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Al-Ghazzali - The Alchemy of Happiness - 05 On what prevents spiritual experience



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Al-Ghazzali - The Alchemy of Happiness - 05 On what prevents spiritual experience

Besides mere incapacity, there are other hindrances to the attainment of spiritual truth. One of these is externally acquired knowledge.

To use a figure, the heart may be repre­sented as a well, and the five senses as five streams which are continually conveying water to it. In order to find out the real contents of the heart these streams must be stopped for a time, at any rate, and the refuse they have brought with them must be cleared out of the well.

In other words, if we are to arrive at pure spiritual truth, we must put away, for the time, knowledge which has been acquired by external processes and which too often hardens into dogmatic prejudice.

A mistake of an opposite kind is made by shallow people who, echoing some phrases which they have caught from Sufi teachers, go about decrying all knowledge. This is as if a person who was not an adept in alchemy were to go about saying, “Alchemy is better than gold,” and were to refuse gold when it was offered to him.

Alchemy is better than gold, but real alchemists are very rare, and so are real Sufis.

He who has a mere smattering of Sufism is not superior to a learned man, any more than he who has tried a few experiments in alchemy has ground for despising a rich man.

The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Sensory deprivation
Suppressing memory