Sufi cosmology is a general term for the field of understanding the kosmos from sufistic unveiling. The unveiling is based on Quranic and Apostolic traditions as well as visions of generations of spiritual elders (heirs of the Apostle, the sufi masters who are the doorkeepers of truth) who were given access to this elect knowledge, who were given the blessing to glimpse at the unseen world beyond this world of appearances. Eagle can see far more distance clearly than other birds. The olfactory capability or the sense of hearing of certain animals are few hundred times sharper their fellow creatures. Similarly the elect ones, the advanced seekers in the path of truth are blessed by special vision beyond the immediate horizon only.
Throughout the heavenly realms and across the whole earth, Divine Signs are clearly manifest for those who profoundly believe. – The Quran 45:3 “Recognize what is in your sight, and that which is hidden from you will become plain to you. For there is nothing hidden which will not become manifest.” – Christ, upon him be peace, in Gospel of Thomas
According to Sufi Cosmology, the realms are described using five levels of reality. These are understood by the Sufis as stages of manifestation (tajalli). Emanations from one level to another are not to be misunderstood as flat reality or stratified top to bottom structure (as the flat-landers used to imagine the world as flat, only two dimensional) but rather multi-dimensional.
What Sufis try to map out in their description of the kosmos is like a mustard seed burried under vast oceans of knowledge, about which the Quran says: “The Ultimate Source abiding beyond ‘the idea of beyond’, always remain perfectly aware of what causes precede and what results follow from each event. Human beings can comprehend nothing of His encompassing awareness save what Allah Most High transmit to them as a gift of Grace.”
It came to pass then, when Jesus had finished saying these words to his disciples, that he continued again in the discourse, and said unto them: “Lo, I have then put on my Vesture, and all authority hath been given me through the First Mystery. Yet a little while and I will tell you the mystery of the universe and the fullness of the universe; and I will hide nothing from you from this hour on, but in fullness will I perfect you in all fullness and in all perfection and in all mysteries, which are the perfection of all perfections and the fullness of all fullnesses and the gnosis of all gnoses, those which are in my Vesture. I will tell you all mysteries from the exteriors of the exteriors (zaahir) to the interiors of the interiors (baatin). But hearken that I may tell you all things which have befallen me. – Pistis Sophia
From Cosmological point of view the totality of manifestation / emanation / reality is described by the five realms:
- Nasut / Mulk – Physical Realm
Alam-i-Nasut/the world of humanity, better designated as Alam-i-Ajsam/the world of bodies. Tantric tradition speaks of Bhuloka/the world of earth. In Western occultism, the name is gross or physical world. This is the stage when foundations of the tangible world of matter are laid, (parallel to the Tree of Life’s sephiroth of Malkuth). It includes the material realm and all the normally visible cosmos. Nehr-i-Tazheer (Channel of Manifestation) whose last limit is Alam-i-Nasut, feeds The subtleties of ego.
- Malakut – Subtle Realm, Angelic Realm
Alam-i-Malakut/the world of angels. Also called Alam-i-Mithal/the world of similitudes. This Henry Corbin’s famous mundus imaginalis/world of imagination, Tantric Antarloka (the intermediary world), or subtle/astro-mental world of Western occultists.
The stage when the characteristics of the species and their individuals descend from the Realm of Omnipotency, separate consciousnesses comes into being. Its last limit is called Hijab-i-Azmat (The Great Veil). Nehr-i-Tasheed (Channel of Evidence) whose last limit is Angelic Realm, feeds the subtleties of the human heart.
- Jabarut – Realm of Power
Alam-i-Jabarut/the world of power; also Alam-i-Arwah ( the world of spirits; ruh meaning spirit, arwah being the plural form). Roughly corresponding to the world of Platonic archetypes, Shaivite Shivaloka (the world of Shiva), or causal world of Western occultism.
The stage when the universe is constituted into features. Hijab-i-Kibria (The Grand Veil) is the last limit of this realm. Nehr-i-tajreed (Channel of Abstraction), whose last limit is The Realm of Omnipotency, feeds the Human Soul with its information.
- Lahut – The Manifest Absolute, Realm of Divinity
The manifest Absolute (Alam-i-Lahut/the “world” of God-ness, the root “Lah” one and the same as in Al-Lah (God). Also, generally spoken of as Lahut). The spiritual stage pertaining to Lahut is sometimes referred to as Wahdah, sometimes as Wahadiyya (Unity Ocean).
This Realm is also known as Tajalliat (The Beatific Vision, or the Circle of the Beatific Vision). These countless circles are the bases of all the root causes of the universe. This whole circle is known as the Ghaib-ul-ghaib (Unseen of the Unseen). Alam-e-Lahut has similarities to the Christian concept of Deus revelatus, the Hindu notion of Saguna Brahman and the Kabbalist idea of Kether. The final boundary of the human knowledge and understanding is called Hijab-e-Mehmood (The Extolled Veil), which is the extreme height of the Arsh (Supreme Empyrean). Nehr-i-tasweed (The Channel of Black Draught/Darkness) whose last limit is in the Realm of Divinity, is the basis of the Unseen & feeds Rooh-i-Azam (The Great Soul).
- Hahut – Realm of Huwa, The Unmanifest Absolute, Realm of the Ineffable Essence
The Unmanifest Absolute (Alam-i-Hahut/the “world” of “He-ness”, Hu-He being the Arabic term pertaining to God’s Essence prior to manifestation. The “world” is just a symbolic reference. The spiritual stage is Ahadiyyat (Absolute Unity). This is the Realm of pre-existence, the condition of the universe before its formation, equated with the unknowable essence of God’s. Alam-i-Hahut is similar to Deus absconditus in Christian tradition, the Hindu notion of Nirguna Brahman and the Kabbalist idea of the Eins. About this realm, Bahaullah comments in his Tafsir of Surah Shams: “.. there is the level of the Unknowable God, subsisting in and by Himself. This level is variously referred to as that of God’s essential “identity” (huwiyyah). Huwiyyah or identity derives from the third-person masculine pronoun in Arabic, huwa or he. Huwa (“He,” a typical Sufi way of referring to God), huwiyyah or (divine) identity, and hahut or the level of Unknowable Divinity, all begin with the Arabic letter “ha’” or the soft H. That the “waters” (life) of this letter H (Unknowable Divinity) run into the Most Great Ocean would appear to refer to the process whereby the Universal Intellect is emanated from the primal One, or, the First Mystery, as taught by Christ in Pistis Sophia.
To generate an infinite creation that is perpetually new, moment by moment, does not pose the slightest exigency for Allah The Most High. – The Quran 14:20 “This heaven will pass away, and the one above it shall pass away.” – Christ, Gospel of Thomas To any being or event that We divinely willed to create, We simply proclaim the Word of Power Be! and it miraculously comes into being. – The Quran 16:40 Five Levels of Consciousness
Sanureehim ayatina fee al-afaqi wafee anfusihim The Divine decree announces: “We shall show them Our Signs in the horizon and in their own selves..” – The Quran 41:53
Sufis also compares the five realms or “worlds”, Nasut, Malakut, Jabarut, Lahut, Hahut – to the five layers of the human: body, soul, heart, spirit, and essence. Carrying the sight a little further we can consider human nature, world of symbols, world of archetypes, divine creative nature, and the essential nature of Allah, Absolute. For, everything there is – is in human beings, to one degree or another. The Divine is part of us as we are part of the Divine. Allah encompasses everything and nothing encompasses Him. This understanding comes as we put aside “dualism”, at the same time dualism being so important while the creation operates as it operates.
Sufi master Venerable Inayat Khan compares the five realms, Nasut (Mulk), Malakut, Jabarut, Lahut and Hahut with five states of consciousness. This needs to be noted though that the term consciousness is not simply a brain function (like mental awareness) but the term Chit in Vedantic concept translated as “pure consciousness” approximates what is meant in this comparison. Sat-Chit-Ananda describe three States of Manifestation of the Divine and we partake in that, namely: Existence, Consciousness and Bliss.
According to Inayat Khan, first level of consciousness corresponding to Nasut is dependent on our senses. Whatever we see by means of the eye, or hear by means of the ear, whatever we smell and taste, all these experiences which we gain by the help of the material body prove to us that this is a particular plane of consciousness, or a particular kind of experience of consciousness. We call it “Nasut.”
Malakut a further stage of consciousness, working through our mental plane. By means of this higher consciousness we experience thought and imagination, which are beyond our senses. Creative thoughts, imagination works on this plane. It might be that a man though he is sitting before you with open eyes and ears, his consciousness is on another plane, working through a different body. This, in Sufi terms is called the consciousness corresponding to “Malakut.” The consciousness plane of Malakut is experienced by every person not only when absorbed in thought, but also in dreams. Its independent of the external sensory input, and thats why when the eyes are closed, still man access “seeing” in his dream.
At Jabarut the experience is like that of a person in deep, dreamless sleep. A little further on beyond the plane of Malakut brings us to the plane of (another) consciousness which (is) like the experience of deep and sound sleep. The blessing here is greater still. In this higher experience there is God’s own will and power, by which we experience the life, peace and purity which are within us. Moreover whilst anyone may experience this blessing during sleep, the person who follows the path of spiritual development will experience it while awake. The Yogis therefore call it ‘sushupti,’ this joy of life and peace and purity which the mystic experiences with open eyes, while wide awake, though others can only touch it during deep sleep.
Lahut is a still further experience of consciousness. It raises a person from the material plane to the immaterial plane. In this plane the state of being fast asleep is not necessary. There is a greater peace and joy and nearness to the essence which is divine gift. In Christian terms, this stage is called ‘communion.’ In the Vedantic terms it is called ‘Turiyavastha.’ The further step to this is called ‘samadhi,’ which may no doubt be described as ‘merging into God.’ In other words, in this stage we dive into our deepest self-hood, God is in our deepest self. Here there is the ability to dive so deeply as to touch our deepest being, which is the home of all intelligence, life, peace, and joy; and here worry, fear, disease or death do not enter.
Hahut is the experience which is the object of every mystic who follows the inner homage. In Vedantic terms, this stage is called ‘manan.’ The equivalent in Christian terminology is ‘at-one-ment.’ From these considerations it may be seen that the work of the Sufis is to aim at ennobling the soul. When initiated we take the path of ennobling the soul, not wonder-working, communicating with spirits, or performing miracles, or developing magnetic or psychic powers or clairvoyance or clairaudience or anything of that kind. The one single aim is to become humane, to live a healthy life, try and better the moral condition of one’s life, ennoble one’s character, and meet not only our own needs but also those of our neighbors and friends. The work is to try and develop that spark which is in every soul, whose only satisfaction lies in the love of God, and in approaching toward God with the intention some day of having a glimpse of that Truth which cannot be spoken of in words.
and Jesus said, “If they say to you, ‘Where did you come from?’, say to them, ‘We came from The Light (Nur), the place where The Light came into Being on its own accord and established Itself and became Manifest through its Image (Nurun ala Nur, Light upon Light).’ – Gospel of Thomas Your most precious Lord is sheer Oneness. There is absolutely no reality apart from Allah Most High, Who is Ceaselessly Generous, Infinitely Merciful. – The Quran 2:163