Sie sind auf Seite 1von 23

Pausing to think and re-thinking intellect

Theo Cope, Jan. 2005

[A Bahá’í about Zubiri’s last work, Sentient Intelligence]

Many of the seminal ideas of a Bahá’í philosophy can be said to be found in Some
Answered Questions, talks given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and recorded by Laura Clifford Barney between
the years 1904-1906. Though this work exists in its original Persian, the English translations are a
bit problematic. They are so more from a technical philosophical perspective than from an
inspirational or devotional point of view. The original Persian text uses terms that have long
histories in Islamic philosophy, from the Aristotelian and Neo-Platonic traditions as well as that of
the Illuminationists, the Ishraqi.
One problem that this text presents for the English reader is an uncritical transliteration of
technical terminology. Moreover, there are different versions of the text in circulation, with different
publication dates and locations. These texts, ostensibly all approved and authoritative translations,
give one pause to think.
This essay will be a reflection on this pausing to think that is given by this problem. I
understand that those who are not linguistically handicapped like the present writer find challenges
in this text as well, though for different reasons. These readers, so I have been informed by some of
them, find no challenge in understanding the terms used; what is debated and debatable is what these
terms mean when used by Abdu’l-Baha. I have discussed this with a few scholars who study the
original text and who profess with great conviction that this work and the terms are not only Neo-
Platonic in origin, but carry the same connotation as in this tradition espouses. Moreover, one
scholar worked to convince me, linguistically handicapped as I am, that if I were to read the original,
I, too, would be convinced of this assertion. This is doubtful to me. Other scholars argue against
such an interpretation. Thus, the problem is not in the texts, but in our understandings of them.
This essay, as a reflection on what has given me pause to think, will focus specifically on a
few passages from this work; two of them come from the same section of this work, Section XVI,
titled “Outward forms and symbols must be used to convey intellectual conceptions.” These two
paragraphs will be the central point and will be the support through the body of this essay. The other
passage will be introduced initially, inasmuch as it presents us with a framework that is necessary to
hold as we progress. While I will introduce other passages of relevance from other Baha’i sources
and texts, I will mostly consider these paragraphs in the light of a new and different system of
reference than that Neo-Platonic tradition some claim should be used.
The system of reference that I shall avail myself of is a philosophy propounded by the late
Spanish philosopher, Xavier Zubiri (1898-1983). This philosopher presents us with a fresh and
challenging philosophy that does, I submit, impel us to re-consider a Neo-Platonic interpretation or
even a historically constructed Arabo-Islamic view. Though the terms used and discussed indeed
have a heritage and usage in this lineage, there is no need to limit them, and many reasons why they
should not be so limited. Zubiri’s last work, Sentient Intelligence, presents a philosophy of
intelligence that not only challenges the notions many of us have about human intellect, human
sensation and human intellective knowing, but also demands much of the reader who picks up his
work. This demand shows itself on a few levels: cognitive, philosophical, and in many cases,
theological and scientific. It challenges the dualistic bifurcation of sensing and intellection that has
been the mainstay of western philosophy. It challenges the philosophical traditions that many of us
are educated in, and the views we take to be firm.
Zubiri does not create abstract concepts to attempt to verify his philosophical approach; he
rigorously analyzes an act of human beings, creates new language to discuss this analysis, and takes
issue with many systems of thought that never considered this act deeply. This act is intellection.
Since humans are sentient, he propounds a sentient intellection. This is not sensible intellection—the

view that all intellective data comes from the senses—nor is it an assertion that we have senses in
addition to intellection, implying that the senses deliver information to our intellect. Though it is
certain we have senses—no one in their right mind would argue this—these very senses are
intellective. It is not that these senses deliver information to the faculty of intellect; as faculty
psychology has been set aside in philosophical and scientific debates. He does indeed discuss the
faculty of intelligence, but begins his entire work with one central point: any faculty is known in its
act. Thus, his analysis is of the act of intellective sensing, or sentient intellection, the order matters
little here. It does reveal a radical and fundamental difference: our senses are intellective and our
intelligence is sentient. These form an integrated and intrinsic unity, not a synthesis, nor a joining by
judgment, but a unity.
Having spent three years immersed in Zubiri’s philosophy, and struggling to ponder his
purpose and intention, carefully weighing his assertions in the balance that I accept to be Divine in
origin, I find support for his thought from many domains. The domains that concern me here are two:
current scientific, including neuroscientific findings, and Baha’i texts. The first source uses only
empirical data collected in many situations, while the source of the second is premised upon an
assertion of Divine Revelation. In joining these two systems, I am merely attempting to carry out an
injunction given in this religious system, that of the harmony of science and religion.
We do know, however, that the domains of reality that each of these sources is concerned with are in
no way separate, but as they are different domains, they require and provide different
understandings of phenomena. We each must be cautious that we do not ignore the latest scientific
findings because we think they present findings different from those we understand of our religious
texts; perhaps we do not yet have an adequate comprehension of the texts. Likewise, we need to be
circumspect so as to avoid limiting the meanings of these religious works to a limited materialistic
framework of understanding—or to a temporal view limited by any specific time period. To put our
views in harmony with science does not imply that we accept the interpretations given by materialist
scientists in their explanations of the data. It means we must utilize the same data and, based upon a
different system of reference and philosophical orientation, draw conclusions based upon the
Standard given in Revelation. We might be forced to radically alter our interpretations of this same
data, though this is nothing new or radical. This is how Einstein propelled science beyond the
Newtonian understanding of gravity; he observed the same phenomena, collected the same data and
using a new system of reference, drew conclusions that the Newtonian approach did not and could
not afford. We might be forced to re-think what we have thought these texts mean in order to make
our understanding to be harmonious with the data proffered by scientific findings. And, here lies the
rub: science and religion do agree, in principle and as a principal of the Baha’i Faith; the
disharmony is in our understandings (or misunderstandings) and interpretations (or
Should one not be inclined towards Neo-Platonism, the history of these terms in the Islamic
Aristotelian schools warrant caution as well. It was, in fact, in the philosophy of Aristotle that this
dualism between sensing and intellection was most cogently articulated, though he merely followed
tradition of his predecessors in assuming that these were two distinct sets of faculties: the faculty of
intelligence and the faculties of sensing. Though the latter is a collective, it has been considered as
the physical faculties in contrast to this intellective faculty.
This subject warrants much fuller explication, but my purpose in this article is to present
these ponderings and gauge the results or feedback. A fuller expose must wait. Another reason why
this work will not be exhaustive is because what I intuit and understand from the import of the
implications of Zubiri’s analysis, awaits further application by myself. This is forthcoming as I
apply it to my area of study, psychology.
Finally, another reason why a fuller expose will be in a future time is because I am in need of
assistance by Baha’i scholars who can read these texts in the original language and provide the

complete textual terms. This has been requested before, and some of these friends have been very
helpful, particularly, Khazeh Fananapazir, Peter Terry, Keven Brown, Vahid Browne, and Moojan
Momen. I am always hesitant to call on these friends, knowing that they have other projects they are
working on as well. Others have provided help who are not mentioned here explicitly, though
implicitly they are.
I am prompted to undertake this essay and encouraged in doing so for many reasons, one
being found in the following passage:

The Manifestation of God (and, to a lesser degree, 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi,) has to convey
tremendous concepts covering the whole field of human life and activity to people whose present
knowledge and degree of understanding are far below His. He must use the limited medium of
human language against the limited and often erroneous background of His audience's traditional
knowledge and current understanding to raise them to a wholly new level of awareness and
behaviour. It is a human tendency, against which the Manifestation warns us, to measure His
statements against the inaccurate standard of the acquired knowledge of mankind. We tend to take
them and place them within one or other of the existing categories of human philosophy or science
while, in reality, they transcend these and will, if properly understood, open new and vast horizons
to our understanding. (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 547)

Intellect as a human power

Current scientific thought holds that animals have intelligence. There is much funding given
to research into animal intelligence, and many works dealing with this arena of scientific exploration.
Historically it had been assumed that humanity was different in essence from animals and animals
did not possess intelligence. Many modern scientists and philosophers now assert that we are not
different in essence (indeed, there is no essence), but merely in kind. Thus, to affirm that animals
have intelligence only means that their level of intelligence is below that of humans. And yes, there
are those who propose that this old assumption of human intelligence is an indication of species
arrogance: we are not even an intelligent species, after all. Be that as it may, we find in the Baha’i
corpus many passages that, at the current stage of translation, give different and divergent views.
We are compelled to make sense out of these, at times, contradictory views and this becomes not too
difficult when we recess to the original texts.
Thus, in the Promulgation of Universal Peace, a collection of talks delivered by Abdu’l-
Baha while on his visit to the United States, we find passages given in the English translations as
“animal intelligence.” (PUP, p. 357) “The animal, although inferior to man in intelligence and
reason…” (p. 108). “Inasmuch as the materialistic philosophers deny the Books of God, scriptural
demonstration is not evidence to them, and materialistic proofs are necessary. Answering them, the
men of divine knowledge have said that all existing phenomena may be resolved into grades or
kingdoms, classified progressively as mineral, vegetable, animal and human, each of which
possesses its degree of function and intelligence. (p. 240) Of course, it is known that these talks,
while inspirational and of great value, are not always reliable. Some of what is given in this work, as
well as in Paris Talks, only exists in these works, that is, there are no original tablets for them. Any
serious scholarly work must refrain from using these texts, and go to any existent originals.
Nonetheless, when we turn to the text I said I would use, Some Answered Question (SAQ),
we find a different view. In this passage, Abdu’l-Baha is discussing the differences existing between
animals and humans. After making his argument, he expresses:
Thus it is clear that if there were not in man a power different from any of those of the animals, the
latter would be superior to man in inventions and the comprehension of realities. Therefore, it is
evident that man has a gift which the animal does not possess. Now, the animal perceives sensible

things but does not perceive intellectual realities. For example, that which is within the range of its
vision the animal sees, but that which is beyond the range of sight it is not possible for it to perceive,
and it cannot imagine it (p.187).

The animal is the captive of the senses and bound by them; all that is beyond the senses, the things
that they do not control, the animal can never understand, although in the outer senses it is greater
than man. Hence it is proved and verified that in man there is a power of discovery by which he is
distinguished from the animals, and this is the spirit of man (p. 188)

In another authentic text, the Tablet to August Forel, we find this same point:

In the animal world there is the sense of feeling, but in the human world there is an all-embracing
power. In all the preceding stages the power of reason is absent, but the soul existeth and revealeth
itself. The sense of feeling understandeth not the soul, whereas the reasoning power of the mind
proveth the existence thereof. (p. 9)

Having discussed this point with other Baha’i scholars, I know that there is not yet agreement
among us. This surely presents a challenge when we attempt to discuss this topic of animal
“intelligence”. And here we see the dilemma: intelligence is something to which an adjective can be
attributed, thus turning it into a specific type of intelligence, i.e. animal, human, or divine.
This seems acceptable to many, and depends upon the definition given to this term.
Intelligence, for example, can be defined along the lines of rationality and utilizing clearly
enunciated definitions and standard of logic, affirming that a greater demonstration of rational
capability implies greater intelligence. A standard IQ test may be assumed to measure it adequately.
This is the tack taken by Alfred Binet (1857-1911) and Theodore Simon (1873-1961) in France and
Lewis Terman (1877-1956) in America.
On the other hand, intelligence can be induced from observation as the ability to solve problems, as
was the approach of Edward Thorndike (1874-1949) and currently Glaser. One could ascertain that
there are multiple ways of solving problems and derive a theory of multiple intelligence as
Thurstone, Guiford, and J. Fodor had done. It could also be combined with the capability to create
new products to serve others, and this may lead to a theory of multiple intelligences as Howard
Gardner proposes. Likewise, it could be considered as a capacity for interpersonal relationships and
we might have emotional intelligence (EQ), and now spiritual intelligence (SQ) proffered by others.
One of the most commonly upheld modern theories, Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences
(1983) addresses this human capacity, focusing on logical-mathematical, verbal-linguistic, musical-
rhythmic, visual-spatial, inter and intrapersonal, (which encompass emotional intelligence) as well
as a body-kinesthetic intelligence. Historically, tests were utilized to determine cognitive or
academic intelligence, yet Gardner’s study found this inadequate. What is telling, however, is his
definition of intelligence:
An intelligence entails the ability to solve problems or fashion products that are of consequence in a
particular cultural setting. The problem-solving skill allows one to approach a situation in which a
goal is to be obtained and to locate the appropriate route to that goal. The creation of a cultural
project is crucial to capturing and transmitting knowledge or expressing one’s views or feelings.
The problems to be solved range from creating an end to a story to anticipating a mating move in
chess to repairing a quilt. Products range from scientific theories to musical composition to
successful establishment of a social enterprise.

When we examine the animal world, we can discern animals solving problems, fashioning products
that have social consequences in the animal domains, they surely attain goals, and express feelings.
How can one say that animals do not have intelligence? Definitions matter, after all.
For a Baha’i this presents a challenge: to set these scientific theories aside and just hold to
the Baha’i teachings on the subject; to surmise that what was really meant and how the Master
understood intelligence is reflective of his times and the cultural understandings of his listeners; that
animals really do have intellect and the sciences did not exist in the life time of 'Abdu'l-Bahá to
verify this, with the new scientific discoveries we must entertain this notion as well as reconsider
what we find in his works. Another approach, of course, is to fully embrace the scientific data,
incorporate it into our philosophy and religious thinking and know that animals do not have
intelligence, period. They have sensation, often senses more acute and accurate than humans, though
no intelligence.
This presents challenges of another sort, though one that, again I submit, the philosophy of
Zubiri alleviates most cogently and forcefully.
If intelligence is not conceptually defined, but analyzed as an act, the primordial human nature of
intellection may be presented as the ability to apprehend things as independent realities that have
properties of their own, as opposed to apprehending them as mere stimuli. Animals and humans
surely share common features, humans have animal bodies and senses similar to animals, but we
apprehend phenomena as realities. What we see, what we feel, what we hear, etc., we know to be
real things that do not depend upon our existence to have reality. The sun warms the animal. We
sense the heat and become warm and know that the warmth is caused by a warm reality: the sun. We
have sciences that study these stars and reveal to us features that our senses do not apprehend, and
cannot perceive. We know these phenomena to be real. Animals are limited to the stimuli their
senses apprehend; they do not and cannot apprehend things as realities. If we affirm this, we do so
based upon the Baha’i texts as a standard, as well as evidence of science. By doing so, this will lead
to very different affirmations about intelligence.
In each of the above cases, we are free to consider what intelligence is based upon different
measures: in the first case, cognitive development is taken to be the measure of intelligence; in the
second case, the measure is problem solving and creative ability, or interpersonal behaviors; in the
third, the measure is taken as the ability to apprehend realities. Behind each of these measures rests a
line of inquiry, conceptual or analytical. In the case of cognitivity it is based upon conceived
cognitive laws and mental abilities which animals seem to possess, though in less degree than a
human; while in the last example, the structure of our intellective acts are analyzed and an assertion
is made that intelligence is essentially unique to the human species and animals do not have
Even if we affirm that there exists the possibility of AI- artificial intelligence, we must consequently
affirm that it is not human intelligence, and can question if this silicone based reality can apprehend
some phenomena as a reality. Intelligence, defined as the capacity to apprehend realities, opens to us
a line of inquiry and an orientation to the topic that holds exciting potential to re-think what this
thing is called intellect, and places us in harmony with a rigorous philosophical framework, with the
Baha’i texts as the standard from which we judge this philosophy’s viability. If one considers the
scientific data, one will find stronger support. I shall not develop this line of inquiry here since it
would lengthen this essay more than is desirable.

Intellect and sensation: two powers?

I shall begin this section by providing two passages, one mentioned above, Section XVI of
SAQ, and a second one that is another challenge for us in this consideration. The second is Section
LXVI, on the “Physical and Intellectual Powers”. Both of these selections come from the beginning
of the discussion presented by the Master. In section XVI we read:

A) A subject that is essential [literally, the pivot] for the comprehension of the questions that we
have mentioned, and of others of which we are about to speak, so that the essence of the problems
may be understood, is this: that human knowledge is of two kinds. One is the knowledge of things
perceptible to the senses -- that is to say, things which the eye, or ear, or smell, or taste, or touch can
perceive, which are called objective or sensible. So the sun, because it can be seen, is said to be
objective; and in the same way sounds are sensible because the ear hears them; perfumes are
sensible because they can be inhaled and the sense of smell perceives them; foods are sensible
because the palate perceives their sweetness, sourness or saltiness; heat and cold are sensible
because the feelings perceive them. These are said to be sensible realities.

The other kind of human knowledge is intellectual -- that is to say, it is a reality of the intellect; it
has no outward form and no place and is not perceptible to the senses. For example, the power of
intellect is not sensible; none of the inner qualities of man is a sensible thing; on the contrary, they
are intellectual realities. So love is a mental reality and not sensible; for this reality the ear does not
hear, the eye does not see, the smell does not perceive, the taste does not discern, the touch does not
feel. Even ethereal matter, the forces of which are said in physics to be heat, light, electricity and
magnetism, is an intellectual reality, and is not sensible. In the same way, nature, also, in its essence
is an intellectual reality and is not sensible; the human spirit is an intellectual, not sensible reality. In
explaining these intellectual realities, one is obliged to express them by sensible figures because in
exterior existence there is nothing that is not material.
(Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 83)

In Section LXVI we find:

B) In man five outer powers exist, which are the agents of perception -- that is to say, through these
five powers man perceives material beings. These are sight, which perceives visible forms; hearing,
which perceives audible sounds; smell, which perceives odors; taste, which perceives foods; and
feeling, which is in all parts of the body and perceives tangible things. These five powers perceive
outward existences.

Man has also spiritual powers: imagination, which conceives things; thought, which reflects upon
realities; comprehension, which comprehends realities; memory, which retains whatever man
imagines, thinks and comprehends. The intermediary between the five outward powers and the
inward powers is the sense which they possess in common -- that is to say, the sense which acts
between the outer and inner powers, conveys to the inward powers whatever the outer powers
discern. It is termed the common faculty, because it communicates between the outward and inward
powers and thus is common to the outward and inward powers. (Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered
Questions, p. 210)

What I shall bring out will in no way be exhaustive of these passages, I hope that what is presented
stimulates thought and provokes discussion. Scientific insights have come about not only by
observing life, but also by provoking reality; by provoking thought, humanity has made progress in
These two passages are connected by more than the topic of sensation and intellection. The
first begins by expressing a pivotal fact and a fact that we must pivot with and around. This pivot
has to do with comprehension. To comprehend what follows, we are told we must comprehend that

there are two kinds of human knowledge: of things perceptible to the senses and those intellectual.
This second font of knowledge, and the term used, provokes discussion.
Though it will be mentioned here, it is not the central concern so shall be not fully developed.
Intellectual, in this passage, is translated from the Persian ma’aqulaat, having the root ‘aql. This
root is very rich and carries many translated connotations: reason, intellect, intelligence, science or
discernment, translated depending upon context, of course. There is not a specific English
equivalency, thus in the process of translation that of interpretation is integral. Interpretation exists
as a function of translation; that is, when any of these words are chosen, the original is fixed for the
non-Persian reader. Unless one knows the richness of the root, the English carries different
implications. This term can be and has equally been rendered as intelligible. There is a significant
difference philosophic between intellectual and intelligible.
In the first century of the Christian era, one Jewish philosopher, Philo Judea, coined a term that has
resonated ever since. This term is the “intelligible world.” Notice carefully, this is not an intellectual
world, but intelligible. In a previous work, regarding the fusion by Philo of lines of thought from
Plato and Aristotle, I wrote:
“What followed from these two masters of Greek dialectics were various attempts to reconcile the
contradictory views of the two systems. The first to attempt this in the Semitic line may have been
Philo Judaeus (30 BC -- 50 AD), a Jewish philosopher. It is here that Greek rationalism met divine
revelation of the Semitic tradition. Philo, a member of the Alexandrian school in Egypt, was a
Hellenic Jewish apologist, that is, he utilized the philosophy of Hellenized Greece to illumine
Jewish theology and philosophy. At that time, there was no substantial separation between theology
and philosophy as we understand these today. They were the same in reason, the same in purpose
and the same in approach. Philo was convinced that Moses' teachings of the Pentateuch anticipated
the Greek philosophers, especially the Stoics and Platonists. He it was who began what is known as
apophatic theology or the via negativa. This approach to God is by a denial of all attributes to God;
this is not to say that God has no attributes but that our concepts of these are only our concepts. God
is beyond all thought, imagination and understanding; He is totally transcendent, the Unmoved
Mover. Thus we should strive to go beyond all concepts or forms in our understanding of Him.
Philo interpreted the Platonic ideas, and the contradictory ways that Plato speaks of these, in
a method that ‘may be described as a harmonization’. (Wolfson, `Extradeical and Intradeical
Interpretations of Platonic Ideas', Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 22:1, p. 5. Extradeical means
“outside the Mind of God”, while intradeical means ‘inside the Mind of God.”)
He used the categories and realm of Platonic philosophy and applied them to Jewish theology. Thus,
the Logos became the place where the ideas were localized. In Philo's teachings, the Logos was the
Word of God and the ideas were emanated with the Logos from God.

In Philo, then, Platonic ideas were integrated into an intelligible world of ideas contained in a Nous
called Logos, so that the original idea of the problem of the relation of Platonic ideas to God became
with him a problem of the relation of the Nous or Logos to God, and the problem was solved by him
by the assumption of two successive stages of existence in the Logos, an intradeical one followed by
an extradeical. (ibid. p. 11)

That is, the Logos (Word) of God existed from all eternity as a thought in the Nous (Mind) of God;
this thought was then emanated before the creation of the visible worlds. We will discover that this
novel use of Platonic teaching was taken up again in Christian as well as Islamic and Bahá'í
teachings. From Philo Judaeus' time, philosophy and theology used either his or Plato's constructs to
speculate about the divine ideas and the intelligible realm.” (Cope 2000, p. 70)
Notice again, this is not an intellectual realm, but intelligible.

“In considering this development, we notice how Philo uses the Platonic doctrine of the Ideas and
transforms them within a Judaic framework. In referring to Plato, Wolfson asserts:

Sometimes he uses language which lends itself to the interpretation that the ideas have an existence
external to God, either ungenerated and co-eternal with God [Timaeus 28A, 52B] or produced and
made by God [Republic X 597 B-D]. They are thus extradeical . . . According to another
interpretation, which identifies Plato's God with mind, they are thoughts of God: they are intradeical.
(Wolfson, `Extradeical and Intradeical Interpretations of Platonic Ideas', in Religious Philosophy: A
Group of Essays, p. 31).

Thus, from Plato, Philo interpreted these Ideas as being `thoughts' of God, as did other thinkers of
his time (e.g. Pseudo Plutarch, Hippolytus). Unlike the pagan philosophers who contrasted the two
perspectives of Plato's doctrine, Philo asserted the existence of an ‘intelligible world’ that God
placed in the Logos, of which the ‘visible world’ was a likeness.

But the expression intelligible world which Philo gives to the totality of ideas is not known to have
been used before him. Plato, indeed, uses the expression `supercelestial place' as a description of the
place of ideas; but whatever Plato may have meant by `intelligible place', Philo, we may assume,
took it to mean the same as the `supercelestial place', and the latter, as we shall see, was taken by
him to mean an infinite void outside the world. His `intelligible world', however, is not that infinite
void. The term intelligible world was probably coined by Philo himself. (Wolfson, `God, the World
of Ideas and the Logos', in Philo: Foundations, vol. 1, pp. 227-8; emphasis added).” (Cope 2000, p.

In Islam, this idea of an intelligible realm was accepted and carried on. Citing again this earlier work:
“The early beginnings of Islamic philosophy, according to traditional Islamic sources, stem from
Abu'l-`Abbás Íránshahrí, yet there are no surviving texts of this man, so historians begin with al-
Kindí (800--70 AD/185 AH). The philosophy of al-Kindí was of the Peripatetic school following the
tradition of Aristotle. (Peripatetic philosophy is a term given to the school of philosophy founded by
Aristotle, the Lyceum, and now signifies any follower of Aristotle.) This is where the point of
historical intrigue enters, at the beginning. The school of philosophy of al-Kindí and his successors
was actually a fusion of Neoplatonic and Aristotelian teachings, inherited from the Alexandrian
school; the books which were introduced as Aristotle's teachings were the Theology of Aristotle and
the Book of Causes. The first was actually the last part of the Enneads of Plotinus (books 4--6) and
the second was the epitome of Proclus' Elements of Theology, both Neoplatonic in thought and
structure. That they were attributed to Aristotle seems to have been a translator's error; that they
were incorrectly labelled as Aristotle's works had profound implications for the development of
Islamic philosophy, theology, metaphysics and Sufism as well as Christian thought impacted by
Islamic views.

The effect of these works was of the first importance both for Aristotle and Neoplatonism as well as
for Arabian and Christian thought. Firstly, it had the effect of neoplatonizing Aristotle. Upon his
essentially physical interpretation of the world, drawn from the observations of the senses, was
imposed the intelligible universe of Neoplatonism. Where Aristotle, starting from experience, had
arrived at the concept of a final cause, this was now joined to a theory of generation: a hierarchy of
Intelligences provided the basis of existence. The human soul was now connected to the One by
means of thought and meditation. The effect on Neoplatonism was no less profound; it gave a more
directly astronomical interpretation to its spiritual world; the hierarchy of intelligible beings,
stretching from the One to the human soul, became more like a chain of cause and effect; the

Neoplatonic Intelligences more like the souls of the spheres. To this mingling of Plato and Aristotle
must be added the widely diffused view of light as the fount of being, gradually fading the farther
one gets from its source in God. This theory of light was an important element in Neoplatonism and
the various oriental philosophies, like Zoroastrianism, and it had a powerful effect upon Arabian,
and later Christian, thought. The overriding consequence, then, of the inclusion of the Neoplatonic
works was to introduce under the title of Aristotelianism a composite Weltanschauung which
provided a thoroughgoing explanation of the universe at both the sensible and the intelligible level.
It offered a series of propositions which, as they stood, flew in the face of Arabian, no less than
Christian, teaching; it substituted the impersonal power of the One for the personal concept of God;
it made God's actions indirect and his effects determined; it looked to contemplation instead of
revelation, for knowledge of God.” (Leff, Medieval Thought, pp. 144-5; citation from Cope 2000, p.

For a Baha’i scholar who is familiar with this history, to render ma’aqulat as intelligible may seem
reasonable; on the other hand, to render it as ‘intellectual’ provides different manners of
comprehending. There is a precedence for this as well, and a choice adopted by the Universal House
of Justice (UHJ). In one of their letters responding to a scholar’s question regarding the topic of
ether, we find:
The argument presented in this approach is that the latter definition of the term ‘ether’ is in
conformity with the usage adopted by 'Abdu'l-Bahá where He states that ‘ethereal matter, the forces
of which are said in physics to be heat, light, electricity and magnetism, is an intellectual reality, and
is not sensible’, and defines such an intellectual reality as one which ‘has no outward form and no
place and is not perceptible to the senses’. A brief discussion along these lines is also found in the
new book by Gary Matthews, ‘The Challenge of Bahá'u'lláh’ (Oxford: George Ronald, 1993).
(The Universal House of Justice, 1994 Feb 22, The Concept of Ether)

It could be argued that the choice of term here used by the UHJ carries no authoritative weight
inasmuch as there is no interpretative function this Institution carries. This is not a matter of
legislation, after all. Nonetheless, this Body chose to accept intellectual as a rendition of this term.
This is the choice followed by other Baha’i scholars, e.g. A. Taherzadeh, and H.M. Balyuzi, to name
just these. Again, this only means that the choice is personal preference or due to the background of
the translators. Perhaps these translators did not have awareness of the intelligible realm and
intelligible realities, or the history of Islamic thought in this regard. While this cannot be totally
ruled out, it seems a bit disingenuous. These three sources (even assuming that the translation used
in the letter from the House of Justice was given to them by the Research Dept., there are members
of this Body who know the original texts very deeply) were well aware of this history and even have
written on it.
Nonetheless, intelligible is a viable English equivalency, no doubt. It is equivalent, but
It is equivocal because it can be interpreted, and one is surely inclined to do so, along the
lines of the Neo-Platonic traditions. In this case, along the lines of an intelligible realm and
intelligible realities, we are immediately confronted with intelligible realities which are taken to be
archetypes. These archetypes, as existing either within or outside of the Mind of God, are the Eternal
Forms, the Eidos that Plato assumed and his philosophy required. In Christian and Islamic thought,
these become well elaborated, and need not concern us here as it will take us too far afield.
On the other hand, if we were to maintain the translated phrase as “intellectual realities,” and
following the first passage again (A), we would be inclined to affirm that “it is a reality of the
intellect”. This term is given as ma’aquleh, surely the same root as we found before. Lest one think
that this English term does not carry the richness of meaning or implications than the use of

intelligible affords and opens to us, I suggest patience and an open mind. Moreover, I suggest that
by so considering it as “intellectual realities” we are able to witness a profound transformation in
our understanding of human intellect and our comprehension.

“A subject that is essential for the comprehension…” is how passage ‘A’ begins. In the
second passage, ‘B’, we are given to understand that comprehension is one of the inner, spiritual
powers. This rendition given in SAQ is also not without its history. It needs to be noted here that the
term translated as ‘power’ in ‘B’ can also be rendered as ‘faculty’, and wide is the difference in
English between a power and a faculty. It is true, however, that we could understand them as
homologous terms, but again it matters. It matters because an inner faculty follows the line of
thought that was erected and termed “faculty psychology”. While this line of thought has been
discarded in modern times, this does not imply that is must remain discarded; nor does it mean that
its usage be Abdu’l-Baha implies we use it indiscriminately, or that his usage affirms its viability. It
does indeed indicate that his listeners would know what he was referring to, however. ‘Inner
powers’ does not carry the connotation as ‘inner faculties’ do. I shall not follow nor develop this line
of inquiry too far, and the interested reader in encouraged to peruse Harry Wolfson’s insightful work
on the subject found in his 1973 Studies in the History and Philosophy of Religion, Harvard
University Press, Chapter 15. What is eminently clear in Wolfson’s expose is that there is no
consistency of terms used by earlier thinkers for the Greek terms used by Aristotle.
My focus here is not on these faculties or powers, per se, but comprehension. This, we are
told is what is essential. The term in Persian in this passage (A) is idrak/ edraq. There is not one
English equivalent for this term and it can be rendered as: perception, understanding, awareness,
comprehension, realization, discernment and at times knowledge and intelligence. So perhaps we are
not enjoined to comprehend, and maybe what is pivotal is not pivotal for comprehension, but for
perception, understanding, etc. Let us stay with comprehension, however, and see where it takes us.
As a human inner power, comprehension, as given in passage B, is mudrikih. This has the
same root as idrak, d-r-k and has been translated as an ‘intuitive perception’ which perceives the
realities of things. Let us not hold to this optional translation for now, not because it is not
historically accurate, but because it will take us along another line of inquiry. While this has its
place in comprehending comprehension, this is not the concern. I am not seeking to comprehend this
power, just to give some leads to follow. One place we are led to by following this lead is this
passage, “For comprehension is the result of encompassing -- embracing must be, so that
comprehension may be -- and the Essence of Unity surrounds all and is not surrounded” (SAQ, p.
220). While the context of this passage is the inability of humanity to comprehend the nature of the
Divine Reality, my focus is that comprehension is the result of encompassing.
Try as I might, I have not been able to resolve or come close to a cogent understanding of
what this means by searching the translated Islamic works. It surely is possible that, if I were not
linguistically handicapped, this would pose no problem. Yet my suspicion indicates this is not so. It
is not so because in the texts I have perused over the past 20 odd years, there is no consistent
rendition or understanding in the philosophic traditions that consider inner powers/faculties. The
fluidity and richness of the original term, as well as the inconsistent usages by philosophers are
insurmountable obstacles for my limited capabilities. My field of knowledge in this arena is too poor.
However, when I turn to a modern view, which is offered by Zubiri, I find not only
understanding, but also a better comprehension of what this might be. Remember, to comprehend
we must encompass. Zubiri provides this for our musing, “Comprehending is not merely
apprehending, but encompassing something. Here, ‘to comprehend’ has the etymological sense of
comprehendere” (Sentient Intelligence, Part 3, pg. 330; later given as SI). It could be merely

coincidental that we find this equivalency and it may have a previous usage in another philosopher
that I am unaware of, and I may be reading too much into this. I have considered all of these
possibilities, and yet my inclination is to pursue this path. That I do so will become clear as I
By using this passage now, I return to the beginning of this essay and a consideration of passages A
and B. Let us see if we can better comprehend what intellect is, and how humans might be able to
embody this. Indeed, one of the passages of my life meditation is that by the Master, used many
times by myself: “The teachers of the Cause must be heavenly, lordly and radiant. They must be
embodied spirit, personified intellect, and arise in service with the utmost firmness, steadfastness
and self-sacrifice” (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 88).
Whatever intellect may be, we must personify it. By personifying it, we not only embody it, but also
integrate its capacities with our persons, or to be more precise, to recognize its embodied and
personified manner of acting. We must have recognition (‘irfan) of its import, as well as a re-
cognition of what intellect could possibly be vis-à-vis sensation: intellect and body. Here we come
back to those two types of human knowledge: that provided by the body—senses, and that of the
intellect. The question remains, however, are these two sets of faculties? Wolfson provides us with
these words to consider:
“In Aristotle there is no general term for those faculties of the soul which he treats of in the Third
Book of De Anima and in De Memoria et Reminiscentia to differentiate them as a class from the
five senses which he treats of in the Second book of De Anima. In Latin, Arabic, and Hebrew
philosophic texts, however, these post-sensationary faculties, or some of them, or sometimes only
one of them, are designated by the term ‘internal senses,’ in contradistinction to the five senses
which are designated by the term ‘external senses.’ Sometimes instead of ‘external’ the terms
‘corporeal’ and ‘passive’ are used, and instead of internal the terms ‘spiritual,’ ‘separable,’ and
‘cerebral.’ Sometimes, too, the term ‘faculties’ or ‘apprehensions’ is used instead of senses. The use
of the terms ‘internal,’ ‘spiritual,’ and ‘cerebral’ has been explained by the fact that the faculties to
which they are applied reside within the brain and operate without bodily organs (Wolfson, Studies..
p. 250-251)”

I am herein following a path that seeks to ponder, not to answer conclusively—for this latter is a
chimera. I am merely sketching what could be and contemplating if this could be is possible.
The essential subject is ‘comprehending’ that there are two kinds of knowledge: that of the
senses and of the intellect. Indeed, “knowledge of things perceptible to the senses” and intellectual
“that is to say, it is a reality of the intellect.” Sense and intellect, this seems clear. Senses apprehend
sights, sounds, smells, tastes (sweetness, sourness or saltiness), and feelings (heat and cold). After
this listing, the English informs us that the Master says, “These are said to be sensible realities.”
Indeed, they derive from our senses, and this is the common view. Senses deliver information to the
intellect. Yes, yes, this is indeed the view given for the past 2000 years of western philosophy. A
question that continually appears for me is this: If this is the case, which is very well known, well
documented, and well discussed in western philosophy, what is the point of Abdu’l-Baha saying so?
I mean to not at all belittle what is said, but to provoke our thinking. Why would he make the point
of saying how essential, how pivotal this is when it is a most common assumption?
Surely it leads him to expound how the dove that descended upon Jesus Christ was not a
material dove, that God did not literally appear as a pillar of fire, and that we must comprehend that
these are intellectual realities which are expressed by a sensible figure and image (SAQ p. 84).
Surely, the perspective that the dove was not a material bird, and that God did not appear as a pillar
of fire is not a common view, and one that is anathema to many Christians and Jews, who take these
as literal and material facts and testaments of faith. Well enough. And still it can be asked, is this all
there is to it?

Perhaps it is, and yet even in this case it provides a framework for provoking thought. Again,
there are two types of knowledge: sensible and intellectual, with the latter having only recourse to
sensible images or figures to express. This is so, indeed must be so because we are sentient creatures:
we are consciously perceiving beings. We do so based upon what we apprehend in our sensory
receptors, which has led other philosophers to assert that what is real is only what can be
apprehended by and with our senses, i.e. sensible realities. Love is not something we apprehend with
our senses, and is an intellectual reality, so clearly we know that not all realities can be said to be
sensible. They can be non-sensible and still be realities we can comprehend.
Let me pause here and take a reflective stance on that last quotation, “These are said to be
sensible realities.” Having acknowledged the ‘sensible’ aspect, let’s consider the ‘These are said to
be’ aspect. Perhaps this usage is an affirmation of the sensible characteristics listed. If this were all
there is to it, He could have said, “These are sensible realities.” End of a pausing to think. But this is
not what is reported. This is surely speculation, and as all specula do, it is a mirroring of the light
shed upon this situation. The light is that ‘These are said to be’. What if they, in reality, are not
sensible realities, but sentient realities? Let’s must on this possibility, and indeed it is a possibility
that is possible for us now that Zubiri has undertaken an analysis of sentient intellection.
The listing given in the passage has to do with the most commonly discussed senses- sight,
hearing smell, taste and touch (now also considered as contact-pressure). These are presented as the
five senses, and in another passage, the five ‘outer powers’ (SAQ p.210). Current scientific
understanding has expanded this list, and we find acceptance of 9, 10, or 11 sensory systems.
Besides the five listed we must add: kinesthetic—including muscular, tendon, and articular (joints of
the body)—which is the sense of bodily position; equilibrium; heat; cold; pain; and visceral
sensibility. These are the 11 articulated by Zubiri. Gerald Edelman and Guilio Tonini, and other
neuroscientists, espouse 9 senses, similar to above, sans heat and cold, but has proprioception
instead of equilibrium; and includes pleasure (2000, p.21). There are five primary sensory systems:
1) mechanical- touch, hearing, vestibular, joint, and muscle; 2) photic- sight; 3) thermal- heat and
cold; 4) electrical- though humans do not have this sense; and 5) chemical- smell, taste, and
common chemical (changes in CO2, pH). Each system has particularized receptors providing a wide
range of sensory apprehension—mechanoreceptors, photoreceptors, thermoreceptors,
electroreceptors, and chemoreceptors. Each system also presents reality to humans in different
modes, while providing animals with different stimuli.
The human realities, on the other hand, do not merely apprehend sensible realities as stimuli,
though they are surely stimuli. More than mere stimuli, they are real stimuli and stimulating realities.
Sweet, sour, salty, heat and cold are not merely stimuli to the human—they are real qualities of
physical realities in our apprehension of them. We taste something just as the animal does, and
intellectively know it is sweet because sweetness is a characteristic of the interaction of the real
thing and our taste buds. An animal tastes the same thing and yet does not identify it as a ‘sweet
reality’ but merely responds to the stimuli apprehended. Likewise, an animal would respond to the
arousing stimuli of heat, yet would never be able to know that a hot reality is being apprehended. It
certainly is aroused by the heat, is modified by the heat, and responds to the heat, yet never has the
intellective capacity to affirm, “I am hot because of that hot real thing which I am apprehending.”
While a human may never think this either, we are indeed capable of doing so.
Sights, sounds, tastes, smells and feelings (to return to the Masters listing) are indeed
apprehended by human and animal sensory systems. While the animal only apprehends what is
present to its senses as stimuli, humans apprehend and can comprehend these as realities. So, while
not denying that an animal apprehends a sweet reality, an animal never has the comprehension of a
sweet reality, nor a sweet stimulus. It is a stimulus, nothing more. This is an essential difference, and
a difference of essence between the human and animal.

It is not that we taste a sweet thing and then intellectively think that ‘it is sweet’, but in the
apprehension of the sweet thing, know it is sweet, and that it is ‘really’ sweet and that it is a sweet
real thing. Sweetness, qua sweet reality, is not sensible, but is sentient. It is sweet in our
apprehension of such a real thing. Science enables us to comprehend what sweetness on many levels
of reality—molecular, chemical, and in our taste buds when we apprehend it.
Thus, perhaps the wording, “These are said to be sensible realities”, which has given me pause to
think, enables us to apprehend sensation and intellection in a different way. The reader must decide
for her or himself. Moreover, it assists us in comprehending more the reality of human intellective
sensing and sentient intellection, which is the same thing.
Abdu'l-Bahá informs us that humanity “comprehends realities”, both material and spiritual.
(SAQ, pgs. 186, 210) Zubiri presents for our consideration the modes we use to perceive “physical”
realities. “Now, the animal perceives sensible things but does not perceive intellectual realities. For
example, that which is within the range of its vision the animal sees, but that which is beyond the
range of sight it is not possible for it to perceive, and it cannot imagine it” (SAQ, p.187).
Inasmuch as we humans have an animal body, and indeed, we must firmly acknowledge this
fact, we must contemplate how it is that we can apprehend realities and animals not do so. We can,
of course, affirm it on the premise of faith: it is a given truth in religion. We can affirm it based on
current neuroscientific discoveries. Due to the cortical complexity of the brain, and the abilities this
allows our species, we have the ability to grasp the reality of phenomena exceeding that of other
animal species. This dimension separates us from other species. We now know, for example, that the
neocortex of the human brain is five times more complex than our nearest primate relative. This
complexity makes an essential difference in our species. We know these things apprehended to be
real. This is what Zubiri addresses, and one supported by the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio
(Descartes Error, 1994, p. 235), among others. Zubiri thus assists in our understanding the elevated
nature of human intellective sensing, sentient intelligence.
We can also affirm the judgment that man apprehends realities and animals do not, by a
rigorous philosophical analysis of what sensing is, and what the act of intellection is, inasmuch as
[qua] it is an act.
This intellective apprehension of reality is the unique and radical act of humanity. The human
species, due to its formalization, has a much vaster repertoire of responses than an animal does. This
means that in man, his sentient structures no longer assure his suitable response. That is to say, the
unity of arousal, tonic modification, and response would be broken if man were not able to
apprehend stimuli in a new way. When the stimuli do not suffice for a suitable response, man
suspends, so to speak, his response and, without abandoning the stimulus, but rather conserving it,
apprehends it according as it is in itself, as something de suyo, as stimulating reality. That is, he
apprehends the stimulus, but not as mere stimulus: this is the radical dawn of intellection.
Intellection arises precisely and formally at the moment of transcending or going beyond mere
stimulus, at the moment of apprehending something real as real when pure sensing is suspended
(Zubiri 1999, IRE, p. 79).

In the human species, the impression and apprehension of reality is given in the senses. The point
here is that the senses do not give information to the intellect, but are intellective modes of
apprehension in themselves. Humans perceive realities because our intellective senses perceive
realities. “These are said to be sensible realities.” Were it not for this human intellective sensation,
we would sense stimuli and apprehend like other animals.
The human essence is an intellective essence, an essence that, qua rational soul, has
intelligence/ is intellective. Though humanity can and sadly does often behave worse than many
animals, we have the capacity to not do so by applying our intellect and reason. Moreover, one of

the functions of religion is to elevate humanity. We have learned much from the sciences about
human evolution, and religion gives us the other component: human elevation.

Our time is characterized as much by elevation as by cycles of evolution. Many thinkers
characterize evolution as a natural process, while elevation must be seen as Divine in origin. Strictly
speaking, evolution is a scientific term that has been extended to cover a much broader spectrum of
developmental processes. Speaking scientifically, then, evolution is a natural process governed by
natural law. Inasmuch as a Baha'i approach adheres to the reality of the creative Will of God, we
must embrace the origin of evolution as distinct from the mechanisms of evolutionary processes.
Philosophically speaking, the concept of evolution expresses any process that shows progressive
development from an immature to a more mature phase. Elevation, on the other hand, comes from
the force of religion to transform and transmute human characteristics.
In order to circumvent any misgivings here, it is clear that Abdu'l-Bahá espoused both elements as
part of the Baha’i approach to reality. Khazeh Fananapazir, a Baha’i scholar, gives us a translation
of a significant passage:
There are two types of conditions and circumstances in life: those which are governed by the rule of
matter, by the universal laws and principles of physical reality, and those which transcend these
rules and break the limitations of external reality. This second set of circumstances occurs through
the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus it is that this Divine Cause can break the laws of this contingent
world. It creates conditions that transcend the realm of materiality and are sanctified above the needs
of this world (Provisional translation: Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, Vol. 2, # 74).
While one might be tempted to read into this a sort of “divine occasionalism,” a process where God
was thought to intervene in the course of individual human action (occasioned in the West by the
impact of Descartes’ strict dualism, and in Islam as an alternative to causality), or a “God of the
gaps” in which the intervention of God is invoked to explain features that science cannot yet explain,
the process of elevation is more apt to characterize this feature of the purpose of religion. Baha'u'llah
expressed it thusly: “From the heaven of God's Will, and for the purpose of ennobling the world of
being and of elevating the minds and souls of men, hath been sent down that which is the most
effective instrument for the education of the whole human race” (Gleanings from the Writings of
Baha'u'llah, p. 95). Likewise we read, “the One true God - exalted be His glory - hath unceasingly
set forth and expounded that which will elevate the station and will exalt the rank of the children of
men” (Baha'u'llah: Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 58).
Likewise, one may interpret this passage in a manner that is untenable considered in the
context of the entire Baha’i corpus. One could read this passage as indicating that the Holy Spirit
may intervene in the course of human history in such a manner that all sorts of phenomenon become
plausible, nay demanded: the physical resurrection of bodies, the literal ascension of Christ to the
heavens, as well as Muhammad’s ascension on the back of Buraq, the literal descent and return of
the same “upon the clouds,” the “stars falling from heaven,” etc. This passage, taken alone, may
tempt one to interpret literally what Baha'u'llah had taken such great pains to clearly articulate and
interpret symbolically in His monumental work, The Book of Certitude, and that mentioned by
Abdu’l-Baha previously cited. Obviously, this is not the intention. Nor can it be seriously considered
in light of the myriad pronouncements of the harmony of science and religion. Science informs us
that these events are implausible according to scientific laws. Though one may feign the ignorance
of science to adequately express this possibility, thereby keeping the superiority of the Creative
Power over Its creation, it is unwarranted and superstitious to maintain belief in them. Religion,
shorn of its ties with science, leads to superstition.
The intervention of the Holy Spirit, then, in transcending the rules and breaking the limitations of
external reality and laws must be something else. It is expressed in one manner, I submit, as the

processes of elevation. We discern this process expressed clearly in Abdu'l-Baha’s Some Answered
Questions. We read, for example, “that the honor and exaltation” of humanity is not material, but
consists of attributes and virtues. It is highly noteworthy that exaltation means, “the elevation of a
person,” as well as the process of raising the rank, character or status of something. Listing what
these virtues are, he mentions that they are “the divine appearances, the heavenly bounties, the
sublime emotions, the love and knowledge of God; universal wisdom, intellectual perception,
scientific discoveries, justice, equity, truthfulness, benevolence…These virtues do not appear from
the reality of man except through the power of God and the divine teachings, for they need
supernatural power for their manifestation” (p. 79-80). It is the Divine Manifestations, we are told,
who bring the teachings necessary to lift humanity to higher stages of spiritual development, to raise
the standards of conduct. This is the thrust of progressive revelation. The concept of progressive
revelation is a fundamental cornerstone of the Baha'i approach to reality. Baha'u'llah informs us,
“We have counselled all people, in the most clear and eloquent language, to adorn their characters
with trustworthiness and godliness, and with such qualities as are conducive to the elevation of
man's station in the world of being”(Universal House of Justice 1989, “Trustworthiness”, # 2032).
Abdu'l-Bahá gives a standard of sorts by which to measure the validity of one who claims to be a
Prophet. He states, “If He proves to be instrumental in the elevation and betterment of mankind, He
is undoubtedly a valid and heavenly Messenger”(Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 366).
We are given to realize that these Messengers have appeared throughout the course of human
development. Though the cycles of time have obliterated past traces of such interventions, remnants
of these ideas survive in myths and cultural folklore. While these are not firm evidence of such
appearances, it is not outside of the bounds of reason to give assent to this doctrine. Many
paleoanthropological discoveries exist that are discovered and then interpreted according to the
dominant perspective of evolution in a linear fashion. Cyclic evolution, if seriously contemplated,
will impel one to different assumptions. The facts will not change, but with the change of
assumptions or theories, interpretations of these facts alter. The philosophy of science asserts that
theory precedes observation. Moreover, the notion of progressive revelation and elevation implies a
continuity and guiding principle dependent upon the needs of the age in which the Manifestation
A Baha’i approach is premised upon the declaration that the measure of revelation is conditioned
upon the capacity of humanity to comprehend and in conformity to the conditions of our existence.
In a poetic expression, Baha'u'llah asserts, “All that I have revealed unto thee with the tongue of
power, and have written for thee with the pen of might, hath been in accordance with thy capacity
and understanding, not with My state and the melody of My voice” (The Hidden Words of
Baha'u'llah, Arabic # 67). This capacity is not merely a social phase, nor an intellectual one, but
spiritual, “Know of a certainty that in every Dispensation the light of Divine Revelation hath been
vouchsafed unto men in direct proportion to their spiritual capacity” (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings, p. 87).
We only know of those Messengers since the beginning of the cycle of which we have records,
identified as the Adamic cycle, but this does not negate pervious ones.
In this new spiritual cycle, we are informed that animals do not have intelligence, though
they have perception; that animals, even with superior sensory faculties, cannot comprehend what is
not present to their senses. “Now, the animal perceives sensible things but does not perceive
intellectual realities. For example, that which is within the range of its vision the animal sees, but
that which is beyond the range of sight it is not possible for it to perceive, and it cannot imagine it.
So it is not possible for the animal to understand that the earth has the form of a globe” (Abdu'l-
Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 186). This is contrary to current scientific concepts, and here
we must make a decision- do we affirm what science at this time proposes, or do we accept what
religion offers for our consideration? Can we ascertain this in a more rigorous fashion by availing
ourselves of a philosophy of sentient intellection?

Sensation / intellection
As any animal organism, we apprehend things in and with our senses. If we undertake an analysis of
this process, we might be able to conceive and comprehend a process that happens so automatically
and that we are usually unaware of it. Zubiri’s analysis holds this potential, indeed this is the entire
thrust of his three part work Sentient Intelligence. Stop the act and think for a moment. Look at,
listen to, smell, feel or taste anything, but do not declare what it is. Simply apprehend it. It is a real
thing, and a thing that exists in its own right, but what this thing is in reality keep suspended for now.
Do not say what it is. Imagine being a young baby who sees many things but has no labels yet to pin
on them. You apprehend these real things and through the processes of neurocognitive development
learn that they are real things and what these real things are called, what they are in reality. This first
apprehension is what Zubiri terms primordial apprehension, or primary apprehension.
Let me explain this sentient process more closely, drawing on Zubiri’s analysis.
Primordial apprehension is simply an awareness of something other. Apprehension is merely the
awareness that something is present before one, that one is aware of this other as being not-self, that
one is apprehending it in the senses. This occurs in a threefold dynamic process: 1) there is the
moment of arousal when the stimulus arouses attention. The arousal can initiate many different
responses, depending upon the organism’s needs and conditions. This is not mere excitation, as
traditional physiological psychology would have us believe, because it arouses the whole organism
to action. Excitation is a functional arousal. An arousal may be endogenous (from within) or
exogenous (from without). 2) Next comes the tonic modification wherein the individual (human or
animal) vital tone is modified by the stimulus. 3) Finally is the moment of response to stimuli. An
organism may have the same motor impulses to a stimulus yet the response may greatly differ.
Zubiri gives the examples of fleeing or attacking as using the same functions with different actions.
Response is actional (SI, p. 30). This threefold sensing process has been merely analyzed, he
expresses emphatically, not conceptualized. It holds true for an animal and the animal sensations of
the human.
There is a formal structure to sensation that is comprised of three moments as well: 1) affection: the
organism is affected by the stimulus in some manner; 2) moment of otherness in that the stimulus is
apprehended as other than self. This otherness Zubiri calls note, in the sense that one merely notes
that what is being apprehended is other. At the phase of primary apprehension this note has no label,
no name. 3) Then comes the force of imposition, in that the note impresses itself upon the individual
with some force. This arouses the process of sensing, yet does so by the combined effect of many
notes. A small stimulus can initiate a large response, and vice-versa. Stimuli may be endogenous or
exogenous to the organism.
The moment of otherness is further analyzed revealing that the otherness of a phenomenon is
situated before the apprehendor as other and has a mode of being situated. This mode is its otherness
that is independent. This apprehended thing (speaking most generally) is independent of the
apprehendor. This other has a specific content, that is, its notes: greenness, hardness, size,
temperature, etc. (ibid., p. 39); these notes are autonomous within apprehension. Zubiri is extremely
aware of the faults of Greek and Continental philosophy and their failure to account for the
otherness in apprehension. This failure led to a collapse of otherness and contributed to the
criticisms of Locke, Hume and their extreme empiricism; it also contributed to the rise of logical
positivism. Otherness in apprehension informs us that what is apprehended is other than self, and it
has autonomy in relation to self. Thus, color is apprehended as being other than self in the
apprehension of it. It is situated as other in apprehension. The mode in which something is
apprehended as other in its autonomy is termed formality. This is not a metaphysical concept, he
stresses, but an analysis of apprehension.

In Zubiri’s thought, there is a fundamental difference between how an animal species apprehends
stimuli and how the human species does. This fundamental difference he terms formality. Each
animal species has determined physiological and psychological structures which determine how the
individual apprehends (2). These psychophysiological structures structure how animals apprehend
things. A rock crab, an example he uses often, can recognize its prey when this prey is on a rock. In
experiments undertaken, when this prey hangs from a string, the crab does not apprehend this thing
as prey. It has a particular manner of apprehending, what is called a habitude, a habitual way of
apprehending. The animal has a habitual and physio-genetic way of sensing and apprehending and a
formal way that the animal actions are determined and presented. Zubiri writes,
I have used the example of the crab (although the example is not mine but David Katz’s), the crab
trained to hunt its prey on a rock, but if that prey is suspended from a string on a stick, the crab feels
incapable of seizing it. For what reason? In reality because the crab has not perceived the prey but
the whole configuration rock-prey. Now, in view of the different configuration, the crab does not
recognize the prey within it. On the contrary, an animal superior to the crab naturally sees the prey
by itself, as if cut out and independent from the rest. This is just the function of formalization.
In the evolutionary development of the nervous system… there has come into being an enormous
system of formalization. In virtue of this we can speak of independent things, not simply of total
configurations. Now, I judge that the essential function of the cerebral cortex and of the brain in
general is just to create this enormous system of formalization. By virtue of this system of
formalization, an elementary stimulus received from the outer medium presents ever richer
situations, the richer its inner formalization. (Dynamic Structure of Reality, 2003, p. 120)

This formality is in part due to the cerebral structure of the species, thus psychobiological. It is in
part due to the anatomical components of the sense organs, thus anatomico-physiological. An
animal responds to stimuli as stimuli, and the responses are constrained by its physiological and
anatomical structure. While we must assuredly acknowledge a diversity of responses to stimuli, the
constraints are psychobiological and physiological. Certain species can exist only within limited
environments, require specific habitats for viability, and respond to stimuli in a limited manner
according to its species-specific behaviors. The animal formality is the formality of stimulus; the
other is a stimulus and apprehended as merely a stimulus. Animals have no intelligence to
apprehend the other as a reality.
The human, however, is not so constrained, inhabits all regions of the globe and even outer space,
learns and comes to understand the laws of the physical environment and overcomes the limitations
imposed upon other animals. The immense diversity of response to stimuli implies, for Zubiri, that
we no longer apprehend mere stimuli; we apprehend phenomena as autonomous realities that have
aspects and characterisitcs in their own right, this is what he terms de suyo—“of its own.” A reality
has real properties of its own, not just because we apprehend it; it has these properties before we
apprehend it. Because of this, the human must choose the response or invent a new response
dependent upon the situation. This ability and freedom is due to the essence and structure of our
species; it is not conceptual, but has an organic sentient component (ibid., p. 73). This formality,
inasmuch as what we apprehend is apprehended as autonomous realities, is the formality of reality.
To apprehend is to intellectively apprehend something according to this formality. To apprehend for
the human is to intellectively apprehend things as realities. Intellection is not primarily cognitive,
nor logical, but initially apprehensive, and cognitive secondarily. (3)
It must be clearly expressed here that, following the latest scientific findings, reality is not colored.
For example, science tells us that what we apprehend as color, this green, or this red, is a particular
frequency of light. Another line of inquiry informs us that it is, in reality itself, a photon of energy
that we apprehend as light, and as a particular color of light that depends upon the structure of our
eyes, optic nerves and brain function. Dogs do not see color while birds have a tetra-chromatic

visual system; humans is tri-chromatic giving us the three ‘primary’ colors. Somehow that science
has not yet ascertained, in our apprehension of these real things, we apprehend them as being
colored. Before we know that a ‘color’ is, we clearly see differences. As we develop and learn, we
come to know that this real thing is, in reality, green.
What something is ‘in reality’, what we declare something to be, logos, is a secondary mode of
human intellective sensing. We apprehend something primarily and then, after we learn what this
real thing is, we know it to be ‘such-and-such’ a real thing in reality. It may be a tree, a dog, a color,
etc. We have apprehended these before we declare or can say what these things are in reality, that is,
what this thing is respective to other things we apprehend. We know that this is green, only
respectively to this red or blue. When we apprehend something, we do so as it exists in a field of
apprehension: it is among other things, next to something, in front of something, behind something;
we hear it before something else, after it, or with it; we taste this taste first; etc. What we apprehend,
in our various sensory organs and modes, we apprehend as in a field. We know this in our senses,
we apprehend it intellectively. Things are in the foreground only because, respective to other things,
some are in the background or on the periphery. We can say what something is ‘in reality’ because
we apprehend it as a function of other things also known.
This ‘in reality’, as functionality, has a particular intellective mode. Notice here that the focus is on
the intellective aspect, not the sense aspect. Though Zubiri considers a rigorous philosophy of
sentient intellection, this unity consists of the capacities of sensing and of intellection. There are
intellective acts that are not due to our sensory systems, but that are modalizations of what we
apprehend in our senses. What we say something is is based upon what we apprehend in the field of
reality. We apprehend and say. This saying, this declaring, is what Zubiri terms logos. Logos,
coming from the Greek is a rich term, and one who has studied much western spiritual philosophy is
familiar with the term. In the New Testament we find, “In the beginning was the Word (Logos)…”
(John 1:1). The impact of Philo Judea and Neo-Platonic thought is very apparent here and well
Nonetheless, and in spite of this history, Zubiri takes a more radical, that is more basic look at this
logos, and takes it along a different line of philosophy. The best way to get at this is to cite Zubiri’s
own analysis of this logos.
1) Logos stems from the verb legein which means "reunite", "gather together". This is the meaning
which still survives in words such as "anthology". In the problem with which we are concerned, the
Greeks anchored their idea of legein in this idea of reunion. Now as I see it, this is inadequate. To be
sure, legein means "reunite", "gather together"; but reunite what? This is what one must begin by
explaining. The Greeks did not attend to this problem. In fact, one reunites and gathers together
what is in the field of reality. Whence legein, rather than denoting the reunion itself, should serve to
designate an act of reunion qua "field": it is a field legein, i.e., a legein within a field. Beneath the
reunion one must go to the fieldness of the legein.
2) From legein the Greeks derived both the word logos and its corresponding idea. From its meaning
of "to reunite", legein came to mean "to enumerate", "to count", etc., whence it acquired the
meaning of "to say". And this is what the word logos means. Logos has the {48} two meanings of
"to say" (legon) and "that which is said" (legomenon). And there the Greeks anchored their
reflection. When that which is said is a declaration of what a thing is, the Greeks claim that one
deals with the logos in an autonomous sense: declarative logos (logos apophantikos). This
declarative logos consists in "declaring something about something" (legein ti kata tinos). The logos
always involves a certain duality of "somethings". But the Greeks did not concern themselves with
the first "something"; they thought that that which is said can be in itself just an idea. But as I see it
this is untenable because the so-called 'ideas' always come from things, and only from them.
Whence the declaration of what something is cannot be fully carried out except as based on
something else in the field. What something is in reality cannot be understood except by referring it

to some other thing within the field. Therefore logos, prior to being a declaration, is intellection of
one thing in the field based upon another. And this means that the logos itself is a mode of
intellection and hence is not a structure which rests upon itself. The tendency of the Greeks was
always in the opposite direction, a tendency which I have termed logification of intellection. At the
dawn of philosophy, in Parmenides, there is a growing intervention of phrazein, of expressing; a
tendency which culminates in a "discerning with logos", krinein logoi. And this was not just a
manner of speaking: the proof is that Parmenides' disciple Zeno is presented to us by Plato as a
theoretician of dialectical discussion. Even in theology, logos has been attributed to God, in the
philosophical sense of judgement. But this is impossible. Intelligence is not logos; rather, logos is a
human mode of intellection. God has intelligence but does not have logos. One cannot logify
intellection but on the contrary must intelligize the logos….
In the final analysis the Greeks saw the radical problem of logos in the formal plane of being and
unity, i.e. in the plane of what is said or expressed. But as I see it the discussion should not have
been carried to this formal plane; rather it should have descended to a more fundamental plane.
In the first place, is it true that logos formally falls back upon an "is" (including also the "is not")?
The truth is that the Greeks never tell us in what, formally, intellective knowing consists.
Nonetheless they believe that intellective knowing and therefore logos is always intellection of the
"is". Now as I see it the formal act of intellective knowing is not intellectively knowing the "is", but
rather consists in apprehending reality; the formal terminus of intellective knowing is not being but
reality…One cannot entify reality, but on the contrary must reify being. (SI, Part II, pp. 49-51)

We apprehend things as real, and when we declare what this thing, already apprehended as real is in
reality, we have logos. It is a human logos. No matter if there is such a reality as the Logos of God,
this is not the issue. The issue is that we humans have logos, and we declare what something is ‘in
reality’ as a function of what some other things are, also in reality.
The modes of presentation of reality in the sense organs are: 1) sight, which apprehends something
“in front”; it is eidetic; 2) hearing apprehends something as sound, that is, sonorous. It is a notifying
presentation, a directional notice; 3) smell apprehends through scent; 4) taste apprehends as a
possessed reality, something savored; and 5) touch apprehends as contact and pressure. (SI 102)
Each of these modes of apprehension has its negative mode as well. The senses thus considered
present to us an apprehension of reality in an intellective mode. When analyzed, sensations stand
out as intellective modes of apprehension, not merely faculties that send information to the intellect.
Contemporary neurological studies verify the active dimension of the senses and eschew any
passivity to them. They are not merely passive receivers of impressions, but actively construct our
experience of impressions.
There are different modes of intellection and of intelligibility, which are structural modes of the
human impression of reality. Zubiri adduces and analyzes these to be, among some of them: vision,
which apprehends the eidos as vidence; hearing or audition, which apprehends as auscultation; taste
which is enjoyable (4); touch, which apprehends via groping or estimating; smell which apprehends
as scent; and kinesthesia which apprehends as dynamic tension. The Aristotelian influence in Zubiri
is clearly apparent, though he transcends Aristotle in his rigorous analysis of the acts of sentient
intellection. The Greeks and subsequent European thinkers assumed a distinction between these
processes taken as faculties; Zubiri analyzes them as acts which intellectively apprehend reality in
different modalities. These modalities are not exclusive, but cohere as a fundamental unity of
apprehensive modes.
The primordial apprehension of reality is the basis for our sentient intellection of reality.
This does not at all imply a sensible intellection, it is sentient, and our senses are intellective modes
of our apprehending reality. Logos is a mode of intellection, not the most radical nor the most
important, but intrinsically includes that primordial intellection in our senses. Without our senses

apprehending realities, we could not declare what something is in reality as a function of others.
Without declaring what things are in reality, as realities, we would not be an intellective species.
This primordial apprehension is further modalized when we inquire into what something is
in reality itself. “In reality itself” is Zubiri’s manner of expressing philosophically what reason or
explanation is. We have sentient reason; even if we cannot and must not reduce reason to being
merely of sensible reality, it is a component of our existence. Zubiri rigorously stays within a
particular parameter of philosophy: within the world as experienced by humans. To Zubiri, this
world, the very material and physical world itself is transcendental and thus opens into a metaphysic.
This sort of metaphysic, though, is a metaphysic in the world, not beyond the world. It is not prudent
to develop this here, but let me assure the reader that Zubiri, as a Lay-Catholic priest, is a divine
philosopher in a most profound sense of the word. His world view is premised upon the reality of
God, of religion and of the soul; he insists, though, that he is considering an intramundane
Sentient reason, as a further modalization of our primary intellective sensation, does indeed
go beyond the physical, but does so by going beyond it based upon it and within it. An example is
most appropriate here. We hear a sound. This is the primordial apprehension. If we have heard that
sound before, we can say. “In reality, that sound is a cat screeching.” We can declare this because
we can discern this screech from a dog bark, or a tire screech, or other sounds. If we do not know
what that sound is, we might search it out, or not. Either way, it has aroused us, it has imposed itself
upon us by being present to us and we know that it is other than we are. Let us say we declare it to
be a cat’s screech. Surely, we can stop here, and most often do in the normal course of life. Our
capacity of reason, our scientific inquiry, prompts us to go to this very noise, or any such noise, and
search for what this noise is in reality itself. Science has done exactly this and we intellectively
know that this thing we call noise, or sound, has the properties of a longitudinal wave. Light is
known to be electromagnetic waves, and sound to be longitudinal ones. We never apprehend these
waves, but through the application of our reason, we discern that these waves are real and are really
the basis of what we hear as sound, or see. We apprehend these longitudinal waves as sound because
of our sense of hearing and our brain; the wave apprehended presents to us a reality of sound. It
notifies us and directs our awareness to listen to this sounding reality.
Zubiri did not take this intellective sensing beyond the constraints he set for himself, doing
intramundane metaphysics, but for a Baha’i using a different standard, there is no problem to do so.
It is challenging, to be sure, but a project worth the effort. There are many aspects that are
harmonious with the teachings of the Baha’i Faith found in Zubiri’s philosophy, and since the
Revelation is the standard, we can discern what needs to be re-considered in its light.

Sensible images for intellectual realities

Let me bring this essay to a close by returning to the beginning again. It is essential we
comprehend that we have two kinds of knowledge, sensible and intellectual. This clearly does not
inform us that we have two different sources of knowledge, only two kinds. We have one source—
reality qua reality. As an intellective reality, that is, a rational soul, with sentient intellection, what
we apprehend, what are said to be sensible realities, are known as realities in our sensing them. It is
not that we sense something and then stop this process and affirm these are real. This knowing is
part of our sentient intellective act. On the other hand, because we are sentient creatures, intellectual
realities must be conveyed to us using symbols, images, or forms. Lest we think that these
intellectual realities are exclusively spiritual, let me provide some examples. Moreover, lest we
think that there is significant justification to render the Persian for ‘intellectual realities’ as
‘intelligible realities’, and thereby affirm a Neo-Platonic line of thought, let me provide some
examples. I am not hereby negating the viability of this Neo-Platonic line of philosophy, just
provoking consideration so that we may comprehend the matter at hand. I know of some Baha’i

scholars who advocate interpreting the original terms, ma’quleh haqiyyat, as intelligible realities. It
makes a fundamental difference if we think of these as intelligible, qua Neoplatonic intelligible, qua
definitional--‘capable of being apprehended or understood’, or qua intellectively intellectual.
From Greek culture, a philosopher, Democritus, based upon the philosophical systems
current in his life, gave us a very powerful image. This image was never seen, but it was taken to be
a reality. It was assumed to be a reality that is the basis of all physical reality, and one that was
irreducible, unable to be cut. This reality was the ‘atom’, coming from a + tomos, ‘not cut’. Based
upon what Democritus apprehended in the field of reality, as well as the field of philosophy, he
declared that this invisible reality, this atom, was a body. He looked in the field of perception, and
knowing many things as having bodies, used this image to express an intellectual reality. Surely, this
body was unlike other bodies in that it had no head or appendages, no organs or physical form, but
nonetheless it was a body. Science went in search of this body, scientists created models of what this
sort of body might look like and only in this way, only by inquiring into this atomic body, this
corpuscle, did reality reveal that it was not like a body at all. The atom is a quanta of energy. A
quanta is a packet, and we have likely seen many packets: packets of sugar, cigarettes, etc. This is
what science now informs us an atom could be. Moreover, it is definitely something that can be ‘cut’,
or rather smashed in a cyclotron and by doing so, reality revealed to us that this level of reality has
further levels humans cannot apprehend with our senses. It is an intellectual reality we discuss when
we declare there to be mueons, fermions, quark, spin, etc. These are not intelligible realities, but
they are most assuredly intellectual and intellective ones.
We need sensible images to be able to comprehend intellectual realities. Longitudinal waves
are comprehendible to us, we can encompass this reality by conceiving that they are like waves: we
have seen waves, on the water, on oscilloscopes, and in other places. We now consider that sound is
like a wave, though as sciences progress, we may come to understand that while it has wave-like
properties in our apprehension of it, it may be more than longitudinal waves. These are intellectual
realities, after all. Before humans had the technology to provoke nature and to observe what is meta-
physical, that is beyond our physical capabilities to apprehend, sound was not comprehended as
longitudinal waves. Future scientific thinkers may encounter another aspect of what this phenomena
we call sound to be.
We need sensible images, not just for spiritual truths, but also for scientific facts as well. It is
not without warrant that the first ‘inner’ power provided by the passage in SAQ is imagination,
‘which conceives things’. I prescind from considering common sense since it is, after all, common
and not strictly an ‘inner’ power. Though Zubiri informs us that for Aristotle, common sense was
conceived to be a ‘primary unity’ of the senses and as such, “analylzers of sensation” (NHG 1980,
p.51). Imagination conceives…and this is a very pregnant and powerful concept to ponder. This has
been expressed in my earlier work as well, and shall not be developed here. It is mentioned in
concluding this essay inasmuch as humanity has imagined sensation and intellection to be distinct
powers with the senses delivering information, sensible realities, to the intellect. With the assistance
of Zubiri, and the standard proffered by Abdu’l-Baha, I think we should begin to imagine that this
construct and dualism is not accurate. We have sentient intellection, that is, intellective senses. The
animal senses that our bodies provide for us, provide our species a far richer and fuller exploration
of reality, material and spiritual. We can only comprehend what we can encompass; realms of reality
beyond ours we cannot comprehend.
Let us remain within our realm, the human realm and, while not reducing reality to being only
material, realize that the spiritual shines within the reality of the material. Intelligence is a capacity
that separates us, as a species, from other animal-bodied creatures inhabiting this planet. We have an
animal body and the intellective essence, or rational soul, uses this body to experience and become
elevated to higher levels of spiritual and intellectual comprehension. As Zubiri affirms in ending his
lengthy analysis,

Human intelligence is sentient intelligence. It is not a conceiving intelligence or anything of that sort.
To be sure, our intelligence conceives and judges; but that is not its formal act. Its formal act
consists in sensing reality. Conversely, human sensing is not a sensing like that of animals. An
animal senses what is sensed in a formality which is merely a stimulus. Man, though he senses the
same thing as the animal, nonetheless senses it in the formality of reality, as something de suyo [of
its own]. This is an intellective sensing. Sentient intelligence is not a sensible intelligence, i.e., an
intelligence directed to what the senses offer to it; rather, it is an intelligence which is structurally
one with sensing. Human intelligence senses reality. It is not an intelligence which begins by
conceiving and judging what is sensed. Philosophy has counterposed sensing and intellective
knowing, concentrating solely upon the content of certain acts. But it has gone astray with respect to
formality. And here is where intellective knowing and sensing not only are not opposed, but despite
their essential irreducibility, constitute a single structure, one which, from wherever one looks,
should be called ‘sentient intelligence’ or ‘intellective sensing’. Thanks to it, man stands
unmistakably in and by reality; he stands in it, knowing it. Knowing what? Something, very little, of
what is real. But, nonetheless, he is retained constitutively in reality. How? This is the great human
problem: knowing how to be in the midst of reality. (SI, Part 3, p 352)

Is it difficult to encompass, that is, to comprehend that this dualism between sensing and intellection
that has persists for the past two millennium is not warranted by the facts of science, religion, and
philosophy? Can we imagine what we might learn if we change our paradigm and strive to
comprehend, within the limits of human capacity, what it might mean to become ‘personified
intellect’? Historically, intellect was conceived differently: the Divine Intellect, of which we
participated in, emanated a series of Ten Intelligences. These Intelligences were assumed to be
intermediaries between God and the human realm. There are many permutations of Plato’s doctrine
of intelligence, of nous, nous.
Can we imagine and conceive of what we might be able think if we can comprehend a new
insight into human intelligence? As an animal of realities, we need Revelation to elevate us to the
heights of spirit; as a sentient animal, the insufficiency of what we apprehend in our senses impels
us and gives us many instances to pause and think, to declare and to provide reasons for what we
apprehend. Science and religion agree: we apprehend intellectual and sensible realities. We have a
sentient intellection. Now we have a philosophy that provides us with a rigorous way to conceive
and comprehend this. It is essential for our comprehension, and an elevated understanding of the
rational soul.

1) The term “physical” must be briefly explained to forestall any misunderstanding. In Zubiri’s
philosophy, he reverts to older usages of philosophical terminology in order to broaden their
referents, though he does so by questioning many of the assumptions held. In the past few centuries
physical has been limited to inanimate things or animate objects of material nature. Evoking the
etymological and philosophical-historical usage of “physical” meaning “to be born, to increase, to
germinate,” it does so from the principle intrinsic to that which is born or grows. In this it stands in
opposition to “artificial.” In its historic sense, physical was used to mean “real” and embraced the
psychic, emotional, modes of understanding, acts of will, habits, perceptions. In this is found a
fertile area not considered by contemporary philosophies of education, but resonates deeply with a
Bahá'í approach to the human understanding of realities. See Zubiri’s, On Essence, for a fuller
discussion of this important term.

2) Another element that should not be overlooked here is brain organization and neurochemical
actions. Austin (2000) draws our attention to the structural difference between the hippocampus of

the mouse, which occupies 45% of its cortex, and the human in which it takes up only 1%. Even our
primate relatives use neurochemicals in the dentate gyrus differently than we do.(p. 180). If we fail
to consider these differences, we might hold to the notion that humanity is merely another animal
species. I am not denying our animality, but focusing on our humanity. We are a different species,
after all.

3) Though this word here refers to sentient apprehension, it has broad psychological and
philosophical ramifications. We do, indeed, at times become psychologically apprehensive because
of what we apprehend in our sentient acts, but in this our primordial sentient apprehension becomes
modalized, and modified by our past experiences, memories, emotions, etc. Cognition refers to
learning and reasoning, while Zubiri affirms that intellection is primarily apprehension of the other;
reasoning is a modulation of this.

4) It is helpful here to recall that sapere [to know] and sapientia [wisdom] are etymologically sapor
[taste] from Gk. to Latin, sophia to sapientia. Likewise in Islamic thought, there is a mode of
mystical apprehension which is termed dhawq, “intimate taste”