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The Four Worlds in Islam

One of the great strength of the Holy Qabalah is its ability to integrate with and incorporate the teachings of other philosophies, religions and spiritual systems of wisdom, exemplified by the popular tables of correspondences like the ones you can find on this website by going to the tree of life section. In this article based on an excert from an Islamic text we look at the quintissentially qabalistic concept of the four worlds within the context of Muslim thought. 




""Qutbuddin Shirazi: The Sages of old, such as Plato, Socrates, Empedocles, and others, not only affirmed the existence of the Platonic Ideas, which are intelligible and made of pure light, but also the existence of autonomous imaginative Forms which are not immanent in a material substratum of our world. They affirmed that these are separate substances, independent of "material matters", that they have their seat in the meditative faculty and in the soul's active imagination, in the sense that these two faculties are the epiphanic places where these forms appear; undoubtedly and concretely they exist, although this does not mean that they are immanent in a substratum. The Sages affirmed the existence of a twofold universe: on the one hand, a purely suprasensory universe, including the world of the Deity and the world of the angelic Intelligences; on the other hand, a world of material Forms, that is the world of the celestial Spheres and Elements and the world of apparitional forms, namely, the world of the autonomous Image....



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The Forms and Images have no substratum in our material world, for otherwise they would necessarily be perceptible to the outer senses and would not need places for their epiphany.They are, therefore, spiritual substances, subsisting in and by themselves in the world of imaginative perception, that is, in the spiritual universe.

Suhrawardi: I have witnsessed in my soul some authentic and unquestionable experiences which prove that the universes are four in number: there is the world of dominant or archangelic Lights; there is the world of the Lights governing bodies; there is the double barzakh, and there is the world of autonomous Images and Forms, some of them dark, some luminous, the first constituting the imaginative torment of the reprobate, the second the imaginative sweetness enjoyed by the blessed....This last world is the one we call the world of the apparentiae reales which are independent of matter; this is the universe in which the resurrection of bodies and divine apparitions are realized and where all the prophetic promises are fulfilled.

Qutbuddin Shirazi: So we have to understand that the first of these universes is that of the separated intelligible Lights which have no attachment to any kind of bodies; they are the cohorts of the divine Majesty, Angels of the highest rank. The second universe is the world of Lights governing bodies, whether they be the Ispahbad (commander) of a celestial Sphere (Angeli coelestes) or of a human body. the double barzakh constitutes the third universe; it is the world of bodies percptible to the senses(because everything which has a body forms an interval, a distance, a barzakh). It is divided into the world of the celestial Spheres, with the astral bodies they enclose, and the world of the Elements with their compounds. Finally the fourth universe is the world of the active Imagination; thios is an immense world, infinite, whose creatures are in a-term for-term correspondence with those enclosed by the sensory world in the double barzakh - the stars and the compunds of the Elements, minerals, vegetables, animals, and man.... "
In this islamic text we can clearly see the four worlds familiar to us from qabalistic thought, and it can be quite illuminating to see them from a fresh perspective. The double Barzakh, being the material world familiar conventional science, is clearly identical to Assiah. The world of Automonous images and Forms, described so eloquently here, is the world of Formation: Yezirah. It is interesting to here the highest world being described here as the world of the intelligable lights with no attachement to material bodies, as the highest world in qabalah: Atziluth, is defined as being that which is purely spiritual in nature, and therefore not in any part physical. The second world, said here to be the home of beings such as planetary inteligences, is the realm of pure mind known in qabalah as Binah



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