Reflections on the water of the sun-Black sea-Ukraine. Picture at pxhere.com.
Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is an excerpt from Michael-Sebastian Noble’s ‘Philosophising The Occult’, pages 248-249, where Fakhr Al-Din Al-Razi talks about the aim of occult practices and the philosophical life it nurtures, bringing us in resonance with all things of the Creation, partaking with them in its maintenance, healing and restoration by mirroring the divine qualities. Michael-Sebastian Noble’s text is in in normal characters, while Fakhr Al-Din Al-Razi’s quote in Italic.
The introduction of ‘al-Sirr'(The Hidden Secret) declares that the aim of occult practice is the attainment of the noblest knowledge and power. If the ultimate aim of the human soul is to attain perfection in both knowledge and power, then the question arises: does the Perfect Nature, the celestial soul from which the human soul derives, pursue an aim in itself? In other words, what is the purpose of the movements of the stars? The answer is to be found in the last treatise of ‘al-Matalib 7’.
It begins with a robust defense of the doctrine that the heavenly bodies and celestial spheres are living rational beings, rejecting the classical ‘kalam’ position which maintained the contrary position. For this purpose, he deploys the same eight arguments that he uses in ‘al-Sirr’. He asserts that celestial souls are substances abstracted from corporeality, possessed of particular as well as universal perception and volition. Moreover, they know their maker and desire by their motion his worship.
Examining the issue of why their motion is circular, he outlines and rejects four separate positions which explains it as natural, concurring with the Avicennans who maintain that circular motion is the most perfect motion, and that their motion is volitional and with purpose (gharad). He argues that the aim of their circular motion is to obtain higher perfections but dismisses the position of Avicenna who argues that, in attempting to actualise by their motion the infinity of potential stellar configurations, the perfections which they seek are corporeal (jismani) in nature. Rather, Razi argues as ‘probable’ (muhtamal) that they seek the perfection of their own souls.
These are the three aspects to this perfection by way of motion: Life; knowledge and intellect. Life, Razi observes, is characterised by light, motion, transparency, and subtlety: the perfection of these characteristics is the measure of the perfection of life. Knowledge, as acquired by human cogitation involves the movement of pneuma in his brain; knowledge as acquired by the celestial souls involves the perfection of their infinite circular motion. As for the intellect, Razi adopts what he reports is the position of the astrologers:
“There is no doubt that the celestial movements are causes for the order of this world. This being the case, they say: ‘the perfection of the state of possible beings is the imitation of God to the extent that the human potential allows.‘ It is with this meaning in mind that the master of the sacred law said: ‘Adopt the moral traits of God’. And it has been transmitted that the first philosophers have said: ‘Philosophy is the imitation of God to the extant that human potential allows.‘ There can be no doubt that this imitation of God is in deed a lofty and noble state. And since, in respect of their knowledge, gnosis, and virtue, the condition of the celestial spheres is more perfect that the human, then to the extent of their potential, their realisation of perfection is more fitting. Whilst their motions secure the ordering of the lower world, their principle aim is not to care for the lower beings; rather it is the imitation of God insofar as He is the principle of order, goodness and mercy.”
Razi’s speculation, however, does not halt at the celestial spheres. The essences of celestial souls, as well as their perfections, are merely possible: they too require an influencer (mu’aththir) and a cause. And if the cause of the human soul cannot be anything other than an abstracted substance, then so it must be the case for the celestial soul: just as human souls cannot be directly caused by the Necessary Being, which transcends all multiplicity, so too the proximate cause of the celestial soul’s existence cannot be God, but an intellect abstracted from all corporeality. It is from this intellect that it derives all its perfection by way of eternal motion, driven by a yearning to imitate its cause so that it might imitate God.
And so, we are now in a more informed position to appreciate the significance of the parting advice with which ‘al-Sirr’ concludes: “as for him who seeks knowledge and the perfect philosophy (al-falsafa al-tamma), he should invoke his perfect nature.”