Tahafut al-Falasifa

(Incoherence of the Philosophers)


Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058-1111 CE)

Translated into English from Urdu Translation by Sabih Ahmad Kamali


Problem XX
Refutation of their denials of the resurrection of bodies


THEY deny the return of souls to bodies: the existence of a physical Paradise and Hell: the Houri with large eyes, and everything which has been promised to man by God. And they maintain that these things are symbols mentioned to common men in order to facilitate their understanding of spiritual reward and punishment which are superior to those of a physical character. This being opposed to the belief of all the Muslims. We propose first to explain what the philosophers believe with respect to the things to come; and then to state our objections to all those elements which are opposed to Islam.


They say:

After the death of the body, the soul continues to have an everlasting existence either in the state of indescribably great pleasure, or in the state of indescribably great pain. In some cases, the pain or pleasure will be everlasting; in others, it will pass away in the course of time. As regards its degrees, men have different ranks which are marked by as great a variety as characterises their mundane ranks. Thus

(i) the eternal pleasure is for the pure and perfect souls,

(ii) the eternal pain is for the imperfect and impure souls, and

(iii) transient pain is for the impure but perfect souls.

And the soul can attain absolute bliss only by means of perfection and purity or cleanliness. Perfection is derived from knowledge, and purity from virtuous action.

Knowledge is required because the rational faculty derives nourishment and pleasure from the cognition of the intelligibles, as the faculty of desire finds pleasure in the satisfaction of a desire; or the faculty of sight finds pleasure in looking at beautiful forms, and so on to all other faculties. It is the body: the physical preoccupations, and the physical senses which prevent the rational faculty from discovering the intelligibles. It would be proper for an ignorant soul to be aggrieved, even — in the life of this world, by the loss (on account of its ignorance) of the pleasures of the soul. But its preoccupation with the body makes it forgetful of itself, and diverts its attention from its own grief, as for instance one stricken with fear is insensitive to pain, or one suffering from frostbite is insensitive to fire. So if the imperfection of the ignorant soul remains till the severance of the connection with the body, the soul will be in the same situation as the man who suffers from frostbite. When exposed to the fire, the latter is insensitive to the pain caused by it. But he is suddenly overwhelmed with the consciousness of extreme agony, when the effects of frostbite disappear.

Sometimes, although a soul does cognise the intelligibles, yet the pleasure it derives from the cognitions is slight and falls short of what naturally it ought to have been. This is again due to physical preoccupations and the soul's interest in the objects of carnal desires. And this is like what happens when a sick man, who has bitterness in his mouth, gets disgusted with wholesome sweetness, and seeks to avoid that very food which is really the most adequate cause of pleasure for him. So he fails to find pleasure in wholesome things because of the effects of sickness.

Different is the case of the souls perfected by knowledge. When death puts an end to the physical preoccupations, their condition is like that of one who has recovered from sickness. Sickness prevents a man from perceiving pleasure. But when the accidental affliction is over, the perception of pleasure is overwhelming. Or the condition of the liberated soul maybe compared to that of a lover. Suppose that the lover is asleep or unconscious, or intoxicated, when his mistress comes to him. At first, he cannot notice the cause of his pleasure. But when he wakes up, he will have an overwhelming consciousness of the pleasures of union (which has been preceded by long separation). As a matter of fact, all these pleasures dwindle into insignificance in comparison with intellectual and spiritual pleasures. But people cannot be enabled to understand the latter, until they are symbolically represented through such things as may be observed in this life. For instance, if we would make a child or a eunuch understand the pleasure of sexual intercourse, we must represent it to the child by reference to play which is the most pleasant thing to a child, and to the eunuch by reference to a wholesome meal enjoyed from an intense appetite. So the child or the eunuch will realise the fundamental character of the pleasure, although he will know that the representative symbol itself does not constitute the pleasure of sexual intercourse, for the symbol (in the case of the eunuch) is perceived only by the organ of taste.

There are two arguments to prove that intellectual pleasures are worthier than physical pleasures

Firstly, the state of the angels is nobler than that of beasts and swine. Now, the angels do not experience sensuous pleasures like those of mating and eating. Their pleasure consists in the consciousness of the perfection and beauty which characterise them because of their insight into the realities of things, and their approximation to the Lord of the Universe (not in space, but in the order of beings). Since all beings emanate from God in order and through inter­mediaries, it is obvious that the intermediaries nearer to Him should possess a higher rank.

Secondly, man himself often prefers intellectual pleasures to sensuous pleasures. For instance, one who seeks victory over an enemy renounces for its sake the comfort of home and hearth. Nay, even for the sake of victory in a game of chess or dice one goes without a meal all the day long. Although such a victory is but a trifle, he would not mind the pain caused by hunger. Similarly, one who is interested in the maintenance of his dignity and prestige hesitates to deal with his mistress in such a way as to be known to others. At last, he decides to preserve his dignity, and restrains his passions, lest the contemptible passions should disgrace him. Obviously, the preservation of his dignity is more pleasant to him. Again, sometimes a brave man sallies forth to face vast hordes of warriors, because he holds the danger of death in contempt, being more absorbed in what he imagines to be the pleasure of posthumous praise and admiration for his intrepidity.

So the intellectual pleasures in the Hereafter will be far superior to the sensuous pleasures of this world. But for this fact, the Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace) would not have reported God to say: "I have reserved for My virtuous worshippers what no eye ever saw, no ear ever heard, and which never occurred to the heart of man." And says God (exalted be He): "No soul knows what comfort of the eye lies concealed in store for them." This, then, is the cause of the need for knowledge. And of all cognitions, the most beneficial are the purely intellectual — viz., the knowledge of God: of His attributes: of His angels: of His books, and of the way in which things derive their being from Him. As regards other cognitions, only those which are a means to the purely intellectual cognitions are beneficial by virtue of this character. Those which are not even a means to the purely intellectual cognitions — e.g., Grammar, or Philology, or Poetry, or other specialised sciences of various kinds — are only arts and methods like any other art or method.

Next, virtuous conduct and worship are required in order to purify the soul. During its connection with the body, the soul is prevented from cognising the realities of things, not because it is impressed upon body, but because it is preoccupied with the body, inclining towards carnal desires, and having affection for the requirements of the body. This inclination or affection represents a psychic proclivity, which is deepened and strengthened by prolonged concern with carnal desires and continued interest in the sensible causes of pleasures. Consequently, even after the death of the body, it is impossible for the soul to get rid of this proclivity which is, therefore, an oppressive and distressing factor for two reasons

Firstly, because it prevents the soul from attaining its proper pleasure — viz., the union with the angels and the insight into the beautiful divine things. And the body, with which before death the soul used to be preoccupied, will not be there to divert its attention from its grief.

Secondly, because the soul still retains its interest in the causes of worldly pleasures. But having been deprived of its instrument — i.e., the body, through which the soul used to contrive to attain those pleasures — its condition will be extremely miserable. Suppose that there is a man who loves his wife: enjoys his property: has affection for his children delights in his wealth, and takes pride in his dignity. Now, suppose that his mistress is killed: he is dismissed from his position: his children and women are taken prisoner: his wealth is taken away by his enemies, and his prestige is utterly fallen. Such a man will undoubtedly have the most clear and visible cause of grief. Nevertheless, as long as he lives, he can hope for the restoration of things like those he used to have; for the world is always moving on from Today to the Morrow. But what will the soul do, when its hope will be cut off because death deprived it of the body?

Deliverance from such psychic proclivities is not possible, unless the soul abstains from carnal desires: turns away from the world, and betakes itself to the struggle for the attainment of knowledge and piety. If these conditions are satisfied, then, while it is yet in the world, its connection with worldly things will be cut off, whereas the connection with things of the Hereafter will grow stronger. So when death — comes, the soul will experience the same relief as a prisoner does when he is set free. And then will it find everything it could have sought. That is its Paradise.

But it is not possible for the soul to outgrow or to obliterate all the physical qualities; for the needs of the body attract it towards them. Nonetheless, it can make its connection with the body weaker. This is the reason why God (exalted be He) says: "Every one of you shall have to approach it; this is the irrevocable decree of thy Lord." When its connection with the body has been weakened, the agony caused by the soul's separation from the body will not be very great. On the contrary, the soul will learn to enjoy those divine things which it will have discovered after the death of the body. This will shortly obliterate the effects of its departure from the world and its lingering inclination towards worldly things. An analogy of the soul's condition is to be found in the case of a man who sets out from his own country towards another where he might attain a high position and magnificent authority. Separation from his family and native land may distress his soul, and he may feel unhappy. But these effects will wear off, when he gets accustomed to the pleasure he derives from the elevation born of power and authority.

The utter negation of physical qualities not being possible, religion enjoins upon us the choice of the mean between all opposite extremes in morals. Tepid water which is neither hot nor cold is equally free from either of the two opposite qualities. One should neither hoard wealth nor squander it away; for the one will engender avarice, while the other will make him a spendthrift. Similarly, one should neither shrink back from everything nor meddle with everything; for the former is cowardice, while the latter is rashness. In the first case, he ought to aim at generosity which is the mean between miserliness and extravagance; in the second, at courage which is the mean between cowardice and rashness. And so on to all other moral qualities. The science of morals is lengthy; and the Sacred Law fully takes its details into consideration. Reform of the moral character is not possible, unless regard is had in conduct for the Sacred Law. If egotism is the principle of conduct, the subject will be like one who "sets up his own desires as his god." On the contrary, one should be bound by the Sacred Law, acting or refraining from action at its behest, not by his own choice. Only then will his moral character be reformed.

He who lacks knowledge and virtue is damned. Says God (exalted be He): "He is indeed successful who causeth it to grow ; and he is indeed a failure who stunteth it." One who combines moral and intellectual greatness is the Devout Sage; and his reward will be absolute bliss. lie who has intellectual, but not moral, greatness is the unreligious Scholar. Punishment awarded to him will last a long time; but it will not be perpetual, for after all his soul had been perfected by knowledge. Although in contrariety to the substance of his soul, physical accidents had tainted him with impurity, yet this impurity can be effaced in the course of time, because in that stage of the soul's existence, the accidental causes of impurity will not be renewed. He who has virtue but no knowledge will yet be saved, and will experience no pain. But he will not attain perfect bliss.

Moreover (assert the philosophers), as soon as one dies, Doomsday begins for him. As regards the expressions used in the Sacred Law, they are intended to serve as an allegory, for man's understanding fails to apprehend these spiritual pleasures and pains. Therefore, these things have been described through symbols; but at the same time it has been pointed out that really spiritual pleasures are far above what is found in the description.

(This, then, is the philosophers' theory.)


We shall answer:

Most of these things are not opposed to religion. We do not deny that the pleasures in the Hereafter are superior to sensible pleasures. Nor do we deny the immortality of the soul separated from the body. But we know these things on the authority of religion, as expressed in the doctrine of Resurrection. No doubt, the Resurrection will not be comprehensible, if the immortality of soul is not taken for granted. But we take objection, as we did before, to their assertion that mere reason gives them final knowledge of these things. Moreover, there are elements in this theory which do come into conflict with religion. Such are the denial of the revivification of bodies: the denial of physical pains and pleasures in hell and paradise, and the denial of the existence of paradise and hell as described in the Qur'an. What is there to prevent one from assenting to the possibility of the combination of physical and spiritual pains or pleasures? The verse: "No soul knows what lies concealed in store for them" only means that no soul knows all those things. Similarly, from the words: "I have reserved for My virtuous worshippers what no eye ever saw" the existence of things of supreme worth can be inferred, but the negation of any other thing besides them does not necessarily follow. Rather, the combination of the two will be conducive to greater perfection. And that which has been promised to us is the most perfect thing. Hence it follows that the combination of the two is possible; and therefore it is necessary to assent to this possibility in accordance with religion.


If it is said:

What we find in the sacred texts is only an allegory pro­portioned to the limitations of common understanding, just as the verses and traditions with an anthropomorphic import are allegories used to facilitate understanding (since the popular imagination is too coarse for the Divine, attributes).


The answer:

It is arbitrary to equate the latter instance to the former. There are two reasons why the two instances should be kept apart

Firstly, the words in the verses and traditions which have an anthropomorphic import bear interpretation on the same principle as governs conventional metaphors in Arabic.

But the description of paradise and hell and the details of these things are so plain that there is no room left for interpretation. What remains is that one might consider such texts to be fraudulent — i.e., suggesting something untrue with a view to people's well-being. But that is beneath the dignity and the sanctity which characterise prophecy.

Secondly, rational arguments have proved the impossi­bility of things like space : or dimension : or a physical form or an organic hand: or an organic eye, or the capacity for motion and rest, in the case of God. Hence the need for the interpretation (of the sacred texts where they occur) by means of rational arguments. But things of the Hereafter promised to us are not impossible for the Divine omnipotence. There­fore. it is necessary to stick to what the text prima facie means, and not to take it out of the context where it occurs, and from which it derives its significance.


If it is said:

Rational arguments have actually proved the impossibility of the resurrection of bodies, even as they have proved the impossibility of anthropomorphic attributes being possessed by God (exalted be He).

then we will demand that they state what those arguments are. And they proceed from various points to argue their theory




In the first place, they say:

The supposition of the soul's return to body involves three alternatives

In the first place, it may be said (as some of the Mutakallimin have held) that man is body, and that life is merely an accident which depends on body: that the soul which is supposed to be self-subsisting, and is called the director of the body, does not exist; and that death means the discontinuance of life, or the Creator's abstaining from creating life. Therefore, resurrection will mean (a) the restoration by God of the body which had perished; (b) the recommencement of the existence of the body; and (c) the restoration of life which had perished. Or it may be said that the Matter of the body would remain as dust, and that resurrection means that this dust will be collected and composed into the figure of a man. wherein life will be created for the first time. So this is one alternative.

In the second place, it may be said that the soul is an existent which survives the death of the body, but which will be returned at the time of resurrection to the original body when all the parts of that body have been collected. This is another alternative.

In the third place, it may be said that the soul will return to a body, whether it is composed of the same parts as the original body had, or of some other parts. Consequently, the returning one would be that man, insofar as the soul is that soul. Matter is irrelevant here, because man is not man by virtue of Matter, but by virtue of soul.

Now, all these three alternatives are false.

The first one is evidently false, because when life as well as the body has disappeared, the recreation of it would be the production of something similar to, but not identical with, what had been. But return, as we understand it, implies the supposition of the continuity of one thing as well as the emergence of another. For instance, when one is said to resume generosity, the meaning is that the generous person continues, but that having given up generosity he returns to it. That is, he returns to something which is generically the same as what he originally had, but differs from it in number. Therefore, the return is not to the original thing itself, but to something like it. Again, when one is said to return to a city, the meaning is that he continued to exist elsewhere: that formerly he had been in the city, and that now he resumes his being in the city which is similar to his original state. If there is nothing which continues, and if, on the contrary, there are two similar but numerically different things between which time intervenes, the conditions prerequisite for the application of the word `return' will not be complete. One might escape this consequence by saying what the Mu'tazilah say — namely, that the non-existent is a positive thing, and that existence is a state which occurs to the non-existent as an accident: comes to an end, and returns afterwards. Thus the meaning of the word 'return' will be determined by reference to the conti­nuity of an entity. But this amounts to the elimination of the concept of absolute non-being which is pure negation, by affirming a permanent entity to which existence may return. Hence its impossibility.


If one in favour of this alternative

artfully tries to defend it by saying that the dust of the body is imperishable, and that therefore this dust will be the continuing entity to which life is restored,


we will reply

This being so, it will be correct to say that dust regains life, after life had disappeared from it for a while. Now, this will not be the return of a man, or the reappearance of his former self. For a man is not what he is by virtue of the Matter and the dust of which he is composed. All his physical parts, or at least most of them are replaced by food; and he is still the same as he was at first by virtue of his spirit or soul. So in case life or spirit should perish, the return of that which has perished will not be intelligible. At the most, something similar to it can be brought into existence. If God creates human life in dust which formed the body of a tree, or a horse, or a plant, this will be the first-creation of a man. The return of that which does not exist is unintelligible. The returning entity must be an existent; it returns to a state it had before — rather, to a state like the former one. So the returning entity is dust — returning to the attribute of life. But man's body does not make him what he is. For the body of a horse often becomes man s food, which goes to the mak­ing of a sperm-drop, which begets another man. But one cannot say that a horse has become a man; for it is the form of horse, not the Matter of it, which makes a horse what it is. And (in the present instance) the form of a horse has perished, and nothing but the Matter of it remains.

Now, to consider the second alternative — viz., the supposition of the continuity of the soul, and its return to the original body. If such a thing could be conceived, it would be 'return' properly so called; it would mean the resumption by the soul of its function of directing the body, after having been separated from it by death.

But this is impossible. The body of a man is reduced to dust, or eaten by worms and birds, and then changes into blood or vapours, and gets inextricably mixed up with the air, the vapours, the water of the whole world.

If such a thing is supposed on the strength of the belief in Divine omnipotence, then it will be inevitable

(i) either that only those parts should be recombined which were present at the time of death. This would necessarily lead to the resurrection of people whose limbs had been amputated: or whose ears and nose were cut off, or whose limbs were defective, in exactly the same form as they had in the world. But this is disgusting, particularly with reference to the people of Paradise, even though they may have been created defective in the original life. It would be most unseemly to cause them to reappear with all the deformities they had at the time of death. This is, therefore, the difficulty which arises, if the supposition of return is confined to the recombination of the parts present at the time of death.

(ii) or that all those parts should be recombined which had ever existed during one's lifetime. This is impossible for two reasons

Firstly, because if a man eats another man (the custom prevails in some places, and it occurs frequently at the time of famine), then the resurrection of the two will be very difficult. For Matter will be the same, because the body of the eaten person will have been absorbed as food into the body of the eater. And the restoration of two souls to one body is not possible.

Secondly, because it will be necessary that the same part should be resurrected as liver and heart and a hand and a leg at once. For it has been proved by the art of Medicine that some organic parts derive nourishment from the residuary nourishment of others. Thus parts of the heart provide nourishment for the liver, and so on to all other members. So if we suppose some specific parts which had been the Matter of all the organs, to which organ will they be returned? Nay, one need not bring in the hypothesis of a man eating another in order to establish the impossibility mentioned in the first objection. If you look at any portion of land, you will come to know that particles of dust in it have been the bodies of men. Thus, in course of time, when land is irrigated and cultivated, dust becomes fruits and vegetables on which beasts and animals are fed. Then dust becomes flesh. And when animals are eaten by us, dust finally becomes our body. So all Matter which can be designated has been the body of men. It changes : from the dust of dead bodies to plants, from plants to flesh, acid from flesh to a living being. The consequences of this explanation furnish yet another — i.e., a third­reason for the impossibility of resurrection. Namely, the souls departed from bodies are infinite in number, whereas the number of bodies is limited. Therefore, the Matters of men which are to be used at the time of resurrection will be outnumbered.

Finally, the third alternative — viz., the restoration of a soul to a body made of any Matter or dust — is impossible for two reasons

Firstly, Matters which receive generation and corruption are restricted to the Hollow of the sphere of the Moon. No addition to them is possible, and they are infinite in number. On the other hand, the souls departed from bodies are infinite in number. Therefore, the Matters will be outnumbered by the souls.

Secondly, dust as long as it remains dust cannot receive direction from the soul. In order for such reception to take place, it is necessary that the elements should mix together, so that the mixture resemble the composition of sperm. Mere wood or iron does not receive direction from the soul. Nor is it possible to cause man to reappear out of wood or iron. There can be no man until there is an organism composed of flesh and bones and humours. And whenever the body and its constitution are prepared for the reception of a soul, they are entitled to the origination of a soul from the principles which are the Givers of Souls. Consequently, according to the hypothesis under consideration, two souls will simulta­neously come to belong to one body. This is impossible; and the refutation of such an hypothesis will also refute Metempsychosis. For this hypothesis is exactly the same as that doctrine, since it is based on the assumption that after its deliverance from body, the soul will resume the control of a body which will not be the original one. So the same argument is valid against this hypothesis as against the doctrine of Metempsychosis.


The objection to the foregoing may be stated as follows:

How can you disprove one who chooses the last alternative, and believes that the soul is immortal, and is a self­subsisting substance? And this does not come into conflict with religion. On the contrary, the verse: "Think not of those who are slain in the way of Allah as dead. Nay, they are living. With their Lord they have provision," shows that religion is in favour of it. Further evidence can be found in the words of the Prophet (peace be on him): "The spirits of virtuous men are in the crops of green birds hanging below the Throne." There are other traditions which speak of the consciousness possessed by spirits of charities and alms offered in their behalf, of the questions asked by Munkir and Nakir, and of the punishment in the grave. All these things point to the immortality of the soul. At the same time, however, religion teaches us to believe in resurrection which will be accompanied by the resurgence of life. And by resurrection is meant the resurrection of bodies. And it is possible to effect resurrection by restoring the soul to a body, whether made of the same Matter as the original one was: or made of the Matter of any other body, or of a Matter created for the first time. For it is the soul, not the body, which makes us what we are. All the parts of our body are continually changing from infancy to old age because of leanness and fatness, and because of the changes caused by food. And these changes make our constitution differ from one part of our life to another. Still we continue to be the same as we ever were. So this is a proper object for Divine omnipotence. And this will be the return of the soul. Having been deprived of its instrument (i.e., body), it was prevented from experiencing physical pains and pleasures. Now, that a similar instrument is given to it again, this is return in the truest sense of the word.

Their contention that the infinity of the souls and the finitude of Matters make resurrection impossible is absurd and groundless. It is based on the eternity of the world, and the perpetual succession of rotatory motion. But one who does not believe in the eternity of..the world considers the number of souls departed from bodies to be finite and commensurable with the number of existing Matters. Even if it is granted that the number of souls is larger, God has the power to create anew any number of Matters. To deny such power is to deny that He can bring anything into existence. And that position has been refuted in the problem of the origin of the world.

As regards the next cause of impossibility — viz., similarity to the doctrine of Metempsychosis-let there be no dispute over words. Whatever religion teaches us we must believe, even if it is the doctrine of Metempsychosis. However, we reject that doctrine as far as this world is concerned. But resurrection we cannot reject, whether it is or is not the same thing as Metempsychosis.

Your assertion that every constitution which is prepared for the reception of a soul is entitled to the origination of a soul from the Principles implies that it is nature, not will, which explains the origin of a soul. And this has been refuted in the problem of the origin of the world. How is it that you do not find it contradictory to your principles even to say that the origination of a soul is called forth, and that (no soul existing there at the time) one is brought into exis­tence for the first time? It remains for you to say

Why, then, did it not get connected with constitutions prepared (for the reception of the soul) in the wombs, before resurrection, even in this world of ours?

The answer will be: Perhaps departed souls require preparations of a different kind, and the causes of such preparations are not complete until the time of resurrection. And it is not improbable that the preparation required by the perfect souls which have departed from bodies should be different from the one required by souls which have come into existence for the first time, and which have not derived perfection from directing the body for a while, And God (exalted be He) best knows such requirements : their causes, and the times of their presence. Since religion introduced these things, and because these things are possible, it is necessary for us to assent to them.




In the second place, they say:

It is beyond the power of anyone to transform iron into a textile fabric, so that it may be used as a turban. Such a thing would not happen until the parts of iron broke up into elements. The causes which govern iron should first reduce it to simple elements. The elements should be recombined and passed through various phases of development so as to acquire the form of cotton. Cotton should acquire the form of yarn. Yarn should acquire a definite texture — viz., the texture of the particular piece of cloth. It is absurd to say that iron can become a turban made of cotton, without gradual passage through these phases.

No doubt, it may occur to man that gradual transformation through many phases may be brought about in the minimum of time, the length of which may not be perceived by man. Consequently, he will suppose that the whole thing happened all of a sudden.

This having been understood, if follows that if the resurrected man's body were to be made merely of a stone, or a ruby, or a pearl, he would not be a man. He cannot conceivably be called a man, unless he has acquired a particular shape, resulting from the composition of bones, nerves, flesh, cartilage, humours, and the simple parts which precede the compound ones. There can be no body without organic parts no composite organic parts without bones and flesh and nerves: no simple constituents like the bones and flesh and nerves without the humours; and the four humours cannot exist, unless their Matters are furnished by food. There can be no food without animals and plants, which are the sources of meat and vegetables. There can be no animals and plants, unless the four elements mix together under certain conditions which are far too many to be analysed by us. It is, therefore, clear that unless all these things are there, the re­emergence of a body, to which the soul might return, is not possible. And the causes of these things are many. Let us ask: "Is it possible that dust should become man, when only the word 'Be' is addressed to it?" No, it is necessary that the causes of its gradual transformation through various phases should operate. And the causes are: (a) fertilisation of a womb by a drop which comes out of the marrow of a man's body: (b) this drop is assisted by the blood of the menses and by food for a while: (c) then it grows to be a lump: (d) then a clot: (e) then an embryo: (f) then an infant (g) then a youth; and (h) then an old man. So it is unintelligible that the whole thing should be achieved merely by uttering the word 'Be.' For no words can be addressed to dust; and its becoming a man without passing through these phases is impossible. And its passing through these phases, without the operation of certain causes, is impossible. Therefore, resurrection is impossible.



We agree that gradual transformation through these phases is necessary, if dust is to become man, just as it is necessary if iron is to become a turban. For if iron remains iron, it cannot be a piece of cloth. It must have become cotton which is spun and woven. But the transition may possibly take an instant, or any other length of time. It has not been explained to us whether the resurrection will take the shortest time possible, or any other length of time. The collecting of bones: then clothing them with flesh, and causing the whole thing to grow will take a long time. So this is not the question at issue. What requires consideration is whether the progress through these phases can be brought about by mere power operating without intermediaries, or by one of the natural causes. Now, to us both are possible, as we have shown in the first problem of Physics, where we discussed the nature of the regular course of events, claiming that things observed to be connected with each other are not necessarily connected, and that a departure from the regular course of events is possible. So these things may be brought about by Divine omnipotence, even when their causes do not exist.

Secondly, we might say that although these things depend on a cause, still it is not one of the conditions for them that the cause should be well known. Nay, the treasure­house of things to which Divine power extends includes mysterious and wonderful things which have not been discovered by man. Their existence can be denied only by such a person as believes that only those things exist which he has observed. This is like some people's rejection of magic, sorcery, talismanic arts, and the miraculous deeds performed by prophets or saints. All these things are generally agreed to be established facts, owing their origin to some mysterious causes which cannot be discovered by all men. Suppose that there is a man who has never seen how a lodestone attracts iron. If he is told of it, he will not believe it. "For," he will say, "it is inconceivable that a piece of iron should be attracted, unless there were a thread tied to it to draw it." Such a thing is what from his experience he understands attraction to mean. But when he himself will observe magnetic attraction, it will fill him with wonder. And then he will come to know how his own knowledge had failed to encompass the mysterious effects of Omnipotence.

Similarly, when these atheists, who deny resurrection, will themselves be resurrected and enabled to see the wonderful things created by God, they will repent themselves of their disbelief — and repentance will not avail them! It will be said to them: "This is what you used to disbelieve" — like one who disbelieves mysterious properties and things. Suppose that a man is created in such a way that he is gifted with a mature intellect even at the time of birth. If you say to him

This sperm-drop, which is dirty and whose parts are homogeneous, will develop in the womb into various organs made of flesh and nerves and bones and muscles and cartilages and fat. Thus it will have eyes which will consist of seven different strata of constitution; and the tongue and the teeth whose softness and hardness make them so different from each other, in spite of their contiguity; and so on to all other wonders of human nature.

then, having heard of all these things, such a person will deny them more emphatically than was done by the atheists who said: "Are we going to be brought back to life, when we are rotten bones?" He who rejects the possibility of resurrection does not reflect whence he came to know that the causes of existence are limited to his own observation. It is not improbable that the method of the revivification of bodies should be different from anything ever observed by him. Some of the traditions say that at the time of resurrection it will rain, and that the raindrops will be like sperm-drops. So these drops will mix up with dust to beget human bodies. It is not improbable that the Divine causes should include something of this kind which it is not possible for us to discover, and that such a thing should call forth the resurrection of bodies and their capacity for the reception of reassembled souls. Can there be any ground for the rejection of such a possibility, other than the Mere assumption of improbability?

The Divine action has one unchangeable and recurrent pattern. For this reason, He has said: "The execution of Our purpose is but a single act, like the twinkling of an eye." Further, He says: "Thou canst not find any change in the ways of God." If the causes, which you have imagined to be possible, existed, then it would be necessary for them to come into operation over and over again. This recurrence would be infinite; and the existing system of emergence and development in the universe would also be infinite. Recurrence and revolution having been granted, it is not improbable that once in every millennium the pattern of things should change. But this change itself must be perpetually along the same lines; for the ways of God do not change,

And now to pass on to space. The Divine action proceeds from the Divine will. The Divine will has no specific direction. If it had a specific direction, its system would change because of the difference of dimensions. But the will having no specific direction, whatever proceeds from it governs the First and the Last in like manner — as we see in all causes and effects.

So if you admit the possibility of the perpetuity of development and procreation on the basis of what is observed at present, or admit the possibility of the return of this pattern, after however long a time, according to the law of recurrence and revolution, then you will have precluded the judgment, the Hereafter, and any other thing of the same kind which follows from the letter of the Sacred Law. For this admission will imply that this existence of ours has been preceded by many a resurrection, as it is to return for many a time afterwards, and this order of precedence and succession will tend to make the series infinite.

But if you say that the Divine modus operandi can change into something generically different: that the changed modus will never return; and that the duration of possibility can be divided into three periods, namely

(i) Before the creation of the world, when God was and the world was not;

(ii) After the creation of the world, which brought about the existence of the world together with that of God; and

(iii) The process of resurrection which brings the duration of possibility to an end.

then this view will exclude all uniformity and system; for it makes the Divine modus changeable. But that is impossible. It may be possible in the case of a will which changes through a variety of states. But the eternal will has one invariable course. The Divine action partakes of the nature of the Divine will, which has a uniform mode of operation, so that it does not change because of different temporal relations. This (they further assert) is not incompatible with our affirmation that God is omnipotent. We do say that He has the power to effect resurrection, resurgence of life, and all other possible things — in the sense that if He would, He could do them. In order for our statement to be true, it is not a condition that He should be actually doing or willing them. This is like what we mean when we say: "Such and such a person has the power to cut off his own neck, 'or to burst his own belly." This statement is true, in the sense that the person could do so, if he so would. But we know that he neither wills it, nor does it. And when we say that he neither wills nor does it, we do not contradict the earlier statement that he has the power — in the sense that he could do it, if he so would. As logic explains, the categorical propositions do not contradict the hypothetical. Our statement: "He could do it, if he would," is a hypothetical affirmative proposition. And our statement: "He never willed, nor did," contains two categorical negative propositions. The negative categorical propositions do not contradict the affirmative hypothetical.

So the argument which proves that His will is eternal and unerring also proves that the course of His action must be systematic, and that if sometimes it varies, the variation itself must be systematic and uniform, so as to recur and return perpetually. For no other basis for this variation is possible.


The answer:

This is allied to the theory of the eternity of the world — viz., that the Divine will is eternal, and therefore the world must be eternal. We have refuted that theory, and shown that reason allows the assumption of three stages — namely,

(i) when God existed and the world did not exist.

(ii) when the world is created: first, to have the order we observe at present; and, next, to have a new order which is promised to exist in paradise and hell.

(iii) when everything disappears, and God alone remains. This assumption is perfectly possible, although religion indicates that the reward and punishment in paradise and hell will be everlasting.

This problem, however formulated, is based on two questions: (a) the origin of the world, and the possibility of the emanation of the temporal from the Eternal; and (b) departure from the regular course of events, either through the creation of effects independent of causes, or through the origination of causes along lines different from the regular course of events. And we have settled both these questions.


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