Not trapped in one belief

From Kernel of the Kernel, by Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi

Chapter 1

One of the special matters that Ibn ‘Arabi wants to explain in his Futuhat al-Makkiyah is this: “If a gnostic is really a gnostic he cannot stay tied to one form of belief.”

That is to say, if a possessor of knowledge is cognizant of the being in his own ipseity, in all its meanings, he will not remain trapped in one belief. He will not decrease his circle of belief. He is like materia prima and will accept whatever form he is presented with. These forms being external, there is no change to the kernel in his interior universe.

The knower of God, whatever his origin is, remains like that. He accepts all kinds of beliefs, but does not remain tied to any figurative belief. Whatever his place is in the Divine Knowledge, which is essential knowledge, he remains in that place; knowing the kernel of all belief he sees the interior and not the exterior. He recognizes the thing, whose kernel he knows, whatever apparel it puts on, and in this matter his circle is large. Without looking at whatever clothing they appear under in the exterior he reaches into the origin of those beliefs and witnesses them from every possible place.

Both the worlds are by the revelation of God.
Look upon the Beauty of Truth from whichever side you want.

A hadith explains like this: When people destined for Paradise reach their stations, the Lord offers a glimpse by parting a little the curtain which hides His Greatness and Grandeur, and says: “I am your most great Lord.” That is to say, I am that great God whom for years you have yearned and pined to see. This revelation of God astonishes them and they deny it and they say “Never could you be our Lord,” and saying this they rant and rave. At that moment the revelation changes three times and each time they again deny. Then God asks them: ‘Is there an indication among you concerning your Lord!’ and they answer “Yes, there is.” Then He appears to each one according to the degree and ability of understanding of each one’s supposition and belief. After this revelation they accept and say, “You are our Lord, the greatest of the greatest.” Accordingly the hadith: “You will be looking at your Lord as if at the full moon and will be lost in ecstasy.” In spite of it being like this, the people of gnosis definitely affirm God during the first revelation because they have appropriated all the beliefs, and have gained aptitude for all revelations.

They who see their beloved today
Are the ones who see tomorrow.
What will they know of the beloved there,
They who are of the blind here?

Indeed, in the Holy Quran it is said thus: “The person who is blind in this world is also blind in the other,” which means: he who has not opened his eye of meaning here will be in the same way blind when he has moved to the other world. Consequently, he will not be able to see the Divine Revelation (when it is first presented to him). What we beg for from God is this that He may preserve all His servants from a belief which goes no further than imitation and pretence.

Here a certain question arises: how does the person who has the aptitude for the state of gnosis understand his own reality! It is answerable in this way: It is necessary that he finds a gnostic who knows his own self and after he has found him, from the bottom of his heart, and with all his soul, make his character to be his character. The person of gnosis, to find his own origin, should hold on to this way and the following Quranic verse points to this meaning: “Search for the means that will take you to Him.” The explanation of this may be as follows: There are of My servants those who have found Me. If you want to find Me follow in their footsteps. They become a means for you and they finally lead to Me. If this is so then by serving those people, a person comes to know himself. He will understand whence he came and where he is going and he will have an inkling of the station of the present state.

A hadith explains the purpose of coming into this world thus: “I was a hidden treasure and I loved to be known, and I created the creation so that I be known.” This order is like this but to know God is not an easy matter, until one becomes a knower of one’s self.

The following hadith explains: “He who knows himself knows his Lord.” The opposite is also so and this the people of that state understand. Many people of the elite or commoners give different meanings to this hadith as much as their intelligence allows them. God willing, a meaning will be expressed at the level of the elite. However, at this station seven different forms have been noticed, which will be expounded below.

First Form

If a person in his body understands the partial spirit in his form which may be called the speaking self (nafsi-n nâtiqa), if that person’s state is like this, he is in the first form. This station is called the station of progress. According to the people of Union, self, heart, spirit, intellect, mystery all mean the same thing. These different names are given to the same thing which takes different forms at different times.

This thing known as the speaking self has neither life nor body but has influence and action outside and inside the body, yet it has neither place nor a sign of existence. Though it has no special location, when ever you put your finger on something it is there and it appears there existent in all its totality. Furthermore, division, partition and things of this sort are not possible for it. It is that which holds in the man’s hand, which looks in his eye, which speaks in his tongue, which walks in his foot, which hears in his ear, and in short is present and in control in all his feelings.

It is totally and essentially present in every part of the body, and having circumscribed the whole body, it is transcendent and free from every part of the body. If a finger or a foot were to be cut off, it would suffer no diminution, nor does it lose any part of itself. In any case, it is at its centre as it was always, and remains permanent and present. If the body is annihilated it suffers neither loss of existence nor dispersion. To be able to understand this there are meanings which do not fit into any limit or calculation.

Second Form

Let the one who is in this second form look to the horizons. That is, let him look at the horizons where the Total Self is. . . This is called Intellect, the Qualified Total Spirit, Viceregent. It has no bodily shape and it is not even outside this universe and its heavens, but is englobes all existents and therein it is present and in control. In relation to it, highest top and the bottom of the bottom are the same. It is present in every one of those degrees with its own ipseity. It cannot be parcelled or partitioned. If the skies fell in and the earth shattered, nothing would happen to it.

For example, what difference does it make to the sun and how does it suffer though it enters every tower, palace or house that is built in the world. However, each chimney, room or hall receives light from it according to its window. Just as if those houses were to fall down and the palaces be ruined, nobody would imagine anything would happen to the sun, equally nothing would happen to it. No matter how many people or creatures God has created, He can have determination in, and control over, all of them. No matter how many die from among those that are alive that Qualified Spirit remains present forever and in whatever state it was.

Thus the one who possesses that spirit, when he looks at the horizons, if he knows these states, will understand what the second form is.

Third Form

In this station man receives further developments and sees what is called his partial spirit to be non-existent and annihilated in the Total Spirit, and he comes alive in the Qualified Spirit.

Let him observe that the spirit is the Total Spirit, and that the intellect is the Total Intellect, and observe this with the certainty of the Truth (haqqu-l yaqin) and then throw away from himself anything called ‘partial’. Let him understand that everything is tied to the Total. Thus is the third form.

Fourth Form

Then . . . let him continue to ascend in this station. Let him find his spirit annihilated in the Qualified Spirit. And now let him see that the Qualified Spirit is annihilated in the Ipseity of God. Let him be liberated both from the partials and the totals. When this happens to him he sees all businesses annihilated in the acts of God, all Names and Qualities annihilated in the Name and Quality of God, and equally, all ipseities annihilated in the Ipseity of God, and he sees them as non-existent. When he is secure in this then he has reached what is known as closeness through Knowledge (‘ilmu-l yaqîn) and closeness through Truth (haqqu-l yaqîn) and he reaches the station of complete witnessing.

Under the cloak of the existents there is nothing other than Him: he comes to know the meanings in this through the interior, and also, having acquired an understanding of the meaning of the Quranic quotation: “Today, to whom does everything belong? To God, the One and Complete Annihilator,” he knows certainly that in the interior, there is nothing other than God.

Up to now we have mentioned four forms. These can also be called as follows:

1.  Enfus – Interior
2.  Âfâq – Horizons, outside existence
3.  The union of the first and second forms
4.  The annihilation of the first, second and third forms in the Ipseity of God.

Fifth Form

This is such a station that here every station that has been mentioned before should be seen and observed as one. The person who has reached this station is often referred to as Son of Time (ibnu-l waqt).

Sixth Form

The person who has reached this station is a mirror for everything. The traveller in this station finds on his road no one else but himself and thinks of everything as tied to himself. He says: “Inside my cloak there is nothing but God. Could there by anybody else in the two worlds except me?” That is, he is a mirror to everything and everything is mirrored in him. Perhaps, even, also he is the shine of the mirror and what is reflected. He was before this the Son of Time and he used to say: “There is no other existence but God.” When he has found this station he will say: “There is only ‘I’”, and he is often referred to as the Father of Time (abu-l waqt).

Seventh Form

The man who comes to this station is now in complete annihilation. Completely and simply he has reached non­existence, and from now on in subsistence (baqâ’) he reaches subsistence (baqâ’). After this one would not speak of him as having state or station. He has here neither observation nor witnessing nor gnosis, and the explanation or interpretation of these is not possible because this place is a station of complete non-existence. Even the word station is used here only to explain because the person here knows of neither station nor sign. Only those with taste understand through taste. May God make this state easy for us.

When the gnostic has reached this station he is in the universe of Oneness and Collectivity ( ‘alemi jam’). If it is necessary for him to separate from here he is adorned with a Divine existence. He knows his reality and consequently comprehends God, and then he is no more tied to any of the laws, regulations, beliefs that we understand in the exterior. This is what one wanted explained, and the meaning desired was this.

Without being I did not find the road to that Truth;
There I became alive with the Truth; I found subsistence (baqa’).
Myself I annihilated myself; Myself I found myself again.
You will be all when you make nothing of yourself

At last the gnostic understands that whether it be in the enfus or whether it be in the âfâq whatever is manifested is the Ipseity; that existence is One Existence, One Soul, One Body; it is neither separated nor individuated; that everything in immanence is nothing other than His Manifestation and Tools; that from every particle or stem to the greatest mass, God (al haqq) is manifested with all His Qualities and Names, and that this manifestation is according to the understanding and belief of each person. In each place and in each station He shows a different face.

He is able to show His Being either within or without; that which is in the image of everything, that which is understandable in every intellect, the meaning that is in every heart, the thing heard in every ear, the eye that sees in every eye, is Him. . .   If He is manifest in this face he is also looking from the other.

The meaning of these again refers to the sentence at the beginning. The demander and the demanded, the lover and the beloved, the believer and the belief, is the same for the gnostic. All this comes to mean that for the gnostic to be tied to any aspect which is to be according to any one belief is not allowed.

Several blind people were gathered in a place. They began to discuss a matter: “We wonder if we could see an elephant.” The keeper of the elephants took them to the elephant house. Each one found a part of the elephant and held on to it – some to the ear, some to the foot, some to the belly, some to the trunk. After having known the elephant in this fashion, they began to argue among themselves. The one who clung to the leg of the elephant said the elephant was like a column. The one that held the ear said the elephant was like a napkin, and the one who knew the elephant by its belly said it was like a barrel. In short, whatever member they held on to they knew the elephant like that part; their beliefs were such.

The person who has belief through imitation is in this state, he clings onto something definite and remains there. In that dimensional state they remain imprisoned.

Whoever remains in prison in the definite dimension
Will be totally saddened when laid out in the earth.

Whatever may happen the gnostic will not be caught up in one definite belief because he is wise unto himself. This we have explained above.

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