Observations placeholder

Avicenna - Kitab Al-Shifa - On the Soul

Identifier

011859

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

While he was imprisoned in the castle of Fardajan near Hamadhan, Avicenna wrote his "Floating Man" treatise.  This treatise was based on actual experience – dubbed an experiment by western commentators, but in spiritual terms this was an out of body experience.

From this out of body experience, Avicenna became absolutely certain that the immortal soul – the Higher spirit -  is a separate entity from the body and that it survives death.

 Avicenna describes a situation in which he was suspended in the air, isolated from all sensations, which included no sensory contact with his body. He described how, in this scenario, he still had self-consciousness.

the immortal soul is a perfection, independent of the body, and an immaterial substance”.

Avicenna referred to the immortal soul – Higher spirit – as the means by which the spirit world communicates with us – the mediator, as it were, between spirit and mortal soul.

The following comes from Wikipedia, where it was quoted, hopefully it is accurate.

A description of the experience

Avicenna - Kitab Al-Shifa, On the Soul

One of us has to consider (yatawaham) that one has been just created in a stroke, and that one has been thus created fully developed and perfectly complete (kāmilan), yet [created] with one's vision shrouded [or veiled] (hujiba baṣarahu) from watching [perceiving] (mushāhadāt) external entities created falling [floating] (yahwa) in the air on in empty space (al-khalāʾ) in a fall not buffeted by any felt air that buffets it [i.e. the Person in question]; its limbs separated and not in contact nor touching on another. Then let it contemplate (yataʾamal) whether it would affirm the existence of its own self. It would not then doubt the affirmation that its self is existent (mawjūda), yet not affirming the existence of any other limbs nor inner bowels, nor heart, nor brain, nor anything of the external things. Rather it was affirming the existence of its-self without affirming that it had length, breadth, or depth. And if it were possible for it, in such a state, to imagine (yatakhayal) a hand or any other limb, it would not then imagine it to be part of its-self nor to be condition of it [i.e. its-self existence]. And you know that what is affirmed is distinct from what is not affirmed, and what is implied is distinct from what is not implied. Therefore the nafs [self, soul], whose existence the person has affirmed, is its [the person's] characteristic identity that is not identical to its body nor its limbs [whose existence] it did not affirm. Therefore, the attentive (al-mutanabih) [to this situation] has a means of realizing (yatanabah) that the affirmation of the existence of its-self (soul, al-nafs) is distinct from the body and something that is quite non-body [i.e. that the mind/soul (al-nafs) is distinct from the body (jism)]; this is known though self-consciousness and if one was distracted from it, one needs to knock one's baton [as to be alerted to it].

The original Arabic text reads as follows:

يجب أن يتوهم الواحد منا كأنه خلق دفعةً وخلق كاملاً لكنه حجب بصره عن مشاهدة الخارجات وخلق يهوى في هواء أو خلاء هوياً لا يصدمه فيه قوام الهواء صدماً ما يحوج إلى أن يحس وفرق بين أعضائه فلم تتلاق ولم تتماس ثم يتأمل هل أنه يثبت وجود ذاته ولا يشكك في إثباته لذاته موجوداً ولا يثبت مع ذلك طرفاً من أعضائه ولا باطناً من أحشائه ولا قلباً ولا دماغاً ولا شيئاً من الأشياء من خارج بل كان يثبت ذاته ولا يثبت لها طولاً ولا عرضاً ولا عمقاً ولو أنه أمكنه في تلك الحالة أن يتخيل يداً أو عضواً آخر لم يتخيله جزء من ذاته ولا شرطاً في ذاته وأنت تعلم أن المثبت غير الذي لم يثبت والمقربه غير الذي لم يقربه فإذن للذات التي أثبت وجودها خاصية على أنها هو بعينه غير جسمه وأعضائه التي لم تثبت فإذن المثبت له سبيل إلى أن يثبته على وجود النفس شيئاً غير الجسم بل غير جسم وأنه عارف به مستشعر له وإن كان ذاهلاً عنه يحتاج إلى أن يقرع عصاه.

The source of the experience

Avicenna

Concepts, symbols and science items

Concepts

Higher spirit

Symbols

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Commonsteps

References