In reading Henry Corbin’s book, Alone with the Alone, I am being introduced to Sufism in the writings of Ibn Arabi. I can feel its influence seeping into the layers of my being, radiating with joy for yet one more way to understand the nature of myself and the Cosmos. Tom Cheetham says in a lecture on Corbin, that his work is dense (and it is), but to just keep reading because even bit by bit an understanding of the work will appear. The book is probably too dense for me to write about, for the time being anyway, but…
I found a fairly brief, yet very concise article on Ibn Arabi and wanted to share a few quotes with you:
“What we experience of the One Being, which is Absolutely Real in Itself, are the various modalities of It’s expression. In other words, there is only One Presence throughout the Cosmos and that is God, The Absolute, but this Presence makes Itself known to us in different ways, which are called the Names of God.”
Can you see the world as God’s mirror and that God’s pathos (here meaning a sadness, or burning desire to be known) necessitates a creation into an infinite array of parts, the Names of God, whose purpose is for God to know God through the repetition of physical manifestation? I think I can.
Years ago, I experienced one of those magical moments that comes while staring out into the starry night. I wondered if it might be that God had created us to know Himself. Heresy to some, I suppose.
Ibn Arabi saw the cosmos as emanating from and filtering down from God through very distinct modes of being. From the indivisible Whole that God is, through intermediaries; the angelic beings can be experienced by us here in the physical manifestation through visionary states experienced through the practice of prayer.
It would take some time to delve deeper here, but this is not as some suggest, a simple pantheism, but is a way to understand, or perhaps as Sufis do, experience the modes of being emanating down from the Undivided Wholeness of God into the physical manifestation that we inhabit. The cosmos is expressed at four levels or modes of being, the highest level being God who is all levels at once; an undivided whole that we can never completely reach from the level of physical manifestation that we experience. Leveling up from the physical manifestation are angelic beings which are both our guides and a truer more purer form of ourselves whom we meet through the imagination and the heart. Our relationship to these angelic beings reveals to us deeper and deeper meanings of what we experience in the physical world always pointing us to modes of being beyond themselves, and ultimately to the ever mysterious beauty and love of the undivided wholeness of God.
For me, the different ways we humans have found to understand the world, speak to an intuition of mine that ultimately there is a unified whole that each of us not only participates in, but can directly experience for ourselves. The more directly we can experience this wholeness, for ourselves, in spite of seemingly irreconcilably conflicted religious and spiritual practices, or cultural differences, the more likely we are to move away from literalizing these differences into claims of unquestionable dogmas and truths, choosing instead to participate more fully in the embodied life we all share.
The article is really good and will do a much better job than I at presenting an amazing vision of the nature of the cosmos.
“For Ibn al-`Arabi, this fana and baqa, this death and resurrection, is endless. It never ends, because the Sufi must give himself up every single moment, which is the true meaning of Islam, surrender to God. It is state of perpetual bewilderment or perplexity, because the Sufi surrenders everything known about himself and the world, so to awaken to the reality as it reveals itself in this unique moment. It is a continual loss and re-discovery of identity. This parallels Ibn al-`Arabi’s view that the universe is annihilated and re-created every moment in time. Man does not become God, nor does God come into man, but man realizes God immanent, or God reveals His Immanence through man. There is no coming or going to, because there has never been a separation. This is why Ibn al-`Arabi speaks of the unveiling of God and the awakening of man.”
And he also wrote wonderful poems:
A garden among the flames
a garden among the flames!
My heart can take on
a meadow for gazelles,
a cloister for monks,
For the idols, sacred ground,
Ka’ba for the circling pilgrim,
the tables of the Torah,
the scrolls of the Qur’án.
I profess the religion of love;
wherever its caravan turns along the way,
that is the belief,
the faith I keep.