Michael Sebastian Noble-From Fakhr al-Din al-Razi’s‘Hidden Secret’-Part 3: Perfect Nature: The Blue Print of Individual Souls
Seyyed Mosque, Isfahan. Picture by Iranian photographer Mohammad Reza Domiri Ganji.
Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is the third part of a series devoted to some key excerpts from Fakr al-Din al-Razi’s ‘Hidden Secret’ (al-Sirr al-Maktüm), in the exciting ground-breaking study of Michael-Sebastian Noble, ‘Philosophising the Occult, Avicennan Psychology and the ‘Hidden Secret’ of Fakr al-Din al-Razi’, De Gruyter-2021.
Note: Al Razi’s quotations in Michael-Sebastian Noble’s translation are in italic. The rest is his scholarly apparatus and exegesis.
‘The fulfilment of those conditions relating to the management of the body and those relating to the soul’s disposition serves but one aim: to remove all distractions which may arrest the soul’s attention so that it can focus on connection with the celestial spirits.’ (From Chapter 6. part 7. foreword)
The perfect nature is: ‘the cause for the coming to be of knowledge and moral character in the substance of the human soul.’
Since knowledge can only be perfected by way of connection with the Perfect Nature from which illumination is received; and since this connection is impossible without the purification of the soul, spiritual discipline becomes necessary to the pursuit of knowledge and the perfection of theoretical capacity. (from chapter 11. part 7)
11.4. Perfect Nature and Qualified Ethical Determinism
Now the ability of humans to attain such perfection varies. This is because the human soul derives from its perfect nature, a celestial spirit (Hygeia note: The Ancient Greek Philosophers would call it Daimon):
‘Rational souls are many species (anwa’ kathira) and different groups (tawa’if mukhtalifa). Each has its own celestial spirit (ruh falaki), which is the cause of its existence and is tasked with overseeing its welfare (islah ahwaliha). That celestial spirit is in relation to it like the origin, the mine, the source: we have called it the Perfect Nature (al-tiba al-tamm) (Hygeia Note: we can call it also the individual Blue Print).’
Razi illustrates the full extent of his ethical determinism with the analogy of mountains as potential sources for minerals, and mine of gold and silver (ma’adin min al-dhahab wa’l-fidda): the vast majority are barren; of the few which do indeed bear minerals, but a small minority carry precious metals; of those which carry precious metals, the majority require great effort for their extraction and refinement.
‘People are mines, like mines of silver and gold (ka-ma’adin al-fida wa’l-dhahab)’.
Thus for the majority of humans, no amount of spiritual austerity and discipline brings improvement. Of the small minority who indeed have the potential, their small spiritual gain will only be won after much pain and exertion. But there are a rare few who after but a little effort will be afforded tremendous unveilings (mukashafat). These are precious exceptions to the overwhelming mediocrity of human spiritual aspirants. The determinism which define this approach to human nature resonate strongly with the account given in ‘al-Sirr’ that the substances of human souls differ in accordance with the difference between the substances of the celestial spirits from which they derive. The stark reality of this determinism, however, is mitigated by the fact that the individual effort can, within the limitations of each soul type, engender improvement in the condition of the soul. Adopting and defending this view, Razi says:
‘Human souls are one genus which comprise a number of species (anwa’) each differ in quiddity; within each species are a number of individuals which are equal in their quiddity; each species is as a product (natija) which issues from a specific celestial spirit. Thus, whilst one species might be free, noble and virtuous, possessed of strong intellect and beautiful actions, another might be base, evil and dull witted. This celestial spirit is the origin (mabda’) of the species and is called, in the terminology of the ancient philosophers ‘the Perfect Nature’, for the reason that an entity which is caused must be of the same genus as its cause and similar to it (al-ma’lul la budda wa-an yakun min jins al-illa wa-shabihan biha). Each attribute by which any given species of human soul is characterised is the result of the influence of the celestial spirit of that species, which possess that attribute in a way that is more perfect that the way in which it obtains in the human souls that it engenders.
For this reason, they have called these principles (usul) the Perfect Nature. Thus human souls are like the children of their celestial spirit, which for them is like a father who shows them love and tenderness. The celestial spirit has a special role in the raising of human souls. If a celestial spirit is noble, virtuous and intelligent, then so are the human souls over which it presides; if it is characterised by the opposite, then so are the human souls that belong to it. Moreover, since those souls belong to one species, then of course it follows that they would share kinship and similarity; and for this reason, an increased love and affection exists between them.
For this reason, a boundless love may bind together people from different nations whilst two others may harbour an indefatigable hatred and loathing for the other. It is most manifest that the master of revelation and divine law, peace be upon him-subscribed to this doctrine when said:” In his possession are souls who are like enlisted soldiers: those who have already come to know each other are in harmony; those who are ignorant of each other fall into difference.” ‘
Each human soul shares the same essence (quiddity) as its fellow sibling souls which derive from the same celestial spirit.
(Hygeia note: Like attracts Like)
End of part 3
To be continued