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Yves Marquet: From The Ikhwan-al-Safa Letter 26 – As Above So Below

Double-leaf frontispiece from the “Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity”. Baghdad, 1287. Süleymaniye Library, Istanbul-Türkiye.


Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA, is another excerpt from Yves Marquet’s trail-blazing and influential, ‘The Ikhwan-al-Safa’, the Pythagoreans of Islam’. SEHA-EDIDIT, Paris 2006. Our English version is from Yves Marquet’s French translation of the Arabic of the ‘Ikhwan-al-Safa’, the Brethren of Purity, pages  337 and 338. Text source is Letter 26, ‘Of the Microcosmos’.


The Ikhwan-al-Safa compare man with the heavenly world, or to its ‘seven eminent and mobile rulers’, the seven planets. They say that alike the planets in the universe, the organs are proportionate to the whole of the body and between themselves, and especially that each of these planets has its own rays of action, as each organ has it own proper faculty that manifest in its workings that corresponds to the spiritual faculties of the seven planets:

‘The heart is in the middle of man’s body like the sun in the middle of the spheres. The light and rays of the sun travel in the entire world maintaining its life and good state, alike, the heart spreads the natural warmth in all the organs, maintaining life and the good health of the body.

Each organ of the body like the heart, the liver, the brain, the stomach, the lungs, the spleen, the intestines, the blood vessels, the nerves, the bones, the muscles, the brains, the skin is of analog constitution and different than the other. Each structure has its own composition (Tarkib) and this composition has humors. Those humors have temperaments and those temperaments have natures that vary in quantity and modality (kayfiyya), hot-cold-humid and dry and different from the others. The degrees of powers is the basis of the alchemical measuring scale.

A sick organ desire the nature of the remedy opposite to the nature of the disease. If, one or two of the four natures has produced an illness by an overwhelming excess, in relation to the others. The remedy re-establishes balance in adding more to the other natures. The doctor, like an apprentice, serves Nature in providing at the right time what it needs. He must know all remedies for the humors (that is to say the blood, the bile, the atrabiliar and the pituitary) with the BEST PROPORTION and BALANCED DOSAGE; the 4 natures and their differences; what is the normal state of a temperament (of the humors) and what is bad; a GEOMETRICAL knowledge of the weight of the constitution of the body in both sides.

Know also that the spleen, with its black bile properties dry and cold, provides and maintains the consistency and coagulation of the blood, like Saturn, the consistency and sustainability of the forms in matter.

The liver provides a good balance and proportions to the humors and the body, like Jupiter provides theirs to the four elements.

The gallbladder, with its yellow bile, provides like Mars determination.

The stomach, with its appetite faculty, provides not only the life to the body, but also like Venus, the joy of living and beauty.

The Brain, like Mercury, brings sensations and knowledge.

Finally, the lungs, with its breathing, hints to the breathing of the Moon with its half full of lights and its half in shadow.’

The Brethren then refer to ‘the almagest and astrology’ (‘almagest’ taken here as a discipline and not as the title of a famous work by Claudius Ptolemy) and end the letter by this injunction: ‘Wake up !

Bowl with astronomical and courtly Motifs- Late 12th – early 13th century, from  central or northern Iran. From the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. N.Y.



More about the Brethren of Purity:🌿The letters in English Translation:ān-al-ṣafaʾ-and-their-rasāʾil/
Yves Marquet: From The Ikhwan-al-Safa Letter 26 – As Above So Below

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