Islamic Explorations of Consciousness

Theories of Occult Radiation

One of the greatest Arab occult scholars was Ya'kub ibn Sabbah al Kindi who died in 873 A.D. and is simply known as Alkindi. He translated the works of Aristotle and other Greeks into Arabic, and wrote books about philosophy, politics, mathematics, medicine, music, astronomy and astrology. He developed his own very detailed philosophy based on the concept of the radiation of forces or rays from everything in the world. Fire, color and sound were common examples of this radiation.

Alkindi was quite careful to distinguish between radiation that could be observed through the science of physics -- due to the action of objects upon one another by contact -- and radiation of a more hidden interaction, over a distance, which sages perceive inwardly. Radiant interactions were for him the basis of astrology. Human imagination, was capable of forming concepts and then emitting rays that were able to affect exterior objects. Alkindi claimed that frequent experiments have proven the potency of words when uttered in exact accordance with the imagination and intention.

Favorable astrological conditions were capable of heightening these "magical" effects. Furthermore, the rays emitted by the human mind and voice became the more efficacious for moving matter if the speaker had his mind fixed upon the names of god or some powerful angel. Such an appeal to higher powers was not necessary however when the person was attuned to the harmony of nature (or in Chinese terms, the Tao). Alkindi also advocated the use of magical charms and words:

The sages have proved by frequent experiments that figures and characters inscribed by the hand of man on various materials with intention and due solemnity of place and time and other circumstances have the effect of motion upon external objects.
He further recognized that humanity's psychic vision is heightened when the soul dismisses the senses and employs the formative or imaginative virtues of the mind. This happens naturally in sleep. 

Unfortunately, the details of the experimental techniques of Alkindi and his associates have not been handed down. Nevertheless he does deserve credit as an important pioneer.

One of the most sophisticated critics of psychic phenomena, a contemporary of Alkindi, was Costa ben Luca of Baalbek who wrote an important work on magic called The Epistle concerning Incantations, Adjurations and Suspensions from the Neck. In this document he strongly asserts that the state of one's consciousness will have an effect on their body. If a one believes a magical ritual or incantation will help, one will at least benefit by his or her own confidence. Similarly, if a person is afraid magic is being used against him, he may fret himself into illness. Ben Luca did not accept the notion of the occult virtues of stars or demons but did admit that strange phenomena were possible and would one day be understood. He listed a number of ancient magical techniques and maintained these were useful in treating people who felt they were enchanted.

Although both Alkindi and ben Luca lived in Arab countries and wrote in Arabic, neither of them were Moslems. Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam was essentially an historical religion with primary emphasis on the law. Yet within Islam the perennial philosophy was maintained by the Sufi mystics who were often persecuted.


. Lynn Thorndike, op. cit., Vol. I. p. 643.

. Ibid.

Return to
More than a bookstore

Return to Roots of Consciousness Contents