History of Philosophy in Islam, by T.J. de Boer , at sacred-texts.com
1. In the tenth century the Logicians or Metaphysicians are distinguished from the Natural-Philosophers. The former follow a more rigorous method than the Dialecticians, and treat of other subjects than those which are dealt with by the Physical school. They have repudiated Pythagoras, to entrust themselves to the guidance of Aristotle, of course in Neo-Platonic guise.
We have here to do with two directions of scientific interest. The Natural-Philosophers are more or less concerned with the plenitude of the concrete phenomena of Nature, as in Geography and Ethnology. They investigate in all directions the effects of things, and think the essential nature of these is only to be discerned in such effect or working. When they do ascend beyond Nature, Soul and Spirit, to the Divine Essence, then the definition of it to which they confine themselves, or which they adopt by preference, is--'the First Cause', or,--'the wise Creator', whose goodness and wisdom appear from his works.
The Logicians proceed in a very different way. The occurrence of the Particular has only a subordinate value in their eyes,--the value, merely, of an illustration of its deducibility from the Universal. While the Physicists start from effects or operations, the Logicians seek to comprehend things from principles. Everywhere they enquire after the Idea or Essence of things, up to the highest. For them,--to make the contrast more intelligible by an example--, God is not, first of all, 'the wise Creator', but first of all 'the necessarily existing Being'.
In the order of time the Logicians come after the Physical school, just as the Mutazilite Dialectic on its part (v. II, 3 §§ 4 and 5) brought within the scope of its consideration first God's Working, and then his Being.
We have already come to recognize Razi as the most important representative of the philosophical direction taken by the Physicists; and as for the Logical and Metaphysical efforts,--for which Kindi and others had prepared the way,--they culminate with Razi's younger contemporary Abu Nasr ibn Mohammed ibn Tarkhan ibn Uzlag al-Farabi.
2. We cannot say much with certainty about the course of Farabi's outward life and training. He was a quiet man, devoted to a life of philosophy and contemplation, sheltered by the powerful, and assuming at last the dress of a Sufi. His father is said to have been a Persian general, and he himself was born at Wasidj, a small fortified place in the district of Farab in Turkish Transoxiana. It was in Bagdad, and partly at the hands of a Christian preceptor Yohanna ibn Hailan, that he received his education. This embraced both literary and mathematical subjects, forming the equivalent of the 'Trivium' and 'Quadrivium' of mediæval
[paragraph continues] Christendom. One or two of his writings, particularly on Music, give evidence still of his mathematical training. Legend credits him with ability to speak in all the languages of the world, seventy in number. That he understood Turkish and Persian,--an a priori probability,--is manifest from his works. Arabic he writes clearly, and with a certain grace, although now and then his fondness for synonyms and parallel clauses interferes with the precision of philosophical expression.
The philosophy in which Farabi was initiated sprung from the school of Merv; and perhaps its members had given greater attention to metaphysical questions than the men of Harran and Basra with their marked leaning to Natural Philosophy.
From Bagdad, where he had long lived and worked, he went to Haleb (Aleppo), in consequence doubtless of political disturbances, and there he settled at the brilliant court of Saif-addaula; but he must have spent his closing years not at court but in retirement. He died at Damascus, while on a journey, in December, 960; and it is reported that his prince, attired as a Sufi, pronounced over him his funeral oration. We are told that he was eighty years of age, and it is otherwise probable that he was a very old man. His contemporary, and partner in study, Abu Bishr Matta died ten years before him, and his pupil Abu Zakariya. Yakhya ibn Adi in the year 971, at the age of eighty-one.
3. The chronological order of the works of Farabi has not been determined. Shorter treatises in which he comes into touch with the Dialecticians and Natural-Philosophers, if these are at all genuine in the form handed down to us, may have been popular or juvenile productions of his;
but his mature powers were applied to the study of Aristotle's writings, for which reason the name given him by the East was 'the Second Teacher', that is, 'the Second Aristotle'.
Since his day the number and order of the works composed by Aristotle or at least attributed to him, which have been paraphrased and commented on after Farabi's example, remain upon the whole fixed. First come the eight Logical treatises, viz., the Categories; the Hermeneutics; the First Analytics; the Second Analytics; the Topics; the Sophistics; Rhetoric; and the Poetics: It is to these that the Isagoge of Porphyry is the introduction. Then follow the eight treatises which deal with Physical subjects, viz., .Auscultatio Physica; De Coelo et Mundo; De Generatione et Corruptione; the Meteorology; the Psychology; De Sensu et Sensato; the Book of Plants; and the Book of Animals. Lastly come the Metaphysics, the Ethics, the Politics and so on.
The so-called "Theology of Aristotle" was still considered by Farabi to be a genuine work. In Neo-Platonic fashion, and with some attempt at adaptation to the Muslim faith, he seeks to demonstrate that Plato and Aristotle harmonize with one another. The need which he experiences is not for a discriminating criticism, but for a conclusive and comprehensive view of the world; and the satisfaction of this need,--which is rather a religious than a scientific one,--induces him to overlook philosophic differences, Plato and Aristotle must differ from each other only in method, in phraseology, and in relation to practical life: their doctrine of wisdom is the same. They are the 'Imāms' or 'highest authorities' in philosophy; and seeing that they were two, independent, original minds, the authority which is constituted
by their agreement has more validity in the eyes of Farabi than the faith of the whole Muslim community, who with blind confidence follow the guidance of one.
4. Farabi is counted among the physicians, but he seems not to have been in actual practice. He was entirely devoted to the spiritual healing art. Purity of Soul he denominated the condition and fruit of all philosophizing, and he demanded love of truth even though it should oppose Aristotle. Then the judgment has to be trained by means of Geometry and Logic for the study of physical and mental science. Farabi, however, pays but little heed to the separate branches of study: his powers are concentrated on Logic, Metaphysics, and the principles of Physics. Philosophy for hire is the science of all Being as such, in the acquisition of which science we come to resemble the Godhead. It is the one, all-embracing science, which pictures the world to us as a Universe. Farabi's charge against the Dialecticians is, that they employ as a basis for their demonstrations the deliverances of ordinary consciousness without testing them; and the Natural-Philosophers he blames for continually occupying themselves merely with the effect of things, and thus never getting beyond the contrasts of worldly phenomena by attaining to a unified conception of the All. He would confront the former by setting Thought on a proper foundation; and in opposition to the latter he would thoroughly investigate the subject of the One First Cause of all that exists. Consequently we shall be taking the best way to do justice to his historical and dogmatic position, if we endeavour to give some account, first of his Logic, next of his Metaphysics, and finally of his Physics and Practical Philosophy.
5. The Logic of Farabi is not a mere analysis of scientific thinking: it contains in addition many remarks on grammar, and discussions on the theory of knowledge. While grammar is limited to the language of one people, Logic, on the other hand, has to regulate the expression in language of the aggregate intelligence of mankind. From the simplest elements of speech it must advance to the most complex forms,--from the word to the sentence, and on to discourse.
Logic falls into two divisions, according as its subjects stand related to actuality; the first of these comprising the doctrine of Ideas and Definitions (tasawwur), and the second, the doctrine of Judgments, Inferences, and Proofs (tasdiq). Ideas,--with which are classed Definitions, though in a mere loose, outward juxtaposition,--have in themselves no relation to actuality, that is to say, they are neither true nor false. Among 'Ideas' Farabi recognizes here the simplest psychological forms, that is, both the representations of individual objects arising from Sense-Perception, and those ideas which have been stamped upon the mind from the first, such as the Necessary, the Actual, the Possible. Such representations and ideas are immediately certain. A man's mind may be directed to these, and his soul made observant of them, but they cannot be demonstrated to him, nor can they be explained by deriving them from what is known, seeing that they are already clear in themselves, and that too with the highest degree of certitude.
By combining representations or ideas, judgments result, and these may be either true or false. To obtain a foundation for these judgments we have to go back through the processes of Inference and of Proof to certain propositions
originally conveyed to the understanding, immediately obvious, and admitting of no farther confirmation. Such propositions,--the fundamental propositions or Axioms of all Science,--there must be for Mathematics, Metaphysics, and Ethics.
The doctrine of Proof, by which, starting from what is known and well-established, we arrive at a knowledge of something formerly unknown, is, according to Farabi, Logic properly so called. Acquaintance with the leading Concepts (the Categories), and with their synthesis in Judgment (Hermeneutics) and in Inference (First Analytics) furnishes only the introduction thereto. And in the Proof-doctrine the chief point is to ascertain the Norms or principles of a universally valid and necessary Science, which Philosophy has to be. Here the Law of Contradiction is looked upon as the highest of these principles, by which law the truth or necessity of a proposition, and at the same time the untruth or impossibility of the contrary, become known in one single cognitive act. From this point of view the Platonic Dichotomy is to be preferred, as a scientific method, to the Aristotelian Polytomy. And Farabi is not content with the formal side of the doctrine of proof. That doctrine has to be more than a methodology which points out the right way to the truth: it must itself point out the truth; it must generate science. It not only deals with judgments as material for the syllogism, but it enquires also into the truth which they contain, with reference to the particular sciences concerned. It is not a mere implement; it is rather a constituent part of philosophy.
As we have seen, the theory of proof terminates in necessary knowledge, corresponding to necessary existence. But
besides this there is the great province of the Possible, from which we can gain only a probable knowledge: The different degrees then of probability, or the modes in which we attain to a knowledge of the Possible, are discussed in the Topics, and with them are associated Sophistic, Rhetoric and Poetics. In other connections these last three subjects are mainly concerned with practical aims, but in Farabi's hands they are combined with the Topics into a Dialectic of the Seeming. He proceeds to say that true science can be built up only on the necessary propositions of the Second Analytics, but that Probability shades off into the mere phantom of truth, from the topical or dialectic judgments down to the poetical. Thus Poetry stands at the very bottom of the scale, being in Farabi's opinion a lying and immoral absurdity.
In the addendum to the Isagoge of Porphyry, our philosopher has also given expression to his views on the question of 'Universals'. He finds the Particular not only in things and in sense-perception but also in thought. In like manner the Universal exists not merely as an 'accident' in individual things, but also as a 'substance' in mind. The mind of man abstracts the Universal from things, but it had an existence of its own before these. Virtually therefore the triple distinction of the 'ante rem', 'in re' and 'post rem' already occurs in Farabi.
Does mere 'being' also belong to the Universals? Is existence, in effect, a predicate? This question which caused so much mischief in philosophy was fully and correctly answered by Farabi. According to him, existence is a grammatical or logical relation, but not a category of actuality which makes any assertion about things. The existence of a thing is nothing but the thing itself.
6. The trend of thought found in the Logic asserts itself also in the Metaphysics. Instead of the Changeable and the Everlasting, there emerge the ideas of the Possible and the Necessary.
Everything in fact that exists, is, in Farabi's view, either a necessary or a possible thing; there is no third kind of Being. Now since all which is possible presupposes for its realisation a Cause, while yet the chain of causes cannot be traced back without end, we see ourselves compelled to assume that there is a Being, existing of necessity, uncaused, possessing the highest degree of perfection and an eternal plenitude of reality, self-sufficing, without any change, who as absolute Mind and pure goodness and thinking,--being the thinking and the thought in one nature,--loves the all-transcending goodness and beauty of that nature, which is his own. This Being cannot be proved to exist, because he himself is the proof and first cause of all things, in whom truth and reality coincide. And it is involved in the very idea of such a Being, that he should be one, and one only, for if there were two first and absolute Beings, they would have to be partly alike and partly different,--in which case, however, the simplicity of each would be destroyed. A Being who is the most perfect of all, must be one alone.
This first Existence, one alone, and of a verity real, we call God; and since in him all things are one, without even difference in kind, no definition of his Being can be supplied. Yet man bestows upon him the noblest names, expressive of all that is most honoured and esteemed in life, because in the mystic impulse thereto, words lose their usual significance, transcending all discrepancy. Some
names refer to his essential nature, others to his relation to the world, without prejudicing, however, the unity of his essence; but they are all to be understood metaphorically, and we can interpret them only according to feeble analogy. Of God, as the most perfect Being, we ought properly to have also the most complete idea. At least our mathematical notions are more perfect than our notions of physics, because the former refer to the more perfect objects. But with the most perfect object of all we fare as with the most brilliant light: by reason of the weakness of our eyes we cannot bear it. Thus the imperfections inherent in Matter cling to our understanding.
7. We are able to see God better in the regular gradation of Beings which proceed from him than in himself. From him, the One alone, comes the All, for his knowledge is the highest power: In his cognizance of himself the world comes into being: The cause of all things is not the will of an almighty Creator, but the knowledge of the Necessary. From eternity the Forms or Types of things are in God, and from him eternally proceeds also his own image, termed 'the Second All' or 'the first created Spirit', which moves the outermost celestial Sphere. In succession to this Spirit, come, one out of the other, the eight Spirits of the Spheres, all of which are unique in their several kinds and perfect, and these are the creators of the celestial bodies. These nine Spirits, called 'Celestial Angels', together form the second grade of Being. In the third grade stands the Reason, active in Humanity, which is also termed the Holy Spirit and which unites heaven and earth. The Soul is in the fourth grade. These two, the Reason and the Soul, do not remain by themselves in their strict original
[paragraph continues] One-ness, but multiply in accordance with the great number of human beings. Lastly appear Form and Matter, as Beings of the fifth and sixth orders; and with them the series of Spiritual existences is closed. The first three grades, God, the Spirits of the Spheres, and the Active Reason, remain Spirit per se; but the three which follow,--Soul, Form and Matter, although incorporeal, yet enter into relation with Body.
The Corporeal, which is held to originate in the imagination of the Spirit, has also its six grades: Celestial Bodies, Human Bodies, Bodies of Lower Animals, Bodies of Plants, Minerals, and Elementary Bodies.
The influence of Farabi's Christian preceptor is probably still to be seen in these speculations, following as they do the number Three. That number had the same significance in them that the number Four had with the Natural-Philosophers. The terminology also bears out this idea.
That, however, is merely external: It is Neo-Platonism that contributes the contents. Here the Creation, or Emanation of the world, appears as an eternal, intellectual process. By the first created Spirit thinking of its Author, the second Sphere-spirit comes into being; while, by the same Spirit thinking of itself and thus realizing itself, there proceeds from it the first Body, or the uppermost celestial Sphere. And so the process goes on in necessary succession, down to the lowest Sphere, that of the Moon, in entire accordance with the Ptolemaic Sphere-system,--as it is known to every well-educated person at least from Dante's "Commedia",--and in the Neo-Platonic manner of derivation. The Spheres together form an unbroken order, for all that exists is a Unity. The creation and preservation of the
world are one and the same. And not only is the unity of the Divine Being portrayed in the world, but the Divine righteousness is also expressed in the beautiful order which there prevails. The logical order of the world is at the same time a moral order.
8. The sublunary world of this earth is, of course, wholly dependent on the world of the celestial spheres. Yet the influence from above bears in the first place, as we know a priori, upon the necessary order of the whole, although in the second place the individual thing also is made to happen, but only according to natural reciprocal action, and therefore by rules which experience teaches us. Astrology, which attributes everything that is contingent or extraordinary to the stars and their conjunctions, is combated by Farabi. There is no certain knowledge of the Contingent; and,--as Aristotle also has taught,--much of what happens on this earth possesses in a high degree the character of the Contingent or the Possible. The celestial world, on the other hand, has another and a more perfect nature, which operates according to necessary laws. It can bestow upon this earthly world only that which is good; and therefore it is a complete mistake to maintain that some stars bring good luck, and others ill luck. The nature of the heavens is one, and it is uniformly good. The conclusion then at which Farabi arrives, by these reflections is this: Knowledge, capable of demonstration, and perfectly certain, is afforded by Mathematical Astronomy alone; the physical study of the heavens yields a probable knowledge; but the tenets and vaticinations of Astrology merit an exceedingly hesitating belief.
Overagainst the simplicity of the celestial world we have
the sublunary kingdom of the four natures,--the kingdom of contrasts and of change. Even in this realm, in the midst of its plurality, we meet with the unity of an ascending series, from the Elements up to Man. Farabi is unable to advance much that is original on this subject. True to his logical standpoint, he gives himself very little concern about the Natural Sciences, among which, in reliance upon the original unity of matter, he seems without any hesitation to have counted Alchemy. We turn at once to his Doctrine of Man or of the Human Soul, which presents a measure of interest.
9. The powers or divisions of the Human Soul are, in Farabi's opinion, not of co-ordinate rank, but constitute an ascending series. The lower faculty is Material for the higher; and this again is the Form for the first, while the highest power of all, viz. Thinking, is non-material, and is Form for all the Forms which precede. The life of the, Soul is raised from things of sense to thought, by means of the power of Representation; but in all the faculties there is involved Effort or Will. Every theory has its obverse side in practice; and Inclination and Disinclination are inseparable from the perceptions furnished by the senses. To the representations of these the soul takes up an attitude of assent or dissent, by affirming or denying. Finally, Thought passes judgment on Good and Bad, gives to the Will its motives, and constructs Art and Science. All Perception, Representation or Thought is attended with a certain effort to reach the necessary consequence, just as warmth radiates from the substance of fire.
The Soul is that which gives completeness (Entelechia) to the existence of the body; but that which gives completeness
to the existence of the Soul is the Mind, or the Spirit (‘aql). The Spirit only is the real Man.
10. Accordingly the discussion turns mainly on the Mind or Spirit. In the human Spirit everything earthly is raised to a higher mode of existence, which is lifted out of the categories of the Corporeal. Now as a capability or potentiality, Mind or Spirit is present in the Soul of the Child; and it becomes actual Spirit in the course of its apprehension of bodily forms in experience by means of the Senses and the representative faculty. But this transition from possibility to actuality, the realisation thus of experience,--is not Man's own act, but is brought about by the Superhuman Spirit, which has sprung from the last Sphere-Spirit, that of the Moon. In this way Man's knowledge is represented as being a contribution from above, and not a knowledge which has been acquired in mental struggle. In the light of the Spirit which stands above us, our understanding descries the Forms of the Corporeal; and thereby experience is amplified into rational knowledge. Experience, in fact, takes in only the Forms which have been abstracted from the world of Matter. But there are in existence also,--before and above material things,--Forms and general entities, in the pure Spirits of the Spheres. Man now receives information from these 'detached Forms': it is only by means of their influence that his actual experience becomes explicable to him. From God down to the Spirit of Mankind, the higher Form affects only that which immediately succeeds it. Every intermediate Form stands in a relation of 'receptive' activity to what is above it, and of 'conferring' activity to what is below it. In its relation to the Human Spirit, which is influenced from above (‘aql mustafad),
the Superhuman Spirit, produced from the last Sphere-Spirit, is to be called 'active' or 'creative' (‘aql fa‘‘âl). Yet it is not continually active, because its effectiveness is restrained by its material. But God is the completely-real, eternally-active Spirit.
The Spirit in Man is threefold: according as it is (1) Possible, (2) Actual, and (3) Influenced from above. Now in the sense of Farabi, this means--that (1) the spiritual potentiality in Man is, by means of (2) realizing the knowledge which is gained by experience, (3) led to the knowledge of the Supersensible, which precedes all experience, and itself induces the experience.
The grades of Spirit and its knowledge correspond to the grades of existence. The lower strives wistfully to reach the higher, and the higher lifts the lower up to its own level. The Spirit which stands above us, and which has lent to all earthly things their Forms, seeks to bring these scattered Forms together that they may become one in love. First of all he collects them in Man. And indeed the possibility and truth of human knowledge depend on the fact that the same Spirit who bestowed upon the Corporeal its figure, also gives Idea to Man. The scattered Forms of the earthly are found again in the Human Spirit, and thereby it comes to resemble the last of the Celestial Spirits. Unity with that Celestial Spirit,--and in this an approach to God,--is the aim and the blessedness of the Spirit of Man.
Now the question whether such a. union is possible before Man's death is, in Farabi's opinion, either a doubtful one, or one which should be answered in the direct negative,-The highest thing that can be attained in this life, is
rational knowledge. But separation from the body gives to the rational soul the complete freedom which belongs to spirit. But does it then continue to exist as an individual soul? Or is it merely a Moment of the higher World-Intelligence? On this point Farabi expresses himself ambiguously, and with a lack of consistency, in his various writings. Men,--so the expression runs,--disappear in death; one generation follows another; and like is joined to like, each in its own class. And forasmuch as rational souls are not bound to space, they multiply without end, just as thought is added to thought, and power to power. Every soul reflects on itself and all others that are like to it; and the more it so reflects, the more intense is its joy (Cf. infra, § 13).
11. We come now to Farabi's practical philosophy. In his Ethics and Politics we are brought into a somewhat closer relation to the life and belief of the Muslims. One or two general points of view may be brought forward.
Just as Logic has to give an account of the principles of knowledge, so Ethics have to deal with the fundamental rules of conduct, although, in the latter, somewhat more value is attached to practice and experience than in the theory of knowledge. In the treatment of this subject Farabi agrees sometimes with Plato, and sometimes with Aristotle; but occasionally, in a mystic and ascetic fashion, he goes farther than either of them. In opposition to the Theologians, who recognize, no doubt, a knowledge gained by Reason, but not rules of conduct taught by Reason, Farabi frequently affirms with emphasis that Reason decides whether a thing is good or evil. Why should not that Reason, which has been imparted to us from above, decide upon conduct,
seeing that the highest virtue certainly consists in knowing? In vigorously accentuated terms Farabi declares that if one man knew everything that stands in the writings of Aristotle, but did not act in accordance with his knowledge, while another man shaped his conduct in accordance with Aristotle's teaching, without being acquainted with it, the preference would have to be assigned to the former. Knowledge takes a higher position than the moral act; otherwise it could not decide upon the act.
By its very nature the Soul desires. In so far as it perceives and represents, it has a will, just like the lower animals. But man alone possesses freedom of choice, seeing that this rests upon rational consideration. Pure thought is the sphere of freedom. Thus it is a freedom which depends upon motives furnished by thinking,--a freedom which is at the same time necessity, inasmuch as in the last resort it is determined by the rational nature of God. In this sense Farabi is a Determinist.
On account of the opposition offered by matter, the freedom of man, as thus conceived, can only imperfectly vindicate its lordship over the Sensible. It does not become perfect till the rational soul has been enfranchised from the bonds of matter and the wrappings of error,--in the life of the Spirit. But that is the highest blessedness which is striven after for its own sake, and consequently it is plainly the Good. Such good the Human Soul is seeking, when it turns to the Spirit above it, just as the Spirits of the heavens do, when they draw near to the Highest.
12. Even in the Ethics little regard is had to actual moral conditions; but in his Politics Farabi withdraws still farther from real life. In his oriental way of looking
at things, the ideal Republic of Plato merges into 'the Philosopher as Ruler'. Men, having been brought together by a natural want, submit themselves to the will of a single person, in whom the State, be it good or bad, is, so to speak, embodied. A State therefore is bad, if the head of it is, as regards the principles of the Good, either ignorant or in error, or quite depraved. On the other hand the good or excellent State has only one type, that namely in which the philosopher is ruler. And Farabi endows his 'Prince' with all the virtues of humanity and philosophy: he is Plato in the mantle of the Prophet Mohammed.
In the description of rulers representative of the ideal Prince,--for there may be more than one existing together, and Prince and minister may divide governing-virtue and wisdom between them,--we come nearer the Muslim political theory of that day. But the expressions are wrapped in obscurity: the lineage, for example, which is proper for a Prince, and his duty of taking the lead in the holy war,--are not clearly signified. All indeed is left floating in philosophic mist.
13. Morality reaches perfection only in a State which at the same time forms a religious community. Not only does the condition of the State determine the temporal lot of its citizens, but also their future destiny. The souls of citizens in an "ignorant" State are devoid of reason, and return to the elements as sensible Forms, in order to be united anew with other beings,--men or lower animals. In States which are "in error", and in those which are "depraved", the leader alone is responsible, and punishment awaits him in the world beyond; but the souls which have been led into error share the fate of the ignorant. On the
other hand, if the good and 'knowing' souls only maintain their ground, they enter the world of pure Spirit; and the higher the stage of knowledge to which they have attained in this life, the higher will their position be after death, in the order of the All, and the more intense their blessed delight.
In all likelihood expressions of this kind are only the outer wrapping of a mystico-philosophical belief in the absorption of the Human Spirit into the World-Spirit and finally into God. For,--as Farabi teaches,--although the world, deductively considered (i.e. logically and metaphysically), is something different from God, yet inductively the present world is regarded by the soul as being identical with the next, because in everything, even in his Unity, God is himself the All.
14. If we now take a general survey of Farabi's system, it exhibits itself as a fairly consistent Spiritualism, or,--to be more precise,--Intellectualism. The Corporeal,--that which appeals to the Senses,--as it originates in the imagination of the Spirit, might be designated "a confused presentation". The only true existence is Spirit, although it assumes various degrees. God alone is entirely unmixed and pure Spirit, while those Spirits, which eternally proceed from him, already have in them the element of plurality. The number of primary Spirits has been determined by the Ptolemaic cosmology, and corresponds to the celestial hierarchy.. The farther any one of them is removed from the first, so much the less part has it in the Being of the pure Spirit. From the last World-Spirit Man receives his essential nature, that is--Reason. There is no gap in all the system; the Universe is a beautiful and well-ordered
whole. The Evil and the Bad are the necessary consequence of finiteness in individual things; but the Good which characterizes the Universe is set thereby in bolder relief.
Can this fair order of the Universe, from all eternity emanating from God, ever be destroyed, or can it even flow back to God? A sustained streaming-back to the Godhead, there doubtless is. The longing of the Soul is directed to what is above; and advancing knowledge purifies it and leads it upwards. But how far? Neither philosophers nor prophets have been able to return a clear answer to this question. And the wisdom of both of these,--both philosophy and prophecy,--Farabi derives from the creative World-Spirit above us. Now and again he speaks of prophecy as if it represented the highest stage of human knowledge and action. But that cannot be his real view;--at least it is not the logical consequence of his theoretical philosophy. According to it everything prophetic,--in dream, vision, revelation and so on,--belongs to the sphere of the Imagination or Representation, and thus takes an intermediate position between Sense-Perception and pure Rational Knowledge. Although, in his Ethics and Politics, he attaches a high educational importance to religion, it is always regarded as inferior in absolute worth to knowledge acquired through pure reason.
Farabi lived perpetually in the world of the Intellect. A king in the mental realm, a beggar in worldly possessions, he felt happy with his books, and with the birds and flowers of his garden. To his people,--the Muslim community,--he could be only very little. In his political and ethical teaching there was no proper place for worldly matters or for the 'holy war'. His philosophy did not
satisfy any need appertaining to the senses, while it spoke against the life of imagination belonging both to the senses and the intellect, as that life gives special expression to itself in the creations of Art and in religious fancies. He was lost in the abstractions of pure Spirit. As a pious, holy man, he was an object of wonder to his contemporaries, and by a few disciples he was honoured as the personification of wisdom; but by the genuine scholars of Islam he was always decried as a heretic. There was, of course, ground enough for this: just as Natural Philosophy easily led to Naturalism and Atheism, the Monotheism of the Logicians imperceptibly conducted to Pantheism.
15. Farabi had no great following of disciples: Abu Zakariya Yakhya ibn Adi, a Jacobite Christian, became known as a translator of Aristotelian works; but a pupil of Zakariya's came to be more spoken of, called Abu Sulaiman Mohammed ibn Tahir ibn Bahram al-Sidjistani, who gathered about him in Bagdad, in the second half of the tenth century, the learned men of his time. The conversational discussions which they conducted, and the philosophical instructions which were imparted by the master, have been to some extent preserved, and we can clearly see the outcome of the school. Just as Natural Philosophy drifted into a secret lore, and the school of Kindi abandoned Philosophy for the separate branches of Mathematical and Physical Science, so the logical tendency of Farabi passed into a philosophy of words. Distinctions and definitions form the subject of these conferences. Individual points in the history of philosophy and in the several sciences are discussed also, without any systematic connection; but almost never does any positive interest in these subjects
appear. The Human Soul occupies the foreground entirely, just as in the case of the Faithful Brethren, except that these last dealt rather with the marvellous operations of the Soul, while the Logicians pondered over its rational essence and its elevation to the Supra-rational. The Sidjistani Society trifled with words and concepts, instead of with numbers and letters after the fashion of the Brethren; but the end in both cases was--a mystical Sufism.
It is therefore no matter of astonishment that in the learned meetings of Abu Sulaiman, as reported by his pupil Tauhidi († 1009), Empedocles, Socrates, Plato and others are oftener mentioned than Aristotle. A very miscellaneous society came together in those meetings. No question was asked as to the country from which any one came, or the religion to which he adhered. They lived in the conviction,--derived from Plato, that every opinion contained a measure of truth, just as all things shared in a common existence, and all sciences in an actual knowledge which was one and the same. On that assumption alone could they have conceived that every one might start with maintaining that his own opinion was the true one, and that the science which he cultivated was the science most to be preferred. And for that very reason there is no conflict between Religion and Philosophy, however vehement the assertions may be on these two sides. On the contrary Philosophy confirms the doctrines of Religion, just as the latter brings the results of Philosophy to perfection. If Philosophical Knowledge is the essence and end of the Soul of man, Religious Belief is its life, or the way to that end; and as Reason is God's vicegerent on earth, it is impossible for Reason and Revelation to contradict each other.
It is not worth while to accentuate particular points in these conversational discussions, the tenor of which we have given. The appearance of Sidjistani and his circle is important in the history of culture; but it has no significance as regards the development of Philosophy in Islam. What was to Farabi the very life of his Spirit, becomes in this Society a subject merely of clever conversation.