1. Mental Existence

Muslim philosophers have divided existence into two types: objective (or external) existence and mental (or psychological) existence. Mental existence represents the existence of subjects in the mind when they are imagined or function as subjects for predicates in propositions. Such subjects or mental existents might have an extension in the outside, as well as not.

For example, we sometimes consider ‘non-existence’ as the subject, and pose a number of judgments for it in the mind and in propositions which are true but lack external objectivity. Besides, concerning non-existent and impossible objects (agreement of opposites), we sometimes imagine the universalities (as well as existents, completely detached from all their characteristics) in the mind. A universal thing, whether a concept or a judgment, is created in the mind, and, as we know, is of an abstract existence; however, since it has no existence in the outside world; it exists in another place, i.e., in the mind. The existence of such existents is called mental existence. The perception of such an existence is instinctive, and everybody perceives and accepts it by his inner sense (This issue supports the idea of mental existence).

The division of existence into mental and external ones could also be generalized to the division of quiddity. Accordingly, it can be said that quiddity or essence is of two types: external and mental.

Available evidence suggests that this important philosophical issue has no record in Greek philosophy, and is among the findings of Muslim philosophers and Islamic philosophy. Apparently, the first person who devoted an independent chapter to mental existence in his book was Fakhr Razi, the well-known Iranian theologian (in his al-Mabahith al-mashriqiyyah).[1] In the introduction of his book, he states that he has been inspired by the ideas of his preceding philosophers in writing this book.

The issue of mental existence has two aspects. On the one hand, it has an ontological dimension, since it is a kind of existence which has been weakened  to a great extent and lost the features and effects of external existence. However, in its own turn – and not in opposition to external existence – it is an external existence (since man and his soul and mind possess such an existence), yet, when it is contrasted with an objective external existent, it is called mental existence.

On the other hand, this issue is an epistemological one and deals with the formation of knowledge and awareness in man and his relation with the outside world.

In occidental philosophy, epistemology is separated from ontology and appears in a different horizon, so that, unless the problem of knowledge is clarified, there will logically remain no context for ontology. Nevertheless, these two disciplines have been intermixed to some extent in Islamic philosophy, where man’s knowledge is related to the knowledge of existence. In systematic philosophical discussions, however, epistemology comes before ontology and other philosophical issues, and is considered as their threshold. Mulla Sadra has discussed the topic of knowledge – of which mental existence is a part – in different places for specific philosophical considerations. We will refer to a part of this issue in the discussion of the unity of the knower, the known, and knowledge.

The issue of mental existence can be viewed as a link between ontology and epistemology, clarifying the relation between man and the world. The issue of the correspondence between the external world and the mind is posed and analyzed in this part. Most Muslim philosophers believe that what is formed in the mind is the very essence or quiddity rather than an image, so that if a quiddity refers to an external existent and, in fact, belongs to the category of knowledge, it will be the same as the quiddity of the external object which has been transferred to the mind without its objective existence and external effects.

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In the past, a number of important and technical criticisms were targeted at the problem of mental existence which many philosophers were unable to respond to or solve. For example, they said that knowledge and perception are qualities (which are called mental qualities) that occur to man’s mind (and the soul), while if the essence of an external object enters the mind, it is necessary for it to turn into a mental quality, and the changing of essence into accident is impossible.[2]

Second, when we gain the knowledge of a thing in terms of its quantity or other accidents (except for its quality) and internalize it, we have, in fact, transformed it into a mental quality. However, as we know, according to philosophical-logical definitions and data, the ten-fold categories (Aristotelian categories) are completely different from each other in essence and quiddity, and can never turn into each other. Some Muslim philosophers and theologians tried to respond to this objection through resorting to false justifications, and some others, due to not knowing the answer, completely denied the issue of mental existence. However, to solve the problem, Mulla Sadra propounded one of his philosophical masterpieces which could also be employed in solving other related philosophical intricacies. Therefore, the issue of mental existence can be considered as one of the innovations of Mulla Sadra’s school of thought.

To disentangle this problem, Mulla Sadra resorted to logic and started analyzing ‘predication’ in propositions. Normally, when a predicate is predicated on and attributed to a subject, it is intended to demonstrate or express the existence of the predicate in the subject. Generally speaking, this could be true only when the predicate embodies existence, and the subject is an extension for it, as in the proposition, ‘Man is greedy’.

Mulla Sadra maintains: “There is another kind of predication which can be found in propositions such as ‘Man is a species’. Here, the intention is to state the identity between the subject and the predicate; that is, referring to the unity of two apparently different quiddities. This kind of predication is called haml-i awwali / dhati  (primary and essential predication), since it is only true about essences, and since it is ‘primary in truth /or falsity, and the proposition given in the previous paragraph is called haml-i shay’a-i sana’i (prevalent technical predication).[3]

The other important logical point which Mulla Sadra has referred to in the same place is that logicians commonly believe that for the realization of the ‘contradiction’ relation between two things, it is necessary to observe unity in eight conditions (subject, predicate, place, time, potency and act, general and particular, condition, and relation). Nevertheless, he adds a ninth condition and states that for contradiction to be realized, in addition to unity in the above-mentioned conditions, unity in predication is also necessary. In other words, both of them should be of the type of either common or primary essential predication; otherwise, there would be no contradiction.

He solved the problem of mental existence in the same way and said that when the external essence or quality (or any other accident) occurs to the mind and develops mental existence (and is, in fact, denied external existence), we can conceive of two different kinds of predication: 1. This mental existence is conceptually and essentially in unity with the external existent in terms of quiddity and, as a result, is predicated on it through the so-called haml-i awwali (primary and essential predication); 2. However, when we examine its status and existence in the mind, we see that it is a ‘mental quality’, and, therefore, of the type of the so-called haml-i shay’a-i sana’i (prevalent predication, since we are, in fact, faced with its existentiality. When we imagine an essence or accident in the outside, we attend to its external effect; nevertheless, when the external effect is negated, i.e., when it enters the mind, it is only a quality, and this is the key to solving the problem.

Mulla Sadra uses the word ‘particular’ in his example: The proposition, ‘The particular is not applicable to multiple things’, must be viewed in two ways: 1) since in practice and in the outside, the particular is not the universal, it is an extension for the label ‘particular’. However, as in the above proposition the word ‘particular’ is considered to include all the particulars of the world, it is a universal (an extension for universal) and by no means a particular (in other words, it is a universal existentially and practically, but a particular conceptually and essentially).

Thus the ‘particular’ is, in a sense, not universal and an opposite for it, 2) in another sense, it is a universal, including numerous extensions. However, there is no contrast between these two propositions: ‘particular is particular’ and ‘particular is universal’, since one is of the type of primary essential predication, and the other of the type of prevalent technical predication.

Concerning the problem of mental existence, it should be said that all the essences and accidents that occur to the mind are mental qualities, since their existence in the mind is realized through prevalent technical predication. Yet, comparing to each other, they are either the external concept of essence or an accident which is predicable to it (through primary essential predication). Moreover, essence is the same essence and accident which exist in the world.

2. Unity of the Intellect, Intelligible, and Intelligent

This issue partly pertains to the relation between man and his knowledge. Mulla Sadra’s epistemology has been scatteredly discussed amid the different parts of his philosophy, and, in every part, one of its dimensions has been introduced. In his tackling of this issue, Mulla Sadra responds to the following questions:

1. Is our knowledge separate from us and only a mirror-like reflection of external objects in our mind and senses?

2. Is the way knowledge reaches man similar to the pouring of something into an empty container, and their relation like the one between the container and the content, or is it a function of man’s mind (and soul) and its effect?

As we know, there are several ideas about knowledge in preceding and modern philosophical schools in the West which suffer from certain shortcomings and are not supported by any logical arguments. However, to demonstrate the essential relation between knowledge, the knower, and the known, Mulla Sadra has presented a number of rational arguments.

In the light of his theory, and on the basis of a series of philosophical arguments, Mulla Sadra proves that the perceiver, the mentally perceived object, and knowledge, itself, are the same and one. As he, himself, says, ‘the intellect, the intelligent, and the intelligible’, or ‘knowledge, the knower, and the directly known (subject)’ are in unity with each other. This issue is known as the ‘unity of the intellect, intelligent, and intelligible’.

It should also be added that, here, by the perceived object (or the intelligible), he means the same form which has been produced in man’s mind, which is technically referred to as the directly known (subject), rather than the external object which is called the indirectly known (fact / object).

 The issue of the unity of the intelligent and intelligible is basically related to the unity of the knower or the perceiver (the knowing agent) with the directly known, i.e., the same mental existent and the same intelligible and known in man’s mind, rather than its external existence. This is because it is a certain fact that objects never enter our mind exactly as they are through our perception and knowledge of them.

Philosophers’ disagreements in this regard center around the question of whether the picture-like quiddity of objects in the mind (the so-called directly known by each individual in the process of perception) is in unity with his intellect and soul or not.

If the answer to the above question is positive, knowledge, the knower, and the known, all, refer to the same reality, and analyzing this reality into three different things is only the product of man’s mental power. In other words, the relation among them is of the type of the one between the creator and the created, rather than the one between the container and the contained.

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This issue has a long historical record, and we might be able to find its roots in Ancient Iranian philosophy.[4] It has been said that it was Porphyry (232-304 A.D), Plotinus’s student, who for the first time wrote a book in this regard, and that is why this issue has become famous in his name. Before Mulla Sadra, no one had posed any argument for it, or, at least, we do not know of any.

Ibn-Sina and a group of Peripatetic philosophers did not agree with this theory, since, in their opinion, there was no rational and demonstrative method for proving it. At last, Mulla Sadra found it of interest, started studying it, and in the course of a revelation he received during his period of ascetic practices in the suburbs of Qum (in 1037 A.H, when he was 58 years old), he found the related arguments and, following a philosophical approach, proved his theory.

In addition to an extensive explanation of this issue in his al-Asfar, Mulla Sadra has also dealt with it in some of his other books, and written an independent treatise on it. Obviously, the philosophical demonstration of this old and obsolete theory was of high importance to him, and we might even say that it was the most important theme in his epistemology, since he conceives of his success in demonstrating this issue as a miracle, the result of the direct assistance he received from God and the Holy Lady (M’asumah, the daughter of the 6th leader of Shi’ites, who has a shrine in Qum in her name), and the fruit of his ascetic practices, worships, and lamentations in God’s Presence.[5]

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Mulla Sadra’s arguments concerning this issue have been based on his other principles, the most important of which perhaps include ‘the principiality of existence’, ‘the trans-substantial motion’, ‘soul’s creativity’, ‘gradation of existence’, and ‘the difference between primary and prevalent predications’. In order to understand Mulla Sadra’s arguments in this regard, one should first perceive the meaning of ‘unity’ (ittihad). Obviously, unity in the sense of having two different existents, objects, concepts, or quiddities become one is impossible and absurd. Clearly, two separate things or two contradictory concepts are always two things and will never become one. This is the same objection than Ibn-Sina and others advanced against this issue, because they assumed that the unity between the intelligent and the intelligible is of this type.

Moreover, the meanings of ‘perception’ and ‘knowledge’ or rationalization need to be clarified here. The perception of things means ‘presence’, and presence means the ‘existence’, rather than appearance, of that thing before the perceiver, since ‘presence’ is other than appearance.

Now the question is whether the ‘existence’ of each ‘form’ of the perceived object is separate and independent from the ‘existence’ of the perceiver (or the intelligent), or in unity with it and has come into existence through that existence.

The answer to the above question is that if the existence of each were different from the other, each of the two had to be conceivable without the other (while it is impossible to have perception without a perceiver or a perceiver without perception). Accordingly, perception and the ‘form’ that is perceived and enters the mind are not anything other than the mind and the soul, so that they would have to appear before it. Rather, they are a part of it, and are made by the mind itself; they are the same as the existence of the soul and have presence for it. Again, it is emphasized that there is a difference between ‘presence’ and ‘appearance’.[6]

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Another argument here is that there is a mutual relation between the perceived object and the perceiver, which is technically referred to as correlation. Related examples include the relation between a child and his father, the owner and his property, or a husband and wife.

This mutual relation, at all times and in all cases, makes it necessary for one side to come into existence or be assumed if the other side is in existence or is assumed; in other words, their separation from each other is impossible. According to Islamic philosophy, two correlatives are identical and commensurate in terms of their existence, non-existence, and potency and act.

Therefore, if there is a perceiver, there is also a perceived, and it is absurd for one of them to exist actually while the other is non-existent. Besides, since this relation is merely an ‘existential relation’, it is absurd for it to involve more than the existence of one of the two. Thus, since the relation between the perceiver and the perceived is of the type of correlation, both of them have the same existence.

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Let’s review this argument once more: As mentioned previously, perception means the presence and existence of the ‘form’ of the perceived object, and there exists nothing like ‘perception’ in separation from the form of the perceived object in the mind (unless we separate them from each other through mental analysis). ‘Perception’ and ‘the perceived’ or the cognitive form are two different things in concept, but the same thing in existence. That is,

Text Box: Perception (Knowledge or Intellection)↔ Known and the Perceived (Directly Known)





On the other hand, ‘perception is the act (or passivity) of the perceiver; no act is ever separable from its agent, and their existences are the same as each other. In fact, the existence of acts or passivity in man is no different from the existence of the agent or the patient.

Thus the existence of the perceiver (the knower or the intelligent) is not separate from the existence of his knowledge and intelligence, and both of them exist through one ‘existence’, i.e., they are in unity. Accordingly, wherever there is knowledge, there is inevitably a knower, too, and both are interdependent and correlative, so that if the existence of the knower fades away, there would remain no existence for the perceived, either. Thus,

Text Box: Perception (Knowledge or Intellection)↔ Perceiver (Intelligent or Knower)






A combination of the above two relations leads us to the conclusion that the knower and the known (and knowledge) exist through one existence, and are in unity with each other. Therefore:

Text Box: Perceiver↔ Perceived






Clearly, what is intended by the perceived is its mental concept and quiddity rather than its external equivalent.

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There are certain subtleties in knowledge that require profound analysis and careful treatment, and cannot be discovered through the simplistic approaches that some philosophers might follow. Pre-Sadrian philosophers viewed knowledge and its consequences as accidents that occur to the mind (or the soul) exactly in the same way that dust covers the surface of a table.

Mulla Sadra rejected this idea, since he believed that, firstly, the soul is creative and can negate external existence to quiddities existing in the outside, create them exactly as they are in itself, and grant them mental existence.

Secondly, ‘the form of knowledge’, i.e., the knowledge whose form is made in the mind, like any form (as in Aristotelian philosophy), requires matter (hyle), and the matter of the form of the mind and knowledge is the very human soul. In fact, man’s knowledge or intellection is a part of his identity (a part of his soul) and develops his existence.

According to Peripatetics, matter or hyle is a potency for the ‘form’, and form plays the role of the cause for the hyle. Hyle and the faculty of the soul, through receiving or creating certain forms of perception and knowledge, grant actuality to themselves and, as a result, grow more, and with every step they take towards intellection and perception, they come one step closer to perfection.

In other words, man’s soul is a like a tabula rasa (while tablet) which is the same as pure potency: the more its intellect (and intelligible), which is created (and caused) by itself, the more its actuality, and the higher its perfection.

Pre-Sadrian philosophers believed that the relation between knowledge and intelligibles, on the one hand, and the soul, on the other, is like the relation between the container and the contained (and its secondary perfection)[7]; however, Mulla Sadra proved that the intellect and intelligibles of the soul are the product of its own endeavors, as well as the developmental motion of man’s existence, and that with every bit of knowledge that is gained, something is added to man’s existence (and the primary perfection[8] of the soul); it is more like adding a brick to a building in its process of completion, rather than splashing some paint on it or filling a container with its content.

The more knowledge reaches man’s soul, the grosser and the more perfect his existence. Thus man’s knowledge (and perception which is the introduction to knowledge) is a part of his existence, rather than one of the accidents that might occur to him.

3. Man’s Perceptions

Perception has always been, and still is, one of the themes raising a great amount of commotion in philosophical discussions. Mulla Sadra has a particular theory in this regard, too, and it seems to be more accurate and comprehensive than the ideas of other philosophers.

He accepts philosophers’ classification of perception into sense, imaginal, rational, and estimative perceptions.[9] However, he does not agree with the way they qualify them, and, ultimately, maintains that perception is of three types: sense perception, imaginal perception, and rational perception.

Mulla Sadra believes that the origin of all perceptions is the external object, which, immediately after entering the mind, obtains some degree of immateriality. He adds that, basically, all human perceptions are immaterial, and do not depend on a specific matter in the brain or the body for their existence, since matter, which is essentially followed by the trans-substantial motion, and its every moment is separate from the other, has no self-awareness, much less to be aware of another existent.

The mind, which, according to some philosophers, is like a receptacle for knowledge, is nothing other than the very perceptions and pieces of knowledge that man’s soul creates through its specific power of creativity.

We discussed imaginal perception previously in an independent section, thus in what follows, we will deal with the other two types of perception, namely, sense and rational perceptions.

Sense perception

Mulla Sadra believes that sense perception has different stages:

First stage: This stage consists of the reflection of external facts by the five senses. He conceives of this stage as the effect and reflection of an image on a photography negative, and maintains that it is too imperfect and low to be called perception and result in knowledge for man. This stage consists of a series of code-like signals that create a faint picture in the brain (and in early philosophers’ words, in the common sense).

This stage is only halfway through perception, and empiricists, who equate reflection on the senses with perception, have sufficed to half of what really takes place, and, thus, they cannot deny the complete process of perception.

Second stage: At this stage, it is the human soul’s turn to gain knowledge from these images and codes. Here, two important elements are necessary for sense perception: ‘attention’ and ‘awareness’. Attention is a psychological phenomenon, and has nothing to do with the body. Unless the soul’s attention is completely focused on the functions of the five senses, none of the signals transmitted by them can be regarded as perception.

We have also seen in practice that man, while crossing the street, does not perceive all the things his senses (such as sight and hearing) experience, unless he pays attention to them.

‘Attention’ is also a psychological phenomenon, out of the realms of the body and the brain. Attention is the result of man’s ‘attention’ to those things which have ‘presence’ for him. Awareness is the very presence of external objects in man’s mind (and soul). Mulla Sadra calls this attention and awareness of the soul as ‘presential knowledge’.

In Islamic philosophy, knowledge and perception are divided into two groups: acquired knowledge and presential knowledge.

‘Acquired knowledge’ consists of what is acquired through the five senses. It can introduce and present the quiddity (rather than existence) of objects to the mind. In Islamic philosophy, the cognitive form that is created in the mind is called the ‘indirectly known’.

As to his acquired knowledge, man is never confronted with the ‘existence’ of perceived things, because, as mentioned in the part related to mental existence, external existence cannot enter the mind without declining to the degree of mental existence, and is, in fact, not perceptible (that is why we perceive the fire, but its existential features, i.e., warmth, do not come to the mind). In acquired knowledge, man only deals with the ‘quiddity’ of objects; hence, his knowledge of phenomena lacks their characteristics and effects, and is useless.

‘Presential knowledge’ is, however, a direct kind of knowledge, needless of the mediation of the senses, and is interpreted as ‘intuition’. This knowledge involves the characteristics of the perceived existent. When a person looks at objects with his inward intuition, it is as if his ‘self’ has turned into the ‘self of the perceived object’, and the separation of the agent of perception and the object, as well as the distance between them, will not be sensed.

Sometimes, we perceive our own existence without the interference of our senses, and all our perceptions, including our feelings, desires, thoughts, internal motivations, affections, and perceptions, and psychological acts are in the form of presential knowledge. It is at this point that we reach the third stage of sense perception.

Third stage: This is the important stage of sense perception after the soul’s ‘attention’ to and presential knowledge of the signals transmitted from the five senses. Here, the soul, through its power of creativity,[10] and through making a model of those signals, reconstructs the ‘quiddity’ of the perceived object for itself, and substitutes it for the quiddity of that external existent. And as we know, the quiddity of every object consists of the totality of its reality, of course, without the existential effects of its external characteristics.

Accordingly, man’s perception is not in the form of the indwelling and presence of the form of external objects in the mind; rather, it is a kind of ‘creation’ that is manifested in the form of ‘emanation’ from the soul. Besides, all the previous stages of perception consist of, in fact, a series of peripheral and marginal contributions or so-called prerequisites, rather than true reasons. Therefore, knowledge cannot be separated from the knower (the unity of the knower and knowledge).

The important point in such an interpretation of sense perception is solving the problem of the correspondence of the perceived external object with perception or knowledge (subject), which is technically called the correspondence between the directly known and the indirectly known. This point is at the center of philosophy, and is considered as the basis of all sciences.

The solution to the problem of the correspondence between the outside and knowledge, or between the truth of knowledge and perception lies in the unity of the quiddity of the directly known object and the perception of the indirectly known or the subject. Mulla Sadra believes that a perception which fails to unveil the truth does not result in knowledge acquisition. Quiddity is the very external and objective reality of objects which has taken off the dress of external existence, and put on the dress of mental existence. And since the criteria for ‘unveiling’ is the very quiddity of objects, i.e., its limits and definitions, whenever we have access to the quiddity of something through acquired knowledge, we have gained the knowledge of that thing. All the primary and secondary qualities, quantities, attributes, and states of objects could be found in their quiddity, and perceived by means of the senses.

Mulla Sadra does not deny the error of the senses; however, he believes that what is known as the error of the senses is, in fact, an error in making correspondences and judgments. He maintains that man’s estimative faculty interferes with his judgments, and leads him towards committing errors. Error is an exceptional issue with respect to people suffering from mental diseases, and does not damage the universal principle of the truth of perceptions.

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 Intellectual perception means the presence of the universal form of any intelligible before the mind (and wisdom).

‘Intelligible’, which is what man’s mind and soul perceive universally (abstractly and free from any relation) is divided into three groups: ‘primary intelligibles’, ‘secondary philosophical intelligibles’, and ‘secondary logical intelligibles’.

Primary intelligibles consist of those universal principles and known facts which are abstracted and inferred from external objects and phenomena, such as the principles of natural sciences, physics, chemistry, and the like. Aristotelian intelligibles are of this type.

Primary intelligibles are those universal forms and issues that man abstracts from particulars, such as individuals and objects. When studying these intelligibles and universal concepts, we sometimes encounter certain common universal issues among them. For example, they are either a cause or an effect; either one or multiple; either potential or actual. Moreover, they might consist of those universal attributes that qualify the objects out of the mind. Such secondary universals are called secondary philosophical intelligibles.

There are also some other secondary intelligibles whose receptacle of qualification is the mind, such as universal abstraction and being particular, which are called secondary logical intelligibles. There is a linear relation or connection among these perceptions, including sense and intellectual perceptions, and its degrees could be assimilated to the degrees of water temperature. The degrees of this line are different from the fixed degrees on a ruler, and, in fact, they represent a kind of fluctuation in mental and psychological acts that indicates the soul’s descent and ascend. Such intelligibles have been explained and demonstrated in a number of philosophical books.

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3. Immaterial Imagination

According to common people, imagination means a series of free and sometimes baseless images which have no share of reality. Psychology views imagination as a phenomenon or force in humans that can freely create some objects or scenes that, like dreams, occupy man’s mind.

Peripatetic philosophers considered imagination as one of man’s internal faculties and powers. For them, his external perceptions were obtained through the five senses, and his internal perceptions included common sense,[11] imagination, imaginal memory (conceptual intellect), and faculty of the estimate. They also held that imagination was the vault of those forms which entered the mind through common sense, and memory was the reservoir of concepts and meanings. At the same time, imagination was equipped with another faculty which could synthesize the received forms and pictures at free will like an experienced director, and the faculty of estimate could construct the concepts as it wished. For Peripatetics, all these faculties dealt with particulars, and it was only the faculty of the intellect that dealt with universals.

Suhrawardi, the spokesman of Illuminationist philosophy, claimed that imagination had a receptacle other than man, consisting of an intermediate world (purgatory) between the world of the sense and matter and the world of intellects. He called this the world of Ideas or disjunctive imagination. The world of Ideas is stronger and more important than the material life, and weaker and lower than the world of intelligibles and intellects. According to his Illuminationist theory, all immaterial and beyond-sense forms come into existence in the world of imagination and Ideas. In this world, there is no trace of matter, but objects enjoy form and quantity there inside and resemble the things we see in our dreams without using the outward eye.

Peripatetic philosophers believed in the existence of two worlds for man: world of sensibles and world of intelligibles. However, Suhrawardi said that there existed three worlds, and added the world of Imagination to the two stated previously. This was the very limited world of Ideas, which Ibn-Arabi has sometimes referred to as the world of imagination. This world provides the basis for his worldview.

Mulla Sadra, too, believes in the three-fold worlds. He agrees with Peripatetics and other philosophers concerning the world of intelligibles, and with Suhrawardi and Ibn-Arabi concerning the world of imagination or Ideas. In his books, he refers to imagination as one of man’s internal perceptions; nevertheless, he disagrees with these two schools in certain respects:

First, unlike Peripatetics, who did not believe in the immateriality of imagination, he considers it, like the faculty of the intellect, as being separate from man’s organs (Peripatetics had assigned to it a specific place in the structure of the brain)[12] and as possessing the characteristics of abstract things. Of course, Peripatetics’ belief in the immateriality of the faculty of the intellect, and Mulla Sadra’s belief in the immateriality of the faculties of the intellect and imagination are both based on accepting and believing in the philosophical immateriality of the soul which philosophers had demonstrated through their arguments.

Although imagination is a psychological phenomenon in man, in Mulla Sadra’s view, it is neither in the imaginal faculty nor in the brain; rather, it is a creation of the soul and depends on the immaterial aspects of man’s soul.[13] 

Second, in contrast to Illuminationists, Mulla Sadra maintains that imagination exists in man and in the soul, and is dependent on it, rather than in the external world depending on itself. Illuminationists called this type of imagination Idea or disjunctive imagination; accordingly, Sadrian imagination has been called conjunctive imagination.

Mulla Sadra considers all types of man’s perceptions as the acts of the soul (not affections) for which the senses and other perceptive faculties function as tools. As the soul is immaterial, all its particular and universal perceptions are immaterial and needless of the body. Through his faculty of imagination, even without copying from the data of the senses, man can create forms which resemble God’s innovative creation (creation from non-existence)[14] in every respect.

According to the theory of the true three-fold worlds, i.e., the worlds of sense, Ideas, and intelligibles, which Mulla Sadra also agrees with, and on the basis of the principle of the correspondence between man’s internal three-fold perceptive faculties, i.e., sense, imaginal, and intellectual perceptions, and the above three-fold worlds, he believes that man’s soul enters the world of the sense through the perception of sensibles, the world of Ideas through imaginal perception, and the world of intellects through the perception of universals and intelligibles.[15]

In Mulla Sadra’s view, imaginal forms are of two types: 1) those forms which are received even without employing the content of the mind and memory, through the reflection of the beyond-sense realities on the mirror of man’s soul, or through the coordination and resonance of man’s soul (microcosm) or macro-anthropo (macro-cosmos); 2) those forms which take control through man’s faculty of imagination, and, by means of a skillful synthesis of some of the forms recorded in the mind, construct new forms, such as a winged-horse or a gold mountain.

Perhaps the origin of Mulla Sadra’s opposition to Suhrawardi’s theory of disjunctive imagination is the existence of this second group of low-value imaginal forms to which Mulla Sadra assigns no place in the disjunctive world of Ideas.





[1]. Vol. 1, Introduction.

[2]. Due to conservation of essences and the impossibility of categories’ transforming into each other.

[3]. al-Asfar, vol. 1, p. 292, Mustafawi Publications.

[4]. Mulla Sadra, Treatise on the Unity of the Intellect, Intelligent, and Intelligible, Direct reference has been made to this point at the end of the first essay of this treatise.

[5]. al-Asfar, vol. 3. p. 313, Tehran.

[6]. This difference is the same as the one between nomen and phenomenon.

[7]. Final entelechy.

[8]. First entelechy.

[9]. In his books, Mulla Sadra expresses his doubts about estimative perception, and equates it with imagination.

[10]. The issue of creativity has been extensively discussed in Islamic gnosis and Mulla Sadra’s school of thought, , as illustrated in the part on mental existence. For more information, refer to the article written by Seyyed Muhammed Khamenei, ‘Creativity and Man’s Vicegerency’.

[11]. Sensus Communis in Latin.

[12]. At the end of the hole, the front part of the brain.

[13]. This is because, like the body, the soul possesses certain senses such as sight (insight). Man can experience it and gain certainty about its reality when dreaming or dying.

[14]. Creation ex nihilio.

[15]. Al-Mabda’ wal-ma’ad, vol. 2, p. 647, Mulla Sadra Philosophy Foundation Publications. Al-Asfar, vol. 8. p. 234.