ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

218. Orthodox Theologians and Mystics. Gazali. -- GAZALI (or ALGAZEL) (1058-1111) is the most important of the group of orthodox theologians who opposed the philosophers in the interests of the Mussulman faith. In his chief works, The Destruction of the Philosophers and The Renovation of the Religious Sciences, he rejects as heretical many of the philosophers' conclusions, especially the eternity of the world and the procession of the spheres.{1} For their rationalistic science he would substitute an orthodox theology; not rejecting the services of speculation, provided it be humble, submissive, free from vain subtleties, and, above all, from the pretension to serve as a foundation for the truths of faith. Gazali's theology is that of the Koran. So too is his ethical teaching, though this bears evidences of Greek and even of Christian influences: it is also indissolubly bound up with his mysticism.

The orthodox mysticism of the Mussulman "sufis" or mystics is not a direct, exclusive product of the Koran: it is the issue of three great combining influences, the Indian, the Neo-Platonic and the Christian, the latter perhaps predominating. Gazali was endowed with a deeply mystic temperament: he studied all the degrees of the "intuitive science" which is the work of faith and asceticism, whilst ordinary knowledge is the product of senses and reason. Like the Christian mysticism, that of Gazali and the sufis is free from pantheism. And this is all the more remarkable inasmuch as it places ecstasy within the natural reach of man, while Christian mysticism holds this to be supernatural (199). ". . . Gazali and the orthodox sufis regarded asceticism as the ordinary means of attaining to science, expecting ecstasy to follow naturally, after a more or less protracted interval, on exercises of asceticism. No such doctrine, as we have already remarked, could be entertained by a Christian philosopher: the idea that God can be tracked down as it were in the inner sanctuary of His presence by a stern perseverance in rigorous asceticism, has no parallel outside India."{2}

Alongside their orthodox mysticism, the Mussulmans had also from the time of Avicenna a Neo-Platonic form of mysticism, called the "illuminative philosophy," which became very widespread and prominent about the middle of the twelfth century.

{1} The theory of the eternity or non-eternity of the world was a party shibboleth between believers and non-believers (WORMS, op. cit., p. 268).

{2} CARRA DE VAUX, Gazali, p. 207: to this work we are indebted for the exposition of Gazali's system above.

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