Word 33: The one who deeply thinks understands that the knowledge, the knowledge container, and the knowledge giver are all immaterial

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Word 33: The one who deeply thinks understands that the knowledge, the knowledge container, and the knowledge giver are all immaterial

We discussed in the introduction of self-knowledge  (https://insightemy.com/introductory-self-knowledge/) that the knowledge container is our Nafs and is not the brain. The knowledge giver is “Aql-e-Fa’al” which is called “Angel Gabriel (A)”. Teachers, books, and recordings are helpers, not the knowledge giver. We will review and summarize this topic again. Matter has length, width, depth, weight, smell, color, and occupies some space; these are some of the specifications of matter. When we say, my body, my finger, my child, my house, my car, who is this “My” or “I”? Is it our material body?  We found that “I” cannot be our material body because we do not have real unity (the real oneness) but in fact, matter has multiplicity. We have a topic called “unity” or “oneness” in philosophy. In summary, we have two types of “oneness”, 1- Real oneness, and 2- Imaginary oneness. Imaginary oneness is like one army, one country, one sandhill. We would not be able to talk to a sandhill or an army. This oneness is not real oneness but imaginary oneness. The real oneness is like one human.

Let’s focus on our bodies to see if we have real oneness. We know that I am one person not two, three, or more. I perceive myself as one identity but I have two hands, feet, eyes, ears, and many different organs. Each organ is made of smaller particles, cells, molecules, atoms, protons, electrons, neutrons, quarks, and so on. Meaning that none of the organs, cells, molecules, atoms, electrons, or quarks, are real oneness. We do not have real oneness in material objects. Here we find out that “I” is immaterial and it does not have matter properties and rules.

We have three questions that need to be answered. Are the knowledge, the knowledge container, or the knowledge giver material objects? Meaning that do they have dimensions, weight, or material properties? Let us discuss the knowledge first. What is knowledge? Knowledge is the presence, obtaining of a figure, or meaning of a thing for a knower. When a figure of a tree, a person, or a material object becomes present for us, we say I know. When a meaning, for example, kindness becomes present for us, we say I know. So, the question is where is the container of the knowledge? There is no container for perception in the material object. Someone might say that knowledge is in the brain! The brain is made of many particles and we discussed that the brain has multiplicity and there is no real oneness in material objects such as the brain. Where is the knowledge in the brain because the brain is made of about 80 billion cells? Each cell is also made of many molecules and atoms and so on. If it is in the cell when it dies, the knowledge shouldn’t exist anymore. Most people do not understand the knowledge and this is the main reason why they believe some falsehoods. How can the meaning of kindness be present in a material object or cell? Even if the information is converted to codes, there must be a real oneness that can read the codes. Having the brain, cells, and atoms as the knowledge container is like pouring kindness, knowledge, or power into an empty glass. Is it rational to accept this idea? Assume that knowledge is in the brain, what happens if we cut people’s brains in half? Would knowledge be split? Ignorant people think that the knowledge container is the brain. Then, why didn’t they get knowledge from Einstein’s brain!? So, the knowledge container and knowledge are immaterial. The container of knowledge is our Nafs.

We discussed that the brain is a tool for our perception but “I” or perceiver is not the brain. It is very important to know that perception is immaterial. Anything that perceives (see, smell, taste, hear, touch) has an immaterial Nafs (“I”). A material object (imaginary oneness) cannot hear, see, taste, feel, or smell. For example, an army cannot smell or see things. Let’s discuss the quality of perceptions, how do we see things? Materialists say, “When light hits the retina (a light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye), special cells called photoreceptors turn the light into electrical signals. These electrical signals travel from the retina through the optic nerve to the brain. Then the brain turns the signals into the images you see”. We agree with materialists up to the arrival of the electrical pulses into the brain but we do not agree with the sentence that says, the brain is the perceiver. It is impossible that the objects we see are created in our brains. We all agree that the eyes are necessary tools for seeing because if we disconnect nerves between the eyes and the brain, we would not be able to see things. We believe a brain acts like a tool that is used by “Nafs” for all perceptions. Some people believe that figures or shapes of things are converted to electrical signals and then converted to figures in the brain and we see things, the process is like seeing a live show on a TV in our home. This is not true, because the figures of things must be present somewhere for perception, where are the converted figures located? Is it present in a cell? Molecule? Atom? As we said, things need to be present for us for any perception and it is proven that perception is immaterial because in material things we do not have real oneness.

Real Islamic philosophers believe the process of seeing/perception is as follows in summary:

When light hits the retina (a light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye), special cells called photoreceptors turn the light into electrical signals. These electrical signals travel from the retina through the optic nerve to the brain. “Nafs” create an immaterial figure within itself based on electrical pulses in the brain. In fact, the created immaterial figure is united by us and since we know ourselves, we will know the immaterial figures that are united by us. This is true for all perceptions by material senses and also for immaterial perceptions (seeing angels). In fact, when we hear sounds, sound waves enter the outer ear and travel through a narrow passageway called the ear canal, which leads to the eardrum, the fluid moves by sound waves, and ~25,000 nerve endings are set into motion. These nerve endings transform the vibrations into electrical impulses that then travel along the eighth cranial nerve (auditory nerve) to the brain, then the Nafs (“I”) creates the sound based on the electrical pulses. When we feel that our hand is burning, in reality, high molecule motions are converted to electrical pulse, and the Nafs creates the burning feel based on the pulses. A veteran said, “Sometimes I feel that my fingertips are itching although I do not have a hand”. In summary, material objects do not have the capability for any kind of perception and they can not be the container of what we see or hear. The first degree of perception happens in the Khial or the Methal world. In the Methal world, things are immaterial with figures[1]. Whatever we see, hear, taste, smell, or touch is happening in the Methal or Khial world. All figures of senses must be immaterial before perception.

It is noteworthy that we do not have multiplicity in the immaterial world, there is only a single source of knowledge that everyone gets their knowledge from it. When we connect to the source of knowledge (Angel Gabriel (A)) then we will get the knowledge. We discussed that a math teacher tunes us to receive math knowledge, a physics teacher tunes us to receive physics knowledge, and prophets tune us to receive divine knowledge. When we think about a math problem, we will not get English grammar and so on. Humans have a common sense which is called “Phantasia” in Greek. Islamic philosophers describe this as a place where all Methal perceptions happen. It is like a lake that is connected to the 5 physical senses and also to the intellect level. This is a level of our Methal power. All shaped perceptions will happen in common sense. This is like a lake where 5 rivers from the material world and a river from the intellectual world are connected to it and fill the lake. All our perception of this worldly life or the Hereafter is happening there. When we sleep, 5 rivers from the Material world are dry and have nothing to add to the lake, so we see whatever is already in the lake or we will see the shaped truth from the intellectual world. As we discussed a bit in the introduction of the self-knowledge essay, perceptions need to be free from matter, or in other words, we do not have perceptions in the material world. This means that when the lake is calm, we would be able to see shaped truths like angels, heaven, hell, or the face of humans in the Hereafter. Now, whomever that his or her Methal power becomes strong, can influence other people’s common sense. They can show them things that do not exist in the material world. For example, in the story of sorcerers of Fir’on in the Holy Quran, they dropped their sticks and ropes on the floor and people saw them as real snakes. But in the material world, there were no real snakes. This is how we see dreams, some of our dreams are unshaped truths from the intellectual world that are converted to shaped truths like when people see angels. Other dreams are effects of perceptions by the material senses during the day. When the Methal world of a righteous person becomes strong, they will be able to see things that people would not see like when Lady Maryam (AS) saw angels. 

So, in a summary, we understand that knowledge and its container are immaterial and perceptions happen in the Methal world where things are immaterial but have figures. We do not have knowledge in material objects.

How do we receive knowledge? 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 the questions and answers.

Q: Where does someone with knowledge get their knowledge from? Why do you read books?

A: We read books to get knowledge to perfect ourselves and understand things that we have not understood before.

Q: How do we get the knowledge that we have not had before?

A: The teacher talks and adds 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.

Q: Why?

A: Because we learned that the knowledge is free from matter. Therefore, it is not like the physical objects to get smaller when they decrease. 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 made of 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, the sunlight reflects from those squiggles, hits our eyes, 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?

A: Yes.

Q: Is there knowledge in that recording?

A: No.

Q: Why?

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 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 toward our knowledge and studying 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 that is also free from matter. By knowing this, we can say that knowledge is not in teachers’ voices, books, or any recordings. Correct?

A: Yes.

Q: So, when we perceive and understand something, teachers, books, and recordings 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?

A: Probably.

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 that includes some information to first “tune” our brain, so that we become ready to receive the actual knowledge (from somewhere). This is like a radio which needs to be tuned to the right frequency 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 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 that “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? By 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, whoever gives us knowledge 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 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 amount of thinking and vice versa. The more perfect you are the more connection you will have with the angel Gabriel (A) and your knowledge would be more. So, the key message is to purify your soul or Nafs to understand things quickly.

Allameh 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 Aql-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 the 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.

Some philosophers did not believe that animals have “Nafs”, but in self-knowledge courses, we proved that any object that perceives has a “Nafs”, even a small worm. Any creature that has knowledge must have a connection to the immaterial world. Knowledge giver in philosophy called “Aql-e-Fa’al” and in the religion called “Angel Gabriel (A)”. We all are connected to Angel Gabriel (A) and our knowledge is a beam from it. The more knowledge and action a person has, the more connection he has with Angel Gabriel (A). Amir Al-Mu’minin Ali (A) in Nahj al-Balaghah said, “The prophets came to bring out the inner treasures of human beings”. The inner of our Nafs is Aql-e-Fa’al, it is there but does not appear yet, Prophets came to bring out intellect and wisdom treasures from our inner.  

Muhammad Mahdi Me’marian

All praise is to God to the extent that He deserves it.                                     


[1] – It is noteworthy that sometimes the word figures are used as the actuality of things for example if we say the figure of knowledge, it meant actuality of knowledge.

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