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Guide for the Perplexed, by Moses Maimonides, Friedländer tr. [1904], at

p. 159


SCRIPTURE supports the theory that the spheres are animate and intellectual, i.e., capable of comprehending things: that they are not, as ignorant persons believe, inanimate masses like fire and earth, but are, as the philosophers assert, endowed with life, and serve their Lord, whom they mightily praise and glorify; comp. "The heavens declare the glory of God," etc. (Ps. xix. 2). It is a great error to think that this is a mere figure of speech: for the verbs "to declare" and "to relate," when joined together, are, in Hebrew, only used of intellectual beings. That the Psalmist really means to describe the heavens' own doing, in other words, what the spheres actually do, and not what man thinks of them, may be best inferred from the words, "There is no speech, nor language, their voice is not heard" (ver. 4). Here he clearly shows that he describes the heavens themselves as in reality praising God, and declaring His wonders without words of lip and tongue. When man praises God in words actually uttered, he only relates the ideas which he has conceived, but these ideas form the real praise. The reason why he gives expression to these ideas is to be found in his desire to communicate them to others, or to make himself sure that he has truly conceived them. Therefore it is said, "Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still" (Ps. iv. 5). Only ignorant or obstinate persons would refuse to admit this proof taken from Scripture.

As to the opinion of our Sages, I do not see any necessity for expounding or demonstrating it. Consider only the form they gave to the blessing recited on seeing the new moon, the ideas repeatedly occurring in the prayers and the remarks in the Midrash on the following and similar passages:--"And the host of heaven worshippeth thee" (Neh. ix. 6); "When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy" (Job xxxviii. 7). In Bereshit Rabba, on the passage--"And the earth was empty and formless" (Gen. i. 2), our Sages remark as follows: "The words tohu and bohu mean mourning and crying; the earth mourned and cried on account of her evil lot, saying, 'I and the heavens were created together, and yet the beings above live for ever, and we are mortal.'" Our Sages, by this remark, indicate their belief that the spheres are animated beings, and not inanimate matter like the elements.

The opinion of Aristotle, that the spheres are capable of comprehension and conception, is in accordance with the words of our prophets and our theologians or Sages. The philosophers further agree that this world below is governed by influences emanating from the spheres, and that the latter comprehend and have knowledge of the things which they influence. This theory is also met with in Scripture: comp. [the stars and all the host of heaven] "which the Lord thy God hath divided unto all nations" (Deut. iv. 19), that is to say, the stars, which God appointed to be the means of governing His creatures, and not the objects of man's worship. It has therefore been stated clearly: "And to rule over the day and over the night" (Gen. i. 18). The term "ruling" here refers to the power which the spheres possess of governing the earth, in addition to the property of giving light and darkness. The latter property is the direct cause of genesis and destruction; it is described in the words, "And to divide the light from the darkness (ibid.). It is impossible to assume that those who rule a thing are ignorant

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of that very thing which they rule, if we take "to rule" in its proper sense. We will add another chapter on this subject.

Next: Chapter VI