The Second Premise
Something theoretical in the past may become evident and established in the present or in the future. It is a self-evident fact that creation has an innate tendency towards perfection, and it is through this that creation is bound to the law of development or gradual perfection.
Included in creation, human life has a tendency towards progress that arises from this tendency towards perfection. This tendency toward progress becomes possible through opinions and theories being built upon one another over the course of centuries. Opinions and theories develop by means of the results attained—facts; then axioms or principles become established, and means to implement the principles learnt are invented. Established facts and principles impregnate the seeds of sciences that emanate from the “ribs” of creation in the womb of time, where they grow through experience and experimentation.
It is for this reason that many of the matters known to all today were only theoretical or even incomprehensible in the past. We clearly see that many matters of geography, astronomy, physics, chemistry, and other sciences are no longer unknown to the children of today, due to the facts and principles that have been established, the means that have been invented, and the opinions that have gained strength from one another. They were unknown even to Ibn Sina (Avicenna)6 and thinkers and scientists like him, although such people had a greater capacity and were far better versed in philosophy and sciences than many of their contemporaries. The deficiency lies not in Ibn Sina and his contemporaries, but in the time they lived in; we are all children of our time. Is it not true that if the New World, the discovery of which gave Columbus his fame, had not so far been discovered, any ordinary captain could, at present, make the Old and New Worlds neighbors to each other? A small ship and a compass can substitute for the knowledge of navigation that Columbus had access to, and his daring and resistance to dangers. The following points are also worthy of consideration:
There are some matters which only develop after sufficient accumulation of information and opinions over the course of time. If we think about how mutual assistance is required to lift a large rock, we can understand this point easily. However, mutual support and assistance have no role in some other matters; for example, it is of no use for people to support or help each other in order to jump across a gorge. Some sciences need mutual support and assistance to develop. The majority of these are physical sciences. Mutual support has almost no use in other disciplines, such as attainment of intuitive knowledge of God or spiritual progress. Opinions brought forward, one after the other, through history do not change their nature, but rather add to arguments and serve for clarification.
It is also important that one who is much occupied in a subject is usually more insensitive to other subjects and cannot understand these so well. For this reason, those who are greatly occupied in physical or material matters lack sufficient knowledge or have only superficial understanding of spiritual matters. Therefore, such people’s opinions and judgments concerning spiritual matters carry no weight. If a patient confounds medicine with engineering and decides to seek advice from an engineer rather than a physician, it means he has preferred to move to the hospital of the grave or sent his relatives an early invitation to send condolences on his death. Similarly, applying to materialists or consulting their opinion in matters of spirituality, which are usually abstract, means that the heart, which is a faculty of faith and spirituality, will go into arrest while the intellect, which is a spiritual faculty, will atrophy. It is true that those who search for every truth in corporeality have their intellects in their corporeal senses, when corporeal senses are blind to spiritual things.
6 Abu ‘Ali ibn Sina (Avicenna) (980–1037): One of the foremost philosophers, mathematicians, and physicians of the golden age of Islamic tradition. In the West, he is also known as the “Prince of Physicians” for his famous medical text al-Qānūn “The Canon” In Latin translations, his works influenced many Christian philosophers, most notably Thomas Aquinas. (Trans.)