The First and Second Form of Light

The Shape of Light / Hayakal al-Nur

~Suhrawardi

The First Form of Light / Enlightened Matter 

Matter encompasses everything which depends on perception by the senses for its existence. In all cases, it has length, width, and depth. These characteristics must be noted in order to guard against confusion concerning matter. It is important to realize that the intelligence and the soul, which are invisible, are dependent on matter for their perceptible manifestation. Matter enlightened by intelligence and the soul may point to its essence.

We live in the realm of perception, of our senses. Our material self is of this realm. This world of the senses is in contraposition to the world of Malakut-the spiritual kingdom of Allah-which comprises the invisible, the spiritual, incorporeal beings, and abstractions. The key to the wisdom of inner meaning is in the knowledge and ability to distinguish the material world from the spiritual world.

What is common to and creates a unity among material things is that they are all matter. Yet two things which have one common characteristic may differ from one another in other aspects. In the case of material things, the qualities which separate one from the other are in their visual shapes. Otherwise, a thing which is a part of the absolute Truth cannot be other than the Truth.

By definition, the number four is an even number, which relates it to all other even numbers; and the material body defines the human being, relating it to all other human beings. These properties seem to be necessary for the existence of material things. These common qualities in material things may either be an absolute necessity for their existence, wajib; or possible, mumkin (i.e., in some cases necessary, in others not); or impossible, mumtani', negating their existence. For instance, it is an absolute necessity for a human being to possess a material body, it is possible for a man to stand up or sit down, and it is impossible for him to be a horse!

Wajib, mumkin, and mumtani' are terms pertaining to the science of inner meaning. Wajib means an absolute necessity. Mumkin is a possibility whose chance of being or not being is equal. Mumtani' is an impossibility whose not being is an absolute necessity.

It is not right to suppose that a thing or a concept which is absolutely indivisible can exist in a defined space. The smallest matter which defies division, the atom, cannot be assigned to a particular space . This atom, which cannot be divided, in theory or in reality, cannot exist here or there, and is placeless, as Allah, al-Bari'; the creator of forms and shapes, is devoid of space and place. Such an indivisible unit (even if it is part of a greater divisible form), if assigned to a place, would be the opposite of another of the same sort, assigned to a place in contraposition to it. Thus these two units would cancel each other as well as the supposition which resumes this delusion. The in divisible atom is the essence of material things, which cannot he assigned a place. The "soul," the "supreme intelligence," and other names and attributes of that indivisible atom, the essence, cannot he assigned to a body or form or shape, although its existence may he dependent on these material existences for its manifestation.

The Second Form of Light / In Three Parts

The First Part

Man cannot ever forget his essence. That essence is devoid of all illusions and delusions, and is the perfect intelligence. But the animal in man imagines its essence. That is why the essence of the animal is material, it is not spiritual. If one's essence were composite and had parts, although one may forget it sometimes, how could it have been possible for one not to forget it at all times? You forget your body; you are certainly not aware at all times of all the parts of your body, while in your subconscious you are always aware of your essence. That shows that your essence is not a part of your material body. When you say "1," this identity is other and much higher than any part of your material being or the whole of your material being.

Second Part

(Depending on two premises: ever-changing matter, and ever-constant essence)

Your body continuously flows and dissolves. If the food you eat had not been digested and dissolved, and had not left your body, and if its quantity had been added to your material form, your body would have become immense. Your body is in continuous decomposition. If this continuous birth and death did not occur in your body, and your cells multiplied, your form would have been the size of a giant. 

That which is constant, always alive, indivisible, is the opposite of that which changes, divides, dissolves. The essence, the one "I" in your declaration of "I am," is one indivisible, constant and eternal. Therefore, your essence is incorporeal, and cannot be a part of a material being. 

As long as your essence is realized within you in a constant state, you are you forever, while with this body you are not. It changes, it is decomposing, it is dying; you don't know it, you don't feel it. How could you be that body? You are much more than that. Allah says in His Holy Book, the Qur'an:

But Allah doth encompass
them all from behind.
(al-Buruj, 20)

The Third Part

The third part consists of three premises:
One cannot know that which one does not already know.
The rational is not dependent on measure: when one thinks of the animal kingdom as a common factor, the size of an elephant is of no more importance than the size of a fly.
The abstract, the nonmaterial, cannot be understood in terms of measure.

As long as you cannot construct the form of something in your mind, you cannot possibly know it, because the realization of a thing has to correspond to something. To understand something is conditional on the existence of its evidence in your mind. Another way to understand a form by comparative thinking is by considering its qualities which are common to other forms. For instance, by considering certain attributes which are common to many animals, you may deduce that an elephant and a fly are equal.

In this kind of thinking, the sizes of these two animals are not compared to each other. Even if that is so

among animals, so that a small and a large animal are both animals, what about the essence? In one's existence, it is not commensurate with anything else. Something which cannot be measured cannot be placed within matter that is measurable. Your essence, your rational soul, is not material, nor does it relate to matter. It is free from time and space; therefore it cannot be perceived by the senses. It is a light generated from the Ahad, Allah the One and Only, and from the Samad, Allah the Eternal and Absolute. Man's soul, which is called the cosmic Reason, is an indivisible light which man's conjecturing cannot analyze; it is the sacred light coming from Allah the One and Only, Allah the Eternal and Absolute.

You know enough not to declare that a wall sees or does not see, because to see and not to see are abilities given to that creation which has eyes . Man's rational soul is neither matter nor related to matter. Neither is it a part of this world, nor is it excluded from it. Neither is it dependent upon it, nor is it independent of it. To be dependent or independent are qualities of material things . The rational soul (the cosmic Reason) is an essence of light which you cannot see. How could a sacred existence such as this - which controls and directs all matter, possesses the knowledge of itself and all that is within its essence, and the knowledge of everything which relates to its essence - be material? This sacred existence, with the influence of spiritual exaltation and rapture, leaves this world of matter and seeks the infinite.

This rational soul has its own powers of realization that help it to see things its way. Some of these powers of observation are evident and some are hidden. The evident ones are the five senses: touching, tasting, smelling, hearing, seeing. The hidden power of observation is a mysterious force like a pool, into which the observations of the five senses flow: a collective consciousness . It is the power that actually experiences dream not coming from the imagination.

Another hidden power is the power of imagination; this is like the source of this collective consciousness . It is the force which preserves the experiences after they have been obtained by the senses. Yet another of these hidden forces is the potential of reason, the power of thought. Analysis by dividing the whole into its parts and collecting the parts into a whole, deriving the universal from the
particular, reaehing an affirmative eonclusion, are all done by this power.

Yet another is the power of conjecture, leading to illusions and delusions, negating the propositions which the mind has confirmed. 

It is an evil force which leads man astray from that which the mind proposes: honesty, generosity, justice, valor, munificence. Mind knows that its origin is not of the realm of the senses alone, but belongs to the immaterial world . Mind with the exaltation of reason and spirituality weakens its dependence on the body and wishes to return to the realm of the spirit and of the essence. The power of conjecture, however, considers itself to be of the same material as the mind and at the same level, therefore engaging itself in controversy and dispute. For instance, if the mind claims that beyond the realm of reason there is neither anything nor is there a total vacuum, the power of conjecture says, "No, beyond the world of reason there is either an infinite vacuum, or there is all and everything." 

To give an example of the dispute between the power of conjecture and the mind: if one were left alone at night with a corpse, the mind would assure one while delusion would cast fear into one's heart. Illusion plays its tricks especially in affairs which cannot be clearly perceived by the senses. In fact, it denies everything which is not perceivable. It cannot know that the mind and the soul appear unable to
perceive things directly only because matter is too coarse, and they are not made of the same material. The faculty of illusion is unaware that it is inherently blind to things immaterial. Matter can know only what is on the surface of water, but not its depth hidden under the surface. 

Another hidden power of observation is the power of memory. It preserves all that has happened, and remembers. 

All these hidden powers are energies, each having its particular place in the brain. When there is a disruption at that place, the energy belonging to that place is also disturbed, while the other faculties stay safe and secure in their own places. This is how it was proven that each of these faculties is different and that they belong to different places in the brain. 

In animals and in the animal in man, there is a doubleforked primordial urge. One of its forks is sexual energy, which wishes and attracts that which is pleasant. The other, negativity or anger, repulses that which is unpleasant. The animal also has an energy of struggle (for selfpreservation). It is the animal soul both in the animal and in the lower soul in man which contains these energies. It is a vaporous matter composed of bile, sex, blood, and mucus. It is produced in the left cavity of the heart, and receives some energy from the light of the human soul. 

The animal soul, the body, and the ego are matter, a part of the created world. The human soul is a part of the Divine, and is under the direct command of Allah. It is only with the enlightenment which the animal soul receives from the human soul that it is able to manifest in the mind. 

They ask thee concerning the Soul.
Say: 'The Soul cometh
by the command of my Lord'
(Bani lsra 'il, 85 )

From the highest to the lowest, the realms or centers in man are the Divine Center, the center of the Mind, the center of the Ego, the center of Energies, and the center of Matter. 

The proof that (although it is created matter) the animal soul has the fine quality of vapor is that it has to pass through narrow paths in the body. In fact, if there is a blockage in these paths, the part of the body around this path dies. The animal soul serves as a beast of burden for the human soul, providing it with that fine state which can only be obtained through training by the faculty of reasoning received from the enlightenment of the human soul. It becomes disconnected and independent when it dispenses with that faculty of reasoning. This animal soul is in opposition to the Sacred Soul (the highest of souls in man). The description of the Sacred Soul will be given in the section dealing with the souls of the prophets. 

The human soul is a sacred light among the sacred lights of Allah, which has no dimension and no place. It rises from Allah and will set in Allah. It is the unraveling of the mystery of the sacred badith, 

Kuntu khanzan makhfyyian
fa khalaqtu al-khalq,

I was a hidden treasure;
I loved to be known,
so I created creation.

Some among the people, when they realized that the human soul was not material, were deluded into thinking that it must be Allah, and fell into the abyss of blasphemy. Allah is One, Unique. If the souls of Zayd and 'Amr were the same and one soul, then when one realized something, the other would have realized it also. And if one knew, all mankind would have known. However, it is not so. Also, how could this material body and its energies and its powers contain and influence Allah Most High'?
Other people thought that the human soul (if not Allah Himself) was a part of Allah, and erred. As Allah is not material, how could He be divisible, and who or what force could tear Him apart?

Some others thought that the human soul was eternal as Allah is Eternal, and that it is independent. If it were so, who is it who separates the soul from its sacred place, brings it into this realm of life, then takes it from this world and brings it to the realm of death and darkness? How can the power of a newborn baby lure it from the world of light and sanctity? How do the souls differ from one another in the eternal realm? They are similar, but do not occupy space or place. They have no action or reaction before taking form in material bodies. Nor do they have attributes which they acquired after their being in the body. So how do they differ? It cannot be that there exists one soul that is divided up among the bodies . For a thing that has no material body cannot be divided. It simply descends into the body if the body is prepared to receive it. 

As you know, the flame of a match does not lose anything when setting fire to something combustible. A soul will enter a body, if the body has the potential to receive it, without causing a loss to the Endower of the soul to the body. The One who made the soul is the Creator of All, the All-Compassionate, the One nearer to us than ourselves, the All-Powerful, the Most Holy.