Introductory Self Knowledge
“Self-Knowledge” by Mohammad Mahdi Memarian (Translated)
Who Am I?
The passengers of a ship woke up while the sun was rising. Everyone started doing their own thing. Suddenly, one of the passengers thought, “Where are we going in this ocean?”. He asked many people where they were heading, but no one knew. Soon, everyone began wondering the same thing: where were they going? This story is like the story of human beings on Earth. The ship represents the Earth and the ocean represents the Milky Way. If we were asked “Where are you going?” or “Where did you come from?”, most of us would not know how to reply. We don’t ask ourselves where we are going, what we are doing, where we came from, where we are, or the big question, who we are. If we can find the answer, then we will understand self-knowledge. The key to self-knowledge is within the answers to such questions and to find the answers, we must put aside everything we have learned and start from scratch.
When we look around ourselves, we see things that have length, width, depth, color, and sometimes smell. We do not see anything that does not have any of the above properties. Now, we are going to start studying these things. We start giving these things names, and one of their names, is solid. In the category of solid things, there is a type of group that has all the above properties, but also grows. These things are called plants. There is one group that has all the things plants have but has one more property. That property is called emotion: like fear, hunger, thirst, anger, etc. We call these things, animals. Another group of animals has something extra: knowledge and intelligence, they are the same thing. This group is us, human beings. When we see a building, a shirt, a carpet, it is knowledge that creates them. If a human did not have knowledge, then the things from above and more would not be created. So, as a result, knowledge is higher than all of these and it is not from the same type of them. The question is: “What is the knowledge and what is its difference with others?”
Is it a matter or meaning? Does it have length, width, and depth? Now, we want to investigate that. We will first focus on dreams.
Our eyes are closed, and our ears aren’t listening, but in dreams, we can see, hear, smell, and touch. If our eyes and ears are asleep, then where do we see dreams? Who is dreaming and seeing while our eyes are closed? The answer is “I”. So, you are not this body because when you are sleeping, your body is out of work. Sometimes when you dream, you walk, you talk, you hear, you have clothes, you might even be wounded. So, then, who am I, what am I, and where am I?
You sometimes see that you went to a mountain with lots of trees. If the mountain was in the body, how would you hold it in? Now that the mountain is not in your body, then where is it? And if it is outside of your body, then how do you see it if your eyes are closed? For this “I”, you must think a lot to find the answer. To find “I”, we are going to start questioning and answering together.
Who is the owner of this house? I am the owner of this house! Who is the owner of this car? I am the owner of this car!
Who does the shirt you are wearing right now belong to? I am the owner of this shirt!
Who is this “I” you are talking about? What is this question you are asking? It is obvious. My whole body is “I”! I do not believe in souls.
Okay. When you get a sunburn, your skin color turns darker. So, does your “I” change? No. So, your skin color is not part of your “I”? No, it is not.
So, pretend you go to the barber and cut your hair. Does your “I” change? No, my “I” is still here. So, pretend you are cutting your nails. Does your “I” change? No, it does not.
Therefore, your skin, your hair, and your nails are not a part of your “I”? No, that is obvious. These are dead cells.
That is funny. At first, you said that your “I” is your whole body, but now you say that those parts are dead cells and are not a part of your “I”. That is okay. I will ask another question now. Pretend that one of your fingers gets cut off. Does your “I” change? No, it does not.
Now, pretend that both arms from your shoulders are cut off. Does your “I” change? No, it does not.
Now, pretend that both of your feet get cut off from your ankles. Does your “I” change? No, it does not.
Now, pretend that someone takes out your heart and replaces it with a fake one. Does your “I” change? No, it does not.
So, then, where is your “I”? If you remove your heart, your feet, your arms, your kidney, your stomach, your hair, your fingers, your skin, and so on, where is your “I”? You said I do not believe in souls. Where is your “I”? No, my “I” is my brain.
That is very funny. At first, you said your whole body is your “I”, but now you say that your “I” is your brain. Okay, that is okay. Which part of your brain is your “I”? My “I” is my whole brain.
We know that we can remove a part of the brain in an operation, but the person is still alive. It is probably at the center of my brain.
Now, how many are you? That is a funny question! I am just one person.
Then, let us go to the center part of your brain and start studying it. Assume we are cells going inside the center part of your brain to find your “I”. Now, we see that the center part of your brain
is made up of millions of cells. They are alive, they eat, they die, and they produce other cells. My question is: Where is your “I”? Which one of those cells is your “I”? One of the central cells is probably my “I”.
Let us go and study that cell. Amazingly, it is made of millions of molecules. Now, which one is your “I”? You cannot say all of them, because you already said that you are one, so you cannot be all those molecules. The central molecules, probably.
If we go inside molecules, we see lots of atoms and each atom consists of electrons, neutrons, and protons. Scientists believe that the distance between an electron and a neutron is like the distance between the Earth and the Sun. So, as you see, the atoms’ world is like the Milky Way. So, where is your “I”? I do not know.
Therefore, your “I” is not your body. It does not have physical properties of matter like length, depth, width, etc. We need to think about this “I” very deeply because it will guide us to the hidden world.
Now, let us look at this topic from a different point of view. The question is: Can we find anything in this physical world that is one (individual)? To find this answer, we will need to first explain some things. We have two ones. One is real and the other is fake. For example, one human is the real one, but an army is the fake one. If you say “I want to talk to one army”, you will be told that it is not possible. If you say, “I want to talk to a sand dune.”, they will say “It is not possible, because the sand dune is made up of many grains of sand”. And if you say, “I want to talk to a mosque”, “It is not possible, because the mosque is made up of many different materials”. All the above examples are fake ones.
Now, we want to see if a real one exists in this physical world. Let us start with one book. Is this one a real one? No, it is not, because it is made up of different pages. Let’s separate one page from one book. Now, is this the real one or the fake one? Well this is fake, because it is made up of many molecules. Now, let us separate one molecule from one page out of one book. Is this the real one or fake one? It is the fake one because within that molecule, there are lots of atoms. We can keep continuing to ask more and more questions. As long as we have dimension, we can continue dividing forever. If we solve this mystery, we will be able to see the manifestation of God (we will discuss this later). So far, we assume that we want to understand ourselves. After we know ourselves, then we will go to Allah.
Matter has length, width, depth, color, and weight. Since we have proven that our “I” isn’t matter, we know that our “I” does not have everything that matters has. My body has weight, not my “I”. So, my “I” does not have space either, because space is for matter, and we know that “I” is not matter. This “I” is very strange. At first, if someone asked you who you are, you would be shocked. You would point at your body, saying: “It is obvious! This is me!” But let us go a bit deeper. Imagine being thirsty and wanting to drink water, but you remember that you are fasting, so you do not drink anything. Or, imagine you are hungry and want to eat something, but the food before you does not belong to you. You would say, “Oh, I am not going to eat that. It belongs to someone else”. Now, who told you to eat or not eat in that scenario? This is a serious question. Every “I” has different stages. There are two main stages. One stage is within the bounds of time and the other is free from time. Now, if someone reaches the stage that is free from time, they might go
1,000 years to the past or 1,000 years to the future. It is like if you were to climb a fence, you will see both sides, or you might go out of time completely and see everything at once. Now, you see that we slowly understand our “I”. We first need to know ourselves, then we will know our God. Allameh Hassanzadeh Amuli proved that our soul is free from matter and its property by bringing 100 reasons in “Ganjineh Gohar Ravan”. *
Let us discuss knowledge. By studying the meaning of knowledge, we can prove that the “I” or “Nafs” (human soul) is free from matter and its properties. What is the meaning of knowledge? We can define it as the presence or obtaining of a figure or meaning of a thing for a knowing person”. A “figure” is the physical shape of a thing. An example of a figure is a glass; when we look at a glass, its figure is obtained by us ( our “I” or “Nafs”). A “meaning of a thing” refers to abstract concepts; love, power, and hate are concepts that have a meaning instead of a figure. Again: the presence of a figure or a meaning is called knowledge.
We have two types of knowledge. 1 – knowledge by presence or consciousness, and 2 – obtained knowledge. We will discuss them later.
Assume you see a house. To have knowledge of this house, its figure needs to be present or obtained by you. Is the figure’s actual size inside your brain? Some might say that its figure becomes very small so it can fit inside our brain, and then we see it. If this were true, then our brain would see that small size, not the actual size of the house. However, we see the house in its actual size, not in the small size that would fit in our brain. Assume the figure of the house does become very small, like the size of a cell, and goes to our brain. The question is, who will perceive it? It needs to be present or obtained by someone. Who is that person? Is it another cell? We proved that, in matter, we cannot find any real “one” with the ability to perceive. For example, a cell is made up of many molecules, a molecule is made up of atoms, and an atom is made up of electrons, protons, and neutrons. If the particle has dimension then it can be divided so that one part of the particle is absent from the other side of the particle, and this goes on and on. As a result, you can see this figure, but if you were a matter, you would not be able to perceive the figure. One side of the wall is absent from another side of the wall, one side of a paper is absent from the other side.
Some might say the figure of the house is converted to electrical pulses in our brain and then we see it. Yes, we 100% agree up to this part, but the questions are, 1- Who will perceive it? and 2- How do we see it with its actual size? Our eyes and brain are tools we use to perceive the figure. Always remember: “presence and obtaining of a figure or a meaning of a thing for a knowing person” is knowledge.
Another question: who will perceive the meaning of love and power? They do not have a physical shape and we cannot make them small figures to go to our brain. They also do not have size or weight. Can you pour some knowledge in a glass? No; therefore, you cannot physically put knowledge in your brain. Can we divide knowledge? No, but we can divide a brain or a cell. If knowledge is within the brain or cell, then when we divide the brain or cell, the knowledge should also be divided. Therefore, we can conclude that 1- knowledge is not in our brain 2- knowledge is not matter. The place of knowledge is in our “I” ( this will be explained later).
According to a physician, knowledge is converted to codes and pulses which go inside our brain so that we see, hear, and understand things. A simple question would be: who perceives those codes? It is you or your Nafs or soul that perceives it and, as we proved, Nafs is not matter.
We are just in the beginning of our journey towards self-knowledge; there is a long way to go. If we know ourselves, then we will know our Lord. What is matter? It seems like a simple question but it requires a detailed explanation, which we will discuss later.
Now let us start a heavier subject. We have a power within ourselves which makes figures and shapes for us. We call this “Khial Power”. For example, by using Khial Power you can draw a rectangle, triangle, house, or even a human with 2 heads in your mind. Do these figures exist? Yes, they do since you are able to perceive them. Perceiving and not perceiving them are not equal so they exist. Where are those figures located? Close your eyes and now imagine a 200- floor tower. We proved that this figure exists, so where is it? Is it in your brain? It cannot be in your brain because it is so big and cannot even fit in your body. It is not outside your brain because you closed your eyes. It became interesting, didn’t it?
Khial power works in a world that is different from our physical world. It is called “Khial or Mesal World”. Using “Khial power” you can talk and hear within yourself. For example, you might ask yourself: should I go to my friend’s house?, then reply to your own question: No, it is late. Khial power is something we all use daily without realizing how powerful it is.
Imagine Mount Everest in your mind. The figure of this mountain is present for us, so we have knowledge of it. Always keep in mind that knowledge is the presence or obtaining of a figure or meaning for a knowing person. So, this mountain is present for you since you can see it. You think you are this small body but there is a vast world within you. In fact, you see things in your Khial World!!
We see our dreams in the Khial or Mesal world. We see ships, oceans, mountains, and trees in our dreams. These objects have figures, but they are free from matter. The things we see in our dreams are within ourselves. We have a lot to say about dreams and their meaning, but we will discuss it later.
We see our dreams in the Khial or Mesal world. We see ships, oceans, mountains, and trees in our dreams. They have figures but they are free from matter. Whatever we see in our dreams are within ourselves. We have a lot to say about dreams and their meaning, but we will discuss that later.
Here is a summary of what we have learned so far:
- “I” or “Nafs” and knowledge are free from matter and its properties.
- Khial figures are figures that are free from matter.
- Khial figures are inside us because we have knowledge about them.
- Khial figures are not in our brain because they are in our Khial world.
- We see our dreams either in our Khial world or in our Mesal world.
- We see dreams by Khial power in our Khial world.
- Knowledge and its container are free from matter (“I” or “Nafs” are not like a glass container that we store knowledge within. In the metaphysical world, a thing and its container are not equivalent to a thing and its container in this material world).
There is another type of power within us which we call “Wahm power”. By using this power, we perceive detailed meaning. For example, when you see someone bring up a white flag, you understand that it represents peace/surrender. When someone bows down to you, you understand that it is a sign of respect. In some cases, when someone smiles, you understand he is happy. In another case, when someone smiles, you understand that he is making fun of you. In other cases, when someone smiles, you may understand that his smile is not real. Do animals
also have this power? Yes, animals such as dogs can understand kind words from their owner. They can understand when their owner is angry, happy, and sad. “Wahm power” is also free from matter since it perceives a meaning from figures.
There is another type of power called “Intelligence power”. By using this power, we perceive the general meaning of things that are free from matter and figures. When we say “tree”, we understand the meaning of the tree. That tree is not a specific tree like an apple or an orange tree but includes all different types of trees. This belongs to humans only.
In conclusion, we have 5 ways of perceiving:
- Sensible perceiving: When we see an apple tree that has both a figure and matter.
- Khial perceiving: When we picture an apple tree in our mind which has a figure but does not have matter.
- Wahm perceiving: When we understand the meaning, which is free from figure and matter, like when we understand to respect someone for their actions.
- Intelligence perceiving: When we understand the general meaning of a tree. It is also free from matter and figure.
- Super-intelligence perceiving: Proves that “Nafs” or “I” has a potential to be unlimited. This will be explained in depth later.
(Some people combined type three and four from above into one category.) An important note is that the act of perceiving is free from matter. Why? We described that to perceive, we need to have a “one” identity, which we have proved before that matter does not have a real “one”. As a result of this, anything we perceive has “Nafs” or “I”. Even a small worm has “Nafs”, but it is very weak since the worm only has the touching sense (sensible perceiving).
The capacity of any container decreases when you put something in it, with the exception of knowledge that only increases by adding more knowledge (Amir Al-M’uminin Ali(A)). It is an incredibly wise sentence. Is it like pouring water in a glass? No, since knowledge and its container are free from matter, so they do not have matter’s properties. What is the relationship between knowledge and our Nafs? It will be discussed later. If you want to be a professional powerlifter, it is better to start lifting small weights. After becoming stronger, you will go for heavier weights. Similarly here, we need to exercise before going deeper into the heavy discussions.
Let us talk more about “Nafs”. Our “Nafs” is free from matter. In Arabic, we call it “Basit”, and in English, we call it Simple. Simple is anything that has no parts. By this, we mean that “Nafs” is not made of different things. My body is made of hands, feets, legs and so on and each part of my body is also made of molecules, atoms, and more. Steel is made of iron and carbon molecules. So, with the above explanation, is Gold simple or “Basit”? No, because it is made up of different particles. Therefore, matter is not “Basit” or not free from any composition, right? Yes.
Matter is made of particles. If we separate those particles from each other, what will happen? Its shape will change. For example, if you separate iron from carbon in steel, you will not have steel anymore. Likewise, if you remove one particle from Gold, then you no longer have Gold. This is matter’s property.
We can conclude: “Nafs is free matter and its property, or in other words, Nafs is Basit and not made of particles, right? Yes. Therefore, it will not be destroyed like matter and it will exist forever”. When we die, our body will be destroyed but our soul will exist forever. We prove “Ma’ad” or insurrection. We will discuss more about Ma’ad later. We have proven that Nafs is free from matter and knowledge is also free from matter. Thus, our knowledge will exist forever. Any perception is
free from matter and animals are also perceiving, so animals will exist forever but how? We will discuss this later as well.
By now, you should realize how important it is to know ourselves. Prophet Muhammad (S) said: “ Whoever knows themself, will know their Lord”.
What is death? Death is the separation of your soul from your body. Who perceives it? You (“I”). Then what is our body for? The body is just a tool and a middleman. An example to understand this better: some people need to wear glasses to see things better. If they remove their glasses, they will have a difficult time seeing things. Is it correct to say that their glasses see things? No, their glasses are a tool to see, but perception belongs to you. Your body is like a glass and acts as a tool for your perception.
Similarly, death is like when you leave your body. When there is no body, you (“Nafs” ) are still existing and perceiving. In dreams, you see a body for yourself which is different than your material body. In each world, we would have a proper body for ourselves. Death is another birth to the hereafter. Before you come to this world, if someone were to tell you that another world is much bigger and different from your mom’s tummy, you would probably not believe it. People are scared of death since they do not know it. Death is actually delicious!!! The Holy Quran says: “Everyone tastes death.” People who are wise do not forget death and the hereafter.
Reality of this World
If you were forced to choose this world or the hereafter, which one would you choose? The temporary one or the one that lasts forever? You wish to have a good car, a good house, but you lose your interest in them when you get them. You want to own a private jet or a nice yacht, but you lose your interest in them when you own them. You see that you are looking for something else. Why is that? Because “Nafs” is unlimited and needs more.
Let us look at this differently with questions and answers:
Q: What would you like to have?
A: I would like to have the latest brand of a BMW car.
Q: Imagine that you have it, what else would you like to have? A: I would like to have a big house, like a castle in Florida.
Q: Imagine that you have it, what else would you like to have?
A: I would like to have a private jet, a yacht, and another house in Europe. Q: Imagine that you have them; what else would you like to have?
A: I would like to be the richest man in the USA.
Q: Imagine that you are the richest man in the USA, and you own Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon. What else would you like to have?
A: I would like to be the wealthiest person in the world.
Q: Imagine that you are the wealthiest person in the world. What else would you like to have? A: I would like to be the president of the USA.
Q: Imagine that you are the president of the USA. What else would you like to have? A: I would like to be the owner of the Earth.
Q: Imagine that you are the owner of the Earth. What else would you like to have?
A: I would like to be the Earth’s, Sun, and Milky Ways owner; basically, all skies, stars, and all living creatures.
Q: Imagine you have all the above. What else would you like to have?
A: I would like to live forever. I want to be the most powerful person and own everything!!!! Q: So, you are looking to be perfect like God, who is all-knowing and all-powerful.
Prophet Muhammad(S) said: “two people will not be full 1- the person who is demanding this world 2- the person who is demanding the knowledge”. “Someone asked Imam Sajjad (A), what is intelligence? Imam (A) said: intelligence is the one that worships God and makes heaven”. Do not think people who are greedy for money and power are wise. This world is like a dream. When you wake up, you understand that creatures you thought were independent of God; those thoughts were illusions. These are the keys that we will need to explore the treasures of the Holy Quran. Allameh Hassanzadeh said: “the person who does not have knowledge is like a smart animal”. You see kids playing with sand, making castles, fighting with each other, and pretending to be police officers or teachers. Similarly, this is true for us, except that we are heavier and taller than kids and greedier.
How do we see, hear and smell? How is the quality of perceiving? When we touch a thing, we will perceive warmth, coldness, softness, roughness, heaviness, and lightness. Are all the above methods of perceiving the same? We see that the sense of touch has a different sensitivity in some part of our body. How do you sense through touching things? When you touch a hot pan, the fast movement of molecules transfers to your fingertips then electrical pulses will be sent to your brain. Does your hand sense this hotness? No, because if you place a hand with no nerves on a 100 C water, you do not feel it, so your hand is not a perceiver, but it is a tool. Material scientists believe that the brain perceives this, but we proved that the Nafs is perceiving using the brain. How is the quality of perception? Do you really perceive outside things? No, you only perceive your electrical pulses, not the actual thing outside of your body. Before that knowledge, we said “Presence or obtaining of a figure or meaning of a thing for a knowing person,” and we have two types of knowledge: 1- Obtaining Knowledge 2- Presence knowledge. Experience from touching is obtaining knowledge, meaning you received electrical pulse using your nerve system to brain you perceive them. When you see a thing that outside thing is called “Ma’lum Bel- Araz” ( known by other things) and the figure that you see in Nafs is called “Ma’lum Bel-Zat”(known by itself). When you see a tree, you do not see the actual tree that’s outside, but you see a tree made by Nafs, based on your nerve responses sent to your brain.
This is also valid when you hear, touch and taste. For example, if a doctor makes some fake sensitivity on a specific part of your tongue, you might feel that as sour or sweet. So, we only perceive figures made using our electrical pulses by our Nafs, not the actual thing.
What are the truth and actual reality of things? How can we know the things that we see are the same as the things outside of our body? Is it possible to have real knowledge about outside things? Prophet Muhammad (S) said: “ Oh Allah, please show me things as they are” we will discuss it when you get a bit stronger.
One of the key topics which is necessary to understand self-knowledge is “motion”. Philosophers believe that motion is “the exit from a specific station to a potential station”, “the exit from want to become”, or “the exit from lack to have”. Earth’s rotation around itself creates days and nights. Earth’s movement around the Sun creates seasons and years. We also see this movement for the Milky Way around its center. Humans, animals, and birds have movements. An orange seed becomes an orange tree, and an apple seed becomes an apple tree and so on. A human cell becomes a human that amazingly can hear, see, smell, and think. A bird egg becomes a bird. A blossom becomes a flower. An apple becomes green, yellow and red. The taste of an apple also changes from sour to sweet and delicious. Voice is the motion of air molecules. The motion of warm and cold air creates wind that moves. All stars have motion. Our blood has motion. Our heart has motion. All cells have motion, they move, eat, and even produce other cells. We see
atoms moving, and electrons within atoms moving. If you observe closely, our whole world is moving, and it is actually true to say that “the reality of the world is motion”.
Motion is permanent. Motion is not stationary. To understand this better we will bring some examples:
- Assume that you travel with constant velocity and your speed is 1km/hour. How far would you go in a minute? (1000m/60m). How far would you go in a second? (1000m/60m*60s). How far would you go in a millisecond? (1000/60m*60s*1000). If you decrease the time would you obtain a condition where there is no movement? No, why? Because if it were stationary then we would not have movement.
- Assume a fan is moving with the same speed and you took a picture at 1 millisecond. The picture of the fan shows an image of a stationary fan. Can we say that the fan was not moving at that 1 millisecond? No, why? Because if it was stationary at 1 millisecond, at the next millisecond it will be stationary too and with adding stationaries, we cannot have motion.
If we do not have any motion, would it be possible to have existence in this world? No. Why? Because as we said motion is “the exit from lack to have” or “the exit from want to become”. If you become a thing then you have had motion since you changed. From motion we understand time. The whole world is in permanent motion. If it did not have something before, then it will have something in the next moment. I am sure you have seen the growth of a seed with faster speed on YouTube. In every moment, its shape changes and it converts to something else. We have about 50 to 75 trillion cells in our body which die and are replaced by new cells. What is really happening in our body? It is like a country where everyone does their own job; some protect, some make specific food for each organ, some transfer food, and so on. Our body is also in motion. One moment of our body is not the same as the last or the next moment. We see that our “I” did not change or did not convert to another person like a cell that died and a new cell replaced. In the physical or material world, we do not have any stationary things. The world does not have motion, the whole world is motion. (Mula Sadra).
There was a king sitting on his throne and was enjoying his power quite a bit. He said to his wise advisor, “I wish that my kingdom was permanent,” and his advisor replied “Sir, if the kingdom was permanent then it would not have come to you. There will always be a time when the kingdom will transfer to another person”.
Just look at yourself, you are not in a stationary mood all the time. Sometimes you are happy, sometimes angry, sometimes sick, sometimes healthy, and so on. One of the results of our discussion about motion is that matter has motion but our “I” is stationary, meaning that my “I” does not become your “I”. Our “I” depends on our knowledge and actions which go towards perfection in its path.
As discussed, motion is the exit from lack to have or the exit from want to become. The question is who exits things from any moment to another moment, or basically who the cause of motion is. Who gives things the shapes and their conditions that they did not have before? For example, we know that an apple seed might be converted to an apple tree; who converts an apple seed from want to become or from lacking to having leaves and fruits and becoming an apple tree? Everything in this world has its own direct path to perfection and someone is exiting and guiding them towards their perfection, moment by moment. You need to deeply think about this motion. I believe all quantum mechanics is about this motion in matter. People think God is like them but
extremely powerful and sitting on a throne high in the sky and has trillions of angels. They forget that he is with them moment by moment, closer than they think.
Motion is permanent in this world and it has been concluded that there is someone that is the cause of motions, therefore that person does their job moment by moment. An apple seed has the potential to become an apple tree, but it is not possible to have an orange tree from an apple seed. Considering the regulation and organized attributes of all things that we see in this world, we understand that the cause of motions must be powerful and all-knowing and must have all those perfect attributes that exit things from lack to have and give them what they do not have.
Proving God Exists
Let us discuss God and see if there is any simple way to prove that God exists.
- Can you prove to me that God exists?
- Do I need to prove it by philosophy, cause and effect, or do you need something that will sit in your heart? Meaning, to really believe in the Lord?
- I need something that I can believe in and sit in my heart and understand it.
- OK, let us start with questions and answers together to understand it. Q: How many legs do you have?
Q: If you or another human being had just one leg, what would happen? A: I could not do most things that had been done so far.
Q: How did you know that you need two legs to do those things and you made them for yourself. A: I did not make them. It was created when I was in my mother’s stomach.
Q: Did your mother make those legs? A: No, she did not.
Q: Who made them for you?
A: Nature with evolution created them for me. Q: OK. How many hands do you have?
Q: What happened if you had just one hand?
A: I could not do many things and would have a hard life.
Q: How did you know that you need two hands and you made them for yourself? A: I did not make them.
Q: Who created them? A: Nature.
Q: OK. What would happen if you did not have eyes?
A: I could not see a thing; life would be very hard with no eyes.
Q: How did you understand that you need eyes and made them for yourself. A: Similar questions!! Nature created them for me.
Q: What would happen if you did not have a mouth? A: I could not live. Humans need to have a mouth! Q: Did you make them for yourself?
A: No, this was also made by Nature. Before you ask the next question, I would say all my body parts are created by Nature.
Q: So, Nature knew that you needed this body with eyes, mouth, hands, legs, and so on? A: Yes! It happened by evolution!
Q: Can you show me Nature?
A: Here is the Nature; jungle, trees, mountains, etc..
Q: So, this jungle, trees, and mountain made your body? A: No, they are included in Nature. Nature cannot be seen. Q: OK, where is this Nature?
A: Nature is everywhere.
Q: So, Nature knew what you needed and made them for you, right? (Because, if you see a jet engine, you are sure that someone with knowledge made that)
A: Yes, it seems so.
Q: Nature must have power to make your body, right? A: Yes, probably.
Q: So, Nature has knowledge and power. Nature is everywhere. Nature cannot be seen. This is what we believe as God, Lord, Allah, and you call it Nature. We believe God created us, you say Nature; we believe God is everywhere and you say Nature is everywhere. We believe God has knowledge and power and you say Nature has knowledge and power.
The key point is that everyone accepts God, but they do not know him well. Similarly, if we ask: who makes us dead? They would say Nature!! They do not understand what they are saying because they do not have knowledge. If they have knowledge, then they would know that the one that they call Nature is God. So, the thing that you make in your mind is not God. It is your creation, be careful about that. Prophet Muhammad (S) said: “Do not say bad words to “Dahr” because “Dahr” is God”. If they think deeply inside themselves they would find God. (Dahr in Arabic means time in English)
Some people believe that humans were monkeys and became humans through evolution. Are you 100% sure about that? If yes, why is evolution towards perfection not vice versa? Shouldn’t
there be someone that made this process occur toward perfection? Another question: does evolution have power and knowledge.
Let us get back to our discussion about motion. We understand that every motion needs someone who is the cause of the motion. Is that thing or person, who is the cause of all motions, matter? No. Why? Because in matter we do not have “one” identity (as we discussed before). Another reason is that matter has motion, so matter is not perfect. We discussed that motion is the exit from lack to have. Meaning someone gave them the things that they did not have. For example, a chicken egg did not have the shape of a grown chicken.
There is another type of motion. Do you know what it is? “Thinking” is a motion! How? Thinking is a motion towards your knowledge, and then from your knowledge towards conclusion and results. When you are thinking you move from lack of knowledge to obtaining knowledge that you did not have before. Does the person who gave us knowledge have motion? No. why? Because motion is not perfection.
Why do we think? Because we do not know something then think to gain it. To understand it better, let’s assume that John did something very bad and the judge ordered punishment as followed:
John, please select one of the following options as your punishment: 1- Cutting one of your legs.
- Cutting one of your arms.
- Removing one of your eyes.
You will start thinking that if I lose one of my legs then it would be very hard to live. So it would be better to keep my legs. Similarly, you will think and conclude that it is better to keep your arms since you can have an easier life with one eye than with one arm. This might take 10-30 seconds! But now assume that the judge ordered the following punishment for John.
John, please select one of the following options as your punishment: 1- Cutting one of your legs.
- Cutting one of your arms.
- Removing one of your eyes. 4- Cutting your hair.
I am sure you will select cutting your hair in one second. Why? Because where you have more knowledge, you will conclude much faster compared to the condition that you did not have enough knowledge. So, with this example, do you think God thinks? No, because motion or thinking is moving from lack to have and obtain something. We believe He is full knowledge. We discussed
that thinking requires us to move towards the knowledge that we have in order to understand things that we did not know. The key issue is that most people think Lord is like a light high up in the sky sitting and ordering angels.
So far we learned that: “Nafs” or “I” or whatever you call it, is free from matter and free from attributes like color, shape, length, width, depth, and so on. We know that matter is composed of different things; for example, steel is made of carbon, iron, and some amount of manganese molecules. If we remove all carbon molecules from steel then we will no longer have steel. A book will not be a book if you tear up all the pages. So, Nafs exist forever because it is free from matter. We learned that knowledge is free from matter and does not have matters’ properties. We learned that the container of knowledge must be similar to knowledge and free from matter. Do not think of knowledge and its container as water and a glass. We learned that knowledge’s container is Nafs.
How We Get Knowledge
We want to go back to knowledge and think deeply about it. Does knowledge exist? Yes, because if it did not exist, then we would not have the useful things we have now. Like refrigerators, electricity, engines, and cars. And we know that people who have knowledge and people who do not have knowledge are not equal. To know the truth about how we get knowledge, let us start with question and answer again.
Q: Where does someone with knowledge get their knowledge from? Why do you read books?
A: We read books so we can get knowledge to perfect ourselves and so we can understand things that we have not understood before.
Q: How do we get knowledge that we have not had before? A: The teacher talks and adds on to our knowledge.
Q: Now, where did the teacher get her/his knowledge from? Did she/he get it from someone else or did that person read a book? How does the teacher even give you knowledge?
A: The teacher talks, we listen, and after that we get knowledge. That means, with the teacher talking, her knowledge is transferred to us.
Q: Does the teacher’s knowledge decrease when he/she talks and gives you knowledge? A: No.
A: Because we learned that knowledge is free from matter. Therefore, it is not like matter to get smaller. For example, it is not like when you have two cups, one is full and the other is empty; when you pour water from the full one to the empty one, the amount of water in the full cup will decrease and the empty cup will gain water.
Q: That was a very good answer. So, when the teacher talks and we listen, does the knowledge exit from his/her mouth, and come into your ear? How does your teacher give you knowledge?
A: I do not know.
Q: What is talking? When we talk, sound waves are created which causes air particles to move, and therefore, sound waves are hitting our eardrums. Those sound waves convert to electrical pulses and transfer to our brain. Do you agree with me?
A: It seems so.
Q: So, does knowledge sit on the sound waves and travel from the teacher’s mouth to our eardrums? Do those sound waves have knowledge?
A: I do not know.
Q: We proved that knowledge is free from matter. So, it does not have space. Therefore, the place of knowledge is not on sound waves; do you agree with me?
A: I do not know, I need to think more about how knowledge is transferred, because I first thought that knowledge is matter, but now I know that it is not.
Q: Another question, when you read a book and get knowledge, how do you get that knowledge? Since there is not a teacher there to talk and create sound waves?
A: I do not know how I get knowledge; I just read a book and get knowledge.
Q: When you see a book, it is just squiggles on white paper. Is there knowledge in those squiggles and papers? Like, if a cow eats a book, does it get knowledge?
A: Obviously not!
Q: When we read a book, sunlight reflects from those squiggles and hits our eyes and converts to electrical pulses and gets to our brain. So, how does knowledge transfer from a book to you?
A: I do not know.
Q: Where is knowledge in the book? There is not a teacher here to say that there was knowledge in the teacher’s brain that transfers to my brain by the teacher talking.
A: I do not know because I already know some letters and when I read a book, I gain knowledge. Q: So, do you gain knowledge when you read a book in another language that you do not know? A: No, I do not.
Q: When we listen to a recording, sound reaches our eardrums and then converts into electrical pulses and gets to our brain; is that correct?
Q: Is there knowledge in that recording? A: No.
A: Because we found out knowledge is free from matter.
Q: Bravo! Yes, that is correct. Knowledge is free from matter and we prove that a knowledge container is free from matter; therefore, the knowledge is not in our brain, it is not in the talk of the teacher, a book, and in a recording.
A: Very interesting. I always thought about it differently.
Q: Now, let us go one level up. Pretend that we are sitting alone, and we are thinking about a scientific problem. We know that thinking means moving towards our knowledge and study to obtain unknown knowledge. Now, the question is how you gain knowledge by thinking. You did not know something, but after you thought about it, you found the knowledge. Who gave you knowledge? Did you give yourself knowledge?
A: I do not know.
Q: Yes, you do not. You cannot give yourself knowledge if you do not have it. There is no teacher, book, and recording here. How do you get knowledge?
A: I do not know. This is a difficult question. It seems like I am getting knowledge from somewhere else.
Q: knowledge is free from matter; therefore, it needs a container which is also free from matter. By knowing this, we can say that knowledge is not in teachers voice, book, or any recording. Correct?
Q: So, when we perceive and understand something, teachers, books, and recording are helping us to perceive but knowledge itself is given to us from somewhere. Right? Teachers, books, or recordings only help us perceive and understand something. However, knowledge itself is given to us from somewhere/something?
Q: For example, when you think about, listen to, or read a mathematics book, you will not understand physics. Do you agree?
A: Yes, we will get knowledge on the subject that we study.
Q: When a lesson is taught by a teacher, they provide us with an introduction to the topic. The teacher thinks and talks loudly, and we begin to follow what they are saying. So, in a way, the teacher uses an introduction which includes some information to first “tune” our brain, so that we
become ready to receive the actual knowledge (from somewhere). This is quite like a radio which needs to be tuned to the right frequency in order to receive what we hear as the audio.
When we listen to a teacher talking or when we read a book, those help us to receive knowledge from the non-material world. The great philosopher Haji Sabzevari said: “the truth is that knowledge is given from another world but thinking will make us ready to receive it”.
If you noticed, we did the same process to understand the above topic. I was thinking loudly, and you were listening to me. Then you started thinking with me and when you became ready, you received knowledge about the above-mentioned topic. So, knowledge has its own source. When we become ready, we will receive it. It is the same process for everyone and is also correct for any scientific subject like chemistry, physics, biology, and philosophy. In philosophy, we call the knowledge giver “Aql-e Fa’al” (Demiurge) and in religion we call it “Angel Gabriel”.
We see that animals do some strange things, for example honeybees make hexagons in their hives or ants somehow understand to gather and store food for the winter, ants even have different roles within their community. If you ask how ants, honeybees, and other animals learned how to do those things, most people reply “it is in their nature and instinct. It is the inherent inclination of a living organism towards a particular complex behavior”. But the question was how do animals know those things? With just using the word “instinct” we cannot answer the question. We discussed and proved that anything that has knowledge needs to be free from matter and knowledge comes from another world. Whatever we see in the physical world is the occurrence (manifestation) of knowledge.
Since knowledge is free from matter, then whoever gives us knowledge (or wherever it comes from-the container of knowledge), also needs to be free from matter. Therefore, there is no time and place for it.
As I said, he will give knowledge to everything like plants, animals, and humans. If they have are capable enough, then they will receive it. Every human has a different talent/capability. When a teacher talks, some students are very smart and understand very quickly but some students need the topic to be repeated for them a few times to understand it. People with more talent or IQ need less thinking and vice versa. The more perfect you are the more connection you will have with angel Gabriel (A) and your knowledge would be more. So, the key message is to purify your soul or Nafs to understand things quickly.
Alammeh Hassanzadeh said: “you need to dig a well until you reach the water (i.e., purify the Nafs/Soul), this is how you need to prepare yourself for receiving pure knowledge. There is no point in pouring water in a dry well and saying that I have water (same as saying you have true knowledge while having an impure/corrupt nafs/soul). you need to be connected to Aqhl-e Fa’al”. Another key point is that we need to see which kind of knowledge is worth focusing on and make ourselves ready to receive it. It is important to understand that there is no prevention of mercy if you have talent and capability you will receive it. it is rule and it is true for all beings.
We are like lamps, whichever has more watts will be brighter, and there is no prevention from the electricity company.
Unity of Perceived and Perceiver
If we would like to understand the quality of receiving knowledge, we need to understand the “unity of the perceived and perceiver”. It is one of the most important subjects in metaphysics. If someone would understand it deeply, most of the questions about insurrection and the metaphysical world would be answered. The best book that explains it in detail is from Allameh
Hassanzadeh, which is called “Itehhad Aghel and Ma’aghol.” We will explain a summary of this philosophy rule below:
In the past, we divided knowledge into two parts: Obtained knowledge and knowledge by presence.
Presence knowledge is like the knowledge of Nafs to itself, its knowledge, and its conditions. It includes the knowledge that we have from ourselves, who we like, who we dislike, and how our mood is today. We know them without any intermediary. Meaning we will not use ears, eyes, or any other senses to know them. Obtained knowledge is the one that we know by our senses, like eyes, ears, etc. Obtained knowledge is like a tree that we perceive from outside of ourselves. It is important to know that obtained knowledge is somehow knowledge by presence. Meaning that when we perceive something from outside, its figure will be present for our Nafs, and we know that as present knowledge.
We need to explain more about the figures that exist for our Nafs. How do we perceive that figure which is free from matter? Reflected light from a tree hits our eyes then is converted to pulses and goes to our brain. The question is how do we perceive that figure? How does our Nafs get knowledge about that figure? We need to have full attention here. In obtained knowledge, eyes were intermediate, but do we have another intermediate tool to perceive the figure that is present for us from the outside tree? As long as there are two things (the figure that is present for me and myself), we will have this problem.
As long as Nafs and the figure are the two things separated from each other, we would still have this problem. The truth is, the figure that is free from matter and our Nafs become united. It will be the same as our Nafs. Since our Nafs knows itself, it will get knowledge about that figure as well. So, everything we perceive becomes united by our Nafs. In other words, everything that we perceive will become united with our “I”. Our knowledge is not something else from our Nafs. Each Nafs is made of its knowledge. My Nafs is my knowledge. When we start getting knowledge, our “I” becomes bigger. Nafs is the container of knowledge but not like the physical world in which things are separated. Nafs and knowledge become united.
In conclusion, we would not be able to perceive anything unless they become like us or with us. Since I have knowledge about myself then I will get knowledge about them too.” If the thing that I perceived and I, were separated from me, then how would I get knowledge about that?
Do you remember that knowledge is present or obtain a figure or meaning of a thing for a perceiver?” The presence of a figure for me is not like the presence of a physical object for another physical object. In the physical world, when two things become near each other we usually say that they are present for each other. But we know that in the physical world, we do not have one real identity to say that this object is present for that object. It is very important to know that we do not have presence in the physical world. Presence means being united. We need to think beyond the material world to understand the rational world better. Presence of a thing that is free from matter with another thing, which is also free from matter means unity.
The unity of perceived and perceiver proves rewards and punishments for the Hereafter. We learned that whatever we have done and perceived is united by our Nafs. For that reason, they will be with us forever. One of God’s names in Arabic is “Sari’ al-Hesab,” meaning the person who
accounts very fast. As soon as you do something, it will be recorded or united with you. Any small or big action is recorded. If we make someone happy or make someone angry, steal money, help others, be kind with parents and neighbors, and lie, you bad or good thought also will be with you. In reality, if you help someone, you are helping yourself. When we transfer to another world, we will see those actions. Money, car, and house will be left for your kids. You will only have your actions and knowledge. Whatever you do here, will be manifested in the Hereafter for you as Heaven or Hell. Do you think you will be rewarded something other than what you have done? Your actions are your rewards and punishments. We are learning that whoever made this world, made it very precisely.
It is like a father telling his child that to practice drawing very well, he will reward him. In the end, the child will become an artist, and that is also his reward. We make our heaven and hell; God will not drop us in Hell, but we make them ourselves. Prophets came to teach us this.
Amir-al-Mo’menin said, “Every container will have less capacity if you put something in it except knowledge. Whatever knowledge you gain, your Nafs will grow bigger.” We learned that knowledge unites with you so your existence will intensify. One of my friends said that he saw an angel in his dream, and he asked: “Who are you?” And the angel replied, “I am the speech that you listened to last night. I was created by the meaning that you understand.”
All our talking, thinking, imagination, decision and others will be recorded, so we need to just do good things to make heaven for ourselves.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: in “Me’raj”(ascension), I saw some angels that were making castles and then stopped for a while then started again. I asked angel Gabriel: “Why are they not working?” Angel Gabriel replied: “Because they have not yet received the material for the castles. I asked, “What is the material?” and angel Gabriel replied: “Remembering God”.
This is true for us as well, whatever we learn, sits in our heart, and will be united with us. Therefore, our Nafs grows.
Imam Sadiq (a) said, “If people knew what is in the knowledge, they will dive deep in the ocean to find it.”
Now that we have learned that our knowledge becomes united with us, how would the connection to “Aghl e Fa’al” or angel Gabriel be? Whatever we receive from him will be united with us as well, and his knowledge becomes united with himself. So, that knowledge becomes me. Is knowledge separated from him, and will it become my knowledge? or at the same time, will knowledge be for him and for me? Knowledge is united with him and will be united with me as well, like an ocean that connect to different rivers. The water, which is in us, is coming from that ocean. With more knowledge, we would be closer to God. We need to think very deeply here. There are many secrets that we might gain if God wants.
Everything will receive knowledge based on its talent and capacity. Honeybees, ants, apple seeds, orange seeds, and every human will receive knowledge based on their capacity. There is no prevention of mercy from another world.
Quality of Perception
Let us discuss more about the quality of perception. There are two theories about the quality of perception.
- Avicenna’s theory says “Since the physical world is made of matter and figure, it is not possible to perceive it by our Nafs. For this reason, the matter part from a physical object needs to be separated from its figure, then it will be present for us (our Nafs) and we will become united and perceive it.”
This process of the separation of matter from its figure in Arabic is called “Tajrid”. In other words, our Nafs does this Tajrid action.
- Mula Sadra’s theory says, “Based on neural messages that come to our brains, we make figures within ourselves.”
So, “whatever we see in reality, we see in ourselves” because the perceived and the perceiver are one based on the unity of the perceiver and the perceived fact. You cannot perceive anything that is not within you.
We learned before that we have three major types of perception:
- Sensory perception: like seeing a tree in the physical world. (it has matter and also a figure)
- Khiali perception: like seeing a tree in our dreams or imagining a tree in our minds. (it does not have matter but has a figure)
- Rational perception: like understanding the meaning of “tree”. (it does not have matter or a figure)
For all the above perceptions, the unity must happen to be able to perceive. For example, when you see a human with three heads in your dream, it is united with your Nafs and that is the reason you are able to perceive it. If it was something other than you, you would not be able to perceive it.
Whatever we know is united with our Nafs, it becomes like us. Therefore, our Nafs is like a book in which all our actions – whatever we hear, see, feel and say – are stored in. It is not possible to separate them. This is our book that we will get on the day of judgment and will be asked to read, since we are sufficient to read the whole thing. The book that we get on the day of judgment is not made of paper and written words. That book is your Nafs, whatever actions or knowledge you gain you will see, and it is stored in you forever. “And the Book is placed, and thou seest the guilty fearful of that which is therein, and they say: What kind of a Book is this that leaveth not a small thing nor a great thing but hath counted it! And they find all that they did confronting them, and thy Lord wrongeth no-one”.
Whatever you do will be united and stored in you. We learned that our Nafs exists forever so whatever we do will be with us forever. It is important to know that if you do anything good for someone else, in reality you are actually doing that for yourself. Whatever evil or good you think or do, it becomes united with you.
One of the scholars in the past had a lot of books with him on a journey. He spent a lot of time to obtain those books. In the middle of the road, thieves attacked his group. He was begging the chief of the thieves and said, “take whatever money I have but do not touch those bags”. The chief asked, “what is inside those bags?” “They are my books and all my knowledge.” The chief said “return his books, I am wondering what type of knowledge is that which a thief can steel”. All of a sudden, the guy became aware that those books were not his knowledge. Knowledge needs to be united with you and sit in your heart.
I had a dream that I saw Hazrat Allameh Hassanzadeh and he told me to say to the people who were in my class to think also while they are in the bathroom until these knowledges become a
part of them and they understand them deeply. Do not think that no one knows what you are doing. You are under supervision.
Action and knowledge are two wings to gain heaven and hell. Prophet Muhammad(S) said: “there is nothing that is worth 1000 times from its type except a believer who is worth 1000 times more than another believer”.
Ibn Salam was a Jewish scholar who said to prophet Muhammad(s): “I have many questions which I would like to ask you. If you cannot answer them, then you are not a prophet of God. One of them is about the book of our actions – where do the two angles write our actions?” Prophet Muhammad(s) said: “their book is our chest (Nafs or spirit), and their pen is our tongue.”
So, whatever we see, understand, or imagine is united with our Nafs and will exist forever. If someone understands Tajrid, (Nafs is free from matter) then resurrection is proven for them. Death is just the separation from our physical body; we will get another body in the hereafter and will continue to live.
Let us review what we have learned so far:
- We went through ‘who am I’ questions and found that the thing that we call “I” is not our physical body and it is not made of matter and it does not have matter’s attributes like length, width, depth, weight and so on.
- We called that “l” our Nafs.
- We learned that we have two types of oneness, real oneness and fake oneness. We proved that in the physical world, we do not have real oneness or one identity.
- We learned that the place of knowledge is not in a physical object like a cell or a brain. Knowledge and its container are free from matter.
- We learned that we have different types of perception like sensory, khiali, and rational perception. No perception happens in the physical world because, for any perception, we need to have the figure or meaning of a thing present for us, and in a material form, we do not have any presence and also do not have one real identity for perception.
- We learned about the quality of sensory perception. People who do not accept the metaphysical world believe that our brain perceives things, like when we see a tree, our brain is seeing that tree, but we proved that our Nafs is the perceiver, and our brain, eyes, and lights are tools.
- We learned that we see everything within ourselves and will not perceive any actual outside object.
- We learned that we see things in our khiali world like when Lady Mary saw angel Gabriel. Also, we see our dreams in the khiali world.
- We learned that we have three main worlds: 1- the physical world in which any object has a shape and is made of matter (like an apple tree) 2- the khiali world where we see things that have shape or figure but aren’t made of matter (like seeing an apple tree in our dreams or when we imagine an apple tree) 3- the rational world which doesn’t have shape or matter (like when we understand the meaning of kindness or when we understand the meaning of a tree)
- We learned that anything in the physical world has motion, like the moon, the sun, and electrons, or when an apple seed becomes an apple tree, or when an egg becomes a chicken, and so on.
- We learned that thinking is one type of motion because we move towards our knowledge and then reach a conclusion.
- We learned that teachers, books, and audio recordings are not giving us knowledge. We proved that we do not get knowledge from ourselves by thinking. Teachers, books, audio recordings, and thinking are tools to tune us to receive knowledge like when a radio is tuned to receive a specific frequency.
- We proved that knowledge is coming from another world, as soon as we have the talent and capacity and are ready, then we will receive the knowledge. There is no prevention from there. We called the knowledge giver “Aghl e Fa’al” or angel Gabriel.
- We learned that any physical object is made of something. If we separate those particles from each other, then the shape of that object will no longer exist, and we will not have that object anymore. For example, if we removed carbon atoms from steel, there would not be steel anymore. Therefore, any physical object is destroyable, but since Nafs is not made of matter, it exists forever; so, we will exist forever and ever.
- We learned that the place of knowledge is our Nafs and that there is no limit for it.
- We learned about the unity of the perceived and the perceiver. Whatever we perceive will be united with us. We emphasized that this is very important to understand deeply. Whatever we do, will be with us forever and in reality, we make our heaven and hell.
- We learned about the quality of perception – to perceive anything, the figure of an object needs to be free from matter. When electrical pulses reach our brain, our Nafs makes them for us in the Khiali world.
One of the things that Allameh Hassanzadeh teaches his special students at the start of a journey towards God is to sit in a quiet place and think for 15 to 20 minutes. Think about what? Think about the motions that we see in this world. My hand movements, motion within our body, how a fish egg becomes a fish, the motion of cold and warm air, the evaporation of water in oceans, how heavy the cloud is that is above us, the earth’s motion, the sun’s and the moon’s motion, the motion in the universe, the motion of blood, the motion of our cells, atoms’ movements, our heart’s motion, how our heart moves, what is the cause of our blood’s movement? Who manages these precise motions moment by moment? Why do we have five fingers? Why do we have two hands and two legs? Why do our nostrils point downward? Why do we have different tasting sensors in our tongues? Think about how you talk and how you move your hands? How do you think? Where are those dreams coming from? Assume that you were born just now and pretend that you see things for the first time – you see your face, your hair, your eyes, your hands, and your fingers. Look at different people, who are they? Pretend that you see a fly for the first time, or you see some fruit for the first time. Try to smell different kinds of fruits. Try to look at the stars above you. You will be amazed and curious. You will see that everything is managed and controlled from somewhere else moment by moment.
Mercy is always there. If you become ready, you will receive the blessing. When we are born, we start receiving knowledge moment by moment. When we were babies, if we wanted to know what an object was, we would put it in our mouth, then we would understand the existence of that thing. Similarly, we would cry whenever we could not see our mom. Furthermore, we would understand if a room were lit or dark. Gradually we received more knowledge and started talking. Who gave us that knowledge and understanding when we were a child? And who do we receive it from now? In this section, we are going to discuss an important subject about us (our “I”/Nafs). How was our Nafs/I created, how exactly did it come into existence? Did our Nafs/us exist before our bodies? We proved that since Nafs is free from matter, then it will exist forever and is not destroyable. We
said before that we have a body after death as well, and we will live with that body. Prophet Muhammad (S) said “Death is movement from one house (the physical world) to another house (metaphysical world).” Did I exist in this world before my body? If I did not exist before my body, was I created by my body, or was I created from my body? Some people believe that our souls, or Nafs, existed in the rational world before. There is a noticeably big problem with this belief. In the rational world, we do not have any mask or cover that conceals something from another thing. Time and space cause covering and concealing. For example, when we are at a particular place, we cannot perceive something that is 5 miles away from us. Similarly, since we live in time, we would not be able to perceive things 1 hour before or after the present. To put it simply, if we have space and time, then we would have a cover or a mask. Like a barrier preventing us from seeing everything.
Twenty students are in a room. Since they have space, each of them will get their own place/seat. If there was only one place or seat, then there would only be a place for one student at a time. Meaning, there would be no space/place/seat for anyone else. Now assume that there is no time and space. What will happen? Another example: assume that a room is full of the same type of glasses. The only reason those glasses can be in that room at that time is because there is space. If we did not have space, then we will not have those glasses. Now assume that there is no space and time, what will happen? We will only have one glass. When we say “tree”, we understand the meaning of a tree (a wooden structure with roots and branches). Is it an apple tree? Is it an orange tree? Well, it includes all the trees, but it is not any specific tree. It is only one tree in the rational world. It is not possible to have two meanings of tree. There are no time and space in the rational world, so we only have one type of anything.
As mentioned above, in the rational world, there is no time and space; therefore, there is no cover (i.e barrier to perception/knowledge). Meaning, all of us must know everything. They reply this question by this answer that, all of us existed in the rational world and we knew everything but when we came to this physical world and joined our body, we forgot everything. Now with help from teachers, books, and others, we remember what we have forgotten. Plato believed that humans remember knowledge slowly in this world – they recollect what they knew before. Is it possible to have souls before our bodies?
Since in the rational world, we only have one type of each and anything, we can conclude, In the rational world, we only have one human.
In the past, people have heard from their prophets and scholars that for everything in the physical world, we have a rational truth in the metaphysical world. Many people did not understand the meaning of this deeply. They made a symbolic idol by wood or stone for each rational truth. For example, an idol for rain, an idol for wind, an idol for animals, etc. They knew that those idols were not God, but they told each other that these idols are symbols for the truth of rain, wind, animals, etc. (rational truth of rain in the physical world). When they needed rain, they prayed to that idol and asked for rain. In fact, they recognized those rational truths and idols as tools used for communication with God. After a while they though that those idols and rational truths are not dependent on God; therefore, they gave those idols full authority. For example, they thought that those idols have independent power separate from God to give them rain. After a while, without any guidance they added lots of other superstitious believes and completely deviated from the truth. They went from worshipping God through the idols, to only worshipping the idols and forgetting God has the only real power and final decision.
We understand that each creation that we see in this world has a spiritual truth and blessings come from there. How does an egg become a chicken? Does it create itself? Does his dad make him? Does his mom make him? No, there is a someone that manages and controls the growth of an egg moment by moment. We call him “aghl-e-fa’al” or angel Gabriel who is completely dependent to God and God is the real owner of all things. Deeply think about ownership in this world. How many levels of ownership do we have? Do we really own our house, our car, our money, our health, and our body? If yes, why can we not keep ourselves healthy all the time? Our existence is from God and he is the real owner of all, and we grow under his management moment by moment. The key message is that there is no creation that can be found independent from God.
In this world, we have multiplicity (great numbers of things) but beyond this world we do not have these kinds of multiplicities. With this explanation, if we had souls before this world, what was the cause of their multiplicities? If we have multiplicities in this world, it is because we have souls that have a connection to our bodies. Someone might ask if this is true then why do we have souls in the hereafter? What is the cause of multiplicities? Is it possible to have souls in another world? Multiplicities of souls which occurs after souls separate from human bodies is caused by ethics and behavior we had in this worldly life. Nafs will be colored by knowledge and actions. Here I have my beliefs, ethics and actions and you have your own different believes, ethics and actions. These will cause multiplicities of souls in the hereafter. We will discuss later that our body in the hereafter is made up of our actions. Our existence in the hereafter is the embodiment
/manifestation of our actions in this worldly life. Some people will be like a wolf, some will be like a grasshopper and some will be like a human. It is worth to mention that souls that have similar ethics, beliefs, and actions, will have unity/similarity in the hereafter. They have different bodies, but they will enjoy (or suffer for bad people) accompanying each other (like in this world we have different color and shape bodies but we enjoy each others’ company). The multiplicities in the hereafter are not like what we see in this physical world. As a conclusion we can say it is not possible to have different souls before having physical bodies. Before our bodies were one general truth or one Nafs or one universal soul, and we were all under its supervision and arrangement. We call this “Agha-e-fa’ql”. It is not true to say that he existed before and he does not exist now. We should say he was before, and he is now. We have not been separated from him. He is not like matter that can be separated. He is not like mud that some part of him can be separated from himself.
Creation of Nafs
There are three beliefs about the creation of a Nafs:
- Nafs is a spiritual happening and spiritually surviving: creation of Nafs is not dependent on matter. Meaning, our Nafs existed before our body and will survive after our death.
- Nafs is material happening and materially surviving: Nafs is created from matter and needs matter for its survival. If we do not have matter, there would no Nafs. After death, our Nafs would also be destroyed or not exist like our bodies once did. People with this belief do not accept a Nafs which is free from matter.
- Nafs is material happening and spiritually surviving: Nafs is created from matter, but will survive after death and will be free from matter.
We proved that our Nafs is free from matter; therefore, the second belief is not acceptable. We discussed that it is not possible to have our Nafs before we were born. Here is another example: assume that we have pure water. We make three different types of jelly with orange, red, and
green powder. Before, we only had pure water and it had characteristics of pure water as no jelly powder had affected it in any way. However, after it was mixed with different jelly powder colors, the water taste, color, and shape changed, and we have three different things. This is an example of general Nafs and our Nafs after our bodies. The general Nafs is the water and our individual nafs turn out to have their own features and characteristics dependent upon what they receive from our bodies. The foundation remains the general nafs, or in this case the water.
In the rational world, we only have one general Nafs. Here is another example; assume that we are in a room that has three windows which have blue, red, and green glass. Sunlight is white, when it passes through those windows, we would see three different colors of light from that same sunlight. Our Nafs will be colored in the physical world, but before the physical world, it is not possible to have multiplicities of individual varying nafs.
Nafs is created from matter and will survive forever spiritually or free from matter. Our Nafs under supervision, arrangement, and power of a metaphysical truth are created from matter and will grow/develop until we obtain the capability and talent to connect to the metaphysical world. Here we say that our Nafs is created. Since the creation of Nafs is from matter, we see that animals’ Nafs are also in a similar path to us. There are differences between animals and humans. One difference is that they are made of different materials and elements. Nafs will be created based on the material compositions of any object.
Philosophers use this question to reject the existence of souls before bodies: why does a cat Nafs not join a dog body? The behavior of a cat and a dog are different. We believe that Nafs is created from matter; therefore, the created Nafs is appropriate with the initial material composition.
Have you ever thought why an apple tree will not get an orange as a fruit? Matter is like this tree and our Nafs is like its fruit. Each fruit is appropriate to its tree. That is the reason we might change the gene of a human to have, for example, a human that will never be afraid of anything (it is possible to change human genes in a way that the body will never produce specific hormones that cause fear). Since Nafs is created from that matter; if the quality of material composition changes, Nafs will be changed. So, that is the reason why a pregnant mothers’ food is especially important for her child. That is the reason that pregnant mothers should eat apples, pears, and quince, and should not eat pickles because those will cause material composition changes that create the babies’ Nafs. Someone came to Allameh Hassan Zadeh with a child who suffered from paralysis and asked for help, and Allameh said “It is because the mother was drinking ice with her water in pregnancy. Genetics proved that spiritual behavior is transferable by gene, meaning if you eat a dog, cat, calf, or pig meat, those genes will be transfer to humans and affect how they are spiritually. It is especially important for pregnant women to be careful and watch precisely what they are eating because it will have an effect on their Childs’ ethics and behavior. In Islam, there are many traditions that mention do not give the milk of a crazy women to your child. Allameh Hassan Zadeh said “Oh dear God, you gave us permission to eat lamb meat that is a very peaceful animal which does not attack anyone and cannot even escape, but we see humans kill each other. What would happen if you gave us permission to eat lion and tiger meat?”
So, Nafs is created from matter and it is not like our Nafs existed before and then joined with bodies when we were born. At first, our Nafs is very weak, slowly it gains knowledge and actions and gets stronger. When we were born, we knew nothing, and one of the first things we did was slowly perceive the existence of our mother. As we said before, our knowledge will increase, moment by moment. At last, we will understand things that other humans cannot understand.
Some people believe in Reincarnation. In summary, it says that after death, our soul or Nafs will be joined to another body. If you were a bad human, then your soul will be connected to a poor and sick human; therefore, we will be punished for your actions. If you were a good human, then your Nafs will connect to a handsome and rich human. If you were an evil human, then your Nafs will join to an animal like a cat, monkey, dog, and so on. Spiritual philosophers and our traditions from Ahl Ul-Bait reject reincarnation. If we deeply understand the discussion about Nafs happening from matter, then we will find the reason why reincarnation is false. Our Nafs is like fruit from a tree. It is not possible to connect a pomegranate fruit to an apple tree. Nafs is happening from matter; therefore, reincarnation is not true, and we do not believe it. There is one thing that is extremely critical to know; it is that our Nafs, after death and separation from our physical body, will have another body in the hereafter.
We call the hereafter world in Arabic, Barzakh. After some fruit is separated from a tree, it is not possible to connect it back to the tree again. This example is like our Nafs after the separation from our physical bodies.
Now, I would like to discuss a bit more on the spiritual survival of our Nafs. We proved that our Nafs is free from matter with many rational reasons. In our dreams, our eyes are closed but we see things, our mouth is closed but we might see that we are eating and tasting things. Our body is laying down in our bed, but we see that we are moving from a place to another place in our dreams. We have a body in our dreams which is not our physical body. Death is like our dreams. In death, we leave our physical body but our “I” or “Nafs” still exists with a different body, which we call our “Methali”, “Khiali” or “Barzakhi” body. We will continue living forever but our physical body will lose its shape, be destroyed, and go back to the Earth again. It is recommended to bury the physical body of a dead person under the soil and respect it – why is that? Because the physical body was a physical representative of his/her “I” in this world. That is one of the reasons, besides the health of society, that we need to wash and respect the physical body.
If you remember, we discussed about a world that was called “Methal”, “Khial”, or “Barzakh” (the Hereafter). In the Methal world, things have a figure or shape but are without matter. It is like the Material world, except it does not have matter. What we see in our dreams, we see in the Methal or the Khial world. For example, we dream that we touch fire and feel burned by it. Humans, after this world, will go to the Methal or Khial or Barzakh world. How is life there? It is like this world, but perceptions are much stronger in the Methal world! Why is that? Because we have a material body with a limited perception capacity. For example, we feel some amount of heat with our senses, and we cannot perceive and feel any extra amount of heat. Similarly, our eyes can see things of specific wavelengths and cannot see things of a higher or lower wavelength. Our body can tolerate a certain amount of pain. If you noticed, people that have been shot themselves do not understand that they have been shot because the pain is beyond the capacity of their body or beyond what their nerves can transfer to their brain. Similarly, we can only hear a certain wavelength range of sound waves and we cannot hear sound waves that are above or below our ear’s capacity. If there is a low amount of light, then our vision is limited, and if there is an extremely high amount of light, our vision is also limited. Perception in this world is limited because of our physical bodies; our physical bodies act like a barrier. In the Methal or Khial world, we do not have matter and therefore, we will not have these limitations for feelings. Perception in the Methal world is much stronger than this world. Therefore, joy and pain in the hereafter is much stronger than the physical world. There is a tradition from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that says: if they bring a person who is in Hell to this world and put him in a mountain of fire, he will fall asleep because of its coolness compared to Hell. This is clearly saying that pain and joy in the hereafter are not comparable to this world. As a result, joy in Heaven and pain in Hell is not comparable to this world because there is no matter to restrict the severity of perception. In a similar way, eating and drinking in the hereafter will be much more enjoyable.
Some people, including some Muslims, believe that we will die and be destroyed, and then God will take some mud and give us life again. If we ask from the people of our city to write something about resurrection or the hereafter, there might be very few people that will get an A from this question. There is a book from Allameh Tehrani called “Ma’ad”. It includes 10 series of books. There are other books about resurrection with many pages, but they are like a joke and you will laugh when you read them. When people do not have knowledge, they will probably accept those ideas, but it is worth nothing for people who have true knowledge and have visions. So, the Methal or Khial or Barzakh world is like this world but has much stronger perceptions (it is free from matter).
Any existence that has a figure, color, or shape and is free from matter, exists in the Methal or Khial or Barzakh world. There is another world, which is at a higher level than the Methal world and it is called the Rational world. In the Rational world, things do not have shapes or matter. Therefore, because heaven and hell have figures, then they are in the Methal world.
Some people think that souls will come back to Earth. Meaning, some soil will gather and our body will be created again, and then we will have the day of judgment. We have a lot to say about resurrection. If we put aside all the animals and insects and birds, would all humans fit on the Earth again? How does resurrection work?
Anyone who would like to understand resurrection needs to understand the self-knowledge topic deeply. We have all heard that on the day of judgment, we will all rise again and stand for judgement. When the great philosopher Allameh Tabatabei taught the topic of Asfar (Islamic philosophy book) to his students, and when he wanted to start the resurrection topic, he selected very few students and made the class private for them. Some of his students where already masters in philosophy but they were not selected for that private class about resurrection. The topic of resurrection is exceedingly difficult for most people. He said that people are not ready to hear topics about resurrection yet. As long as they know there is a life after this world, it is enough for most of them. We are living in this world but still cannot understand what matter is. Most people do not have the talent to understand the nuclear fusion of atoms, for example.
So, what will happen to humans after death? Where do we go? This question is one of the oldest questions in human history. If you remember, we have three major worlds: 1- the Material world which we are living in now and that has matter and figures or shapes. 2- the Methal world which has shapes or figures, but which is free from matter. It is like this world that we are living in, in which things have shapes, but the only difference is that they are free from matter. 3- the Rational world, which is on a higher level, and in which things do not have figures or matter.
Humans, after death and the separation from their material body, will enter the Methal world. As we learned before, the Methal world is like the Material world; meaning we eat, drink, and hear, but perception is much stronger because we do have matter as a barrier. Therefore, joy and pain in Heaven and Hell is much stronger than the world that we are living in. The Methal world is an interval between the physical and rational world. God’s mercy and blessings come from the rational world to the Methal world then to the physical world. “He directs the affair from Heaven to earth. Then it will ascend to Him”. Meaning, God’s mercy and blessings pass the Rational and
Methal worlds and come to the physical world, and then go back up again moment by moment. This is called “Ghaos-e-Nozul and Ghaos-e-Saoud” in Islamic philosophy, which can be translated as “descent arc and ascent arc”. Everything that arrives in the Methal world will get its appropriate figure and shape. Mercy and blessings from God that descend from the rational world will get their appropriate figures and shapes. As we discussed before, things in the rational world do not have figure and matter, but when they come to the Methal world, they will get their appropriate shapes. Dreams are happening in the Methal world. Dream interpreters transfer the figures that we see in our dreams to their appropriate meaning. For example, a dream interpreter will say that our dream’s meaning is this or that because he knows the real meaning of the figures that we saw in our dream. Let me give you a couple of examples: do you know what shape God’s blessings or mercy has? It does not have a shape; it has a meaning. Mercy and blessings, when they come to the Methal world from rational world, will be like bread or wheat. Therefore, Prophet Josef (PBUH) interpreted the 7 green wheats in Firoun’s dream as 7 years full of mercy and blessings. Ibn-Sirin was one of the great dream-interpreters in the past. One woman came to him and said, “I had a dream last night in which wheat grew from my finger”. He interpreted that, “you are the person that gets blessings from your hand”. The woman said, “yes, I am indeed a weaver”. Therefore, it says in tradition that we should respect bread and wheat. Why not rice or meat? Because wheat in the rational world is the true meaning of blessings. Another example: what shape does knowledge have? It is a meaning, and it does not have a shape in the rational world but when it comes to the Methal world it will get the shape of water. Why water? Because water is the source of life. Whenever we have water, we have life. Similarly, knowledge also gives us spiritual life and, as we discussed before, it intensifies our existence. “Are they equal, those who know and those who do not know?”. In many places in the holy Quran , water, according to tradition, also means knowledge. For example, “we descend water from the sky” – in its hidden meaning, this means we descend knowledge from the rational world.
“In the water which Allah sends down from the sky and with which He revives the earth after its death” – in this ayah’s hidden meaning, the earth is our Nafs and water is the knowledge that will make us alive. Seeing rain, an ocean, or a river, or drinking water in our dreams are all related to knowledge. Clear water means pure knowledge and dark or dirty water means impure knowledge. Sometimes, knowledge will be manifested in our dreams as milk. That is a special type of knowledge because in addition to quenching our thirst, milk is also used as food. Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) said “I was given milk in ascension”. Someone asked what the meaning of milk was, and the prophet of Islam said: “it is knowledge”. The meaning of milk might change from person to person, we are just bringing some examples to understand the quality of the Methal world. We have different types of dreams, here we are just talking about dreams that have meaning in the rational world and can also happen in the physical world. Another example is that teeth in our dreams is interpreted as dependents. If we see one of our teeth falling out, it means that one of our dependents will die. Haroon Al-Rashid, one of the kings in the past, saw in his dream that all his teeth fell out. He gathered many dream interpreters from all over his kingdom and asked them to interpret the meaning of his dream. Most of them said that it meant all his dependents would die. He became very angry and put them all in jail, but a smart interpreter said: “I know the true meaning of your dream, will you free the other interpreters if I give you the true meaning?” The king said yes and the smart interpreter said, “you will live more than your dependents”. He liked this and he freed all the other interpreters.
Another example is that a believer in dreams is manifested as a mountain. So, if you see a mountain in your dreams, one of its Meanings is that it is a believer. Another example is that money is manifested in our dreams as stool. If you dream that stool is spilled on your shirt, it means that you will make money. But if you see that you wash the stool off the shirt, it means that you will lose money.
Belief does not have a shape or figure, but in dreams, it looks like green trees. These are some keys for our visions and dreams, and for understanding the meaning of the holy Quran deeply. So, deeply think about these examples. Each of them is from different books. Sometimes we hear something but do not record it, and then we might look for it in other places for a very long time. Appreciate what we tell you. These are precious things that you will not find anywhere else.
Non-believers manifest as dried sticks, which also can be found in the holy Quran. A woman came to Ibn-Sirin and said: “I had a dream that a dry stick fell on an egg and a couple of chickens came out of it”. He interpreted that “you will marry a non-believer and will have some children”.
If you see that you are eating the meat of your dead brother or sister, it means that you are back biting about them.
All the previous examples were mentioned to make clear that everything that comes from the rational world will be manifested and will get an appropriate shape and figure in the Methal world. Similarly, every action you do in this world will get an appropriate shape and figure in the Methal world. A tradition says: when a believer dies, a young man will accompany him after death and guide him, for example he would say: this is your garden, or you are safe from this fire, so do not worry about that. The believer will enjoy talking with him. He will ask, who are you and the young man would reply that I am the action and happiness that you made for your brother(or any other believers). When you make someone happy in this world it is manifested as a helping man in the hereafter and so on.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) once saw a man praying very fast and going into “Sajdeh” (prostration) very fast as well. Prophet (PBUH) said his prayer is like the beak of a crow, meaning it is manifested in the Methal world as this. Every action you do in this world will be manifested in the Methal world accordingly and appropriately, it is called manifestation of actions. People who are angry will be like a dog, greedy people manifested as wolf, stingy behavior become like ants, arrogant people become like a tiger, a voluptuary person becomes like a pig. Now, can you imagine the person who has all the above attributes, what will that person look like? Multi animal with horrible attributes. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: some people of my nation will come with the faces compared to which monkeys and pigs will look beautiful. The worst part is that people will recognize a person like that and will say he is for example Zaid (random name) that become like a pig or wolf. In this world, if we have a small injury or illness affecting our face, we will avoid going outside and we will try to cover it up from others, this will not be possible in the hereafter if we become like a dog or pig etc. In this world there are people whose “Barzakhi vision” is activated/working, and these people, can see the Methal face of others around them. If they go to an inappropriate party, or some event that sins happen there, they will probably see a zoo in a party.
Tradition says: we were in a Pilgrimage with Imam Sadiq(A). I said to Imam Sadiq(A) that we have too many Haji (believers) this year. Imam Sadq(A) replied: there are too many crying people and less Haji. We went to some place, then Imam Sadiq(A) said: please come and see between my fingers (Imam made a conduction and removed the mask from his eyes and activated/opened his
methal vision open). I saw so many animals walking around the Ka’bah and among them were very few humans. Imam Sadq(A) said: humans are all animals except a few from the believers. Meaning that some believers themselves do not have human faces in Methal world. We are attending these classes to make ourselves good people, we need to be very careful to make ourselves like humans. I hope the day will not come when our faces will look like animals and we will say, oh my God, I was an animal, I did not know. Now what will I do with this face forever? I was told not to lie, sin or abuse but I did not listen. Some people are very eager to see their Imam of time but how would your situation be if your face looked like an animal. Imam Reza(A) gave a mission to one of the saints of Allah, that someone will come to you in need, so give him what he wants. He saw an animal came to him and asked him to give him something, after that, the saint made a supplication and asked Imam Reza (A) that: are you recommending for this person that his face was like an animal and Imam replied: yes, who do you think we are dealing with?
These things need to be proven by reasoning and self-knowledge. After that we need to practice and make ourselves as humans – and maintain that state. So, we should study and increase our knowledge to be like a real human not a smart animal with a human face.
Let us wrap up our discussion. In conclusion, whatever comes to the Methal world either from the rational world or from the physical world will be manifested and get an appropriate shape or figure. Therefore, whatever we see in the hereafter, either in heaven or hell, we made all that ourselves. We only see a transformed version of it. Good deeds will be our heaven and bad deeds will be our hell in the hereafter.
This lecture was a summary and introduction about self-knowledge, and we will discuss this topic later in much detail using rational reasoning, philosophy, traditions and more important the verses of the holy Quran.
The complete success is from God