Episode 53: The Alchemy of Happiness
In this episode Christopher and Riley introduce Abu Hamid al-Ghazali and the most accessible abridged translation of one of his most beloved works, The Alchemy of Happiness, itself an abridgment by al-Ghazali of his magnum opus, The Revival of the Religious Sciences. Known as “The Proof of Islam,” Al-Ghazali is the second most important figure in the Islamic tradition after the Prophet Muhammad, and the most important theologian and mystic of Islam. He is also an acknowledged intellectual influence of perhaps the most important theologian in the Christian tradition, St. Thomas Aquinas. In The Alchemy of Happiness, al-Ghazali gives us a typology of the soul of man as possessing a set of divine attributes that both connect us to the base instincts of animals and yet set us apart as God’s crowning act of creation. Al-Ghazali commends spiritual discipline to his disciples, while cautioning that the checklist of command-keeping alone only brings us to the threshold of mystical communion with God. For Latter-day Saints, interested in “truth, wherever we may find it”, one could not do much better than Al-Ghazali.