This panel was compiled by the Conference Program Team from independently submitted paper proposals
Developed in the 17th century, “Transcendent Theosophy” as defined by the thinker Mulla Sadra, illustrated a major transition from essentialism to existentialism in Islamic thought. According to Sadra, “something has to exist first and then have an essence”. Cast in opposition to the idea that "essence precedes existence," previously introduced by Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi and Avicenna, Sadra’s achievement was to reconcile opposing conditions including reason and intuition within a largely late-Neoplatonic paradigm. Such complementary natures are also found within the architecture of the same period. How buildings in Isfahan, Persia such as Shaykh Lutfullah Mosque (1613-1619), were predisposed, if not determined, by an intimate knowledge and practice of Transcendent Philosophy is central to this investigation.
If one considers Safavid-era Isfahan as both an arbiter and physical symbol within “Transcendent Theosophy,” then it may be argued that complementary natures found within architecture engendered the capacity for contemplating philosophic ideals. As Mulla Sadra demonstrates, the physicality of a substance is the same as its existence. Due to the uniqueness of existence, architecture and urbanism, which take place through the appearance of a building or a city, should be an expression and representative of that unique existence. While Safavid architects tried to embody Heaven on earth, this paper illustrates how individual buildings in Isfahan extended instrumental approaches to the substantiation of existence. Constructed “frozen” forms of existence are ultimately translated as tools of a mediated architectonics across Safavid theosophy.
Linking Transcendent Theosophy to the architecture of the Safavid era (16th-18th centuries), associative meanings including the deployment of metaphor, allegory and paradox were intensified in both philosophy and architecture. As a result, these associative meanings allied architectonic approaches to philosophical principles embedded in the form of buildings.