A pretty refreshing book that I would recommend to those that have an interest in Theology, Mysticism or Sufism. Al-Ghazzali, a philosopher, theologian, jurist and a mystic, touches on subjects such as “Knowledge of Self”, “Knowledge of God”, “The Love of God”, “Knowledge of this World” in order to express the quest for happiness. In the modern world, phrases such as ‘be yourself’, ‘express yourself’, ‘discover yourself’, ‘know yourself’ are thrown around, whether it is written on your t-shirt or is used as a slogan of a campaign But modernity never tells us what the ‘self’ is. And the book constantly reminds the reader that the truth is found inside of us.
- “The heart resembles a pure mirror, you must know, in this particular, that when a man falls asleep, when his senses are closed, and when the heart, free and pure from blameable affections, is confronted with the preserved tablet, then the tablet reflects upon the heart the real states and hidden forms inscribed upon it. In that state the heart sees most wonderful forms and combinations. But when the heart is not free from impurity, or when, on waking, it busies itself with things of sense, the side towards the tablet will be obscured, and it can view nothing. For, although in sleep the senses are blunted, the imaginative faculty is not, but preserves the forms reflected upon the mirror of the heart. But as the perception does not take place by means of the external senses, but only-in the imagination, the heart does not see them with absolute clearness, but sees only a phantom. But in death, as the sense are completely separated and the veil of the body is removed, the heart can contemplate the invisible world and its hidden mysteries, without a veil, just as lightning or the celestial rays impress the external eye.”
- “The true greatness of man lies in his capacity for eternal progress, otherwise in this temporal sphere he is the weakest of all things, being subject to hunger, thirst, heat, cold, and sorrow. Those things he takes most delight in are often the most injurious to him, and those things which benefit him are not to be obtained without toil and trouble. As to his intellect, a slight disarrangement of matter in his brain is sufficient to destroy or madden him; as to his power, the sting of a wasp is sufficient to rob him of ease of sleep; as to his temper, he is upset by the loss of a Sixpence; as to his beauty, he is little more than nauseous matter covered with a fair skin. Without frequent washing he becomes utterly repulsive and disgraceful. In truth, man in this world is extremely weak and contemptible; it is only in the next that he will be of value, if by means of the “alchemy of happiness” he rises from the rank of beasts to that of angels. Otherwise his condition will be worse than the brutes, which perish and turn to dust. It is necessary for him, at the same time that he is conscious of his superiority as the climax of created things, to learn to know also his helplessness, as that too is one of the keys to the knowledge of God.”