Symbolic Cosmology in the Sufi and Bahá'í traditions
The Bahá'íyya Cosmos is one delineated by Five realms or worlds of Allah. These five are known as Hahut, Lahut, Jabarut, Malakut, and Nasut. The realm of Hahut, is the realm of the One, The realm of Lahut of the Kuni-Qdr or otherwise using Plotinus' terms the Intellectual Principle and the All-Soul as higher and lower aspects of the same realm, the realm of Jabarut is the realm of Power, the realm of Malakut the realm of angels, and the realm of Nasut is the realm of physical reality:Mirza Husayn-'Ali writes:
"Ponder the differences among the worlds (`awalim). Although the divine worlds (`alam ilahiyya) be never ending, yet some refer to them as four: the world of time (zaman), which is the one that hath both a beginning (awwal) and an end (ukhra); the world of duration (dahr), which hath a beginning, but whose end is not revealed; the world of perpetuity (sarmand), whose begining is not to be seen but which is known to have an end; and the world of eternity (azal), neither a begining nor an end of which is visible. Although there are many differing statements as to these points, to recount them in detail would result in weariness. Thus, some have said that the world of perpetuity hath neither a begining nor end, and have named the world of eternity as the invisible, impregnable Empyrean. Other have called these the worlds of the Heavenly Court (Lahut), of the Empyrean Heaven (Jabarut), of the Kingdom of the Angels (Malakut), and of the mortal world (Nasut)." (Nuri [Ghail tr.], SV pg. 25, HV pg. 29 )Sayyid 'Ali-Muhammad writes:
"Now as regards the fourth letter [of sura 103] which is the letter 'ayn. It signifieth the sublimity of the Divine Unicity (uluw al-ahadiyya) in the realms of Lahut (maqamat al- lahut); the sublimity of the Divine Uniqueness ('uluw al-wahidiyya) in the grades of jabarut (shu'unat al-Jabarut); the sublimity of the Divine Mercy ('uluw al-rahmaniyya) in the realms of the dominion (al-mulk) and Malakut; the sublimity of the Divine Perpetuity ('uluw al-samadaniyya) in that Allah revealed [manifest] Himself unto all in the realities of the selves (fi haqa'iq al-anfus) and the horizons (al-afaq); seen in the land of Nasut." (Shirazi [Lambden tr.], KT, pg. N/a)In this commentary on the cosmological relationship of both Mirza Husayn-'Ali and Sayyid 'Ali-Muhammad we have a mystical placement of the realms of Allah. The setting of course is addressed more on the individual level rather than on the doctrinal level of Orthodoxy. 'Ali-Muhammad makes an allusion to Qur'an 41:53: "In time We shall make them fully understand Our messages [through what they perceive] in the utmost horizons (al-afaq) [of the universe] and within themselves, so that it will become clear unto them that this [revelation] is indeed the truth. [Still,] is it not enough [for them to know] that thy Sustainer is witness unto everything?" 'Ali-Muhammad places the physical plane, the earthly plane as the level of gaining understanding within the self of Allah's divine plan. Thus, the realm of where the logos is manifest.
It is apparent that the use of cosmological motifs by both Mirza Husayn-'Ali and Sayyid 'Ali-Muhammad is to explain deeper matters of religion through allusion and analogy3. Mirza Husayn-'Ali additionally writes:
"[explaining the meaning of ta'am in Qur'anic Arabic] It signifieth the realm of the Throne of Hahut, the Paradise of the Divine Oneness....It signifieth the realm of the Paradise of Endless Duration, the Throne of Lahut, the Snow-White Light.....It signifieth the Paradise of the Divine Unicity, the Golden Land, the Depths of Jabarut." (Nuri [Lambden tr.], KT, pg. N/a )And further elaborates:
"The meaning of the Kingdom (malakut) in its primary sense and degree is the scene of His transcendent glory. In another sense it is the world of similitudes ('alam-i- mithal) which existeth between the Dominion on high (jabarut) and this mortal realm (nasut [i.e. in Malakut]; whatever is in the heavens or on the earth hath its counterpart in that world. Whilst a thing remaineth hidden and concealed within the power of utterance it is said to be of the Dominion (jabarut) and this is the first stage of its substantiaition (taqyid). Whenever it becometh manifest it is said to be of the Kingdom (malakut). The power and potency it deriveth from the first stage, it bestoweth upon whatever lieth below." (Nuri [Momen tr.], REL, pg. N/a )It is interesting to compare the use of realms by Mirza Husayn-'Ali and 'Ali-Muhammad with that of the Sufis and Isma'iliyyas. It is noteworthy that as the earlier passage regarding the Isma'iliyya conception of the realms and the type of interpretation that corresponds to a different conception of a term in each realm, in the case of Isma'iliyya the Spirit. Mirza Husayn-'Ali uses the same relative interpretation to the specific aspect of each realm for a subject in his case the interpretation of the meaning of 'ta'am' (food). This 'hiero-tafsir' is likened to as-Simnanis teachings:
"According to this scheme the Qur'an has four levels of meaning corresponding to the four realms of existence [for as-Simnani: Lahut, Jabarut, Malakut and Nasut]. The exoteric dimension the Qur'an relates to the Human Realm, the esoteric level to the secrets of the Realm of Sovereignty, the limit of the Qur'an to the Realm of Omnipotence, and the point of ascent to the Realm of Divinity. " (Elias, TC, pg. 108)In the Umm al-Kitab it is recorded that there are Ten realms similiar in name and function to that of Mirza Husayn-'Ali and 'Ali-Muhammad:
"...in tutte le sedi di (in all, the levels are) Ilahiyyat, Malakutiyyat, Gabarutiyyat, Rabubiyyat, Azaliyyat, Lahutiyyat, Nuraniyyat, Ruhaniyyat, Nasutiyyat, Basariyyat ed Imamiyyat" (Ranconi tr., UK, pg.108)
Interestingly in one of the thinkers of 18th Century Iranian reformist thought we see the use of Isma'iliyya terms for hierarchical thinking instead of Hahut:
"And similarly, some of the those who dwell among the sanctified signs consider that the Love of the Divinity (uluhiyyat) and the continuance of the attributes of the Heavenly Realm (lahutiyyat) in the temples and places of manifestation of the physical world (nasutiyyat)."(Effendi [Momen tr.], K, pg. 24)In sufism we see a two fold hierarchy similar to two processes of Qur'anic creation:
Maratib-i Ilahi (Divine Ranks)
b. Wahdat-- Unity
c. Wahidiyyat-- Unity in Plurality
b. Mithal-- Similitudinal
c. Jism-- Body or corporeality
"...for the worlds of God are infinite and, in each world, the Names and Attributes have a specific effect (hukm). In the World of Primal Oneness (ahadiyyat), they [objects of knowledge] are identical to the Essence. In the World of Manifested Oneness (wahidiyyat), they are distinguished. These stations of Primal Oneness and pillar of Manifested Oneness and Divinity have always remained and will continue to endure." (Effendi [Momen tr.], KM, pg. 24 )The background and development to Sufi cosmology has it's roots in the Quran where it is recorded that there are number of heavens and dominions. In Sufi tradition the greatest of authors on these realms was Ibn 'Arabi. His students Qunawi and Qaysari have relayed an reliable picture of how Ibn 'Arabi viewed the universe. Al-Kashani summates the Sufi Penta-Reality (hazair al-ilahi) as:
"In the views of the sufis there are five worlds, each of which is a Presence within which God becomes manifest: 1. The Presence of the Essence (Huwiyat); 2. The Presence of the Attributes and names, i.e., the Presence of Divinity (Lahut); 3. The presence of the Acts, i.e., the Presence of Lordship (Jabarut); 4. The Presence of Image-Exemplars and Imagination (malakut or mulk or 'alam al-mithal); and 5. The Presence of Sense-Perception and the Visible. (In each case), the lower is an image and locus of manifestation of the higher. The highest is (the Essence or) the World of the Nondelimited Unseen, also called the 'Unseen of the Unseens.' The lowest is the World of the Visible, which is the last of the Presences (Nasut)." (Qashani, FN III)These Presences are known as worlds in many Sufi languages.
A world (alam) "...(it) signifies that by which things are known, for God is known through it in terms of Divine Names and Attributes." (Jorjani [Nurbakhsh tr.], Ta'rifat, 188)
Rather than attempt an interpretive explanation I will rely on the technique of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh and simply present the terms.
The Worlds Defined
Bahá'íyya Symbolic Cosmos Overview:
In brief the symbolic cosmos of the Bahá'íyya can be recounted as:
1. The highest level of all existence is Hahut, this represent Allah's essential oneness (ahadiyya). It is represented by the color white in Babi/Bahá'íyya color symbolism.
2. The level of God's attributes being manifest within His Godhead (uluhiyya) in the realm of Lahut. This is the level of singularity (wahidiyya). This is the station of the Prophetic Oneness. It is represented by the color white in Babi/Bahá'íyya color symbolism4. It is a realm of the Command ('alam al-'Amr).
3. The level of God's attributes being manifest in the locus of manifestation (mahall). This is the level of God's Names and Attributes (asma wa'l-sifat) which is in the realm of Jabarut. This is the Station of the Prophetic Plurality, not to be confused with their actual Manifestation in the realm of nature or sense ('alam al-nasut, 'alam shuhud wa'l-huss). It is important to point out that in Shuhudi sufism this is the realm of witnessing (shahuda) of God's beauty. Only a prophet can witness in the station (maqam) of Prophetic Oneness. It is represented by the color yellow in Babi/Bahá'íyya color symbolism. It is a realm of Creation ('alam al-khalq).
4. The level of the symbolic representations ('alam al-mithal) in the realm of Malakut. This is the realm of spirits and angelic beings. In which there are the cities of Jabalqa and Jabalsa. Represanted by the color green in Babi/Bahá'íyya color symbolism. It is a realm of Creation.
5. The level of sense perception the natural world, which is divided into seven climbs and four kingdoms-animal, mineral, vegetative and human. This is the realm of Nasut. In this realm all contingencies and quiddities take on concrete existence. There is a direct correlation between what is in the realm of Malakut to that which is in the realm of Nasut. It is represented by the color red in Babi/Bahá'íyya color symbolism. It is a realm of Creation.
Administrative (nazm al-tadbir) Hierarchies:
The use of hierarchies in Iranian reformist thought is seen from it's inception in the School of Shaykh al-Ahsa'i (cf. Mac Eoin, Encyclopedia Iranica, "Shaykh al-Ahsa'i"). Shaykh Ahsa'i taught that the world was ordered to an hierarchy, in this case an earthly hierarchy, which had a arithmetic function based on exponential increase at each level the number expanded thus:
1. Qutb-- the spiritual pole by which all others are ordered 2. Four Arkan-- the pillars, similiar to the Kaaba, which would also serve as deputies of the occultation of Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi. 3. Abdal-- forty replacements, which is similiar to the rank of Hujjat al-Islam in modern revolutionary Iran. 4. Nuwuba-- 70 nobles which has a connotation in Isma'iliyyasim of being angelic helpers. 5. Salihun-- 360 righteous which is the number of 19 times 19 minus the Qutb. In Iranian mystical interpretation the number 19 is the equivalent to 'Bismallah'.This hierarchical grading is justified by the interpretation of ayah 34:18:
"And we appointed, between them and the town we blessed, manifest towns and we measured the journey between them. Travel in them by night and by day securely."In this interpretation the cities are equated with the divine luminaries, and the travelling between them the journey through presence and occultation, by day or night, from Imam to Imam. In Sunni Islam the Imam is the Prophet and not the spiritual heirs to prophecy in the Fatimid line of Imamat. For Sayyid
'Ali-Muhammad the hierarchy is explained as:
1. TawhidIt is interesting to see some of these same terms used previously in the teachings of Isma'iliyyasm as where each level corresponds to a manifestation in the Qur'an and Hudud-i Din (Ranks of Religion):
Symbol: Qur'anic Text: Hierarchy:
1. 'Aql, Bismallah, Imam al-VahidAdditionally, in the many layers of Isma'iliyya symbology there are the spheres which represent each firmament by way of color: Red, Yellow, Orange, Green, Violet, White, and Blue in descending order for each firmament where each sphere represents a veil seperating (hadd) each realm from the other
Cosmogenesis in Sufiyya and Bahá'íyya Thought:In the following a brief overview of cosmogensis in the writings of the Sufiyya and Bahá'íyya is given. To begin the works of the Sufis usually begin with an introduction or pre-amble where Praise to Allah is made, a statement of God's bringing the Cosmos to being is made and peace and blessings are extolled on the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, we can see this in both the pre-amble of the Naqshbandi Sufi, al-Jami's, work: al-Durrah al-Fikhirah (The Precious Pearl) and in Bahá'u'lláh's work, Haft Vadi (Seven Valleys). Below I have provided them both in full, al-Jami's thesis provided with additional commentary by his student al-Lari.
1. Pre-amble: "Praise be to God, Who became manifest (tajalla) through His essence (bi-dhatihi) to His essence (li-dhatihi), so that the manifestations (majali) of His essence and of His attributes became individuated (ta'ayyana) in His inner knowledge, the effects (athar) of these manifestations being then reflected upon His outward aspect (zahir) from within (al-batin), such that unity (al- wahdah) became multiplicity (kathrah), as you see and behold. May God's blessing and peace be upon him through whom this multiplicity reverted to its original unity, and upon his family and companions, who have inherited of this virtue a large portion." (Jami, DF, pg. 33)
al-Hamdillah al-dhiy izhara al-wujud al-`adamI think it is worthwhile at this early juncture to draw an overview of the Wahdat al-Wujud cosmological perspective of al-Jami. For the Unitarian Sufis5 existence is a single thing, although that thing has qualitative differentiation, akin to the idea of atomic particles which exist at a lower level of energy but are unfolded out of a higher energy state where atoms do not exist, although their evolution is from that one string of existence.[ actually atoms are alot like quiddities] This analogy withstanding, the supreme "thing" of their cosmological perspective is termed Ahadiyyat al-Dhatiyya. It is that which is the Essence of all Essences, or the Essence of Allah (God). God is manifest through His Essence to His essence, this is the Unity (wahdah) of God. His Essential Knowledge is His cognition, this is Universal Knowledge, the first individuation (ta'ayyun al-awwal), this first individuation is known mystically as al-Qalam al-A'la and is equated with the first faculty, that of speech and is the Word of God (kalimat Allah) and existence is based on this general existence. There is also His inner Knowledge which are His individuation of His attributes, that is to say I think on my self qualities, thus giving me ideas of the qualities of my self. This inner knowledge is knowledge of Particulars ('ilm tafsili) and is the second individuation (ta'ayyun al-thani) which exist in the intermediary level (al-barzakh) in something that has the mystical monicer of the World of Ideas and Forms ('alam al-ma'ani wa-al-suwar). Now the important point to remember at this stage is that all this is a mental existence (wujud al-dhihni or wujud al-'aql) and the Inner knowledge (particulars) is a mental entity (amr i'tabar). This helps to distinguish the Unity from the Multiplicity (kathrat). The Multiplicity is the manifestation of the Inner or Mental Existence or Mental Entity in the outer world, the very space/time continuum we live within, mystically known as variously: Nasut, 'alam al-hiss wa-al-shuhud (the world of sense and visibility), kathrat (multiplicity). The Reality of this Existence is a substratum of the mental entity (amr i'tabar). Usually the mirror analogy is employed to explain this phenomenon. However, I would like to employ a different analogy:
There is a ring on the hand of the Creator (necessary existent, wajib al-wujud). We understand this ring to be the Logos or Word (kalimat) it is known as the Most-Exalted Pen (al-Qalam al-A'la). This word is the existence of all existents. Say the necessary existent shines a pure light on the ring, the emerald set on the ring band reflects this ray of light. depending on the color of the emerald set in the ring will determine the quality of the light reflected once it finds expression on a physical plane intersecting the reflected light making their reflection of the pure light now visible on the physical plane. We can see the ring as the Word of God or General Existence, the emerald the quiddities who depending on thier receptive qualities give the expression of the light in similative existence (wujud al-mithali fiy 'alam al-mithal) until they find concrete existence in the expression of a physical plane, finally the red light on the plane is the world of sense and visibility ('alam al-hiss wa shahada).Now understanding this let us turn our attention to the symbolic allegory of Bahá'u'lláh in the Haft Vadi which portrays a cosmological perspective similiar to this, depending on your interpretation.
The Haft Vadi establishes that their is a cosmological source and derivative and an act which derives these derivations. Hence we see in the Pre-amble four things derived:
1. "Sea" (bahr) from the Ocean of the Divine Essence (Huwiyyat) by the act of branching (tusha'ba).Thus I would argue that based on these relations that the "Sea" is Universal Knowledge, that is to say Essential. The "Morn" are the Names and Attributes which is to say the aspects (i'tabar) which exist in the level of Wahdah. The "Sun" is the first aspect which begets all other aspects which is to say the Command or Word of God. And the "Fire" is another way of expressing the first aspect or Command at the level of wahidiyyat, instead of ahadiyyat (see section on God's Oneness below).
Regarding the Mental Existence of the Divine Mind it is interesting to look at a passage from the Four Valleys (Chahar Vadi) in the Second Valley it is noted:
"If the wayfarers (salik) goal be the dwelling of the Praiseworthy One (Mahmud) this is the station (maqam) of primal reason (raja' bi-`aql) which is known as the Prophet and the Most Great Pillar (rukn a'zim). Here Reason signifieth the divine, universal mind ('aql kulli rabba fiy maqasud) whose soveriegnty enlighteneth all created things (rutbah tarubiyat imkan)" (Nuri, CV, pg. 53; FV pg. 52)Abdu'l-Bahá addresses this issue in his commentary:
"...these realities that are sometimes called quiddities, potentialities and archetypes have always had an intellectual existence and are incorporated within the mirror of the Essence of the Absolute in a state of absolute simplicity and unity and not in a state of plurality."[emphasis added] (Effendi [Momen tr.], K, pg. 22)Understanding that the Prophet represents the Universal Mind, that is to say the intellectual entity (amr i'tibari) we can understand the use of the terms of Ahmad, Muhammad and Mahmud in the Seven Valleys as three differing perspectives from angelic subjects, angels of the throne, gazing upon the effulgence of the undifferentiated ray of light the prophet exists in in his unmanifest state. This is the station of unicity. The plurality of prophets is an expression of this un-manifest state in the realm of sense and visibility.
Another interesting passage from the Pre-amble of the Haft Vadi is one in regards to the manifestation of existence in terms of it's source:
"By My life, O friend, wert thou to taste (dhawq) of these fruits (thahrat) , from the green garden of these blossoms which grow in the lands of knowledge, beside the orient lights of the Essence ('inda tajalli anwar al-dhat) in the mirrors (miraya) of names and attributes (al-asma' wa-al-sifat)-- yearning would seize the reins of patience (sabr) and reserve (istabar) from out thy hand, and make thy soul (ruah) to shake with the flashing [faithful] light (bi-waraqa al-anwar), and draw thee from the earthly homeland (watan) to the first, heavenly abode in the Center of Realities [Pole of Transcendent Immanence] (al-watan al-asaliy al-ilahi fiy qutb al-ma'i), and lift thee to a plane (maqam) wherein thou wouldst soar in the air even as thou walkest upon the earth, and move over the water as thou runnest on the land. Wherefore, may it rejoice Me, and thee, and whosoever mounteth into the heaven of knowledge (sama' al-`irfan), and whose heart (qalb) is refreshed by this, that the wind of certitude (saba al-yaqin) hath blown over the garden of his being (riyad sirrah), from the Sheba of the All-Merciful."(Nuri, HV pg. 3-4; SV para #5, pg. 3-4)Interestingly the use of the term "qutb al-ma'i" has a deeper meaning than translation allows. al-Jami speaking on the concept of "Ma'i" writes:
"They (Unitarian Sufis) also say that the Truth, because of His essential absoluteness (itlaqihi al- dhatihi) possesses essential coextension (al-ma'iyah al-dhatiyah) with every existent thing, and that his being present (hudur) with things is His knowledge of them, so that not an atom's weight escapes His knowledge on earth or in the heavens." (Jami, DF, pg. 52)"Ma'i" is literally "withness'. Understanding that the "qutb" is the pole or axis around which all things revolve we see that the center of realities is the Knowledge of God or the first emenation (sadir al- awwal) which is the universal prophetic station or general existence as al-Jami would say.
Likewise we can see a similiar symbolic representation in other works of Mirza Husayn-`Ali:
Lawh-i Kulli at-Ta'am:
"Praise be to God Who hath caused Oceans of Light (bahr an-nur?) to surge in the divine Fiery water; excited the Letters of Manifestation (ahruf al-zuhur) in the incomporable point of the realm of Unknowing (bi-al-nuqtat al-`ama'iyya al-firdaniyya); made (ja'il?) the Hidden Mount (tur al- ghaybiyya) revolve about the Firmament of Manifestation (falak al-zuhur), the concealed Self (nafs al-batun), the Focal Center of Eternality (wijhat al-azaliyya); caused the lordly Point (nuqtat al- rububiyya) to circle round the Most-Splendid, All-Enduring Ornament (tarz al-abha'iyya al- sarmadiyya) to the end that all may testify 'He is the True One. No God is there save Him. He, verily, is the incomporable, the One, the Eternal Who neither begetteth nor is begotten. He cannot be likened to any single thing and He, God, is the Majestic, the All-Compelling'[Qur'an Surah al-Ikhlas]." (Nuri [Lambden Tr.], KT, pg. 28 )Nuri's comments on a poem al-Qasida al-Warqa'iyya:
"In other words, the sign of effulgence (tajalli) which was from the effulgence of the lights (tajalliyat anwar) of the morn of unknowing and the appearance of the dawn (tazaharat ishraq) of the sun of holiness and glory (shams qudsi), which arose and was manifested from the sun of existence (shams wujud) and the moon of the desired One (qamara maqsud) and the Worshipped Point (Nuqtah mu'ibad) conferred and bestowed (mutashraq) everlasting and eternal life through the drops of the water of divine existence (wujud `aliy) and sprinklings of the undying pure and limpid waters upon the realities of contingent beings (haqa'iq mumiknat wujud) and the essence of created things (dhat muwujudat) and all the atoms of existent entities and rememberances, and clothed and garbed them in eternal robes and exalted shirts and everlasting imperishable garments." (Nuri [Mac Eoin tr.], QW, pg. 20-21 )
The Distinction of Manifestation:
One final point to look at in regards to this cosmogenesis is the distinction made between the Bahá'íyya and Sufiyya in terms of creative vocabulary. For the Sufis use the term manifestation (tajalla) for the creative act. The term emenation (ishraq, zahara) is used in the Bahá'íyya tongue for creation. Even though the Bahá'íyya do use the term Manifestation (tajalliya) it is always in the sense of a Noun or Masdar (verb noun). This is a subtle but important distinction as will be seen in Section III: Bahá'íyya Shuhud. The difference lies chiefly in the understanding that there are distinct spheres in Bahá'íyya thought compared with the unity-of-existence espoused by the Wahdat al-Wujudi sufis, such as al-Jami.