[“But all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”]

“We have spoken of those who are on the right, that is, the saved. What of those on the left, the damned? Hell might seem to need some explanation because on the one hand the Quranic descriptions of the sufferings of Hell are unsurpassably terrible, yielding nothing in this respect to the Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian descriptions of Hell, but on the other hand the Qur’an insists that whereas every good deed is rewarded ten-fold each sin is punished only with its equivalent (6:160). How then is it possible to deserve Hell? But before trying to answer this question we must first interrogate ourselves. We may think we are capable of assessing sinful acts such as murder or theft, and we hear not infrequently today of crimes so appalling and indicative of such a horrible state of the soul that we might say no punishment but Hell is bad enough for this, until we remember that Hell is not just for a day or a week but seemingly endless. We will come back later to this question of duration; but are we capable of assessing the gravity of sins which are states lived without respite from one year’s end to another like the sin of atheism to which we may add agnosticism? The Creator says in the Qur’an: I did not create jinn and men except that they should worship Me (51:56). What makes man human is that he should reach beyond this world. The man who fails to worship is subhuman—not merely that, as the Qur’an points out, but even lower than the animals (25:44). In short, man was created as representative of God on earth endowed with immense privileges such as no other earthly creature enjoys. In a very early Meccan revelation the Qur’an affirms: We created man in the fairest rectitude. Then cast We him down to be the lowest of the low, except for those who believe and who do the good deeds that piety demands (95:4-6).

The greatest of God’s gifts to man at his creation is his power to conceive the Transcendent, nor does it begin in this life. The Qur’an stresses that at the creation of Adam every human being later to be born into this world was imbued with the knowledge of the Divine Lordship. In other words every human being has in the depth of his nature a sense of the Absolute. According to the Qur’an the sin of sins is turning one’s back on the Transcendent in order to give all one’s attention to this world, not as the representative of God but as a parody of God, a would-be independent tyrant out for an unrestrained and undirected exploitation of all the resources of the earthly state. This is the great betrayal of trust, and if Hell seems to have a touch of the Absolute it is because this betrayal is in relation to the Absolute. But Hell is not Absolute and cannot be Eternal for that is the prerogative of the Hidden Treasure alone. It is true that the Qur’an speaks of the people of Hell as abiding therein forever, but this forever has to be understood in a relative sense, for there is one very explicit passage in which a double limitation is put on the everlastingness of Hell (11:103-8). Its inmates are described as abiding therein so long as the heavens and the earth endure except as God wisheth. Verily God is ever the doer of what He will. The first of the two limitations, so long as the heavens and the earth endure, can be interpreted ‘until the Creator reabsorbs the created universe back into Himself.’ As to the second limitation, it clearly refers to the possibility of Divine intervention, and this is explained in a well-known saying of the Prophet that after the Judgement, when the wretched are in Hell and the blessed are in Paradise, God will call together the Angels and the Prophets and the believers and bid them intercede for those in Hell, and in consequence a multitude of souls are released until finally He orders the release of all those in whom there is any good so that only those who have no good to their credit are left in Hell. Then He will say: ‘The Angels have interceded and the Prophets have interceded and the believers have interceded and none is left to intercede save the Most Merciful of the Merciful.’ And He will take out of Hell all who are left and will throw them into the River of Life at the entrance to the Gardens of Paradise.

The passage in the Qur’an on which this is a commentary goes on to describe the blessed in Paradise as abiding therein so long as the heavens and the earth endure except as God wisheth. Apparently there is the same double limitation on the everlastingness of Paradise as on that of Hell, but this is not so, for Paradise, unlike Hell, is as it were open to the Absolute, in virtue of the highest Paradise, that of the Essence, which is the Absolute Itself. Thus in the Qur’an immediately after what we have quoted there comes the reassuring promise in the definition of Paradise as a gift that shall not be taken away. The Prophet’s explanation of this whole Quranic passage continues: “After the last people have been taken out of Hell God will turn to the people of Paradise and say: ‘Are ye content?’ And they will say: ‘How should we not be content?’ and He will say: ‘I will give you better than this.’ And they will say: ‘What thing, O Lord, is better?’ and He will say: ‘I will enfold you in My Ridwan (God’s good pleasure).'”

This is something which the highest Saints already know as we have seen. But the lower Paradises belong to the created universe which in the end also returns to the Creator on the day when We shall roll up the heavens as at the rolling up of a written scroll (21:104). So Paradise is a gift that shall not be taken away because although in fact it is taken away it is replaced by the incomparably greater felicity of the Supreme Paradise which is no less than the Infinite Eternal Beatitude of the Hidden Treasure from which all creation proceeds and to which it all returns.

In Christianity we can recall the words of Christ when he appeared to St. Juliana of Norwich  who was greatly troubled by thoughts of the sufferings in Hell: ‘But all shall be well’ to which, when he saw that she was not altogether satisfied he added: ‘All manner of thing shall be well.’

It could not be otherwise, for it must always be remembered that man is made in the image of God, and this means that it is not legitimate to attribute to Divine Providence anything that violates the God-given human sense of values, which includes the sense of responsibility. God knows that the worst sinner in Hell are totally innocent of one thing, namely their own existence, for which He alone is responsible. Thus the Qur’an continually affirms that everything finally will be brought back to Him. In other words He is bound to reabsorb into the indescribable Felicity of His Own Essence everything which He manifested from it. God’s is the Sovereignty over the heavens and the earth; and unto God is the ultimate becoming (24:42).”

Source: Martin Lings, A Return to the Spirit: Questions and Answers, Chapter 6, pp. 74-77

[The wound that is our existence.]

“When the All-Merciful speaks, He articulates His Words in His Breath, just as we articulate our words in our breath when we speak. Thus, the Breath of the All-Merciful is the underlying substance of the universe. It is the page upon which God writes out the grand Book of the Cosmos. The nature of the Divine Speech that appears in the Breath is suggested already in the derivation of the word kalam (Arabic for speech). It comes from ‘kalimah’ [k l m], a word that means to cut, to wound. As Ibn Arabi explains, this means that speech leaves effects and traces in the undifferentiated and unarticulated Breath. Each of these traces is then called a Word, kalimah; that is, a wound, or an articulation in undifferentiated existence. The Breath itself remains forever untouched and unwounded by the words it pronounces, just as our breath is unaffected by the words that we speak.”

Source: Taken from William Chittick’s lecture The Cosmology of Dhikr

[Modes and Hierarchical Levels]

This post is continued from a previous post here.

“”The account of the levels of Being which separate the Creator from material universe, while at the same time uniting them, is similar in all the revealed traditions and in the works of many mystical philosophers. But it is never identical, since whatever can be made explicit has already entered the world of relativity. True metaphysical doctrines are vastly more stable, articulate, intelligible and concrete than anything in the material and psychic worlds. But even though the Absolute emanates them, they cannot contain the Absolute; they can only indicate it.

Being is manifested on different levels, but it also appears in terms of different qualities occupying the same level. Levels are vertical; each higher level is the cause of the levels below it, and contains all that is in these lower levels in a higher form. Likewise each lower level is a manifestation or expression—a symbol—of all that is above it; in René Guénon’s words, ‘the effect is a symbol of the cause.’ Modes of Being, on the other hand, are horizontal; they differ in quality and function, but not in degree of reality; they are mutually-defining, polarized manifestations of a single level of Being.

The distinction between modes and levels can be illustrated in the realm of gender. In vertical terms, man, considered as a reflection of the creative Logos, is higher than woman, considered as a reflection of universal receptive Substance. Viewed from the opposite perspective, however, woman, when taken as a symbol of the Divine Essence or Beyond Being, is higher than man, when seen as a symbol of the particularizing thrust of the Logos whose ontological limit is the material world as perceived by the human ego. But in horizontal terms, man and woman are polarized as complementary opposites, on the same level of Being. The right hand is not more real than the left hand; because they are complementary, they are equal. But equality in this sense has nothing to do with sameness or identity. The right hand still maintains its symbolic connection with the higher realms of Being, with truth and the ‘right’,  while the left or ‘sinister’ hand retains its affinity with the lower realms. On the other hand—pun deliberately intended—the right hand is also connected with the outer conscious ego and the left hand with inner Truth, as Jesus implied when he recommended that, in charity, one should not let his right hand (conscious ego) know what his left hand (inner spiritual impulse) is doing. [NOTE: Whoever meditates on the famous Yin/Yang sign will see in it a visual representation of this paragraph.]”

Source: Charles Upton, The System of Antichrist, pp. 95-6

[“Time is the magnitude of motion when the size of its earlier and later are brought together in the mind.”]

This Japanese Zen calligraphic drawing beautifully shows ‘creation’ through the simple progression from the absolute unity of the circle, through the triangle (with three points forming a qualitative transition from the pure, abstract elements of point and line to the tangible, measurable state called a surface) symbolizing the passage between the transcendent and the manifest realms, to the manifest form of the square (representing materialization).

[Unity and Multiplicity]

“From both the metaphysical and natural points of view it is false to say that in order to arrive at two, you take two ones and put them together. One only need look at the way in which a living cell becomes two. For One by definition is singular, it is Unity, therefore all-inclusive. There cannot be two Ones. Unity, as the perfect symbol for God, divides itself from within itself, thus creating Two: the creator unity and the created multiplicity.

Unity creates by dividing itself, and this can be symbolized geometrically in several different ways, depending upon how the original Unity is graphically represented. Unity can be appropriately represented as a circle, but the very incommensurability of the circle indicates that this figure belongs to a level of symbols beyond reasoning and measure. Unity can be restated as the Square, which, with its perfect symmetry, also represents wholeness, and yields to comprehensible measure. In geometrical philosophy the circle is the symbol of unmanifest Unity, while the square represents Unity poised, as it were, for manifestation. The square represents the four primary orientations, north, south, east and west, which make space comprehensible, and it is formed by two pairs of perfectly equal yet oppositional linear elements, thus graphically fulfilling the description of universal Nature found in Taoist and other ancient philosophies.

The square (above) represents the earth held in fourfold embrace by the circular vault of the sky and hence subject to the ever-flowing wheel of time. When the incessant movement of the universe, depicted by the circle, yields to comprehensible order, one finds the square. The square then presupposes the circle and results from it. The relationship of form and movement, space and time, is evoked by the mandala.”

Source: Robert Lawlor, Sacred Geometry: Philosophy and Practice, pp. 16, 23