“If you have understood all of this, then know (may God grant success to us both) that if you want to enter the presence of the Truth and receive from Him without intermediary, and you desire intimacy with Him, this will not be appropriate as long as your heart acknowledges any Lordship other than His. For you belong to that which exercises its authority over you. Of this there is no doubt. And seclusion from people will become inevitable for you, and preference for retreat (khalwa), over human associations, for the extent of your distance from creation is the extent of your closeness to God-outwardly and inwardly.
Your first duty is to search for the knowledge which establishes your ablution and prayer, your fasting and reverence. You are not obliged to seek out more than this. This is the first door of the journey; then work; then moral heedfulness; then asceticism; then trust. And in the first of the states of trust, four miracles befall you. These are signs and evidences of your attainment of the first degree of trust. These signs are crossing the earth, walking on water, traversing the air, and being fed by the universe. And that is the reality within this door. After that, stations and states and miracles and revelations come to you continuously until death.
And for God’s sake, do not enter retreat until you know what your station is, and know your strength in respect to the power of imagination. For if your imagination rules you, then there is no road to retreat except by the hand of the shaykh who is discriminating and aware. If your imagination is under control, then enter retreat without fear. Discipline is incumbent upon you before the retreat. Spiritual discipline (riyada) means training of character, abandonment of heedlessness, and endurance of indignities. For if a person begins before he has acquired discipline, he will never become a man, except in a rare case.
When you withdraw from the world, beware of people coming to see you and approaching you, for he who withdraws from the people does not open his door to their visits. Indeed the object of seclusion is the departure from people and their society, and the object of departure from people is not leaving their physical company, but rather that neither your heart nor your ear should be a receptacle for the superfluous words they bring. Your heart will not become clear of the mad ravings of the world except by distance from them. And everyone who ‘withdraws’ in his house and opens the door to people visiting him is a seeker of leadership and esteem, driven from the door of God Most High; and for someone like this, destruction is closer than the shoelace of his shoe. For God’s sake, for God’s sake, protect yourself from the deceit of the ego in this station, for most of the world is destroyed by it. So shut your door against the world; and thus the door of your house will be between you and your people. And occupy yourself with dhikr, remembrance of God, with whatever son of dhikr you choose. The highest of them is the Greatest Name; it is your saying ‘Allah, Allah,’ and nothing beyond ‘Allah.’
Protect yourself from the misfortunes of corrupt imaginings that distract you from remembrance. Be careful of your diet. It is better if your food be nourishing but devoid of animal fat. Beware of satiation and excessive hunger. Keep your
constitution in balance, for if dryness is excessive, it leads to corrupt imaginings and long, delirious ravings.
If there should be an influence which alters the constitutions-and that is desirable-distinguish between angelic and demonic spiritual influences by what you find in yourself when they come to an end. That is, if the influence is angelic, it is followed by coolness and bliss. You will not be aware of any pain; you will not undergo any alteration of form; and the influence leaves knowledge. But if it is demonic, physical disorientation, pain and distress, bewilderment and vileness ensue; and it leaves mental disorder. Protect yourself, and do not cease repeating the dhikr in your heart, until God drives the demonic influence from it. That is what the situation calls for.
Be sure that you articulate what you intend. Let your covenant at your entry into retreat be that there is nothing like unto God. And to each form that appears to you in retreat and says ‘I am God,’ say: ‘Far exalted be God above that! You are through God.’ Remember the form of what you saw. Turn your attention from it and occupy yourself with dhikr continually.
This is one covenant. The second one is that you will not seek from Him in retreat anything other than Himself and that you will not attach your himma, the power of the heart’s intention, to anything other than Him. And if everything in the universe should be spread before you, receive it graciously but do not stop there. Persist in your quest, for He is testing you. If you stay with what is offered, He will escape you. But if you attain Him, nothing will escape you.”
Source: Ibn Arabi, Journey to the Lord of Power, pp. 29-32