Another Persian De Anima – the Asrar al-Hikmat of Lawkari

This paper presents and analyzes the short De anima (On the Soul) that Abu al-‘Abbas al-Lawkari (d. after 503/1109), a second generation disciple of Avicenna, included in his Asrar-i al-Hikmat (edited in 2002), a work that was written to spread philosophical knowledge to the Persian speaking population of Khurasan (see “Preliminary Notes on the Life and Work of Abu al-‘Abbas al-Lawkari” (2006), 148-52).

The paper evaluates the contribution that Lawkari may have made to Avicennan psychological discussions in his Asrar-i al-Hikmat, an abridged pedagogical compendium that contains only important theses of the dominant philosophical tradition of the time in the Islamic East. The De anima includes, for example, discussions on the soul as substance, the contingency of its existence, its individuality and relation to the body (mixture/temperament), and the relation of actives intelligences to the human rational soul.

The paper focuses specifically on possible doctrinal innovations in his theory of the soul and theory of the intellect. The study shows how Lawkari believed that the intellective knowledge of posthumous souls was an important and neglected element on which he elaborated, that intellective knowledge that the soul possesses once separated from the body (at death) can only be universal and is at the heart of the human soul’s felicity, and that the role of intellectual intuition is of paramount importance, in light of the centrality of the intellective nature of human souls.

In fact, Lawkari mentions intellectual intuition – the apex of the human intellect’s actualization in Avicenna’s epistemology – on numerous occasions and in different contexts. He discusses its role in the process of conjunction of human souls with the active intellect, the process at the heart of divine inspirations that prophets, eminent philosophers, friends of God, and saints are able to receive. He mentions its importance for the acquisition of both theoretical and practical knowledge, as well as ethical knowledge. All these elements allude to a resolutely intellectualist perspective, including in the eschatological realm, as acquisition of intellectual knowledge is crucial for the soul’s salvation in the afterlife.

Finally, for this study, Lawkari’s other work, the Bayan al-Haqq, will be quite useful to corroborate data found in his Asrar-i al-Hikmat and help pass judgment on Lawkari’s contribution to Avicennan psychology, as it contains a much longer De anima, in Arabic and only in manuscript form.