BaḤya

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BAḤYA

BAḤYA (Pseudo ), name given to the author of the Neoplatonic work Kitāb Maʿānī al-Nafs ("On the Essence of the Soul," Ar. version ed. by I. Goldziher, 1902; translated into Heb. by I.D. Broydé, 1896), at one time attributed to *Baḥya ibn Paquda. Nothing is known of the author. It appears that Pseudo-Baḥya wrote this work sometime between the middle of the 11th and the middle of the 12th centuries, since he cites *Avicenna and *Nissim ben Jacob who lived in the first half of the 11th century, but gives no indication that he was influenced by the late 12th-century developments in Islamic and Jewish philosophy.

On the Essence of the Soul presents the structure of the universe as a hierarchy of ten emanations created by God. These emanations are the active intellect, soul of the universe, nature, matter, bodies of the spheres, stars, fire, air, water, and earth. Each emanation is dependent on its predecessor for the divine power necessary to activate it. From the ten emanations are formed the composite substances of the sensual world to which the soul must descend. Criticizing the naturalist position that the soul is an accident of the body, the author maintains that the rational soul is spiritual, a product of the soul of the universe. While passing through each emanation in its descent, the soul acquires "outer garments" of impurities until it finally reaches earth and is embodied in man. Different degrees of impurity depending on the length of the soul's stay in each of the emanations through which it descends provide the differences between souls, which, however, are all similar in essence. Once it inheres in a body, the rational soul unites with the lower vegetative and animal souls, and it loses its original suprasensual knowledge. In order to reverse this process and ascend to the spiritual source from which it derived, the rational soul must purify itself by cultivating virtue and by governing the lower souls.

The author bases the immortality of the soul after death on the fact that all things composed of elements return back to their elements. Hence the soul returns to its origin, which is the spiritual soul of the universe, by means of an ascent which the soul can make once it has attained moral and intellectual perfection. Souls possessing only moral perfection can rise to an earthly paradise where they can acquire the knowledge necessary for their ascent to the suprasensual world. Souls possessing only intellectual perfection or no perfection at all are doomed to their earthly surroundings. As a part of their punishment these souls strive unsuccessfully to ascend to the suprasensual world. There is no direct evidence of the work having had any influence in medieval Jewish philosophy and it is not cited by other critics.

bibliography:

A. Borrisov, in: Bulletin of the Academy of Sciences of ussr, Class of Humanities (Rus., 1929), 785–99; 41 (1897), 241–56; Husik, Philosophy, 106–13; Guttmann, Philosophies, 124–7.

[David Geffen]