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In our view, the doubt of the likes of Kant, Hegel and Spencer concerning the first cause derives from two basic philosophical issues, both of which have remained unsolved in Western philosophy. Of these, the first is the issue of fundamentality of existence (asalat al-wujud), and the second that of the criterion for requiring a cause (manat-e ihtiyaj bi 'illat). It is not appropriate here to discuss and explain the issue of fundamentality of existence, or the contrary doctrine of the fundamentality of essence (asalat al-mahiyyah).
However, we shall confine ourselves to giving a brief explanation. On the basis of the notion of fundamentality of essence-to give a very elementary and superficial picture of it, that is, one based on the assumption that God also, like all other existents, has an essence and an existence (which is an invalid idea even from the viewpoint of the proponents of the theory of fundamentality of essence, because they too consider God as pure existence)-the question arises as to why everything requires a cause while God doesn't. Why is one being Necessary and others contingent? Is it not that all beings are essences which come into existence?
But on the basis of the theory fundamentality of existence-whose principal architect in regard to its philosophical demonstration and providing the proofs is Sadr al-Muta'allihin Shirazi-the pattern of thinking changes radically.
On the basis of the former theory (fundamentality of essence) our conception of things will be that their essence is something which is intrinsically different from existence. Existence should be given to it by another being. We name this other being 'cause.' But in accordance with the theory of fundamentality of existence, the real being of things is what they partake of existence. Existence is not an essence to which another being may bestow existence. Hence if it be necessary that an external cause bestow something, that thing would be the very being of things, which happens to be existence itself, not something accidental and additional to the essence of things.
There is another question which arises at this point. Is it necessary that existence as such-that is, regardless of its form, manifestation and plane-requires to be bestowed by another being, implying that existence qua existence is identical with being a gift and emanation [of something else with dependence, relation, being an effect, and being posterior [to that which gives it existence], and hence is necessarily finite? Or is there some other perspective?
The answer is that the reality of existence, despite its various planes and manifestations, is no more than a single reality. It does not necessarily entail need and dependence upon another thing. That is because the meaning of dependence and need with respect to existence (in contrast to the dependence and need which were assumed earlier in relation to essences) is that existence should itself be needy and dependent. And if the reality of existence were need and dependence, it implies that it will be related to and dependent upon something other than itself, while no 'other' is conceivable for existence, because something other than existence is either non-existence or essence, which, as presumed, is derivative (i'tibari) and a sibling of non-existence. Hence the reality of existence qua reality of existence necessitates independence, self-sufficience, and absence of need for and relation with something other than itself. It is also necessarily absolute, unconditioned, and unlimited. That is, it entails the impossibility of non-existence and negation finding a way into it. Need, want, and dependence, and similarly finitude and mingling with non-existence, derive from another consideration, which is different from the consideration of pure existence: these derive from posteriority and being an effect (ma'luiyyat). That is, existence qua existence and regardless of all other considerations necessitates self-sufficience and independence from cause. As to the need for a cause-or in other words, that a being at a particular plane and stage should require a cause-that derives from its not being the reality of existence and its reliance upon God for coming into existence through emanation. And the logical consequence of being an emanation is posteriority and need, or rather, it is nothing except these.
From here we come to understand that according to the theory of fundamentality of existence, when we focus our intellect upon the reality of existence, we find there self-sufficience, priority, and the absence of need. In other words, the reality of existence is equivalent to essential necessity (wujub-e dhati), and to use an expression of Hegel's liking, the rational dimension of the reality of existence is absence of need for a cause. Dependence upon a cause derives from a consideration (itibar) other than the reality of existence, and this consideration is posteriority and finitude. In other words, the need for a cause is the same as existence at a plane posterior to the reality of existence, and, in Hegelian terminology, the need for a cause is not the rational dimension of existence.
This is the meaning of the statement that 'The Truthful, when they contemplate the reality of existence and observe it sans every condition and relation (idafah), the first thing which they discover is the Necessary Being and the First Cause. From the Necessary Being they infer Its effects which are not pure existence, being finite beings bearing non-being within.' This is what is meant when it is said that in this logic there is no middle term for proving the existence of God; the Divine Being is the witness of Its existence.
God bears witness, and those possessing knowledge and upholding justice, and the angles, that there is no God but He. (3:18)
The proof of the sun is the sun (himself): if you require the proof, do
not avert thy face from him!
If the shadow gives an indication of him, the sun (himself) gives
spiritual life every moment.
This discloses the baselessness of the statements of those who say that the notion of the first cause involves a contradiction because it implies that a thing is the originator of its own existence and hence exists before coming into being.
Similarly baseless is the statement of those who say: 'Supposing that we prove that every thing has been brought into existence by the first cause, the question remains as to what has brought the first cause into existence; hence the first cause remains an unjustifiable exception.
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