Suhrawardi- ‘On How And In What Order The Many Are Generated From The Truly One.’

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Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is an excerpt from Suhrawardi’ s ‘The Philosophy of Illumination’(Kitab hikmat al-ishraq), Part 2, ‘The Second Discourse’, Section 9 & 10, pages 99 to 104. Brigham Young University Press. 1999. Translation by Hossein Zia and John Wallbridge. Original Arabic provided with the English edition.


Section 9

150. From the Proximate Light a barrier and an incorporeal light result, and from this light result another incorporeal light and barrier. This continues until there are the nine spheres and the elemental world. You know that the succession of ordered lights must be finite, so the series ceases with a light from which no other incorporeal light result. Since we meet a star in each of the ethereal barriers-and, in the sphere of fixed stars, with such stars as are beyond the power of man to number-to these must correspond individuals and aspects beyond our reckoning. Thus, it is known that the sphere of fixed stars does not result from the Proximate Light, since the causal aspects thereof do not suffice for the fixed stars. If it is from one of the higher lights, that light cannot have many aspects, especially in the view of those who consider each intellect to have only the aspects of necessity and contingency. If it is from the lower lights, how then, may this sphere be conceived to be greater and higher than the barriers of the higher intellects when its stars are more numerous than theirs? This leads to absurdities. Let us not, then linger over this series that the Peripatetics talk of. Each star in the sphere of fixed stars has a particularity, requiring it to be necessitated and requiring something to necessitate it, by which it is particularized.

151. Therefore, the dominating lights-that is, the incorporeal lights free of connection with barriers-are more in number than ten, or twenty, or one hundred, or two hundred, or a thousand, or two thousand, or a hundred thousand. Some among them cause no independent barrier, for the individual independent barriers are fewer in number than the stars and are ordered in rank. So, a second light results from a Proximate Light, and from the second a third, and likewise a fourth and fifth, up to a great number. Each of these beholds the Light of Lights and is shone upon by Its rays. Moreover, light is reflected from one to another of the dominating lights. Each higher light shines upon those which are below in rank, and the lower light receives rays from the Light of Lights by the mediacy of those which are above it, rank on rank. Thus, the second dominating light receives the propitious light from the Light of Lights twice: once from it, without intermediary, and another time with respect to the Proximate Light. The third light receives it four times: the two reflections from its master, from the Light of Lights without mediacy, and from the Proximate Light. The fourth receives it eight times: the four reflections from its master, the two reflections from the second, once from the Proximate Light, and from the Light of Lights without intermediary. In this way, they are doubled and redoubled to a very great number; for in the case of the higher incorporeal lights, the lower light is not veiled from the Light of Lights, veiling being a peculiarity of the dimensions and distractions of the barriers. Moreover, each dominating light beholds the Light of Lights, and beholding is not the same as being shone upon and the emanation of rays, as you know. If the propitious lights have redoubled from the Light of Lights in this way, how then must be the doubling by reflection of each higher light by its beholding and by its shining its light upon each other light with, and without intermediaries.

152. If the rays of physical light fall upon a barrier, the light on it is increased in accordance with their numbers. These maybe united in a simple locus in such a way that the individual rays may not be distinguished except through their causes. When the rays of several lamps fall upon a wall, for example, though one of them may be shaded, another will remain. This is not like something that becomes more intense from one or two sources with the intensity remaining after them, nor it is like the parts of a cause of one thing, however it be may be. Many illuminations may be combined in a single locus, like two desires for two things in a single locus. The barrier has no knowledge of the increase caused by each illumination, but the essence of a living thing itself conscious of what illuminates it and of the increase in illumination from each. Thus, a great number of dominating lights result, rank on rank, one from another, in accordance with the particular beholdings and the magnitude of the complete rays. These are the fundamental and highest dominating lights. Then other individual lights result from these fundamental lights by reason of the combinations of aspects, interactions, and correspondences. For example, there is the interaction of the aspects of independence, dominance, or love with them. There is the interaction of the rays of one dominating light with another, or the rays of dominating lights with the aspect of beholding each other. There is the interaction of their substantial essences, or the interaction of one of the rays of some one of them with one of the rays of another. The fixed stars and their spheres result from the interaction of the rays of all of them, especially the lower, weak lights with the aspect of dependence. The constellations of the fixed stars correspond to the interaction of the rays of some with others. By the interaction of the rays with the aspects of independence, dominance and love, and the extraordinary correspondences between the perfect, intense rays and the others, the dominating lights bring into being the celestial archetypes of species and the talismans of the simple, elemental compounds, and all that is beneath the sphere of the stars.

153. The origin of each of these talismans is a dominating light that is the ‘archetype of the talisman’ and the luminous self-subsistent species. Insofar, as the archetypes of the talismans fall under the classes of love, dominance, and moderation in accordance with their origins, the planets and other things differ in being fortunate, sinister, or intermediate. The dominating luminous species are prior to their individuals-that is, prior intellectually. The most noble contingency necessitates the existence of these incorporeal luminous species. The species do not occur in our world simply by chance, for there is no man save man, nor wheat save wheat. The species preserved among us are not by chance. They are not due solely to the conception of the souls moving the spheres, nor are they ends. Because the conceptions of these souls are from above them, they must have causes. We shall prove the non-existence of that which they name ‘providence’. There are no such things as species forms corresponding to what is below them engraved in the dominating incorporeal lights, for these lights are not affected by what is below them. Nor do the forms occurring accidentally in some of them result from the forms occurring in another, for this would imply multiplicity in the Light of Lights. Thus, their species must be self-sufficient and fixed in the World of Light.

154. It is inconceivable that dominating lights of equal rank come into existence simultaneously from the Light of Lights, for multiplicity is inconceivable from It. Thus, there must be intermediate lights ranked vertically. Nor can the higher-ranked dominating lights be archetypes and of equal rank. Therefore, the archetypes of equal rank must be caused by the exalted lights and their multiplicity be from the interaction of rays in the higher lights. If some excellence and some deficiency is conceivable in the archetypes of talismans due to the perfection and deficiency of the rays that necessitate them, the like must occur in the talisman, so that one species rules over another species in some respect, but not in all. Were the ranks if volume among the spheres caused by the exalted ranked lights, mars would be unconditionally more noble than the Sun and Venus. This is not so, since some have larger planets and some larger spheres while being equal in other respects. Thus, the same must be true of their lords-which is to say, the archetypes. The fixed and everlasting excellences are not based on chance, but on the archetypes of the ranks of their sphere.

155. The incorporeal lights are divided into two classes. The first are the dominating lights, those with no connections to barriers, either of imprinting or control. The dominating lights include exalted dominating lights and formal dominating lights: the archetypes. Second are the lights managing barriers. Though they are not imprinted in the barriers, they occur from each master of an idol in its barrier shadow with respect to some exalted luminous aspects. If its barrier admits of being controlled by a managing light, the barrier itself is from an aspect of dependence. The incorporeal light does not admit of connection or division; for division, thought it is but the lack of connection, is only said of that in which there might be connection. The aspects of dependence in the exalted lights are made evident in the common barrier. These aspects of dependence are also made evident in the talismanic archetypes as an aspect of dependence by which their luminosity is diminished. Dependence in the lower lights is greater than in the exalted lights. Since rank must be finite, there cannot be a dominating light from every dominating light, nor multiplicity from every multiplicity, nor a ray from every ray, deficiency ends in that which necessitates nothing at all, even though multiplicity may only be conceived to be caused by multiplicity and a dominating light by another dominating light.

156. Since the spheres are alive and have managing lights, their managing lights are not their causes, since the luminous cause is not perfected by the dusky substance, and the dusky substance does not dominate the luminous cause by his connection. On the other hand, the managing light is dominated in a certain respect by its connection. That which manages it is an incorporeal light that we might name ‘the commanding light’. From this fact, you will know that by virtue of the First it necessarily has the aspects of dominance and love; and in the dominating lights there are the two aspects of the duskiness of dependence and luminosity. Thus, the classes of effects must be ordered as follows: a light in which dominance is predominant; a light in which love is predominant; a dusky substance in which dominance is predominant, as some of the luminous planets; non-luminous dusky substances in which dominance is predominant-the ethereals immune from induced corruption; and the dusky substances in which love and lowliness are predominant-the elementals obedient to and loving their vile lights when they are veiled from them. Since fire is near to the ethereals, it also necessarily has dominance over what is below it. We will explain that, if God the exalted be willing.

157. Know that in relation to its effect every luminous cause possesses love and dominance, and that its effect possesses a love whose concomitant is humility. Therefore, all existence occurs in pairs, being divided into luminous and dusky; love and dominance; might-the concomitant of dominance in relation to the lower-and humility-the concomitant of love in relation to the higher. As it is written, “All things have We created in pairs, that perchance ye might take heed.” (Qu’ran, 51: 49).

Section 10

158. Since the arrangement of the fixed stars is not haphazard, it is the shadow of some intelligible order; but this order-nay, even the pattern of the planets among the fixed stars-is beyond the knowledge of any man. The wonders of the ethereal world, the relations among the spheres, their precise and certain enumeration-all these are very difficult. And there is nothing to prevent there being other wonders imperceptible to us in and beyond the fixed stars.

159. There is nothing lifeless in the ethereal world. The sovereignty and power of the higher managing lights reach the spheres through the mediacy of the planets. From them their faculties go forth, and the planet is like the absolute and supreme organ. ‘Hurakhsh’, who is the talisman of ‘Shahrir’, is a light of great brilliance, the maker of the day, lord of the sky, to be venerated, according to the customs of the Illuminationists. It does not exceed the planets by magnitude and nearness-rather, by intensity-for the magnitude of all that which is seen from the fixed stars at night and from the rest of the planets is incomparably greater than the Sun and yet does not make the day.’


English Edition & Original Arabic


SHIHAB AL-DIN ABU AL-FUTUH AHMAD BIN HABBASH (YA’ISH) BIN AMIRAK AL-SUHRAWARDI AL-MAQTULI (D. 1191-92 AD): HIKMAT AL-ISHRAQ COPIED BY SHAMS BIN JAMAL AL-HATANI, POST-SELJUQ IRAN, DATED TUESDAY 14 SHABAN AH 617/TUESDAY 13 OCTOBER 1220 AD Well known treatise on theosophy, Arabic manuscript on paper, 109ff. plus 1 fly-leaf, each folio with 17ll. of sepia naskh script, important words and headings picked out in red, copious later commentary in the margins, opening folio with the basmallah written in gold within gold and blue panel issuing a medallion into the margin, the title page with similarly decorated roundel, inscription in the border gives the name of the scribe as Shams bin Jamal al-Hatani, opening folio with the name of one who is probably the same scribe but who signs Shams al-Sajani, minor worm holing, waterstaining affecting much of the manuscript, in binding with flap with marbled paper boards and brown morocco edges and spine, worn, edges splitting Folio 9¼ x 5½in. (23.4 x 14.5cm.) Another copy of the Hikmat al-ishraq is in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin (Handlist of Arabic Manuscripts in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin 1963, Vol. V, p. 15, no. 4044). Another is noted in Brockelmann, C., Geschichte der Arabischen Literatur, Vol. I, p. 437, Supp. I, p. 782). –

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