Angelic Causality:
Ikhwan al Safa and Angels of Saturn

angel of death



The Ikhwan al Safa "the Brethren of Purity" were a 9th or 10th century AD group of Islamic mystics who composed the Rasā'il Ikhwān al-ṣafā' the "Epistles of the Brethren of Purity" which is an encyclopedic compendium of esoteric knowledge in 52 epistles. While their identities are secret, they were believed to be influenced by Sufi and Ismaili traditions and are linked to the Harranian Sabians and the Picatrix.

The section below was translated by Adam Golanski from the German translation of the Ghayat al Hakim "The Path of the Wise" aka the Arabic Picatrix. The passages discusses interconnection of the celestial and terrestial and thus the Macrocosmic causality through the angels/daimons (literally rūḥāniyyāt) of Saturn.

While there are many different models for causality in traditional sources, moderns, under the sway of atheistic/materialism gravitate to materialist causality, like Ptolemy's elemental model, which explained celestial influence through hot/cold and wet/dry or Al-Kindi's spiritual rays. Here we have a very explicit explication of traditional causality through spiritual beings.

The Ikhwan al Safa on the Angels of Saturn

arabic saturn

The Sphere (ḍā'ira) of Saturn. From it emanate spiritual entities (rūḥāniyyāt) that permeate the entire world, the spheres and elements (arkān), the 'Mothers' and the realms of nature. Through them, the cohesion of forms in the hyle (matter) is effected; they give things their heaviness and weight, their stillness and slowness.

Their place in the human body is the spleen and the black bile that flows from it into the body; and through this arise parts of the body, such as bones, tendons, skin, and the solidification of fluids. Among their effects are coldness and dryness. Among animals, those that are black in color and of unsightly appearance belong to it; similarly, among plants.

Among minerals, lead and pitch and everything that has a black color and a foul smell belong to it; and among the earth, the black mountains, dark valleys, rugged paths, and desolate, terrifying wildernesses; and in the world of man, everything that possesses these characteristics. The deeds of these spiritual entities include death and the cessation of movement.

And the angels that disperse from him throughout the world are characterized by the effects and deeds that manifest and emerge from them, so that through these actions, the disobedient souls and the heedless spirits suffer tormenting punishment; and these are erased books and overturned images. The effects of his spirit in the world are coldness and dryness; and the angels who descend to take away the life spirits and cause the death of bodies are set over the hours of the night and day.

Their number is such that no one counts them except the Exalted God, and they ride on black steeds, and before them rides an angel with a black flag in his hand, on which is written: 'There is no god but God, who determines night and day and sets darkness and light...'.

Of the regions of the earth, the decayed places, the isolated spots, the high mountains, and the rugged paths belong to him (Saturn). They (the spiritual entities) are the inhabitants of the decayed places of the earth, and through them, the pegs of the earth remain firm and cohesive; without them, its parts would disperse, mix with water, and float in the seas.

These angels are appointed over them to hold them firm with God's permission. The philosophers call them the spiritual entities (rūḥāniyyāt) of Saturn, and the sacred law (namūs) calls them angels, hosts, and instruments (a'wān), and they are entrusted with the task of taking away the life spirits, and the Angel of Death belongs to them.