The Elixir of the Gnostics


(Iksīr al-‘Ārifīn by Mulla Sadrā)

(Iksīr al-‘Ārifīn by Mulla Sadrā)

(Iksir al-An:fin by Mulla Sadra) William C. Chittick Mulla Sadra combines and synthesizes the various currents of Islamic thought, especially philosophy, theoretical Sufism, and Kalam and is, therefore, able to integrate the traditional religious rhetoric into his perspective in a manner that has no real parallels. The secondary literature on Sadra has made a good deal of progress in laying down the philosophical background and historical context of his works, but such studies can never take the place of translations, and, up midi now, only two of his works have been published in English translation. Originally composed in Arabic, Tksir al-Arz:fin, or Elixir of the Gnostics, may well be unique among Mulla Sadra’s writings. The underlying theme of Elixir is a teaching that stands at the heart of Mulla Sadra’s writings and those of many other Muslim thinkers: the importance of self-knowledge in each person’s journey of “Origin and Return.” Each soul originates with God, and one’s journey is completed only when the soul has returned to Him. Self knowledge is the means by which the soul, having been created in the divine image, must realize its full and final potential; and philosophy, in Sadra’s view, is the most direct path to that end. In Sadra’s way of looking at things, everything in existence is traveling on a path that ends up at its rightful place with God. The movement of all creation on the path of Origin and Return, or from First to Last, is a great manifestation of God’s wisdom and compassion, culminating in a state of permanent happiness for all creatures.


William C. Chittick

William C. Chittick received his education in the US. He holds a PhD in Persian language and literature from the University of Tehran. He taught comparative religion in the humanities department at Aryamehr Technical University in Tehran and, for a short period before the revolution, was assistant professor at the Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy. He has served as Assistant Editor of the Encyclopaedia Iranica at the Columbia University for three years. He has been Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the State University of New York, Stony Brook from 1983 to 1991 where he presently holds the post of the Professor of Comparative Studies. A greatly respected scholar, he has studied Sufism in theory and practice, and has written and translated widely about its various manifestations. He has published numerous articles and books, among them, A Shi`ite Anthology; Imaginal Worlds; Faith and Practice of Islam; The Sufi Path of Knowledge: Ibn al-Arabi 's Metaphysics of Imagination; The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi; The Vision of Islam, The Heart of Islamic Philosophy and Me and Rumi—The Autobiography of Shams i Tabtki; Ibn Arabi— Heir to the Prophets; The Self Disclosures of God.


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