Deliverance from Error
Al Ghazali was a Persian philosopher, born in 1058. He believed in finding out “how things really are” (311).
Realizing that Christian youths always became Christians, and Jewish youths to be Jewish, etc, he came to believe that there is an original nature to men, and a nature taught by experience and authorities. He became inspired to distinguish between this original nature and our taught nature. Al Ghazali’s mission wished to discover what knowledge really is. He states that certain knowledge is that which is undoubtedly true, with no chance of falsity.
Upon investigation, he discovered two main types of knowledge: sensory and necessary truths. He comes to the decision that there is only one good way to test these sources, and that is to try to bring them into doubt (as any knowledge that CAN be doubted must be, as knowledge cannot be certain unless it is infallible).
He first looks at the senses, and perception. He gives an example stating that shadows that appear to be still will be in a different position a few hours later. He also says that although the sun looks small, it is in fact large. These examples show that the senses deceive us, and therefore cannot be trusted.
After removing his trust in the senses, Al Ghazali turns to intellectual truths, such as ten is more than three, and that nothing can exist and also not exist. Much like the senses were knocked out by intellect, he believes that intellect may in fact be knocked out by something greater. Just because no super intellect has shown itself does not mean it does not exist. When we are asleep, we do not commonly know we are sleeping. When you wake, you realize you were simply dreaming, and that your dreams were false. Could we not be in a dream state now, and one day awake to a more real reality? We would not know until we “woke up”. Some Sufi mystics claim to have reached this level through meditation. Al Ghazali believes that death may be what releases us to this other world.
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After these discoveries, the Persian Philosopher became a skeptic for months. However, he had an epiphany. He came to believe all knowledge came from God. This belief is called mysticism. He stated that one must strip away “base characteristics and vicious morals” (314), so that the heart may be free. Upon much studying, he became aware that mysticism could not be simply comprehended by study; that one must directly experience this event to understand it.
Al Ghazali believes that there is a difference between knowing the true nature of life and actually leading such a life. Mysticism allows for the latter, as it is a moral change. Thus he came to believe that Mystics are men with experiences, not words. He began to see that he was caught up in many attachments, and that he was teaching only physical sciences instead of working to attain eternal life. He quickly set out to mend his ways, as he thought they would lead him to Hell. He decided he would leave Baghdad.
In order to practice mysticism, Al Ghazali believes that you must purify yourself, and to do so you must purify your heart for God, and sink your heart completely into the recollection of God. He believes mysticism provides a closeness to God, and that the only way to achieve this is to experience it first hand, or learn from a mystic.
He states that after receiving our senses, we age to a point (around seven years old) where we become intellectual. These things are beyond just perception of the senses, and there is something beyond the intellect also, which allows us to see the future, and other things beyond intellect. He believes there is no true argument against it, for there is no proof that another stage is nonexistent.
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I personally find this argument foolish. While it remains a possibility, this does nothing but say mysticism *might* be true. However, it provides no real proof or evidence for this theory.
He also believes dreams allow us to see the future, whether literally or symbolically. He again states that mystical events cannot be understood by observation. It must be personally experienced to be understood, much like rare astronomical events. While this provides a possibility for mysticism, it does not do a good job proving it.