Sunday, March 7

Ibn Arabí, the master of the moment | Babelia

The philosopher Ibn Arabí, in a 19th century engraving.
The philosopher Ibn Arabí, in a 19th century engraving.getty images / Universal Images Group

A prolific genius and indefatigable traveler, Ibn Arabí was one of the great visionaries and mystics of all ages. Born to a Murcian father and a Berber mother, he grew up and was educated in Seville, but immediately gave himself up to an itinerant life in search of hidden teachers. Heir to Neoplatonism and Greco-Eastern syncretism, he naturally assumed the identification of angelic intelligences with planetary spheres, using both to explain the relationships between the Creator and what was created. She described, as Teresa of Avila would later do, the dwellings on that itinerary, the ten intelligences that mediate between divine unity and rough matter. And he anticipated Darwin in his description of the perfect continuity of species. A scale of beings in which the last mineral is the first vegetable (transition made by the truffle) and the last animal (the monkey) the first human. Arabí toured Al-Andalus and North Africa, visited Cairo and Jerusalem (one night in the desert he married the celestial stars) and, after two years of intense experiences in Mecca, he went to Baghdad, finally returning to Syria. , where he was established until his death in 1240. His glass tomb can be visited today in the crypt of a mosque in Damascus.

All trips are trips inland. As Ibn Arabí traveled the land and sea in search of divine signs, he also wandered the subtle geographies of the imagination. It is a common belief of Sufism that everything that exists is immersed in an infinite journey. Not only do planets move, so do creatures who, by breathing, insert their being into the divine itinerary. The origin of existence is movement and travel does not cease, whether in the higher or lower worlds. A sedentary lifestyle is an illusion, like that of a flat or static earth. The condition of creation is movement and love is its fuel. This trip can be of three types: since God, in God and toward God. The first is the journey of living, from the cradle to the grave. The second, that of the poets, characterized by lostness and perplexity (“if you are one of the brave, dive into my ocean and kiss me in the foam”). The third has two routes, that of faith and trust, which is terrestrial, and another more adventurous, maritime, which is that of understanding. Whichever you choose, the journey is endless and when you think you’ve reached your destination, a new horizon opens up.

In Abrahamic traditions, this journey is guided by a guardian angel. The essence of the trip is not so much will or effort as grace, an infused and unsought gift. Ibn Arabí describes one of them, night, happened in Fez. It is a horizontal journey through the elements (earth, fire, water and air) and through the animal, plant and mineral kingdoms. They are all divine manifestations, a kind of natural theophany that glorifies the divine in its own language. The hierarchy seems inverted: the plant is above the animal, as it is only moved by the search for light. Above it is the mineral. No creature higher than stone. The pebble symbolizes the most humble position, the supreme receptivity to divine influence.

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Vertical ascension, on the other hand, leads to the light of lights, to the divine understanding that orders the course of existence. It is called the Supreme Calamus (a hollow reed, cut obliquely, which serves as a feather), because with it the destiny of beings is written. Whoever manages to reach his destination becomes an eye through which God contemplates himself. The look that observes creation and pours out its grace. The idea is also found in India (knowledge that knows itself, says Śaṃkara). This confirms the prophecy: “I was a hidden treasure and I wanted to be known. I created the creatures so that they knew me and they did so ”. A self-knowledge that is continuously realized in the limitless mirrors of creation. Here he anticipates Leibniz: although the light of being is unique, each possible has its own ability to reflect it, since not all are equally polished. The gaze of the saint is essential to the destiny of the world. If God ceased to view his creation through her, the world would plunge into darkness. A look that at the same time protects us: in its absence the divine radiance would annihilate us.

The eighth climate

According to the Platonic myth, the upper part of the world houses, weightless, the immaterial realm of meanings. While the lower one is occupied by the sensible experience of the bodies. But the world is truly triune and between the two above Sufism places the imaginal world of souls. This interworld is not a fantasy world, it is an Imaginatio Vera: the reality of the symbol may be more incontestable than that of the mineral. Of the three worlds (understanding, imagination and sensation), the one in the middle is the axis of the cosmos, since it shares the virtues of the other two. Hence it is called fairy tale, hinge or meeting place, where bodies are spiritualized and spirits materialize. A heavenly land of spirit bodies. The three worlds, which Persian cosmology represents stratified in space, are in fact woven into the warp of time. They exert their influence here and now. Hence, whoever walks them receives the name of “owner of the moment.” The master of the moment is the one who attends to his original condition, the one who experiences the identity of the origin and the present.

La fugue de Dios has three voices, three perfectly integrated melodies. Faced with the musical magic of creation, the wise man is capable of following them and giving each one what corresponds to it: to the intellect, the abstractions; to the body, the sensations; and to the imaginal world, souls, which are saddlebags of images. These three voices sound in unison and are structured by the counterpoint of the here and now, spun by the intellect, vision and sensation. The power that metaphor has for the philosopher comes precisely from imaginal world (which protects from conceptual and material idols). A world, however, that would not be understood without the other two.

We move between archetypes of the Semitic world. The intermediate state, the bastard, it is the line that separates the shadow from the light, and also the transitional state after the death of the physical body. While the soul of the deceased dwells in this state, it remains confined in the form of its actions. As in Buddhism, every thought or action has its imaginal configuration and generates a “subtle body” that takes on autonomous life in the afterworld. Other bastard they are dreams, where imagination unites what reason separates, paradoxes are reconciled and opposites are integrated. This area provides the substance of the inner life. The spirit is luminous, simple and subtle, the body is dark, composed and dense, the soul is a mixture of both. The bastard It is also the home of symbols, whose laws only the “owners of the moment” know. It is called the eighth climate because it is beyond the seven known to geographers of Islam. A vast world that fits into a sesame seed and where imagination accesses where logic or perception cannot. Imagination is one of the limitless variations of the original light. But it is a special light, capable of seeing in the dark. Its contents are always truthful (the wrong thing, in any case, would be its interpretation).

Imagination is also the foundation of love and devotion. “When God created the earth from your body, he arranged within it a Kaaba, which is your heart.” There are many pages that Ibn Arabí dedicated to love, a sober love tempered by wisdom. As in Indian Tantrism, nothing in the world is vile. Any experience or emotion, including anger, attachment, or jealousy, has its roots in the divine. The mystique is usually antipuritan. Without imperfections, all cosmic movement is loving. The most serious disobedience is to ignore the rights of the heart, since the heart is the abode of which the divinity has reserved the privilege. Such ignorance is negligence in dealing with the supreme source. “Love is not hidden in the rose, but in the ability to smell its perfume. The creature is the nuptial bed where the divinity lies, the loving gasp of breath ”. The secret sap of life flows everywhere. There is nothing inert or mute. The stars, stones or flowers dialogue with each other, but only those who have purified themselves can hear their voices. Everything celebrates the praise of the Living One. And although the Supreme admits all affirmations and refutations, to say that it is the cause of the world is impolite (almost impertinence). He is not caused by anything and He is not the cause of anything, He is the creator of causes and effects. As in the upaniṣad, it is the ultimate subject of all experiences. And Arabí adds something that will please the poets: whoever remains in perplexity before the divine walks a circular path, but never departs from Him. Whereas those who insist on the direct route, ends up going off on a tangent.

The insistence on the imagination should not make us forget, as Fernando Mora points out, other theophanies beyond form. There is a light beyond images and it would be rash to say that all knowledge comes down to imagination. The imaginal is only one of the multiple places of encounter of the person with the divine. There are areas of immaculate luminosity that can only be captured by transforming oneself into light. This requires the death of the ego and the annihilation of ordinary consciousness. A state known as fanā‘, and that supposes a forgetting of oneself, the complete loss of anchors or reference points. An ecstasy, which does not depend on one’s own will (it is unpredictable and sudden), but exclusively on grace. An instant where what has never been (the ego) and what has never ceased to be (the origin) seem to come together. But it is one more illusion. To speak of mystical union is to suppose the existence of two independent entities and to believe in something detached from divine support would be the greatest folly. The mystic does not join anything, he simply “recognizes” (Abhinavagupta). The lover is confused with the beloved. The heart will be the meeting place of the divinity with itself, of the visible with the invisible. Hence this knowledge is called the science of the heart. The heart is like a mirror polished by detachment and recognition of the divine, capable of assuming the color of the images that are projected on it (an Indian metaphor that, throughout Persia, Leibniz will pick up). The water of divinity takes the shape of the heart vessel.

There is one final irony. Our finite condition demands that it is not Him who is recognized, but rather the God configured by our own beliefs (the vessel of each one). The sage will recognize the One under different masks, while the fanatic will believe that he is always presented in the same way. It is only possible to see what He reveals. God has no opposite, he is present in all creeds, but also absent in them, no description encompasses him. And the Andalusian teacher anticipates the last cosmic joke: on the day of the resurrection, God will present himself to each believer in a different way from the one cultivated by him, as proof of his commitment to the recreation of the mind and the exercise of ingenuity. Quite a poet.

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