The Development of Metaphysics in Persia
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The Development of Metaphysics in Persia is the book form of Muhammad Iqbal's PhD thesis in philosophy at the University of Munich submitted in 1908 and published in the same year. It traces the development of metaphysics in Persia from the time of Zoroaster to the advent of the Baháʼí Faith.

The Development of Metaphysics in Persia

A Contribution to the History of Muslim Philosophy

Shaikh Muhammad Iqbal

The Development of Metaphysics in Persia

Professor T. W. Arnold M. A.

My dear Mr. Arnold,

This little book is the first-fruit of that literary and philosophical training which I have been receiving from you for the last ten years, and as an expression of gratitude I beg to dedicate it to your name. You have always judged me liberally; I hope you will judge these pages in the same spirit.

Your affectionate pupil


The most remarkable feature of the character of the Persian people is their love of Metaphysical speculation. Yet the inquirer who approaches the extant literature of Persia expecting to find any comprehensive systems of thought, like those of Kapila or Kant, will have to turn back disappointed, though deeply impressed by the wonderful intellectual subtlety displayed therein. It seems to me that the Persian mind is rather impatient of detail, and consequently destitute of that organising faculty which gradually works out a system of ideas, by interpreting the fundamental principles with reference to the ordinary facts of observation. The subtle Brahman sees the inner unity of things; so does the Persian. But while the former endeavours to discover it in all the aspects of human experience, and illustrates its hidden presence in the concrete in various ways, the latter appears to be satisfied with a bare universality, and does not attempt to verify the richness of its inner content. The butterfly imagination of the Persian flies, half-inebriated as it were, from flower to flower, and seems to be incapable of reviewing the garden as a whole. For this reason his deepest thoughts and emotions find expression mostly in disconnected verses (Ghazal) which reveal all the subtlety of his artistic soul. The Hindū, while admitting, like the Persian, the necessity of a higher source of knowledge, yet calmly moves from experience to experience, mercilessly dissecting them, and forcing them to yield their underlying universality. In fact the Persian is only half-conscious of Metaphysics as a system of thought; his Brahman brother, on the other hand, is fully alive to the need of presenting his theory in the form of a thoroughly reasoned out system. And the result of this mental difference between the two nations is clear. In the one case we have only partially worked out systems of thought; in the other case, the awful sublimity of the searching Vedānta. The student of Islamic Mysticism who is anxious to see an all-embracing exposition of the principle of Unity, must look up the heavy volumes of the Andalūsian Ibn al-‘Arabī, whose profound teaching stands in strange contrast with the dry-as-dust Islam of his countrymen.

The results, however, of the intellectual activity of the different branches of the great Aryan family are strikingly similar. The outcome of all Idealistic speculation in India is Buddha, in Persia Bahāullah, and in the west Schopenhauer whose system, in Hegelian language, is the marriage of free oriental universality with occidental determinateness.

But the history of Persian thought presents a phenomenon peculiar to itself. In Persia, due perhaps to semitic influences, philosophical speculation has indissolubly associated itself with religion, and thinkers in new lines of thought have almost always been founders of new religious movements. After the Arab conquest, however, we see pure Philosophy severed from religion by the Neo-Platonic Aristotelians of Islam, but the severance was only a transient phenomenon. Greek philosophy, though an exotic plant in the soil of Persia, eventually became an integral part of Persian thought; and later thinkers, critics as well as advocates of Greek wisdom, talked in the philosophical language of Aristotle and Plato, and were mostly influenced by religious presuppositions. It is necessary to bear this fact in mind in order to gain a thorough understanding of post-Islamic Persian thought.

The object of this investigation is, as will appear, to prepare a ground-work for a future history of Persian Metaphysics. Original thought cannot be expected in a review, the object of which is purely historical; yet I venture to claim some consideration for the following two points: —

(a) I have endeavoured to trace the logical continuity of Persian thought, which I have tried to interpret in the language of modern Philosophy. This, as far as I know, has not yet been done.

(b) I have discussed the subject of Ṣūfīism in a more scientific manner, and have attempted to bring out the intellectual conditions which necessitated such a phenomenon. In opposition, therefore, to the generally accepted view I have tried to maintain that Ṣūfīism is a necessary product of the play of various intellectual and moral forces which would necessarily awaken the slumbering soul to a higher ideal of life.

Owing to my ignorance of Zend, my knowledge of Zoroaster is merely second-hand. As regards the second part of my work, I have been able to look up the original Persian and Arabic manuscripts as well as many printed works connected with my investigation. I give below the names of Arabic and Persian manuscripts from which I have drawn most of the material utilized here. The method of transliteration adopted is the one recognised by the Royal Asiatic Society.

The Development of Metaphysics in Persia

1. Tārīkh al-Ḥukamā, by Al-Baihaqī ________________ Royal Library of Berlin.
2. Sharḥi Anwāriyya, (with the original text)
by Muḥammad Sharīf of Herāt _____________________ Royal Library of Berlin.
3. Ḥikmat al-‘Ain, by al-Kātibī ______________________ Royal Library of Berlin.
4. Commentary on Ḥikmat al-‘Ain,
by Muḥammad ibn Mubārak al-Bukhārī ____________ India Office Library.
5. Commentary on Ḥikmat al-‘Ain by Ḥusainī _______ India Office Library.
6. ‘Awārif al-Ma‘ārif, by Shahāb al-Dīn ______________ India Office Library.

The Development of Metaphysics in Persia

7. Mishkāt al-Anwār, by Al-Ghazālī __________________________ India Office Library.
8. Kashf al-Maḥjūb, by ‘Alī Hajverī ___________________________ India Office Library.
9. Risālahi Nafs translated from Aristotle, by Afḍal Kāshī ___ India Office Library.
10. Risālahi Mīr Sayyid Sharīf _______________________________ India Office Library.
11. Khātima, by Sayyid Muḥammad Gisūdarāz ______________ India Office Library.
12. Manāzilal-sā’rīn, by ‘Abdullah Ismāi’l of Herāt __________ India Office Library.

The Development of Metaphysics in Persia

13. Jāwidān Nāma, by Afḍal Kāshī _________________ India Office Library.
14. Tārīkh al-Ḥukamā, by Shahrzūrī _______________ British Museum Library.
15. Collected works of Avicenna ___________________ British Museum Library.
16. Risalah fi’l-Wujūd, by Mīr Jurjānī ______________ British Museum Library.
17. Jāwidāni Kabīr _________________________________ Cambridge University Library.
18. Jāmi Jahān Numā ______________________________ Cambridge University Library.
19. Majmu‘ai Fārsī Risālah No: 1, 2, of Al-Nasafī ___ Trinity College Library.


Part I.
Pre-Islamic Persian Philosophy

Chap. I.
Persian Dualism

§ I.

To Zoroaster — the ancient sage of Iran — must always be assigned the first place in the intellectual history of Iranian Aryans who, wearied of constant roaming, settled down to an agricultural life at a time when the Vedic Hymns were still being composed in the plains of Central Asia. This new mode of life and the consequent stability of the institution of property among the settlers, made them hated by other Aryan tribes who had not yet shaken off their original nomadic habits, and occasionally plundered their more civilised kinsmen. Thus grew up the conflict between the two modes of life which found its earliest expression in the denunciation of the deities of each other — the Devas and the Ahuras. It was really the beginning of a long individualising process which gradually severed the Iranian branch from other Aryan tribes, and finally manifested itself in the religious system of Zoroasterthe great prophet of Iran who lived and taught in the age of Solon and Thales. In the dim light of modern oriental research we see ancient Iranians divided between two camps — partisans of the powers of good, and partisans of the powers of evil — when the great sage joins their furious contest, and with his moral enthusiasm stamps out once for all the worship of demons as well as the intolerable ritual of the Magian priesthood.

It is, however, beside our purpose to trace the origin and growth of Zoroaster’s religious system. Our object, in so far as the present investigation is concerned, is to glance at the metaphysical side of his revelation. We, therefore, wish to fix our attention on the sacred trinity of philosophy — God, Man and Nature.

Geiger, in his “Civilisation of Eastern Iranians in Ancient Times”, points out that Zoroaster inherited two fundamental principles from his Aryan ancestry. — (1) There is law in Nature. (2) There is conflict in Nature. It is the observation of law and conflict in the vast panorama of being that constitutes the philosophical foundation of his system. The problem before him was to reconcile the existence of evil with the eternal goodness of God. His predecessors worshipped a plurality of good spirits all of which he reduced to a unity and called it Ahuramazda. On the other hand he reduced all the powers of evil to a similar unity and called it Druj-Ahriman. Thus by a process of unification he arrived at two fundamental principles which, as Haug shows, he looked upon not as two independent activities, but as two parts or rather aspects of the same Primary Being. Dr. Haug, therefore, holds that the Prophet of ancient Iran was theologically a monotheist and philosophically a dualist. But to maintain that there are “twin” spirits — creators of reality and nonreality — and at the same time to hold that these two spirits are united in the Supreme Being, is virtually to say that the principle of evil constitutes a part of the very essence of God; and the conflict between good and evil is nothing more than the struggle of God against Himself. There is, therefore, an inherent weakness in his attempt to reconcile theological monotheism with philosophical dualism, and the result was a schism among the prophet’s followers. The Zendiks whom Dr. Haug calls heretics, but who were, I believe, decidedly more consistent than their opponents, maintained the independence of the two original spirits from each other, while the Magi upheld their unity. The upholders of unity endeavoured, in various ways, to meet the Zendiks; but the very fact that they tried different phrases and expressions to express the unity of the “Primal Twins”, indicates dissatisfaction with their own philosophical explanations, and the strength of their opponent’s position. Shahrastānī describes briefly the different explanations of the Magi. The Zarwānians look upon Light and Darkness as the sons of Infinite Time. The Kiyūmarthiyya hold that the original principle was Light which was afraid of a hostile power, and it was this thought of an adversary mixed with fear that led to the birth of Darkness. Another branch of Zarwānians maintain that the original principle doubted concerning something and this doubt produced Ahriman. Ibn Ḥazm speaks of another sect who explained the principle of Darkness as the obscuration of a part of the fundamental principle of Light itself.

Whether the philosophical dualism of Zoroaster can be reconciled with his monotheism or not, it is unquestionable that, from a metaphysical standpoint, he has made a profound suggestion in regard to the ultimate nature of reality. The idea seems to have influenced ancient Greek Philosophy as well as early Christian Gnostic speculation, and through the latter, some aspects of modern western thought. As a thinker he is worthy of great respect not only because he approached the problem of objective multiplicity in a philosophical spirit; but also because he endeavoured, having been led to metaphysical dualism, to reduce his Primary Duality to a higher unity. He seems to have perceived, what the mystic shoemaker of Germany perceived long after him, that the diversity of nature could not be explained without postulating a principle of negativity or self-differentiation in the very nature of God. His immediate successors did not, however, quite realise the deep significance of their master’s suggestions; but we shall see, as we advance, how Zoroaster’s idea finds a more spiritualised expression in some of the aspects of later Persian thought.

Turning now to his Cosmology, his dualism leads him to bifurcate, as it were, the whole universe into two departments of being — reality i.e. the sum of all good creations flowing from the creative activity of the beneficial spirit, and non-reality i.e. the sum of all evil creations proceeding from the hostile spirit. The original conflict of the two spirits is manifested in the opposing forces of nature, which, therefore, presents a continual struggle between the powers of Good and the powers of Evil. But it should be remembered that nothing intervenes between the original spirits and their respective creations. Things are good and bad because they proceed from good or bad creative agencies, in their own nature they are quite indifferent. Zoroaster’s conception of creation is fundamentally different from that of Plato and Schopenhauer to whom spheres of empirical reality reflect non-temporal or temporal ideas which, so to speak, mediate between Reality and Appearance. There are, according to Zoroaster, only two categories of existence, and the history of the universe is nothing more than a progressive conflict between the forces falling respectively under these categories. We are, like other things, partakers of this struggle, and it is our duty to range ourselves on the side of Light which will eventually prevail and completely vanquish the spirit of Darkness. The metaphysics of the Iranian Prophet, like that of Plato, passes on into Ethics, and it is in the peculiarity of the Ethical aspect of his thought that the influence of his social environments is most apparent.

Zoroaster’s view of the destiny of the soul is very simple. The soul, according to him, is a creation, not a part of God as the votaries of Mithra afterwards maintained. It had a beginning in time, but can attain to everlasting life by fighting against Evil in the earthly scene of its activity. It is free to choose between the only two courses of action — good and evil; and besides the power of choice the spirit of Light has endowed it with the following faculties: —

1. Conscience.
2. Vital force.
3. The Soul — The Mind.
4. The Spirit — Reason.
5. The Farāwashi.A kind of tutelary spirit which acts as a protection of man in his voyage towards God.

The last three faculties are united together after death, and form an indissoluble whole. The virtuous soul, leaving its home of flesh, is borne up into higher regions, and has to pass through the following planes of existence: —

1. The Place of good thoughts.
2. The Place of good words.
3. The Place of good works.
4. The Place of Eternal Glory.Where the individual soul unites with the principle of Light without losing its personality.

§ II.
and Mazdak

We have seen Zoroaster’s solution of the problem of diversity, and the theological or rather philosophical controversy which split up the Zoroastrian Church. The half-Persian Mānī — “the founder of Godless community” as Christians styled him afterwards — agrees with those Zoroastrians who held the Prophet’s doctrine in its naked form, and approaches the question in a spirit thoroughly materialistic. Originally Persian his father emigrated from Hamadān to Babylonia where Mānī was born in 215 or 216 A.D. — the time when Buddhistic Missionaries were beginning to preach Nirvāna to the country of Zoroaster. The eclectic character of the religious system of Mānī, its bold extension of the Christian idea of redemption, and its logical consistency in holding, as a true ground for an ascetic life, that the world is essentially evil, made it a real power which influenced not only Eastern and Western Christian thought, but has also left some dim marks on the development of metaphysical speculation in Persia. Leaving the discussion of the sources of Mānī’s religious system to the orientalist, we proceed to describe and finally to determine the philosophical value of his doctrine of the origin of the Phenomenal Universe.

The Paganising gnostic, as Erdmann calls him, teaches that the variety of things springs from the mixture of two eternal Principles — Light and Darkness — which are separate from and independent of each other. The Principle of Light connotes ten ideas — Gentleness, Knowledge, Understanding, Mystery, Insight, Love, Conviction, Faith, Benevolence and Wisdom. Similarly the Principle of Darkness connotes five eternal ideas — Mistiness, Heat, Fire, Venom, Darkness. Along with these two primordial principles and connected with each, Mānī recognises the eternity of space and earth, each connoting respectively the ideas of knowledge, understanding, mystery, insight, breath, air, water, light and fire. In darkness — the feminine Principle in Nature — were hidden the elements of evil which, in course of time, concentrated and resulted in the composition, so to speak, of the hideous looking Devil — the principle of activity. This first born child of the fiery womb of darkness, attacked the domain of the King of Light who, in order to ward off his malicious onslaught, created the Primal man. A serious conflict ensued between the two creatures, and resulted in the complete vanquishment of the Primal Man. The evil one, then, succeeded in mixing together the five elements of darkness with the five elements of light. Thereupon the ruler of the domain of light ordered some of his angels to construct the Universe out of these mixed elements with a view to free the atoms of light from their imprisonment. But the reason why darkness was the first to attack light, is that the latter, being in its essence good, could not proceed to start the process of admixture which was essentially harmful to itself. The attitude of Mānī’s Cosmology, therefore, to the Christian doctrine of Redemption is similar to that of Hegelian Cosmology to the doctrine of the Trinity. To him redemption is a physical process, and all procreation, because it protracts the imprisonment of light, is contrary to the aim and object of the Universe. The imprisoned atoms of light are continually set free from darkness which is thrown down in the unfathomable ditch round the Universe. The liberated light, however, passes on to the sun and the moon whence it is carried by angels to the region of light — the eternal home of the King of Paradise — “Pîd i vazargîî” — Father of greatness.

This is a brief account of Mānī’s fantastic Cosmology. He rejects the Zoroastrian hypothesis of creative agencies to explain the problem of objective existence. Taking a thoroughly materialistic view of the question, he ascribes the phenomenal universe to the mixture of two independent, eternal principles, one of which (darkness) is not only a part of the universe — stuff, but also the source wherein activity resides, as it were, slumbering, and starts up into being when the favourable moment arrives. The essential idea of his cosmology, therefore, has a curious resemblance with that of the great Hindū thinker Kapila, who accounts for the production of the universe by the hypothesis of three gunas, i.e. Sattwa (goodness), Tamas (darkness), and Rajas (motion or passion) which mix together to form Nature, when the equilibrium of the primordial matter (Prakritī) is upset. Of the various solutions of the problem of diversity which the Vedāntist solved by postulating the mysterious power of “Māyā”, and Leibniz, long afterwards, explained by his doctrine of the Identity of Indiscernibles, Mānī’s solution, though childish, must find a place in the historical development of philosophical ideas. Its philosophical value may be insignificant; but one thing is certain, i.e. Mānī was the first to venture the suggestion that the Universe is due to the activity of the Devil, and hence essentially evil — a proposition which seems to me to be the only logical justification of a system which preaches renunciation as the guiding principle of life. In our own times Schopenhauer has been led to the same conclusion; though, unlike Mānī, he supposes the principle of objectification or individuation — “the sinful bent” of the will to life — to exist in the very nature of the Primal Will and not independent of it.

Turning now to the remarkable socialist of ancient Persia — Mazdak. This early prophet of communism appeared during the reign of Anūshīrwān the Just (531:578 A.D.), and marked another dualistic reaction against the prevailing Zarwānian doctrine. Mazdak, like Mānī, taught that the diversity of things springs from the mixture of two independent, eternal principles which he called Shīd (Light) and Tār (Darkness). But he differs from his predecessor in holding that the fact of their mixture as well as their final separation, are quite accidental, and not at all the result of choice. Mazdak’s God is endowed with sensation, and has four principal energies in his eternal presence — power of discrimination, memory, understanding and bliss. These four energies have four personal manifestations who, assisted by four other persons, superintend the course of the Universe. Variety in things and men is due to the various combinations of the original principles.

But the most characteristic feature of the Mazdakite teaching is its communism, which is evidently an inference from the cosmopolitan spirit of Mānī’s Philosophy. All men, said Mazdak, are equal; and the notion of individual property was introduced by the hostile demons whose object is to turn God’s Universe into a scene of endless misery. It is chiefly this aspect of Mazdak’s teaching that was most shocking to the Zoroastrian conscience, and finally brought about the destruction of his enormous following, even though the master was supposed to have miraculously made the sacred Fire talk, and bear witness to the truth of his mission.

§ III.

We have seen some of the aspects of Pre-Islamic Persian thought; though, owing to our ignorance of the tendencies of Sāssānīde thought, and of the political, social, and intellectual conditions that determined its evolution, we have not been able fully to trace the continuity of ideas. Nations as well as individuals, in their intellectual history, begin with the objective. Although the moral fervour of Zoroaster gave a spiritual tone to his theory of the origin of things, yet the net result of this period of Persian speculation is nothing more than a materialistic dualism. The principle of Unity as a philosophical ground of all that exists, is but dimly perceived at this stage of intellectual evolution in Persia. The controversy among the followers of Zoroaster indicates that the movement towards a monistic conception of the Universe had begun; but we have unfortunately no evidence to make a positive statement concerning the pantheistic tendencies of Pre-Islamic Persian thought. We know that in the 6th century A.D., Diogenes, Simplicius and other Neo-Platonic thinkers, were driven by the persecution of Justinian, to take refuge in the court of the tolerant Anūshīrwān. This great monarch, moreover, had several works translated for him from Sanskrit and Greek, but we have no historical evidence to show how far these events actually influenced the course of Persian thought. Let us, therefore, pass on to the advent of Islām in Persia, which completely shattered the old order of things, and brought to the thinking mind the new concept of an uncompromising monotheism as well as the Greek dualism of God and matter, as distinguished from the purely Persian dualism of God and Devil.

Part II.
Greek Dualism

Chap. II
The Neo-Platonic Aristotelians of Persia

With the Arab conquest of Persia, a new era begins in the history of Persian thought. But the warlike sons of sandy Arabia whose swords terminated, at Nahāwand, the political independence of this ancient people, could hardly touch the intellectual freedom of the converted Zoroastrian.

The political revolution brought about by the Arab conquest marks the beginning of interaction between the Aryan and the Semitic, and we find that the Persian, though he lets the surface of his life become largely semitised, quietly converts Islām to his own Aryan habits of thought. In the west the sober Hellenic intellect interpreted another Semitic religion — Christianity; and the results of interpretation in both cases are strikingly similar. In each case the aim of the interpreting intellect is to soften the extreme rigidity of an absolute law imposed on the individual from without; in one word it is an endeavour to internalise the external. This process of transformation began with the study of Greek thought which, though combined with other causes, hindered the growth of native speculation, yet marked a transition from the purely objective attitude of Pre-Islamic Persian Philosophy to the subjective attitude of later thinkers. It is, I believe, largely due to the influence of foreign thought that the old monistic tendency when it reasserted itself about the end of the 8th century, assumed a much more spiritual aspect; and, in its later development, revivified and spiritualised the old Iranian dualism of Light and Darkness. The fact, therefore, that Greek thought roused into fresh life the subtle Persian intellect, and largely contributed to, and was finally assimilated by the general course of intellectual evolution in Persia, justifies us in briefly running over, even though at the risk of repetition, the systems of the Persian Neo-Platonists who, as such, deserve very little attention in a history of purely Persian thought.

It must, however, be remembered that Greek wisdom flowed towards the Moslem east through Ḥarrān and Syria. The Syrians took up the latest Greek speculation i.e. Neo-Platonism and transmitted to the Moslem what they believed to be the real philosophy of Aristotle. It is surprising that Mohammedan Philosophers, Arabs as well as Persians, continued wrangling over what they believed to be the real teaching of Aristotle and Plato, and it never occurred to them that for a thorough comprehension of their Philosophies, the knowledge of Greek language was absolutely necessary. So great was their ignorance that an epitomised translation of the Enneads of Plotinus was accepted as “Theology of Aristotle”. It took them centuries to arrive at a clear conception of the two great masters of Greek thought; and it is doubtful whether they ever completely understood them. Avicenna is certainly clearer and more original than Al-Fārābī and Ibn Maskawaih; and the Andelusian Averroes, though he is nearer to Aristotle than any of his predecessors, is yet far from a complete grasp of Aristotle’s Philosophy. It would, however, be unjust to accuse them of servile imitation. The history of their speculation is one continuous attempt to wade through a hopeless mass of absurdities that careless translators of Greek Philosophy had introduced. They had largely to rethink the Philosophies of Aristotle and Plato. Their commentaries constitute, so to speak, an effort at discovery, not exposition. The very circumstances which left them no time to think out independent systems of thought, point to a subtle mind, unfortunately cabined and cribbed by a heap of obstructing nonsense that patient industry had gradually to eliminate, and thus to winnow out truth from falsehood. With these preliminary remarks we proceed to consider Persian students of Greek Philosophy individually.

§ I.
Ibn Maskawaih (D. 1030)

Passing over the names of Sarakhsī, Fārābī who was a Turk, and the Physician Rāzī (d. 932 A.D.) who, true to his Persian habits of thought, looked upon light as the first creation, and admitted the eternity of matter, space and time, we come to the illustrious name of Abu ‘Alī Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Ya‘qūb, commonly known as Ibn Maskawaih — the treasurer of the Buwaihid Sultān ‘Ad̤aduddaula — one of the most eminent theistic thinkers, physicians, moralists and historians of Persia. I give below a brief account of his system from his well known work Al-Fauz al-Aṣghar, published in Beirūt.

1. The Existence of the Ultimate Principle

Here Ibn Maskawaih follows Aristotle, and reproduces his argument based on the fact of physical motion. All bodies have the inseparable property of motion which covers all forms of change, and does not proceed from the nature of bodies themselves. Motion, therefore, demands an external source or prime mover. The supposition that motion may constitute the very essence of bodies, is contradicted by experience. Man, for instance, has the power of free movement; but, on the supposition, different parts of his body must continue to move even after they are severed from one another. The series of moving causes, therefore, must stop at a cause which, itself immovable, moves everything else. The immobility of the Primal cause is essential; for the supposition of motion in the Primal cause would necessitate infinite regress, which is absurd.

The immovable mover is one. A multiplicity of original movers must imply something common in their nature, so that they might be brought under the same category. It must also imply some point of difference in order to distinguish them from each other. But this partial identity and difference necessitate composition in their respective essences; and composition, being a form of motion, cannot, as we have shown, exist in the first cause of motion. The prime mover again is eternal and immaterial. Since transition from non-existence to existence is a form of motion; and since matter is always subject to some kind of motion, it follows that a thing which is not eternal, or is, in any way, associated with matter, must be in motion.

2. The Knowledge of the Ultimate

All human knowledge begins from sensations which are gradually transformed into perceptions. The earlier stages of intellection are completely conditioned by the presence of external reality. But the progress of knowledge means to be able to think without being conditioned by matter. Thought begins with matter, but its object is to gradually free itself from the primary condition of its own possibility. A higher stage, therefore, is reached in imagination — the power to reproduce and retain in the mind the copy or image of a thing without reference to the external objectivity of the thing itself. In the formation of concepts thought reaches a still higher stage in point of freedom from materiality; though the concept, in so far as it is the result of comparison and assimilation of percepts, cannot be regarded as having completely freed itself from the gross cause of sensations. But the fact that conception is based on perception, should not lead us to ignore the great difference between the nature of the concept and the percept. The individual (percept) is undergoing constant change which affects the character of the knowledge founded on mere perception. The knowledge of individuals, therefore, lacks the element of permanence. The universal (concept), on the other hand, is not affected by the law of change. Individuals change; the universal remains intact. It is the essence of matter to submit to the law of change: the freer a thing is from matter, the less liable it is to change. God, therefore, being absolutely free from matter, is absolutely changeless; and it is His complete freedom from materiality that makes our conception of Him difficult or impossible. The object of all philosophical training is to develop the power of “ideation” or contemplation on pure concepts, in order that constant practice might make possible the conception of the absolutely immaterial.

3. How the One Creates the Many

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