Ibn 'Arabi: The Invisible World
Excerpted from Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom by Ibn 'Arabi.
Published by Fons Vitae (1997), interpreted by Shayk Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti.
May God open the eyes of your heart, shedding His divine light. The angelic realm, which contains the potential of future creation, incorporeal existences, the meaning of all and everything to come, and divine power, is the element from which the visible world is created and, therefore the material world is under the influence and domination of the angelic realm. The movement, the sound, the voice, the ability to speak, to eat and to drink is not from the existences themselves in the visible, material world. They all pass through the invisible world of the angelic realm.
For example, an animal does not move on its own unless it is motivated for a certain purpose. This motivation comes from inside the animal, from its heart, what we call its instinct, which receives its orders from the invisible world. There the power to move the animal is kept, while the resistance to this motivation is from the elements of this visible world.
We think that we see with our eyes. The information, the influences of perception, are due to our senses—while the real influence, the meaning of things, the power behind what sees and what is seen, can be reached neither by the senses, nor by deduction and analysis, comparison, contrasts, and associations made through intellectual theories. The invisible world can only be penetrated by the eye and the mind of the heart. Indeed, the reality of this visible world also can only be seen by the mind and eye of the heart.
What we think we see is but veils which hide the reality of things; things whose truth, whose meaning may not be revealed until these veils are lifted. It is only when the dark veils of imagination and preconception are raised that the divine light will penetrate the heart, enabling the inner eye to see. Then either the sunlight or the light of a candle will become a metaphor for the divine light.
The principal veils which render the inner eye blind are arrogance, egotism, desires of the flesh, lust; as well as the influence of others who are afflicted by these sicknesses. If man truly believed that he had an inner eye, a mirror where only the truth is reflected, and if he made efforts to rid himself of the veils which hide reality from it, then it would be possible for the divine light of the invisible realms to join with the light inside him, and he would see all that is hidden there. As we are now, we are like the blind who feel the warmth of the sunshine, but are unable to see the light. When your eyes are closed, does it matter whether there are objects in front of you, whether they are near or far, whether they are beautiful or not? That is what we are concerned with.
That veil which hinders our vision is very heavy to lift. Only those chosen by God—the prophets, the saints, the ones who love Him and the ones whom He loves—can pierce through it. Then whether the object to be seen is in front of your eyes or not, whether it is near or very far, also does not matter! Our Master the Prophet, may God's peace and blessings be upon him, used to say to his Companions: "I can see you even when my back is turned."
The mystics who devote their lives to come close to their Lord are encouraged by their Lord in their efforts by what we call miracles. They are shown people and places, right in front of them, that are somewhere else, miles away. Though they are in the West, they see Mecca, far off in the East.
Many such visions are experienced by those who seek to know their Lord, especially if their affection for our Master, Muhammad, may God's peace and blessings be upon him, draws them to be like him—for then they inherit his qualities and are blessed with divine favor. All praise be to God that I myself have experienced this.
These people of elevated state are called abdal. Sometimes their ability to see the secrets beyond the visible world is taken away from them. That is a sign that they have reached the highest state aspired to by every human being, the state of true servanthood to the Lord. Then they are the heirs of the prophets, and no longer simply people who know what is unknown to others in this world. Their knowledge belongs to the invisible angelic realms; they are between two worlds.
For people in this state, there is no longer a separation or distance between the visible and the invisible, neither between their exterior and their interior being. The veils which hid things are all lifted. All that is left of them is a ringing in their ears. All their secrets are now raised to the surface and exposed. All the paths leading to the unknown are open to them.
Ibn 'Arabi: The Six Realms
Excerpted from Journey to the Lord of Power: A Sufi Manual on Retreat by Ibn 'Arabi. Published by Inner Traditions International (1989), Commentary by 'Abdul-Karim Jili, translated by Rabia Terri Harris.
The Realms, although they are many [Editor's Note: as depicted and synthesized within Kalachakra and Kabbalah], are all derived from six. The first Realm is [the pre-existence in which we were asked the question] "Am I not your Lord?" Our physical existence has removed us from this Realm. The second Realm is the world we are now in. The third Realm is the Interval through which we travel after the lesser and greater deaths. The fourth Realm is the Resurrection on the awakening earth and the return to the original condition. The fifth Realm is the Garden and the Fire. The sixth Realm is the Sand Dune outside the Garden. And in each of these Realms are places which are Realms within Realms, and the realization of them in their multiplicity is not within human power.
Commentary: "The Interval" (al-barzakh, the third Realm) is the barrier between this world and the next. The shayk [Ibn 'Arabi] (may God be pleased with him) said:
Know that "interval" is an expression for something which separates two other things, like the diving line between sun and shade, and as He said—may He be exalted—concerning the mixture of the two seas, "Between them is a barrier (barzakh) which they cannot cross" [Koran 55:20]. The meaning of "they cannot cross" is that they cannot mix with one another because of this partition which divides them. The sense of sight does not discern it. When suddenly it is perceived, the barrier does not exist. And when the barrier is between the known and the unknown, the nonexistent and the existent, the negated and the affirmed, and the rational and the irrational, it is called Interval—and [this Interval] is the imagination.
For if you perceive it—and you are rational—you know that your vision has encountered an existent thing, while you know unequivocally that it is not a "thing" completely and fundamentally. And what is this whose "thingness" is affirmed and denied simultaneously? The imagination is not existent or nonexistent, not known or unknown, not negated and not affirmed. And the human being travels to this reality in his sleep and after his death, and he sees descriptive qualities as existing embodied forms, and there is no doubt of that. And the intuitive person sees in his waking state what the sleeper sees in the state of sleep and the deceased after death.
Ibn 'Arabi: The Structure of the City of Man Whose King is the Soul, The Deputy of God
Excerpted from Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom by Ibn 'Arabi. Published by Fons Vitae (1997), interpreted by Shayk Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti.
When the Lord created His deputy, He also built a city for him where he could reside with his retinue and governing officials. He named the city Human Being. When the Lord finished the building of the city, He assigned a special place at its center for His deputy. All the speculations about it―whether the deputy really resides there or just uses it as headquarters, whether it is a throne room or a courtroom or a ministry, or merely a place where his voice is heard―are beside the point. The Lord called that place the heart.
The Lord built this city on a foundation of four walls made of earth, water, air, and fire. Some say that the place of the Lord's deputy is not the heart but the mind. I insist that it is the heart, although no one has evidence or proof. But for establishing stability and for heedfulness and remembrance, the heart is surely the center. Our Master related that his Lord said: "I do not fit into the heavens and the worlds which I created, but I fit into the heart of My faithful servant." Our Master, may God's peace and blessings be upon him, also said, "The Lord looks neither at you nor at your deeds, but at your heart." The Lord always remembers and is heedful, and looks upon His deputy at all times.
The Lord made the soul responsible for the body.
"It is not their eyes which are blind, but their hearts which are in their breasts." (Hajj, 46)
Men wander upon the face of this world, and within the space of their lives they see what is being born and dying, what is being built and destroyed. They have eyes to see and ears to hear, and should take lessons. If they are not heedful it is because their hearts are blind. It is not the vegetal heart that is responsible here, nor what is vulgarly called mankind―a four-legged animal standing on its hind legs. God has not given His secret to the animal, but to His deputy the soul. Yet the vegetal heart is the palace of that deputy, the king.
Our Master, may God's peace and blessings be upon him, said: "There is a small piece of meat in the body of man: If it is clean and righteous, the whole being is clean. If that piece of meat is rotten, the whole being is rotten. That piece of meat is the heart." It is the palace of the deputy of God where the secrets are kept, and it must be proper and in order. It is a safe where the secret documents and rules and orders of the deputy are kept.
If the leader is right, the followers are right. If the leader has gone astray, his companions and followers will go astray.
When the Lord made the human soul master of the human city, He taught him the character, the behavior, the thoughts of the inhabitants of that city. Since he understood his people, his people recognized him and became his dependents and helpers. If God's deputy, whom He sent to govern, is disloyal and corrupt and betrays His trust, his people will be corrupt and disloyal to him as well. On the other hand, if he fears and respects the One who entrusted him with power, his companions will trust and respect him also.
So look at yourselves. If you are God-fearing, just, and righteous, so is your soul. You are the way you are because of it. First the ruler and the guide must be right; then the signs of righteousness appear in his dependents.
One sees so many things in oneself, without knowing why they are, whether they were there in the beginning or happened afterwards or will be the same tomorrow―for one does not know the procedures of the secret divine government within, or how to protect that little piece of meat, the heart, whose disorder can destroy us all. The Lord created a tower on the higher levels of the city of man. He built it with refined materials and set it to overlook the whole city, and called it Mind. He opened four large windows on the top of it, for the enjoyment of the four corners of the city, and called them Eyes, Ears, Mouth, and Nose.
In the center of the tower He built a vault to protect the treasure of inspiration, and in it He stacked the treasure, all arranged in perfect order. The directors of the senses could consult this Hall of Information, and add new data to it in turn. The dreams dreamt come from this vault. Here too is the wealth gathered by the collector of taxes within the city of man, the monies stacked separately as lawful and unlawful. The Lord built another vault within the tower of the mind which He called the Vault of Intellect. The goods in that vault are brought from the Vault of Inspiration. Here they are weighed and compared; what is right is kept in the second vault, and what is wrong is returned to the first.
In a corner of the mind He built yet another vault, where memories are kept. The keeper of memories is a high official called Intelligence.
There is another precinct in the city of man where the daughter of the deputy of God, Personality, lives. This place is known as Selfhood. Here there are contradictions, here both God's ordinances and what He ahs forbidden are kept. On special honored nights the commands of the All-Powerful are distributed here. The place is protected by God Himself, for it is under the Footstool where His holy Feet are set―just as the soul, the deputy of God, is under and protected by His Throne. Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali says: "The human being is that child whose father is the soul and whose mother is the self." He holds that the Lord of the soul keeps it on a high level under His Throne and our mother, the self, on a lower level under his Feet. As He is the Lord of the parents, so is He the Lord of our material existence, their child. The Sufis know that all states and actions of the self, whether right or wrong, are predestined by the Lord. The only part of man which is not bound by predestination is the soul, which they follow into the future. With precaution and insistence, they hope to rouse the deputy of God.
Even if the soul realizes the danger of the temptations of the commanding self, the human being is left in a difficult position. He is undecided between two powerful entities: the soul calls him unto him, then the evil commanding self calls him unto him. But all this test is by the permission of God, for He says:
"All things are from God." (Nisa', 78)
He also says:
"Of the bounties of thy Lord, We bestow freely on these as well as on those." (Bani Isra'il, 20)
And He says to the soul:
"And the portion and order given to it and for its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right." (Shams, 7-8)
Selfhood is a place of order and enlightenment, but it is also inclined toward the Evil Commanding Self. If it is tempted, then it loses its purity. All things are from God―it is He who made the Commanding Self desirous of evil, and it is He who made human selfhood bent from time to time to evil as well as to good. When the self is rational and heedful, it is pure and in order. Then it is called the Self-Assured Self. That is its lawful state. Although God had created His deputy with the most perfect attributes, He saw that, on his own, he was nonetheless weak, powerless, and in need. God wanted His deputy to realize that he would only find strength in the help and support of his Lord. He created a strong opposition for him to provoke this realization. That is the secret of the two opposing possibilities for human selfhood.
The soul and the self are man and wife. When the man calls upon his wife and she does not respond, people say, "What is the matter that your wife does not come to you?"
The man asks his trusted companion, Intelligence, the reason for this unresponsiveness. Intellect tells the master, the soul, "O my gracious master, you are calling upon a being who has a station as high as your own. She is a master in her own right, with power, and under the orders of the All-Powerful. She is called Desire for the Worldly, the Commanding Self. It is not so easy to command her!" Then the soul sends his wife a letter by his adviser's hand, explaining his feelings about her. But the self takes the messenger of the soul prisoner. Intelligence submits to the self, under duress.
When Intelligence, now under the influence of the self, is permitted to return to his master the soul, he reports that not only has he lost his wife, but most of his administration and armies have gone over to her as well. Only a very few have remained loyal to him. The mind tells the soul that his enemy has already infiltrated the courtyard of his palace, and is ready to destroy his reign and capture his kingdom and sit upon his throne. He claims that it is his sacred duty to warn him before they are both destroyed. Now, with the warning of the mind, the soul realizes that he is reduced to total helplessness. He is powerless, unable to act. All he can do is throw himself upon the mercy of the Lord of all and everything. Turning to Him, he begs for help. He knows now that he cannot save himself. Only at his defeat does he know the value of his Lord, the All-Powerful. That indeed was the purpose of all that had happened. If a man lived all his life in complete comfort and safety and had all that he wished for, nothing he had would retain any value for him. It is only pain and trouble that make one realize the value of peace and safety.
When God's deputy, the soul, turns to his Lord for help, the Lord becomes a mediator between the soul and the self. And so the self abstains from taking total control of the realm of the human being.
The Lord addresses her "O Self-Assured Self, return to Me, pleased with Me; I am pleased with you. Enter My Paradise among My servants whom I love." Responding to this call both the self and the soul bow their heads in submission, satisfied by the divine approval. Now that all differences have disappeared, they come together again at last. The Self-Assured Self, whom the Lord addressed, is this joined existence of the soul and the self, harmonious and at peace, pleased by their Lord and their Lord pleased by them.
The Lord named it the Self-Assured Self because at this point the self has realized its true potential. When she was tempted by evil, it was against her nature, for the Lord Himself said, "all things are from God," and He also said "all His blessings are bestowed freely upon all, on these as well as on those." When He invites the soul and the self to Himself "well pleased themselves and well pleasing unto Him," it is implied that the two are pleased with each other and in harmony. When He invites them to His Paradise, He is inviting them to come to the safety of a secure place away from places unpleasing to the Lord. When they are asked to come into this Paradise together with His servants whom He loves, He includes them among those who have submitted to Him and have connected their heats to Him in obedience.
The lust of pleasures of this world is the paradise of the unfaithful. It is the true Fire whose exterior resembles the Garden―but beneath the surface is torture. Our Master (peace and blessings of God be upon him) warned his Companions, saying, "Paradise is beyond gates that appear displeasing and undesirable while the gates of Hell are, attractive and delicious. They will only reveal what is behind them at the end of the world, when Antichrist comes." He also described Hell thus: "There are two valleys there. In one there is a river of fire and in the other a river of water. Whoever in repentance, accepting his punishment, seeks the valley of fire, will find himself in the cool valley of water. Whoever, unrepentant, seeks the valley of water to save himself from punishment, will fall upon the fire."
The self responds to the one who uses his intelligence. To a certain extent they agree. A grave question: Why is the soul that God has created as His deputy subverted by the Evil-Commanding Self? There are two answers. One has already been explained. God wished to test the soul to make clear to it its total need of its Creator, provoking failure by making it respond to the temptations of the Evil-Commanding Self while deaf to the voice of Intellect. The second opinion is that the soul calls and invites the self to it. When the self responds, it responds in a language the soul does not understand. It is the excitement and ambition of learning something unknown that gets the soul in trouble, just as it was Eve's curiosity about the forbidden fruit that made her believe the devil. Thus, mischief, sedition and war continue within the realm of the human being, caused by the misunderstanding and disagreement between the soul and the Evil-Commanding Self. At times one conquers the other; at times the situation is reversed, Sometimes one reigns in deserts and the other in fertile gardens. This battle will continue until the Day of Judgment.
The faithful who believe in God but who at times fail and are disobedient lose the deserts of their realm in the battle with the Evil-Commanding Self. While it reigns in those deserts, the king of the mind captures its capital. Hypocrites lose their capital city to the Evil-Commanding Self and hold on to the deserts of their being. Nonbelievers are slaves of the Evil-Commanding Self, having lost all the kingdom of the human being.
On the Day of Judgment two groups will form. One will be bound for Paradise, the other bound for hellfire, where they will stay forever. When all are gathered together so that everyone can see, Death will be slain. Then all will live in their assigned places for eternity. Believers who have failed to obey God at all times, after being punished by the fear of Fire will be sent to join those who are bound for Paradise. Hypocrites will be sent to join the unfaithful bound to suffer in Hell.
Division is incidental. Unity is principal. If a hand does something against the principle of the whole being, the whole being responds to prevent it from its error. The sick branch either dries and falls, saving the tree, or the sap of the tree cures it. Such is the state of the faithful who are at times guilty of errors. However, if the whole body is sick, a healthy hand cannot cure it. If the whole tree is dead, the few last green leaves will not save it. Such is the case of the hypocrites.
In the kingdom of man, under the rule of the soul, the deputy of God, there are four kinds of citizens. There are pure faithful ones who obey the prescriptions of their Lord and have been able to protect themselves from all evil. Then there are those who are basically faithful, but at times are apt to revolt. There are hypocrites who try to appear faithful while they are not, and there are the unfaithful who take themselves to be God. That is how it is in the kingdom of man, amid the continuous mischief, sedition, and war between the soul, the mind, and the Evil-Commanding Self. This we shall try to relate, investigate and consider.
God the Truth tells the truth, and guides one to the straight path.
Ibn 'Arabi: The Meccan Revelations, "The Lesser Resurrection and Initiatic Death"
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 final outcome of the affair (al-amr) is the return from the many to the One, for both the man of faith and the polytheist (mushrik). This is because the man of faith who is granted the unveiling of "things as they really are" is granted [the immediate vision of] this, as He said: "Now We have removed from you your veil, so your vision today is keen" (Qur'an 50:22). And this is before he leaves this world. For everyone who is taken [by physical death] is in [a state of spiritual] "unveiling" at the moment he is taken, so that at that point he inclines toward God (al-Haqq) and toward faith in Him and [the true awareness of] divine Unity. Hence the person who attains this certainty before being brought into the presence [of God at the time of physical "death"] is absolutely sure of his felicity and his conjunction with [that condition of blessedness]. For certainty which comes from sound [rational] inquiry and unambiguous [experiential] unveiling prevents him from straying from the Truly Real, since he has "a clear proof" (Qur'an 6:57, etc.) in the matter and "discerning inner vision" (Qur'an 12:108).
But the person who attains this certainty [only] when he is brought into the presence [of death] is subject to the [ineluctable] divine Will. And although the final outcome is [also] felicity, however that is only after the imposition of torments and afflictions with respect to the person who is punished for his sins. For one is only "brought into the presence [of death]" after having witnessed that (al-amr) to which the creatures (al-khalq) are transferred [after death]. So long as he has not witnessed that, death has not come near him (Qur'an 4:18; etc.), nor is that [what we mean here by] "being brought into [its] presence."
...Now God has brought two Resurrections into existence, the lesser Resurrection and the greater Resurrection. The lesser Resurrection is the transferring of the servant from the life of this world to the life of the intermediate world (barzakh) in the imaginal body, as in [the Prophet's] saying: "When someone dies, his Resurrection has already begun." Thus whoever is among the People of Vision actually sees his Lord. For [as] God's Messenger says, in warning his community about the Antichrist: "No one sees God until he dies." The greater Resurrection is the Resurrection of the Raising (ba'th) [of all men from their graves] and the supreme Gathering (al-hashr al-a'zam) in which all men are joined....
Know that these bodies are the coffins of the spirits and what beclouds them; they are what veil them so that they do not witness [the spiritual world] and are not witnessed. So the spirits do not see, nor are they seen, except through being parted from these [bodily] tombs (cf. Qur'an 102:2)―by becoming oblivious (fanâ) to them [in their absorption in spiritual things], not through [physical] separation. Therefore since they have inner vision, when they become oblivious to witnessing the bodies then they witness the One Who gives them Being in the very act of witnessing themselves.
So "he who knows his self knows his Lord." Likewise he who witnesses his self witnesses his Lord, and thereby moves from the "certainty of knowledge" to the "certainty of seeing." Then when he is returned to his [bodily] tomb he is returned to [the highest stage of] "true certainty" (yaqîn haqq), not to the "certainty of knowledge." This is how man learns the [inner] differentiation of the Truly Real (al-Haqq), through His informing [us] of the true saying concerning the true reality of certainty (Qur'an 56:95), the seeing of certainty and the knowing of certainty (cf. Qur'an 103:3-7). So for [the person who reaches this stage] every property [of reality] becomes firmly established in its proper rank, and things are not confused for him (cf. Qur'an 2:42; 3:71). And he knows that the [prophetic] announcements did not mislead him (cf. Qur'an 6:5, etc.).
Therefore whoever truly knows God in this way has truly known and understood the wisdom [underlying] the formation (takwîn) of the pearl in its shell from fresh sweet [water] in salty bitter [water] (Qur'an 25:53): the shell is its body and its saltiness is its [physical] nature. So the influence of nature predominates in its shell, but the salt is [also] its whiteness―and that is like the Light which is revealed through it. So realize [what is meant by] this sign!
(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...
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