A Little Sufi Sampler About (The Perfect Man) and Mirrors
Sun-bells of light reflecting upon the water. Picture at Pixabay.
Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is a little Sufi Sampler about (the Perfect Man) and Mirrors. As an echo of our preceding post featuring excerpts from Chapter II of the HUAINANZI developing very similar concepts. The closeness is baffling but not surprising, as there are viable correspondences between Daoism and Sufism.
Toshihiko Izutsu, in his trail-blazing study,’ Sufism and Daoism. A comparative Study of Key Philosophical Concepts’, University of California Press, 1984, says: ‘The dominant motive running through the entire work is the desire to open a new vista in the domain of comparative philosophy and mysticism. A good starting point for such a comparison is provided by the fact that both world-views (Sufism and Daoism) are based on tow pivots, the Absolute and the Perfect Man. In Ibn Arabi’s system, the Absolute is called ‘haqq’ (Truth or Reality) and the Perfect Man is called ‘insan al kamil’ meaning literally ‘perfect man’. In Daoism, the Absolute is ‘dao’ and the Perfect Man. is ‘sheng ren’ (聖人, Sacred Man or Saint). A whole system of ontological thought being developed in each case between these two poles.’
Izutsu. Page 260/61.
“…’That you worship God as if you saw Him’. God is always in the direction towards which man prays. This is why such a man is a witness.” (Fuşuş al-Hikam)
Being a witness (shahid) in this passage means, in Ibn Arabi’s interpretation, the spiritual state in which a man ‘witnesses’, i.e., is present by his heart to the ontological plane of Imagination. It is a state at which the heart of a ‘knower’ perceives in sensible imagery some of the things that properly belong to the world of the Unseen. The heart of a ‘knower’, when he reaches this stage, finds itself in the world of Imagination and begins to witness in images various states of affairs of the invisible world.
It is worthy of notice that towards the end of the passage just quoted, Ibn Arabi, referring to the famous tradition about ‘ihsan’, draws attention to the expression: “..That you worship Him as if you saw him” In Ibn Arabi’s interpretation, this describes the lowest and weakest degree of the ‘witnessing’ here in question. It is the lowest and weakest degree of the mental presence in the ontological plane of Imagination, for it is said: “As if you saw Him”. As the very wording of this phrase indicates, man is not yet actually seeing God. There is as yet no actual vision. Man only acts as if he had a real vision.
But when the heart of the ‘knower’ becomes strengthened and mounts a step higher, the object of the ‘witnessing’ becomes visible to the internal, spiritual eye (başirah), through as yet no vision occurs to his physical eye.
As the ‘knower’ goes up to the next degree, the object becomes visible to both his physical and his spiritual eye. And if he still goes up and reaches finally the ultimate and highest stage, the one who ‘witnesses’ and the object ‘witnessed’ becomes completely unified. At this stage it is no longer the human heart that ‘witnesses’ its object; but it is the Absolute itself ‘witnessing’ itself in itself. And this is the stage of the ‘saint’ (waliy)/
Thus, when a man ‘wakes up’, and rises to the highest degrees of ‘saintship’, he begins to witness an extraordinary phenomenon, for his spiritual eye is now open to the reality of what we have described earlier under the title ‘new creation’.
“In the eye of the real ‘knower, the Absolute (in whatever form it may appear) remains always the ‘recognized’ one which is never denied. The people who recognized the same Absolute under all phenomenal forms in the present world will do exactly the same in the Hereafter.
This is why God (speaking of a man of this kind) says: “for whomever has a heart (qalb)” for such a man knows the constant changing of the Absolute in various forms; he knows this judging by the fact his ‘heart’ is constantly changing from one form to another.
Thus such a man comes to know his own ‘self’ through (the knowledge of the constant transformation of ) himself. (And from this he obtains the real knowledge about the Absolute, for) his own ‘self’ is nothing other than the He-ness of the Absolute, (and his knowledge thus obtained is easily extended to everything because) everything in the world of Being, whether present or future, is nothing other than the He-ness of the Absolute; indeed, everything is the He-ness itself“. (Fuşuş al-Hikam)
A real ‘knower’ who knows his ‘heart’ (qalb) sees with his own inner eye how it changes constantly and transform itself (qalb or taqal-lub) at every moment in a myriad of modes and states. He knows at the same time that his ‘heart’ is the only thing in the whole world whose inner structure he can know through introspection. But he us well aware also that all other things must be exactly of the same structure as his ‘heart’. Thus a man knows his own ‘heart’ from inside knows also the Absolute as it goes on transforming itself moment after moment in all the possible forms of the world.’
Izutsu. Page 266.
‘Saintship’ comes into existence only on the basis of the experience of ‘self-annihilation’ and wide indeed is the consciousness of the Saint who has passed through such an experience. For he witnesses the astonishing scene of all things merging into the limitless ocean of the Divine Life, and he is conscious that all this is actually taking place in himself. At the very height of this spiritual state, the consciousness of the Saint is identical with the Divine Consciousness which has not yet begun to become split into an infinity of ‘determinations’ (ta’ayynnat). Such a man is the highest ‘knower’. And such a man naturally falls into deep silence (sukut), because the content of the deepest knowledge is ineffable.’
Shayk Tosun Bayrak, from his English translation of Ibn Arabi, ‘Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom’, Fons Vitae, 1997. Afterword, page 259/60.
‘Many Sufis believe that to be able to realize unity of the self, one must obliterate the manifestations of the many ‘Is’ in oneself-in fact, one must deny them existence. Through intensive worship, fasting, meditation, and refusing the desires of the flesh, they attempt to submit their will to the will of God, and to purify their behavior and habits. All this discipline and effort is built on the assumption that these many ‘Is’ that one is trying to give up, actually exist. Yet there is no ‘I’ other than God. There is nothing but He. How can one manage to give up something that never was? The only way to know your Lord is by knowing your nonexistence.
Man is nothing but a mirror where God’s attributes are reflected. He is the one who sees Himself on that mirror. He is the only one who knows Himself. Neither the prophets, nor the angels, nor a perfect human being can know him. When we recognize our nothingness and God’s totality, we attain the full scope of our knowledge of Him.’
Jalāl al-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī. Mesnevi, I-3153-3154.
“...Love wills that this word be cast forth,
If the mirror does not reflect, how is that so?
Do you know why your mirror reflects nothing?
Because the rust has not become cleansed from its face.”
“For they are a mirror for the soul, and better than a mirror;
Breasts polished by invocation and meditation,
Such that the mirror of the heart receives the pure, virginal image.”
Ibn Arabi, ‘The Kernel of the Kernel’, Beshara Publications, 1981. Chapter 8, page 46. This book was a gift from our dear friend Azim Looker.
‘The perfect Man is such a pure clean, absolute mirror that God, who is Absolute Beauty, sees his Ipseity (selfhood) unconditionally therein (in it).
The Mirror of the Perfect Man is according to the revelation of God. The revelation which happens in others according to the servant’s imagination, his capacity to receive and his aptitude. God speaks the truth and guides to the straight path.’
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