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Knowing God Through Another Level Of Consciousness


There are different types of knowledge and intellect, know which one leads you to perceiving God through the proper discipline.

There are different types of knowledge and intellect, know which one leads you to perceiving God through the proper discipline.

By Rayhan al-Safawi

I recently finished reading a book called “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell. The book is a best seller and as the subtitle suggests, it is about the power of thinking without thinking. What Gladwell suggests – based on scientific studies – is that we have a vast and powerful thinking apparatus that is unbeknownst to us. In technical terms, this is called the adaptive unconscious (first coined by Daniel Wagner) which suggests that we have a series of thought and mental processes that affect our judgment and decision making that is out of the reach of our conscious minds.

For example, you may see an entity but not think of it consciously, yet your unconscious will see it and process it and thereby affect your judgment and decision making concerning that entity or things related to that entity.

Just like there are different levels of consciousness, there are different levels of perception (seeing, hearing, feeling, etc.) There are also different levels of knowledge, such as mathematical knowledge, empirical knowledge, etc.

The way we think, perceive and know things are not linear and parallel processes. They exist in a non-linear and non-parallel fashion. Sometimes all of these different processes overlap, at other times they do not. Your unconscious mind may perceive something, but your conscious mind will not. Something may be defined and understood in the context of mathematics, but not in the context of visual experience and vice versa.

As such, there are different stages of thought and knowledge. Islam teaches us that we have material intellect as well as spiritual intellect. The material intellect is used to understand the world of matter and all that’s in, whereas the spiritual intellect is designed to perceive the divine. It is through the latter that God is known and perceived and not the former.

The spiritual intellect is developed through the discipline of the soul. It comes about through three rules as the eastern orthodox monk St. Silouan the Athonite once stated: 1) Obedience to God, 2) genuine humility and 3) love of your enemies. Just as your mathematical intelligence develops and grows through practice, so does the spiritual intellect. You cannot know advanced mathematics without doing the required work and training your brain, the same applies to the spiritual intellect.

Rayhan al-Safawi is a blogger at the World Shia Forum. He lives with his family in the West Coast, United States.


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