Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XX: Of the Fear of Death - The Spiritual Physick
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CHAPTER XX: Of the Fear of Death - Rhazes, The Spiritual Physick 
The Spiritual Physic of Rhazes, trans. Arthur J. Arberry (London: John Murray, 1950).
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Of the Fear of Death
This disposition cannot be expelled from the soul entirely, except it be satisfied that it will pass after death into a state more salutary to it than its present. Now this is a topic which calls for an extremely long discussion, if it be sought by way of logical demonstration and not mere report; and there is no possibility of such a discussion, especially in this book, because as we have said before its content exceeds the content of this alike in loftiness, breadth and length. For it would need a consideration of all the religions and sects which believe and require that man will have a certain estate after death, and passing verdict thereafter in favour of those which are true and against those which are false. It is no secret that the purport of this matter is very difficult, and needs and must have a long discussion. We shall therefore put this aside, and turn our attention to satisfying those who hold and believe that the soul perishes with the corruption of the body; for as long as a man continues to fear death he will turn away from reason to follow after passion.
Man, according to these, will after death be affected by no pain whatsoever; for pain is a sensation, and sensation is a property only of the living being, who during the state of his life is plunged and saturated in pain. Now the state in which there is no pain is obviously more salutary than the state in which pain exists; death is therefore more salutary to man than life.
If it be objected that man, even though he be afflicted during his lifetime by pain, nevertheless also experiences pleasures which will not fall to him after death, the reply to this is a question: will he feel pain, or will he care or be troubled in any way whatever when he is in that state, merely because he cannot enjoy any pleasure? If the answer to this be no—and so it is bound to be, because if this response is not given the implication will be that a man is alive even when he is dead—then it may be observed again that pain affects only the living and not the dead; and so the objection is met by the remark that man will not be troubled by the fact that he cannot enjoy any pleasure. This being so, the argument returns to the point where it started, namely that the state of death is the more salutary.
For the factor which you supposed proved the advantage of the living over the dead is pleasure, and the dead have no need or yearning for pleasure, neither are the dead pained at not attaining it as are the living. Hence the living have no advantage over the dead; for advantage can only be spoken of in the case of two parties being in need of a certain thing, when one of the parties possesses the advantage while the need still exists; but when the thing needed is a matter of indifference, the advantage disappears. This being so, we return once more to the proposition that the state of death is the more salutary.
If it now be objected that these ideas cannot be applied to the dead, because they do not exist so far as the dead are concerned, we reply that we did not say that these ideas existed for them; on the contrary, we merely posited them as imaginary and fictitious, to have a standard of analogy and comparison. When this line is denied to you, you are finished according to the laws of logic: this is a well-known variety of termination which is called by logicians “applying the closure”, because the opponent closes the discourse and runs away from it, not attempting to carry it on any further for fear of having the verdict go against him. Even if he has resort to repetition and saying the same things all over again, the ultimate result is the same.
Know, that the verdict of reason that the state of death is more salutary than the state of life depends upon the belief a man has in the soul; it may nevertheless happen that he will continue to follow his passion in this matter. For the difference between passionate and rational opinion is that the former is chosen and preferred and clung to not on account of any obvious proof or clear justification, but out of a sort of inclination towards that opinion, a sense of congeniality and affection for it in the soul; whereas the latter is chosen on obvious proof and clear justification, even though the soul may revolt against it and turn away from it.
Again, what is this so much desired and coveted pleasure? Is it anything else in reality than repose from that which causes pain, as we have already demonstrated? If this be so, only the ignorant man will picture it as something to be sought after and desired; for he who enjoys repose from pain is indifferent to that repose which, when it follows pain, is called pleasure.
Furthermore if it be true, as we have proved before, that it is superfluous to grieve over what must inevitably come to pass, and if death be a thing that must inevitably happen, to grieve over the fear of it is superfluous, whereas to divert one’s thoughts from it and to forget it is a manifest gain. It is on this account that we have always admired the beasts in this respect, because they possess by nature this kind of attitude to perfection, whereas we cannot hope to achieve it save by contriving to get rid of intellectual thought and imagination. And it would seem that that is the most profitable course to follow in this context; for speculation on death brings upon us many times greater pain than that which is to be expected. The man who imagines death, and is afraid of it, dies a separate death at every image he calls up, so that his imagination over a long period concentrates upon him many deaths. Therefore the best and most advantageous course, for the peace of our souls, is gently but firmly to contrive to expel this grief from us. This agrees with what we have said before, that the intelligent man never grieves; for if there be any cause for his grief that can be averted, instead of grieving he thinks about how to avert the cause of his grief, whereas if it be something that cannot be averted, he forthwith sets about diverting his thoughts and consoling himself, and strives to obliterate it and drive it out of his soul.
Again I repeat that I have demonstrated that there is no ground for fearing death, if a man holds that there is no future state after death. And now I say that in accordance with the other view—the view that makes out a future state attendant upon death—there is also no need for a man to fear death, if he be righteous and virtuous, and carries out all the duties imposed upon him by the religious law which is true; for this law promises him victory and repose and the attainment of everlasting bliss. And if any man should doubt the truth of that law, or is ignorant of it, or is not certain that it is real, it only behoves him to search and consider to the limit of his strength and power; for if he applies all his capacity and strength, without failing or flagging, he can scarcely fail to arrive at the right goal. And if he should fail—which is scarcely likely to happen—yet Almighty God is more apt to forgive and pardon him, seeing that He requires of no man what lies not within his capacity; rather does He charge and impose upon His servants far, far less than that.
Since we have now achieved the purpose of our present book, and reached the end of our intention, we will end our discourse by giving thanks to our Lord. Infinite praise be unto God, the Giver of every blessing and Reliever of every perplexity, in accordance with His eternal worth and merit.