My Podcast on this topic:
Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazālī, born 448 AH (c. 1058 – 1111)
also known as Algazel at the time in Europe. Born in Khorosan Province in Persia and became a muslim alchemist. Single most important muslim after mohammed Also known as “The man who saved islam”
Alchemy in the arab world was much more above-board. One of the noblest sciences/philosophies in contrast with Europe at the time.
His life was during the Islamic golden age.
He was given the title Hujjat al-Islam, meaning ‘The Proof of Islam’, a title given to no other scholar or personality in Islamic history, further displaying his status within the religion.
At one point he made arrangements for his family, he disposed of his wealth and adopted an ascetic lifestyle.
After some time in Damascus and Jerusalem, with a visit to Medina and Mecca in 1096, he returned to Tus (his birhtplace) to spend the next several years in seclusion.
Refuted neoplatonism so thoroughly that it never really recovered in the muslim world ..that’s actually a symplistic way to look at it. He argued and analyzed it so well, I wouldn’t say refute per say, but Islam was able to incorporate it, and move on. All parts were thoroughly considered and either dismantled or built upon.
The Incoherence also marked a turning point in Islamic philosophy in its vehement (rejections) of Aristotle and Plato. The book took aim at the falasifa, a loosely defined group of Islamic philosophers from the 8th through the 11th centuries (most notable among them Avicenna (who influended Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas) and Al-Farabi) who drew intellectually upon the Ancient Greeks. Al-Ghazali argued against Aristotle, Socrates and other Greek writers as non-believers and labeled those who employed their methods and ideas as corrupters of the Islamic faith.
He argued that everything is directly caused by God
Sufism or taṣawwuf (Arabic: تصوّف) is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. Sufis consider themselves as the original true proponents of this pure original form of Islam. They are strong adherents to the principal of tolerance, peace and against any form of violence.
He really set the direction of future islamic thought and philosophy.
The Alchemy of Happiness
Kimiya-yi Sa’ādat (Persian: كيمياى سعادت, English: The Alchemy of Happiness)
The book mentions ways to worship and in the end receive happiness, including in the afterlife. This is a good example of alchemy in the sence that he’s talking about transmutating the soul in preparation for the afterlife. “Spiritual alchemy”
Kimiā (Alchemy) is an applied and mystical science that has been studied for centuries. In its essence, Kimiā represents a complete conception of the universe and relations between earthly beings and the cosmos. Religious philosophers emphasized its importance as a religious discipline. Due to its spiritual dimensions Kimiā is considered the noblest of all occult sciences (i.e. astrology and various kinds of magic). Ghazali was himself a believer that everything on Earth is a manifestation of God’s spirit, thus everything belongs to kimiā.
From the book: ″God has sent on Earth a hundred and twenty-four thousand prophets to teach men the prescription of this alchemy, and how to purify their hearts from baser qualities in the crucible of abstinence. This alchemy may be briefly described as turning away from the world, and its constituents are four: Knowledge of Self Knowledge of God Knowledge of this world as it really is Knowledge of the next world as it really is.″
Wrote extensively on the works of Aristotle but mostly to refute it.
Splitting scientific study: He was an early arguer of splitting “philosophy” into it’s distinct sciences which included physics, math and logic, but also included mysticisms like astrology and other occult beliefs. At the time religious leaders would refute “philosophy” as being against god, and therefore ignoring facts like lunar and solar eclipses.. When one bought into one idea of “philosophy” one tended to buy into all the garbage, not just the fact.. which is why al-Ghazālī wanted to split it (i.e. mystical claims that go against the teaching of islam). By separating the sciences, real sciences were allowed to progress.
Theology (like Sufism) Philosophy Medicine Jurisprudence
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) … and while they do have much in common, it’s interesting to note that while al-Ghazali argued strongly against aristotole, Aquinas incorporated him to a much higher degree