(Excerpted from Volume I of The Meccan Revelations (al-Futûhât al-Makkiya) by Ibn 'Arabi. Published by Pir Press (2002, 2005), translated from the Arabic by Michel Chodkiewicz, William C. Chittick and James W. Morris)
The voluntary return to God is something for which the servant is most thankful. God said: "The whole affair is returned to Him" (Qur'an 11:123). So since you know that, return to Him willingly and you will not be returned to Him by compulsion. For there is no escaping your return to Him, and you will surely have to meet Him, either willingly or against your will. For He meets you in [the form of] your attributes, nothing else but that―so examine yourself, my friend! [The Prophet] said: "Whoever loves to meet God, God loves to meet him; and whoever is averse to meeting God, God is averse to meeting him...."
Now since we knew that our meeting with God can only be through death, and because we knew the inner meaning of death, we sought to bring it about sooner, in the life of this world. Hence we died, in the very Source of our life, to all our concerns and activities and desires, so that when death overcame us in the midst of that Life which never passes from us―inasmuch as we are that [Life] with which our selves and our limbs and every part of us glorifies and praises [God] ―we met God and He met us. And ours was the case [mentioned in the hadith above] of "those who meet Him while loving to meet Him" [so that He loves to meet us].
Thus when there comes what is commonly known as death, and the veil of this body is removed from us (Qur'an 50:22), our state will not change and our certainty will not be any greater than what we already experience now. For we tasted no death but the first death, which we died during our life in this world, because our Lord protected us from the torment of hell as a bounty from your Lord; that is the Supreme Achievement (Qur'an 44:56-57). [As the Imam] 'Alî said: "Even if the veil were removed, I would not be any more certain."
So the person who returns to God in this way is among the blessed, and he does not even feel the inevitable, compulsory return [of physical] death, because it only comes to him when he is already there with God. The most that what is [ordinarily] known as death can mean for him is that his soul, which is with God, is kept from governing this body that it used to govern, so that the soul remains with God, in its same condition, while that body reverts to its origin, the dust from which it was formed (Qur'an 3:59, etc.). For it was a house whose occupant has traveled away, then the King established that person with Him in a firm position (Qur'an 54:55) until the Day they are raised (Qur'an 23:100, etc.). And his condition when he is raised up will be just like that: it will not change insofar as his being with God is concerned, nor with regard to what God gives him at every instant.
It is also like this in the general Gathering (al-hashr al-'âmm [on the Day of Resurrection]) and in the Gardens [of Paradise] which are this person's residence and dwelling place, and in the realm [of being (nash'a)] which he inhabits. For there he sees a realm created without any [fixed] pattern, a realm that provides him in its outward manifestation what the realm of this world provides in its inner [psychic and spiritual] dimension (bâtin) and its imagination (khayâl). So this is the way he freely controls the outward dimension (zâhir) of the realm of the other world. He enjoys all that he possesses in a single instant. Nothing that belongs to him, whether his wives or other things, is ever separated from him, nor is he ever separated from them: he is among them [simply] through his being desired, and they are in him through their being desired.
For the other world is an abode of swift reaction, without any delay, [where external appearances constantly change] just as is the case with passing thoughts (khawâtir) in the inner dimension of the realm of this world. Except that for man the planes are reversed in the other world, so that his inward dimension permanently maintains a single form―just as his outward dimension does here―while the forms of his outward dimension undergo rapid transformations like those of his inner dimension here. [God] said: "...by what a reversal they will be transformed!" (Qur'an 26:227), yet when we have undergone our transformation, nothing will have been added to the way we were. So understand...
Then a ploughman said, "Speak to us of Work."
And he (Almustafa the Prophet) answered, saying:
You work (on your ego) that you may keep pace with the earth (הארץ ha'arets) and the soul (נְשָׁמָה Neshamah) of the earth (מלכות Malkuth, the sephirah bearing the sacred name of אדוני הארץ Adonai Ha'aretz, Lord of the Earth in the world of Atziluth).
For to be idle (spiritually and psychologically) is to become a stranger unto the seasons (the path of the soul in its Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter), and to step out of life's procession (through Mahavan and Chotavan, the great and little rhythms of the soul, the Christ and His Bodhisattva), that marches in majesty and proud submission (Islam) towards the infinite (the Absolute).
When you work (in the annihilation of your ego, fana) you are a flute (the reed of the spinal column that produces the Word, the Recitation) through whose heart the whispering (inquietudes) of the hours turns to music (within your soul).
Which of you would be a reed, dumb and silent, when all else sings together in unison (as all the awakened souls praise the Army of the Voice)?
Always you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune.
But I say to you that when you work (on your defects) you fulfil a part of (Divine Mother) earth's furthest dream (the highest hope mentioned by Nietzsche, the aspiration to become a Superman, the first covenant or agreement between the soul and divinity: to work in the Self-realization of the Being until achieving the goal), assigned to you when that dream was born (in الله Allah, the Absolute Abstract Space, when your Ain Soph asked you, “Am I not your Lord?” [Qur’an 7:172] before you entered into manifestation in this universe; and when your Ain Soph exhaled you from the great womb of the primordial emptiness or abyss and into the Tree of Life, so that He could obtain knowledge of Himself),
And in keeping yourself with labour (on your defects) you are in truth loving life (חיה Chaiah, the Divine Mother Kundalini),
And to love life (the Divine Mother Kundalini) through (spiritual) labour is to be intimate with life's inmost secret (the Being-Partkdolg-Duty of Gurdjieff).
But if you in your pain call (spiritual) birth an affliction and the support of the flesh (that does not belong to Adam, but to God) a curse written upon your brow (your Sensual and Intermediate Minds), then I answer that naught but the sweat of your brow (through initiation) shall wash away that which is written (for the seven P's, the seven instances of 'peccatum,' "sins, defects, errors," written on the forehead of Dante are washed clear by ascending the seven terraces of Purgatory, the Second Mountain of Resurrection. Ablution or wudu within Sufism and Islam also demonstrates the path of sexual purity and dissolution of lust through profound transmutation and comprehension / death of the ego).
You have been told also (spiritual) life is darkness (ignorance), and in your weariness (like the Soothsayer in Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra) you echo what was said by the weary (those morbid disciples who have lost the meaning of their work).
And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge (willpower, Thelema),
And all urge (will) is blind save when there is knowledge (דעת da'ath, gnosis, marifah),
And all knowledge is vain save when there is (spiritual) work,
And all (spiritual) work is empty save when there is love (גדולה Gedulah);
And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God (for this is the meaning of religare, religion).
And what is it to work with love (גדולה Gedulah, the Innermost)?
It is to weave the cloth (of the soul, the solar bodies, the garments of reverence within the Qur'an [7:26]) with threads drawn from your heart (since the Divine Mother only awakens and rises within the spinal column in accordance with the merits of the heart, תפארת Tipehreth), even as if your beloved (the Innermost) were to wear that cloth (through initiation).
It is to build a (spiritual) house with affection (in scientific chastity), even as if your beloved (the Innermost) were to dwell in that house (your physical and internal bodies).
It is to sow seeds (of charity) with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved (the Intimate Christ) were to eat the fruit (of your sacrifice).
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit (the רוח אלהים Ruach Elohim, גדולה Gedulah, the Innermost),
And to know that all the blessed dead (the initiates who have completely died in their ego) are standing about you and watching (since no disciple is ever left alone on this path).
Often have I heard you say, as if speaking in sleep, "he who works in marble, and finds the shape of his own soul in the stone (of יסוד Yesod by chiseling it to perfection), is nobler than he who ploughs the soil (who only plants the seeds of spirituality in מלכות Malkuth through teaching, by following the third factor: sacrifice).
And he who seizes the rainbow (the light of Christ in the seven spiritual rays, the seven colors of the rainbow) to lay it on a (solar) cloth in the likeness of (the internal) man, is more than he who makes the sandals for our feet (who initially shows us the path of the sandals, symbol of יסוד Yesod in Kabbalah; for one thing is to be introduced to the path, another thing is to walk it)."
But I say, not in sleep (of the consciousness) but in the over-wakefulness of noontide (when the Christ-Sun is in its zenith above our head, the Chakra Sahasrara), that the wind (of Prana) speaks not more sweetly to the giant oaks (the great self-realized masters) than to the least of all the blades of grass (the newly-budded souls initiating their awakening);
And he alone is great who turns the voice of the wind (the Voice of the Silence) into a (mantric) song made sweeter by his own loving (in sexual alchemy: Allah-kimia, and meditation).
Work is love made visible (the spiritual work is manifesting God within מלכות Malkuth).
And if you cannot work with love (גדולה Gedulah) but only with distaste (morbidity and resentment), it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple (of initiates) and take alms (advice) of those (initiates) who work with joy (Froh, the Nordic Christ).
For if you bake bread (in alchemy) with indifference (without careful attention and psychological works), you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man's hunger (because the quality of our transmutations resides in our psychological work and can only feed the soul when there is comprehension and the Buddhist Annihilation).
And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes (if you do not take joy in your transmutations), your grudge distils a poison in the wine (if you do not annihilate the "I," your mind will poison the wine of God within your sexual organs).
And if you sing though as angels (when you are not), and love not the singing (if you do not fully identify yourself with גדולה Gedulah in the sexual act through mantra), you muffle man's ears to the voices of the day (the solar forces of man) and the voices of the night (the lunar forces represented in woman, which are joined in the sacred sexual crucible).
And a woman spoke, saying, "Tell us of Pain."
And he said:
Your pain is the breaking of the shell (ego) that encloses your understanding (consciousness).
Even as the (philosophical) stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun (where the light of Christ illuminates the soul after the ego is broken in profound meditation), so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity (your mind and internal states in meditation) through the winters of your grief (the dark nights of the soul).
Much of your pain is self-chosen (through fascination, identification, and the sleep of the consciousness).
It is the bitter potion by which the physician (your Innermost Spirit, intimate Ruh or Ruach Elohim) within you heals your sick self (your soul that commands to evil or egotism: Nafs al Ammarra).
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquillity (through the cup of perfect concentration in profound retrospective meditation):
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen (الله Allah, the Absolute),
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter (the Holy Spirit) has moistened with His own sacred tears (the creative sexual waters of transmutation).
Then said Almitra, "Speak to us of (Conscious) Love."
And he (Almustafa, the Chosen and Beloved of الله Allah) raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said:
When love (גדולה Gedulah, the Spirit, the Innermost) beckons to you follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep (through the path of the spinal column, the reed or staff of initiation).
And when his (solar) wings (that open upon the Caduceus of Mercury) enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword (of Kundalini) hidden among his pinions may wound you (your ego). And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice (the Voice of the Silence) may shatter your (egotistical) dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love (גדולה Gedulah, the Spirit, the Innermost) crowns you (with a crown of life, כתר Kether, the Father; Revelation 2:10) so shall he crucify you (through initiation). Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning (of your inner tyrant, your egos; Isaiah 25:5).
Even as he ascends to your height (of the Tree of Life)and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun (the Solar Logos, the Trinity: כתר Kether, חכמה Chokmah, בינה Binah),
So shall he descend to your roots (at the tree of زقوم Zaqqum, the tree of death in Islam, the Klipoth of Kabbalah, the inferior worlds) and shake them in their clinging to the earth (מלכות Malkuth).
Like sheaves of corn (plants which assimilate the Solar Christic Force) he gathers you unto himself (He strives to unite all the diverse parts of the Being).
He threshes you (provides you ordeals) to make you naked (innocent, like Adam and Eve before the fall).
He sifts you to free you from your husks (egos, Klipoth, shells).
He grinds you to whiteness (through the wheel of Karma).
He kneads you until you are pliant (in contemplation and meditation);
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire (the Kundalini awakened through the perfect matrimony), that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast (the sacred initiations within the temples of the Superior Worlds).
All these things shall love (גדולה Gedulah, the Spirit, the Innermost) do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart (the Universal, Abstract Absolute Space, the Spirit of Life Free in its Movement).
But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness (your shame born from fornication, as Adam and Eve were after the fall) and pass out of love's threshing-floor (the ordeals of a matrimony and of initiation),
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love (גדולה Gedulah, the Spirit, the Innermost) gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love (גדולה, the Innermost) possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love (for "my God is God," אליאל). When you love you should not say, "God is in my heart," but rather, I am in the heart of God (the Absolute Abstract Space, الله Allah)."
And think not you can direct the course of love (the straight path of the Bodhisattvas), for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
Love (גדולה Gedulah, the Spirit, the Innermost) has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
But if you love (consciously) and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night (the Divine Mother Space).
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully (to die to the animal ego with happiness and contentment).
To wake at dawn (for runes, meditation, and esoteric exercises) with a winged heart (or the longing to know divinity) and give thanks for another day of loving (through a perfect matrimony);
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved (الله Allah, the divine) in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.
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