“Discourse on Peace in the Middle Ages:
Moses Maimonides, Thomas Aquinas & Jalaladdin Rumi”
SEPTEMBER 21, 2014 – INTERFAITH PEACE DAY
METROPOLITAN UNITED CHURCH (56 Queen Street)
DEDICATED TO LEARNING ABOUT TOLERANCE
Bridges Beyond Faith, Twilight of Peace:
Mosheh ben Maimon – “Our Rabbi/Teacher Moses Son of Maimon”), was a pre-eminent medieval Spanish, Sephardic Jewish philosopher, astronomer and one of the most prolific and influential Córdoba (present-day Spain), 1135 and died in Egypt on December 12, 1204. Location of his death is possibly Tiberius, where his son and his tomb are set. He was a rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Morocco and Egypt.
Although his writings on Jewish law and ethics were met with acclaim and gratitude from most Jews, even as far off as Iraq and Yemen, and he rose to be the revered head of the Jewish community in Egypt, there were also vociferous critics of some of his writings, particularly in Spain. Nevertheless, he was posthumously acknowledged to be one of the foremost rabbinical arbiters and philosophers in Jewish history, his copious work comprising a cornerstone of Jewish scholarship. His fourteen-volume Mishneh Torah still carries significant canonical authority as a codification of Talmudic law. In the Yeshiva world he is called sometimes “haNesher haGadol” (the great eagle) in recognition of his outstanding status as a bona fide exponent of the Oral Torah.
Maimonides lived towards the end of the golden age of Jewish culture in the Iberian Peninsula, after the first centuries of the Moorish rule. At an early age, he developed an interest in sciences and philosophy. He read those Greek philosophers accessible in Arabic translations, and was deeply immersed in the sciences and learning of Islamic culture. It is believed that the “Gaonic” tradition, especially in its North African version, formed the basis of his legal thoughts. It is clear that Muslim law, had a substantial influence on his philosophy. Maimonides was not known as a supporter of mysticism, although a strong intellectual type of mysticism has been discerned in his philosophy. Maimonides studied Torah under his father Maimon, who had in turn studied under Rabbi Joseph Ibn Migash, a student of Isaac Alfasi.
Maimonides gained widespread recognition as a physician and was appointed court physician to the Grand Vizier Al Qadi al Fadil, then to Sultan Saladin, after whose death he remained a physician to the royal family. In his medicinal writings, he described many conditions, including asthma, diabetes, hepatitis, and pneumonia, and emphasized moderation and a healthy lifestyle. His treatises became influential for generations of physicians. He was knowledgeable about Greek and Arabic medicine. Maimonides in his medical writings sought to interpret works of authorities so that they could become acceptable. Maimonides displayed in his interactions with patients attributes that today would be called intercultural awareness and respect for the patient’s autonomy. It is remarkable that he managed to write extended treatises, including not only medical and other scientific studies but some of the most systematically thought-through and influential treatises on halakha (rabbinic law) and Jewish philosophy of the Middle Ages. In 1173/4, Maimonides wrote his famous Iggeret Teman (Epistle to Yemen). His rabbinic writings are valued as fundamental and unparalleled resources for religious Jews today.
EQUINOX OF SOULS
Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī (Persian) He is widely known by the sobriquet in Iran and popularly known as Mevlânâ in Turkey. According to the authoritative Rumi biographer Franklin Lewis of the University of Chicago, “the Anatolian peninsula which had belonged to the Byzantine, or eastern Roman empire, had only relatively recently been conquered by Muslims and even when it came to be controlled by Turkish Muslim rulers, it was still known to Arabs, Persians and Turks as the geographical area of Rum. As such, there are a number of historical personages born in or associated with Anatolia known as Rumi, a word borrowed from Arabic literally meaning “Roman,” in which context Roman refers to subjects of the Byzantine Empire or simply to people living in or things associated with Anatolia. Rumi was born to native Persian speaking parents, probably in the village of Wakhsh, a small town located at the river Wakhsh in Persia (in what is now Tajikistan). Wakhsh belonged to the larger province of Balkh (parts of now modern Afghanistan and Tajikistan), and in the year Rumi was born, his father was an appointed scholar there.
He lived most of his life under the Sultanate of Rum, where he produced his works and died in 1273 AD. He was buried in Konya and his shrine became a place of pilgrimage. Following his death, his followers and his son Sultan Walad founded the Mevlevi Order, also known as the Order of the Whirling Dervishes, famous for its Sufi dance known as the Sama ceremony. He was laid to rest beside his father, and over his remains a splendid shrine was erected. A hagiographical account of him is described in Shams ud-Din Ahmad Aflāki’s Manāqib ul-Ārifīn (written between 1318 and 1353). This hagiographical account of his biography needs to be treated with care as it contains both legends and facts about Rumi.
Rumi believed passionately in the use of music, poetry and dance as a path for reaching God. For Rumi, music helped devotees to focus their whole being on the divine and to do this so intensely that the soul was both destroyed and resurrected. It was from these ideas that the practice of whirling Dervishes developed into a ritual form. His teachings became the base for the order of the Mevlevi which his son Sultan Walad organized. Rumi encouraged Sama, listening to music and turning or doing the sacred dance. In the Mevlevi tradition, samāʿ represents a mystical journey of spiritual ascent through mind and love to the Perfect One. In this journey, the seeker symbolically turns towards the truth, grows through love, abandons the ego, finds the truth and arrives at the Perfect. The seeker then returns from this spiritual journey, with greater maturity, to love and to be of service to the whole of creation without discrimination with regard to beliefs, races, classes and nations.
Rumi was an evolutionary thinker in the sense that he believed that the spirit after devolution from the divine Ego undergoes an evolutionary process by which it comes nearer and nearer to the same divine Ego. All matter in the universe obeys this law and this movement is due to an inbuilt urge (which Rumi calls “love”) to evolve and seek enjoinment with the divinity from which it has emerged. Evolution into a human being from an animal is only one stage in this process. The doctrine of the Fall of Adam is reinterpreted as the devolution of the Ego from the universal ground of divinity and is a universal, cosmic phenomenon. The French philosopher Henri Bergson‘s idea of life being creative and evolutionary is similar, though unlike Bergson, Rumi believes that there is a specific goal to the process: the attainment of God. For Rumi, God is the ground as well as the goal of all existence.
However Rumi need not be considered a biological evolutionary creationist. In view of the fact that Rumi lived hundreds of years before Darwin, and was least interested in scientific theories, it is probable to conclude that he does not deal with biological evolution at all. Rather he is concerned with the spiritual evolution of a human being: Man not conscious of God is akin to an animal and true consciousness makes him divine. Nicholson has seen this as a Neo-Platonic doctrine: the universal soul working through the various spheres of being, a doctrine introduced into Islam by Muslim philosophers like Al Farabi and being related at the same time to Ibn Sina‘s idea of love as the magnetically working power by which life is driven into an upward trend.
”I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as Man, to soar
With angels bless’d; but even from angelhood
I must pass on: all except God doth perish.
When I have sacrificed my angel-soul,
I shall become what no mind e’er conceived.
Oh, let me not exist! for Non-existence
Proclaims in organ tones,
To Him we shall return.”
TWILIGHT OF PEACE
Thomas Aquinas, (1225 – 7 March 1274). Was an Italian Dominican friar and priest and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism. Aquinas was the foremost classical proponent of natural theology, and the father of Thomism. His influence on Western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy was conceived in development or opposition of his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law, metaphysics, and political theory. Thomas embraced several ideas put forward by Aristotle — whom he referred to as “the Philosopher” — and attempted to synthesize Aristotelian philosophy with the principles of Christianity. The works for which he is best known are the Summa Theologica and the Summa contra Gentiles. His commentaries on Sacred Scripture and on Aristotle are an important part of his body of work. Furthermore, Thomas is distinguished for his Eucharistic hymns, which form a part of the Church’s liturgy.
Thomas Aquinas, is honored as a saint by the Catholic Church and is held to be the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood, and indeed the highest expression of both natural reason and speculative theology. In modern times, under papal directives, the study of his works was long used as a core of the required program of study for those seeking ordination as priests or deacons, as well as for those in religious formation and for other students of the sacred disciplines (philosophy, Catholic theology, church history, liturgy, canon law). Aquinas is considered the Church’s greatest theologian and philosopher. Pope Benedict XV declared: “This (Dominican) Order … acquired new luster when the Church declared the teaching of Thomas to be her own and that Doctor, honored with the special praises of the Pontiffs, the master and patron of Catholic schools.”
Thomas believed “that for the knowledge of any truth whatsoever man needs divine help, that the intellect may be moved by God to its act.” However, he believed that human beings have the natural capacity to know many things without special divine revelation, even though such revelation occurs from time to time, “especially in regard to such (truths) as pertain to faith.” But this is the light that is given to man by God according to man’s nature: “Now every form bestowed on created things by God has power for a determined actuality, which it can bring about in proportion to its own proper endowment; and beyond which it is powerless.
According to Aquinas “…all acts of virtue are prescribed by the natural law: since each one’s reason naturally dictates to him to act virtuously. Many things are done virtuously, to which nature does not incline at first; but which, through the inquiry of reason, have been found by men to be conductive to well living.” Therefore, we must determine if we are speaking of virtuous acts as under the aspect of virtuous or as an act in its species. Thomas defined the four cardinal virtues as prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. The cardinal virtues are natural and revealed in nature, and they are binding on everyone. There are, however, three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity. Aquinas also describes the virtues as imperfect (incomplete) and perfect (complete) virtues. A perfect virtue is any virtue with charity, charity completes a cardinal virtue. A non-Christian can display courage, but it would be courage with temperance. A Christian would display courage with charity. These are somewhat supernatural and are distinct from other virtues in their object, namely, God: