Philosophy enlightens our path to realize God’s Creation!

Philosophy—God honor you—is broad and great, and to strive for her is a duty and honorific; for she enlightens the intellect and the soul with the light of eternal beauty when they strive for her, and when they have grasped her meaning and reason for cause of life, she lets them renounce this transitory perishing world and inspires in them the longing to soar to that sublime upper world, which is the place of their origin and return, from which they originate and in which they have their permanent seat, that God may comfort them through her and let them know what the cause of the world is and what that is which is caused by it, and what the reason is that the cause has brought forth that which was caused […].

Pseudo-Maǧriti: „Picatrix“ – Das Ziel des Weisen von Pseudo-Maǧrīṭī. Translated into German from Arabic by Hellmut Ritter and Martin Plessner. London: The Warburg Institute/ University of London, 1962, p. 5 – English translation mine.

I wonder what “caused by it” means? Does it mean, that which is caused by the intellect, or that which is caused by the world? Yet, the world hardly is any cause, but it is rather the whole which we see as the caused environment. Of course, the first cause is God. But we deal here with a Neoplatonic outlook, so there are instances between God as the most high and that which is down below. Human-beings consist of a body and soul, but for Plato, the body was nothing but a cage, so the actual human-being is the soul. The Jewish Scripture admits that as well, as man came to life after God blew the vital energy, a kind of wind, into his nostrils, and in Hebrew ‘wind’, ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’ are understood to be very closely, and it is well-acknowledged in Chassidism as well: thus, the “I” speaks through the soul, not the body.

In the same way, beauty is not understood of corporeal beauty, so when there is talk of “eternal beauty” in the Pseudo-Maǧriti, then it evidently seems to refer to the Platonic tradition. To Plato, Beauty was not God, not the Highest in general, but it was the Highest, which is perceivable, which Plotinus later interprets as “Formedness”:

“We hold that all the loveliness of this world comes by communion in Ideal-Form. All shapelessness whose kind admits of pattern and form, as long as it remains outside of Reason and Idea, is ugly from that very isolation from the Divine-Thought. And this is the Absolute Ugly: an ugly thing is something that has not been entirely mastered by pattern, that is by Reason, the Matter not yielding at all points and in all respects to Ideal-Form.”

Plotinus: Ennead I, 6. Cited after Crispin Sartwell: Beauty. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2016.

For the very Ancient Greek, beauty even had a slight different connotation:

“For both Plato and Aristotle—and in many respects for Greek popular morality—kalon has a particular role to play as ethical approbation, not by meaning the same thing that agathon ‘good’ means, but as a special complement to goodness. At times kalon narrowly means ‘noble,’ often and more loosely ‘admirable.’ The compound kalos k’agathos, the aristocratic ideal, is all-round praise, not ‘beautiful and good’ as its components would translate separately, but closer to ‘splendid and upright.’ Here kalon is entirely an ethical term.”

Nickolas Pappas: Plato’s aesthetics. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2020.

For Schmitz, ugliness is the antidote for aesthetic beauty: through realizing ugliness, the wish to strive for aesthetic beauty vanishes, so that we see that all beautiful bodies share the same amount of beauty, but not in an aesthetical sense. This idea is based on Plato, because Plato supposed that the beauty in every beautiful body is the same, so we all share the same amount of beauty as it is of the same quality. [cp. Ludwig Chen: Knowledge of Beauty in Plato’s Symposium. In: The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 33, No. 1, 1983, p. 66 f.]. And for Cicero and Seneca, beauty is something ethical, such as Pappas already showed to be the case with Plato and Aristotle as well.

 “[B]oth – Cicero and Seneca – go back to Plato, who talked about ‘the Beauty’ as highest ethical principle, and which Cicero transfers in a Stoic understanding in which deeds done out of ‘the Beauty’ are honest deeds, and thus reasonable, leading to a happy life. For Seneca, εὐδαιμονία or the vita beata can only be achieved through good causes that itself are part of the Highest Good, but not further separable and thus one is either happy or not, but one cannot grasp a bit of it.”

Timo Schmitz: The εὐδαιμονία in the Roman Empire around the Birth of Christ in the Stoic School as seen through Seneca (23 June 2017). In: Timo Schmitz: A Divinely Way to Philosophy, Vol. 1. Trier & Vachendorf: Graf Berthold Verlag, 2022.

This ethical connotation can also be seen in Plato’s Gorgias, where Socrates makes clear that the ‘beauty’ is either (a) pleasurable, (b) useful, or (c) both and Polos then agrees that something is beautiful, because it is useful or gives pleasure, or fulfills even both of it (474c-e). Finally, the things which are useful are good, while the things which are pleasurable but not useful only seem to be good. [see Timo Schmitz: Short summary of the dialogues between Socrates and Gorgias and Socrates and Polos in Plato’s Gorgias (2 August 2017). In: A Divinely Way to Philosophy, Vol. 1. Trier & Vachendorf: Graf Berthold Verlag, 2022.]  In the Gorgias, the difference between what is good and what seems good is very essential (468d). In Plato’s Symposium in contrast, Beauty is a kind of immortal knowledge which is everything as it includes all forms and beauty can be found in all bodies which are beautiful as Chen explained.

So we have three possible meanings of beauty here: (1) a kind of immortal knowledge, (2) a kind of usefulness, (3) an ethical quality. The latter one being understood as honest deeds. As Grimes points out, the Perfection of Beauty is the Idea of the Good. [Pierre Grimes: Wisdom Literature in the Platonic Tradition. Lecture 62: Plato’s Republic (Part 2). Opening Mind Academy, 1997.] The Idea of the Good makes us recognize everything, but it is itself not the Good, but only a kind of mind’s eye as Plato makes clear in the Parmenides. So the Good, which equals the One, is the very first. Al-Farabi showed that he is an inseparable unity. As such, he is perfect, as only the first cause is perfect as otherwise, if it was separable, it would be imperfect and thus it would not be the first cause as something better was above, So the first cause is the cause of everything which follows. I also think that Isaac Israeli’s view that the world is not eternal and the Creator only created it for a certain time span is very interesting here:

“Although explication of the nature of God is absent in the surviving fragments of Israeli’s philosophical corpus, it is apparent that Israeli, like the Muslim philosopher al-Kindi before him, combined the Neoplatonist notion of God as the source of emanation of all things, with the idea common to the monotheistic religions, of a willful Creator who created the world in time. In blending these two conceptions, these philosophers rejected the Aristotelian conception of the eternity of the world, as well as the idea of eternal emanation of some of the Greek Neoplatonists. Israeli’s use of the Arabic term, al-Bari, ‘the Creator’ reflects the religious sensitivities of his age—and is not simply a translation of Plotinus’ ‘The One’.”

Leonard Levin, R. David Walker, Shalom Sadik: Issac Israeli. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2022.

So according to Plato, the Good equals God and it is the very cause of everything which is good and only that which is good, where beauty is the manifestation of this very goodness and therefore has an ethical component. (Schmitz later shows that ugliness is the antidote against aesthetical beauty to realize the actual pure, divine beauty.) Beauty, therefore, is inherited in the object as an objective quality, something which Plotinus agreed to as well. Furthermore, Plotinus makes clear that one who tries to purify oneself is no longer subject to desires and therefore, one might achieve a kind of ‘likeness to God’. [Lloyd Gerson: Plotinus. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2018., retrieved on 22 October 2022.] Also Al-Farabi saw God as first cause, as someone who is perfect and out of which everything else follows, such as the Neoplatonists, who created chains of being. Also Al-Kindi made the oneness of God clear and showed that He is the true, eternal One, while the world is not eternal, something which Isaac Israeli also points out. It is assumed that Isaac Israeli held a negative theology, such as many Neoplatonists [Levin et al., 2022], so that God is too abstract to be given positive attribution and we can only say what He is not.

The Picatrix, or known by his Arabic name Ghâyat al-Hakîm fi’l-sihr is a philosophical work, which also defends magical practices. The interesting thing here is, that it is a work by a very pious person, so all magic ought not to be understood as coming from evil, rather it is a practical result of divine connection: “Since God had created the world their power had a de facto connection to the divine rather than the demonic.” [Daniel Hubbell: The Magicians of Solomon. Bartered History, 21 August 2017., retrieved on 22 October 2022.] Philosophy is so noble, because it reveals God’s creation to us. Philosophy means serving God, even Socrates saw his investigations as community service for the Athenians in the name of the God. And how to serve God? By trying to understand His plan. Because man was created in the likeness of God, we are connected with God, we have an intimate relationship with Him. As Ellen White wrote: “Jesus prayed for us, and He asked that we might be one with Him, even as He is one with the Father. What a union is this!“ [Ellen G. White: Steps to Christ, 1892, Chapter 8.] And as Jesus is a spiritual quality: our faith is the very power to make a union with the One. That which the followers of the Picatrix (“The Goal of the Wise”) saw to be magic, was in fact the very deep insight that we are inseparably connected to the nature. (And thus, saw it as an exchange: they give something to nature, and nature returns something through its powers. – Also note that μάγοι originally were Persian priests, the word μάγος is derived from Old Persian maguš.) Everything around us is nature, and if we destroy our nature, for instance through climate change, then we cannot survive on this planet. We can culturize everything and yet, we cannot get fully rid of nature. We have a deep bond to our environment, a quite personal one. If we return to seeing nature as it is, and not as a means of industrialism and consumption, then we can realize that most of the time in daily life, we only live on the surface. For instance, advertisements suggest to us that we have to have a “clean” body, getting rid of body hair, pimples and other so-called “imperfections”. Yet, would we have body hairs and wrinkles and everything else, if God did not want us to have it? Would He make all this possible if it was unpleasant??? We have no true understanding of beauty, it becomes only aesthetical to us. Instead, we have to realize actual beauty (and its ethical component), and through this, we realize the miracles of our planet. We see how brilliantly God created the world!

Timo Schmitz, 7 November 2022


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