The Alchemy of Happiness II

To take a simple instance: suppose a man wishes to write the name of God. First of all the wish is conceived in his heart, it is then conveyed to the brain by the vital spirits, the form of the word “God” takes shape in the thought-chambers of the brain, thence it travels by the nerve-channels, and sets in motion the fingers, which in their turn set in motion the pen, and thus the name “God” is traced on paper exactly as it had been conceived in the writer’s brain. Similarly, when God wills a thing it appears in the spiritual plane, which in the Qur’an is called “The Throne” (al-`Arsh); from the throne it passes, by a spiritual current, to a lower plane called “The Chair” (al-Kursee); then the shape of it appears on the Tablet of Destiny”; whence, by the mediation of the forces called “angels,” it assumes actuality, and appears in the earth in the form of plants, trees, and animals, representing the will and thought of God, as the written letters represent the wish conceived in the heart and the shape present in the brain of the writer.

No one can understand a king but a king; therefore God has made each of us a king in miniature, so to speak, over a kingdom which is an infinitely reduced copy of His own. In the kingdom of man, God’s “throne” is represented by the soul, the Archangel by the heart, “the chair” by the brain, “the tablet” by the treasure-chamber of thought. The soul, itself unlocated and indivisible, governs the body as God governs the universe. In, short, each of us is entrusted with a little kingdom, and charged not to be careless in the administration of it. As regards the recognition of God’s Providence, there are many degrees of Knowledge.

The mere physicist is like an ant who, crawling on a sheet of paper and observing black letters spreading over it, should refer the Cause to the pen alone. The astronomer is like an ant of somewhat wider vision who should catch sight of the fingers moving the pen, i.e., he knows that the elements are under the power of the stars, but he does not know that the stars are under the power of the angels. Thus, owing to the different degrees of perception in people, disputes must arise in tracing effects to causes. Those whose eyes never see beyond the world of phenomena are like those who mistake servants of the lowest rank for the king.

The laws of phenomena must be constant, or there could be no such thing as science; but it is a great error to mistake the slaves for the master. As long as this difference in the perceptive faculty of observers exists, disputes must necessarily go on. It is as if some blind men, hearing that an elephant had come to their town, should go and examine it.

The only knowledge of it which they can obtain comes through the sense of touch; so one handles the animal’s leg, another his tusk, another his ear, and, according to their several perceptions, pronounce it to be a column, a thick pole, or a quilt, each taking a part for the whole. So the physicist and astronomer confound the laws they perceive with the Lawgiver. A similar mistake is attributed to Abraham in the Qur’an, where it is related that he turned successively to stars, moon, and sun as the objects of his worship, till grown aware of Him who made all these, he exclaimed, “I love not them that set.” [Qur'an, chap. 6]

We have a common instance of this referring to second causes what ought to be referred to the First Cause in the case of so-called illness. For instance, if a man ceases to take any interest in worldly matters, conceives a distaste for common pleasures, and appears sunk in depression, the doctor will say, “This is a case of melancholy, and requires such and such a prescription.” The physicist will say, “This is a dryness of the brain caused by hot weather and cannot be relieved till the air becomes moist.” The astrologer will attribute it to some particular conjunction or opposition of planets. “Thus far their wisdom reaches,” says the Qur’an. It does not occur to them that what has really happened is this: that the Almighty has a concern for the welfare of that man, and has therefore commanded His servants, the planets or the elements, to produce such a condition in him that he may turn away from the world to his Maker. The knowledge of this fact is a lustrous pearl from the ocean of inspirational knowledge, to which all other forms of knowledge are as islands in the sea.

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