Man’s nature is replete with desires, whims, fancies and passions. These, per se, are neither good nor evil. In fact, the balanced existence of man makes the presence of such desires, passions etc. necessary.
But these elements acquire the quality of good or evil depending upon the state of the ʿaql vis-a-vis the influence these elements bring to bear upon it. When the influence is within bounds the elements are good and, alternatively, when the equilibrium is disturbed, the process of evil and degeneration in man is set afoot.
The eternal conflict that rages between ʿaql and the passions within man is dealt with by the author in this couplet. If ʿaqi is overpowered, caprice will ride roughshod culminating in ʿaql stumbling with disastrous consequences to man. Caprice will, as tyrant, influence man’s every decision. That is why ʿaql needs constant care and guidance and the protection of the ‘radiant grace.’
In this way alone is ʿaql safe from being overpowered. By itself it is helpless. Constantly it is in need of surveillance and assistance. ʿAql, being provided with the capacity of discrimination, is able to weigh, consider and decide. The discriminating capacity, if used in the manner already earlier laid down, enables ʿaql to fight its way towards the goal of highest perfection. ʿAql is correctly provided and the proper guidance has been indicated. It is now open to ʿaql to exercise its power of discrimination and decide its own fate. This freedom is at the same time the fundamental weakness attaching to ʿaql. For, caprice can overpower and then the capacity of ʿaql to exercise discrimination falters. The original, pure and unblemished light is shut out and instead polluted light is allowed to pour in. The power of discrimination of ʿaql becomes warped and man gropes and fumbles in direct proportion to the degree of erroneous discrimination indulged in.
This verse also gives us the clue, that ʿaql by itself, without the intervention of a foreign source does not and in fact cannot exercise discrimination. The play of light from outside, the ‘radiant grace’ conditions ʿaql and then and only then does its capacity for discrimination operate. We see therefore, that the power of discrimination relates only to the capacity of ʿaql to choose the proper master. Whom it chooses and why it so chooses will depend on its conditioning, training and discipline.