Different diminutions of angelology in philosophy of illumination

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A. Emanationistic scheme (Feyzan-e Anvar) and Angelology
Suhrawardi’s ontological views based on light and its varieties and the emantionistic scheme interwoven into his angelology with each angelic order performing an ontological task, which gradually helps the salik to find his original a bode by providing him with spiritual topography of the sacred world and its many paths and pitfalls.

Suhrawardi’s angelology represents an intricate web of lights, elements and symbols, a great number of which are drawn from the Zoroastrian tradition. His view of the function and the role of angels is radically different from Ibn Sinas which attributed rotations and many other functions to the heavenly bodies and astronomical issues. For Suhrawardi, angels means through which his metaphysical doctrine as well as esoteric views can be expressed and therefore the language with which he puts forward his angelology, sometime philosophical and sometime symbolic, is one that borrows heavily from other traditions.

Suhrawardi, says that from the light of lights arise two angelic orders, the latitudinal and longitudinal. The latitudinal order for him is the same as Plato’s archetypes to which Suhrawardi, refers as “masters of the species” (arbab al-anwa) and whose definition of them is somewhat similar to Plato’s. “The form of material species has to be in the illuminative world and be necessary, permanent and unchangeable.

B. Various angelic orders give rise to other angelic orders
The various angelic orders which themselves give rise to other angelic orders are as follows:
1. The longitudinal (tuli) order represents the archangels and is the first emanation which Suhrawardi identifies with Bahman from the Zoroastrian tradition. This order, which is referred to as the nearest light (nur al-aqrab), is a direct emanation of the supreme archetypes (hurmuzd)

2. The latitudinal (aradi) order which arises from the masculine aspect of supreme hierarchy represents Plato’s archetypes. Suhrawardi use Zoroastrian names for these forms such as Urdibihisht for fire, Khurdad for water, Murdad for plants Suhrawardi for minerals and Aspandarmaz for love. The elements of this order do not bring one another into existence as the longitudinal order does. Since all things in the world are manifestations’ of these latitudinal archetypes, Suhrawardi refers to them as “ theurgy” (tilismat) or icons ( sanam). He calls these archetypes the “masters of species” since each one gas its celestial domain over which it rules and exercises particular influence in the created order.

3. From the feminine aspect of the longitudinal order, which is characterized by love and receptivity, comes the solidification of the angelic order which manifests itself as fixed stars and heavenly bodies. These observable bodies, which in a sense are absences of light, are ontologically distant from the light of lights.

4. Finally, Suhrawardi tells us of another angelic order which is effused from the latitudinal order, The intermediary angelic order, which is called lordly light ( al- anwar al-is fahbadiyyah) or regent light (al- anwar al mudabbirah), consists of the angels of mercy and guardians of the earth and all its inhabitants.

The lordly light which exists within the soul of every man is represented by Gabriel, the archetype of humanity (rabb al-naw al- qudus), equating it with the spirit of the Prophet Muhammad. In addition to this angelic entity, Suhrawardi tells us that every man has own guardian angel who readies in the angelic world and who divides in half before entering the human body .Half of it remains in the angelic world and the other half enters the prison of body from which it always seeks its release in order to become united with the other half.

C. Importance of angelology in unity among religions
Suhrawardi’s angelic scheme is significant not only because it unites his ontology and metaphysics but also because it demonstrates that Islam, the Zoroastrian religion and for that matter all the divinely revealed religions, allude to the same truth when they are viewed from an esoteric point of view. Suhrawardi enters into a hermeneutic discussion of the sacred meaning of the Zoroastrian angels to explain how they fit within the metaphysical doctrine of Islam, the Zoroastrian fire, Suhrawardi argues, is the divine light and farwahar as archetype of the human souls which descends upon the human body after it is conceived.

D. Application of angelology in epistemology
Another application of Suhrawardi angelology lies in his epistemological doctrine and the problem of knowledge. Having argued that angels are independent realities in the world, the then follows an Ibn Sinaian scheme to say that angels are also representations of man’s inner forces that have been externalized. The externalization serves as a spiritual map of the inner guides. He who learns how to follow them properly will be led to the heart of the ishraqi doctrine, that is, ”To know everything, one has to first how himself.” Knowledge of the self and self – Knowledge therefore are necessary conditions for anyone in his spiritual quest who seeks certainty. In the words of Henry Corbin, self – Knowledge is necessary “ for all those who are called to a direct and unmediated relationship with the divine world.

The power of guidance helps us to overcome our fundamental alienation from ourselves which in the ishraqi school is denoted as ignorance of oneself. In its epistemological context, Suhrawardi’s angelology provides us means through which God guides us to self- Knowledge and, eventually, Knowledge of the Divine itself.

Zoroastrian angels, however, are not simply aspects of the supreme divinity, but Seven Powers (Amshaspanda),the Seven Avestan Amerta Spenta, the holy immortals. Their holiness is an active and activating energy that communicates and grants being to all things.

E. Compatability of Zoroastrian angelology with principles of Islamic philosophy
Suhrawardi introduces the Zoroastrian angels amidst the exposition of his metaphysical arguments in order to show the fundamental harmony between the Weltanschauung of the Islamic and Zoroastrian religious universes. The following shows Suhrawardi’s use of the Zoroastrian angelology of “Persian theosophers” (hukama-yi Fars) and their compatability with Islamic metaphysical principles.
Minu= Incorporeal world
Giti= Corporeal world
Hurqalya= Archetypal world
Surush= Gabriel
Farvadin= The lower world pure essence
Gawhar = Pure essence
Bahram= Victory, which often appears in the form of a mad ox, White horse or sometimes a hen.
Hurakhsh= Sun
Shahriyar= Archetype of species
Isfahbad= Light in the body
Kiyan kharrah= The inorporeal light which descends upon those who have attained the divine wisdom. The priest-kings of the ancient Persia were Considered by Suhrawardi to have attained
Kiyan kharreh, the wisdom that necessary for being a wise king.

Suhrawardi describes the above as follows: Once the soul becomes illuminated and strong through the rays of divine light, it reaches the throne of kiyani and becomes fully grounded in power and prosperity.


suhrawardi and illumination school


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