Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XVIII: Of the Quest for Worldly Rank and Station - The Spiritual Physick
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CHAPTER XVIII: Of the Quest for Worldly Rank and Station - Rhazes, The Spiritual Physick 
The Spiritual Physic of Rhazes, trans. Arthur J. Arberry (London: John Murray, 1950).
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Of the Quest for Worldly Rank and Station
We have already put out earlier in various chapters of this book some general statements of what is required in the present chapter; however, in view of the lofty purpose aimed at in this chapter and its very great usefulness, we propose to devote a separate discussion to this particular subject, gathering together the different points and ideas that have gone before, and adding to these some further observations which we think will help to achieve and complete our object.
If any man desires to ornament and ennoble his soul with this virtue, and to release and relieve it from imprisonment and bondage, and the manifold cares and sorrows that visit him and deliver him over to passion—that passion which urges him to pursue an object diametrically opposed to the purpose intended in this chapter—if this be his desire, it behoves him in the first place to remember and keep in mind what we have already remarked on the superiority of reason and rational action; and then our statement on the reining and suppressing of desire, and its subtle deceits and traps. He should also recall our description and definition of pleasure; after which he should diligently deliberate and meditate and unremittingly study what we have written in the chapter on envy, where we said that the intelligent man ought to consider the various circumstances of his fellows. He ought further to study what we have stated at the beginning of the chapter on the repelling of grief. When he thoroughly knows and understands all these things, and they are firmly fixed and established in his soul, let him finally proceed to comprehend what we are about to remark in this place.
Because of the faculty we possess of dramatization and intellectual analogy, it often happens that we picture to ourselves the consequences and issues of various affairs, so that we sense and perceive them as though they had actually happened. Then if these are hurtful we turn away from them, whereas if they are profitable we make haste to realize them. Upon this fact depends in the main the good life we enjoy, as well as our immunity from those things that are harmful, evil and destructive. It therefore behoves us to respect and reverence this virtue, making use of it and summoning it to our aid; we ought to conduct our affairs according to its guidance. For it is a way to salvation and safety, and distinguishes us above the beasts that pursue impetuously paths whose end and issue they cannot visualize.
Let us therefore consider, with the eye of reason unclouded by passion, the question of removing from one set of circumstances to another and from a lower rank to a higher, in order that we may ascertain which is the better and more restful and reasonable state to seek and cleave to. We will make this our point of departure in the present investigation.
These so-called states may be enumerated as three—our present continuing state in which we have grown up and been nurtured, that which is grander and higher, and that which is lower and meaner. That the soul, at first blush and without reflection or consideration, prefers and loves and clings to the state that is grander and higher, this much we can discover from examining ourselves; yet we cannot be sure that we are not being motivated by the inclination and impetuosity of desire rather than the arbitrament of reason. Let us accordingly marshal our arguments and proofs, and then pass our verdict as they require.
To remove out of the state to which we have always been used and accustomed into grander circumstances can only be the result—if we except rare and wonderful accidents—of driving oneself, and the most strenuous endeavour. Let us therefore consider also whether it is really right for us to press and exhaust ourselves, in order to rise to a grander state than what we have been accustomed to or what our bodies have been familiar with. On this point we would observe that if a man’s body has grown and reached maturity, while he has never been accustomed to be treated as a person of authority, with retinues going before and after him, and if he then strains and strives to achieve that state, he stands convicted of having turned away from reason to follow passion. For he can never attain such a rank, except by toil and violent effort and by driving himself to face dangers and take risks and put himself in jeopardy, in short to do those things which in the majority of cases lead to ruin; neither will he succeed in his ambition, without bringing upon himself suffering many times greater than the pleasure he will stand to enjoy after achieving his goal. In that case he is merely deceived and deluded by the picture he has drawn of reaching his object, without forming any image of the road whereby alone he can come to it; so we have explained in our discussion of pleasure. And when he has at last attained and achieved his cherished desire, it is not long before he loses all happiness and enjoyment of it; for his new circumstances become like all other customary and usual conditions. Consequently the pleasure he feels in his new life rapidly diminishes, while he finds himself loaded with increasingly heavy burdens in the effort to maintain and preserve his advance. Passion will not in any case allow him to abandon or give up his achievements—so we showed when we were speaking of the reining of passion—so that in fact he has gained nothing and lost many things. He has gained nothing, because once he is used and habituated to those new circumstances they become exactly the same to him as his original position, so that he ceases to feel any joy and happiness in them. He has lost many things, on account of the weariness in the first place, and the danger and hazard he runs in struggling to the new state, and in the second place because of the effort to keep it, the fear of losing it, the grief if it should be gone, and the stress of habituating himself to living and wanting to live in such circumstances.
We would make the same comment on every set of circumstances beyond a modest sufficiency. For if the body is accustomed to a rough diet and commonplace clothes, and if one then struggles to change these for delicate food and fine raiment, the extreme pleasure a man feels in achieving these falls away once he is used to them, so that in the end they become exactly the same to him as what he had originally; while all that he has gained is the extra toil and effort to attain and preserve these amenities, the fear of being deprived of them, and the labour of getting used to them—from all of which disadvantages he was previously exempt.
We have the same remarks to offer on power, position, renown, and all other worldly ambitions. There is no rank whatever that one can reach or achieve, but that the happiness and enjoyment of its attaining every day grows less and diminishes until it finally vanishes altogether. So any rank whatsoever comes in the end to mean no more to him who attains it than the station he left to mount up to it, and all he gains for the sake of his ambition is extra trouble, worry, care and grief such as he never knew in the past. For he still continues to think little of the position he is actually occupying, and to struggle to mount up yet higher, while he never reaches a station completely satisfying to his soul once he has won through and become established there. It may be indeed that before he arrives, his passion represents him as satisfied and content with the conditions at which he is aiming; but that is one of passion’s greatest deceits and weapons and traps, to spur him on and draw him forward to the cherished goal; once he has arrived at his destination, he at once gazes up at a still loftier reach. That is the condition he finds himself in, so long as he associates with and is obedient to his passion. We have made statements to this effect elsewhere in this book, representing this to be one of passion’s greatest snares and delusions. For in such circumstances passion appears to a man in the semblance of reason, camouflaging itself and making him imagine that its appeal is that of the reason and not of the passion at all; it represents to him that the vision it is granting him is of virtue, not lust, so that it makes some show of intellectual argument and satisfaction. But the satisfaction and argument do not prevail long; when they are collated with straightforward reasoning, they are soon confounded and disproved.
The discourse on the difference between reasoned and passionate representation is an important topic of the art of logical demonstration, which however it is not necessary to introduce in this context; we have already adumbrated it in more than one place in our present book, quite sufficiently for our purpose. Moreover we propose to set out a few of its headings in enough detail to enable us to attain our actual object in this book.
Reason represents, chooses and desires always that course which is preferable, nobler and more salutary in the issue, even though it may to begin with impose upon the soul trouble, hardship and difficulty. Passion is exactly the opposite of this, in that it always chooses and prefers the immediate, contiguous and adherent impulse of the moment, even though its consequences may be harmful, without any consideration or reflection of what comes after. An instance of this is the case we mentioned when we were discussing the reining of the passion, that of the boy with ophthalmia who preferred to eat dates and play in the sun rather than take myrobalan1 and submit to cupping and the usual treatment for eye-disease. Reason represents what is to one’s advantage as well as what is hurtful to one, whereas passion always shows one what is advantageous and blinds one to the rest. For example, a man will be blind to his own faults, while seeing his few virtues as greater than they really are. It therefore behoves the intelligent man always to suspect his judgment in matters that seem to his advantage and not to his detriment, and to suppose that his opinion is influenced by passion not reason; he should investigate such matters very thoroughly before he acts.
Reason supports its representations with argument and clear justification, while passion satisfies and represents merely on the basis of inclination and congeniality, not with argument that can be logically stated and expressed. Sometimes passion fastens on to a certain show of logic, as when it sets out to assume the semblance of reason; but its argument is hesitant and interrupted, and its justification is neither obvious nor clear. Examples of this are available in the cases of the lovers, those seduced by intoxication or bad and hurtful food, ritualists, men who habitually pluck out their beards, and those who trifle or are inordinately fond of some part of their bodies. Ask some of these to justify their conduct, and they will not have a word to say; the only argument they will be able to muster will amount to no more than that such is their inclination, that they find it congenial, or that they like doing it—an instinctive, not a logical liking, mark you. Some of them indeed begin to argue and say something, but as soon as they are refuted they relapse into repetition and meaningless drivel; presently things get too much for them and they become furious; under pressure they are unable to speak; finally, having been silenced, they are cured.
These few headings are sufficient in this context, to prove the necessity of being on one’s guard against passion and ignorantly going along with it.
We have shown how advancement to high rank involves effort and danger, and means casting oneself into circumstances that yield only a little happiness and joy, while experiencing such troubles and hardships as one was wholly exempt from in one’s original state—evils that cannot be extricated and withdrawn from. It has been made clear that the most salutary state is that of a modest adequacy, and to reach after that in the easiest possible way, the manner most secure as to its sequel. We must prefer this state, and continue in it, if we wish to be people who are intellectually happy, and to avoid the troubles that lurk and lie in wait for those who pursue and prefer passion; and if we desire to profit to the full of our human advantage—the gift of reason, by which alone we are distinguished above the beasts. If however we are unable to control passion so completely as to cast away from us all that is superfluous to that modest competence, at least those of us who possess such superfluity should limit themselves to their usual and accustomed state, and not exert and drive themselves and risk their lives to move upwards. Even if it should be within our power to attain a grand position without any labour or hazard, yet it is better and more salutary not to suffer ourselves to remove into it; for we should not be free of those troubles which we have enumerated as consequentially befalling us after reaching and attaining the desired rank. If we did in fact move into those new circumstances, it must be on condition that we do not change any of our former habits and customs in eating, drinking, clothing ourselves, and all the other bodily requisites. Unless we do this, we shall find ourselves presently accustomed to superfluous extravagance, and in a state that makes demands upon us to live up to our new situation even should we lose it. Unless we do this, we shall experience extreme sorrow in the loss of these advantages when such loss comes upon us. Finally, we shall have deserted reason to join the ranks of passion, and therefore we shall fall into those very calamities which we have described.
[1 ]“The astringent fruit of certain Indian mountain species of Terminalia” (Chambers).