• Second Principle: You will understand, too, that those living within this hospice are guests. They are invited by their Generous Sustainer to the Abode of Peace.
• Third Principle: You will understand, further, that the adornments of this world are not simply for the sake of enjoyment or admiration. For if they yield pleasure for a time, they cause pain for a longer time with their cessation. They give you a taste and whet your appetite, but never satiate you. For either the life of the pleasure is short, or your life is short, too brief for you to become satiated. These adornments of high value and brief duration must, then, be for the sake of instruction in wisdom,1 for arousing gratitude, and for encouraging men to seek out the perpetual originals of which they are copies. They are, then, for other exalted goals beyond themselves.
• Fourth Principle: You will understand also that the adornments of this world2 are like samples and forms of the blessings stored up in Paradise by the mercy of the Compassionate One for the people of faith.
Now the lifespan of everything is short, although its value is high and the subtleties of its artistry are most exalted and beautiful. This implies that everything is only a sample, a form of something else, that it has the function of drawing the gaze of the customer to the authentic and original object. This being the case, it may be said that the variegated adornments of this world are the samples of the bounties of Paradise, prepared by the Compassionate and Merciful One for His beloved servants.
There are numerous purposes for the existence of everything, and numerous results flow from its being. These are not restricted to this world and to the souls of men, as the people of misguidance imagine, being thus lost in vanity and purposelessness. On the contrary, the purposes for the existence and the results of the lives of all things relate to the following three categories.
The first and the most exalted pertains to the Creator. It consists of presenting to the gaze of the Pre-Eternal Witness the bejewelled and miraculous wonders He has affixed to the object in question, as if in a military parade. To live for a fleeting second is enough to attain that glance. Indeed, the potentiality and intent for existence is enough, without ever emerging into life. This purpose is fully realized, for example, by delicate creatures that vanish swiftly and by seeds and kernels, each a work of art, that never come to life, that is, never bear fruit or flower. They all remain untouched by vanity and purposelessness. Thus the first purpose of all things is to proclaim, by means of their life and existence, the miracles of power and the traces of artistry of the Maker and display them to the gaze of the Glorious Monarch.
The second purpose of all existence and the result of all being pertains to conscious creation. Everything is like a truth-displaying missive, an artistic poem, or a wise word of the Glorious Maker, offered to the gaze of angels and jinn, of men and animals, and desiring to be read by them. It is an object for the contemplation and instruction of every conscious being that looks upon it.
The third purpose of all existence and result of all being pertains to the soul of the thing itself, and consists of such minor consequences as the experience of pleasure and joy, and living with some degree of permanence and comfort. If we consider the purpose of a servant employed as a steersman on some royal ship, we see that only one hundredth of that purpose relates to the steersman himself, the wage he receives; ninty-nine hundredths of the purpose relate to the king who owns the ship. A similar relation exists between the purpose of a thing related to its own self and its worldly existence, and its purpose related to its Maker. In the light of this multiplicity of purposes we can now explain the ultimate compatibility between divine wisdom and economy on the one hand, and divine liberality and generosity —in fact, infinite generosity— on the other hand, even though they appear to be opposites and contradictory. In the individual purposes of things, liberality and generosity predominate, and the Name of Most Generous is manifested. From the point of view of individual purpose, fruits and grains are indeed beyond computation, and they demonstrate infinite generosity. But in universal purposes, wisdom predominates, and the name of All-Wise is manifested. However many purposes a tree has, each of its fruits contains that many purposes, and these can be divided into the three categories we have established. Their universal purposes demonstrate an infinite wisdom and economy. Infinite wisdom and infinite generosity and liberality are thus combined, despite their apparent opposition. For example, one of the purposes for raising an army is the maintenance of order. Whatever troops are available for the purpose will suffice or be more than enough. But the whole army will be barely enough for other purposes such as protecting the national frontiers and repelling enemies; its size will be in perfect balance with utter wisdom. Thus the wisdom of the state will be joined to its splendour, and it can be said that there is no excess in the army.