Alfarabi (ca. 870–950 C.E.)
An adept of remarkable gifts with an extensive knowledge
of all the sciences. Born at Othrar (then called Faral) in Asia
Minor, he was named Abou-Nasr-Mohammed-Ibn-Tarkaw, but
he was better known as Farabi, or Alfarabi, from the town of his
birth. Though he was of Turkish extraction, he desired to perfect
himself in Arabic, so he went to Baghdad and studied the
Greek philosophers under Abou Bachar Maltey. He next
stayed for a time in Hanan, where he learned logic from a
Christian physician. Having far surpassed his fellow scholars,
he left Hanan and drifted at last to Egypt. During his wanderings
he came in contact with the learned philosophers of his
time, and he wrote books on philosophy, mathematics, astronomy,
and other sciences, acquiring proficiency in 70 languages.
His treatise on music, proving the connection of sound with atEncyclopedia
of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Alfarabi
27
mospheric vibrations and mocking the Pythagorean theory of
the music of the spheres, attained some celebrity.
He gained the goodwill and patronage of the sultan of Syria
in a somewhat curious fashion. While passing through Syria he
visited the court of the sultan, who was at that moment discussing
abstruse scientific points with doctors and astrologers. Alfarabi
entered in his stained and dusty traveling attire (he had
been on a pilgrimage to Mecca), and when the sultan bade him
be seated, he, either unaware of or indifferent to the etiquette
of court life, sat down boldly on a corner of the royal sofa. The
monarch, unused to such informality, spoke in a little-known
tongue to a courtier, and asked him to remove the presumptuous
philosopher. The latter, however, astonished him by replying
in the same language ‘‘Sire, he who acts hastily, in haste
repents.’’
The sultan, interested in his unconventional guest, questioned
him and learned of the accomplishments of Alfarabi.
The sages who were present were also astounded at his wide
learning. When the prince eventually called for some music, Alfarabi
accompanied the musicians on a lute with such marvelous
skill and grace that the entire company was charmed.
The sultan wished to keep such a valuable philosopher at his
court, and some say that Alfarabi accepted his patronage and
died peacefully in Syria. Others maintain that he informed the
sultan that he would never rest till he had discovered the secret
of the Philosophers’ Stone, which he believed himself on the
verge of finding. They say that he set out but was attacked and
killed by robbers in the woods of Syria.

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