Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XVI: Of Excessive Fondness and Trifling, and Ritual - The Spiritual Physick
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CHAPTER XVI: Of Excessive Fondness and Trifling, and Ritual - Rhazes, The Spiritual Physick 
The Spiritual Physic of Rhazes, trans. Arthur J. Arberry (London: John Murray, 1950).
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Of Excessive Fondness and Trifling, and Ritual
Nothing further is required for the abandonment and giving up of these two—fondness and trifling 1 —than a sound resolve to do so, and a sense of shame and disdain for them; reinforced by a habitual reminding of the soul to that effect on all occasions of trifling and inordinate fondness, until these two dispositions themselves act like the string tied about one’s finger as a reminder. It is related of a certain king, a man of intelligence, that he was very fond and partial to trifling with some part of his body—I think it was his beard. This went on for a long time, despite the fact that he was constantly being told about it by a courtier; it was as though some fit of absentmindedness and forgetfulness always insisted that he should revert to the habit. Finally one of his ministers said to him one day, “Your Majesty, make a separate resolution to deal with this business, as sensible men do.” The king blushed and became furiously angry, but he was never once observed to do that thing again. The man’s rational soul had excited his choleric soul to pride and disdain, so that the resolve became sound and firm within his rational soul until it affected him powerfully and became a constant reminder to him, arousing him whenever he was heedless. And by my life, the only purpose for which the choleric soul was made is to assist the rational against the appetitive soul when the struggle is fierce, the attraction strong and the draw difficult to withstand.
It behoves the intelligent man to be angry, and to be affected by disdain and pride, whenever he observes any appetite trying to dominate him and overcome his better judgment and his reason; then he will humble and suppress it, obliging it perforce obsequiously to stand by the arbitrament of his reason. It would be strange, and indeed impossible, for a man who was able to rein his soul against following its lusts, despite their powerful urge and incitements, yet to find it difficult to prevent its giving in to fondness and trifling, which constitute no such great appetite and pleasure. Most of what is required to meet this situation is to be mindful and alert, for in most cases the trouble only occurs because of forgetfulness and absentmindedness.
As for ritual,1 this calls for merely a few words to demonstrate that it is an accident of the passion and not the intellect; we shall therefore say something on this subject brief and to the point. Cleanliness and purity ought to be assessed only by the senses, not by analogy; and matters therewith connected should be regulated according to the reach of the sensation, not of the imagination. If the senses fail to perceive any impurity in a thing, we call it pure; if the senses fail to perceive any filth in a thing, we call it clean.
Now our object in desiring and intending these two conditions—purity and cleanliness—is either for the sake of religion or out of squeamishness; and we are not injured in either of these respects by a little impurity or filth so trifling as to escape the senses. Thus, religion has sanctioned the performance of the ritual prayer while wearing a single garment that has been touched by the feet of flies which have fallen into blood and dung; and purification by means of running water is recognized even though we may know that it has been staled, or by means of stagnant water in a large pool although we may know that it contains a drop of blood or wine. Nor does this injure us in regard to our sense of squeamishness, because obviously what escapes the senses cannot be perceived by us, and what we do not perceive, our spirits do not fear; and what our spirits do not fear, there is no sense whatever in feeling squeamish about. Therefore we are not injured by impurity or filth so slight as to be swallowed up and not noticed; it is not right that we should think about it, neither need its presence occur to our minds at all.
If however we go on looking for purity and cleanliness in full reality and exactitude, and treat the matter as touching our imagination and not our senses, we shall never find our way to anything that is pure and clean by this arbitrament. This is because we can never be sure regarding the water we use that it has not been filthied by human agency, or that the carcase of a reptile or wild or domestic animal or its dung or droppings has not fallen into it. If we pour and spray it over ourselves a great deal, we cannot be certain that the last rinse will not be the filthiest and impurest. Consequently God has not imposed the duty of self-purification upon His servants after this manner, for that would be something beyond our means and capability.
This it is that makes life intolerable to the man who has a squeamish fancy, because he cannot touch any food or approach anything and be quite sure that there is not some filth swallowed up there. If these matters are as we have described, the ritualist has no argument left to him; and how deplorable it is for an intelligent man to make a stand over a point where he has no valid excuse or argument to support him! That is the very abnegation of reason, and the pursuit of pure and unadulterated passion.
[1 ]What we would call fidgeting and playing about with some part of oneself.
[1 ]Rhazes obviously here refers to such ritual practices as ablution.