Man's Spiritual Evolution in the Material World: Mulla Sadra's Viewpoint


Why are we here? This is one of the most important questions for man, because by giving answer to this question, man can understand his/her goal of life and role in the material world and the importance of this external universe. For doing this, we must understand the nature of man and the material world. About man, it is necessary to know his/her quiddity and existential dimensions, and his/her relationship to other beings such as the world and its beings.  Moreover, we have to recognize the role of man in the material world. About the material world, we have to understand its properties and role and place in man’s life, especially his/her evolution. Also it must be considered that man is the only being who has two different dimensions that include body and soul. The property of body is similar to and probably the same as matter, which closer to the material world. But man’s soul is an immaterial and spiritual thing that is placed opposite to body and matter. Therefore, man is an excellent being in the material world because of his/her spiritual and material properties and dimensions. Then man, contrary to other beings in itself has unique properties that include origin, mundane life, resurrection and final goal of man. Man has birth, life, death, and aims for himself. But all these properties, especially man’s evolution, are on the basis of living in the material world. It means that, the material world is the only base and background of man's evolution, through its utilization man can reach him/her spiritual aim.     

The above subject is considered in Islam and Islamic thought, especially in Islamic philosophy and wisdom. We can find theories of it in Transcendent wisdom of Islam by Mulla Sadra Shirazi. He himself has a theory called Trans- substantial motion, which we try to provide and explain it here. First, we give a short account of the properties and principles of Mulla Sadra’s philosophy.

Mulla Sadra(1571-1642) is the founder of the Transcendent philosophy (wisdom) and one of the greatest philosophers in Islamic world; all beings have a special place for themselves in his philosophical system, and proper philosophical explanations. Therefore, they play a special role in Mulla Sadra’s philosophical system. Thus Mulla Sadra, in his thought, relies much upon thoughts of peripatetic, illuminative, theological, mystical and also Islamic teachings. He synthesizes an intuition with demonstration, and then both of them with experimental and polemic wisdom and so represents his own school of thought under the title of the Transcendent Philosophy.  Consequently, he can provide a coherent transcendent philosophy in a reasonable framework so that he may produce an explanation of structure of the material World. This is important when Mulla Sadra’s system is carefully studied in its ontological, epistemological, cosmological, anthropological, eschatological and theological frameworks.

Hence there are some more prominent principles that  have special properties such as 1- the principality of existence, 2-the gradation of existence,  3-the unity between intelligent and intelligible, 4-the universe temporal creation, 5-the soul corporeal creation and its incorporeal permanence, 6-the principle of unity in plurality, 7-the principle of ultimate in world system,      8-the corporeal resurrection, 9-trans-substantial motion, etc,  that all of them are connected with together such as a chain, and they generally show a coherent and completely rational organization .

In this project, from a philosophical and anthropological viewpoint, that is, the main thrust of this article, Mulla Sadra has some new thoughts which can explain some principles of natural sciences about man. These principles are the principle of trans-substantial motion, the principle of temporal creation of universe, the principle of soul corporeal creation of man, the principle of soul incorporeal permanence and the principle of continual creation in the material world. These principles together provide theoretical and practical frameworks which draw the line of creation, life and its ultimate, and the end of man.

In the other words, on the basis of the above principles, we can explain and demonstrate the hypothesis that the origin and resurrection of man’s life is based on the trans-substantial motion. In fact, in this opinion we can explain creation and mundane life of man, and finally his/her motion to future world only in the light of trans- substantial motion and also other principles such as the corporeal resurrection of man. The importance of man's creation and his/her spiritual subsistence and corporeal creation lies in his/her life in this world and his/her complete motion on the basis of his/her acquired abilities in the material world.

Therefore, the principle of trans-substantial motion indicates that although man has two dimensions, material and spiritual, and spiritual dimension is prior to the material, but the material world is only background of his/her growth and only way for passing to the spiritual world; it shows that the material world is prior to the spiritual world from view of temporal and linear. And because man is a being who moves towards spiritual perfection, this perfection is possible only in corporeal world only on the basis of the trans-substantial motion.

So, the trans-substantial motion is the basis of man's perfection from the beginning of creation in this world to enter to the other world. This article tries to shed light on this subject.

What is the nature of man?

Knowledge of man's nature has a special place and role in the structure of Sadra’s transcendent philosophy. Anthropology is the recognition of man's reality and truth in an extent and general concept that it is done by sciences and knowledge with several methods, and ends. In Mulla Sadra’s philosophy, anthropology is considered from the viewpoint of theology, physics, mysticism and religious teachings, in which Mulla Sadra’s attention is more focused on man from the viewpoint of natural and divine science. Although man's mystical tendency has also a special property for himself. 

In this viewpoint, man is a bearer of divine honesty and trust, and God calls him/her as the aim of creation and its ultimate cause, and Islam has called him as vicegerent of Allah(God) (khalifa tullah). Mulla Sadra also has this point in mind, but he doesn’t consider man as the noblest of creatures in the sense that the ancient thinkers did. He asks: how will man be the noblest of creatures?  While the most of men are imperfect, and even, perfect man, has not understood the whole of perfection.

So, man is imperfect in every situation, and he/she doesn’t have possible ability to attain that perfection, to become more complete (Mulla Sadra, 2002, A, p 210-211). But at the same time, Mulla Sadra considers only perfect man as the worthy vicegerent of God. Therefore he deems it necessary to know the nature of man’s soul, his/her final perfection and faculties for reaching Allah (God).

Mulla Sadra in viewpoint of the mystics, in which man is microcosm(a’lame saghir) and manifestation of Allah’s name, maintains that man formally is microcosm but in fact and reality, he/she is macrocosm(a’lame kabir) and the fruit of existence tree.

In this case, although man formally is placed in the last range of creation, but in fact, he is the first creature, because the aim of man creation is to demonstrate the divine attributes and acts, and man is manifestation of this demonstration (Goharin, 1987, p 116).

On the other hand, Mulla Sadra focuses on the importance of knowledge of man’s soul, because in his viewpoint the reality of man is his intellectual soul, and recognition of God that depends on recognition of man’s soul. So far as, Mulla Sadra says if any body knows his/her soul, he/she can know the world, he/she can recognize and observe his/her God, because God is the creator the earth and heavens, (Mulla sadrs, 1984, p 245) and Mulla Sadra thoughts that, all the terrestrial faculties, and herbaceous and animal effects are collected in the substance of man. This is the first rank of human ranks which is common  among all human beings. Man has stages and ranks in his/her mundane life, including: stage of embryo, stage of actual growth and a potential animal. Man, after his/her birth until formal maturity, is actually animal and potential man, and after maturity, is became actually man and potential archangel, and the age of forty is the first and starting stage of his/her spiritual maturity (Mulla sadrs, 1996, p 11).

In the viewpoint of mulla sadra, because of the same properties, man is the owner of abstract soul, in which man has properties such as formal speech, perceptual faculties and conception of intellectual meanings. Consequently , there is, in man’s soul, a characteristic of evolution and abstraction that is higher than other animals and this character is a medium between its corporeal and intellectual aspects, and this soul, although has common characters with acts of growth and animal but it is able to conceive universals, that can’t call reason the highest its grade. The reason both has epistemic and voluntary and ethical aspects, from epistemic aspect, man has faculties of recognition of universals and abstracts, and he/she, from voluntary and ethical aspects, is the origin of freedom and can freely make a decision, while  this property is not in any existent. Consequently, mulla sadra in the  book of Asrarol Ayat writes because existence of reason ability and faculty is that man has been worthy of place of divine success or, and the highest character for man is the same as reason and science and wisdom, which is placed him/her as higher than all  archangels. Then, the ability of reason and wisdom is the end of man being and his/her creation (Mulla sadra, 1984, p 254).

Therefore, man in mulla sadra’s thought has more characteristics that we can consider them from philosophical, mystical, religious and natural aspects. But what is that common in this approach, it is that man is composed of two material and spiritual realities. That is, any way man is a two dimensional being and each of these dimensions forms the basis of his/her reality. His/her material and corporeal dimensions conforms his/her mundane life, and spiritual dimension builds his/her intellectual. So the reality of man is the same as body and soul that is interpreted as higher rank of soul toward reason.

As a result, the nature of man is not only body or soul, but also composition and unity between them. That is, on the contrary of other beings, specially animals in which also soul exists, man’s nature is the result of unity and cooperation between body and soul, with the difference that soul, in man, moves towards spiritual perfection and complete solitude, and soul, for moving, uses body and this is because of final and meaning of man that is called perfect man in mystical explanation.

Afterwards, in Mulla sadra’s thought, man is like a prism whose every surface shows one of his/her characteristics. Man in the religious and mystical viewpoint, is the Allah successor on the earth and a divine existence, and he/she, in ethical viewpoint, has freedom and is the owner of free reason, and finally, in philosophical viewpoint is a being with two realities of matter and soul, and this is the result of unity between them in the natural world, while his/her final is beyond the natural world. Nevertheless, function of explanation how man going out from nature and enter to the spiritual world is on the basis of the trans-substantial motion.

Trans-substantial motion and its properties

Before presentation of the theory of trans-substantial motion by Mulla Sadra, some philosophers, such as Aristotle, Farabi, Ibn sina, Sohravardi and Mirdamad considered motion only in some accidents. Namely, they believed that motion exists in some categories like quantity, quality, place and position, and so they maintained that motion and change in substances are impossible.

Aristotle was the first philosopher who criticized the definition given by ancient sages and, in his definition he completely took the opposite route. Following Aristotle, Ibn Sina and most Muslim philosophers excluded terms such as gradual and time from their definitions to support that of Aristotle. They said that neither gradual nor time should be used in the definition of motion, since the meaning of gradual entails the meaning of time, and time itself is the measure of motion and is defined in terms of motion. They maintained that in defining of motion in terms of time and time in terms of motion one enters in a vicious circle. Aristotle defined motion in this way: motion is the first perfection for those existents that have the potential for gaining perfections other than what they already possess. For example, the child has the actuality of childhood and the potentiality to become a youth, sage, scholar, etc., and can gain these perfections through motion; therefore, his/her primary perfection is motion and the attainable ones are his/her secondary perfections. Hence, the perfections of existents are divided into primary and secondary ones. Compared to motion, all perfections are secondary and motion is primary. However, there is only one existent in the world that is actually perfect in all aspects, and free from potentiality for perfection, and it is nothing unless the essence of the truth. Even the intellects and abstract souls have matter and potentiality in a general sense, and the limit of their quiddity and essential contingency is their very matter and potentiality.

Ibn Sina in the book of Alshifa, by reference to doubt of lack of permanence subject while occurrence motion in substance, clearly denied trans-substantial motion, In fact, in his thought for occurrence motion in substance must be permanent thing until motion occurs in its attributes (Ibn sina, 1997, p 187-191). The basic point in Ibn sina’s theory for denying motion in substance is that he considers moments as temporal non-extended moments such as distances in which distances, Giver of forms grants by proving preliminaries forms of substantial. So in his belief the man’s creation is not in the way that are made several forms of sperm, embryo, fetus and etc as an extended and permanent motion in the external world. But it is in this way that special quantitative and qualitative motions of matter accepts a form, and is in this moment that ability of acceptance is received to own perfection point, which Giver of forms diffuse it. Then motion is not in substance because substantial forms are not products of motion, but they are creature by will of the creator out of the natural world (Akbaryan, 2000, p 16).

This Ibn sina’s thought, that is influenced by Aristotle with composition of metaphysical attitude, exists in philosophers after Ibn sina with little changes, that its another basis, is Aristotle’s definition of motion, in which motion is first perfection for thing with the same respect that it is a thing. That is, motion is put in practice of moveable thing as moveable. The cause of gaining this proper is in contact with a thing that can move, so that motive is influenced by this (Aristotle, 1995, vol. 2 1072a21and 1073a29).

While in Mulla sadra’s philosophy is changed the meaning and nature of Ibn sina’s and Aristotle’s motion characteristics, that is, in it, Ibn sina’s creation and corruption and changing is changed to gradual changing of substance. In fact, Mulla sadra’s opinion about motion consists of gradual or acquisition creation and gradual going out from potential to actual, that this gradual motion is in existence of material thing not in its quiddity.  Then the meaning of trans-substantial motion is the same as creation in which motive is a thing that its substance is flowing and mobility and instability. So on the basis of the trans-substantial motion, motion and moving are the same in the external world, and mobile and passing are necessary for existence of moving (Mulla sadra, 1999, vol.3, p 85-86).

Therefore, we can say that in Mulla sadra’s viewpoint, unlike ancients, motion is not accidental toward a thing, but it, in material beings, is an essential and fundamental part of them. That is, there are no material existence that essentially be fixed and without motion. But fundamentally, materiality is the same as be moving, and so, creation of things by God is the same as creation of motion in them. That is, creating of moving is like the creating of motion and mobile, which does not mean that motion needs another cause and agent. Because motion is essential for moving, and moving doesn’t have any identity without motion, so, creation of the existence of moving is the same as creation of its motion.

Hence, we can conclude that in Mulla sadra’s opinion motion and flux is not opposite of existence, but motion and becoming itself is a kind of existence and being. That is, because motion exists in essence of a thing, it is not provable and deniable, although only spatial and local motion has such properties. Then motion is a secondary intelligible of philosophical not a quiddity concept, so in fact issue of motion is a metaphysical issue not natural, although it has some natural characters.

In the other hand, Mulla sadra thinks that because motion of a thing is the same as its existence, then motion in substance of a thing doesn’t need external subject. Since anything itself is another thing in last and later moment, and also mover, in this motion, is like moving and is not other identity for it. Consequently we can say, trans-substantial motion indicates property of a thing existence which is flux and mobile, and it is also a rank of ranks of existential reality. Because reality of existence has two ranks, the first is rank of fixed and permanence existence, the second is rank of flux and mobile existence, that motion is a property of flux existence and it is necessary and indispensable and inseparable of it. While, motion in accidents such as quantity, quality and so on are non-essential, and have fixed subject, that motions happen on it, like change of things color or change of their position or change of parts of a set towards each other.

Mulla Sadra's arguments for proving the trans-substantial motion is based on the idea that the existence of an object comprises its whole and that quiddity is a non-factual entity. By accepting the principality of existence, flux is became a mode of existence, and the way of mobile beings coming into existence, which is nothing unless their being, is conceived in a gradual and mobile manner. The question that in the trans-substantial motion what is became is the object itself is a question arisen from the principality of the quiddity approach. According to the principality of existence, the existence of an object is the object itself and motion is the mode of existence. Nevertheless, in the theory of trans-substantial motion, the object itself is the very mobile existence and not something which motion is in it.

Mulla sadra presents several arguments for demonstrating the trans-substantial motion, he shows this subjects, by making uses of motion in accidents and also to survey the nature of time. In mulla sadra’s view accident existence, is not independent and itself existence, but accident is a rank of substance existence ranks because accidents don’t have any essential independence for themselves, and they only indicate dignity of itself substance existential.

Hence, there is a causal relation in all changes, that is, changing in accidents must have had a cause, and this cause also must be the same as substance, because substance is the cause of accident. Then, substance is the origin of any changing or motion in accident. Now, with observation of several motions in accidents and knowing that the cause of the motions are their substance, we can conclude that existence of motion in accidents is indicated existence of motion in their cause, that is, there is their substance, so,  the trans-substantial motion is a real thing (Mulla sadra , 1999,vol.3, p 86-87). Therefore, in Mulla Sadra,s thought , also, with regard the nature of Time, we can aware of motion reality in substance of material thing, Since, in this opinion, Time is the fourth dimension of body that it is essential for every material thing. It means, materiality is connected and attached to temporality, and so, things temporality is the sign of a kind of dimension in their existence in duration of time, and it indicates a deep and substantial motion in their essence. Because, Time itself, is a mobility and instability thing, that its essentiality toward material things is indicated existence of flux and moving thing in the essence of material things. In other word, reality of time, as dimension of passing and changeable of corporeal beings, shows that motion exists in substance of material things. On this basis, Mulla Sadra considers every material existing as a temporal being and with temporal dimension, means, it has trans-substantial motion. Then, the time, which interferes in temporal phenomenon, is the same as time of trans-substantial motion, and the lack of trans-substantial motion is the same as lack of time, therefore , in this opinion, material world, with all own beings , has fundamental and substantial motion that this motion is the same as world identity.( Mulla Sadra , 1999,vol.3,p. 87).

In addition to the arguments, mulla sadra has another argument that is closer to the firs argument. He, in this proof, shows that accidents are caused by forms of species, because their cause is not an abstract thing, and accidents cause, that is forms of species that must be changeable because of existence of quantity and quality changing in accidents. Since the cause of a changeable thing must be a changeable thing, then accidents, that are moving and changeable thing, their substance, that is the same as their forms of species, must be changeable, and this indicates that trans-substantial motion exists in all material things. But at the same time, trans-substantial motion in a thing or body is not in the way that it to bring out some properties and to wear some others, it means, it is not this way that body lose the property which has, and acquires a new property. But, it is wearing after wearing, that, in it, a thing with having a last property, receives a new property that every last form is a matter and background for later form, and this shows evolutional nature of trans-substantial motion in body.

With considering above points about the trans-substantial motion, some affairs is cleared: firstly, the trans-substantial motion only progresses in all material things and it doesn’t progress in abstracts, then the material world, that is the world of material things and man because of existence of material reality in them, are the basic subject of trans-substantial motion. Secondly, trans-substantial motion for every material thing is the same as its essence and entity not accidental property for it, that it be possible to negate it. Then trans-substantial motion is essential for the material world, man and other beings such as plants and animals, and also it is the same as their identity. Thirdly, because of essentiality of time toward material being, in which existence of material being is circulated in time, then trans-substantial motion, in material things, is a circulation motion in time that shows property of temporal entity of things that this is another explanation of continual and new creation. Fourthly, the existence of evolutional motion in the substances of material existing must draw their origin and resurrection, that Mulla sadra mentions to temporal creation of world, corporeal creation of soul and its spiritual subsistence, solitude of natural world in final of its evolutional motion, and corporeal resurrection of man, that we explain these subjects, with axis of man.

Trans-substantial motion and man origin

Just as we considered, subject of the trans-substantial motion is all material existing of the world, and it includes the material world, lifeless things, animals, plants and man. Because matter and material dimension is placed in the essence of these beings, that is, materiality and temporality are fundamental and essential both for man and the world.

In the other hand, inasmuch as man has two basic dimensions of matter and soul, this question is discussed that does principle of the trans-substantial motion contain spiritual dimension or material dimension?

To answer this question, Mulla Sadra gives a new explanation of the soul creation of man and its relation to matter, and clears its relation to the trans-substantial motion that the same as soul creation of man.

In Mulla Sadra’s viewpoint, man’s soul is created corporeally. That is, in creation of man, first is made corporeal matter, without soul has been, afterwards soul, in definite conditions, gradually is appeared from inside of matter and its trans-substantial motion. When sperm is settled, because of the trans-substantial motion, it is changed. The second form that is made for sperm is natural and mineral form. After it, as the result of more change, for sperm is made herbaceous form. In this stage, corporeal matter has ability to find perception, but we can not say it is a soul until it doesn’t find any feeling under the influence of circumferential factors. After that, corporeal matter found herbaceous form, it finds sensibility passion under the influence of own environmental factors and their stimulations and the first perceptional form is acquired. And in this way, the first appearance of soul is occurred. Then soul is created from corporeal matter and with it is proved. But soul, in this stage, is not a mere material thing because it has feeling and passion, that is, soul, not only is  an independent and fixed substance, but also it is extremely weak and the same as corporeal matter with some differences. In addition, soul, in this stage, is the same as perception of sense or sensible which is occurred nor that soul is a definite existence that has feeling. Here it is a kind of unity that in it, soul who is perceptive, and perceptional form which is sensible are the same. Then, in this state, the fetus gains more sensible perceptions by receiving of external stimulations, and by this way, the substance of soul is powered (Mulla Sadra, 1999, v.9, p.94-119). In this process of evolution, matter and soul are similar, in that they both are in evolutional motion, but with this difference that there are not any stable conjunctions in motions of body and matter, means, by bringing of new part, previous part is annihilated. But motion in soul is conjunctional, that is, new part is added to previous part and accumulation is made. So, feelings and perceptions of sensible, that are acquired for fetus are related and accumulated to each other. Therefore, substance of soul always finds more intensity and strength.

Then we can say, when a body  is born , his/her sensible perceptions finds more new properties, and by acting of several senses such as senses of taste, sight and hearing, soul acquires forms of more sensible perceptional, and then  the trans-substantial motion of soul is exposed to more aggravation (Meshkatoddiny, 1965, p. 70-71).

In the other hand, Mulla Sadra maintains that relation between body and soul is a united relation, that is, when body, after soul creation and under influence of  own trans-substantial motion, has perceptional feelings and finally reality of soul, this soul is not a thing in addition to reality of body, and is not separated of it. So, in this case, Mulla Sadra says: it is not doubt that man’s soul is described by properties which depend on the body, and what, is described by property of thing, is the same as it, therefore soul and body are the same. Then soul completely depends on body so far as Mulla Sadra considers dependency of soul on body different from dependency of king on country or captain to ship, but he considers soul as form of species and constitutive of body, and  knows both of them as united in one existence (Shakiba, 2000, p.9).     

In this case, with attention to theory of corporeal creation of soul is cleared that when body, that is a material thing, is created, only in light of trans-substantial motion, in this same material and temporal body is that soul is created, and if creature body does not go or travel in evolutional motion of its substance, soul will not be created. Then body creation is prior to soul creation and also, soul creation, that in fact is origin and basis of creation, is a temporal, corporeal and material creation. Of course this creation also has substantial evolutional ranks in own inside. That is, soul, under influence of the trans-substantial motion of matter, at all is not created, but it goes and travels some evolutional ranks such as: herbaceous, sensitive, and speech soul. In other word, when body, in its evolutional motion, has the first perception such as sensible perception. Soul is created in its lowest and weakest rank. Then after birth of baby, because soul is provided by increasing of sensible perceptions in consequence of practical and actual encounter of body to things and their properties, that it has had the forms of things without them presence. After it, for soul is provided imaginary perception, that it is a more abstract perception than sensible perception, Afterwards, by having of sensible and imaginary perceptions, and continual of the trans-substantial motion in the body and soul, for soul is provided, gradually, illusive and rational perceptions.

Therefore, because of  both first soul creation and first its motion, so far as soul finds own abstract reality, depends on body, and so, these are material and corporeal creation for soul that these are showed by extended and temporal nature of body for soul. Because place of soul creation and penetration is the same as material and corporeal body. Then, only in the light of trans-substantial motion, is that the origin and creation of man merely by material and corporeal properties is provided and possible, and it is called corporeal creation (khel’at jesmani), then soul is a special existing that needs to material background for appearance, and if it had not material background, for it is impossible to be appear and create.

In addition to, in the light of trans-substantial motion, Mulla sadra also demonstrates temporal creation of the material world, that is, because man is one of the material beings of the world, then also his/her temporality and corporeality is cleared. Mulla sadra argues that Time is one of the possible beings the same as the world, then it is impossible a thing be prior to time in this world. That is, the material world and every thing that was created in it, its creation must be in the light and horizon of time.  So, creation in the world is not outside of time. Afterwards on the basis of trans-substantial motion are changed all beings of the natural world such as man, and all parts of them which exist in continual creation and decline. Therefore the whole of world, including also man, has not any property except property of own parties, and it, with all own parties, has temporal creation (Mulla Sadra, 2002, B, p. 62).  

Therefore, man is a temporal creature, and because time is one of the essential dimensions of matter, means, is fourth dimension of it, then it concludes that man creation is a corporeal and material creation, that and its property includes both body and soul. So, it clears that man creation is a temporal creation that this indicates material origin of man.

Trans-substantial motion and evolutional motion of man

In the opinion of mulla sadra, man is a material being. Then in his/her existence is placed two potential and actual properties. That is, man both has potentiality and also actuality of many things and this is allocated to material things. So, on the subject of man the relation between body and soul is similar to relation between potentiality and actuality. Namely , there is an essential necessity between them so far as existence of potentiality property in man is the basis of his/her materiality, and his/her materiality is the basis of his/her motion and the motion is became the basis of gradual changing and mobile in time. In other word, man because of having material dimensions, is the same as motion and mobile. Means, because matter is pure potentiality, and only way for its actual is its evolutional motion, that is the same as trans-substantial motion in matter (Mulla sadra, 1996, p.135-144). Then the importance of the trans-substantial motion is its axially in evolutional motion of man at duration of own life in this material world, until he/she goes to future world. In other words, man’s soul, after its creation, because of body’s trans-substantial motion goes and travels in own evolutional stages until it has all perceptions of sensible, imaginary, illusive, and finally rational. Acquisition of rational perception for soul means that man has the highest grade of soul, that is, he/she becomes the faculty of rational which it shows that soul has reached to his/her evolutional rank. So far as the rank of soul rational can make concepts of abstract rational and universal with abstraction of sensible, imaginary, and illusive concepts, and then it can has rational science, that this is a special evolutional rank for man so far as man in his/her own rational rank, for reasoning does not need body and matter. Because rational faculty is only faculty of man that it essentially and actually doesn’t need to matter and body. But it has pure abstraction. Of course, Mulla sadra, meantime believing to evolutional rank for reason, for it, considers forth ranks for understanding of rationales and traveling from potentiality to actuality. The first rank is Material intellect that is pure potentiality and it doesn’t have any knowledge neither self evident nor theories. The second rank is Habitual intellect that has perceived self-evident and it prepares to acquire theoretical science. The third rank is Active intellect that has self evident and theories and speculations, and in fact, this intellect concludes theoretical sciences from self-evident sciences. The forth rank is Acquired intellect that in this rank, the intellect has acquired all own rational both self- evident and speculations, and has conformed them with the realities of the material and future world, and it has presence knowledge, and in fact, all knowledge are present actuality with him.(Mulla sadra, 2002,A, p. 309-323). In the other hand, Mulla sadra, in the same time, considers also evolutional and rational traveling of man in the light of material world, because in his thought, man lives in the material world. Then evolutional stages of soul is because of its trans-substantial motion until it can reach to rational rank, while in the material world it is impossible that reason can reach to the  highest level of own perfection. Means, although three ranks of sensation, imagination and illusion depend on body, but because intellect rank is perfect abstraction degree, it must go out the corporeal and material world, and must enter the intellects world and divine truths. (Mulla sadra, 1999, vol.9, p.94-99).Then, man life is in the material world from stages of childhood, middle age, and finally old age. And for soul, traveling of these evolutional stages, and after for own man, has aspects of  epistemic or ethical, mystical and experiences in life, all of them are in the material world and in reciprocal action with others things, in fact, so far as there is an united relation between body and soul that it is a real composition, evolution stages of soul is possible in effect of the trans-substantial motion in its essence and matter, consequently, so far as in Mulla sadra’s opinion, the creature world, on the basis of trans-substantial motion , goes and progresses from pure materiality to perfect abstraction and spirituality. This subject also includes, so much as is added to abstraction and spiritual aspect of man in his/her evolutional motion, is decreased man’s material and corporeal aspects, but until perfect abstraction of man, his/her evolutional motion is occurred on the basis of motion. That in Mulla sadra’s view this continual trans-substantial motion in man’s essence and the material world is called continual and perpetual creation (khalqe modam). Means, every being in this world, essentially has possibility of existential poverty or needing (emkane faqry), that this existential poverty receives himself to perfection only by motion and changing in own essence. means, every material phenomenon, even man in this material world, is changeable in its essence, and its existence, in every moment, is other than its existence in another moment, and the acting of continual creation, always is graced by divine absolute essence that it is common property of existential poverty of all beings and continual effusion by God that is the same concept of new and continual creation (khalqe jadid) (Mulla sadra, 1999, vol.3, p. 108-113).

Therefore, the man material and intellectual acts is possible only in frame of materiality boundaries, that is, man even also to do pure spiritual acts, he/she needs material conditions and backgrounds. For example, the acts such as blessing, praying, studying and researching, mystical revelations, inventions, discoveries, and all of man’s acts and evolutional behaviors, are did and occurred by using of material backgrounds, and even them are interpreted  and told with mundane language. Furthermore, the man’s growth in ranks of practical faculty, means ethical virtues, also is on this ground. For example, the gaining of ethical virtues and traveling in some ranks, such as apparent refining, heart refining, purification of soul, and finally, annihilation of soul that is one of the important ranks of evolutional traveling of practical faculty, depend on possibilities of the material world (Mulla sadra, 2002, p 324). Hence , Mulla sadra says, that practical reason needs body at every time and in all acts.( Mulla sadra, 2002, p 308).So, in this case, theory of trans-substantial motion shows that  about man and world, the material world is prior to the spiritual world, and only way for man to reach to spiritual perfection is his/her passing from the material world, and because, property of the material world is extension and temporality, and man evolutional motion, in the material world is possible only in the horizon of time and the trans-substantial motion in materiality. That if these aspects are omitted, the man’s life and his/her evolutional motion loses own meaning. In the other word, we, for man in this world, can consider two perfections, the first is his/her trans-substantial motion in the material world, and the second is his/her going out the material world by trans-substantial motion .That this subject indicates importance and role of the matter world in the whole of existence world. Means, not only for man, but also for all over material creatures, the only possibility and horizon of passing toward the perfect abstraction universe is passing and going out the material world. Then, man happiness and adversity is formed only in this world and on the basis of his/her acts in this world.

Therefore, man’s evolutional traveling and his/her soul in the material world is in the influence of the trans-substantial motion, but it must attend to that when man reaches to perfect abstraction, he/she does not need to stop in the material world because the time of his/her leaving and death to the future universe is reached. Then in Mulla sadra’s viewpoint, natural death for man is not because of corruption and weakness in his/her body and abilities. But it is because of evolution in man’s soul. So, Mulla sadra says: man’s soul, first, is a form of natural forms and species, that penetrates in matter and travels stages  of evolution, and until it hasn’t reached to the stage of evolution abstraction, needs matter, and when reaches to it, its existence will be abstract being and pure rational. Afterwards, the state of soul, in the time of creation, is not its state in the time of evolution and reaching to stage of rational perfection. But soul is a spiritual subsistence and its abstraction is by trans-substantial motion in it, that whereupon soul doesn’t need body (Mulla sadra, 1999, vol.9, p. 98-100).  As a result, in mulla sadra’s opinion the cause of death is soul’s motions toward perfection .Because there are some goals and ends for humans in the natural world. And every existing and being has goals for own motions, just as it arrives to own goal, is stopped its motion. And if is occurred a deficiency in its motion evolutional traveling, it makes to another struggle with another motion, until it arrives to its actuality and pure perfection, and reaches to the rank of pure rationality .Then, in the event that man’s soul is forced to stay and stop in this world in own evolutional traveling, this is a sign of its needless to body for continual motion and beginning of entrance to future universe, that in this case soul doesn’t use body’s instruments, because it doesn’t need them.( Mulla sadra ,1996, p. 147).

Trans-substantial motion and man’s evolutional resurrection

As said, trans-substantial motion is an evolutional and aggravation motion, and it is a final motion for man and the material world, that the result of it, man and finally the world lose own materiality aspect and arrive to perfect abstraction. So, on the basis of the trans-substantial motion, exist a resurrection both for the material world and man, that it is the result of evolutional motion of man and world. But there is not trans-substantial motion in man’s resurrection because of his/her abstraction from matter, but trans-substantial motion is allocated to material and temporal beings, then man’s resurrection, in mulla sadra’s view, is the result of trans-substantial motion for future universe, and this indicates that trans-substantial motion is a background and means for man’s reaching to own resurrection. That is, trans-substantial motion in the material world is not an aim and end for man, but it is a final instrument that by it, man reaches to own spiritual goal. Although mulla sadra, because of believing to corporeal resurrection, maintains that man’s soul and body, in resurrection clears and appears with properties of mundane body and soul, so that, every one sees a body, he or she clearly understands that this body is the same as that body which was in the mundane world. In fact, mulla sadra believes that man’s soul whether be humans wretched or happy, when it reaches to definite stage of own natural perfection, it doesn’t need to mundane body, and leaves it and this is when death arrives and happens. And when soul is completed, it leaves matter limits and finds abilities by imagine to make a new body for itself, that this body in the same time which is a body but is a future body and it is contrary of mundane body. That it is known by some properties such as illness, growing, death and etc, has opposite characteristics and is the origin of all the causes that are brought in religious texts, and it is the cause of pain and comfortable of future and isthmus (Mulla sadra, 2002, A, p 414-440) that this subject is showed gradation relation between the material world and the future’s, which these are both length each other. So, different properties between them are the same as common properties, that because of this, although the future world is an abstraction universe, but it has some properties that they have more similarity to the material world, that this subject frequently was explained in some Islamic texts such as Quran, that it is the basis of mulla sadra’s corporeal resurrection (ma’ade jesmany).

In mulla sadra’s opinion, theory of corporeal resurrection depends on some principles such as principality of existence, gradation of existence, trans-substantial motion, individuation of existence, unified composition of matter and form, axially of man’s soul in his/her reality, importance of imagination in man’s evolutional motion and finally third worlds of existence, means sensation, imagination and reason. Of course, some principles have special place and role like: motion and changing in substance of material things and even man’s soul, unified relation between soul and body, importance of intellect soul in forming of man’s reality, that these shows the importance of man’s  evolutional motion in material world for recovery to the future world. Here, we must emphasize the importance of faculty of imaginary in man, because this faculty both has material and abstraction aspects. Therefore faculty of imaginary, in mulla sadra’s viewpoint, is a substance that both has a relation with body and it is abstract by itself, and places in a world between nature and intellect; so, faculty of imaginary creates and makes forms that they have material accidents like dimension, quality, place, time and so on, but they don’t have matter, this faculty, also makes some forms in mundane living sometimes in dream or wakefulness that they don’t have matter but only are mental pictures, but their influences are more than objective and material forms. Then, faculty of imaginary also can make forms that are isolated the matter but have effect. With this difference that soul, because after death is delivered the material limits, it, with helping of imagination, makes forms that they have real existence. Some beings of other worldly and isthmus that have harmony with soul and its appearances with real and isthmus body are creatures of the faculty of imagination. So things and acts that such as motions, impassions, pains, pleasures, and all factors of delightful and suffering of isthmus and resurrection are real results of this faculty ( Mulla sadra ,2002,A, p.379-381).

Now, this question is considered that from where does the faculty of imaginary acquire this ability and power? it must say in response, so far as soul is created in the material world, and it, has reached to his/her evolution by trans-substantial motion in own body , which one of them is perception of imaginary. Then, the recovery of imaginary faculty to the highest rank in this world and its transfer to the future world also is only in light of trans-substantial motion. So, this evolutional motion is impossible without motion in the material world. In fact, trans-substantial motion is only horizon and possibility that man’s soul can travels in own evolutional motion, until it reaches to own resurrection. Then recovery to resurrection and the future world also is possible only on the basis of trans-substantial motion.

In the other word, the subsistence of soul spiritual in the future world, that the same as the subsistence of soul intellectual rank, by with itself has the subsistence of faculty of soul imaginary, which the world of this faculty has similarities to imago mundi and some properties of the material world, that both of the two faculties, means imagination and reason, have reached to their perfections by the trans-substantial motion in the material world.

Finally, we can solve the quality of the relationship of changing beings which exist in the material world to God, who is essentially constant, by evolutional motion in the material world. There is one of the most difficult problems of philosophy about mentioned subject. While, after proposing motion within substance, Mulla Sadra considers this problem as being solved and states that: that we say a contingent and changing effect requires a contingent and variable cause holds true only in the case of beings for which contingency and change are additional (non-essential) and occur to them from outside. A cause must deal with such beings in two ways: The first is to create the object itself, and the second is the production of motion in them. But the needing of those beings that are essentially mobile and whose ipseity is the same as mobility to a cause is a simple and not a composite one. That is, their creation is identical with their mobility, and creating them is like giving motion to them, because their being is just mobility and motion.


With considering of above discussed subjects is concluded that man is as being who has two fundamental dimensions by itself, namely body and soul: soul and body are temporal creatures. So, man is a temporal and corporeal creature. His/her soul is created by evolutional motion in corporeal body, and by it travels in his/her evolution way. Then, man essentially is a material and temporal being, and his/her mundane life is possible only in the light of matter and time, and his/her perfection is possible only by the trans-substantial motion. Then man’s soul, that first has material properties, can continue to his/her motion evolutional; only by the trans-substantial motion in own essence to reach to perfect abstraction. In the other word, man creation and his/her life continual and finally his/her passing to future world is possible only by evolutional motion of substantial in the material world. That this shows that the material world is prior to the intellectual world for man, that this subject is emphasized in religious and ethical texts. As man is born in the earthly world, his/her future happiness is only by his/her finality acting in the material world. In fact, from this viewpoint is blamed monastic and retiring of world. Then this subject shows that there is a relation in length and gradation between the material world and the future world. Namely, in the system of existence, the material world and the future world are not during each other, in which man can choose one of them. But they are in length each other. So man, for acquiring of future happiness, must pass the material world, because it is first passing to the future world. In the other hand, the application of the trans-substantial motion on man’s life and world indicates that man’s life has aim, which he/she with having of this aim and with using of the trans-substantial motion can reach to the future world and his/her goal.   

Of course it must be said that researching about this subject is almost a philosophical and rational issue, while Science seeks to gain more insight into the structure of an object, for example, whether it is simple or complex, and what the conditions of its transformation and change into another object are. But science doesn’t tell us what motion is and how the existence of something should be in order to be moveable because it is the right and task of philosophy to speak positively or negatively in this regard.



  1. Mulla sadra (2002), A, Origin and resurrection (mabda’ va ma’ad), translated by: ahmad ibn mohammad alhoseini ardakani, Tehran, Nashr daneshgahi press, second published.
  2. Mulla sadra (1996), Alshavahedel alrobobyeh, translated by :Dr.Javad Mosleh, Tehran, Soroush press,
  3. Mulla sadra(1984) Asrarol ayat,Tehran, Institute of cultural research and studies.
  4. Ibn sina (1997) Alshifa, Qom, press center for Islamic books.
  5. Mulla sadra (1999) Al-Asfar, vol.3 and 9 forth published, Beirut.
  6. Meshkatudini, abdolmohsen (1965) a short view on Mulla sadra’s philosophy, press of Iran culture foundation.
  7.  Mulla sadra (2002) Almashaer, B, press of Sadra Islamic Philosophy Research Institute, Tehran.
  8. Akbarian Reza (2000) Trans- substantial motion and its consequences, Tehran, quarterly of kheradnameh sadra, No. 19, spring 2000.  
  9. Goharin seyied sadeq (1987) Explanation of Sufism terms (sharhe estelahate tasavvof), Tehran, Zavvar press.
  10. Aristotle (1995) Metaphysics, edited by Jonathan Barnes (published in the Complete Works of Aristotle), Princeton University press, Vol. 2.
  11. Shakiba, Abdullah (2000) Man’s soul from Mulla Sadra’s viewpoint, the books of first international conference on Mulla Sadra’s philosophy, Tehran, 2000, spring.

Join Metanexus Today

Metanexus fosters a growing international network of individuals and groups exploring the dynamic interface between cosmos, nature and culture. Membership is open to all. Join Now!