Light or Darkness? Suhrawardī’s philosophy of illumination

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Light or Darkness? Suhrawardī’s philosophy of illumination

Natalia Vorontsova 

Quote:What then is darkness? In the philosophical doctrine of Suhrawardī, it is the absence of Light: everything that is neither illuminated nor Light itself. Hence it is Light that is a basic reality, and everything must be defined in terms of it, expressed in varying degrees of intensity, ranging from pure immaterial light to darkness and shadow. In essence, the doctrine is a hierarchical and emanatory scheme based on two principles: light (independent ) and darkness (dependent). And every emanative act is an overflow from the Light above it as an act of luminescence whose reflective nature gives rise to another. Furthermore, no causal relation exists between emanative acts; there is no material or temporal precession. Here is a high-level outline of key emanations in Suhrawardī’s cosmology:

  1. Incorporeal (pure) Light: axiomatic, independent in and of itself.
    • Light of Lights: the Necessary Being, the Source of Light, God.
    • Immaterial Lights: Forms, Souls, Angels, Archangels and Platonic Archetypes.

  2. Accidental Light: Light inhering in another, such as the light of stars.

  3. Suspended Images: A special emanation that mediates between incorporeal and corporeal emanations, also known as Mundus Imaginalis. Autonomous images of the medium through which the incorporeal world of lights communicates and interacts with the corporeal world of shadow and darkness.

  4. Corporeal (pure) Darkness & Shadow: things whose nature is darkness in itself, an absence of Light, such as physical bodies (barriers, ‘dusky substances’).

  5. Accidental Darkness: depends on something other than itself, such as the shapes of physical objects. In also includes aspects of incorporeal lights that give rise to a corporeal
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell

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