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Theoretical Gnosis

We now come to the theoretical aspect of gnosis. The theoretical gnosis deals with the nature of the universe and discusses man, God and the world.

As such this part of gnosis has a close resemblance to theosophy, for both of them interpret the nature of the universe. Just as philosophy has its own problems and principles, similarly mysticism also has its own problems and principles. The difference between the two is that philosophy bases its arguments on its postulates whereas the science of mysticism or gnosis bases its arguments on visions and intuition and then enunciates its theories in a logical way.

The reasoning of philosophy may be compared to the study of an essay in its original language and the reasoning of gnosis to the study of an essay translated from a different language.

What the gnostics themselves claim is that they state in the language of reason what they see with the eyes of their heart and their entire physical existence.

The gnostic conception of existence is quite different from its philosophical conception.

From the viewpoint of a philosopher the existence of the non-God is as real as the existence of God. The difference is that God is self-existing and essentially-existing Being, whereas everything non-God is neither self-existing nor essentially existing. It is the self-existing Being who brings it into existence. But according to the gnostics the existence of the non-God is absolutely insignificant in comparison to God's in existence even if it is admitted that it is Allah who is the bringer of the non-God into existence. From the viewpoint of the gnostics Allah's existence pervades everything and everything is a manifestation of His names and attributes. Nothing else exists at all as He exists.

The viewpoint of a philosopher is different from that of a gnostic. The philosopher wants to understand this universe. In other words he wants to have in his mind a correct, comparatively complete and comprehensive picture of the universe. In the eyes of a philosopher the highest attainment of man is to be able to perceive the world in such a way that in his own existence the existence of this world is set up and he himself becomes the world. That is why philosophy has been defined as: 'Man's becoming a mental world similar to the existing world.' But a gnostic is not interested in reason and intellect. He wants to have access to the reality of existence, that is Allah Himself. He wants to meet with this reality and to observe it.

According to the gnostic man's highest attainment is to return to his origin (that is from where he has come), to wipe out the distance between himself and Allah and to pass away of human attributes to seek survival in Allah.

A philosopher uses his reason and intellect whereas a gnostic for his purpose makes use of his purified heart and soul and constant spiritual effort.

Later when we discuss the gnostic conception of the universe, the difference between this conception and the philosophers' conception of the universe will become clear.

Adaptd from: "Light Within Me" by: "Allamah Mutahhari, Allamah Tabataba'i and Imam Khumayni"

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