Superphysics Superphysics
Section 10

The Immaterial Mental Essence

by Avicenna
6 minutes  • 1218 words

There is a Mental Essence, distinct from Bodies, which stands towards Human Souls:

  • in the stead of Light toward Sight
  • in the stead of a Source or Fountain

Souls, if they leave the Bodies, unite therewith.

As to the mental essence, we find it in infants devoid of every mental form.

Then, later on in life, we find in it self-evident axiomatic mentally-grasped notions, without effort of learning and without reflection. So that the arising of them within it will not fail of being either through sense and experience, or else through divine outpouring reaching to it.

But it is not licit to hold that the arising of such primary mental form will be through experience, seeing that experience does not afford and supply a necessary and inevitable judgment, since experience does not go so far as to believe or disbelieve definitively the existence of something different to the judgment drawn from what it has perceived.

Indeed experience, although it shows us that[Pg 90] every animal we perceive moves on chewing the lower jaw, yet it does not supply us with a convincing judgment that such is the case with every animal; for were this true, it would not be licit for the crocodile to exist which moves his upper jaw on chewing.

Therefore not every judgment we have arrived at, as to things, through our sensuous perception, is applicable to and holds good of all that we have perceived or have not perceived of such things, but it may so be that what we have not perceived differ from what we have perceived.

Whereas our conception that a whole is greater than a part is not [formed] because we have sensuously felt every part and every whole that are so related, seeing that even such an experience will not guaranty to us that there will be no whole and no part differently related.

Likewise the dictum concerning the impossibility of two opposites (contrasts) coming together in one and the same thing, and that things which are equal to one and the same thing are equal to one another.

Likewise the dictum concerning our holding proofs to be true if they be valid, for the belief in and conviction of their validity does not become valid by and through learning and effort of study; else this would draw out ad infinitum [inasmuch as each proof rests upon given presuppositions, whose validity would in its turn have to be proved]. Nor is this gained from sense, for the reason that we have mentioned.

Consequently both the latter as well as the former [certainty] are gained from a godly outflow reaching unto the rational soul, and the rational soul reaching unto it; so that this mental form arises therein. Also, as to this outflow, unless it have in its own self such a generic (universal) mental form, it would not be able to engrave it within the rational soul. Hence such form is in the outflow’s own self.

And whatsoever Self has in it a mental form is an essence, other than a body, and not within a body, and standing of itself.

Therefore this outflow unto which the soul reaches is a mental essence, not a body, not in a body, standing of itself, and one which stands towards the rational soul in the stead of light to sight; yet however with this difference, namely that light supplies unto sight the power of perceiving only, and not the perceived form, whereas this essence supplies, exclusively by and through its sole and single self, unto the rational power, the power of perceiving, and brings about therein the perceived forms also, as we have set forth above.

If the rational soul’s conceiving rational forms be a source of completion and perfection for it, and be effected and brought about on reaching unto this essence, and if worldly earthly labors, such as its thought, its sorrows and joy, its longings, hamper the power and withold it from reaching thereunto, so that it will not reach[Pg 92] thereunto save only through abandoning these powers and getting rid of them, there being nothing to stop it from continued Reaching save the living body,—then consequently if it quit the body it will not cease to be reaching unto its Perfector and attached to Him.

What reaches unto its Perfector and attaches itself to Him is safe against corruption, all the more so if even during disconnection from Him it has not undergone corruption. Wherefore the soul after death shall ever remain and continue unwavering [and undying] and attached to this noble essence, which is called generic universal mind, and in the language of the lawgivers the Divine Knowledge.

As to the other powers, such as the animal and the vegetable: Whereas every one of them performs its proper peculiar action only by and through the live body, and in no other way, consequently they will never quit live bodies, but will die with their death, seeing that every thing which is, and yet has no action, is idle and useless.

Yet nevertheless the rational soul does gain, by its connection with them, from them their choicest and purest lye and wash, and leaves for death the husks. And were it not so, the rational soul would not use them in consciousness. Wherefore the rational soul shall surely depart (migrate, travel) taking along the kernels of the other powers after death ensues.

We have thus made a clear statement concerning souls, and got at which souls are [ever]lasting, and which of them will not be fitted out and armed with [ever]lastingness.

It still remains for us, in connection with this research, to show how a soul exists within live bodies, and the aim and end for which it is found within the same, and what measure will be bestowed upon it, in the hereafter, of eternal delight and perpetual punishment, and of [temporary] punishment that ceases after a duration of time that shall ensue upon the decease of the live body; and to treat of the notion that is designated by the lawgivers as intercession (mediation), and of the quality (attribute) of the four angels and the throne-bearers.

Were it not however that the custom prevails to isolate such research from the research whose path we have been treading, out of high esteem and reverence for it, and to make the latter research precede in order of treatment the former, to the end of levelling the road and paving it solidly, I should (would) have followed up these [ten] sections with a full and complete treatment of the subject dealt with in them.

Despite all this, were it not for fear of wearying by prolixity, I would have disregarded the demands of custom herein.

Thus then whatever it may please the Prince—God prolong his highness—to command as to treating singly of such notions, I shall put forth, in humble compliance and obedience, my utmost effort, God Almighty willing; and may wisdom never cease to revive through him after fainting, to flourish after withering, so that its sway may be renewed through his sway, and through his days its days may come back again, and that through his prestige the prestige of its devotees be exalted, and the seekers after its favor abound, so God almighty will.

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