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Graduation (hierarchical structure) of Being

According to asalat al-wujud, the differences that we understand among things in the world are all rooted in their "being" and can have no root other than the reality of ‘being’. Therefore, all things in the world differ in "being", just as they share ‘being’. The reality of being [in contrast to the concept of being] is a reality that admits differences and multiplicity of types and every type of being is a level of being which is different from other beings in intensity and weakness, and unlimitedness and limitedness.

Different types of being differ from each other in that one is weaker, that is, more dependent and more needy and the other is more intense, that is, more independent and less needy. The difference of being in degrees of dependence on and need for the other which is the same as the difference in weakness and intensity is the source for all differences and varieties in the world.

The peak and the most intense being is the self-independent being, which is absolutely free from need, that is, the eternal self-necessary being. The self-necessary being has no need for any condition and is the absolute being and enjoys the ultimate existential actuality. The self-necessary being is the originator of the hierarchy of being. All other levels of being are manifestations of self-necessary being, on whom they entirely depend.

Despite its total dependence on the self-necessary being, the first being created by the self-necessary being has no need to other levels of being and therefore in relation to other levels of being enjoys independence, freedom from need and absoluteness. Other levels of being depend for their existence on self-necessary being and on the first creature as well, since through it the grace of being extends to other levels. Thus, the highest being is the completely actual independent absolute self-necessary being and the lowest is the being that has nothing other than potentiality of being.

In his Mabda’ wa Ma‘ad, Mulla, Sadra says:

“And beings do not differ in their essence except in intensity and weakness, perfection and imperfection, priority and posteriority. Being accidentally differs because of those notions that are subordinate to them, i.e. their different natures”.

Also in the discussion on potentiality and actuality in his Al-Asfar al-Aqliyyah al-Arbi‘ah, Mulla Sadra says:

“Surely the thing, which is liable to movement, is potential either in this aspect or in all aspects, and the mover is actual either in this aspect or in all aspects. Inevitably, those aspects of actuality will end in something, which is actual in all aspects; otherwise it would lead to vicious circle or infinite regress. Similarly, those aspects of potentiality will end in something, which is potential in all aspects except in being potential, since it has this potentially in actuality and this is what make it distinguishable from absolute nothingness. So it is proved that there are two sides for the being: one side is the first real and the absolute being, May His name be glorified, and the other side is the materia prima. The former is absolutely good and the latter is bad and has nothing good except accidentally. It is accidentally good, because it is the potentiality for all beings, in contrast to nothingness, which is absolutely bad”.

Adapted from: "Casuality and Freedom" by: "Ayatullah Mohsen Araki"