The Development of Metaphysics in Persia Part 12

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(5). The power of combining images and ideas, e.g. the winged man. When this faculty works under the guidance of the power which perceives individual ideas, it is called Imagination; when it works under the control of Intellect, it is called Conception.

But it is the spirit which distinguishes man from other animals. This essence of humanity is a "unity", not oneness. It perceives the Universal by itself, and the particular through the external and the internal senses. It is the shadow of the Absolute Light, and like it manifests itself in various ways--comprehending multiplicity in its unity. There is no necessary relation between the spirit and the body.

The former is non-temporal and non-spatial; hence it is changeless, and has the power of judging the visible multiplicity. In sleep the spirit uses the "ideal body" which functions like the physical body; in waking life it uses the ordinary physical body. It follows, therefore, that the spirit stands in need of neither, and uses both at will. Hadi does not follow Plato in his doctrine of transmigration, the different forms of which he refutes at length. The spirit to him is immortal, and reaches its original home--Absolute Light--by the gradual perfection of its faculties. The various stages of the development of reason are as follows:--

A. Theoretical or Pure Reason--

1{st} Potential Reason.

2{nd} Perception of self-evident propositions.

3{rd} Actual Reason.

4{th} Perception of Universal concepts.

B. Practical Reason--

1{st} External Purification.

2{nd} Internal Purification.

3{rd} Formation of virtuous habits.

4{th} Union with G.o.d.

Thus the spirit rises higher and higher in the scale of being, and finally shares in the eternity of the Absolute Light by losing itself in its universality. "In itself non-existent, but existent in the eternal Friend: how wonderful that it _is_ and _is not_ at the same time". But is the spirit free to choose its course? Hadi criticises the Rationalists for their setting up man as an independent creator of evil, and accuses them of what he calls "veiled dualism". He holds that every object has two sides--"bright" side, and "dark" side. Things are combinations of light and darkness. All good flows from the side of light; evil proceeds from darkness. Man, therefore, is both free and determined.

But all the various lines of Persian thought once more find a synthesis in that great religious movement of Modern Persia--Babism or Bahaism, which began as a S_h_i'ah sect, with Mirza 'Ali Mu?ammad Bab of S_h_iraz (b. 1820), and became less and less Islamic in character with the progress of orthodox persecutions. The origin of the philosophy of this wonderful sect must be sought in the S_h_i'ah sect of the S_h_aik_h_is, the founder of which, S_h_aik_h_ A?mad, was an enthusiastic student of Mulla ?adra's Philosophy, on which he had written several commentaries.

This sect differed from the ordinary S_h_i'ahs in holding that belief in an ever present Medium between the absent Imam (the 12{th} Head of the Church, whose manifestation is anxiously expected by the S_h_i'ahs), and the church is a fundamental principle of the S_h_i'ah religion.

S_h_aik_h_ A?mad claimed to be such a Medium; and when, after the death of the second S_h_aik_h_i Medium--?aji Kazim, the S_h_aik_h_is were anxiously expecting the manifestation of the new Medium, Mirza 'Ali Mu?ammad Bab, who had attended the lectures of ?aji Kazim at Karbala, proclaimed himself the expected Medium, and many S_h_aik_h_is accepted him.

The young Persian seer looks upon Reality as an essence which brooks no distinction of substance and attribute. The first bounty or self-expansion of the Ultimate Essence, he says, is Existence.

"Existence" is the "known", the "known" is the essence of "knowledge"; "knowledge" is "will"; and "will" is "love". Thus from Mulla ?adra's ident.i.ty of the known and the knower, he pa.s.ses to his conception of the Real as Will and Love. This Primal Love, which he regards as the essence of the Real, is the cause of the manifestation of the Universe which is nothing more than the self-expansion of Love. The word creation, with him, does not mean creation out of nothing; since, as the S_h_aik_h_is maintain, the word creator is not peculiarly applicable to G.o.d alone.

The Quranic verse, that "G.o.d is the best of creators",[188:1] implies that there are other self-manifesting beings like G.o.d.

[188:1] Sura 23; v. 14.

After the execution of 'Ali Mu?ammad Bab, Bahaullah, one of his princ.i.p.al disciples who were collectively called "The First Unity", took up the mission, and proclaimed himself the originator of the new dispensation, the absent Imam whose manifestation the Bab had foretold.

He freed the doctrine of his master from its literalistic mysticism, and presented it in a more perfected and systematised form. The Absolute Reality, according to him, is not a person; it is an eternal living Essence, to which we apply the epithets Truth and Love only because these are the highest conceptions known to us. The Living Essence manifests itself through the Univere with the object of creating in itself atoms or centres of consciousness, which as Dr. McTaggart would say, const.i.tute a further determination of the Hegelian Absolute. In each of these undifferentiated, simple centres of consciousness, there is hidden a ray of the Absolute Light itself, and the perfection of the spirit consists in gradually actualising, by contact with the individualising principle--matter, its emotional and intellectual possibilities, and thus discovering its own deep being--the ray of eternal Love which is concealed by its union with consciousness. The essence of man, therefore, is not reason or consciousness; it is this ray of Love--the source of all impulse to n.o.ble and unselfish action, which const.i.tutes the real man. The influence of Mulla ?adra's doctrine of the incorporeality of Imagination is here apparent. Reason, which stands higher than Imagination in the scale of evolution, is not a necessary condition, according to Mulla ?adra, of immortality. In all forms of life there is an immortal spiritual part, the ray of Eternal Love, which has no necessary connection with self-consciousness or reason, and survives after the death of the body. Salvation, then, which to Buddha consists in the starving out of the mind-atoms by extinguishing desire, to Bahaullah lies in the discovery of the essence of love which is hidden in the atoms of consciousness themselves.[190:1]

Both, however, agree that after death thoughts and characters of men remain, subject to other forces of a similar character, in the spiritual world, waiting for another opportunity to find a suitable physical accompaniment in order to continue the process of discovery (Bahaullah) or destruction (Buddha). To Bahaullah the conception of Love is higher than the conception of Will. Schopenhauer conceived reality as Will which was driven to objectification by a sinful bent eternally existing in its nature. Love or Will, according to both, is present in every atom of life; but the cause of its being there is the joy of self-expansion in the one case, and the inexplicable evil inclination in the other. But Schopenhauer postulates certain temporal ideas in order to account for the objectification of the Primordial Will; Bahaullah, as far as I can see, does not explain the principle according to which the self-manifestation of the Eternal Love is realised in the Universe.

[190:1] See Phelp's 'Abbas Effendi, chapter, "Philosophy and Psychology".


Let us now briefly sum up the results of our survey. We have seen that the Persian mind had to struggle against two different kinds of Dualism--pre-Islamic Magian Dualism, and post-Islamic Greek Dualism, though the fundamental problem of the diversity of things remains essentially the same. The att.i.tude of the pre-Islamic Persian thinkers is thoroughly objective, and hence the results of their intellectual efforts are more or less materialistic. The Pre-Islamic thinkers, however, clearly perceived that the original Principle must be dynamically conceived. With Zoroaster both the primary spirits are "active", with Mani the principle of Light is pa.s.sive, and the principle of Darkness is aggressive. But their a.n.a.lysis of the various elements which const.i.tute the Universe is ridiculously meagre; their conception of the Universe is most defective on its statical side. There are, therefore, two weak points in their systems:--

1. Naked Dualism.

2. Lack of a.n.a.lysis.

The first was remedied by Islam; the second by the introduction of Greek Philosophy. The advent of Islam and the study of Greek philosophy, however, checked the indigenous tendency towards monistic thought; but these two forces contributed to change the objective att.i.tude characteristic of early thinkers, and aroused the slumbering subjectivity, which eventually reached its climax in the extreme Pantheism of some of the ?ufi schools. Al-Farabi endeavoured to get rid of the dualism between G.o.d and matter, by reducing matter to a mere confused perception of the spirit; the As_h_'arite denied it altogether, and maintained a thoroughgoing Idealism. The followers of Aristotle continued to stick to their master's Prima Materia; the ?ufis looked upon the material universe as a mere illusion, or a necessary "other,"

for the self-knowledge of G.o.d. It can, however, be safely stated that with the As_h_'arite Idealism, the Persian mind got over the foreign dualism of G.o.d and matter, and, fortified with new philosophical ideas, returned to the old dualism of light and darkness. The S_h_aik_h_-al-Is_h_raq combines the objective att.i.tude of Pre-Islamic Persian thinkers with the subjective att.i.tude of his immediate predecessors, and restates the Dualism of Zoroaster in a much more philosophical and spiritualised form. His system recognises the claims of both the subject and the object. But all these monistic systems of thought were met by the Pluralism of Wa?id Ma?mud, who taught that reality is not one, but many--primary living units which combine in various ways, and gradually rise to perfection by pa.s.sing through an ascending scale of forms. The reaction of Wa?id Ma?mud was, however, an ephemeral phenomenon. The later Sufis as well as philosophers proper gradually transformed or abandoned the Neo-Platonic theory of Emanation, and in later thinkers we see a movement through Neo-Platonism towards real Platonism which is approached by Mulla Hadi's Philosophy. But pure speculation and dreamy mysticism undergo a powerful check in Babism which, unmindful of persecution, synthesises all the inherited philosophical and religious tendencies, and rouses the spirit to a consciousness of the stern reality of things. Though extremely cosmopolitan and hence quite unpatriotic in character, it has yet had a great influence over the Persian mind. The unmystic character and the practical tone of Babism may have been a remote cause of the progress of recent political reform in Persia.

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The Development of Metaphysics in Persia Part 12 summary

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