“El entendimiento con el qual me conoscan”: Intellectual Mysticism in the Visión Deleitable
arriving closer, he saw there a great company of very honored and wise men, all with glowing faces that made them seem like stars. He [Entendimiento] recognized among them some of the ancient ones, such as Acalo and Cecina,8 ancient Indians, and Hermes Termigisto and Alisanius, known later as Jupiter. And he also saw there Plato and other of his contemporaries. And from the moderns, he saw al-Fārābī, al-Ghazālī, Avicenna, and Moses of Egypt, as well as others worthy of great veneration who were among the company. And Entendimiento, in that glory and enjoyment that cannot be expressed in words, listened as Reason spoke before the blessed company.llegándose más açerca vido allí una grant conpañía de omnes muy honrrados e muy sabios, todos con las caras ynflamadas que paresçía lunbre de estrellas. Entre aquéllos conosçió algunos de los antiguos, asy como Acalo [e] Çeçina, vetustísymos yndiacos, e el Termigisto e Alisanias, después llamado Júpiter. E vido allí al Platón e otros contemporáneos suyos. E de los modernos vido allí al Alfarabio, Algazel, Aviçena e Muysén de Egipto, e otros de grant veneraçión que eran en su compañía. E estando el Entendimiento en aquesta Gloria e folgança que non se puede explicar por palabra, la Razón fabló delante la bien aventurada conpañía.
Perfect happiness cannot exist, according to what we see proven in the first part of the Ethics, except through the intellect and in God in his glory, which will be on the one hand unity of potential and on the other His own perfection.la bien aventurança perfecta no puede estar, segúnt las conclusyones que provamos en el comienço de la étyca, syno en el entendimineto e en Dios glorioso, lo qual el uno será asy como potençia e el otro asy como propia perfecçión suya.
My lady sisters, God and you know how much it would please my heart to let Intellect in, for, as you know, our lineage and family origin were long ago the same as his, and because of that he is our very close relative. However, because of his long stay on earth where he lives, abominable opinions have been accepted by him.Hermanas mías e señoras, Dios es sabidor e vosotras quánto gozo sería a mi coraçón la entrada de Entendimiento, el qual bien sabéys que otro tiempo fue desçendido de nuestro linaje e abolorio, e de allí es a nosotras pariente muy çercano, mas por la continuaçión que en la tierra ha fecho e morada le fueron añadidas abominables opiniones.
Sometimes the light of the intelligence is so bright in the intellect that it sees all things to come, as one who sees things in a mirror, and this happens when the soul has a perfect intellect and good habits, and because of this the soul is perfect. But other times the soul is not very good at speculation and it is less clean.algunas vezes es la lunbre de la ynteligençia tan clara en el entendimiento que vee todas las cosas venideras, como quien vee ymágines en espejo, e esto es quando el ánima es perfecta en entendimiento e costunbres buenas, e aquésta tal es perfecta. E otras vezes el ánima es más flaca en especulaçión e menos linpia.
As for God, His bounty and glory are limitless as is His influence, and the blessed angels do not have any obstacle or impediment that prevents them from receiving it. And in that conjunction the delight is so great that it would be shameful to compare it to any other delight, for this delight is infinitely greater than any other imagined by humans, just as the delight of one man when he is made king is not comparable to that of the chicken when it eats some grain that its mother brings it: the difference between these delights [those experienced by the king versus that of the chick] does not compare to the difference between the delight of angels and humans [i.e., experienced by angels in contact with God, versus that of humans in contact with God].E por quanto de parte de Dios glorioso se ynfluye la bondad e Gloria syn medida ninguna, e los ángeles bien aventurados non tienen obstáculo nin ynpendimiento nin que los estorve de la resçebir, e es en aquella conjunción la delectación tan grande que sería grant vergüença compararla a delectaçión ninguna, por quanto en ynfinito es mayor aquesta delectaçión que qualquiera delectaçión ymaginada por los omnes, que la delectaçión de un omne quando lo fazen rey conparada a la delectaçión de un pollo cuando come los granos que le busca su madre, es syn conparaçión, la diferençia de aquéllas es mayor que la de aquéstas.”
In addition to the angelic creatures, the others who enjoy this delight are the humans’ rational souls, which can be classified into three types or levels. And may God in his glory be praised, for I have dared to describe for you the hidden secrets, knowledge of which is worth more than any price.Los segundos que partiçipan este bien después de las criaturas angélicas son las ánimas raçionales de los omnes, las quales son en tres maneras o grados. E Dios glorioso sea alabado porque yo me atreví de descobrirte los secretos amagados los quales exçeden todo presçio conosçido.
And by means of their active intellect, through which they were friends of God and very close to and very like the angels, Our glorious Lord spoke to them [Abraham and Moses], not with a mouth or teeth as people think, nor by taking the form of a body of air, as others think, but by representing the things that will come to pass clearly in their intellects, just as the man who has good eyes sees the forms that are represented in the mirror, for the eye is very similar to the mirror’s clarity.E mediante el entendimiento faziente, con el qual eran amigos de Dios e muy çercanos e muy senblantes a los ángeles, Nuestro Señor glorioso fabló con ellos, no con boca nin con dientes, asy como las gentes entienden, nin tomando cuerpo de ayre, así como cuydan otros, mas representando en su entendimiento claramente las cosas que avian de ser, asy como el omne que tiene buenos ojos vee las formas que están en el espejo representadas, porque el ojo es muy semejante a la claridad del espejo.
among humans, because they are closer to the first grade of perfection, they are the lords and the kings over the other humans because they are closest to the First Cause, just as one who nears the fire will get warm. And they [prophets, lords, kings] have, while alive the vision of God and the byproduct of it, namely such great happiness and joy that all things in the world but it seem base mud, such that once they have tasted of that delight’s sweetness, they think it a small thing that their son, wife or riches die away.entre los omnes naturales por ser más çercanos del primer grado de perfecçión, e son señores e reyes de los otros omnes naturales por ser más çercanos del primer prinçipio, asy como quien más se allega al fuego más se escallenta, E aquéstos en su vida han la visyón de Dios e su fruyçión en la qual es la alegría e el gozo tan grande que, eçepto aquélla, todas la cosas del mundo les paresçe un poco de lodo, en guisa que quando de aquella dulçura han gustado en menos tienen el fijo nin muger nin riqueza que se mueran.
And the second type of human, after the prophetic saints, consists of those who achieve good and penetrating intellects, having begun with a base in the Liberal Arts and achieving [through them knowledge of] the secrets of nature, and then with the true science they are afforded knowledge of the true and glorious God and his angels, and they achieve knowledge of the nature of the agent and the thing acted upon. And these things are established in their souls by a multitude of scientific demonstrations. And in this life, although their delight is infinitely more and better than that of other people, it is still not completely perfect, because of the impediment of the body. And once that impediment is removed, their soul will be conjoined with the King of the ages, and the delight will be so great that it would be stupid to compare it to base and corporal pleasures.E la segunda manera de los omnes, después de los santos profetas, es de aquéllos que alcançan buenos entendimientos asaz penetrantes e han avido prinçipio en las artes liberales e han alcancado los secretos de natura, e con aquesto han proveydo en la çiencia verdadera e conosçimiento de Dios verdadero e glorioso e de sus ángeles, e han avido conplimiento de saber las naturas de las cabsas e los causados. E aquestas cosas están plantadas en sus ánimas por multitude de çientíficas demostraçiones…Enpero en esta vida, maguer la su delectaçión sea un ynfinito mayor e mejor que todos los otros omnes, mas aún no es del todo perfecta, por cabsa del ynpedimiento del cuerpo, el qual ynpedimiento quitado, será la tal ánima conjunta al Rey de los syglos, e será la delectaçión tan grande que será torpeza conparalla a la delectaçión bestial e corporal alguna
The glory of heaven cannot be understood in this life except by a prophet or wise man. For they enjoy part of that glory, for when the soul separates from their flesh, as we have mentioned, that which was hidden is revealed, the wheat leaves the chaff, as the light emerges from the dark and the spark from the charcoal. And their souls ascend to the realm of the intelligences, and receive that Glory and that light and that goodness that all things desire, according to the first conclusion of the Ethics, for it is the ultimate goodness and culmination of all other goodnesses and it is infinitely better than all the others.La gloria del çielo non se puede entender syno por el profeta o por el sabio en aquesta vida. Ca ellos gustan parte de áquella, enpero quando viene que de aquestas gentes que avemos dicho se parte el ánima de la carne e es manifiesto aquello que estava oculto, e sale el grano de la paja, e la luz de la tyniebla, e la çentella del tizón, e suben aquellas almas al syglo de las ynteligençias, e resçiben aquella Gloria, e aquella lunbre, e aquel bien, el qual todas las cosas desean por la primera conclusyón de la ética, aquél es bien postrimero por el qual son todos los otros bienes e é les mejor en ynfinito que todos los otros.
Entendimiento asked: “Why was this world created, and if what men say is true, namely that the angels, the heavens and the earth and all that is created by man, and finally man himself is created by God?” To which Wisdom replied: “All things in the world, large and small, were created by God, and He is the efficient cause and the final cause. Because of this it is said angel-prophet, which means first and last.”Pregunto el Entendimiento: “El mundo, ¿para qué fue fecho? Sy es verdad lo que los omnes dizen, videlicet, que los ángeles e los çielos e la tierra e todo quanto es fue criado por el omne, e el omne fue final mente criado por Dios”. A esto repuso la Sabieza: “Todas las cosas que en el mundo son, asy las altas como las baxas, fueron criadas por Dios e El fue la cabsa efiçiente e la causa final, e por tanto se dize profeta ángel, que quiere dezir primero e postrimero.”17
Midrash Qoheleth has the following text: When man sleeps, his soul speaks to the angel, and the angel to the cherub. Thereby they have stated plainly to him who understands and cognizes intellectually that the imaginative faculty is likewise called an angel and that the intellect is called a cherub… We have already spoken of the fact that every form in which an angel is seen, exists in the vision of prophecy. You will find that there are prophets who see the angels as if they were human individuals. Others from among them see [an angel] as if he were a man causing terror and amazement… Consider how clear it is in every respect that the notion of angel is that of a certain act, and that every vision of an angel occurs only in a vision of prophecy and according to the state of him who apprehends.
[The individual seeking knowledge of God], when studying esoterical philosophy and [when] attracted by those elevated issues and … of an appropriate temperament to understand and comprehend them, and sanctifies himself by moving away from anybody who concerns himself with ephemeral matters, and encourages himself not to have any thoughts about useless matters and its contrivances, [and] ha[s] his thoughts permanently attuned to above, from under God’s Throne, to understand the pure and holy forms, and looks upon the wisdom of God [in Creation] in its entirety, from the first form [i.e the Holy Chayot] till the centre of the Earth, and sees in them God’s greatness…then prophecy will immediately come to him. At the time when prophecy comes to him, his soul will be on the same level as that of the Ishim angels, and he will become a different man, and he will realise that he is not [any more] as he was, but will rise above the level of other wise men, as it is written“,... and you shall prophesy with him, and shall be turned into another man.(part 7.chp. 1)
Glorious God saw that it was Good to create a world which he had imagined within Himself, and he wanted that world to be like Him as much as possible, and he transmitted as much blessing to it as it was capable of receiving. And the angels took the first and purest perfection. And He saw the things as they would be in the world, namely the angels, and after them the intellects, the bodies, and the heavens… and He said, beyond the angels and the heavens, what more noble creatures can there be, with no error in them? … I want there to be people that have reason and use it, and who have intellect by which they can know Me, and [I want] that they obey Me and serve Me. And I want there to be among them prophets, kings, priests, soldiers, farmers, and others so that there is what they need. And this is the most and closest you can come to being like Me that they can understand. They will [eventually] be far from their origin and they will be changed so that very few of them will perfect their intellect to be like Me.Dios glorioso … vido que era Bueno fazer un mundo el qual Él tenia ymaginado en sy mesmo, e quiso que aquel mundo paresçiese a Él lo más que ser pudiese, al qual comunicó la mayor bondad que pudo resçebir, e los ángeles tomaron la primera perfecçión e la más pura. E vido todas las cosas avian de ser en el mundo, videlicet, los ángeles e después los entendimientos, e los cuerpos de los çielos … E dixo, ultra de los ángeles o çielos, que son criaturas más nobles que ser pueden porque no ay error en ellos … e quiero que aya omnes que tengan razón e usen de aquélla, e que tengan entendimiento con el qual me conoscan, me obedescan e me syrvan. E quiero que aya en ellos profeçía, reyno, sacerdoçio, miliçia e agricultura, e otras cosas que sean bastantes … E ésta es la mejor e la más senblante a mí que ser pueda a ellos comunicada, ca por ser muy alongados de su prinçipio serán muy mudables, e pocos avrán perfecçión de entendimiento para que me senblen”
Conflicts of Interest
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Manuscript copies of the Visión were found in the libraries in all of the Iberian courts and there were eleven early modern print editions (García López 1991b, pp. 13–35).
Aaron Hughes calls this type of narrative an “initiatory tale,” a fictional genre, based in philosophic beliefs in which the protagonist is “initiated into the secrets of the universe” after undergoing “existential changes in the course of their textual journey” (Hughes 2004, p. 19). Henry Corbin referred to this type of tale as a “visionary recital” (Corbin 1960; Hughes 2004, p. 33). Both Corbin and Hughes credit Avicenna as creating this type of tale. Hughes traces its development through Ibn Tufayl’s Hayy ibn Yaqdan and Abraham ibn Ezra’s Hebrew translation of Avicenna’s tale of the same name, arguing that this genre of tales then disappeared, having “a relatively short career in Islamic and Jewish philosophy” (Hughes 2004, pp. 29, 33–41). These tales are in and of themselves bridges in thought systems, particularly Neoplatonic thought and monotheistic religions: “These tales, then, essentially occupy the interface between the mythic worlds of Neoplatonism and that of monotheism (be it Islam or Judaism). In other words, both the structure and the mythic details of these tales draw their impetus not only from the Neoplatonic system, but also from the basic religious framework provided by the religious affiliations of the author” (Hughes 2004, p. 41).
Ibrahim Madhkour used the term “philosophical mysticism” to describe al-Fārābī’s thought. David Blumenthal applied the term to Jewish thinkers, adopting it from the Muslim context (Blumenthal 2014). On Maimonides’ philosophical mysticism, see also Freudenthal (2009). Lobel notes that in the wake of Blumenthal, such scholars as Georges Vajda, Alexander Altmann, and Pines in his later writings use the term. However, other scholars, including notably Menachem Kellner, maintain that Maimonides was a rationalist. See (Lobel 2007, pp. 21–22).
The work of earlier Muslim philosophers, such as al-Fārābī, Avicenna and Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī, were jumping off points for Andalusi thinkers such as Ibn Barrajān, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Tufayl and Ibn ‘Arabī. They all developed individualized approaches to the Neoplatonic scheme of the cosmos, according to which the material world (including humans) is related via a series of emanations or levels to a divine and unified source. See (Davidson 1992; Casewit 2017, pp. 35–37; Morewedge 1992). Neoplatonists, like Aristotelian scholars, shared a belief in a “mindful consciousness (nous, often translated as thought, intelligence, or intellect) [that] is in an important sense ontologically prior to the physical realm typically taken for ultimate reality (Mind over Matter)” (Wildberg 2019). These thinkers, even al-Ghazālī in his early writings, used Aristotelian methods such as logic and observation of the natural world, as well as theoretical concepts such as the Active Intellect to explain how humans connected to the divine. Mehdi Aminrazavi also calls the complex interweaving of Neoplatonic (cum Sufi) and Aristotelian thought in the medieval Muslim tradition “philosophical mysticism” (Aminrazavi 2016). Kreisel further notes that Judah Ha-Levi, Maimonides and Ibn Crescas’ model was precisely this Andalusi Arab and Neoplatonic thought: “Islamic mystical and much of its philosophical literature provided them with a model for thinking of prophecy in this manner. This literature in turn was heavily influenced by Neoplatonic literature” (Kreisel 2001, p. 626).
One of the most tantalizing surviving manuscript copies of the Visión is a Hebrew aljamiado copy (i.e., a copy of this Castilian work in Hebrew characters) made in the first decades of the fifteenth century. On this copy, housed in the Biblioteca Palatina in Parma, Italy, see (Hamilton 2015, pp. 1–57). The Visión also survived in print editions in Amsterdam and was read by the likes of Fernando de Rojas, Lope de Vega and Solomon ibn Verga (Girón Negrón 2000, pp. 217–20).
In the Sefer Ha-Meveqesh Ibn Falaquera (1976) similarly tells a fictional tale of a seeker who learns the basic sciences from different practitioners of them that he meets while undertaking a voyage in search of wisdom (Harvey 2014). Ramón Llull’s fictional seeker, Felix, similarly journeys in pursuit of knowledge, culminating in the lessons on moral philosophy learned from a group of monks, who in turn cite their source as the fictional Libre de plasent visió (Book of the Delightful Vision). (Franklin Brown 2018, p. 385). Clearly Entendimiento, along with the seeker and Felix, are “textual protagonists” that “undergo profound existential changes in the course of their textual journeys” which culminate with initiation “into the secrets of the universe” and a “vision of the divine world” as Hughes (p. 19) defines the “initiatory tale” in his study of the work of Avicenna, Ibn Tufayl and Moshe ibn Ezra. Llull’s and De la Torre’s narratives suggest that the Judeo-Andalusi “initiatory tale” survived in the Romance vernaculars of the Peninsula.
Fernández López notes that Pedro de Toledo’s Castilian translation of the Guide is the product of the larger intellectual milieu of the Mendoza family (Fernández López 2011, p. 41). The latter, including figures such as Gómez and Lorenzo Súarez de Figueroa, Iñigo de Mendoza, the Marqués de Santillana are important patrons and producers of early Spanish humanist scholarship. For Fernández López, Maimonides’ Guide conformed with certain humanist tendencies because in it Maimonides allegorizes a rational exegesis that reconciles Greek and Jewish thought (p. 41). While Pedro de Toledo’s translation of Maimonides’ Guide (Maimonides 1989) is roughly contemporary with De la Torre’s Visión, it seems the latter, if he did consult it, opted to either use his own translation of the passages he uses from the Guide, or that De la Torre was working from a different, as of yet unknown Castilian translation (Salinas Espinosa 1997, p. 37; Girón Negrón 2000, p. 45). While it is not clear that De la Torre used Pedro de Toledo’s translation, it is noteworthy that both of these converso intellectuals produced Maimonidean works in Castilian for Christian patrons within the larger milieu of the emerging humanism of the Iberian courts.
See (Tirosh-Samuelson 1998, 2003, pp. 20–21; Lobel 2017); and (Hamilton 2015, pp. 16–18, 110–13) for further discussion of the concept of ‘osher in the Jewish traditions. Al-Ghazālī penned a treatise about this happiness, The Alchemy of Happiness, in which he states, “happiness is necessarily linked with the knowledge of God. Seeing, then, that nothing is higher than God, how great must be the delight which springs from the true knowledge of Him!... In truth, man in this world is extremely weak and contemptible; it is only in the next that he will be of value, if by means of the “alchemy of happiness” he rises from the rank of beasts to that of angels.” (Al-Ghazālī 1909, pp. 30–32). The Arabic term ittihad (union) used to describe this state is also that used by Maimonides in the Guide 3.51 (Afterman 2016, p. 119).
(Rigo 2019, pp. 81–82). Di Segni, based on the use of vernacular terms, argues that this translation was made in either Spain or Italy (De Segni 2013, pp. cxi–cxxxiii). Rigo, though, notes that the marginalia in which these terms are found are not necessarily contemporary with the translation and do not necessarily reflect place of origin (Rigo 2019, pp. 84–85).
I cite García López’s edition, but include in italics this significant variant from the Hebrew aljamiado copy of MS Parma 2666.
In Beyond Faith, I discuss how and why the aljamiado copyist/s here substitute the concept of the profeta ángel for alpha et omega, a Christian concept and allusion to Christ (pp. 44–56).
Girón Negrón (2000, p. 138) discusses how Wisdom’s answer reflects Avicenna’s notion of human-angel relations. Corbin notes that Ibn Tufayl adopts Avicenna’s soteriology, which is based on this concept: “Human souls, or more precisely their twofold intellective power, are the ‘terrestrial angels’ that have issued from the Tenth Archangel; this twofold power gives them a structure similar to that of the angelic pair that rules each heaven, with the difference that, through the exercise of this twofold power, it depends upon them whether they become angels or demons in actu.” (p. 26).
See (Hamilton 2015, pp. 45–55).
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Hamilton, M.M. “El entendimiento con el qual me conoscan”: Intellectual Mysticism in the Visión Deleitable. Religions 2020, 11, 5. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11010005
Hamilton MM. “El entendimiento con el qual me conoscan”: Intellectual Mysticism in the Visión Deleitable. Religions. 2020; 11(1):5. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11010005Chicago/Turabian Style
Hamilton, Michelle M. 2020. "“El entendimiento con el qual me conoscan”: Intellectual Mysticism in the Visión Deleitable" Religions 11, no. 1: 5. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11010005