Feyz Kashani (1596-1680), one of the renowned students of Mulla Sadra, is known as a literalist and a philosopher who has founded his thought on rationality. He believes that reason and rational knowledge constitute the very foundation of transcendent knowledge of heart. On the other hand, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), known as the greatest theoretician of New England, believes, under the influence of orthodox reformists, that inner faith is motivated by the heart. Now if the heart is the axis of faith, then the basic question stirring this essay is whether the heart itself has any effect in theological reasoning or is it only a receiver that is upgraded by reason? That is, what role does the heart play in the domain of religious conviction? Can the heart be of an epistemic aspect or not? In other words, if one assumes that all believers owe their belief and religious consciousness to rational arguments, then why are so many individuals who are exposed to a good deal of rational evidence not practically committed to religion?
Feyz interprets human knowledge and sciences according to two types of knowledge acquisition: The first type of knowledge is that which is acquired through reason. This type of knowledge is used in the rational arguments that seek to prove the existence of a Necessary Being. Feyz himself has a rational and discursive discussion of the existence of a Necessary Being in the first part of his Hikmat al-Anwar (Wisdom of Lights) entitled The Book of the Science of God. Here, he attempts to prove the existence of the Necessary Being through the Argument of Saints (Burhan al-sidiqin)that seeks to acquire knowledge of the Lord through the Lord himself. According to Feyz, this approach is for those who seek to answer the doubts of opponents. Otherwise, human knowledge of God is primordial and innate and man is not obligated to master such rational arguments regarding the existence of the Necessary.
The second type of knowledge is acquired through inspiration or revelation. This knowledge dawns on the heart every now and again, and its form of emergence varies from one case to another. At times it rushes to the heart without any apparent source(inspiration), and at other times it is conveyed by an angel(revelation)(Feyz Kashani 1372 Sh., 5:51). This intuitive knowledge, Feyz argues, is specific for the gifted and prepared heart and provides direct and true knowledge of God and religion.
Besides the two aforementioned types of knowledge, the Holy Book and Prophetic Traditions are also authentic sources of religious knowledge that lead believers through the path of guidance. Feyz insists on the key role of the Quran, prophetic traditions and human primordial knowledge of divinity in the correct acquisition of the articles of faith (Feyz Kashani 1423 AH, 37). However, he contends that true commitment to religious tenets requires one to go beyond external devotional acts and sacraments and acquire a deep understanding of the principles and teachings of religion. Feyz was aware of the fact that the majority of believers are not aware of how the tenets of faith are deducted from the Holy Book and prophetic traditions. Thus, he authored some works to acquaint the public with the quintessence of the religion. These books serve to raise awareness of the deep implications of religious tenets and dissuade from the idea that these resources are mere guidebooks that should be blindly pursued (Feyz Kashani 1384 Sh., 1:5).
Feyz explains that in order to fathom the reality of the world as a reflection of Divine Essence, the heart resorts to a number of mediums that distance it from its end. Once the veils between the heart and the Tabula Secreta (that contains all divinely decreed events) are torn, knowledge from the Tabula Secreta gushes toward it and the heart can directly see those realities which were previously hidden from it. This knowledge emerges like water that gushes out from deep underground (Feyz Kashani 1384 Sh., 57). In order for this to occur, Divine Grace must provide a connection to the eternal source of knowledge. Human perceptual efforts (both in sensory and rational forms) as well as commitment to divine decrees only serve to prepare the heart to connect with the world of Tabula Secreta and understand the reality. This will be discussed in detail in the coming section devoted to the relationship between heart and reason.
In his Bright Path, Feyz gives two meanings for the term heart:
According to Feyz, the heart nurtures a transcendent understanding of realities and it is always associated with a sense of affection and love towards the Source of realities, i.e. God. By the same token, the absence of religious insight in a person is not as a result of the absence of a rational faculty but rather it is from the heart's inability to see these realities. It is in this spirit that the Quran reads, “Truly it is not their eyes that are blind, but their hearts which are in their chest” (22: 46). Therefore, a sound heart is the prerequisite to having access to religious knowledge (Feyz Kashani 1372 Sh., 5:47-48).
The knowledge that is acquired through cordial nearness to the Lord is called inspired knowledge.Feyz writes,
Some sciences require to be learned through particular trainings, and these are not inspired in the sense that we intend, because the inspired knowledge as we understand it, is a knowledge that flourishes down at the bottom of the heart without any external mediation as the noble verse of the Quran reads, “So they found one of our servants, on whom we had bestowed mercy from ourselves and whom we had taught knowledge from our own”[Quran 18: 65]. (Feyz Kashani 1372 Sh., 5:66)
This knowledge of heart is acquired through divine mercy but is not possible for man to reach without resorting to the Qur’an and prophetic traditions and pondering over the truth of religion.
To depict the relationship between heart and morality, we first turn to the ways of attaining a good character. Good character and affability, Feyz suggests, are acquired in two ways:
Thus conceived, even if there is a primordial nature that man is born with, he can still change his nature and quality of character—otherwise the moral advice issued by reason and religion are senseless. By insisting on his nature through spiritual efforts, man can make the compliance with his primordial nature pleasurable. Then, the generous man is not simply the one who gives things to his fellowmen; rather, the truly generous is the one whose heart is pleased with his act of generosity.
Until the man has not strived to good deeds and abandon bad habits, religious morality would never permeate his heart. And by the same token, if someone is eager to do good deeds but he does not take care of his deeds and does not hate evil actions, the good morality would never permeate his existence. This is why the Holy Prophet stated, “Prayer is the brightness of my eye” [Kulayni 1407 AH, 5: 321]. (Feyz Kashani 1372 Sh., 5:147)
According to Feyz, the human trend towards wisdom, friendship, love, knowing God and worshiping Him originates in the nature of the heart. Since the heart is a divine entity, any tendency toward whatever is far from God is against its nature. Therefore, every heart that seeks friendship and love with a being other than God is sick to the extent that it is eager to extend its affection to the loved one – unless of course this love is seen as a step towards divine love (Feyz Kashani 1372 Sh., 5:149).
According to Feyz, the intuitive method and the rational method of reaching the Divine Essence are only different in their means of acquisition, and are not contradictory in terms of their content. The knowledge that is acquired through the senses is different from intuitive knowledge in an analogical fashion; that is, they only differ in terms of intensity. Thus conceived, knowledge emerges as an analogically graded phenomenon whose one step is sensory perception and whose pinnacle is intuitive knowledge. It is in this very spirit that Feyz believes certainty is comprised of three steps: ‘ilm al-yaqin (cognitive certainty), ‘ayn al-yaqin (objective certainty), and haqq al-yaqin (lived certainty), as the Quran reads, “Nay were ye to know with ‘ilm al-yaqin (ye would be ware!). Ye shall certainly see the Hell Fire. Again, ye shall see it with ‘ayn al-yaqin” (102:5-7). Cognitive certainty is like the fire which is seen through its light, objective certainty indicates the vision of the fire by the help of that light, and lived certainty is like being burnt in the fire and losing one's individual identity by turning into fire—and there is no other higher bounty than this (Feyz Kashani 1358 Sh., 1:98).
In Feyz's view, not only is there is no contradiction between the levels of knowledge but faith itself is grounded in knowledge. Faith leads to practical commitment, and the ascension to higher stations of faith requires further knowledge acquisition. Feyz elaborates this point in the following words:
Verily the secrets are revealed to one's heart according to the quality of his faith and certainty, because one's faith is a function of the scope of his knowledge; and this knowledge is a light that dawns on one's heart due to the collapse of the veils between his heart and God. As the Quran reads, “Allah is the protector of those who have Faith: from the depths of darkness he will lead them forth into light” [2: 257]. (Feyz Kashani n.d., 276-277)
By genuine knowledge, Feyz does not mean the multiplicity of reasoning and rationality; rather, he is referring to the knowledge which dawns on one's heart through divine mercy and leads to the vision of truth. "Knowledge is not acquired via persistence on learning but rather knowledge is a light that is reflected by God on the heart of whoever He wants; and this light, like other lights, is subject to intensity and weakness. ‘And when they hear His Signs rehearsed, find their faith strengthened, and put all their trust in their Lord’ [Quran 8: 2]. But say, ‘O' My Lord! Advance me in knowledge’ [20: 114]” (Feyz Kashani n.d., 276-277).
According to Feyz, the believer's expansion of mind helps him to acquire knowledge of truths and this knowledge motivates him to practically enhance his commitment to the Shariah. This practical change assists the believer to elevate the quality of his moral virtues, which then further refines his heart and prepares it to be exposed to more divine light, which once again expands his mind and brings him more certainty, and so on and so forth (Feyz Kashani n.d., 277). In summary, it can be understood that performing righteous deeds— which is among the requisites of faith—prepares the heart to receive the light of higher knowledge. And the expansion of the heart caused by consciousness of realities brings about the motivation to perform righteous deeds.
Feyz argues that rational knowledge cultivates divine love in man. This love strengthens the rational substance of human nature and enables him to acquire a comprehensive knowledge of the cosmos. Man thus becomes an archangel with divine proximity, and it is through his unconditional surrender to the Lord that he reaches this high station of knowledge. Rational souls can reach the station of annihilation in God and mystical fusion in their worldly life by cultivating this divine love. The Lord has referred to this fact in the Qur’an: “But those of faith are overflowing in their love for Allah” (2:165) (Feyz Kashani 1362 Sh., 75).
It is noteworthy that knowledge is not the sole cause of proximity to God; rather, the cordial readiness and openness towards the invisible truths prepare human reason for new perceptions which were previously unknown to it and at the same time substantiate the intuitions of the heart.
Feyz Kashani believes that knowledge is a reality which dawns on the human heart from the Heavens (Feyz Kashani 1379 Sh., 1:453). Thus conceived, human actions and efforts are steps that man takes to prepare his heart for this heavenly effusion. Feyz compares the heart with a mirror: “Just as the body has a color and a form and its picture becomes reflected in the mirror, every knowledge has also a reality whose form is reflected in the heart and reveals itself. The known is the realities of things, and knowledge is the reflection of these realities in the heart like a mirror” (Feyz Kashani 1372 Sh., 5:38).
Nevertheless, the heart is not always prepared for such a reflection. Drawing upon his mirror analogy, Feyz mentions the following five cases that impede the reflection of a face in a mirror: (1) the mirror is deformed; (2) despite having a sound shape, the mirror is rusted; (3) the mirror has not been put before the face; (4) there is an obstacle between the mirror and the face; or (5) we are unsure of which side of face we want to see in the mirror, and so we are not able to set the mirror and the face in the desirable fashion.
These obstacles can be related to the heart in the following way:
Jonathan Edwards argues that both reason and heart are the sources of religious knowledge—but that they are not necessarily of equal status. Though Edwards believes in the possibility of natural theology, he contends that since reason only deals with conceptual issues of religious knowledge, reason alone is not competent enough to acquire genuine religious knowledge. He says, “Theology in this sense is unintelligible as we do not have any clear notion of the theological realities” (Edwards, Misc.1340).
Edwards argues that due to human original sin and fall, reason has undergone a major demotion that deprives it of a comprehensive understanding of the divine. However, even this demoted reason can be witness to the religious evidences under the aegis of divine mercy (Edwards, Misc.626).
Edwards' analyses of religious knowledge are largely concentrated on the heart. The heart, he believes, provides a transcendent understanding of divine entities and has a direct knowledge of God by divine grace: “Special grace gives rise to things in the spirit that go beyond the nature” (Edwards, Misc.626). The exclusive feature of this sense of heart, he says, is the perception of divine beauty and majesty that causes pleasure in man and culminates in the Bible and in Christ.
My first experience of such a spiritual pleasure of the Lord and holy affairs as I remember it and is still with me to this moment was when I read the following words: Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen [1 Timothy 1:17].As I read these words they entered my spirit and as if they flowed through it. This sense of majesty of Divine Essence was different from all I had previously experienced. I had never felt any other word in the scripture like these. I wondered that how Glorious is this Essence and how much would I have been happy if I could ever take pleasure of this divine presence and engulf myself in His paradise in a way that I would become annihilated in His Essence. (Edwards 1935, 59)
The heart, according to Edwards, is the main locus of a genuine relation with God. The direct object of heart is the spiritual sense that is called Divine Beauty (Edwards 1959, 260). This sense of beauty that indirectly occurs in the heart causes spiritual pleasure and is an evidence of the existence of Divine Essence. Of course, the emergence of this sense in man's heart requires a certain spiritual framework, and those who are removed from this domain are certainly deprived of it (Edwards 1989, 619).
The spiritual sense in a believer's heart is deeply affected by his individual will and disposition. This does not imply that this sense is emotional and alien to reality; rather, it is exactly the opposite. Edwards believes that this sense has its origin in a cognitive faculty which in turn serves as a foundation for new cognitive processes in human understanding (Edwards 1959, 206).
Religious knowledge as conceived by Edwards, begins with God and ends with God, as He is the source of spiritual beauty. A believer's notion of God is not stationary; rather, it is dynamic and varies from one moment to another. Within this process a believer is constantly exposed to a bilateral communicative love which is always associated with enthusiasm between God and himself.
God communicates with his servant by the language of creation (Edwards 1959, 448). It is indeed for the expression and delineation of His infinite beauty, Edwards argues, that God has created the world: “The world is in fact the mirror of Divine Beauty whose task is to reflect the majesty of Divine Nature. Divine Essence manifests itself in the world and this manifestation extends in time and place and if the world had not been created divine attributes would have not been manifested” (Edwards 1989, 429).
Having introduced human knowledge of God as the goal of creation, Edwards now turns to the key feature that distinguishes this knowledge from other forms of knowledge, i.e. the joy and pleasure that it brings. This joy and pleasure is unique in the fact that it leads toward the eternal expansion of the heart.
Edwards consistently insists that to have a sound knowledge of God one has to take pleasure in God. He believes that a correctly trained man who knows that ratiocination is not enough for a genuine knowledge of God not only senses Divine Beauty but takes pleasure in God (Edwards 1989, 272). In fact, the beauty of creatures leads man to the transcendent beauty of Divinity. But this understanding requires an effort that is not possible for man without the assistance of Divine Grace.
Due to their original sin, Edwards contends, human individuals have lost full access to God via their senses. Particular practices of heart are needed to revive our lost spiritual connection in light of a new sensibility towards the world. It is true that this sensibility is new for us, but the reality of divine beauty has always been and is still flowing in nature regardless of our knowledge of it (Edwards 1972, 151, 174).
What distinguishes divine beauty from other beauties, according to Edwards, is the moral supremacy of the Divine Essence in nature and action. The natural and spiritual beauties of creatures are indeed a reflection of Divine Beauty. In Edwards' words, “The genuine beauty and attractiveness of all creatures of intelligence most of all lies in their moral beauty or holiness, i.e. their benevolence and love towards all beings” (Edwards 1959, 257). There are other types of beauty which are reflections and manifestations of this spiritual beauty, but indeed the crux of moral and spiritual beauty is benevolence.
Moral beauty represents a kind of divine transcendence, majesty and magnificence—the understanding of which brings about a sense of joy and pleasure in man. It is exactly this moral beauty that Edwards intends by virtue which expresses beauty and transcendence (Edwards 2004, 122). To participate in this transcendent moral beauty, one should wholly devote oneself to the Divine Beauty. The tendencies and potency of will, according to Edwards, are the foundations of transcendent moral beauty. One can lecture on the qualities and characteristics of beauty without having any practical commitment to attaining it, but these words would not be worth any moral consideration (Edwards 2004, 122).
Edwards discusses the harmony of man with divine morality by focusing on love as the key reflection of moral beauty in man. It is important to note that harmony within a man himself is not an indication of moral beauty—true human beauty is when man is in harmony with all other creatures. Thus, according to Edwards, those actions which are in harmony with other beings and are done in the spirit of love, are morally beautiful. Such actions are directed at collective goodness and are imbued with love. And since man is the only being who possesses intelligence and will, it is only he who can realize collective goodness (Edwards 2004, 266-310).
As a being of intelligence and will, man can act either be occupied with himself and his own temporal interests or be occupied with divine love. It is only through devoting oneself to divine love, Edwards argues, that moral beauty can be realized and man can extend his love to all creatures (Edwards 1989, 124).
According to Edwards, religious knowledge and consciousness take form by a reason and will that is informed by the heart. It is religious knowledge with a rational origin which contains reality and deals with facts in a conceptual and theoretical fashion. The human heart and will are related to values such as hatred and affection, and genuine religious knowledge is related to divine values and has a heavenly foundation. Thus, Edwards argues, the idea that rational knowledge is of a conceptual and theoretical nature does not imply that it has nothing to do with values; rather, it is to say that reason only deals with theoretical and conceptual subjects – which can include values - and there is no relation with transcendence in this level (Edwards 1999, 66).
Hatred and affection can determine the quality of man’s relationship with the Transcendent. Of course this hatred and affection emerge when the presence of an idea is felt in one's heart. Edwards insists that the sense of heart is not merely in choosing between hatred and affection but in understanding it (Edwards 1999, Doc.T, Sec.1). Nevertheless, the sense of spiritual transcendence where the Divine Magnificence is felt in the heart is beyond a mere rational belief.
Accordingly, Edwards believes that whenever religious attitude is not anchored in heart there is no harmony between reason and heart. To state the matter differently, when reason is the only source of religious knowledge and consciousness, ignorance is indeed taken for knowledge. Though this ignorance contains many concepts it still lacks the intended idea itself. Thus, it can be said that genuine religion does not believe in the contradiction between reason and heart (will) (Jenson 1988, 69).
Rational and conceptual evidences of religion - despite their application and content - are not as effective or revolutionizing as spiritual factors. These spiritual factors exist within religious ideas themselves and possess holiness due to Divine Grace and Benevolence (Edwards 1959, 214 ff., 228). It is genuine religious knowledge as reflected in man's heart that takes him towards pure divine love, changes his course of actions and persuades him to engage in collective benevolent affairs.
Man’s original sin and fall, according to Edwards, has distanced him from noble moral virtues and brought about an unconquerable chasm between man and his Lord insofar as God no longer addresses man and man is no more vested by noble values. Thus man grapples with his unleashed carnal desires and whims, and revolts against his Creator. He is excessively occupied with himself and there is no room for another beloved. Moreover, he has lost his sense of moral beauty—as this requires the special existential state which he lost long ago in the fall. Indeed, how can one who is personally alien to moral beauty, love and benevolence recognize moral beauty in other human individuals (Edwards 1959, 23-25)?
Having said this, Edwards is not despondent of man acquiring moral beauty. He argues that when man turns to God, his natural disability and despair fade away. By reviving spiritual values in his heart, he can replace his egotism with benevolence. This step can only be taken by devoting his life to God. Divine love reorients a man's attitudes and opens new horizons before his eyes. Therefore, despite his natural dispositions, man has potential divine dispositions which can be actualized by devoting himself to the Divine Essence and attaining moral beauty (Edwards 1959, 26-28).
This is against the views of Cartesians who only believe in propositional knowledge. Feyz and Edwards regard the knowledge of the heart as the noblest form of knowledge even though it cannot be articulated in a proposition.
10.The knowledge of heart, according to these philosophers, makes the believer sensitive to his situation and brings about an indescribable pleasure within him.
11.While Edwards believes that the human heart is void of divine attitudes due to his original sin and fall, Feyz does not believe in such a sinful nature.
12.Both philosophers believe that human nature is subject to change. Man can alter and shape his nature based on efforts to connect himself with God and can then internalize moral virtues and noble goals in practical life.
13.Feyz and Edwards both believe that heart and reason are not two contradictory paths for the acquisition of religious knowledge; however, the path of heart is nobler than that of reason due to its being informed by revelation.
14.Based on the teachings of Islam, Feyz founds the knowledge of heart upon reason; however, Edwards insists that the supremacy of knowledge of heart is due to the rational paradoxes of natural theology of the age of enlightenment.
15.Both philosophers believe that the knowledge of heart not only brings about a fundamental vision in man but also illuminates vague rational evidences.
Both philosophers believe that human deficiencies like sin, negligence and deviation from the desired are obstacles to the knowledge of heart which should be tackled through practical efforts and seeking Divine Grace.