thought (specially Plato) is itself influenced considerably by Hermetism.
The Islamic Tradition.
In the preceeding discussion, we have had the occassion to present a review of the few great ancient traditions of the world. Some have been discussed in detail, some briefly. Now we come to the youngest tradition of all which is also the last revealed religion on earth i.e. Islam.
Islamlc intellectual tradition has two aspects; the gnostic Ma’arifah or ‘Irfan and the philosophical falsafah-hunkah: and the cardinal doctrine which unites these two is the doctrine of unity (Al- Tawhid). It is manifested in all the expressions of muslim thought whether they be art of science, language or culture. The doctrine of Tawhid proclaims that all existence an all reality is based on a Divine principle which is none other than God Himself ad there is no duality in Him. This onesness is reflected in the unitary charactr of all Islamic sciencees which are interrelatded and contribute towards a wholesome understanding of total Reality. It is also expressed in the view of man which is inherent in muslim philosophy and specially in sufic teachings i.e. man as a microcosm. The sciences of man are related to the sciences of the cosmos since one essential princlple is seen as reflected in the world (macrocosm) and in man (microcosm). In fact the two aspects of Islamic thought, the gnostic and the philosophical, serve as an example of this correspondence between different levels of reality, and the underlying unity. The relationship of two aspects can be explained through the following simile: Islam is compared to a cricle, whose outer circumsference is the Shariah or muslim law, the radius leading from the circumference to the centre is the path, the Tariqah and the centre is the truth, haqiqah. The path and the centre together form the esoteric aspect of Islam to which sufism is dedicated. According to Frithjof Schuon “Sufism is the heart of Islam”. In Islam heart is the seat of the Intellect (Al-’Aql) whereas brain or mind is associated with to faculty of reason and discursive thbught ( cJ. ) Hence, Sufi teachings (gnostic aspect) corresond to the heart or Intellect whereas philosophical theories are analogous to mind or discursive thought. However one often comes across a muslim thinker or scholar in whom both aspects merge; Intellect and reason complement each other. But whatever may be the case one fact is noteworthy; both these perspectives or points of view are are within the framework of essential principles of Islam and no idea or concept can be called traditional if it defies these basic prinicples.
As mentioned earlier, concept of man in Islam can not be serparated from the Islamic conception of ultimate reality. This later conception can be explained briefly as follwing: according to the Quranic teachings all reality is a manifestation of the Divine principle. The verses which carry meaning to this effect are numerour. Among them a few will be quoted. “I was a hidden treasure, I wanted to be known so I created the world” (Hadith). Where everr ye turn there is the face of God (Quran, II, 115) “Allah is the light of heaven and the earth”---- (Qur’an. XXIV,135). Then there is the famous hadith: God was and nothing was with Him” and its commentary,. “He is now such as he was”. God is not only the creator but the creation as well; He is supreme Essence (adh-Dhat ) of all existence, all being. the Divine qualities or attributes also bear testimony to the all-econompassing, Absolute and Unique nature of god. In the language of the Qur’an, He is - (الباطن)’ the inward or the hidden, “He who contains” (الواسع ) or He who surrounds (المحیط); at the same time, He is the first and the Last (الاول والآخر)the inward and the outward (الظاہر و الباطر). What he surrounds or contains is the total reality, and he is present at every level of reality from man to unvierse, from microcosm to macrocosm. We have seen in context of otehr traditions specially Vedantic and Hermetic that Essence is hidden behind variouos degrees or levels of manifestation. In Sufism, these universal degrees are called the “five Divine Presneces” (al-Hadarat al-ilahiya al-khams). F. Schuon describes them as follows:
1. The human domain (الناسُوت); that is to say the corporeal or material world, since man is created of earth.
2. The domain of royalty (الملکُوت) so called because it immediately dominates the corporeal world.
3. Domain of power (الجبرُوت) which macrocosmically is Heaven and microcosmically the created or human intellect.
4. Domain of the Divine (لاھُوت) which is Being and which corresponds to the Logos or the untreated Intellect.
5. Infinite Self. (ھاھُوت)
These could be explained in the ascending order as following: First the gross or material state, which could also be called corporeal or sensorial; secondly the subtle or animistic state; thirdly, formless ro super-formal manifestation or the angelic world; fourthly Being which is the ontological principle and finally Non-Being or Beyond-Being. If we take as our basis the distinction “Manifestation- Principle” the first concept includes ‘body’, ‘soul’ and “Intellect” and the second includes the “Logos” and “self”. This distinction could also be’ called formal/essential or individual/universal which amounts to the same thing.
The Quranic premises of this hierarchy is as follows:
1. God, Absolute (اللہ ، الاحد ، المطلق )
2. Divine Attributes or qualities. (صفات الٰھیہ)
3. “Throne or Arsh (العرش)
4. Foot Stool (کرسی)
5. The Earth (الارض)
The last one i.e. the Earth corresponds to the ‘human realm’. This hierarchical view of macro as well as microcosm is represented in a diagram on the next page. A simllar order is also given by the great muslim philosopher al-Ghazzali (one could also recall the hermetic view o: reality in this context).
According to Schuon, the two fundamental formulae of Islam, the two testimonies (Shahadatan) one concerning Allah and the other his Propeht (Pbh) - likewise symbolize the degrees of reality. In the formula, la ilah ill allah (no divinity if not the sole Divinity) each of the four words denotes a degree and the final ha of the name Allah symbolizes the self (Huwa). the first part of the formula which constitutes the Nafy (negation) and the last two word which constitute ithbat (affirmation) refer to formal manifestation or individual domain and the principle or universal domain respectively. “For this reason the Sufi sees in every material form, including his own, the la of Shahadah; the microcosm that we are is nothing other than a concretization.of the Shahadah”.
If we, take a look at the chart given before we can discover that following words are used in reference to man’s being:, Spirit, mind, heart, and Intellect. The terms used in the,Quranic doctrines are more or less analoguous i.e.
1. Ruh 2. Qalb 3. Nafs 4. ‘Aql.
These are the wards whlch are used to describe or refer to the various levels or dimensions of man’s inner self. In order to understnad the Muslim concept of psyche, one must discern these terms and understand there relationship to each other.
RUH: “They will question you about the spirit, say to them: The spirit (proceeds) from the Command (al-Amr) of my Lord “ (XVII, 84). This verse of the Quran is interpreted as signifying that spirit proceeds from the Divine Order and is itself at an ontological level immediately below that order. This is the breath which was infused in man; “And I breathed into him My Spririt”. By the word ar-Ruh what is meant is the universal spirit, which is present in all manlfestation and one of it’s manifestations is the individual soul or man. “The most ‘central’ image of the spirit on this earth is man”. Universal spirit is sometimes described as untreated (as in the above-quoted verse), sometimes as created as in the saying of the Prophet that “The first thing that God created is the Spirit”. Accordipg to Titus Burckharat, these two aspects of the spirit can be explained on the grounds that spirit is a mediator between the Divine Being and the conditioned universe. The uncreated aspect relates to Divine Being whereas the created aspect is reflected in the unviersal soul, created Intellect etx. Just as there is a Universal Spirit (ar-Ruh) i.e. a realm of the Spirit, similarly there is a universal soul or psyche (an-Nafs-al-Kulliyah); which can be called the psychic realm (عالم ملکوت ). The individual soul is conditioned by form whereas the universal soul is necessarily beyond form. In either case soul is to spirit as is substance to essence, or materia to forma. But soul will be discussed later on. For the present we are cocerned with the Spirit. “The sufi term for universal substance is al-Haba, which signifies literally the “fine dust” suspended in the air which becomes visible only by the rays of light it refracts. The symbolism of al-Haba illustrates the double nature of the Spirit, for it is the Spirit which illumines al-Haba and thus corresponds to the ray of light refracted by fine dust. Since the dust becomes visible only the to extent that it refracts light, the ray only shows as such on the screen of the dust”. T. Burckhardt concludes that the undifferentiated light symbolizes the uncreated Spirit while the light determined as a ray on the other hand symbolizes the created Spirit.
Since spirit is also comapred to the supreme pen (al-Qalma-al a’la) with which God inscribes all destinies on the guarded Tablet (al-Lawh- al-Mahfuz)” which itself corresponds to the universeal soul; it is said that spirit includes all the Divine knowledge concerning created beings. Among all the beings of this world man alone has a vision which in virtuality includes all things. Although, the direct and immediate content of human perception grasps the corporeal world which surrounds him, at its own level, it represents a complete picture of the unvierse. Through sensory forms man concieves both the subtle form and the spiritual essences, hence microcosm and macrocosm, man and universe are like mirrors reflecting each other. On the one hand man only exists in relation to the macrocosm which determines- him and on the other hand man knows the macrocosm and this means that all the possibilities which are unfolded in the world are principialy contained in man’s intellectual. essence. According to T. Burckhardt this is the meaning of the saying_ in the qur’an: “And the (God) taught Adam all the names (i.e. all the essences of beings and of things)” (ii, 31).
Among the Muslim thinkers, Ibn-e-Arabi has mainly emphasized the oneness of Being. He believes that the uncreated aspect of Ruh which is present in man is essentially one with God. Hence man is the perfect manifestation of divine attributes and names.
The totality of Divine Qualities constitute what Sufism calls the Divine form (as-surat at ilahiya) by allusion to the saying of the prophet: God created Adam in His form”. Ibn-e-Arabi also describes the process of unity with Divine essence as a mutual interpenetration of Divinity and man. The Divine nature becomes the content of human nature and man becomes his essential form.
The Ishraqi (illuministic) school divides all bodies into those who permit light to enter or do not permit it to enter or permit in various degrees. The first category is called ‘Lath’ and the soul is ascribed to this category i.e. it is subtle and is illumined by the light of the Spirit. On the other hand Ibn Sina designates soul and Spirit as two levels of an entity which he calls soul. At the transcendental level, it is pure and at the phenomenal level it enters the body, animates it and body is like a building for it. Ibn-Sina believes that the study of the first level of soul belongs to metaphysics whereas the study of the latter level belongs to the natural sciences. Ibn-Sina’s theory of being is emanationistic. From God who is primordial (التقویم ) flows the first inteligence or intellect (Al-Aql al-awwal) which is a synonym for the spirit (ar-Ruh). According to Ibn Sina, essence exists in God and in intellect prior to the individual existents examplifying them in the external world and they also exist in our mind posterior to these individual existents. For him, the human soul, although it is only a potential intellect at the beginning of its career is nevertheless an immaterial spiritual substance capable of existing independently of the body. Ibn Sina adheres to the Aristotelian defination of the soul (in the meaning of Nafs) as an entelechy of the body. But in it’s uncreated aspect i.e. essentially, it is above the body.
Ghazzali has expounded a theory which is essentially based on teachings of the Qur’an and the Tradition. he seems to believe that the human soul belongs t ‘alam-al-Jabarut, midway between the divine world and he material world and it has two meaning. Firstly there is that thing which proceeded from the Command of God i.e. the ray of the Divine sun. this is the Ruh, in the sense of Sprit. Secondly the life-force whcih vibrates the whole body like the current of electricity and imparts power to the limbs and sense organs. (Spirit and Ruh are often used in this sense in literature). He compares this force to the radition of a light from a lamp which enlightens the body. Thus it is a spiritual principle which having life in itself vitalizes the body and controls and regulates it. Body is it’s instrument and vehicle. “It is a subtle power which creates the heat of the heart”. The similarity of this concept with the “vital breath” of Hinduism and vital spirit of Hermetic tradition can be seen easily.
Shihab-ud-Din Surhrawardi Maqtual has also called the Ruh as a ray of the Divine Intellect. It can be seen that in all muslim thinkers as well as in the Quranic doctrines Being and knowledge are united in the Ruh. It is ‘Aql (intellect) as well as being; whereas in the next (lower) level of reality the knowledge is attributed to mind and being to body. Razi believes the Ruh to be eternal, and intellect of man to be created out of Divine substance. Ibn Miskawaih bears a platonian influence. He declares that essence of soul is motion. This motion is of two kinds one toward Intellect and other towards matter. The first motion brings man nearer to the source of the Intellect and thus it is illuninated and in turn illuminates the matter. This implies a transcendental aspect of the human self which is Ruh and a sensible self which is Nafs.
Any discussion of Ruh cannot be complete without mentioning Sadr ud Din Shirazi. 1VIulla-Sadra is greatly influenced by Ibn-Arabi as well as well as New-Platonism. He also believes in the onesness of Being and has used this doctrine to explain the nature of soul. He rejects Ibn Sina’s view that soul is relational concept. he argues that the relationships of soul to the body is not like that of any ordinary physical form to its matter.
All physical forms inhere in their matters in such a way that the two do not constitute a composite (murakkab) of two existentially distinguishable elements but are totally fused together to form a complete unity (ittihad), in existence and as a result the form works directly in the matter. However the soul works on it’s matter through the intermediacy of other lower forms or powers. Sadra therefore says that the soul is the entelechy of a material body in so far as it operates through faculties but he insists that the word “organs” does not mean “physical organs” like limbs, liver or stomach but faculties or powers through which the soul works as, for example, appetition, nutrition, and digestion. It is evident that he is talking here of (Nafs) and not or Ruh. Since he believes in the Oneness of Being, he sees Ruh as a single reality which is manifested at different levels. Being itself a manifestation of the Divine Essence, it, in turn, is manifested in Nafs and the faculties of Nafs. Spirit or Ruh is a higher and simpler level of existence than Nafs or soul. It is pure Being at the simplest and highest level where it is one with the Essence then it emerges as manifestation of Essence or “Self” as Intellect and contains all the possibilities of existence. Then it creates or rather permeats the soul or Nafs and is manifested in lower levels of existence i.e. animal, Vegetative etc. Thus it can be concluded that Ruh is seen as a unity in all experience which is manifested in different way in the human self.
It is evident from the ideas presented so far that the Islamic view of man’s self essentially includes an eternal, invisible, non-corporeal and transcendental element which is believed to have emanated from or created by God or Divine Self. It is identified as Ruh, or first intelligence. Soul or Nafs is a dimension or manifestation of this Spirit at a lower level of being or, from the point of view of Divine presences, Spirit is closer to the Divine Self than the soul and body and so on. Self is most present in Spirit and least present in body or matter. So now we will consider the next step in the hierarchy of being i.e. Nafs.
Nafs: While discussing the linguistic and connotative meanings of the word psyche, we had observed that in almost all languages, a subtle element or force (designated by wind, air or breath) was seen as imparting life and power of motion to the body and thus forming the inner dimension of man’s self. We have seen in the discussion of Ruh or spirit that it performs this very function but not directly. It is the core of man’s being yet it remains hidden. Muslim scholars designate Ruh to be the reflection of the Divine presence in man; this Ruh coming into contact with body forms a borderline area which connects corporeal aspect of man to his spiritual self and that area is Nafs or psyche. It is subtle but nevertheless contains forms (images,, sensations, ideas, etc), whereas the Ruh is formless. According to the tree symbolism, which is present in the doctrines of most of the religions, tree is a symbol of the soul macrocosmically as well as microcosmically; The Spirit is the root of the soul, the reason is it’s trunk through which the sap (intellect) flows from root to the whole tree. The other faculties are the branches and leaves of the tree. Hence the tree of the soul as it is manifest to us, is alive and flourishing only through the sap of the spirit. When this life giving vital element stops to flow, the tree starts to decay or fade. From the point of view of all sacred doctrines, this is what has happened to the modern man. But we will come back to it later. For the present we have seen that Nafs or soul or psyche as it may be called is the presence of the spirit at the level of subtle manisfestation and, as Mulla Sadra has explained, it works on matter through lower forms or powers. Same is true of Nafs or soul which works on matter through it’s faculties and organs. Hence, as Ghazzali has pointed out, Nafs or soul has two dimensions or aspects. The upward dimension is the uppermost limit of psyche which connects it to the spirit whereas the downward dimension (towards matter) is the sensory faculties which connect it to the body. We will see later on how various mental processes and faculties of man such as will, imagination, feeling, sensation and thinking are related to either of these two parts.
Many interpreters of Islamic doctrines, and Muslim thinkers too, have not distinguished between nafs and Ruh and designated both of them as-soul, at best dividing soul into vegetative, animal, sensory or rational. When these categories are mentioned in Muslim philosophy or metaphysics or in Greek thought from where Muslim philosophy has borrowed imensely they are used in reference to the universal soul which manifests itself at various levels i.e. animal, vegetative, human-rational or human-sensory modalities. In the individual man this universal soul is the Nafs which is not merely sum total of his desires, sensations and passions as is commonly thought but has a higher aspect as well in which it is nearer to the spirit or Ruh. Seen in a broader context, it belongs to the realm of subtle manifestation, to ‘Alam-e-Malakut and is existentially formal, individual and natural. In human beings, it corresponds to the mind and senses, as well as to vital spirit or animal soul which is the source of movement in body. Mulla Sadra differentiates between spirit and soul or Ruh and Nafs in following the reality of the nature of light i.e. pure essence which is neither substance nor an accident. Whereas the human soul although being in itself an reflection of this transcendent Ruh, behaves in relation to the body as a form or differentia. (Discussion of form and matter has been included in the previous chapter. Briefly it would suffice to explain that .in muslim terminology form and matter correspond to Surat (صُورت ) and mad dah, ( مادّہ )similar in meaning to essence and substance. Hence when Sadra says that soul is the form of the body he means precisely that body corresponds to the matter the, passive pole of existence i.e. the substance which has the ability to receive, whereas soul corresponds to the active pole, the essence or form which by meeting with substance creates all existence. At the cosmic or universal level form and matter correspond to forma and materia prima and when seen in relation with the individual domain, they are form and matter represented as soul and body).
For Ibn Sina, the human soul, although, it is only potential intellect at the beginning of it’s career,is nevertheless an immaterial spirit substance capable of existing independently of the body. The body is there to serve the purpose of it’s realization as actual intellect. Hence soul is definable as form of the body but the transcendental dimension of the soul, that is, Ruh must not be confused with the vegetative or animal soul which is inseparable from the body. However Ibn Sina cautions us not to confuse the definition human soul with the Universal Soul or World Soul which are enternally immaterial substances. (The distinction of essence and substance works at all levels of being as explained earlier. Now we will carry on with the discussion of the human soul. In an analogy it is likened to the porous atmosphere which surrounded the earth. As Huston Smith has written “There is a dimension of ourselves that exceeds even the stratosphere, an essence no universe, subtle or gross can contain. The ancients called it soul (Psyche, anima, sarira atman, nephesh or nafs) and....we can call it the final locus of our individuality, indeed we can feel it any time as the centre of our consciousness, it is the I, in comparison to which all other i.e. our personality, mind is external”. This is precisely, what is meant by the term psyche or Nafs.
T. Burckhardt defines different meanings of Nafs as following:
1, an-Nafs al-Kulliya: the Universal Soul which includes all individual souls. This corresponds to the Gaurded Tablet and is the complement of the spirit ar-Ruh or First Intellect and is analogous to the psyche of Plotinus.
2. an-Nafs: the soul, the psyche, the subtle reality of an individual, the ‘I’. As opposed to the Spirit or the Intellect (‘AqI) the “nafs” appears in a negative aspect, because it is made up of the sum of individual or egocentric tendencies. But a distinction is made between:
1. an-nafs al-haywaniyah: the animal soul, the soul as passively obedient to natural impulses…
2. an-nafs al-ammarah: the soul which commands, the passionate, egoistic soul.
3. an-nafs al-lawwamah; ‘Soul which blames”, the soul aware of it’s own imperfections.
4. an-nafs al-mutmainnah: ‘the soul at peace, the soul reintegrated in the Spirit and at rest in certainty. The last three of these expressions are from the Quran; Relevant verses read as follows:
And I do call to witness the
self reproaching soul (LXXV:2)
The human soul is prone to evil (XII:53)
to evil. (XII:53)
(To the righteous soul will be said):
“O (thou) soul, in complete
rest and satisfaction! (LXXXIX, 27)
It is also said in the Quran that (on the day of judgement) man will be evidence against his Nafs. (LXXV:14) This confirms the presence of an element or central entity in man which is above the desires and passions ,of nafs and which will survive the bodily death but will exist as individual spirit so that it can be questioned about it’s earthly life. Indeed we all have experienced from time to time, the conflict between will and desire. Martin Lings has written that will belongs to the spirit, since it transcends the nafs and cam move men to act contrary to his desires, even pleasures. It is because of this faculty of man that he will be held responsible for what he has done. The creator is well aware of the tendencies of the human soul or nafs; He knows the weakness, as well as the power of the nafs. Though man is prone to loose sight of his origin and it is in his nature to seek pleasure but he also has the will with which he can control his Nafs- alammarah, and thus maintain a balance in his self. As Imam Ghazzali has pointed out, the essential element of the soul is not thought, perception or imagination but will through which he comes to realize his spiritual possibilities. The fact that man can change from the state of the passionate, egoistic soul (nafs-al ammarah) through a great deal of conscious conflict and deliberate effort, necessarily suggests that he is free in his will. Actually, Ghazzali recognizes three stages of being in which will is employed. The lowest or the material world has the absolute necessity of God’s will since matter has no will. Secondly, there is the psychical and sensuous world where a relative sort of freedom is recognized, hence the human will is excercised. Whereas in the Divine realm absolute freedom exists and thus absolute will of which man’s will is a relative and incomplete reflection.
The tendencies of nafs are enumerated by Suhrawardi as well as Ghazzali who equates them with spiritual diseases. -They are among other:
1. Nifaq (Hypocracy)
2. Pride and arrogance
3. Hausa or desire.
7. Restlessness and levity.
8. Ostentatiousness or Riya.
when the will keeps a balance among these tendencies, man is at peace with himself, when these are allowed to rule him, he is disintegrated and weak.
This brings us to the concept of ego or Individual consciousness. As mentioned earlier, the nafs-ammarah is called the egotistical soul and the tendencies of the soul enumerated above can easily be seen as the tendencies of the ego in as far as they represent the self-centered attitude of the soul. When ego comes to dominate the self and recognizes no other entity apart from itself, man loses sight of his spirltual nature and is confined within the narrow realm of individual consciousness. This is the most detrimental and basic tendency of nafs i.e. to mistake it’s ego bound consciousness for total reality, and hence to act accordingly. The “I” with which we usually identify is the locus of subjective reality, and consciousness, the most immediate reality for us in reference to which we identify things as other than us. But this stream of consciousness or locus of subjective reality is not the total reality nor the real core of our being. The greatest error of nafs lies in believing that it is. Descartes committed this same kind of error when he said “Je pease donc Je Suis”. Most of the “Spiritual diseases” so called by Ghazzali arise or follow from this basic error. As T. Burckhardt has written; “in the mind ‘to be’ becomes dissociated from ‘to know’ and in the process of man’s degeneration it leads to all other ruptures and separation”. This is what Sufi teachings seek to prevent; by putting Divine name against the tendencies of the ego, they hope to open “the eye of the heart” and to put man in touch with his inner self, so that he can know the truth. It is impossible for the heart to open up to the Divine Truth so long as the soul retains, even if not consciously, an attitude which denies the Truth; it is difficult to avoid this, since the domain of soul (an-nafs) is a priori governed by the egocentric illusion. That is why all disciplines aiming at ‘Irfan or gnosis give special importance to treatment of nafs and this also explains the tremendous emphasis laid on control and balance of the turmoils of Nafs in the Islamic doctrines. For such a knowledge concerning the hierarchical “placing” of the faculties of the soul is very important.
In sufism, the state of soul which has been spiritually regenerated is compared to a crystal which, though solid, is akin to light both in it’s transparency and in its rectilinear form. The various intellectual faculties are like the facets of this cyrstal, each one refracting in it’s own way the unique and limitless Intellect.
The faculty specific to men is thought (al-f ikr). Now the thought has two aspects: In it’s power of synthesis it manifests the central position of man in the world whereas on the existential level it is merely a mode of consciousness. As long it is under the guidance of the Intellect, it can reach great ideas but as it turns away from Intellect it becomes destructive. The double property of thought corresponds to the principle which sufis symbolize by the “Barzakh”; a point of juncture between two degrees of reality. As an intermediate agent it reverses the pencil of rays of light in the same manner as does a lense. In the structure of thought this inversion appears as an stripping itself of the immediate aspect of things and approaching the Universal, albiet incompletely. It is the Intellect which can truly strip bare (tajrid) the truth. The Intellect does not have as it’s immediate object the empirical existence of things but their permanent essences which are relatively “non-existing” since they are not manifested on the sensory plane. Now this purely Intellectual knowledge implies direct identification with it’s object and this criterion distinguishes the intellectual “vision” from rational working of mind. This vision does not exclude the sensory knowledge; rather it includes it since it is it’s essence. It seems appropriate to explain now the meaning of the term al-’Aql as it is used in Islamic doctrines since it is essential to the. concept of nafs. According to Abu-Bakr Sirajuddin Al-’Aql means above all ‘intellect’ but the Greek intellectus coincides only with the purely transcendent aspect of the ‘aql, whereas the Arabic word comprises in it’s meaning the whole range of the intelligence including even the reason, in virtue of what the reason was primordially and what it still remains virtually, that is, a conscious projection of the intellect, whose light, it distributes to the other faculties, knitting them together while remaining itself bound to it’s Divine root through the intellect. M. Hsan Askari has used the terms (عقل جزن) and ( عقل کُل ) for Intellect and reason respectively. Maulana Rumi has also emphasized the difference between reason and intellect. We can refer again to the image of the tree discussed earlier. Abu-Bakr Sirajuddin has also used another simile to explain the relationship of reason and intellect: According to the doctrine of correspondence between the macrocosm and the microcosm, the holders of temporal power, that is, the king and his delegates, are the counterpart, in the macrocosm of the faculty of reason in the microcosm, whereas the representatives of spiritual authority correspond to the Intellect. Below the reason and normally under it’s control are the faculties of imagination and emotion and the faculties of sense. In order to excercise it’s royal function over these, the reason has need of the priestly sanction which comes to if from the Intellect, for it depends on the Intellect for knowledge of the higher principles upon which it’s government must be based. When direct contact with the Intellect is broken ( as is the case with modern man) religion serves as the sanction giving authority, and fullfils the function of the Intellect and the rites or rituals of religion are the movements to and fro which keep the channels open for a free flowing of the intellect to reason. ‘Aql-e-Juzi: or reason is the faculty of discursive and analytical thought, whereas Intellect or ‘Aql-e-kulli is the faculty of intuition. In the attainment of self, the latter is the main -source though reason helped by intellect can discern certain theoretical aspects of the truth. Hence spiritual experiences are supra-rational and should not be confused with irrational, which is equivalent to the animal soul in man.
The organ in body which is associated with Intellect is the heart. The Quran says “:It is not the eyes that are blind but the hearts”. (XXII:46) In virtue of being the centre of the body, the heart may be said to transcend the rest of the body. T.Burckhardt defines it as the organ of suprarational intuition which corresponds to the heart just as thought corresponds to the brain. Just as mind transcends the brain, so the spiritual heart transcends the physical heart. Spirit is both knowledge and being. In man these two aspects are in a way polarized as reason and heart. The heart marks what we are in the light of eternity, while the reason marks what we think. This is al-Qalb in Islam which is identical with the Divine Presence and which can attain vision of this presence, through the eye of the heart. Seen from this angle, the heart also represents the presence of the spirit in both aspect, that is, knowledge as well as Being, for it is both the organ of intuition al-kashf and also the point of identification wajd with Being al-wujud. “The heavens and the earth cannot contain me, but the heart of my believing slave hath room for me”, Hadith Qudsi. From this point of view, al-qalb) can be considered as synonymous with the “Spirit” which has a Divine as well as a created aspect; and one of the great symbols of the spirit is the sun which is the heart of our universe.
After the classification of these basic concepts of Muslim psychology which are at the same time what may be called higher levels of self, we will now come back to the discussion.
The Faculties of Mind
Among the earliest schools which bears a detailed (but crude) analysis of psyche some information about Ikhwan-al Safa is available. It was a group of ethicophilosophers who wished to form a community of the elites of the hetrogeneous Muslim empire. They have included a lot of scientific material contained in Greek thought but tried to integrate it with their esoteric doctrines. According to their psychological theory, the soul has three major faculties or powers; I, The vegetative or nutritive soul common to all living beings i.e. plants, animals and man alike. It is subdivided into three functions; nutritive, growth and reproduction
II; the animal or sensible soul belongs to beasts and men only. It is subdivided into locomotion and sensation. Sensation has two categories: Perception (sight, touch etc) and emotion. Emotion is either primitive (laughter, anger, etc) or acquired (good food, social and political prestige). etc.
III; The human (rational, thinking and expressive) soul is limited to man. These three faculties together with their powers work jointly and are united in man as nafs. They are compared to a tree with three boughs, every bough having branches and fruit. Contrary to the ancient belief, Ikhwan-ul-Safa designated the brain, as the seat of sensation and centre of intelligence. It is in the brain that the processes of perceptions, emotion and conceptions develop. The process of cognition begins in the five senses and continues in the brain where they form a net similar to a spider’s web. Whenever the senses come in touch with sensible . bodies, their temperament undergoes a change which is communicated soon, together with the abstract forms of these sensible bodies, to the imaginative zone in the front of the brain. Next the imaginative faculty passes the traces which the abstract forms have left on it, to the reflective faculty, in the middle part of the brain to ponder upon them and verify their indications. Then the indications are transmitted in turn to the retentive faculty or (memory) in the back part of the brain to be stored there until a recollection of them is needed.
After the required time, the relevant data is referred to the expressive or speech faculty by which they are abstracted, generalized and given the form expressible by the tongue to be received intelligibly by the ear.
Compared to this simple theory of mental processes, Mulla Sadra’s concepts are highly complex and profound but they nevertheless present a comprehensive and cosmic view of man’s psyche and this is what renders them so difficult. Sadra admits that soul operates through different faculties, but these faculties are not independent or quasi-independent entities possessing essential differences, as- vegetative or animal species do. Their differentiation is merely though accidents of the human soul in the sense that some of them function in time prior to other, also through localization of different functions through different organs. Sadra says that “soul is all the faculties” thought it is not merely an aggregate if those faculties, but multiplicity of a unified principle at the individual level. What is multiplicity at one level, is unity at a higher lever. Faculties are the manifestation (mazahir) of the soul, at their own level they are real, at a higher level they are reabsorbed into the essence of the soul. They are related to the soul as cosmic beings or angels re related to God.”
Another problem which Sadra has raised is question of mental existence (al-wujud-al-dhihni). He claims to have proved this existence, by showing that since, in sense‑ perception, the external material object in itself cannot be presented to the mind and hence known, the soul must create a corresponding form, of it’s own nature. This is not only true of the images which the soul creates from within itself, but also of the protoype forms of all created things. Sadra, together with Ghazzali and, Ibn-Arabi believes in the doctrine of the “world of images” (Alam al‑ Mithal) which is somewhat similar to Plato’s concept of archetypes. According to this doctrine, the ontological structure of reality comprises three worlds - that of Divinity, (of pure ideas and intellectual entities) of the celestial ( of pure images and figures) and of material bodies. Since human soul, rather all souls, belong to the celestial world, the Primordial forms exist in them i.e. in their intellect. However, since the ordinary soul’ cannot perceive them fully due to it’s preoccupation with corporeal existence and hence mind forms “essences” which come to behave as “universal” applicable to different species, whereas reality is not essence but a spectrum of existences, but mind failing to grasp or follow the continuity of being in a hierarchical order, sees each level as separate. “Nevertheless, the mind’s operation with them is also a reality of it’s own order and it is true that in some sense, all froms, sensible, imaginative or intellective exist in the mind”. Sadra further says that the mind looks upon the external world and operates upon it with notions, concepts of. essences (ma’ni, mfhim, mhiyt). As for sense perceptions, it’s subject is also the soul and not the sense organs or the sense faculty: “You may say that visual faculty which is in the eye is the organ which perceives the perceptive object and then transmits what it has perceived through the connection which exist between it and yourself and thus you gain an awareness of the thing which the visual faculty has already perceived.------For the knowledge that the ‘eye’ sees the ‘ear’ hears’, the ‘feet’ walk and the ‘hand’ seizes is not identical with seeing, hearing, walking and seizing any more than our knowledge that someone else is hungry, pleased or feels pain is identical with our feeling hungry, pleased or pained”.
Physical organs are required for sense perception but not intrinsically since all material world is accidental. Sadra believes that pure souls when they are separated from the body can have all the perceptions, whereas on physical world the organs mediate. In saying this Sadra is confirming what parapsychology has only now discovered. He says that this is a psychic phenomenon which has been experienced. Dreams also point towards the fact that soul in the state of sleep can “float” in the psychic sphere and what it perceives there comes to us as dreams.
Coming back to the discussion of the sensory faculty, it seems that almost all Muslim thinkers have considered the sense perception as the lowest and most peripheral kind of knowledge. It is only in corporeal existence that the soul needs them. But we must not forget that in Islam (as in other traditions) it is believed that every sensory faculty whether it be hearing, seeing, smelling, taste or touch-implies a unique essence which distinguishes it in quality from the other faculties and this essence has it’s prototype in pure Being. For the spiritual man who realizes Being in relation to one of these prototypes, the respective faculty becomes the direct expression of the universal Intellect so that he experiences the eternal essences of things. It is said that even intuition sometimes occurs in form of a vision, sound or taste (ruyah, soma’ and dhawq respectively).
However we are not talking here of spiritual man who is in any case a “developed soul” but average person, for whom sense perception is no more than the experience of external material existence. As discussed earlier, sensations are among the elementary mental processes of man which are intimately and inseparably attached to the physical sense-organs, or as Sadra says they are vehicles of essential or potential sense faculties. Shurawardi as well as Ishraqi school of thought has discussed the presence of an animal soul which aids the appetitive soul (nafs) in it’s basic physical life-processes. Appetitive soul or nafs is the source of desires and impulses whereas the animal soul is the moving force inside the body. This brings us to another important concept in muslim psychology which we will now discuss.
Vital Spirit or ar-ruh: It is somewhat similar to what Hindus call prana and alchemists call spiritus: it is a subtle modality intermediate between the immortal soul and the body. This ar-ruh is relative, undifferentiated; it includes not only spatially delimited body but also the sensory faculties with their spheres of experience. It is to the Divine Spirit as the circumsference of a circle is to it’s centre”. Suhrawardi believes this vital spirit to be the source of such functions as digestion, respiration and the whole metabolism. Similarly Ishraqi’s have attributed the power of nutrition, growth, motion, reproduction and desire to this force. The similarity of this concept with the vital Spirit of Hermetism is easily observable.
In his detailed account of animal motion, Ibn Sina has enumerated four stages of third motion (1) imagination or reason, (2) desire (3), impulsion and (4) movement of the muscles. According to him in most cases the cognitive act preceeds the affective and the conative ones, but this is not necessarily true in all cases. “All (the appetitive and conative) faculties also follow imaginative faculties But sometimes it happens e.g.; in cases of physical pain, that our natural impulse tries to remove the cause of pain and thus initiates the process of stiring up imagination. In this case it is these (appetitive) faculties which drive the imagination to their purpose. Just as in most cases it is vice versa”. Thus according to Ibn Sina, the initiation of the animal motion can lie in the affections as well as in the cognitive states.
As mentioned earlier, the five sensory faculties are f reflection of the eternal essences which pertain to the higher levels of being in the hierachy of Existence. In order to understand this, we must remember a basic principle; in every revealed tradition, the concept of being or existence is heirachical i.e. one ultimate reality is manifested at different levels, of being that range from the lowest to the highest, from relative to the Absolute. F. Schuon has explained this principle though his theory of coagulation taking place at each stage from pure Being to matter. These different levels of being are like mirrors reflecting each other. (As above so below, says Hermetism) Each reality or aspect of reality has complementary modes on all levels of reality. We have seen this principle working in case of the Taoist concept of yin-yang which corresponds to feminine - masculine or passive-active poles of manifestation. Hence while discussing metaphysical concepts, one must keep in mind what Guenon calls the “law of inverted analogy”. Be it a word, a principle or a material reality it has different connotations according to the level to which it is applied. And if we are considering it at various levels, all those dimensions must be taken into account. Through this slight diversion from our present theme, it has become clear that this law also applies to our theme. The five sensory faculties are only an extension of a one and single state of being i.e. human state, and are therefore “horizontal” that is confined to this state, bound by time and space and do not rise above it. They nevertheless adhere to the law of inverted analogy and therefore each of them corresponds to or manifests an essence present at a higher level of being. Thus it is said that man is distinguished among all the creatures for his being the viceregent of Allah. Development of this quality (viceregency) depends on the outward sense faculties. Its detail is as follows.
(1)Vision corresponds to the manifest order (2) taste corresponds to the intermediate realm (3) Smell corresponds to the realm of the Spirit (4) Hearing corresponds to the domain of the non-manifest since its function comprise of hearing the sounds that are hidden (5) Touch corresponds to the principle of synthesis because it could be made by any part of the body at every point. This faculty thus encompasses the whole being. Askari further says that apart from these five external senses we also posses five internal sensory faculties, which are:
(1) Common Sense (this is not used here in the everyday meaning of the term but it is understood to be a integrative faculty which assimilates the forms received though all the other senses).
2. al-khayal 3. al-wham 4. al-hafizah 5. Mutasarrifah. These can be roughly translated and explained as follows: When the sense organs are stimulated and the external sense faculties receive forms or sensations from the external world, they convey it to the common sense. It is this faculty, (common sense), which gives rise to perception by integrating and assimilating or combining the sensations into a meaningful perception. It is likened to a pool in which all small channels (five senses) pour in their waters, or to spies who bring news for their emperor. Al-khayal is called imagination by T. Burckhardt and Guenon. It, not only serves as a tool for common sense but also as a treasurer. Which means that when perceptions have disappeared or sensations have been experienced it preserves them. Now perceptions and forms are also preserved by al-hafizah or memory; only difference being that khayal can only preserve those forms which have been conveyed by external senses while hafiza can preserve and retain forms received from internal as well as external senses. Thus hafizali or memory is a tool and treasurer of wahm. Memory, as a faculty of retaining impressions, is passive and ‘earthly’ and it is called al- hafizah in this relationship: in so far as it is the act of recollection (adhdhikr) it is directly connected with the intellect, for this act refers implicitly to the timeless presence of the essences, although they cannot appear as such in the mind. This second meaning or dimension of memory which concerns the intellect is similar to the concept of reminescence in Plato’s theory of knowledge. Plato held that all knowledge or may be all learning was a reminescence of what spirit had seen in the world of the archetypes, prior to it’s descent into the phenomenal world. Askari relates a similar story in the Quranic context; it says that God had enquired of the soul (in the spiritual realm) prior to creation; “am I not your Lord” and soul had replied in affirmative. Coming to live in the sensible world, the soul forgets it’s commitment to it’s creator and the intellect is clouded by the phenomenal existence. The function of all sufi, rather all esoteric disciplines (suluk), is to remove the veil of inadvertence and remind the soul of it’s eternal source of being since in essence man is existentially as he was at the beginning of his world, spiritual recollection (dhikr) addresses itself “vertically” to the essence of man.
The mode of working of the mind which is complementary to reason is passive imagination. In relation to the intellectual pole of the mind passive imagination may be considered as it’s plastic material; thus it corresponds by analogy to the materia prima on which the plastic continuity of the ‘cosmic dream’ depends just as, subjectively, it depends on imagination. Thus in sufi psychology imagination is that faculty which not only preserves the perceived forms but also recalls when they have disappeared. It is through this faculty that we recognize previously perceived forms. Imagination has the negative aspect that it binds intelligence to the level of sensory forms but it also has a positive aspect; it can grasp symbolic form as well as can fix intellectual intuitions or inspirations in the form of symbols. In this later function it becomes manipulative faculty of mind which is the fifth and last inner faculty stated above i.e. Mutasarrifah. We discuss it here because, together with khayal it forms what is called imagination in psychological terminology. In Muslim psychology it is treated separately, though only in a manner of technical definition. Otherwise these inner senses or intellectual faculties are not entirely separate from each other; they are termed so to mark the qualitative and functional differences. Just as the sensus communis, integrates sense data into percepts, the manipulative faculty acts upon the images which are conserved by imagination and memory, through separation and combination, (of form-form, form-essence and essence- essence). It can also create images or forms which do not exist as such, (e.g; a winged person flying in the air). If a two headed person, and a headless person is imagined, the first is an example of form-form combination whereas second is an example of a form-form separation (one form has been separated from the other). Whereas the association of fear with a black huge object is association of an essence with a form. In all these examples the basic forms or essences were taken from the sense-data (head, man, fear, flying etc., and manipulated by the mutasarrifah, which works under the active imagination (wahm) as well as under passive imagination (khayal). In the former case it can be called fancy or fanciful imagination, in- the latter thinking or fikr. The process of problem solving comes “under this faculty of fikr. The fanciful imagination creates two kinds of things; imaginative and conjural. The first is created out of data conserved by khayal whereas the second is contrived and it is inexistent otherwise.
Now, remains al-wahm (active imagination), the most powerful among all faculties, to be explained. The function of wham is to discover specific meanings in specific forms, or to infer universals from particulars, whether these forms are real or unreal, perceived or unpercieved. This faculty or power presents sensations as abstractions and can reduce the universals to particulars. The example given that of a sheep who perceives threat in the form of wolf whether he has seen that wolf before or not; he infers a general principle as regarding all similar situations and species even though world is a particular form. This faculty is present in animals as well thus wahm is not bound to reason. Some sufi writers, including ‘Abd al-Karim al- Jill have called al-wahm the dark pole of mind because it is the power of conjecture, suggestion, opinion, suspicion and illusion. The power of illusion of the mind is attracted by every un-exhausted negative possibility. When this power dominates imagination, the latter becomes a great obstacle to spirituality;” the worst thing your soul suggests to you is suspicion” (Hadith). Wahm is considered most powerful because it manipulates the percepts of all senses, internal as well as external, and can conjure up images or ideas from them; in fact it can use the conceptions of reasons as well, and make them appear irrational. Sleep or awake it is working all the time in our mind, and has no organized manner of working. Thus it is an extremely dangerous tool and is best kept under the control of a higher faculty i.e. reason. When wham is bound to reason it’s judgement are trustworthy, if it is left free and uncontrolled it can lead to errors and when it is under the guidance of intellective intuition it is all the more authentic. According to Ibn Sina wahm operates at different levels. At one level it is purely instinctival (as perception of danger in the form of wolf) and mother’s love for the child. Secondly, it also operates at a quasi-empirical level. This is the association of ideas or images from memory. Thus wahm is able to assimilate ideas, understand symbols and create images and uses all senses in this process, so it is said that all creative act as well comprehension of abstractions in poetry and art is made possible by wahm.
It must be remembered in connection with these sense faculties that they are not, as it were, strictly separate from each other. It is even said that like facing mirrors they mutually reflect each other. Since common sense is the composite of five external senses it is even possible that they are also reflected in each other i.e. percepts of one sense change into the percepts of the other. Such experiences often occur in poetry, specially in ancient persian poetry.
Another interesting point to be made here is that Muslim musicians have used the term khayal for a special mode of music. Askari observes that the use of this word in classical music denotes that this branch of music known as khayal is an attempt to bring back to consciousness or perception the forms which have been perceived before or create images of different realities. Even when classical notes of music are confined to the external senses, they can allude to a higher level of reality since as stated earlier, all these senses correspond to a level of heirarchical being, and if the listener as well as the musician has the ability, the stimulation of a sense can evoke perception of a higher reality. (It should be remembered here that khayal as used in music is a general term for all inner senses). Hence it is said that every sense faculty has two dimensions, one opens up towards Truth and the other towards falsity i.e. The world. It is written in the Quran that Almighty has gifted man with ears, eyes and heart so that he can know his Lord.
The heart is to the other faculties what the sun is to the planets: it is from the sun that these receive both their light and their impulsion. this analogy is built by Abd-al-Karim al-Jili in his book al-Insan al-Kamil (Universal Man). According to this symbolic order, saturn, the most distant of the planets visible to the naked eye corresponds to intellect-reason. (al’aql). Just as the heaven of saturn includes all the other planetary heavens, intellect-reason embraces all things; moreover the “abstract”, “cold” and “saturnian” character of reason is opposite to the solar and central nature of the heart, which marks intellect in it’s “total” and existential aspect. Mercury symbolizes thought (al-fal-fikr), Venus imagination (al-Khayal), Mars the active imagination or conjectural faculty (al-wahm), Jupiter spiritual aspiration (al-himmah) and the moon the vital spirit (ar- ruh).
From another point of view heart is compared to the moon which reflects the light of the divine sun. In this case, the phases of the moon correspond to the different states of receptivity of the heart. Philosophers have enumerated five internal and five external senses but sufi masters have attributed five sense modalities to the heart as well. Askari names them as 1. Light (نُور) 2. intellect (عقل) 3. Spirit (Ruh) 4. mystery (سحر) 5.
Hidden ( خفی) the most intimate center of the heart is called the mystery (as-Sirr) and this the inapprehensible point in which the creature meets God. Ordinarily the spiritual reality of the heart is veiled by the egocentric consciousness; this assimilates the heart to it’s own centre of gravity which can be either mind or feeling according to the tendencies of a particular person.
So far we have discussed different components of man’s subtle self, dwelt upon the nature of human soul (nafs) explained the mental faculties and their functions and have seen how they are placed in a hierarachical order of reality and related to their cosmic dimensions. As Islam believes that the innermost core of man’s being lies deeper than the egocentric consciousness, muslim psychologists have not laid much stress on consciousness as a state of man’s self which is peripheral state as compared to the deepest nucleus of his ;selfhood. Nevertheless, as locus of immediate, subjective reality, which is the “I”, phenomenon of consciousness is worth considering. It is also a mode of awareness. Speaking of consciousness in general terms, Guenon says that consciousness should be considered as a characteristic inherent to certain categories of phenomenon produced in the human being or as a continuity of this phenomenon. From the traditional point of view, it is not a particular state, nor is it the only distinctive characteristic of the individual human state. Still, while studying the extra-corporeal modalities of this state, traditional point of view is not at all similar to that of psychology. The former considers consciousness to be a condition of existence in certain states (but not necessarily in the sense of corporeal existence), and what might sound a little strange at first, as a raison d’etre of these states, since it is a manifestation through which the individual being participates in the universal intelligence (‘Aql; or Buddhi in the Hindu doctrine). Naturally it is in the individual mental faculty of man that is inherent, in a determined form (individual consciousness). Inspite of essential limitations of consciousness in individual human state, it is susceptible to an indefinite extension and even in an ordinary person who has not specially developed his extra-corporeal modalities, it is extended further than generally suspected. It is no doubt true, Guenon says, that the clear and vivid consciousness is not all the consciousness, but only a part of it and what it leaves out is far more complex than itself, but what psychologist take as sub-conscious is merely a convenient term for all that they do not know or do not include among the phenomenon which they study: It is as it appears from their relative point of view, and they always forget to envisage a “superconscious” corresponding to a sub-conscious since consciousness can extend itself above as well as below. In reality, the sub-conscious as well as superconscious are no more than simple prolongations of consciousness; and this prolongation does not take us into the realm of the unconscious (which is outside consciousness) but on the contrary includes all that can be properly called individual consciousness. Hence, individual consciousness can be sufficient to take account of all that (from mental point of view) takes place in the individual domain; and it remains a unified consciousness. It is true that the “unity of self” which is ordinarily seen is quite illusory but it can be explained on the grounds that the plurality and complexity which exist in consciousness is due to it’s prolongation into certain remote and obscure states like the one which could be called “organic consciousness” and above all those which are manifested in the state of dream.
Dreams and the dream State: This gives us an opportunity to turn our attention to an important psychic phenomena namely dreams. Indeed dreams are the most revealing expression of our psyche and one which lies much deeper than other levels of experience. As mentioned in reference to Mulla Sadra, dreams are perceptions of the soul when it moves away from the body for a while. Even though psyche is said to retire or disengage itself during sleep, the vital spirit (ar-ruh) remains, thus the essential processes life i.e. respiration and metabolism continue whereas most psychic functions related to the world of senses are suspended. As Huston Smith has explained in agreement with Mulla Sadra, in dream the subtle body retires from the gross; the communication lines to it’s physical senses are disconnected and it returns to it’s natural medium - for the duration of it’s “home leave” it swims untrammeled in the physchic sphere. Since this is it’s native habitat - the environment that is continuous with the stuff of which the mind is composed - the home-coming refreshes and restores. “He giveth his beloved sleep.” This process is also referred in the Quran in the following manner: “Allah it is who taketh away souls at the time of their death and those which die not in their sleep. Then He withholdeth those on which he hath decread death and sendeth back the rest, for an appointed term. (XXXIX:42)
As discussed so many times during the course of this work according to the law of inverted analogy, all Divine attributes are reflected (in a more or less incomplete manner) in man who is the most central image of the spirit in this world. Now God’s quality of Peace is reflected in man in the form of sleep, but since it is incomplete (being of this world) it is only a transitory restful period. Moreover, unlike God, man is quite unconscious in his sleep whereas god is supreme Wakefulness.
Ordinary consciousness serves to illuminate only a restricted portion of Lie individual soul and the later represents but a minimal part of the psychic world. Nevertheless the soul is not isolated from the remainder of that world, It’s situation is not that of body rigorously limited by it’s own spatial extension and separated from other bodies. That which distinguishes the soul from the aggregate of the vast subtle world is solely it’s own particular tendencies, where by it is defined as a given spatial `direction defines the ray of light that follows it. By those same tendencies the soul is in communion with all the cosmic possibilities pertaining to analogous tendencies or qualities; it assimilates them and is assimilated to them. Therefore certain experiences of the psyche are not understandable in the light of phenomenal existence. Experience of the subtle world is subjective - except in the case of certain sciences unknown to us - because consciousness, in identifying itself with subtle forms, is affected by their tendencies, just as light is turned from it’s course by the form of a wave that it happens to traverse. The subtle world is made up of forms - that is to say, it comprises diversity and contrast - but these forms do not possess in themselves and outside their projections in sensible imagination, spatial and defined contours as in case of corporeal forms. They are entirely active or dynamic since pure activity belongs only to the “essential forms” or archetypes which are to be found in the world of the pure spirit. Now the ego or individual soul is itself one of the forms of the subtle world, so that the consciousness that espouses this form is necessarily dynamic and exclusive, realizes other subtle from only in so far as these become modalities of it’s own egoic from.
Thus it is that in the dream state individual consciousness, even while being reabsorbed in the subtle world, nonetheless remains turned back on itself. All the forms it lives which in that state present themselves as simple prolongations of the individual subject, or atleast appear so in retrospect and in as much as they verge on the state of wakefulness. The consciousness of the dreamer is not impermeable to influences originating from the most diverse “regions” of the subtle world, (as is proved now by telepathic or premonitory dreams experienced by so many people). In truth if the imagery of dream is woven from the very “substance” of the subject a “substance” that is none other than the progressive actualization of his own psychic form - it nonetheless manifests incidentally and at varying degrees realities of a cosmic order.
The images one retains on waking from a dream generally represent only a small part or shadow of the psychic form one lived in the state of dream; a sort of decantation or evaporation takes place but there exist nevertheless, a certain category of dreams well known to traditional Islamic on esoteric sciences, the remembrance of which persists with incisive clearness even if the profound contents are concealed.
Since there are dreams of divine or angelic inspiration, there must also exist their contrary namely dreams of satanic impulsions containing caricature of sacred forms. It is said in the hadith that “the satan tries to ape the divine forms and spreads his throne between the heaven and the earth”. It will be recalled here that in the picture of reality according to islamic doctrines the psychic realm is intermediate i.e. analogicaly placed between the celestial (Heavens) and the terrestrial ( earth ). It is for this reason that Islam teaches that the rebellion against God takes place on the level of the Psyche: body, is only an instrument for the tendencies originating within the psyche. both the angelic and the demonic forces manifest themselves in this intermediate psychic plane which is neither material nor spiritual. Hence the emphasis on the control of nafs and the importance of the domination of reason on wahm.
But one fact has been somewhat deliberately ignored so far in this discussion since it could have led to a region we. know little about; it will be broached now. It is stated again and again in the Qur’an, hadith, Muslim ethics, philosophy sufi doctrines and the sayings of the great Muslim saints, that the human psyche (nafs) is treacherous and it works in secret, unfelt, subtle tactics. Hence man must be on guard against his own inner self. This implies that the motives of nafs are not entirely and always conscious nor are it’s diverse tactics. Secondly in the discussion of dreams it became evident that the human psyche is prone to the influence of angelic as well as internal forces since psyche is of the same nature as the psychic realm (which is the universal prototype of individual psyche) and the psychic realm is intermediate between the celestial and the terrestrial similarly human or individual psyche is as middle region between the spirit and the body. Influences from the dark side of nature or sub-human depths are negative whereas those from the Spirit are positive and illuminative. But neither of them is available to the immediate consciousness though they bear a subtle unperceptible influence on the workings and impulsions of the psyche.
In Muslim families, there is an ancient custom, going back to the earliest times, that when a child is born; immediately after birth, an elder male member recites azan (prayer call) in his ears which starts from the statement of the greatness of Allah. The first sensory stimuli to reach him should be the Divine Name. It is symbolic no doubt but it is significant, presenting sense-stimuli at an age when child has little consciousness, since an individual soul has only recently been separated from it’s source i.e. spiritual realm it is yet unclouded by phenomenal impressions and hence relatively pure. Will it preserve this first sound of the Divine Name? Obviously, there must be this very idea behind it; it cannot be a meaningless ritual. And finally we refer to a prayer of the prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) which reads as follows. “0’ almighty, forgive me for my sins and omissions, those which I remember and those which I do not;”
These two latter examples obviously allude to a personal aspect of the unconscious whereas earlier points referred to the universal aspect. What do these signify? That what can properly be called unconscious part of our psyche, seems to contain positive as well as negative possibilities, personal as well as universal? We will leave this discussion right here and will take it up in the next part since in order to further explain this concept we will have to refer to all other traditions we have studied in this research as well as to take a look at the modern perspective.
What has been said so far in this chapter can be summed up as follows: From the Islamic concept of ultimate reality which is inseparably related to the concept of psyche, it can be concluded that all reality and all being is a manifestation of the Divine principle and it emanates from this principle in a heirarchical order from God to matter. Man is a microcosm which reflects the macrocosm (universe). He is composed of body (jasad) soul (nafs) and Spirit, (ar-Ruh). The body pertains to matter and spirit to God, thus psyche is the intermediate plane (in universe) and mediating force in man between spirit and body. Spirit corresponds to the intellect or ‘Aql which is the faculty through which man can achieve gnosis of mar’ifat. Spirit is transcendent and is the centre of man’s being. Where as nafs or soul is attached to the body in it’s downward or corporeal tendency and to the spirit in it’s upward or spiritual tendency. Soul is composed of five internal and five external faculties which pertain to brain and the highest faculty is the will which is the power of decision and implementation in man. Apart from this soul is moved by the vital spirit, or ar-ruh which can be compared to a life-force, and which carries on the vital functions.
Although, sense organs and faculties bring knowledge of external as well as internal experiences, the conscious centre to which one identifies as “I” is none other than the soul but this is not the core i.e. spirit is not available to consciousness, and. Sufic teachings lead man to an awareness of the Self, (deepest level of self) which is identical with Truth.