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A History of Mediaeval Jewish Philosophy
by Isaac Husik
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This sketch of Halevi's life and character, brief and inadequate as it is, will prepare us to understand better his attitude to philosophy and to Judaism. His was not a critical intellect whose curiosity is not satisfied until the matter in dispute is proved in logical form. Reason is good enough in mathematics and physics where the objects of our investigation are accessible to us and the knowledge of their nature exhausts their significance. It is not so with the truths of Judaism and the nature of God. These cannot be known adequately by the reason alone, and mere knowledge is not enough. God and the Jewish religion are not simply facts to be known and understood like the laws of science. They are living entities to be acquainted with, to be devoted to, to love. Hence quite a different way of approach is necessary. And not everyone has access to this way. The method of acquaintance is open only to those who by birth and tradition belong to the family of the prophets, who had a personal knowledge of God, and to the land of Palestine where God revealed himself.[182]

We see here the nationalist speaking, the lover of his people and of their land and language and institutions. David Kaufmann has shown that Judah Halevi's anti-philosophical attitude has much in common with that of the great Arab writer Al Gazali, from whom there is no doubt that he borrowed his inspiration.[183] Gazali began as a philosopher, then lost confidence in the logical method of proof, pointed to the contradictions of the philosophers, to their disagreements among themselves, and went over to the Sufis, the pietists and mystics of the Mohammedan faith. There are a number of resemblances between Gazali and Halevi as Kaufmann has shown, and there is no doubt that skepticism in respect of the powers of the human reason on the one hand, and a deep religious sense on the other are responsible for the point of view of Gazali as well as Halevi. But there is this additional motive in Halevi that he was defending a persecuted race and a despised faith against not merely the philosophers but against the more powerful and more fortunate professors of other religions. He is the loyal son of his race and his religion, and he will show that they are above all criticism, that they are the best and the truest there are. Maimonides, too, found it necessary to defend Judaism against the attacks of philosophy. But in his case it was the Jew in him who had to be defended against the philosopher in him. It was no external enemy but an internal who must be made harmless, and the method was one of reconciliation and harmonization. It is still truer to say that with Maimonides both Judaism and philosophy were his friends, neither was an enemy. He was attached to one quite as much as to the other. And it was his privilege to reconcile their differences, to the great gain, as he thought, of both. Judah Halevi takes the stand of one who fights for his hearth and home against the attacks of foreign foes. He will not yield an inch to the adversary. He will maintain his own. The enemy cannot approach.

Thus Halevi begins his famous work "Kusari": "I was asked what I have to say in answer to the arguments of philosophers, unbelievers and professors of other religions against our own." Instead of working out his ideas systematically, he wanted to give his subject dramatic interest by clothing it in dialogue form. And he was fortunate in finding a historical event which suited his purpose admirably.

Some three or four centuries before his time, the king of the Chazars, a people of Turkish origin living in the Caucasus, together with his courtiers and many of his subjects embraced Judaism. Hasdai ibn Shaprut, the Jewish minister and patron of learning of Cordova, in the tenth century corresponded with the then king of the Chazars, and received an account of the circumstances of the conversion. In brief it was that the king wishing to know which was the true religion invited representatives of the three dominant creeds, Judaism, Christianity and Mohammedanism, and questioned them concerning the tenets of their respective faiths. Seeing that the Christian as well as the Mohammedan appealed in their arguments to the truth of the Hebrew Bible, the king concluded that Judaism must be the true religion, which he accordingly adopted. This story gave Halevi the background and framework for his composition. He works out his own ideas in the form of a dialogue between the Jewish Rabbi and the king of the Chazars, in which the former explains to the king the essentials of the Jewish religion, and answers the king's questions and criticisms, taking occasion to discuss a variety of topics, religious, philosophical and scientific, all tending to show the truth of Judaism and its superiority to other religions, to philosophy, Kalam, and also to Karaism.

The story is, Halevi tells us, in the introduction to his book, that the king of the Chazars had repeated dreams in which an angel said to him, "Your intentions are acceptable to God, but not your practice." His endeavors to be faithful to his religion, and to take part in the services and perform the sacrifices in the temple in person only led to the repetition of the dream. He therefore consulted a philosopher about his belief, and the latter said to him, "In God there is neither favor nor hatred, for he is above all desire and purpose. Purpose and intention argue defect and want, which the fulfilment of the intention satisfies. But God is free from want. Hence there is no purpose or intention in his nature.

"God does not know the particular or individual, for the individual constantly changes, whereas God's knowledge never changes. Hence God does not know the individual man and, needless to say, he does not hear his prayer. When the philosophers say God created man, they use the word created metaphorically, in the sense that God is the cause of all causes, but not that he made man with purpose and intention.

"The world is eternal, and so is the existence of man. The character and ability of a person depend upon the causes antecedent to him. If these are of the right sort, we have a person who has the potentialities of a philosopher. To realize them he must develop his intellect by study, and his character through moral discipline. Then he will receive the influence of the 'Active Intellect,' with which he becomes identified so that his limbs and faculties do only what is right, and are wholly in the service of the active Intellect.

"This union with the active Intellect is the highest goal of man; and he becomes like one of the angels, and joins the ranks of Hermes, sculapius, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle. This is the meaning of the expression 'favor of God.' The important thing is to study the sciences in order to know the truth, and to practice the ethical virtues. If one does this, it matters not what religion he professes, or whether he professes any religion at all. He can make his own religion in order to discipline himself in humility, and to govern his relations to society and country. Or he can choose one of the philosophical religions. Purity of heart is the important thing, and knowledge of the sciences. Then the desired result will come, namely, union with the active intellect, which may also result in the power of prophecy through true dreams and visions."

The king was not satisfied with the statement of the philosopher, which seemed to him inadequate because he felt that he himself had the necessary purity of heart, and yet he was told that his practice was not satisfactory, proving that there is something in practice as such apart from intention. Besides, the great conflict between Christianity and Islam, who kill one another, is due to the difference in religious practice, and not in purity of heart. Moreover, if the view of the philosophers were true, there should be prophecy among them, whereas in reality prophecy is found among those who did not study the sciences rather than among those who did.

The king then said, I will ask the Christians and the Mohammedans. I need not inquire of the Jews, for their low condition is sufficient proof that the truth cannot be with them. So he sent for a Christian sage, who explained to him the essentials of his belief, saying among other things, We believe in the creation of the world in six days, in the descent of all men from Adam, in revelation and Providence, in short, in all that is found in the law of Moses and in the other Israelitish Scriptures, which cannot be doubted because of the publicity which was given to the events recorded therein. He also quoted the words of the gospel, I did not come to destroy any of the commandments of Israel and of Moses their teacher; I came to confirm them.

The king was not convinced by the Christian belief, and called a Mohammedan doctor, who in describing the specific tenets of Mohammedanism also mentioned the fact that in the Koran are quoted the Pentateuch and Moses and the other leaders, and the wonderful things they did. These, he said, cannot be denied; for they are well known.

Seeing that both Christian and Mohammedan referred to the law of Moses as true, and as evidence that God spoke to man, the king determined to call a Jewish sage also, and hear what he had to say.

The Jewish "Haber," as Judah Halevi calls him, began his discourse by saying, We Jews believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who took the children of Israel out of Egypt, supported them in the wilderness, gave them the land of Canaan, and so on.

The king was disappointed and said, I had determined not to consult the Jews in this matter at all, because their abject condition in the world did not leave them any good quality. You should have said, he told the Jew, that you believe in him who created the world and governs it; who made man and provides for him. Every religionist defends his belief in this way.

The Jew replied, The religion to which you refer is a rational religion, established by speculation and argument, which are full of doubt, and about which there is no agreement among philosophers, because not all the arguments are valid or even plausible. This pleased the king, and he expressed a wish to continue the discourse. The Rabbi then said, The proper way to define one's religion is by reference to that which is more certain, namely, actual experience. Jews have this actual experience. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob spoke to Moses and delivered the Israelites out of Egypt. This is well known. God gave Israel the Torah. To be sure, all others not of Israel who accept the Law will be rewarded, but they cannot be equal to Israel. There is a peculiar relation between God and Israel in which the other peoples do not share. As the plant is distinguished from the mineral, the animal from the plant, and man from the irrational animal, so is the prophetic individual distinguished above other men. He constitutes a higher species. It is through him that the masses became aware of God's existence and care for them. It was he who told them things unknown to them; who gave them an account of the world's creation and its history. We count now forty-five hundred years from the creation. This was handed down from Adam through Seth and Enos to Noah, to Shem and Eber, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to Moses, and finally to us. Moses came only four hundred years after Abraham in a world which was full of knowledge of heavenly and earthly things. It is impossible that he should have given them a false account of the division of languages and the relations of nations without being found out and exposed.

The philosophers, it is true, oppose us by maintaining that the world is eternal. But the philosophers are Greeks, descended from Japheth, who did not inherit either wisdom or Torah. Divine wisdom is found only in the family of Shem. The Greeks had philosophy among them only during the short time of their power. They borrowed it from the Persians, who had it in turn from the Chaldeans. But neither before nor after did they have any philosophers among them.

Aristotle, not having any inherited tradition concerning the origin of the world, endeavored to reason it all out of his own head. Eternity was just as hard to believe in as creation. But as he had no true and reliable tradition, his arguments in favor of eternity seemed to him to be the stronger. Had he lived among a people who had reliable traditions on the other side, he would have found arguments in favor of creation, which is more plausible than eternity. Real demonstration cannot be controverted; and there is nothing in the Bible which opposes what the reason unequivocally demands. But the matter of eternity or creation is very difficult. The arguments on one side are as good as those on the other. And tradition from Adam to Noah and Moses, which is better than argument, lends its additional weight to the doctrine of creation. If the believer in the Torah were obliged to hold that there is a primitive eternal matter from which the world was made, and that there were many worlds before this one, there would be no great harm, as long as he believes that this world is of recent origin and Adam was the first man.[184]

We see now the standpoint of Judah Halevi, for the "Haber" is of course his spokesman. Philosophy and independent reasoning on such difficult matters as God and creation are after all more or less guess work, and cannot be made the bases of religion except for those who have nothing better. The Jews fortunately have a surer foundation all their own. They have a genuine and indisputable tradition. History is the only true science and the source of truth; not speculation, which is subjective, and can be employed with equal plausibility in favor of opposite doctrines. True history and tradition in the case of the Jews goes back ultimately to first hand knowledge from the very source of all truth. The prophets of Israel constitute a higher species, as much superior to the ordinary man as the ordinary man is to the lower animal, and these prophets received their knowledge direct from God. In principle Judah Halevi agrees with the other Jewish philosophers that true reason cannot be controverted. He differs with them in the concrete application of this abstract principle. He has not the same respect as Maimonides for the actual achievements of the unaided human reason, and an infinitely greater respect for the traditional beliefs of Judaism and the Biblical expressions taken in their obvious meaning. Hence he does not feel the same necessity as Maimonides to twist the meaning of Scriptural passages to make them agree with philosophical theories.

According to this view Judah Halevi does not find it necessary with the philosophers and the Mutakallimun painfully to prove the existence of God. The existence of the Jewish people and the facts of their wonderful history are more eloquent demonstrations than any that logic or metaphysics can muster. But more than this. The philosophical view of God is inadequate in more ways than one. It is inaccurate in content and incorrect in motive. In the first place, they lay a great deal of stress on nature as the principle by which objects move. If a stone naturally moves to the centre of the world, they say this is due to a cause called nature. And the tendency is to attribute intelligence and creative power to this new entity as an associate of God. This is misleading. The real Intelligence is God alone. It is true that the elements, and the sun and moon, and the stars exert certain influences, producing heat and cold, and various other effects in things material, by virtue of which these latter are prepared for the reception of higher forms. And there is no harm in calling these agencies Nature. But we must regard these as devoid of intelligence, and as mere effects of God's wisdom and purpose.[185]

The philosopher denies will in God on the ground that this would argue defect and want. This reduces God to an impersonal force. We Jews believe God has will. The word we use does not matter. I ask the philosopher what is it that makes the heavens revolve continually, and the outer sphere carry everything in uniform motion, the earth standing immovable in the centre? Call it what you please, will or command; it is the same thing that made the air shape itself to produce the sounds of the ten commandments which were heard, and that caused the characters to form on the Tables of Stone.[186]

The motive of the philosopher is also different from that of the believer. The philosopher seeks knowledge only. He desires to know God as he desires to know the exact position and form of the earth. Ignorance in respect to God is no more harmful in his mind than ignorance respecting a fact in nature. His main object is to have true knowledge in order to become like unto the Active Intellect and to be identified with it. As long as he is a philosopher it makes no difference to him what he believes in other respects and whether he observes the practices of religion or not.[187]

The true belief in God is different in scope and aim. What God is must be understood not by means of rational proofs, but by prophetic and spiritual insight. Rational proofs are misleading, and the heretics and unbelievers also use rational proofs—those for example who believe in two original causes, in the eternity of the world, or in the divinity of the sun and fire. The most subtle proofs are those used by the philosophers, and they maintain that God is not concerned about us, and pays no attention to our prayers and sacrifices; that the world is eternal. It is different with us, who heard his words, his commands and prohibitions, and felt his reward and his punishment. We have a proper name of God, Jhvh, representative of the communications he made to us, and we have a conviction that he created the world. The first was Adam, who knew God through actual communication and the creation of Eve from one of his ribs. Cain and Abel came next, then Noah and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and so on to Moses and the Prophets, who came after him. All these called him Jhvh by reason of their insight. The people who received the teaching of the Prophets, in whom they believed, also called him Jhvh, because he was in communication with men; and the select among them saw him through an intermediate agency, called variously, Form, Image, Cloud, Fire, Kingdom, Shekinah, Glory, Rainbow, and so on, proving that he spoke to them.[188]

As the sun's light penetrates different objects in varying degrees, for example, ruby and crystal receive the sun's light in the highest degree; clear air and water come next, then bright stones and polished surfaces, and last of all opaque substances like wood and earth, which the light does not penetrate at all; so we may conceive of different minds varying in the degree to which they attain a knowledge of God. Some arrive only as far as the knowledge of "Elohim," while others attain to a knowledge of Jhvh, which may be compared to the reception of the sun's light in ruby and crystal. These are the prophets in the land of Israel. The conception involved in the name "Elohim" no intelligent man denies; whereas many deny the conception of Jhvh, because prophecy is an unusual occurrence even among individuals, not to speak of a nation. That is why Pharaoh said (Exod. 5, 2), "I know not Jhvh." He knew "Elohim," but not Jhvh, that is a God who reveals himself to man. "Elohim" may be arrived at by reasoning; for the reason tells us that the world has a ruler; though the various classes of men differ as to details, the most plausible view being that of the philosophers. But the conception of Jhvh cannot be arrived at by reason. It requires that prophetic vision by which a person almost becomes a member of a new species, akin to angels. Then the doubts he formerly had about "Elohim" fall away, and he laughs at the arguments which led him to the conception of God and of unity. Now he becomes a devotee, who loves the object of his devotion, and is ready to give his life in his love for him, because of the great happiness he feels in being near to him, and the misery of being away from him. This is different from the philosopher, who sees in the worship of God only good ethics and truth, because he is greater than all other existing things; and in unbelief nothing more than the fault of choosing the untrue.[189]

Here there is clearly a touch of religious poetry and mysticism, which reveals to us Halevi's real attitude, and we have no difficulty in understanding his lack of sympathy with what seemed to him the shallow rationalism of the contemporaneous Aristotelian, who fancied in his conceit that with a few logical formul he could penetrate the mysteries of the divine, when in reality he was barely enabled to skim the surface; into the sanctuary he could never enter.

Though, as we have just seen, Halevi has a conception of God as a personal being, acting with purpose and will and, as we shall see more clearly later, standing in close personal relation to Israel and the land of Palestine, still he is very far from thinking of him anthropomorphically. In his discussion of the divine attributes he yields to none in removing from God any positive quality of those ascribed to him in the Bible. The various names or appellatives applied to God in Scripture, except the tetragrammaton, he divides, according to their signification, into three classes, actional, relative, negative. Such expressions as "making high," "making low," "making poor," almighty, strong, jealous, revengeful, gracious, merciful, and so on, do not denote, he says, feeling or emotion in God. They are ascribed to him because of his visible acts or effects in the world, which we judge on the analogy of our own acts. As a human being is prompted to remove the misery of a fellowman because he feels pity, we ascribe all instances of divine removal of misery from mankind to a similar feeling in God, and call him merciful. But this is only a figure of speech. God does remove misery, but the feeling of pity is foreign to him. We call therefore the attribute merciful and others like it actional, meaning that it is God's acts which suggest to us these appellations.

Another class of attributes found in the Bible embraces such expressions as blessed, exalted, holy, praised, and so on. These are called relative, because they are derived from the attitude of man to God. God is blessed because men bless him, and so with the rest. They do not denote any essential quality in God. And hence their number does not necessitate plurality in God. Finally we have such terms as living, one, first, last, and so on. These too do not denote God's positive essence, for in reality God cannot be said to be either living or dead. Life as we understand it denotes sensation and motion, which are not in God. If we do apply to God the term living, we do so in order to exclude its negative, dead. Living means not dead; one means not many; first means not having any cause antecedent to him; last means never ceasing to be. Hence we call these attributes negative.[190]

We see that Judah Halevi is at one with Bahya and Joseph ibn Zaddik in his understanding of the divine attributes. The slight difference in the mode of classification is not essential.

This God chose Israel and gave them the ten commandments in order to convince them that the Law originated from God and not from Moses. For they might have had a doubt in their minds, seeing that speech is a material thing, and believe that the origin of a law or religion is in the mind of a human being, which afterwards comes to be believed in as divine. For this reason God commanded the people to purify themselves and be ready for the third day, when they all heard the word of God, and were convinced that prophecy is not what the philosophers say it is—a natural result of man's reason identifying itself with the Active Intellect through the help of the imagination, which presents true visions in a dream—but a real communication from God. Not only did they hear the word of God, but they saw the writing of God on the Tables of Stone.

This does not mean that we believe in the corporeality of God; Heaven forbid, we do not even think of the soul of man as corporeal. But we cannot deny the things recorded, which are well known. Just as God created heaven and earth, not by means of material tools as a man does, but by his will, so he might have willed that the air should convey articulate sounds to the ear of Moses, and that letters should be formed on the Tables of Stone to convey to the people the ideas which he wanted them to know. They might have happened in a still more wonderful way than I have been able to conceive.

This may seem like an unwarranted magnifying of the virtues of our people. But in reality it is true that the chain of individuals from Adam to Moses and thereafter was a remarkable one of godly men. Adam was surely a godlike man since he was made by the hand of God and was not dependent on the inherited constitution of his parents, and on the food and climate he enjoyed in the years of his growth. He was made perfect as in the time of mature youth when a person is at his best, and was endowed with the best possible soul for man. Abel was his successor in excellence, also a godly man, and so down the line through Seth and Noah, and so on. There were many who were unworthy and they were excluded. But there was always one in every generation who inherited the distinguished qualities of the Adam line. And even when, as in the case of Terah, the individual was unworthy in himself, he was important as being destined to give birth to a worthy son, who would carry on the tradition, like Abraham. Among Noah's sons, Shem was the select one, and he occupied the temperate regions of Palestine, whereas Japheth went north and Ham went south—regions not so favorable to the development of wisdom.[191]

The laws were all given directly to Moses with all their details so that there is no doubt about any of them. This was absolutely necessary, for had there been any detail left out, a doubt might arise respecting it which would destroy the whole spiritual structure of Judaism. This is not a matter which philosophical reasoning can think out for itself. As in the natural generation of plant and animal the complexity of elements and conditions is so great that a slight tilting of the balance in the wrong direction produces disease and death, so in the spiritual creation of Israel the ceremonies and the laws are all absolutely essential to the whole, whether we understand it or not, and none could be left to speculation. All were given to Moses.

Moses addressed himself to his own people only. You say it would have been better to call all mankind to the true religion. It would be better also perhaps that all animals should be rational. You have forgotten what I said about the select few that worthily succeeded Adam as the heart of the family to the exclusion of the other members, who are as the peel, until in the sons of Jacob all twelve were worthy, and from them Israel is descended. These remarkable men had divine qualities which made them a different species from ordinary men. They were aiming at the degree of the prophet, and many of them reached it by reason of their purity, holiness and proximity to the Prophets. For a prophet has a great influence on the one who associates with him. He converts the latter by awakening in him spirituality and a desire to attain that high degree which brings visible greatness and reward in the world to come, when the soul is separated from the senses and enjoys the heavenly light. We do not exclude anyone from the reward due him for his good works, but we give preference to those who are near to God, and we measure their reward in the next world by this standard. Our religion consists not merely in saying certain words, but in difficult practices and a line of conduct which bring us near to God. Outsiders too may attain to the grade of wise and pious men, but they cannot become equal to us and be prophets.[192]

Not only is Israel a select nation to whom alone prophecy is given as a gift, but Palestine is the most suitable place in the world for communion with God, as a certain spot may be best for planting certain things and for producing people of a particular character and temperament. All those who prophesied outside of Palestine did so with reference to Palestine. Abraham was not worthy of the divine covenant until he was in this land. Palestine was intended to be a guide for the whole world. The reason the second Temple did not last longer than it did is because the Babylonian exiles did not sufficiently love their fatherland and did not all return when the decree of Cyrus permitted them to do so.[193]

Israel is the heart among the nations. The heart is more sensitive than the rest of the body in disease as in health. It feels both more intensely. It is more liable to disease than the other organs, and on the other hand it becomes aware sooner of agencies dangerous to its health and endeavors to reject them or ward them off. So Israel is among the nations. Their responsibility is greater than that of other nations and they are sooner punished. "Only you have I loved out of all the families of the earth," says Amos (3, 2), "therefore will I visit upon you all your iniquities." On the other hand, God does not allow our sins to accumulate as he does with the other nations until they deserve destruction. "He pardons the iniquities of his people by causing them to pass away in due order." As the heart is affected by the other organs, so Israel suffers on account of their assimilation to the other nations. Israel suffers while the other nations are in peace. As the elements are for the sake of the minerals, the minerals for the sake of the plants, the plants for the sake of the animals, the animals for the sake of man, so is man for the sake of Israel, and Israel for the sake of the Prophets and the pious men. With the purification of Israel the world will be improved and brought nearer to God.[194]

Associated with Israel and Palestine as a third privilege and distinction is the Hebrew language. This is the original language which God spoke to Adam. The etymologies of Biblical names prove it. It was richer formerly, and has become impoverished in the course of time like the people using it. Nevertheless it still shows evidence of superiority to other languages in its system of accents which shows the proper expression in reading, and in its wonderful system of vowel changes producing euphony in expression and variation in meaning.[195]

The highest type of man, we have seen, is the Prophet, for whose sake Israel and the whole of humanity exists. He is the highest type because he alone has an immediate knowledge of Jhvh as distinguished from "Elohim," the concept of universal cause and power, which the philosopher also is able to attain. Jhvh signifies, as we have seen, the personal God who performs miracles and reveals himself to mankind through the prophet. We wish to know therefore how Judah Halevi conceives of the essence and process of prophetic inspiration. We are already aware that he is opposed to the philosophers who regard the power of prophecy as a natural gift possessed by the man of pure intellect and perfect power of imagination. To these Aristotelians, as we shall have occasion to see more clearly later, the human intellect is nothing more than an individualized reflection, if we may so term it, of the one universal intellect, which is—not God, but an intellectual substance wholly immaterial, some nine or ten degrees removed from the Godhead. It is called the Active Intellect, and its business is to govern the sublunar world of generation and decay. As pure thought the Active Intellect embraces as its content the entire sublunar world in essence. In fact it bestows the forms (in the Aristotelian sense) upon the things of this world, and hence has a timeless knowledge of all the world and its happenings. The individualized reflection of it in the human soul is held there so long as the person is alive, somewhat as a drop of water may hold the moon until it evaporates, and the reflection is reabsorbed in the one real moon. So it is the Active Intellect which is the cause of all conceptual knowledge in man through its individualizations, and into it every human intellect is reabsorbed when the individual dies. Some men share more, some less in the Active Intellect; and it is in everyone's power, within limits, to increase and purify his participation in the influence of the Active Intellect by study and rigorous ethical discipline. The prophet differs from the ordinary man and the philosopher in degree only, not in kind. His knowledge comes from the influence of the Active Intellect as does the knowledge of the philosopher. The difference is that in the prophet's case the imagination plays an important rle and presents concrete visions instead of universal propositions, and the identification with the Active Intellect is much closer.

This conception of prophecy, which in its essentials, we shall see, was adopted by Abraham ibn Daud, Maimonides and Gersonides, naturally would not appeal to Judah Halevi. Prophecy is the prerogative of Israel and of Palestine. The philosophers have nothing to do with it. A mere philosopher has no more chance of entering the kingdom of prophecy than a camel of passing through the eye of a needle.[B] Have the philosophers ever produced prophets? And yet, if their explanation is correct, their ranks should abound in them. Prophecy is a supernatural power, and the influence comes from God. The prophet is a higher species of mortal. He is endowed with an internal eye, a hidden sense, which sees certain immaterial objects, as the external sense sees the physical objects. No one else sees those forms, but they are none the less real, for the whole species of prophetic persons testify to their existence. In ordinary perception we tell a real object from an illusion by appealing to the testimony of others. What appears to a single individual only may be an illusion. If all persons agree that the object is there, we conclude it is real. The same test holds of the prophetic visions. All prophets see them. Then the intellect of the prophet interprets the vision, as our intellect interprets the data of our senses. The latter give us not the essence of the sensible object, but the superficial accidents, such as color, shape, and so on. It is the work of the reason to refer these qualities to the essence of the object, as king, sun. The same holds true of the prophet. He sees a figure in the form of a king or a judge in the act of giving orders; and he knows that he has before him a being that is served and obeyed. Or he sees the form in the act of carrying baggage or girded for work; and he infers that he is dealing with a being that is meant for a servant. What these visions really were it is not in all cases possible to know with certainty. There is no doubt that the Prophets actually saw the hosts of heaven, the spirits of the spheres, in the form of man. The word angel in the Bible (Heb. Mal'ak) means messenger. What these messengers or angels were we cannot tell with certainty. They may have been specially created from the fine elementary bodies, or they belonged to the eternal angels, who may be the same as the spiritual beings of whom the philosophers speak. We can neither reject their view nor definitely accept it. Similarly the expression, "The Glory of Jhvh," may denote a fine body following the will of God and formed every time it has to appear to a prophet, or it may denote all the angels and spiritual beings, Throne and Chariot and Firmament, and Ofannim and Galgalim, and other eternal beings constituting, so to speak, the suite of God.

[B] This simile represents Halevi's thought. He does not use this expression.

Even such phrases as, "They saw the God of Israel" (Exod. 24, 10), "He saw the form of Jhvh" (Num. 12, 8), the Rabbinic expression "Maase Merkaba" (work of the divine chariot, cf. above, p. xvi), and the later discussions concerning the "Measure of the divine stature" (Shi'ur Komah), must not be rejected. These visual images representative of God are calculated to inspire fear in the human soul, which the bare conception of the One, Omnipotent, and so on, cannot produce.[196]

As Judah Halevi is unwilling to yield to the philosophers and explain away the supernaturalism of prophecy, maintaining rather on the contrary that the supernatural character of the prophetic vision is an evidence of the superior nature of Israel as well as of their land and their language, so he insists on the inherent value of the ceremonial law, including sacrifices. To Saadia, and especially to Bahya and Maimonides, the test of value is rationality. The important laws of the Bible are those known as the rational commandments. The other class, the so-called traditional commandments, would also turn out to be rational if we knew the reason why they were commanded. And in default of exact knowledge it is the business of the philosopher to suggest reasons. Bahya lays the greatest stress upon the commandments of the heart, i. e., upon the purity of motive and intention, upon those laws which concern feeling and belief rather than outward practice. Judah Halevi's attitude is different. If the only thing of importance in religion were intention and motive and moral sense, why should Christianity and Islam fight to the death, shedding untold human blood in defence of their religion. As far as ethical theory and practice are concerned there is no difference between them. Ceremonial practice is the only thing that separates them. And the king of the Chazars was told repeatedly in his dreams that his intentions were good but not his practice, his religious practice. To be sure the ethical law is important in any religion, but it is not peculiar to religion as such. It is a necessary condition of social life, without which no association is possible, not even that of a robber band. There is honesty even among thieves. Religion has its peculiar practices, and it is not sufficient for an Israelite to observe the rational commandments alone. When the Prophets inveigh against sacrifices; when Micah says (6, 8), "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God," they mean that the ceremonies alone are not sufficient; but surely a man is not fully an Israelite if he neglects the ceremonial laws and observes only the rational commandments. We may not understand the value of the ceremonial laws, the meaning of the institution of sacrifices. But neither do we understand why the rational soul does not attach itself to a body except when the parts are arranged in a certain manner and the elements are mixed in a certain proportion, though the reason needs not food and drink for itself. God has arranged it so, that only under certain conditions shall a body receive the light of reason. So in the matter of sacrifices God has ordained that only when the details of the sacrificial and other ceremonies are minutely observed shall the nation enjoy his presence and care. In some cases the significance of certain observances is clearer than in others. Thus the various festivals are also symbolic of certain truths of history and the divine government of the world. The Sabbath leads to the belief in the exodus from Egypt and the creation of the world; and hence inculcates belief in God.[197]

In his views of ethics Judah Halevi is more human than Bahya, being opposed to all manner of asceticism. The law, he says, does not demand excess in any direction. Every power and faculty must be given its due. Our law commends fear, love and joy as means of worshipping God; so that fasting on a fast day does not bring a man nearer to God than eating and drinking and rejoicing on a feast day, provided all is done with a view to honoring God. A Jewish devotee is not one who separates himself from the world. On the contrary, he loves the world and a long life because thereby he wins a share in the world to come. Still his desire is to attain the degree of Enoch or Elijah, and to be fit for the association of angels. A man like this feels more at home when alone than in company of other people; for the higher beings are his company, and he misses them when people are around him. Philosophers also enjoy solitude in order to clarify their thoughts, and they are eager to meet disciples to discuss their problems with them. In our days it is difficult to reach the position of these rare men. In former times when the Shekinah rested in the Holy Land, and the nation was fit for prophecy, there were people who separated themselves from their neighbors and studied the law in purity and holiness in the company of men like them. These were the Sons of the Prophets. Nowadays when there is neither prophecy nor wisdom, a person who attempted to do this, though he be a pious man, would come to grief; for he would find neither prophets nor philosophers to keep him company; nor enough to keep his mind in that high state of exaltation needed for communion with God. Prayer alone is not sufficient, and soon becomes a habit without any influence on the soul. He would soon find that the natural powers and desires of the soul begin to assert themselves and he will regret his separation from mankind, thus getting farther away from God instead of coming nearer to him.

The right practice of the pious man at the present day is to give all the parts of the body their due and no more, without neglecting any of them; and to bring the lower powers and desires under the dominion of the higher; feeding the soul with things spiritual as the body with things material. He must keep himself constantly under guard and control, making special use of the times of prayer for self-examination, and striving to retain the influence of one prayer until the time comes for the next. He must also utilize the Sabbaths and the festivals and the Great Fast to keep himself in good spiritual trim. In addition he must observe all the commandments, traditional, rational, and those of the heart, and reflect on their meaning and on God's goodness and care.[198]

Judah Halevi has no doubt of the immortality of the soul and of reward and punishment after death, though the Bible does not dwell upon these matters with any degree of emphasis. Other religions, he admits, make greater promises of reward after death, whereas Judaism offers divine nearness through miracles and prophecy. Instead of saying, If you do thus and so, I will put you in gardens after death and give you pleasures, our Law says, I will be your God and you will be my people. Some of you will stand before me and will go up to heaven, walking among the angels; and my angels will walk among you, protecting you in your land, which is the holy land, not like the other nations, which are governed by nature. Surely, he exclaims, we who can boast of such things during life are more certain of the future world than those whose sole reliance is on promises of the hereafter. It would not be correct, the Rabbi says to the king of the Chazars, who was tempted to despise the Jews as well as their religion because of their material and political weakness, to judge of our destiny after death by our condition during life, in which we are inferior to all other people. For these very people, like the Christians and Mohammedans, glory in their founders, who were persecuted and despised, and not in the present power and luxury of the great kings. The Christians in particular worship the man who said, "Whosoever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if a man ... take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also" (Matth. 5, 39). Accordingly our worth is greater in the sight of God than if we were prosperous. It is true that not all of us accept our miserable condition with becoming humility. If we did, God would not keep us so long in misery. But after all there is reward awaiting our people for bearing the yoke of the exile voluntarily, when it would be an easy matter for any one of us to become a brother to our oppressors by the saying of one word.

Our wise men, too, have said a great deal about the pleasures and sufferings awaiting us in the next world, and in this also they surpass the wise men of other religions. The Bible, it is true, does not lay stress on this aspect of our belief; but so much is clear from the Bible also, that the spirit returns to God. There are also allusions to the immortality of the soul in the disappearance of Elijah, who did not die, and in the belief of his second coming. This appears also from the prayer of Balaam, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and may my last end be like his" (Num. 23, 10), and from the calling of Samuel from the dead. The idea of paradise (Gan Eden) is taken from the Torah, and Gehenna is a Hebrew word, the name of a valley near Jerusalem, where fire always burned, consuming unclean bones, carcases, and so on. There is nothing new in the later religions which is not already found in ours.[199]

An important ethical problem which Judah Halevi discusses more thoroughly than any of his predecessors is that of free will, which he defends against fatalistic determinism, and endeavors to reconcile with divine causality and foreknowledge. We have already seen (p. xxi) that this was one of the important theses of the Mu'tazilite Kalam. And there is no doubt that fatalism is opposed to Judaism. A fatalistic determinist denies the category of the contingent or possible. He says not merely that an event is determined by its proximate cause, he goes further and maintains that it is determined long in advance of any of its secondary causes by the will of God. It would follow then that there is no way of preventing an event thus predetermined. If we take pains to avoid a misfortune fated to come upon us, our very efforts may carry us toward it and land us in its clutches. Literature is full of stories illustrating this belief, as for example the story of OEdipus. Against this form of belief Judah Halevi vindicates the reality of the contingent or possible as opposed to the necessary. No one except the obstinate and perverse denies the possible or contingent. His preparations to meet and avoid that which he hopes and fears prove that he believes the thing amenable to pains and precautions. If he had not this belief, he would fold his hands in resignation, never taking the trouble to supply himself with arms to meet his enemy, or with water to quench his thirst. To be sure, we may argue that whether one prepare himself or omit to do so, the preparation or neglect is itself determined. But this is no longer the same position as that maintained at the outset. For we now admit that secondary causes do play a part in determining the result, whereas we denied it at first. The will is one of these secondary causes. Accordingly Judah Halevi divides all acts or events into four classes, divine, natural, accidental and voluntary. Strictly divine events are the direct results of the divine will without any intermediate cause. There is no way of preparing for or avoiding these; not, that is, physically; but it is possible to prepare oneself mentally and morally, namely, through the secrets of the Torah to him who knows them.

Natural events are produced by secondary causes, which bring the objects of nature to their perfection. These produce their effects regularly and uniformly, provided there is no hindrance on the part of the other three causes. An example of natural events would be the growth of a plant or animal under favorable conditions. Accidental events are also produced by secondary causes, but they happen by chance, not regularly and not as a result of purpose. Their causes are not intended for the purpose of bringing perfection to their chance effects. These too may be hindered by any one of the other three causes. An example of a chance event might be death in war. The secondary cause is the battle, but its purpose was not that this given person might meet his death there, and not all men die in war.

Finally, voluntary acts are those caused by the will of man. It is these that concern us most. We have already intimated that the human will is itself a secondary cause and has a rle in determining its effect. It is true that the will itself is caused by other higher causes until we get to the first cause, but this does not form a necessary chain of causation. Despite the continuous chain of causes antecedent to a given volition the soul finding itself in front of a given plan is free to choose either of the two alternatives. To say that a man's speech is as necessary as the beating of his pulse contradicts experience. We feel that we are masters of our speech and our silence. The fact that we praise and blame and love and hate a person according to his deliberate conduct is another proof of freedom. We do not blame a natural or accidental cause. We do not blame a child or a person asleep when they cause damage, because they did not do the damage deliberately and with intention. If those who deny freedom are consistent, they must either refrain from being angry with a person who injures them deliberately, or they must say that anger and praise and blame and love and hate are delusive powers put in our souls in vain. Besides there would be no difference between the pious and the disobedient, because both are doing that which they are by necessity bound to do.

But there are certain strong objections to the doctrine of freedom. If man is absolutely free to do or forbear, it follows that the effects of his conduct are removed from God's control. The answer to this is that they are not absolutely removed from his control. They are still related to him by a chain of causes.

Another argument against free will is that it is irreconcilable with God's knowledge. If man alone is the master of his choice, God cannot know beforehand what he will choose. And if God does know, the man cannot but choose as God foreknew he would choose, and what becomes of his freedom? This may be answered by saying that the knowledge of a thing is not the cause of its being. We do not determine a past event by the fact that we know it. Knowledge is simply evidence that the thing is. So man chooses by his own determination, and yet God knows beforehand which way he is going to choose, simply because he sees into the future as we remember the past.[200]

Judah Halevi's discussion of the problem of freedom is fuller than any we have met so far in our investigation. But it is not satisfactory. Apart from his fourfold classification of events which is open to criticism, there is a weak spot in the very centre of his argument, which scarcely could have escaped him. He admits that the will is caused by higher causes ending ultimately in the will of God, and yet maintains in the same breath that the will is not determined. As free the will is removed from God's control, and yet it is not completely removed, being related to him by a chain of causes. This is a plain contradiction, unless we are told how far it is determined and how far it is not. Surely the aspect in which it is not determined is absolutely removed from God's control and altogether uncaused. But Judah Halevi is unwilling to grant this. He just leaves us with the juxtaposition of two incompatibles. We shall see that Hasdai Crescas was more consistent, and admitted determinism.

We have now considered Judah Halevi's teachings, and have seen that he has no sympathy with the point of view of those people who were called in his day philosophers, i. e., those who adopted the teachings ascribed to Aristotle. At the same time he was interested in maintaining that all science really came originally from the Jews; and in order to prove this he undertakes a brief interpretation of the "Sefer Yezirah" (Book of Creation), an early mystic work of unknown authorship and date, which Judah Halevi in common with the uncritical opinion of his day attributed to Abraham.[201] Not to lay himself open to the charge of inconsistency, he throws out the suggestion that the Sefer Yezirah represented Abraham's own speculations before he had the privilege of a prophetic communication from God. When that came he was ready to abandon all his former rationalistic lucubrations and abide by the certainty of revealed truth.[202] We may therefore legitimately infer that Judah Halevi's idea was that the Jews were the originators of philosophy, but that they had long discarded it in favor of something much more valid and certain; whereas the Greeks and their descendants, having nothing better, caught it up and are now parading it as their own discovery and even setting it up as superior to direct revelation.

Natural science in so far as it had to do with more or less verifiable data could not be considered harmful, and so we find Judah Halevi taking pains to show that the sages of Rabbinical literature cultivated the sciences, astronomy in connection with the Jewish calendar; anatomy, biology and physiology in relation to the laws of slaughter and the examination of animal meat (laws of "Terefa").[203]

But so great was the fascination philosophy exerted upon the men of his generation that even Judah Halevi, despite his efforts to shake its authority and point out its inadequacy and evident inferiority to revelation, was not able wholly to escape it. And we find accordingly that he deems it necessary to devote a large part of the fifth book of the Kusari to the presentation of a bird's eye view of the current philosophy of the day. To be sure, he does not give all of it the stamp of his approval; he repeatedly attacks its foundations and lays bare their weakness. At the same time he admits that not every man has faith by nature and is proof against the erroneous arguments of heretics, astrologers, philosophers and others. The ordinary mortal is affected by them, and may even be misled for a time until he comes to see the truth. It is therefore well to know the principles of religion according to those who defend it by reason, and this involves a knowledge of science and theology. But we must not, he says, in the manner of the Karaites, advance all at once to the higher study of theology. One must first understand the fundamental principles of physics, psychology, and so on, such as matter and form, the elements, nature, Soul, Intellect, Divine Wisdom. Then we can proceed to the more properly theological matters, like the future world, Providence, and so on.

Accordingly Judah Halevi gives us in the sequel a brief account such as he has just outlined. It will not be worth our while to reproduce it all here, as in the first place Judah Halevi does not give it as the result of his own investigation and conviction, and secondly a good deal of it is not new; and we have already met it in more or less similar form before in Joseph ibn Zaddik, Abraham bar Hiyyah, and others. We must point out, however, the new features which we did not meet before, explain their origin and in particular indicate Judah Halevi's criticisms.

In general we may say that Judah Halevi has a better knowledge of Aristotelian doctrines than any of his predecessors. Thus to take one example, which we used before (p. 138), Aristotle's famous definition of the soul is quoted by Isaac Israeli, Saadia, Joseph ibn Zaddik as well as by Judah Halevi. Israeli does not discuss the definition in detail.[204] Saadia and Ibn Zaddik show clearly that they did not understand the precise meaning of the definition. Judah Halevi is the first who understands correctly all the elements of the definition. And yet it would be decidedly mistaken to infer from this that Judah Halevi studied the Aristotelian works directly. By a fortunate discovery of S. Landauer[205] we are enabled to follow Judah Halevi's source with the certainty of eyewitnesses. The sketch which he gives of the Aristotelian psychology is taken bodily not from Aristotle's De Anima, but from a youthful work of Ibn Sina. Judah Halevi did not even take the trouble to present the subject in his own words. He simply took his model and abridged it, by throwing out all argumentative, illustrative and amplificatory material. Apart from this abridgment he follows his authority almost word for word, not to speak of reproducing the ideas in the original form and order. This is a typical and extremely instructive instance; and it shows how careful we must be before we decide that a medival writer read a certain author with whose ideas he is familiar and whom he quotes.

In the sketch of philosophical theory Judah Halevi first speaks of the hyle ([Greek: hyl]) or formless matter, which according to the philosophers was in the beginning of things contained within the lunar sphere. The "water" in the second verse of Genesis ("and the spirit of God moved upon the face of the water") is supposed by them to denote this primitive matter, as the "darkness" in the same verse and the "chaos" ("Tohu") in the first verse signify the absence of form and composition in the matter (the Aristotelian [Greek: stersis]). God then willed the revolution of the outermost sphere, known as the diurnal sphere, which caused all the other spheres to revolve with it, thereby producing changes in the hyle in accordance with the motions of the sphere. The first change was the heating of that which was next to the lunar sphere and making it into pure fire, known among the philosophers as "natural fire," a pure, fine and light substance, without color or burning quality. This became the sphere of fire. The part that was further away changed as a result of the same revolution into the sphere of air, then came the sphere of water, and finally the terrestrial globe in the centre, heavy and thick by reason of its distance from the place of motion. From these four elements come the physical objects by composition. The forms (in the Aristotelian sense) of things are imposed upon their matters by a divine power, the "Intellect, and Giver of Forms"; whereas the matters come from the hyle, and the accidental proximity of different parts to the revolving lunar sphere explains why some parts became fire, some air, and so on.

To this mechanical explanation of the formation of the elements Judah Halevi objects. As long as the original motion of the diurnal sphere is admittedly due not to chance but to the will of God, what is gained by referring the formation of the elements to their accidental proximity to the moving sphere, and accounting for the production of mineral, plant and animal in the same mechanical way by the accidental composition of the four elements in proportions varying according to the different revolutions and positions of the heavenly bodies? Besides if the latter explanation were true, the number of species of plants and animals should be infinite like the various positions and formations of the heavenly bodies, whereas they are finite and constant. The argument from the design and purpose that is clearly visible in the majority of plants and animals further refutes such mechanical explanation as is attempted by the philosophers. Design is also visible in the violation of the natural law by which water should always be above and around earth; whereas in reality we see a great part of the earth's surface above water. This is clearly a beneficent provision in order that animal life may sustain itself, and this is the significance of the words of the Psalmist (136, 6), "To him that stretched out the earth above the waters."

The entire theory of the four elements and the alleged composition of all things out of them is a pure assumption. Take the idea of the world of fire, the upper fire as they call it, which is colorless, so as not to obstruct the color of the heavens and the stars. Whoever saw such a fire? The only fire we know is an extremely hot object in the shape of coal, or as a flame in the air, or as boiling water. And whoever saw a fiery or ary body enter the matter of plant and animal so as to warrant us in saying that the latter are composed of the four elements? True, we know that water and earth do enter the matter of plants, and that they are assisted by the air and the heat of the sun in causing the plant to grow and develop, but we never see a fiery or ary body. Or whoever saw plants resolved into the four elements? If a part changes into earth, it is not real earth, but ashes; and the part changed to water is not real water, but a kind of moisture, poisonous or nutritious, but not water fit for drinking. Similarly no part of the plant changes to real air fit for breathing, but to vapor or mist. Granted that we have to admit the warm and the cold, and the moist and the dry as the primary qualities without which no body can exist; and that the reason resolves the composite objects into these primary qualities, and posits substances as bearers of these qualities, which it calls fire, air, water and earth—this is true conceptually and theoretically only. It cannot be that the primary qualities really existed in the simple state extra animam, and then all existing things were made out of them. How can the philosophers maintain such a thing, since they believe in the eternity of the world, that it always existed as it does now?

These are the criticisms of their theory of the elements. According to the Torah God created the world just as it is, with its animals and plants already formed. There is no need of assuming intermediate powers or compositions. The moment we admit that the world was created out of nothing by the will of God in the manner in which he desired, all difficulties vanish about the origin of bodies and their association with souls. And there is no reason why we should not accept the firmament, and the waters above the heaven, and the demons mentioned by the Rabbis, and the account of the days of the Messiah and the resurrection and the world to come.[206]

Another theory he criticizes is that developed by Alfarabi and Avicenna, the chief Aristotelians of the Arabs before Averroes. It is a combination of Aristotelianism with the Neo-Platonic doctrine of emanation, though it was credited as a whole to Aristotle in the middle ages. We have already seen in the Introduction (p. xxxiv) that Aristotle conceived the world as a series of concentric spheres with the earth in the centre. The principal spheres are eight in number, and they carry in order, beginning with the external sphere, (1) the fixed stars, (2) Saturn, (3) Jupiter, (4) Mars, (5) Mercury, (6) Venus, (7) Sun, (8) Moon. To account for the various motions of the sun and the planets additional spheres had to be introduced amounting in all to fifty-six. But the principal spheres remained those mentioned. Each sphere or group of spheres with the star it carries is moved by an incorporeal mover, a spirit or Intelligence, and over them all is the first unmoved mover, God. He sets in motion the outer sphere of the fixed stars, and so the whole world moves. There is nothing said in this of the origin of these spheres and their intelligible movers. On the other hand, in the Neo-Platonic system of Plotinus all existence and particularly that of the intelligible or spiritual world issues or emanates from the One or the Good. Intellect is the first emanation, Soul the second, Nature the third and Matter the last.

On account of the confusion which arose in the middle ages, as a result of which Neo-Platonic writings and doctrines were attributed to Aristotle, Alfarabi and Avicenna worked out a scheme which combined the motion theory of Aristotle with the doctrine of emanation of Plotinus. The theory is based upon a principle alleged to be Aristotle's that from a unitary cause nothing but a unitary effect can follow. Hence, said Avicenna, God cannot have produced directly all the world we see in its complexity. He is the direct cause of the first Intelligence only, or first angel as Judah Halevi calls him. This Intelligence contemplates itself and it contemplates its cause. The effect of the latter act is the emanation of a second intelligence or angel; the effect of the former is a sphere—that of the fixed stars, of which the first Intelligence is the mover. The second Intelligence again produces a third Intelligence by its contemplation of the First Cause, and by its self-contemplation it creates the second sphere, the sphere of Saturn, which is moved by it. So the process continues until we reach the sphere of the moon, which is the last of the celestial spheres, and the Active Intellect, the last of the Intelligences, having in charge the sublunar world.

This fanciful and purely mythological scheme arouses the antagonism of Judah Halevi. It is all pure conjecture, he says, and there is not an iota of proof in it. People believe it and think it is convincing, simply because it bears the name of a Greek philosopher. As a matter of fact this theory is less plausible than those of the "Sefer Yezirah"; and there is no agreement even among the philosophers themselves except for those who are the followers of the same Greek authority, Empedocles, or Pythagoras, or Aristotle, or Plato. These agree not because the proofs are convincing, but simply because they are members of a given sect or school. The objections to the theory just outlined are manifold. In the first place why should the series of emanations stop with the moon? Is it because the power of the First Cause has given out? Besides why should self-contemplation result in a sphere and contemplation of the First Cause in an Intelligence or angel? It should follow that when Aristotle contemplates himself he produces a sphere, and when he contemplates the First Cause he gives rise to an angel. Granting the truth of the process, one does not see why the mover of Saturn should not produce two more emanations, one by contemplating the Intelligence immediately above it, and the other by contemplating the first Intelligence, thus making four emanations instead of two.[207]

In his outline of the philosophers' psychology, which as we have seen (p. 175) is borrowed verbally from Avicenna, what is new to us is the exposition of the inner senses and the account of the rational faculty. We must therefore reproduce it here in outline together with Judah Halevi's criticism.

The three kinds of soul, vegetative, animal and rational, we have already met before. We have also referred to the fact that Judah Halevi analyzes correctly the well-known Aristotelian definition of the soul. We must now give a brief account of the inner senses as Judah Halevi took it from Avicenna. The five external senses, seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting, give us merely colors, sounds, touch sensations, odors and tastes. These are combined into an object by the common sense, known also as the forming power. Thus when we see honey we associate with its yellow color a sweet taste. This could not be done unless we had a power which combines in it all the five senses. For the sense of sight cannot perceive taste, nor can color be apprehended by the gustatory sense. There is need therefore of a common sense which comprehends all the five external senses. This is the first internal sense. This retains the forms of sensible objects just as the external senses present them. Then comes the composing power or power of imagination. This composes and divides the material of the common sense. It may be true or false, whereas the common sense is always true. Both of these give us merely forms; they do not exercise any judgment. The latter function belongs to the third internal sense, the power of judgment. Through this an animal is enabled to decide that a given object is to be sought or avoided. It also serves to rectify the errors of reproduction that may be found in the preceding faculty of imagination. Love, injury, belief, denial, belong likewise to the judging faculty together with such judgments as that the wolf is an enemy, the child a friend. The last of the internal senses is that of factual memory, the power which retains the judgments made by the faculty preceding.

In addition to these sensory powers the animal possesses motor faculties. These are two, the power of desire, which moves the animal to seek the agreeable; and the power of anger, which causes it to reject or avoid the disagreeable. All these powers are dependent upon the corporeal organs and disappear with the destruction of the latter.

The highest power of the soul and the exclusive possession of man (the faculties mentioned before are found also in animals) is the rational soul. This is at first simply a potentiality. Actually it is a tabula rasa, an empty slate, a blank paper. But it has the power (or is the power) of acquiring general ideas. Hence it is called hylic or material intellect, because it is like matter which in itself is nothing actual but is potentially everything, being capable of receiving any form and becoming any real object. As matter receives sensible forms, so the material intellect acquires intelligible forms, i. e., thoughts, ideas, concepts. When it has these ideas it is an actual intellect. It is then identical with the ideas it has, i. e., thinker and thought are the same, and hence the statement that the actual intellect is "intelligent" and "intelligible" at the same time. As matter is the principle of generation and destruction the rational soul, which is thus shown to be an immaterial substance, is indestructible, hence immortal. And it is the ideas it acquires which make it so. When the rational soul is concerned with pure knowledge it is called the speculative or theoretical intellect. When it is engaged in controlling the animal powers, its function is conduct, and is called the practical intellect. The rational soul, i. e., the speculative intellect, is separable from the body and needs it not, though it uses it at first to acquire some of its knowledge. This is proved by the fact that whereas the corporeal powers, like the senses, are weakened by strong stimuli, the reason is strengthened by hard subjects of thought. Old age weakens the body, but strengthens the mind. The activities of the body are finite; of the mind, infinite.

We must also show that while the rational soul makes use of the data of sense perception, which are corporeal, as the occasions for the formation of its general ideas, it is not wholly dependent upon them, and the sense data alone are inadequate to give the soul its intellectual truths. Empirical knowledge is inductive, and no induction can be more general and more certain than the particular facts from which it is derived. As all experience, however rich, is necessarily finite, empirical knowledge is never universally certain. But the soul does possess universally certain knowledge, as for example the truths of mathematics and logic; hence the origin of these truths can not be empirical. How does the soul come to have such knowledge? We must assume that there is a divine emanation cleaving to the soul, which stands to it in the relation of light to the sense of sight. It is to the illumination of this intellectual substance and not to the data of sense perception that the soul owes the universal certainty of its knowledge. This divine substance is the Active Intellect. As long as the soul is united with the body, perfect union with the Active Intellect is impossible. But as the soul becomes more and more perfect through the acquisition of knowledge, it cleaves more and more to the Active Intellect, and this union becomes complete after death. Thus the immortality of the soul is proved by reason. It is based upon the conviction that the soul is an immaterial substance and that its perfection lies in its acquisition of intellectual ideas.[208]

Judah Halevi cannot help admitting the fascination such speculation exercises upon the mind of the student. But he must warn him against being misled by the fame of such names as Plato and Aristotle, and supposing that because in logic and mathematics the philosophers give us real proofs, they are equally trustworthy in metaphysical speculation. If the soul is, as they say, an intellectual substance not limited in place and for this reason not subject to genesis and decay, there is no way to distinguish one soul from another, since it is matter which constitutes individual existence. How then can my soul be distinguished from yours, or from the Active Intellect and the other Intelligences, or from the First Cause itself? The souls of Plato and Aristotle should become one so that the one should know the secret thoughts of the other. If the soul gets its ideas through divine illumination from the Active Intellect, how is it that philosophers do not intuit their ideas at once like God and the Active Intellect, and how is it they forget?

Then as to their ideas about immortality. If immortality is a necessary phenomenon due to the intellectual nature of the soul and dependent upon the degree of intellectual knowledge it possesses, how much knowledge must a man have to be immortal? If any amount is sufficient, then every rational soul is immortal, for everybody knows at least the axioms of logic and mathematics, such as that things equal to the same thing are equal to each other, that a thing cannot both be and not be, and so on. If a knowledge of the ten categories is necessary, and of the other universal principles which embrace existence conceptually, though not practically, this knowledge can be gotten in a day, and it is not likely that a man can become an angel in a day. If on the other hand one must know everything not merely conceptually but in detail, no one can ever acquire universal knowledge and no one is immortal The philosophers may be excused because this is the best they can do with the help of pure reason. We may commend them for their mode of life in accordance with the moral law and in freedom from the world, since they were not bound to accept our traditions. But it is different with us. Why should we seek peculiar proofs and explanations for the immortality of the soul, since we have promises to that effect whether the soul be corporeal or spiritual? If we depend upon logical proof, our life will pass away without our coming to any conclusion.[209]

Judah Halevi takes issue also with the Mutakallimun. These, as we know, were Mohammedan theologians who, unlike the philosophers, were not indifferent to religion. On the contrary their sole motive in philosophizing was to prove the dogmas of their faith. They had no interest in pure speculation as such. Judah Halevi has no more sympathy with them than with the philosophers. Owing to the fact that the Karaites were implicit followers of the Kalam and for other reasons, no doubt, more objective, he thinks less of them than he does of the philosophers. The only possible use, he tells us, of their methods is to afford exercise in dialectics so as to be able to answer the arguments of unbelievers. To the superficial observer the Mutakallim may seem to be superior to the prophet, because he argues, whereas the latter affirms without proving. In reality, however, this is not so. The aim of the Mutakallim is to acquire the belief which the prophet has by nature. But his Kalam may injure his belief instead of confirming it, by reason of the many difficulties and doubts it introduces. The prophet, who has natural belief, teaches not by means of dialectic discussion. If one has a spark of the true belief in his nature, the prophet by his personality will benefit him by a slight hint. Only he who has nothing of true belief in his nature must have recourse to Kalam, which may benefit him or injure.

Judah Halevi follows up this general comment by a brief sketch of the system of the Kalam, but we need not enter into this matter as there is little there that we do not already know, and there is no detailed criticism on the part of Judah Halevi.[210]

The Rabbi concludes his discourse with the king of the Chazars by declaring his intention to leave the land in order to go to Jerusalem. Although the visible Shekinah is no longer in Palestine, the invisible and spiritual presence is with every born Israelite of pure heart and deed; and Palestine is the fittest land for this communion, being conducive to purity of heart and mind.[211]



CHAPTER XI

MOSES AND ABRAHAM IBN EZRA

1. Moses ibn Ezra

Among the Jewish Neo-Platonists must be included the two Ibn Ezras, Moses and Abraham. They were contemporary and came from Spain. Moses, the older of the two, was born at Granada about 1070 and died after 1138. Abraham, who travelled all over the world, was born at Toledo in 1092 and died in 1167. Neither is particularly famous as a philosopher. Moses's celebrity rests on his poetic productions, secular as well as religious, which are highly praised by Harizi, above even those of Halevi. Abraham is best known as a grammarian and Biblical commentator, particularly the latter, though his versatility is remarkable. Besides grammar and exegesis he wrote on mathematics, astronomy and astrology, on religious philosophy, and was a poet of no mean order; though, as Zunz says,[212] "flashes of thought spring from his words, but not pictures of the imagination."

All that is accessible in print of Moses Ibn Ezra's philosophical treatise is a Hebrew translation of extracts under the title "Arugat ha-Bosem" (Bed of Spices).[213] If we may judge of the rest of the work by these Hebrew fragments, we should say that philosophy was not Ibn Ezra's forte. He dabbled in it as any poet of that age did, but what caught his fancy was more the mysteriously sounding phrases of celebrated authorities like Pythagoras, Empedocles, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Hermes (whom he identifies with Enoch), than a strictly reasoned out argument. Accordingly the Hebrew selections consist of little more than a string of quotations on the transcendence and unknowableness of God, on the meaning of philosophy, on the position of man in the universe, on motion, on nature and on intellect. It is of historical interest to us to know that Moses ibn Ezra, so famous as a poet, was interested in philosophy, and that the views which appealed to him were those of Ibn Gabirol, whose "Fountain of Life" he knew, and from which he quotes a celebrated mystical passage. A few details will suffice to make this clear.

Man is a microcosm, a world in miniature, and there is nothing above or below, the counterpart of which is not found in man. There is no sphere, or star, or animal, or plant, or mineral, or power, or nature, but something similar, mutatis mutandis, is found in man. The ten categories, which according to the philosophers embrace all existence, are also found, all of them, in man. The perfection of man's creation points to a wise Creator. Man comes after multiplicity, God is before multiplicity. Man is like the great universe, and in both the spiritual cannot come in direct contact with the corporeal, but needs intermediating powers to bring the extremes together. In man soul and spirit stand between intellect and body.

Hence a man must know himself before he can know the universe, else he is like a person who feeds other people while he is himself hungry. To know the Creator, the soul must first know herself, and this is one of the definitions of philosophy, to know one's own soul. He who can strip his soul of his corporeal senses and worldly desires, and rise to the sphere will find there his reward. Other similarly ascetic and mystical expressions are quoted from Aristotle(!), Pythagoras, and "one of the modern philosophers." The last is none other than Ibn Gabirol, and the passage quoted is the same as that cited above, (p. 69).

Unity precedes the unitary object as heat comes before the hot object. Unity alone is self-subsistent. Numerical unity is prior to two, and is the very root and essence of number. God's unity is above all other unities, hence it cannot be described, because it has no cause, being the cause of everything else. As our eye cannot see the sun by reason of its very brilliance, so our intellect cannot comprehend God because of the extreme perfection of his existence. The finite and imperfect cannot know the infinite and perfect. Hence no names can apply to God except metaphorically. When we say that God knows, we mean that he is knowledge itself, not that knowledge is an attribute which he possesses. Socrates(!) said in his prayers, "Thou art not far from me so that I should raise my voice to thee, nor art Thou near unto me that I should content myself with a low whisper and the meditation of the heart; nor art Thou on any side of me so that I may turn toward Thee; for nearness and distance have measure, but there is no measure between me and Thee. Thou art united with me and embracest me more closely than my intellect and soul."

He who knows most of the secret of the Creator, knows least; and he who knows least, knows most. As the limbs of the body and the senses cannot know the intelligible ideas because the latter are superior to them, so the intellect cannot know the essence of the Creator because he is above the sphere of the intellect. Although the intellect is spiritual, it cannot comprehend the Creator because he is above all intellectual powers, and is infinite. What is infinite has no division or multiplication, or part or whole.

The Gentiles make use of the anthropomorphic expressions in the Bible to annoy us, charging us with believing in a corporeal God. Would that we had strength to silence their impudence by a crushing reply. But alas! their tyranny prevents us from raising our voice. But it is still more aggravating to hear men of our own people, heretics, repeating the same charge against the Bible and Talmud, when they ought to know better, since the expressions in question are metaphorical. Saadia has made this sufficiently clear.

The Active Intellect is the first of God's creations. It is a power emanating from the Will. It is a simple, pure and transparent substance, bearing in itself the forms of all existing things. The human intellect is known as the passive intellect. The rational soul is a pure substance giving perfection to a natural body, etc. It is inferior to the intellect, and the animal soul is inferior to the rational. The soul is the horseman, the body represents the soldiers and the arms. As the horseman must take care of his arms that he may not be put to death, so the soul must take care of the body that she may not perish. And the senses must be taken into account, for the powers of the soul are dependent upon the powers of the body. If the food of the body is in proper proportion, the activity of the soul is proper and right. Similarly if one neglects moderation in food, he is bound to suffer morally and spiritually.

The above selections, which are representative of the accessible portion of Moses ibn Ezra's philosophical treatise, except that such recurring phrases have been omitted as "And the philosopher said," "And they say," etc., show that the work is nothing but a compilation of sayings on various philosophical topics, without any attempt on the author's part to think out the subject or any part thereof, for himself.

2. Abraham ibn Ezra

Abraham Ibn Ezra did not write any special work on philosophy, and his importance lies chiefly in his Biblical commentary, which unlike that of Rashi, is based upon a scientific and philological foundation. Ibn Ezra was thoroughly familiar with Arabic and well versed in the philological, scientific and philosophical studies cultivated by Arabs and Jews in his native land. For reasons not known to us—poverty was very likely one of them—he left his native Spain and wandered as far as Rome in the east, Egypt and Morocco in the south, and London in the north. Everywhere he was busy with literary activity, and as he wrote in Hebrew his purpose must have been, as the result certainly proved to be, the enlightenment of the non-Arabic speaking Jews of England, France and Italy, by bringing before them in a language that they knew the grammar of Hayyuj, the mathematics and astronomy of the Greeks and the Arabs, the philosophy of Neo-Platonism, and the scientific and rationalistic spirit generally, as enlightened Spain had developed it in Jew and Arab alike.

We are interested here more particularly in Ibn Ezra's philosophical views. These are scattered through his Biblical commentaries and in a few other small works devoted to an investigation of the laws of the Pentateuch and the meaning of the names of God.[214] For though Ibn Ezra favors the philological method as the best way to arrive at the true meaning of Scripture, and decries allegory as well as Midrash when pushed too far, and though his commentary is for the most part based upon the philological method of interpretation, he was too much a child of his age to be able to refrain from finding in the Bible views akin to those he learned from Gabirol, the Brethren of Purity and what other philosophical literature of the Arabs he read and was influenced by. And so he, too, the grammarian and philologist, succumbed to the allegorical and symbolical method he condemned. Without denying the historical reality of the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life, he also sees in these expressions symbols of cosmological, psychological and ethical ideas. In the fashion of Philo he sees in Eden a representation of the higher world of the divinity, in the Garden the intermediate world of the spheres and Intelligences, in the river issuing from the Garden the substance of the sublunar world, in the four heads into which the river divides the four elements, and so on. He speaks of these symbolic meanings as the "secrets," and so we have the secret of the Garden, of the rivers, of the coats. And in the same way he speaks of the secret of the Cherubim, of the ark and the Tabernacle. These objects also symbolize metaphysical and cosmological truths. He was a believer in astrology, and laid this pseudo-science also under contribution in the interpretation of Holy Writ. Here the various numbers found in the Bible in connection with ritual prescriptions, the construction of the Tabernacle, and so on, were of great service to Ibn Ezra in his symbolizations. Like Philo and the Neo-Pythagoreans he analyzes the virtues and significances of the different numbers, and thus finds a symbol in every number found in the Bible. Writing as he did for the Jews of central Europe, who were not trained in secular science and philosophy, Ibn Ezra was not prepared to shock the sensibilities of his readers by his novel and, to them, heretical views; and hence he expressed himself in cryptic phrases and allusions, which often make his meaning difficult if not impossible to decipher. This, taken together with the fact that his views are not laid down anywhere systematically and in connected fashion, but are thrown out briefly, often enigmatically, in connection with the explanation of Biblical verses and phrases, accounts for the difference among critics concerning the precise doctrines of Abraham Ibn Ezra.

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