Academic journal article Islam & Science

Descent and Manifestation

Academic journal article Islam & Science

Descent and Manifestation

Article excerpt

A qualitative difference between descent as manifestation (tajalli) and descent as displacement (tajafi) separates movement into and within the corporeal world. This difference is nuanced as it is applied to various states of being and domains of existence, and is seen in the perspective of spiritual realities. The perspective of multiplicity allows distinction from absolute unity and God's encompassing omnipresence. This leads into illuminationist relations for nature in its descent, which, in turn, ultimately establishes man as a relative existent.

Keywords: manifestation (tajalli) versus displacement (tajafi); aspects of descent across the hierarchy of existence; emanation; illuminationist relations; nature and origination.

Manifestation (tajall) versus Displacement (tajf)

Both man's journey to the natural world and his consequent migration from it are very different from his worldly travels in the corporeal world. Because our minds are accustomed to the journeys, ascents and descents that take place in the natural world, they tend to consider the descent into and ascent from this natural world in similar terms. Hence, it is prudent to pay special attention to the characteristics of physical ascents and descents prior to explaining their spiritual counterparts so as to be exactly aware of the differences between the two types. A comparison between physical and spiritual ascent and descent can help in preventing the many errors to which the human mind and imagination are prone in this regard. Because of the affinity of the human mind to the natural world it constantly attempts to impose the conditions of this world upon the other aspects and dimensions of being. It is the intellect that, upon consideration of the particularities of the different cases at hand, keeps the imagination under control.

The first characteristic that becomes apparent concerning the descent of things into nature is that it is by way of "manifestation" (tajall). Conversely, descents in the physical world are characterised by "displacement" (tajf). For a better understanding of the principle of manifestation, it is important that the concept and conditions surrounding displacement become well known. These pertain to the natural order and therefore are familiar. Only then can the points of divergence between manifestation and displacement be properly studied.

Whenever a body in the physical world descends from one place to another, the first place becomes empty of it. For example when a raindrop descends from a cloud or when a jewel is taken from a treasure vault, the cloud or vault becomes less to exactly the extent of one drop or jewel, respectively. It matters not how large and great the cloud or treasure is; though it may be very large it becomes less by just that one drop or jewel. This emptying of the cloud and vault is the defining characteristic of displacement (tajaf).

In the descent by manifestation (tajalli), on the other hand, the descent of a thing does not cause any diminution or deficiency in the origin of descent. For example, in the reflection of a person in a mirror, and despite the real existence of the image of the person in the mirror, nothing is taken from the person himself and he is not any less than he was to begin with. Of course this is just an example and it could easily be said that in the forming of the image of the person rays of light or the like are taken from him and he is to this extent reduced. Despite such a remark, the example and the principle that it represents stand true, as it is clear that the example is not to be taken to its final limits. To be exact, in the final analysis there is actually no difference between the example and what it represents. This is because what are perceived to be the causes for the formation of the reflected image--things such as light, reflective surface, glass, mercury, angle of reflection, etc.--are nothing but supplementary causes and agents that facilitate the appearance and manifestation of the image of the person. …

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