Avicenna and The Dark Ages
If we had only our Classical history and science after all the re-writes and fictions of Romanism, would we still be in the Dark Ages or only just past the Renaissance? Unfortunately Islam went bad when Europe was becoming enlightened.
From my point of view Avicenna held his people back and though he warrants appreciation for his stance on humans interacting with god and how we can still learn science and actually think. He, like Aquinas, was instrumental in getting people to think more about what god did or could do than the part they had to play if god's creations were to flourish.
"Avicenna’s philosophy dealt with some of the most fundamental questions including the origin of the cosmos, the role of God in the human existence and the universe, and divine interaction with humans and other “created” beings. He wrote extensively on logic, metaphysics and ethics, while his greatest contribution to the development of both later Muslim and Western thought was his attempt to reconcile the ancient Greek philosophy and God as the creator of all existence. Over the following centuries, Avicenna came to be regarded as the leading authority of the Islamic philosophy, while his synthesis of Greek philosophy and theology was later to some extent also adopted by the medieval Christian philosophers including Thomas Aquinas.
Avicenna is thought to create over 400 works on a variety of topics but only about 250 have survived. Of the surviving works, over 100 address philosophical questions, while about 40 deal with medicine. Some of his best known works include:
•Book of Salvation
•The Canon of Medicine
•Book of Healing
•Book of Sum and Substance
•Philosophy for the Prosodist
•Book of Virtue and Sin
Although Avicenna’s native language was Persian, most of his works were written in Arabic which was the language of the science in the Middle East in his time."
His holistic approach to wellness includes nature, the person and the soul or higher consciousness. It is essentially holistic but not wholistic enough for a modern person, though in his day and in many places still, it would be superior to what people do. He was taking too much from Europe and not enough from Yoga and Ayurveda, though their influences are in his approach as well.
"The four elements have specific qualities thaI interact in a variety of ways to manifest as four temperaments: heat. cold, moisture. and dryness. The temperament of an object is the sum of the assessed individual amounts of heat, coolness. moisture, and dryness."
Having read and memorized the Qur'an early in life he became invested in the religious interests of others and tried to make science fit the prevailing wisdom rather than making a real effort like Socrates to question all things every time one starts to observe. I would of course never reject the spiritual element as 'a' or one point of view. Being a welcome member of the Abbasid Caliphate makes him a person who faced the same issues going on today - genocidal maniacs killing those who say things a little different than they want you to. Wikipedia has this contribution for our consideration of just how wise he was as the first millennium ended, and how feudal things still are.
"The Sunni rulers under the Umayyads sought to marginalize the Shia minority and later the Abbasids turned on their Shia allies and further imprisoned, persecuted, and killed Shias. The persecution of Shias throughout history by Sunni co-coreligionists has often been characterized by brutal and genocidal acts. Comprising only around 10-15% of the entire Muslim population, to this day, the Shia remain a marginalized community in many Sunni Arab dominant countries without the rights to practice their religion."
Last edited by R_Baird; 02-28-2016 at 01:11 AM.
If as I say, Avicenna should have looked south to India or even further afield to China (across the Tarim Basin and past the Great Wall) he would have known that Yoga had already mapped the neurophysiology of man and understood the consciousnesses in chakra centers. We might have a region of the world that never slipped into the religious feudal and controlling scholastic Empires we still have. Epigenetics rather than the Galen Romanism 'sins and demons' medicine would have flourished. Paracelsan natural healing would have had support before Paracelsus came to exist. Wikipedia says a few things that are worth reading, but why did people not make peace with Genghis Khan and instead prefer the Dark Ages? He was far more open to freedom for all people - I say! People were told all manner of lies about Temujin and then the Catholics spread the Black Plague - intentionally! It was very successful in keeping people worrying about things closer to home.
"With the division of the Roman Empire, the Western Roman Empire lost contact with much of its past. In the Middle East, Greek philosophy was able to find some support under the newly created Arab Empire. With the spread of Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries, a period of Muslim scholarship, known as the Islamic Golden Age, lasted until the 13th century. This scholarship was aided by several factors. The use of a single language, Arabic, allowed communication without need of a translator. Access to Greek texts from the Byzantine Empire, along with Indian sources of learning, provided Muslim scholars a knowledge base to build upon.
While the Byzantine Empire still held learning centers such as Constantinople, Western Europe's knowledge was concentrated in monasteries until the development of medieval universities in the 12th and 13th centuries. The curriculum of monastic schools included the study of the few available ancient texts and of new works on practical subjects like medicine and timekeeping."
Last edited by R_Baird; 02-28-2016 at 10:13 AM.
I am surprised to see Christians have the temerity to blame Islam for the Dark Ages. I am almost as surprised to see Atheists say the collapse of a stable Roman Empire was a factor. The Roman Empire became more powerful and spread that power among fewer people. Knowledge is power and they kept it under lock and key with spears and later Stakes to ensure their continuing control and dominance. I hope the ignorant who are having so many kids will not result in the next Dark Age, as he thinks. On that point it appears to simple old me - we need a plan!
There is a debate on whether or not alchemy is religious, according to the historyofalchemy website. I have been told this before but I say a true alchemist does no projecting of himself upon nature - or anthropomorphing. This same site seems to think Avicenna is an alchemist and he certainly was interested in the things alchemists or hermeticists were involved with. If that was all it took there would be millions of alchemists. There would be alchemists who did not know what alchemy is, and there would be all those Rosy and Golden boys or Masons who would like to be called alchemists today. I doubt there would be many who would have wanted the title or label not long ago. But this same debate occurs with Gnostics and as to whether or not you are a true Christian if you follow Rome and the Gospels Rome wrote rather than what Yeshua and his family studied.
So was alchemy done through magic, or some sort of divine intervention?
Or was it just imitating some natural process.. something akin to science?
We have philosophers and alchemists who debated on these topics for centuries and the full discourse would cover books, so let’s distill this all down a little:
First we had people that would argue whether transmutation is possible at all. Examples on both sides would be given, quoting Avicenna, Aristotle, etc.
On one side it would be argued that alchemy is an art, and like art it imitates nature, but the gold created is not really gold. Even if you can’t tell the difference, and it passes all the tests. It still wouldn’t have the healing effects (for example) that people thought gold had.
On the other hand, people would give examples of transmutations carried out by humans all the time, with the help of nature. A farmer planting seeds to raise crops. People burning ferns to ash (and I guess add sand) to create glass. Those are some examples given where humans are using nature in a way to transmute one thing into another.
Alchemists would often (but not always) -depending on the time period- try to stay clear of the reputation of being a sorcerer. They would insist that in a lab they are replicating the natural process in which the earth transmutates different metals into higher ones.
In this way the furnace and sulphur and mercury were thought to be a replication of what happens in nature.
This was argued back and forth.
But then we also have people in the camp that insist that gold can only be created with god’s help. We see this a lot. So -in a way- that’s at the very least theurgy. The recipe itself can be gotten from theosophy – Edward Kelley got a recipe from angels, for example.
We saw in Zosimos’ episode that higher beings help, so it’s just a matter of astronomy to determine whether it’s God, or demons that are helping.
To summarize the debate in magic vs. nature:
It was debated whether transmutation was possible at all, whether it was possible to create something real or only an imitation.
And then it was debated whether the transmutation was possible without God’s help and will.
And again, there were always those who knowingly made fake gold and tried to sell it as something else.
But even leaving charlatans out of this for a minute, the genuine belief and arguments for or against alchemy varied over the centuries.
Was the gold created genuine, or an imitation?
Was alchemy dabbling with evil forces – or done by the pious, with the will of God?
Or were people imitating nature and therefore simply perfecting a science?
The answers are more various than the number of alchemists we’ll probably ever cover on this show, but interesting questions to ask about each person we discuss in our show.
Throughout the span of alchemy these questions were at the center of the debate of its merits, and I think spending some time on the subject should clarify how alchemy was viewed through it’s history."
Last edited by R_Baird; 03-17-2016 at 04:01 PM.
A complete free book of his - on medicine - might be useful to someone.
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