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The Secrets of the Self, by Muhammad Iqbal, tr. by Reynold A. Nicholson, [1920], at

p. 56


To the effect that Plato, whose thought has deeply influenced the mysticism and literature of Islam, followed the sheep's doctrine, and that we must be on our guard against his theories1

Plato, the prime ascetic and sage,
Was one of that ancient flock of sheep.

p. 57

His Pegasus went astray in the darkness of philosophy
And galloped over the mountains of Being.
He was so fascinated by the Ideal 635
That he made head, eye, and ear of no account.
"To die," said he, "is the secret of Life:
The candle is glorified by being put out."
He dominates our thinking,
His cup sends us to sleep and takes the world away from us. 640
He is a sheep in man's clothing,
The soul of the Sufi bows to his authority.
He soared with his intellect to the highest heaven,
He called the world of phenomena a myth.
’Twas his work to dissolve the structure of Life 645

p. 58

And cut the bough of Life's fair tree asunder.
The thought of Plato regarded loss as profit,
His philosophy declared that being is not-being.
His nature drowsed and created a dream,
650 His mind's eye created a mirage.
Since he was without any taste for action,
His soul was enraptured by the non-existent.
He disbelieved in the material universe
And became the creator of invisible Ideas.
655 Sweet is the world of phenomena to the living spirit,
Dear is the world of Ideas to the dead spirit:
Its gazelles have no grace of movement,
Its partridges are denied the pleasure of walking daintily.

p. 59

Its dewdrops are unable to quiver,
Its birds have no breath in their breasts, 660
Its seed does not desire to grow,
Its moths do not know how to flutter.
Our philosopher had no remedy but flight:
He could not endure the noise of this world.
He set his heart on the glow of a quenchèd flame 665
And depicted a world steeped in opium.
He spread his wings towards the sky
And never came down to his nest again.
His phantasy is sunk in the jar of heaven:
I know not whether it is the dregs or the bricks. 1 670
The peoples were poisoned by his intoxication:
He slumbered and took no delight in deeds.


56:1 The direct influence of Platonism on Moslem thought has been comparatively slight. When the Moslems began to study Greek philosophy, they turned to Aristotle. The genuine writings of Aristotle, however, were not accessible to them. They studied translations of books passing under his name, which were the work of Neoplatonists, so that what they believed to be Aristotelian doctrine was in fact the philosophy of Plotinus, Proclus, and the later Neoplatonic school. Indirectly, therefore, Plato has profoundly influenced the intellectual and spiritual development of Islam and may be called, if not the father of Mohammedan mysticism, at any rate its presiding genius.

59:1 I.e. it is worthless in either case. The egg-shaped wine jar is supported by bricks in order to keep it in an upright position.

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