Presentation on theme: "Say (O Muhammad): "He is God, (the) One, The Self-Sufficient Master, He begets not, nor was He begotten; And there is none co-equal or comparable unto."— Presentation transcript:
The Cosmology of Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims Descent from perfection, return to perfection
THE EMANATION FROM INTELLECT A discussion between a father and his son concerning the emanation from al-ibda, including the two faces of nafs and the material world.
The source of creation? A time after our last talk – not long, mind you – my son approached me and asked Father, you said that aql was the source of all creation. What does this mean? I said more than that. Do you remember? He said that he remembered me telling him that all of creation was contained within the intellect, the first being. Good, I said and now tell me what you think it means to have all creation within the originated? He answered that he had thought of this for some time, but that he was at a loss for what it meant. Then let us begin, my son, at the beginning.
If I asked you suddenly sprang into being, perfect, knowing everything within yourself but nothing without, what would you do? I think that I would ponder the cause of my being. I asked him then how he would ponder that cause. If, my father, all I know is myself and what is within me, I would look within, contemplating all that I find within myself. Now there is a thought. I said this to him with a wry smile, which he took in good spirits. What would you do, my son, if you pondered yourself and found nothing lacking? If you looked within and saw wahid, and perfection? I suppose, father, that I would simply continue to look within, trying to find the cause of my perfection. I answered that he was correct- aql is constantly trying to comprehend the originator.
Upon contemplating its perfection, aql blushes, and nasf gushes forth I could see once again his mind at work. What was I driving at? What role did this contemplation have with the creation of the world? I could not leave him too long without an answer. Know, my son, that Gods command took form and became the intellect. His perfection is such that even his command is ontologically real. It has being. He nodded assent and then his jaw dropped. I can see where you are going, father. If Gods will is aql, then it should be no surprise that aql, in its perfection, should cause something to come into being from its own contemplation. Just as the will takes shape, so does the contemplation, or the state of being pleased with perfection. I sat and smiled in silence, my happiness gushing from me like nafs from al-ibda. So I am right? A being comes from intellects contemplation of itself? I replied that he was correct, and named the being as soul. He said then- Soul, nafs, is the form of the contemplation of the originated. I nodded and smiled.
Nafs is the beginning of imperfection, of motion, and of nature Weeks passed and my son asked me no new questions. Like the last time he took so long, my heart pounded forth from my chest with desire to continue our talks, and like the last time, I let him receive tayid in his own time. Finally, he approached me and asked a question full of insight and wisdom. I must ask this, and please do not think me irreverent again, my father, for I only seek knowledge. Gods command became intellect, the originated. It is perfect, but it does not transcend. We can understand it. Not all of it, but parts. It is not God. What comes from intellect then, must be less than perfect. That is correct, I replied, but certainly that is so obvious that it neednt be mentioned. Why do you bring it up, my son? He nodded twice, slowly, then said What is its calling? It is easy to see that intellect should contemplate itself, as that is the closest it can come to seeing God, but what should soul do? It cannot possibly understand aql, any more than aql can understand God. I see that your questions are inspired by tayid, my son. It is true that soul cannot comprehend the fullness of intellect. Instead of trying, soul tries to understand intellect piece by piece. In this way, it breaks itself into parts to look here and there, to understand this and that. You see what this means? I do, father. The beginning of motion, and time, is with nafs. I imagine too that because it is so close to perfection, that its motion becomes real and takes form? I answered my wise son in the affirmative, and told him that the motion of soul begets nature, which is itself the same as soul, only … less so.
Again and again over the next few weeks my son would ask me questions about how the world came to be. His fascination with the nature of the material world never ceased to amaze me. He would wonder at nature, produced by soul. And then discuss for hours the natures below it, and their motion and how the combination of this and that would create fire, or that and this would create water. He looked at the world anew, strangely aware that imperfection emanated from perfection, and that imperfection engendered motion, which led to more motion, which led to the physical world. The distinction between form and matter found within nature fascinated him, and he wrote verse about the sublime beauty found in the union of the two, the physical being. Of the four natures or fathers (hot, cold, wet,and dry) he spoke at length, concerning especially how their combination made the elements or the mothers. And of course, he was bursting with joy when he discovered that the motion of natures and elements created animals, minerals, and vegetables. Nature, father he said in a moment of contemplation teaches us about the originated. And knowledge of the originated in its perfection can teach us about God. I replied that, as always, it was just as he said. Then this compounding of nature, this tarkib itself is a source of knowledge? Looking at the earth and at the things here, we can come to a knowledge of Intellect, but I wonder, father, can all this imperfection, marvelous as it is, truly teach us about the One, the aql, the originated? It was then that I knew it was time to teach him further. He knew all he could know from tarkib. The tarkib of Nature as the source of the world and as a source of knowledge of aql
al-ibda contemplated its own perfection and blushed. That blush took form and became nafs, or soul. Nafs recognized the perfection of aql and sought to understand it in sections, begetting motion and nature. Natures own downward motion, inspired by nafs, led to the creation of the material world. The material world itself is a source of knowledge of the Intellect. The Emanation from Intellect