Al-Ghazzali - The Alchemy of Happiness - 02 Knowledge of the Self
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Al-Ghazzali - The Alchemy of Happiness – 02 Knowledge of the Self
KNOWLEDGE of self is the key to the knowledge of God, according to the saying: “He who knows himself knows God,” and, as it is written in the Koran, “We will show them Our signs in the world and in themselves, that the truth may be manifest to them.”
Now nothing is nearer to thee than thyself, and if thou knowest not thyself how canst thou know anything else?
If thou sayest “I know myself,” meaning thy outward shape, body, face, limbs, and so forth, such knowledge can never be a key to the knowledge of God. Nor, if thy knowledge as to that which is within only extends so far, that when thou art hungry thou eatest, and when thou art angry thou attackest some one, wilt thou progress any further in this path, for the beasts are thy partners in this. But real self-knowledge consists in knowing the following things:
- What art thou in thyself, and from whence hast thou come?
- Whither art thou going, and for what purpose hast thou come to tarry here awhile, and in what does thy real happiness and misery consist?
Some of thy attributes are those of animals, some of devils, and some of angels, and thou hast to find out which of these attributes are accidental and which essential. Till thou knowest this, thou canst not find out where thy real happiness lies.
The occupation of animals is eating, sleeping, and fighting; therefore, if thou art an animal, busy thyself in these things.
Devils are busy in stirring up mischief, and in guile and deceit; if thou belongest to them, do their work.
Angels contemplate the beauty of God, and are entirely free from animal qualities; if thou art of angelic nature, then strive towards thine origin, that thou mayest know and contemplate the Most High, and be delivered from the thraldom of lust and anger.
Thou shouldest also discover why thou hast been created with these two animal instincts: whether that they should subdue and lead thee captive, or whether that thou shouldest subdue them, and, in thy upward progress, make of one thy steed and of the other thy weapon.