Knowing the Spirit

By Ostad Elahi
Translated by James Winston Morris
Introduction by James Winston Morris
Notes by James Winston Morris

Subjects: Islam
Paperback : 9780791468586, 166 pages, January 2007
Hardcover : 9780791468579, 166 pages, January 2007

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Table of contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Translator’s Introduction
I. Ostad Elahi’s Life and Works

Childhood and Youth
Professional Life and Judicial Career
The Final Period: Writing and Teaching
Ostad Elahi’s Published Works: The Place of Knowing the Spirit

II. Historical Contexts: The Audience, Language, and Structure of Ma‘rifat ar-Ruh

The “Three Sources”: Rational Argument, Religious Tradition, and Spiritual Experience
Allusion and Realization
The Basic Structure of Knowing the Spirit: The Origin and the Return

III. The Contemporary Significance of Knowing the Spirit

The Persian Text and Translation Conventions

Original Table of Contents
1. Establishing the Existence of the Divine Artisan
2. The Spirit

3. The Gathering, Reawakening, and Returning (of the Spirit) in the Realm of Return
4. The Purely Bodily Return

5. The Purely Spiritual Return

6. The Harmonization of a Bodily and Spiritual Return

7. The (Spirit’s) Return by Way of the Process of Perfection

8. The Belief of the Proponents of Transmigration




Notes to the Translator’s Introduction
Notes to the Translation




References Originally Cited by Ostad Elahi
Works Cited in the Translator’s Introduction and Notes



A modern spiritual classic on the perfection of the soul by a renowned writer from the Islamic tradition.


Ostad Elahi's Knowing the Spirit provides a concise and remarkably illuminating philosophic account of our unique place in the universe: of the creative expressions of the divine Spirit throughout nature, and of the process of the soul's deepening perfection through all the challenges and lessons of our existence in this world and beyond. This revealing book draws together in a single vision those symbolic teachings and spiritual insights familiar to many Western readers today through the classical mystical poetry of Rumi, Hafez, and Attar. The historical context and language of this study are marked by the confluence of classical Islamic philosophy and spirituality, including Sufi thought, and their scriptural sources. But Elahi's thought integrates those influences and marks them with the magisterial imprint of his own profound spiritual experience and characteristic simplicity, openness, and directness of expression. This volume offers a singular masterpiece of recent spiritual thought, opening up fundamental human perspectives and possibilities too often clouded by the distractions of current events. The emphatic universality of both the subject and presentation of Knowing the Spirit points the way to unsuspected bridges between different civilizations and religious traditions, indeed to the prospect of an inclusive "science of spirituality" based on the common ground of each person's spiritual life and experience.

Ostad Elahi (1895–1974) was born in Iran and was equally renowned as a master musician, distinguished jurist, and a remarkable philosopher and spiritual teacher. James Winston Morris is Professor in the Department of Theology at Boston College. He is the author and editor of many books, including The Master and the Disciple: An Early Islamic Spiritual Dialogue; Orientations: Islamic Thought in a World Civilisation and The Reflective Heart: Discovering Spiritual Intelligence in Ibn >Arabi's Meccan Illuminations.