Islamic cosmological doctrine

Examples of Integrated, Multi-set Concept Schemes (Annex 11)

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See other Examples of Integrated, Multi-set Concept Schemes. The concept scheme described here is discussed in the paper on: Patterns of N-foldness: comparison of integrated multi-set concept schemes as forms of presentation. This was prepared for a sub-project meeting of the Forms of Presentation group of the Goals, Processes and Indicators of Development (GPID) project of the United Nations University (UNU). The annexes were published in Patterns of Conceptual Integration. Brussels, UIA, 1984, pp. 161-204

The development of Islamic culture has been shaped by a profound cosmology to which a major contributor was the philosophical group Ikhwan al-Safa (The Brethren of Purity) concerning which extracts from the following books have been made:

  • Seyyed Hossein Nasr. An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines. Shambhala, 1978
  • Nader Ardalan and Laleh Bakhtiar. The Sense of Unity; the Sufi tradition in architecture. Chicago, 1971

"The most essential division within Islam is the "vertical" hierarchy of the Sacred Law..., the Way...and the Truth, the first being the exoteric aspect of the Islamic revelation, divided into the Sunni and the Shi'ite interpretations of the tradition, and the latter two the esoteric aspects which are usually known under the denomination of Sufism." (Nasr, p. 18) "After this long search into the identity and significance of the Ikhwan we find ourselves confronted with many contradictory opinions among students of the subject....But it is perhaps more significant, especially with respect to their cosmological doctrines, to describe them as a Shi'ah group with Sufi tenden- cies whose exposition of the cosmological sciences was to influence the whole Muslim community...for a thousand years." (Nasr, pp. 35-7) The Ikhwan define the ideal and morally perfect man as of: "East Persian derivation, Arabic in faith, of Iraqui, that is Babylonian education, a Hebrew in astuteness, a disciple of Christ in conduct, as pious as a Syrian monk, a Greek in the individual sciences, an Indian in the inter- pretation of all mysteries, but lastly and especially, a Sufi in his whole spiritual life." (citation in Nasr, p. 31)

0,1 "The question of the Unity of the Divine Principle and the consequent unicity of Nature is particularly important in Islam where the idea of Unity over- shadows all others and remains at every level of Islamic civilization the most basic principle upon which all else depends....The formula of Unity is the most universal criterion of orthodoxy in Islam; that doctrine may be said to be Islamic that affirms this unity in one way or other." (Nasr, pp. 4-5)

0.2 "To demonstrate this unicity they have to appeal constantly to those powers and faculties in man which themselves possess the power of synthesis and unification so that they can integrate the peripheral and multiple activity of the observational faculties into the central and unifying vision of the Intellect." (Nasr, p. 40)

0,3 "The universe described...is a unified whole whose various parts are held together by the analogy which exists between them....The language with which this interrelation is expounded is that of symbolism, particularly numerical symbolism. Everywhere within the Universe the key to the understanding of things is numbers, which, like the morning sun, disperse the fog of the unintelligibility of things considered only in their terrestrial aspect.... through numbers they are able to relate multiplicity to Unity and bring to light the harmony which pervades the Universe." (Nasr, pp. 44-5)

0,4 "The science of number ('ilm al-'adad) is consideredby the Ikhwan as the way leading to the grasp of Unity, as a science which stands above Nature and is the principle of beings and the root of other sciences....the 'tongue which speaks of Unity and transcendence'." (Nasr, p. 46)

0.5 "Considering the affinity of the Ikhwan with the Pythagoreans, however, partic- ularly in mathematics, it is essential to define briefly the meaning of number and geometry according to this ancient Greek school...which was so influential in the formation' of Muslim intellectual sciences...."This is numbers in the Pythagorean sense, of which the universal rather than the quantitative import is already to be divined in geometrical figure...Whilst one obtains ordinary numbers by addition, qualitative number results on the contrary, from an Internal or intrinsic differentiation of principial unity; it is not added to anything and does not depart from unity. Geometrical figures ara so many images of unity; they exclude one another or rather they denote different principial quantities; the triangle is harmony, the square stability; these are 'concentric' not 'serial' numbers."....The final aim of geometry is to permit the faculties of the soul to reflect and meditate independently of the external world..." (Nasr., pp. 47-9 citing Schoon)

0.6 "The essential techniques of numerical symbolism and analogy, which...form the basic language of the Ikhwan, are used...in...illuminating the reality and beauty of the relation between the microcosm and macrocosm and the hierarchy of Being. To a reader unsympathetic to this perspective, such efforts may seem artificial and unreal. If, however, one possesses the "conceptual perspective" necessary for an understanding of these symbols, the beauty and grandeur of these analogies becomes evident." (Nasr, p. 67)

1.1 Macrocosm or microcosm: creator. Geometry: point. Mathematics: principle and origin of all numbers (Ardalan)

2.1 Macrocosm: intellect (innate; acquired). Microcosm: body in two parts (left and right). Geometry: line. Mathematics: one half of all numbers counted by it. (Ardalan)

3.1 Macrocosm: soul (vegetative; animal; rational). Microcosm: animal constitution (two extremities and middle). Geometry: triangle. Mathematics: first odd number; one third of all numbers counted by it. (Ardalan)

4.1 Macrocosm: matter (original; physical; universal; artefacts), Microcosm: four humours (phlegm; blood; yellow bile; black bile). Geometry: square or cross. Mathematics: first square number.(Ardalan)

5.1 Macrocosm: nature (ether; fire; air; water; earth). Microcosm: five senses (sight; hearing; touch; taste; smell). Geometry: pentagon or five pointed star. Mathematics: first circular number. (Ardalan)

6.1 Macrocosm: body (above, below, front, back, right, left). Microcosm: six powers of motion and direction (up; down; front; back; left; right). Geometry: hexagon or six-pointed star. Mathematics: first complete number.(Ardalan)

7.1 Macrocosm: universe (7 visible planets and 7 days of week). Microcosm: active powers (attraction; sustenance; digestion; repulsion; nutrition; growth; formation). Geometry: heptagon or seven-pointed star. Mathematics: first perfect number. (Ardalan)

8.1 Macrocosmor microcosm: qualities. Geometry: octagon or 8-pointed star. Mathematics: first cubic number, (Ardalan)

9.1 Macrocosm: beings of this world (3-fold groups of mineral, plant, animal). Microcosm: elements of body (brains; brain; nerves; veins; blood; flesh; skin; nails; hair). Geometry: nonagon or 9-pointed star. Mathematics: first odd square. (Ardalan)

10.1 Macrocosm: tetractys (4 universal beings). Microcosm: basic disposition of body, (Ardalan)

12.1 Macrocosm: zodiac. Microcosm: 12 orifices of body.(Ardalan)

28.1 Macrocosm: stations of moon. Microcosm: vertebrae. Mathematics: 2nd complete number. (Ardalan)

360.1 Macrocosm: number of solar days. Microcosm: veins in body.(Ardalan)

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