Avicenna’s Psychology: A Textbook on Perennial Psychology


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The Unfolding of the Human Soul: The Giver of Forms/Active Intellect, a separate intelligence and an immaterial substance, gives substantial forms to properly prepared matter. The properly prepared matter then receives the substantial form of the human soul from the Giver of Forms when the male and female ova unite in creating an embryo and its undifferentiated humours (the humours play a basic role within the human form similar to the role of the elements in the sublunar world). The Giver of Forms/Active Intellect gives the Breath of Life (Spirit), Innate Heat and Radical Moisture to the embryo. The Breath of Life enters the heart where it undergoes combustion and circulates throughout the embryo through its blood stream. The Breath of Life has three energies (spirits): vital, natural and nervous. The vital energy enters the heart; the natural energy enters the liver; and the nervous energy enters the brain. These three energies cause the humours to separate into the four humours, each having a pair of the qualities of the elements (fire: hot and dry; air: hot and wet; water: cold and wet; earth: cold and dry) forming the temperament of the body and they activate the powers (faculties) of the human soul. The powers of the human soul include the powers of the mineral soul (preserving shape or form), vegetal or plant soul (growth, reproduction and nutrition and its four sub-powers of attraction, digestion, retention and expulsion) and of the animal soul: motivation (the power of movement; concupiscent power; and irascible power) and sensation/perception: the five external powers seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching; and the five internal powers common sense, retention, estimation, memory and imagination). Imagination has two parts: sensitive (all animals) and rational (human being only). The rational soul is called the rational intellect when dealing with intelligibles. The rational intellect is divided into two parts: the theoretical intellect and the practical intellect. The theoretical intellect has four levels material, habitual, actual and acquired intellects. The acquired intellect can ascend to the level of the spiritual soul/intellect that is that of the prophets and saints. The theoretical intellect, directed upwards to receive intelligibles, is activated by the Active Intellect. The practical intellect, directed downwards and under the direction of the theoretical intellect, governs the body and moral development and healing.


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