Kitab al Khazari/Part Five
1. AL KHAZARI: I must trouble thee to give me a clear and concise discourse on religious principles and axioms according to the method of the Mutakallims. Let me hear them exactly as thou didst study them, that I may accept or refute them. Since I have not been granted a perfect faith free from doubts, and I was formerly sceptical, had my own opinions, and exchanged ideas with philosophers and followers of other religions, I consider it most advantageous to learn and to instruct myself how to refute dangerous and foolish views. Tradition in itself is a good thing if it satisfies the soul, but a perturbed soul prefers research, especially if examination leads to the verification of tradition. Then knowledge and tradition become united.
2. The Rabbi: Where is the soul which is strong enough not to be deceived by the views of philosophers, scientists, astrologers, adepts, magicians, materialists, and others, and can adopt a belief without having first passed through many stages of heresy? Life is short, but labour long. Only few there are to whom belief comes naturally, who avoid all these views, and whose soul always detects the points of error in them. I hope that thou art one of those few. Since I cannot resist, I will not lead thee the way of the Karaites, who ascended the heights of metaphysics without intermediate steps. I will give thee a clear standpoint, which will assist thee to acquire clear notions of matter and form, elements, nature, soul, intellect, and metaphysics in general. After this I will prove to thee, as briefly as possible, that the rational soul can exist without a body; further, the existence of reward hereafter, providence and omnipotence. As regards tangible objects, we can perceive their quantity and quality by means of our senses, whilst reason maintains that they are borne by a fulcrum which is difficult to imagine. How can we imagine a thing that has neither quantity nor quality? [Imagination denies its existence, but reason answers that quantity and quality] are accidents which have no independent existence, but must necessarily have an object to support them. Philosophers call this object matter, adding that our intelligence grasps its meaning only imperfectly, since imperfection is its nature; that it does not really exist, and therefore cannot claim any predicate, and although it only exists virtually, its predicate is corporeal. Aristotle says that it is, so to speak, ashamed to appear naked, and therefore only shows itself clothed in a form. Some people believe that the 'water' spoken of in the biblical account of the creation is an appellation for this matter, and that 'the spirit of the Lord hovering over the surface of the water' only expresses the divine will which penetrates all atoms of matter, with which He does what, how, and when He desires, as the potter with the shapeless clay. The absence of form and order is called darkness and tōhū wabōhū. After this the wise, divine will ordained the revolution of the uppermost sphere, which completes one revolution in four and twenty hours, carrying all other spheres with it. Through this the matter which fills the sphere of the moon underwent a change, which was in accordance with the movements of the spheres. The first process was that the air near the moon sphere became hot, because it was nearest to the periphery. It thus became an aetherial fire, called elementary fire by natural philosophers, having neither colour nor combustion, and being a fine, delicate, and light substance. It is called the fire sphere. Then comes the water sphere, and then the terrestrial globe, which forms a heavy and compact centre, being removed farthest from the periphery. These are the four elements, from the intermixture of which all things arise.
3. Al Khazari: In the opinion of philosophers, as I see, things arise by accident, since they say that that which happened to be nearest to the sphere became fire, and what was remotest became earth, whilst the middle part, according to proximity either to the periphery or to the centre, became air or water.
4. The Rabbi: Yet necessity forces them to acknowledge a divine wisdom in the distinction of one element from the other. The fire element is not distinguished from the atmospheric element, the latter from that of water, and the aquaeous one from the terrestrial one by quantity or strength, but by the form specific to each; one is made into fire, another into air, the third into water, and the last into earth, otherwise one might say that the whole sphere is filled up with earthy matter, but that one portion was finer than another. Another may assert that it is all fire, only the lower parts are denser and cooler. We see that the [spheres of the] elements touch one another, but each preserves its form and speciality. We see how air, water and earth are in contact in one place without absorbing each other, till they are transformed one into another by other causes. Water assumes the form of air, air the form of fire, and then the element justly takes the other's name. Since substances, apart from . their accidences, are distinguished by their forms, philosophers found it correct to assert the activity of a divine creative intellect which bestows these forms, just as it bestowed them to plants and animals, which are all composed of the four elements. The vine and palm are not distinguished by accidental qualities, but by forms which made the substance of one different from the substance of the other. Accidental qualities would only distinguish one vine from another, and one palm from another, one, e.g. being black, the other one white, one sweeter, one longer or shorter, one thicker or thinner than the other. The forms of substances have no quantity; one horse cannot be less equine than another, nor one man more human than another, because the definitions 'equine' and 'human' are common to each individual horse and man. Philosophers involuntarily acknowledged that these forms could only be given by the Divine Influence, which they call form-giving Intelligence.
5. Al Khazari: This, as thou livest! is belief, considering that reason forces us to acknowledge such a thing. How can we now speak of accidents, or why do we not say that he who made this being a horse, and the other a man, by wisdom incomprehensible in detail, is the same who made fire fire, and earth earth through a wisdom beheld by God, but not by accidental proximity to or distance from the sphere
6. The Rabbi: This is the religious argument. Evidence of it is to be found in the Children of Israel, for whose sake changes in nature were wrought, as well as new things created. If this evidence be removed, thy opponent and thou might agree that a vine, e.g. grew in this place because a seed happened to have fallen there. The seed assumed its form only by accident, because the revolution of the sphere resulted in a constellation which caused a mixture of elements productive of what thou now seest.
[7. Al Khazari: I should refer my opponent to the uppermost sphere and its mover, and ask him whether or not, this is the result of accident. I should further refer him to the spherical constellations, which are unlimited. We see, however, that the number of forms of animal and plant life is not unlimited, allowing neither increase nor diminution. One might think that new constellations would produce new formations, and that others would perish.]
8. The Rabbi: This is all the more correct, as with regard to many we understand their inherent wisdom as well as purpose, just as Aristotle explained in his discourse on 'The utility of the species of animals,' or Galen in 'The utility of the organs,' not to speak of other wonderful achievements of the divine wisdom. In the instance of domestic animals, such as sheep, cattle, horses and asses, it is clear that they were created for the benefit of man. For in a wild state they are imperfect, but useful when domesticated. David's allusion in the words: 'How great are Thy works, O Lord' (Ps. civ. 24), serves to refute Epicurus' view that the universe arose by accident.
9. Al Khazari: Although it may be a digression, explain the meaning of this psalm to me.
10. The Rabbi: It runs parallel with the history of creation. The words: 'He who covereth Himself with light' (ver. 2), correspond to 'Let there be light, and there was light' (Gen. i. 3). The words: 'He stretcheth out the heavens like a carpet' run parallel to 'Let there be a firmament'; the words: 'He who layette the beams' to 'the water above the firmament' (ver. 3). He then describes the atmospheric phenomena, clouds, winds, fires, lightnings, and thunder, which all stand under God's guidance, as it is written: 'For by them judgeth He the people' (Job xxxvi. 31). In the psalm this is described in the words: 'He who maketh the clouds His chariot, who walketh upon the wings of the winds, who maketh the winds His messengers, and His ministers a flaming fire' (ver. 3-4). This means that He dispatches them whither and on what errand He desires. Thus far the phenomena of the atmosphere. The psalm, then, passes on to 'let the waters . . . be gathered . . . and the dry land appear' (ver. 9), which is parallel to: 'He founded the earth on its bases.' According to its nature water would close up above the earth, covering it completely, hills and dales, like a garment, as the psalm hath it: 'With the flood, as with a robe, Thou coveredst it; waters stand above the mountains.' Divine Providence, however, obviated its natural inclination, and sent it down to the ocean's deep, to let animals arise and God's wisdom appear. The words: 'At Thy rebuke they flee,' describe the retirement of the water in the seas and underneath the earth. The same condition is alluded to in the words: 'To Him that spread out the earth above the water' (Ps. cxxxvi. 6), a sentence which seemingly contradicts the other: 'With the flood as with a robe Thou coveredst it,' the latter corresponding to the nature of the water, whilst the former describes God's wisdom and omnipotence. Then the psalm continues: 'Thou didst appoint a bound, that they might not pass over, nor turn again to cover the earth' (Ps. civ. 9). All this is intended for the benefit of mankind. By means of certain clever works and dykes man keeps off the floods of rivers, utilising only so much water as is required for mills and irrigation. The psalm now says: 'He sends forth springs into the valleys' (ver. 10), that they should 'give drink to every beast of the plain' (ver. 11), as soon as the wild beasts were created. The words: 'Upon them dwell the birds of the heaven' (ver. 12) refer to the creation of the birds. The psalm, then, passes on to 'Let the earth bring forth' (Gen. i. 11) in the words: 'To the mountains He gives drink from His upper chambers' (ver. 13). This is only another expression for: 'But there went up a mist from the earth' (Gen. ii. 16) likewise for the benefit of Adam and his posterity. The psalm says: 'He causes grass to spring up for the cattle' (ver. 14), lest the grass be despised, since it is of service for the domestic animals, oxen, sheep, and horses. This is described in the words: 'Service of man,' (ibid.), viz. agriculture, by means of which he produces corn for himself, as is expressed in the words: 'To bring forth bread from the earth.' This is parallel to the verse: 'Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, viz. the corn for man, and the chaff for the rest of creatures' (Gen. i. 29), as it is said: 'And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the heaven . . . every green herb for meat' (ibid. 30). The psalm then mentions the three foods gained from the soil, viz. corn, wine and oil, which are comprised in the term leḥem, and their usages as follows: 'Wine which gladdens man's heart, to make his face shine more than oil,' 'and bread,'--viz. the loaf--sustains man's heart' (ver. 15). Then he mentions the importance of rain for the trees in the words: 'The trees of the Lord have their fill' (ver. 16). These high trees have a use for some animals, as is expressed in the words: 'Wherein the birds make their nests' (ver. 17), just as the high mountains serve other animals, viz. 'The high mountains are for the wild goats, the crags a refuge for the coneys.' Thus far the description of the dry land. The psalm then discusses the Biblical words: 'Let there be lights' as follows: 'The moon He made to measure time,' (ver. 19). After this is mentioned the utility of the night which is not the work of accident, but of intention. There is no trifling in His work, nor even in the accidental consequences of the same. The night is but the time of the absence of sunlight, yet instituted for a purpose. This is expressed in the words: 'Thou makest darkness, and it is night' (ver. 20). This is followed by the description of beasts dangerous to man, which go forth at night and hide by day, whilst man and domestic animals sleep at night and walk abroad during the day. 'Man goes forth to his work and to his labour until the evening' (ver. 23). Having thus included all terrestrial animals in the discussion of the rivers and heavenly lights, and having also mentioned man, there only remain the animals which live in water, the life of which is very little known to us, because Divine Wisdom lavished on them is not so manifest to us as in the former. Speaking of the wisdom which is visible, the psalmist breaks out in praise and says: 'How manifold are Thy works, O Lord!' (ver. 24). He then resumes the subject of the ocean and what is therein, concluding with the words: 'Let the glory of the Lord endure for ever; let the Lord rejoice in His works' (ver. 31). This is a rendering of the words: 'And God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was very good' (Gen. i. 31). At the same time it is an allusion to the seventh day in the words: 'He rested,' 'He blessed,' 'He sanctified,' because it marked the completion of the works of nature, which had a time limit, and placed man on a par with angels, which, being spirits, are above natural impulses, and not bound by time in their works. Intellect can, as we see, picture heaven and earth in one moment. This is the world of celestial life and bliss where the soul finds ease at the moment when it reaches it. The Sabbath is, therefore, called 'a taste of the world to come.'--Let us now resume the discussion on the opinion held by philosophers that the elements having entered various combinations relative to the variety of climes, atmosphere, and constellations, received a variety of forms from the Giver of forms. All minerals are, therefore, but the sum total of the specific powers and faculties. Others assert that the powers and qualities of minerals are the product of combination only, and consequently do not require forms of divine origin. The latter are only necessary for plants and animals to which a soul is attributed. The finer this mixture is, the nobler is the form proper for it in which the divine wisdom manifests itself in a higher degree. It becomes a plant which is possessed of some feeling and perception, penetrates the earth, and derives nourishment from good, moist soil and sweet water, avoiding the contrast. Thus it grows, until it comes to a stand-still, having given life to another like it and produced seed. This seed, then, according to a wisdom implanted in it, pursues a similar course. Philosophers call this nature, or rather powers which guard the preservation of the species, since the essence of the individual cannot be preserved, it being composed of various component parts. A thing which possesses these powers of growth, propagation and nourishment, is devoid of the power of motion, and is, in the opinion of philosophers, guided by nature. As a matter of fact, it is God who controls it in a certain condition. Call this condition what thou wilt, nature, soul, power, or angel. If the mixture is still finer, and fit to be impressed by the divine wisdom, it is favoured with a higher form than the bare physical power. It is able to bring its food from a distance, and is possessed of organs subject to it, which cannot move except by its desire. It has more control over its parts than the plant with which the wind plays, which cannot ward off damage, nor obtain what is useful to it. The animal has limbs to move about from place to place. The form allotted to it above its physical life is called soul. The souls vary greatly according to the preponderance of one or the other of the four elements. The wisdom of Providence has also constituted each living being for the benefit of the whole world. We may not be aware of the use of most of them, any more than we know of the use of ships' implements, and consider them therefore useless, whilst the master and builder of the ship knows it. We would not know the purpose of many of our bones and other organs if they lay detached before us, and so we are in ignorance of the purpose of every bone and limb, although we use it, and are convinced that if we lacked one, our actions would be impaired, and we could not do without it. All atoms of the world are known to, and mustered by, their Creator, and nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken away from it. It is necessary that souls should differ from each other, and that the organs of each soul should be suitable to it. For this reason He endowed the lion with organs for seizing its prey, such as teeth and claws, in addition to courage; but to the hart He gave the means of flight as compensation for its timidity. Every soul instinctively uses its faculties according to their nature, but nature does not reach perfection in any part of animal life, and consequently has no desire to obtain a form higher than the living soul. This, however, is possible in man, in whom it strives for a higher form. The Divine Influence grudges nothing. It bestows on him a higher form, called material or passive intellect. Men differ from each other, because most of them are physically of different constitutions, and the intellect follows the latter. If his gall be yellowish, he is quick and alert; if blackish, he is quiet and sedate. The temperament follows the mixture of humours. If an individual is found of evenly balanced humour, which controls his contrasting dispositions (like the two scales of a balance in the hand of the person who weighs and regulates them by adding or subtracting at his will), such a person possesses without doubt a heart which is free from strong passions. He covets a degree of divine character above his own. He is perplexed, not knowing which inclination should have preponderance. He does not give way either to anger, or to lust, or to any other passion, but controls himself, and seeks divine inspiration to walk the right path. This is the person on whom the divine and prophetic spirit is poured out, if he is fit for prophecy, but if he stands below that degree, he is only endowed with inspiration. In the latter case he is a pious man, but no prophet. There is no niggardliness with God, who allows every one his due. Philosophers call the giver of this degree Active Intellect, and regard it as an angel below God. If a man's intellect is in conjunction with the former, this is called his paradise and lasting life.
11. Al Khazari: Give me a brief discourse on all this.
12. The Rabbi: The existence of the human soul is shown in living beings by motion and perception, in contradistinction to the movements of the elements. The cause of the former is called soul, or animal power. This is divided into three divisions. The first is that which is common to animal and plant-life, and is called vegetative power; the second, which is common to man and the rest of living beings, is called vital power; the third specific of man is called rational power. The nature of the soul in the comprehensive and generic sense is defined by the examination of its actions as issuing from the forms adhering to matter, but not from matter, inasmuch as it is matter only [without form]. The knife, for instance, does not cut inasmuch as it is a substance, but inasmuch as it has the form of a knife. In the same way the animal does not feel and move inasmuch as it is a substance, but inasmuch as it has the form of a living being. This is what is called soul. These forms are called perfections (entelechies), because through them the structures of things become perfect. The soul is therefore a perfection. We distinguish a primary and a secondary perfection. The former is the principle of actions, the latter the nature of the actions which arise out of the principle. The soul is a primary perfection, because it is a principle from which something else [i.e. a secondary entelechy] may issue forth. The entelechy is either entelechy to a corporate object, or entelechy to amorphous matter. The soul is entelechy to a corporate object. Corporate objects are either natural or artificial. The soul is first entelechy to a natural corporate object. A natural corporate object is either organic or inorganic, which means that it performs its actions either by means of organs or without them. The soul is entelechy to a natural corporate object, endowed with organs, and potentially with life, viz. a mainspring of potentially vivified actions, or susceptible to such. The next consequence is that the soul is not the result of a combination of elements of substance. If a thing arises from a combination of component parts, one or more of these component parts preponderate, its form shapes itself accordingly. Or the component parts struggle with one another, so that not one of them retains its form, but their medium yields a new form. The soul which is not composed of corporeal ingredients is therefore nothing but external form, like the impression made by the seal in the clay which is composed of water and earth. The seal is not the result of the forms of water and earth. The first of the [vegetative] powers is that of nutrition, which forms, so to speak, the beginning, whilst that of propagation forms the end. The faculty of growth is in the middle, linking the beginning to the end. The faculty of propagation occupies the first place, and although it appears to be placed at the end, it rules supreme over the substance which is fitted to receive life. Assisted by growth and nutrition, it clothes it with the intended form. It then leaves the further management to the latter two till the moment of propagation. Propagation is aided, nutrition aids, growth aids and is aided. Nutrition has those four well-known powers at its disposal. Everything that moves does so by the will of a perception; otherwise perception were useless. Providence, however, produces nothing that is either useless or injurious. Neither does it withhold anything that is necessary or useful. Even mollusks, though apparently lying quietly, can contract and stretch themselves, and if placed on their backs, move till they turn over on their bellies, in order to reach their food. The exterior senses are thus known. As to the interior ones, the first is the general sense, because that which is useful or injurious can only be learnt by experience. God therefore gave man the faculty of conception, that he may grasp by its means the forms of objects perceived. This is what is meant under the term general sense. Then He gave him the faculty of remembering, to retain the notions of things perceived; further, the power of imagination, in order to restore what had been lost to memory; the faculty of judgment, in order to pause again and again at the new products of imagination, correct or false, till it is restored to memory. Lastly, He endowed him with the power of motion, in order to procure what is required from near and far, and to remove what is injurious. All the powers of a living being are either perceptive or motive. The motive power is of optative character, and is divided into two classes, viz. firstly moving to obtain what is desired, i.e. avidity; secondly, moving to repel what is undesirable, i.e. dislike. Perception is also divided into two classes, viz. external faculties, as the external senses; and internal faculties, as the internal senses. The motive power acts on the judgment of conception and with the assistance of imagination. It forms the extreme limit of animal life; for the motive power fails it in restoring the causes of perception and imagination. It is only endowed with the sense of instinct to regulate the causes of motion. Rational beings, on the other hand, are endowed with motion in order to obtain the rational soul, which has action and memory. The five senses, as is known, offer the means of perceiving form, number, size, motion, and rest. The existence of the common sense is explained if we, for instance, judge when we find honey that it is sweet. This is only possible because we possess a faculty common to the five senses, viz., the perceptive power, which is active both in waking and sleeping. To this is added a faculty which either combines all that which is united in the common sense, or separates, and fixes their differences without, however, depriving forms of the common sense. This is the faculty of imagination which is sometimes correct, sometimes incorrect, whilst the faculty of perception is always correct. The next is the faculty of judgment, which is of a deciding character, and judges whether an object is desirable or undesirable. The faculties of perception and imagination can neither judge nor decide, but can only picture an object. The faculty of recollection retains the objects it has perceived, e.g. that the wolf is an enemy, and the child beloved. Love and hatred, belief and unbelief belong to the realm of judgment. Memory retains that which the faculty of judgment declares to be true. The faculty of imagination is so called when in the service of judgment, but if employed by reason, it is called cogitation. The seat of the faculty of perception is in the fore part of the brain, that of imagination in the middle, that of memory at the back. The seat of judgment is in the whole brain, principally at the border line of the faculty of imagination. All these faculties perish with their organs, and no duration is granted to reasonable beings, although it claims the nucleus, so to speak, of these faculties as its own, and renders their real character manifest. This is the result of the philosopher's discourses on that which is beneath the rational soul. They call the soul hylic intellect, i.e. potential intellect, because it resembles matter which forms the connecting link between nothingness and actuality; in other words, all potential objects. They obtain rational forms either by way of divine inspiration or by application. Those obtained by inspiration are the result of original conception shared by all human beings guided by nature. Those acquired by application are gained by speculation and dialectic corollary. The result is the formation of logical conclusions, as species, classes, divisions, specialities, words simple and composed in various ways; compound conclusions true or untrue; propositions from which arise either apodictic, dialectic, rhetoric, sophistic, or poetic conclusions. [There arise further] the establishment of physical notions, as matter, form, nothingness, nature, place, time, motion, spherical and elementary substances, growth and decay in general; the origin of meteorological, mineral and terrestrial phenomena, as plants and animals; the essence of man; the nature of the soul according to its own conception; further, things mathematical, such as arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy; further, things metaphysical, such as the knowledge of beginning and existence as such in general, and the accessories thereof either potential or actual, principle, cause, substance, accident, species and class, contrast and connaturality, congruence and difference, unity and plurality; the establishment of the principles of speculative subjects, as mathematics, natural history, from logic, [all of] which can only be gained by a knowledge of the last-named; further, the establishment of the existence of the Prime Creator, of the universal soul, the nature of species, the relation of the intellect to the Creator, the relation of the soul to the intellect, the relation of nature to the soul, the relation of matter and form to nature, the relation of the spheres, stars and other phenomena to matter and form. Then we must consider why they are constructed with such differences of sequence, the knowledge of divine guidance, of universal nature, of divine providence. The rational soul sometimes derives certain forms from the senses by applying to its own needs perception and memory, and making use of imagination and judgment. We shall then find that these forms have some attributes in common, but that they differ in others; some of these attributes are essential, others accidental. The soul divides or combines, and produces species, categories, divisions, specialities, and accidences. It then combines them by means of syllogisms, and produces satisfactory conclusions with the assistance of the universal intellect. Although, at first, it reposed on the faculties of perception, it does not require them for the formation of the ideas themselves, nor in the composition of the syllogisms, be it to verify them, or to form a conception. Just as the faculties of perception only acquire something relative to the object perceived, thus the intellectual faculties only conceive something relative to the conceived object, by abstracting the form from the matter, and remaining attached to the former. The faculty of perception, however, does not act spontaneously as does the rational soul, but it requires the motive power as well as the assistance of intermediaries which establish a connexion between the forms and itself. The power of intellect conceives spontaneously and conceives itself as often as it desires. The faculty of perception is therefore called passive, but the power of intellect is called active. Actual reason is nothing but the abstract of objects conceived, potentially existing in reason itself [and rendered actual by the same]. It is therefore also said that actual reason comprehends and is comprehended simultaneously. It is one of the special characteristics of reason that, by means of synthesis and analysis it transforms plurality into unity and unity into plurality. Although the activity of reason in combining proportions by means of careful consideration appears to require a certain time, the deduction of the conclusion is not dependent on time, reason itself being above time. When the rational soul turns its attention towards science, its activity is called theoretical reason. If, however, it undertakes to subdue animal instincts, its activity is called guidance, and it assumes the name of practical reason. Some people's reasoning power succeeds in establishing so intimate a connexion with the universal reason, that it is lifted above logical conclusions and meditation, escaping such necessity by inspiration and revelation. This special distinction is styled sanctity, or holy spirit. A proof that the soul is real, though incorporeal and no accessory, is to be found in the circumstance that it is the form of a corporeal object. According to its nature it cannot be divided like a corporeal object, or like an accessory when the substratum of the same is divided. Colour, smell, taste, heat and cold are divided as soon as their substrata are divided, though their nature is indivisible. The form of the intellect consists in the object conceived. A human being's conception cannot be divided, because half, or a piece of a human being cannot be styled man, although part of a corporeal object, or a colour can retain their names. Colour and corporeal object, if only existing in conception, allow no division even in thought. One cannot say: Half of a conceived colour, or half of a conceived corporeal object, as one can say: 'Half of this object is perceived,' or 'Half of the colour borne by it and referring to it.' One cannot speak of half of Zeid's soul, as one can speak of half of his body; for the former can neither be limited locally, nor defined in any way, nor pointed to. Now if it cannot be either a corporeal object nor an accessory borne by a corporeal object, its existence is manifested by its activity. There remains nothing but to see in it a substance with an existence of its own, endowed with angelic attributes and divine substantiality. Its primary tools are those spiritual forms which shape themselves in the centre of the brain from the psychical spirit by means of the power of imagination. The latter gives the faculty of reflecting, as soon as it becomes predominant enough to produce synthetical and analytical knowledge. It had been imaginative prior to this, when judgment was predominant in it, as is the case with children, animals, and with people whose constitution has been tried by illness. As a consequence the human soul is deprived of those formations on account of the synthetical and analytical processes which are required for the unimpaired consideration of an opinion. In such a case the opinion becomes a defective judgment, wholly or partially. A proof that the soul is distinct from the body, and does not require it, is to be found in the circumstance that the physical powers are weakened by strong influences. The organ of the eye is damaged by the sun, and the ear by too strong a sound. The rational soul, however, retains whatever stronger knowledge it has obtained. Moreover, old age attacks the body, but not the soul. The latter is stronger after the fiftieth year, whilst the body is on the decline. The activity of the body is limited, which is not the case with that of the soul, for geometrical, arithmetical, and logical forms are unlimited. There now remains to be shown that there exists a spiritual substance, distinct from the body, which stands in the same relation to the soul as the light to the eye, and as soon as the soul is separated from the body, it is united to that substance. The soul does not gain its knowledge empirically. For the results of experience cannot be judged apodictically. No one can assert apodictically that no man can move his ears, just as we may judge that every human being feels; that every one who feels, lives; that every one who lives is a substance; that the whole is larger than a part, and other fundamental truths. For our belief in the correctness of opinions is not regulated by instruction, otherwise we should come to an endless chain of conclusions. But then the rational soul comes into connexion with the divine emanation. As long as this divine emanation is not defined by the general spiritual form, it cannot impregnate the soul with it. Every being possessed of an essentially spiritual form is an incorporeal substance. If this be so, this emanation is a spiritual, incorporeal substance, with an existence of its own. The conception which the soul has of the form is a perception (entelechy) for it. It would succeed in coming into contact with the spiritual substance, if its intimacy with the body did not interfere. A complete connexion is, however, impossible, unless all physical powers are subdued. For it is the body alone which prevents this connexion. As soon as the soul is separated from it, it becomes perfect, connected with what renders it immune to injury, and united with the noble substance which is styled the higher knowledge. All other powers only act for the body, and perish together with organs. The rational soul, however, having fashioned them, appropriated their kernel, as has been explained before.
13. Al Khazari: This philosophical discourse appears to be more accurate and true than others.
14. The Rabbi: I feared that thou wouldst be deceived, and acquiesce in their views. Because they furnish mathematical and logical proofs, people accept everything they say concerning physics and metaphysics, taking every word as evidence. Didst thou not, from the very beginning, doubt their theories of the four elements, their search of the fire world, in which they place the aetherial fire, which is colourless, and therefore prevent the colour of the sky and stars from being seen. When did we ever accept an elementary fire? The highest degree of heat, if found in the earth, appears as coal; in the air as flame; in the water at boiling point. When did we ever witness an igneous or atmospheric substance entering into the substance of the plant or animal, and asserted that it was composed of all four elements, viz. fire, air, water, and earth? Supposing we did perceive water and earth enter the substance of a plant in altered form; but air and heat only assisted the process through their quality, but not as igneous and atmospheric bodies. Or when did we ever see them dissolved into the four real elements? If a part is reduced to a kind of dust, it is not real dust, but ashes, which can be used for healing purposes. Another part which is reduced to a kind of water is not real water, but an expressed liquid, a juice either poisonous or nourishing, but not drinkable water. The portion which is dissolved into a kind of air is vapour or fume, but no air fit to be breathed. Sometimes they alter their condition when absorbed by an animal or a plant, or enter a combination with earthly particles, move from alteration to alteration, but only in rare cases are they reduced to the pure element. Science, it is true, forces us to accept the theory that heat, cold, moisture, and dryness are primary qualities, the influences of which nobody can escape; that reason reduces compound things to them, or declares them to be composed of them; and places substances at their disposal which bear them, calling them fire, air, water, and earth. This is, however, but a conception and nomenclature, but it does not mean that they can emerge from mere theory into reality, and produce, by combination, all existing things. How can philosophers make such an assertion, whilst teaching the eternity of matter, and that man never arose otherwise than from issue and blood, blood from food, food from vegetables, and vegetables, as we have said, from seeds and water transformed with the assistance of sunlight, air, and earth. All stars and spherical constellations also exercise their influence. This is the objection to the view of philosophers concerning the elements. According to the Tōrāh, it was God who created the world, together with animals and plants. There is no need to presuppose intermediaries or combinations [of elements]. If we make creation a postulate, all that is difficult becomes easy, and all that is crooked straight, as soon as one assumes that this world once did not exist, but came into existence by the will of God at the time He desired. Why dost thou trouble to examine the way in which bodies arose and were equipped with souls? Why art thou reluctant to accept the 'firmament' and 'the water above the heavens,' and the evil spirits mentioned by the Sages, the description of the events to be expected during the days of the Messiah, the resurrection of the dead and the world to come? Why should we need such artificial theories in order to prove the life of the soul after the dissolution of the body, considering that we have reliable information with regard to the return of the soul, be it spiritual or corporeal. If thou wouldst endeavour to confirm or refute these views logically, life would be spent in vain. Who vouchsafes the truth of the theory quoted above, that the soul is a spiritual substance which cannot be encompassed by space, and which is not subject to growth and decay? In what way differs my soul from thine, or from the Active Intellect, from other causes and the Prime Cause? Why, also, did not Aristotle's soul become united to that of Plato, either of them knowing the other's belief and innermost thought? Why do not all philosophers conceive their notions simultaneously, as is the case with God and the Active Intellect? How can they be subject to forgetfulness, and require reflection for every single one of their notions? Why is not a philosopher conscious of himself when he is asleep or intoxicated, or is prostrate with pleurisy, or has brain fever, or is old and decrepit? How should we judge a person who, having arrived at the extreme limit of philosophic speculation, is stricken by melancholy or depression, which makes him forget all his knowledge? Is he not himself in his eyes, or shall we say that he is some one else? Suppose he recovers gradually from his complaint, and begins to learn over again, but becomes old without having reached the former extent of his knowledge, has he two souls, the one different from the other? Suppose, further, that his temperament undergoes a change in the direction of love, ambition, or desire, shall I say that he has one soul in paradise and another in hell? Which are the limits of metaphysical knowledge by means of which the human soul is separated from the body without perishing? If this is the complete knowledge of existing things, much remains of which philosophers are ignorant concerning heaven, earth, and ocean. If one, however, must be satisfied with partial knowledge, then every rational soul exists separate, because primary notions are implanted in it. But if the isolated existence of the soul is based on the conception of the Ten Categories, or higher still, on the principles of intuition, in which all existing things are included ready to be grasped logically without following up all details, so is this a knowledge easily acquirable in one day. It would be strange if man could become an angel in one day. If it is incumbent to go the whole length and comprehend all these things in logical and scientific study, then the matter is unattainable and ends, in their opinion, infallibly in the death of the one who pursues it. Now thou didst allow thyself to be deceived by injurious fancies, didst seek that which thy Creator did not grant thee, and to obtain which no facilities have been granted to human nature. Only a few privileged individuals are allowed to grasp such things on the conditions mentioned before. These are the souls which comprehend the whole universe, know their Lord and His angels; who see one another, and know each other's secrets, as the prophet says: 'I, too, know it; be ye silent' (2 Kings ii. 3). We others, however, would not know how and by what means this came to pass, unless by way of prophecy. If what philosophers know of the matter were true, they would surely acquire it, since they discourse on the souls and prophecy. They are, however, like ordinary mortals. As regards human wisdom, they indeed occupy a high rank, as Socrates said: 'O my people, I do not deny your knowledge of the gods, but I confess that I do not understand it. As for me, I am only wise in human matters.' Philosophers justify their recourse to speculation by the absence of prophecy and divine light. They established the demonstrative sciences on a broad and unlimited basis, and on that account separated without either agreeing or disagreeing with each other concerning that on which they held such widely diverging views later on in metaphysics, and occasionally in physics. If there exists a class representing one and the same view, this is not the result of research and investigation, but because they belong to the same philosophic school in which this was taught, as the schools of Pythagoras, Empedocles, Aristotle, Plato, or others, as the Academy and Peripatetics, who belong to the school of Aristotle. They start with views which deprecate reason, but are deprecated by the latter. An example of this is their explanation of the cause of the revolution of the sphere, and the endeavour of the latter to remedy its imperfection, so as to be absolutely exact on all sides. As, however, this is not always possible and in all points, it tries to revolve the opposite way. They contrived similar theories with regard to the emanations from the Prime Cause, viz., that from the intuition of the first cause an angel arose; and from its knowledge of itself a sphere arose, and thence downward in eleven degrees, until the emanation arrived at the Active Intellect, from which neither an angel nor a sphere developed. All these things are still less satisfactory than the "Book of Creation." They are full of doubts, and there is no consensus of opinion between one philosopher and another. Yet they cannot be blamed, nay, deserve thanks for all they have produced in abstract speculations. For their intentions were good; they observed the laws of reason, and led virtuous lives. At all events, they have earned this praise, because the same duties were not imposed on them as they were on us when we were given revelation, and a tradition which is tantamount to revelation.
15. Al Khazari: Give me a brief abstract of the views rife among the doctors of theology, whom the Karaites style: The Masters of the Kalām.
16. The Rabbi: This would be of no use; it would merely be an exercise in the dialectics of the Kalām, and a lesson on the Rabbinic sentence: 'Be careful to learn what answer to give to an Epicurean' (Aboth ii. 14). The consummate philosopher, like the prophet, can only impart little to another person in the way of instruction, and cannot refute his objections dialectically. As to the master of Kalām, learning sheds its lustre on him, thereby inducing his hearers to place him above the pious and immaculate whose learning consists in principles of a creed which allow of no refutation. The final aim of the Mutakallim in everything he learns and teaches is that these principles of creed enter his soul as well as that of his disciples in the same natural form as they exist in the soul of the pious person. In some cases the art of the Kalām does him greater harm than the principles of truth, because it teaches doubts and traditional prejudices. We experience a similar thing with people who apply themselves to prosody and practice scanning metres. There we can hear braying and a babel of words in an art which offers no difficulties to those naturally gifted. The latter enjoy making verses in which no fault can be found. The aim of the former class is to be like the latter who appear ignorant of the art of verse-making, because they cannot learn what the others are able to teach. The naturally gifted person, however, can teach one similarly endowed with the slightest hint. In the same manner sparks are kindled in the souls of people naturally open to religion and approachment to God, by the words of the pious, sparks which become luminaries in their hearts, whilst those who are not so gifted must have recourse to the Kalām. He often derives no benefit from it, nay, he comes to grief over it.
17. Al Khazari: I do not expect an exhaustive discourse on this subject, but I ask thee for some abstracts like those given to me before. For thou didst strike my ear, and my soul yearns for it.
18. The Rabbi: The FIRST AXIOM deals with the creation of the world, with the object of making it an established fact, and it denies the theory that it is without beginning. If time had no beginning, the number of individuals existing in the past down to our own age would be endless. That which is endless cannot be actual. How could those individuals have become actual, being so many as to be without number? There is no doubt, however, that the past had a beginning, and that the existing individuals are limited by a number. It is within the power of the human mind to count thousands or millions multiplied without end, at least in theory, but this cannot be done in reality. For that which becomes actual and can be counted as one, is like the number which is both actual and finite without doubt. How can the infinite become actual? The world has, therefore, a beginning, and the revolutions of the spheres are subject to a finite number. Further, that which is infinite can neither be halved nor doubled, nor subjected to any arithmetical calculation. We are aware that the revolutions of the sun are one-twelfth of those of the moon, and that the other movements of spheres stand in similar relation to each other, one being the divisor of the other. The infinite, however, has no divisor. How could the one be like the other, which is infinite, being either below or above it, I mean larger or smaller in number? How could the infinite come to us? If an infinite number of things existed before us, how could the [idea of] number come to us? If a thing has an end, it must also have had a beginning, otherwise each individual object must have waited for the [prior] existence of an infinite number of others; so none would ever come into existence.
SECOND Axiom: The world is created, because it is a corporeal object. A corporeal object cannot be conceived without movement and rest, which are both attributes of accessory but not simultaneous character. That which is accessory must be newly made in accordance with its very nature. That which preceded has also been created. For had it been eternal, it could not have been non-existent. Consequently both [motion and rest] are created. A thing that cannot exist without newly created accessories is created itself, because it could not have been preceded by its accessories. If the latter are created, the former must be so likewise.
THIRD Axiom: Every created object must have a cause which created it. For the created object is connected with a certain time, irrespective of an earlier or later epoch. The circumstance that it is encompassed by a specific time, irrespective of the period, renders a specificator necessary.
FOURTH Axiom: God is eternal, without beginning and without end. For had He been created, He would require a Creator. This would result in a chain of conclusions without end, until we came to the first Creator, whom we look for.
FIFTH AXIOM: God is everlasting, and will never cease to exist. For a being proved to be without beginning cannot have had a non-existence. Nonexistence must have a cause, just as the disappearance of a thing from existence must also have a cause. Nothing vanishes from existence on its own account, but on account of its contrast. God, however, has neither a contrast nor His equal. For if anything were like Him in every respect, it would be Himself, but He cannot be described as twofold. The thing which causes non-existence cannot be without beginning, as has been explained before in connexion with the eternity of God's existence. He cannot, therefore, be a created Being, because everything newly arising must have its cause in the eternal Being. But how can the thing caused make its cause disappear?
SIXTH AXIOM: God is not corporeal. A corporeal object cannot be free from new accessories. A thing that is not free from new accessories is created. God cannot be called accidence, because the accidence cannot exist except on a substratum. The accidence is caused by the corporeal object by which it is attracted and borne. God, however, cannot be defined by a particular outline or place, since this is the characteristic of a corporeal object.
SEVENTH Axiom: God knows all that is great or small, and nothing escapes His omniscience. For it has been shown that He created, arranged, and instituted everything, as it is written: 'He that planted the ear, shall He not hear; He that formed the eye, shall He not see?' (Ps. xciv. 9). Further, 'Yea, darkness hideth not from Thee,' etc., and 'For Thou hast created my reins' (ib. cxxxix. 12-13)
EIGHTH Axiom: God lives. His omniscience and omnipotence having been demonstrated, He must be living. His life, however, is not like ours, created with senses and movement, but a life of pure reason. His life and He are identical.
NINTH Axiom: God has will. For it is in His power to issue forth the opposite of all He caused to exist, or its non-existence, or anticipation, or postponement. His omnipotence is the same in any case. There must exist a will which fixes His omnipotence on one of these issues to the exclusion of the other. One might also say that His omniscience can spare both His omnipotence and will. In this case His omniscience would be identical with one particular time and issue, and His eternal omniscience would be the cause of every existing being just as it is. This agrees with the view of philosophers.
TENTH Axiom: The divine will is without beginning, and corresponds to His omniscience. Nothing in it can be renewed or altered. He is living through the very life of His nature, but not by means of an acquired life. He is omnipotent through His own power, has will through His own will. For the coexistence of a thing and that which negatives it is impossible. One cannot therefore say in a general way: Omnipotent without power.
19. Al Khazari: This is sufficient to refresh my memory. There is no doubt that thy discourse on the soul and reason, as well as these axioms, was quoted from other authorities. Now I desire to hear thy own opinion and principles of faith. Thou didst declare thy willingness to examine this and similar points. It seems to me that it will not be possible to omit the questions of predestination and human free will, since they are of actual importance. Now tell me thy mind.
20. The Rabbi: Only a perverse, heretical person would deny the nature of what is possible, making assertions of opinions in which he does not believe. Yet from the preparations he makes for events he hopes for or fears, one can see that he believes in their possibility, and that his preparations may be useful. If he believed in absolute necessity, he would simply submit, and not equip himself with weapons against his enemy, or with food against his hunger. If he, on the other hand, thinks that either preparation or the omission of the same is necessary in accordance with the nature of the case, he admits intermediary causes, as well as their consequences. He will encounter his desire in every intermediary cause, and if he is just and not perverse, he will find himself placed between himself and his desire to obtain achievable objects, which he can pursue or abandon as he likes. Such a belief is not incompatible with a belief in Divine Providence, but everything is led back to him in various ways, as I am going to explain. My opinion is that everything of which we are conscious is referred to the Prime Cause in two ways, either as an immediate expression of the divine will, or through intermediaries. An instance of the first kind is found in the synthetic arrangement visible in animals, plants and spheres, objects which no intelligent observer would trace back to accident, but to a creative and wise will, which gives everything its place and portion. An instance of the second kind is to be found in the burning of a beam. Fire is a fine, hot, and active substance, whilst wood is a porous and passive one. It is the nature of the fine and active substance to affect its object, whilst heat and dryness warm and volatilize the moisture of the object till it is completely dissolved. If thou seekest the causes of these processes, active as well as passive, thou wilt not fail to discover them. Thou mayest even discover the causes of their causes till thou arrivest at the spheres, then at their causes, and finally at the Prime Cause. One might justly say that everything is ordained by God, and another is equally right in making man's free will or accident responsible for it, without, however, bringing it outside the divine providence. If thou likest thou mayest render the matter more intelligible by means of the following classification. Effects are either of divine or of natural origin, either accidental or arbitrary. The divine ones issue forth actively, having no other causes except God's will. The natural ones are derived from intermediate, preparatory causes which bring them to the desired end, as long as no obstacle arises from one of the other three classes. The accidental ones are likewise the result of intermediary causes, but accidentally, not by nature or arrangement, or by will power. They are not prepared to be brought to completion and standstill, and they stand apart from the other three classes. As regards the arbitrary actions, they have their roots in the free will of man, when he is in a position to exercise it. Free will belongs to the class of intermediary causes, and possesses causes which reduce it, chainlike, to the Prime Cause. This course is not compulsory, because the whole thing is potential, and the mind wavers between an opinion and its opposite, being permitted to turn where it chooses. The result is praise or blame for the choice, which is not the case in the other classes. An accidental or natural cause cannot be blamed, although some of them admit a possibility. But one cannot blame a child or a sleeping person for harm done. The opposite was possible just the same, and they cannot be blamed, because they lack judgment. Dost thou think that those who deny the potential are not wroth with those who injure them purposely. Or do they acquiesce in being robbed of their garments, and consequently also in suffering from cold, just as they would expose themselves to the north wind on a cold day? Or do they believe that the anger about it is but a fallacious exertion, instituted for no purpose, that man may feel anger about one particular thing, or give praise and blame, show hatred etc.? In these cases free will, as such, has no forcing cause, because it is itself reduced to compulsion. Man's language, then, would be as little free as the beating of his pulse. This would be against evident appearances. Thou perceivest that speaking or being silent is in thy power as long as thou art in possession of thy reason, and not controlled by other casualties. If all incidents would be the result of the original will of the Prime Cause, they would, each in its turn, be created anew in every moment. We might then say that the Creator created anew the whole world this very moment. The servant of God would be no better than the wicked, as both would be obedient, and only do that for which they are fated. A conviction of this kind has many objections, whilst the refutation of appearances is most difficult, as we said before. The objection made against those who assert that some matters are removed from the bounds of Providence by human free will is to be refuted by what was said before, viz. that they are completely outside the control of Providence, but are indirectly linked to it. There is still another objection, viz. that these matters are outside the divine omniscience, because the absolutely potential is naturally an unknown quantity. The Mutakallims considered this matter in detail, with the result that the divine knowledge of the potential is but casual, and that the knowledge of a thing is neither the cause of its coming into existence, nor of its disappearance therefrom. There is, withal, a possibility of existence and non-existence. For the knowledge of events to come is not the cause of their existence, just as is the case with the knowledge of things which have been. This is but a proof that the knowledge belongs to God, or to the angels, or the prophets, or the priests. If this knowledge were the cause of the existence of a thing, many people would be placed in paradise solely for the sake of the divine knowledge that they are pious, even if they have done no pious act. Others would be in Gehenna, because God knows them to be wicked, without their having committed a sin. Man should also be satisfied without having eaten, because he knows that he is accustomed to be satisfied at certain times. Another consequence would be that intermediary causes would cease to exist, and their disappearance would be shared by that of the intermediary factors. This renders the following verse intelligible: 'And God did prove Abraham' (Gen. xxii. 1), in order to render his theoretical obedience practical, and let it be the cause of his prosperity. He says subsequently "Because thou hast done this thing . . . I will bless thee" (ver. 10). Now since events must be either of divine origin, or arise out of one of the other classes, and the possibility exists that they are all providential, the people preferred to refer them all to God, because this encourages belief most effectually. He, however, who knows how to distinguish one people from another, one person from another, one time from another, one place from another, and certain circumstances from others, will perceive that heavenly dictated events mostly came to pass in the chosen and holy land, and among the privileged Israelitish people, and in that time and under circumstances which were accompanied by laws and customs the observation of which was beneficial, whilst their neglect wrought harm. Matters natural or accidental were of no avail against the undesired effect, nor could they do harm at the time of pious conduct. For this reason Israelites serve every religion as evidence against the heretics who followed the view of the Grecian Epicurus, viz. that all things are the outcome of accidents, since no settled purpose is ever discernible in them. His school is called that of the Hedonists, because they held the opinion that pleasure is the desired aim and goodness absolute. The endeavour of him who observes a lawgiver's regulations is to find favour in his eyes, and to place his desires before him. He seeks inspirations if he is pious, or miracles if he is a prophet, or if his people enjoys the divine pleasure on the basis of the conditions of time, place and action, as put down in the Tōrāh. He need not be concerned about natural or accidental causes, since he knows that he is protected from their evil consequences, either through preceding instruction which drives the evil away, or through some wonderful incident which is collateral with that evil. The good issuing from accidental causes is not denied to the sinner, much less to the virtuous. Happy events occurring to the wicked have their origin only in those accidental and natural causes, but no one can ward off threatening calamities. The good, on the contrary, prosper through the same causes, whilst being protected from misfortune. But I have diverged a little from my subject. Returning to the same, I say that David laid down three causes of death, viz. 'God may slay him,' i.e. divine cause; 'Or his day shall come to die,' i.e. natural cause; 'Or he shall descend into battle and perish,' i.e. accidental cause (1 Sam. xxvi. 10). He omits the fourth possibility, viz. suicide, because no rational being seeks death voluntarily. If Saul killed himself, it was not to seek death, but to escape torture and derision. A similar classification can be made with regard to speech. The speech of a prophet at the time when he is enwrapped by the Holy Spirit is in every part directed by the Divine Influence, the prophet himself being powerless to alter one word. Natural speech consists in communications and hints which conform to the subject to be discussed, and the mind follows without previous convention. Conventional languages are composed of natural and arbitrary elements. Accidental speech is that of a madman, and is neither in harmony with a subject, nor to the purpose. Free speech is that of a prophet when not inspired, or the words of an intelligent, thinking person who connects his words, and chooses his expressions in accordance with the subject under consideration. If he wished he could replace each word by another, could even drop the whole subject and take up another. All these cases, however, can be reduced indirectly to God, but not as immediate issues of the Prime Will, otherwise the words of a child, and mad people, the speech of an orator, and the song of a poet were the words of God. Far be this from Him. The excuse of a slothful person who tells the energetic one that that which is to be, exists previously in the knowledge of God, is inconclusive. For should he even assert that that which shall be must be, he is told: 'Quite so; but this argument should not prevent thee to take the best counsel, to prepare weapons against thy enemy, and food for hunger, as soon as thou art aware that that both thy safety and destruction depend upon intermediary causes.' One of them, which is the most frequent, is the application of energy and industry, or of lassitude and indolence. Do not try to refute me with those rare and accidental cases, viz. that a circumspect person perishes, whilst the careless and unprotected one is saved. For the word safety means something quite different from the word risk. A sensible person will not flee from a place of safety to one of risk, just as one flees from a dangerous place to a safe one. If safety accrues in the place of danger this is considered rare, but if a person perishes in a safe place, it is called an extraordinary occurrence. One should, therefore, employ circumspection. One of the causes of carelessness is the view opposite to this advice. Everything, however, is indirectly related to God. Whatever happens through direct ordination belongs to the class of strange and miraculous events, and can dispense with intermediary causes. In some cases they are, however, necessary, as in the preservation of Moses during his fast of forty days, when he was without food, or in the destruction of Sanherib's army without a visible cause--unless through a divine one--which we cannot consider as such, as we do not know what it is. Of such we say that preparation avails them not, viz. preparation in the concrete sense. Moral preparation, however, based on the secret of the law, benefits him who knows and understands it, because it brings what is good, and repels what is bad. If man aids intermediary causes with energy, having left to God the objects of his fear with a pure mind, he fares well, and suffers no loss. He, however, who courts danger [transgresses the warning: 'You shall not tempt the Lord' (Deut. vi. 16), in spite of his confidence in God. But if one considers it absurd) to give commands to a person who, as he knows beforehand, may either disobey or obey him, this is not absurd. We have shown previously that disobedience and obedience depend upon intermediary causes. The cause of obedience is the command for it. [The obeying person knew beforehand that he would do so and that the cause of it was that he had heard reproof.] He also keeps in mind that disobedience depends on intermediary causes, which are to be found either in the companionship of wicked people, or in the preponderance of evil temperament, or inclination for comfort and rest. Finally, he knew that his disobedience was lessened through reproof. Reproof, as is known, impresses the mind in any case, and even the soul of an insubordinate person is in some small way influenced by reproof. In a higher degree this takes place in a multitude, because there is at any rate one person to be found who accepts it. Far from being useless, reproof is, therefore, useful.
THE FIRST PRINCIPLE, containing the confirmation of the above-mentioned advice, establishes the existence of the Prime Cause. God is the wise Creator, in whose works nothing is useless. They are all founded upon His wisdom and an order which suffers no deterioration. Whoever contemplates this must find the conviction of the greatness of His creation deeply rooted in his mind. This results in the belief that no flaw can be found in His works. If in some minor matter a fault seems apparent, his belief is not shaken, but he ascribes it to his own ignorance and defective intelligence.
THE SECOND PRINCIPLE admits the existence of intermediary causes, which, however, are not active, but causes, either in the way of substance matter or instruments. Issue and blood are the materials of which man is formed, connected by the organs of propagation. The spirit and faculties are tools which employ them under the will of God, in order to produce a formation perfect in proportion, form and nurture. Intermediary causes are necessary for every created thing, as the dust which was required for the creation of Adam. It is therefore not superfluous to assume the existence of intermediary causes.
THE THIRD PRINCIPLE.--God gives every substance the best and most appropriate form. He is the All-benevolent, who does not withhold His goodness, wisdom, and guidance from anything. His wisdom visible in the flea and gnat is not less than in the order of the spheres The difference of things is the outcome of their substances. One cannot, therefore, ask: 'Why did He not create me an angel?' Just as little as the worm can ask: 'Why didst Thou not create me a human being?'
THE FOURTH PRINCIPLE expresses the conviction that existing beings are of higher or lower degree. Everything that is possessed of feeling and perception is higher than those creatures which lack the same, since the former are nearer the degree of the Prime Cause which is Reason itself. The lowest plant occupies a higher rank than the noblest mineral, the lowest animal is higher than the noblest plant, and the lowest human being is higher than the noblest animal. Thus the lowest follower of the divine law occupies a higher place than the noblest heathen. For the divine law confers something of the nature of angels on the human mind, a thing which cannot be acquired otherwise. The proof is that prolonged practice of this law leads up to the degree of prophetic inspiration, than which there is no nearer degree to God for man. A froward monotheist is, therefore, preferable to the pagan, because the divine law empowered him to lead an angelic life and to reach the degree of angels, though it has become sullied and defaced by his frowardness. Some traces will always remain, and the fire of his longing for it is not quite extinguished. If he had his own choice, he would prefer to remain untutored, just as a sick and pain-plagued person would not prefer to be a horse, or fish, or bird, which, though happy and free from pain, is far removed from reason which brings near to the divine degree.
THE FIFTH PRINCIPLE.–The mind of him who listens to the reproof of an adviser is impressed by it, if it is acceptable. True reproof is useful in any case, and although the evil doer may not be brought back from his bad ways, a spark is kindled in his soul by this reproof, and he sees that his deed is bad. This is part and beginning of repentance.
THE SIXTH PRINCIPLE.--Man finds in himself this power of doing evil or avoiding it in matters which are in his hand. Any failure in this respect is accounted for by the absence of intermediary causes, or his ignorance of them. If, for instance, a strange beggar, unacquainted with the art of governing, desires to become the ruler of a nation, one could not comply with his wish. Were he, however, possessed of the intermediary causes, and were he to know how to employ them, his desire would be justified, just as it would for an object the causes of which are at his disposal, and which he knows and controls when ruling his house, children, and servants or, in a higher degree, his limbs, which latter he can move as he chooses, whilst speaking as he likes; or, in a still higher degree, controlling his thoughts and imagining objects far and near in any way he likes. He is master over his intermediary causes. For a similar reason it is unlikely that the weak chess player should beat the strong one. One cannot speak of good or bad fortune in a game of chess, as in a war between two princes. For the causes of the game are open completely to study, and the expert will always be the conqueror. He need fear nothing in the ordinary way which can cause him great difficulty, neither need he fear anything accidental, except perhaps anything unusual arising from inattention. The last-named, however, comes under the name of ignorance, which was discussed before. This being so, everything can be traced back to the Prime Cause in the way intimated before. The Prime Will is visible in the history of the Israelites during the time when the Shekhināh dwelt among them. Afterwards it became doubtful, exeept in the hearts of the faithful, whether these even, were primarily caused by God or by spherical, or accidental causes. No decisive proof of this exists. It is, however, best to refer everything to God, particularly important events, such as death, victory, good and bad fortune, etc.
CONCLUSION OF THE BOOK
21. This and similar subjects afford proper points for research, comprising as they do the character of the divine decrees concerning man, as intimated in the prophetic words: 'He visits the sin of the fathers on the children . . . of his enemies . . . and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Him and keep His commandments' (Exod. xx. 5 sq.). This means that every iniquity is remembered till the time of punishment comes, as laid down in the Tōrāh and the teachings of the Sages; that some punishments can be warded off by repentance, and some not. It further includes the conditions of repentance, the trials, tribulations, and punishments for past transgressions winch visit man as retaliation in this world, or the next, or for paternal transgressions, and, finally, the good fortune which we enjoy as a reward for former pious actions, or the 'merit of the fathers,' or which are sent to try us. These points of view are complicated by others and deeper ones, and there remains some doubt whether an examination will disclose the majority of causes of the misfortune of the just and the prosperity of the wicked. That which we cannot discover may be confidently left to God's omniscience and justice, and man must admit that he does not know the reasons, although they may lie on the surface, and still less can be known those which are really hidden. If man's contemplations lead him to the Prime Being and to the necessary attributes, he withdraws from it, because he sees a curtain of light which blinds the eye. We are debarred from perceiving it on account of our defective sight and narrow minds, but not because it is hidden or faulty. To those endowed with prophetic vision it appears too bright and resplendent to require any other proof. The culminating point of our appreciation of His nature is that we are able to distinguish supernatural causes in natural occurrences. This we ascribe to a non-corporeal and divine power, just as Galen, speaking of the forming power, places it above all other forces. In his opinion it did not arise out of certain combinations, but miraculously, by command of God, and we see substances changed, the course of nature altered, and new things produced without craft. This is the difference between the work of Moses and that of the magicians whose secret art was open to discovery, just as Jeremiah says: 'They are vanity, the work of errors' (chap. x. 15). He means to say that when they are closely examined they appear vain as any contemptible thing. The Divine Influence, however, if investigated, appears as pure gold. If we have reached this degree, we say, that there is surely an incorporeal being which guides all corporeal substances, but which our mind is inadequate to examine. We therefore dwell on His works, but refrain from describing His nature. For if we were able to grasp it, this were a defect in Him. We take, however, no heed of the words of philosophers who divide the divine world into various degrees. As soon as we are free from our bodies there is for us only one divine degree. It is God alone who controls everything corporeal. The reason why philosophers adopted many gods is to be found in their investigations of the movements of the spheres, of which they counted more than forty. They found for every movement a separate cause, from which they concluded that these movements were independent rather than necessary or natural. Each movement, therefore, originated with a soul. Every soul has intellect, and this intellect is an angel severed from material substance. They called these intellects, or angels, or secondary causes and other names. The nethermost degree, nearest to us, is the Active Intelligence, of which they taught that it guided the nether world. The next is the Hylic Intellect, then comes the soul, nature, the natural and animal forces, and the faculties of each [human] organ. All these, however, are subtleties, and pleasant for investigation. He who is deceived by them is in any case a heretic. Leave also alone the argument of the Karaites, taken from David's last will to his son: 'And thou, Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve Him' (1 Chron. xxviii. 9). They conclude from this verse that a complete knowledge of God must precede His worship. As a matter of fact, David reminded his son to imitate his father and ancestors in their belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whose solicitude was with them, and who fulfilled His promises in multiplying their descendants, gave them Palestine, and caused His Shekhinah to dwell among them. It is also written: 'Gods which ye did not know,' but this does not allude to the real truth, but those objects from which neither good nor evil can issue, and deserve neither confidence nor fear.–
22. The Rabbi was then concerned to leave the land of the Khazari and to betake himself to Jerusalem. The king was loth to let him go, and spoke to him in this sense as follows: What can be sought in Palestine nowadays, since the divine reflex is absent from it, whilst, with a pure mind and desire, one can approach God in any place. Why wilt thou run into danger. on land and water and among various peoples?
23. The Rabbi answered: The visible Shekhināh has, indeed, disappeared, because it does not reveal itself except to a prophet or a favoured community, and in a distinguished place. This is what we look for in the passage: 'Let our eyes behold when Thou returnest to Zion.' As regards the invisible and spiritual Shekhināh, it is with every born Israelite of virtuous life, pure heart, and upright mind before the Lord of Israel. Palestine is especially distinguished by the Lord of Israel, and no function can be perfect except there. Many of the Israelitish laws do not concern those who do not live there; heart and soul are only perfectly pure and immaculate in the place which is believed to be specially selected by God. If this is true in a figurative sense, how much more true in reality, as we have shown Thus the longing for it is awakened with disinterested motives, especially for him who wishes to live there, and to atone for past transgressions, since there is no opportunity of bringing the sacrifices ordained by God for intentional and unintentional sins. He is supported by the saying of the Sages: 'Exile atones for sins,' especially if his exile brings him into the place of God's choice. The danger he runs on land and sea does not come under the category of: 'You shall not tempt the Lord' (Deut. vi. 16); but the verse refers to risks which one takes when travelling with merchandise in the hope of gain. He who incurs even greater danger on account of his ardent desire to obtain forgiveness is free from reproach if he has closed the balance of his life, expressed his gratitude for his past life, and is satisfied to spend the rest of his days in seeking the favour of his Lord. He braves danger, and if he escapes he praises God gratefully. But should he perish through his sins, he has obtained the divine favour, and may be confident that he has atoned for most of his sins by his death. In my opinion this is better than to seek the dangers of war in order to gain fame and spoil by courage and bravery. This kind of danger is even inferior to that of those who march into war for hire.
24. Al Khazari: I thought that thou didst love freedom, but now I see thee finding new religious duties which thou wilt be obliged to fulfil in Palestine, which are, however, in abeyance here.
25. The Rabbi: I only seek freedom from the service of those numerous people whose favour I do not care for, and shall never obtain, though I worked for it all my life. Even if I could obtain it, it would not profit me--I mean serving men and courting their favour. I would rather seek the service of the One whose favour is obtained with the smallest effort, yet it profits in this world and the next. This is the favour of God, His service spells freedom, and humility before Him is true honour.
26. Al Khazari: If thou believest in all that thou gayest, God knows thy mind. The mind is free before God, who knows the hearts and discloses what is hidden.
27. The Rabbi: This is true when action is impossible. Man is free in his endeavours and work. But he deserves blame who does not look for visible reward for visible work. For this reason it is written: 'Ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets, and ye shall be remembered before the Lord your God (Num. x. 9) . . . They shall be to you for a memorial (ver. 10) . . . A memorial of blowing of trumpets' (Lev. xxiii. 24). God need not be reminded, but actions must be perfect to claim reward. Likewise must the ideas of the prayers be pronounced in the most perfect way to be considered as prayer and supplication. Now if thou bringest intention and action to perfection thou mayest expect reward. This is popularly expressed by reminding, and 'the Tōrāh speaks in the manner of human beings.' If the action is minus the intention, or the intention minus the action, the expectation [for reward] is lost, except in impossible things. It is, however, rather useful to show the good intention if the deed is impossible, as we express this in our prayer: 'On account of our sins have we been driven out of our land.' This sacred place serves to remind men and to stimulate them to love God, being a reward and promise, as it is written: 'Thou shalt arise and have mercy upon Zion, for the time to favour her, yea, the set time is come. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones and embrace the dust thereof' (Ps. cii. 14 sq.). This means that Jerusalem can only be rebuilt when Israel yearns for it to such an extent that they embrace her stones and dust.
28. Al Khazari: If this be so, it would be a sin to hinder thee. It is, on the contrary, a merit to assist thee. May God grant thee His help, and be thy protector and friend. May He favour thee in His mercy.
Completed is the book with the help of God and His assistance. Praise without end be to the Giver of Help.
- Lit. earlier and later.
- The Hebrew version has here several sentences which are wanting in the original, but are probably added by the translator.