[“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

[Journey to the Lord of Power (V)]

“And if you do not stop, He will reveal the animal world to you. [The animals] will greet you and acquaint you with their harmful and beneficial qualities. Every sort of creature will acquaint you with its proclamation of majesty and praise. Pay attention to this: If you become aware of all these worlds as engaged in the same dhikr which occupies you, your perception is imagination, not real. It is your own state which is called up for you in all existent things. But when you witness in them the varieties of their own dhikr, that is sound perception. This ascent is the ascent of dissolution of the order of nature, and the state of contraction (qabd) will accompany you in these worlds.

Then after this, He reveals to you the infusion of the world of life-force into lives, and what influences this has in every being according to its predisposition, and how the expressions [of faith] are included in this infusion.

And if you do not stop with this, He reveals to you the ‘surface signs.’ You will be admonished with terrors, and many sorts of states will befall you. You will see clearly the apparatus of transformations: how the dense becomes subtle and the subtle dense. And if you do not stop with this, the light of the scattering of sparks will become visible to you, and there will be a need to veil yourself from it. Do not be afraid, and persevere in the dhikr, for if you persevere in the dhikr, disaster will not overcome you.

If you do not stop with this, He reveals to you the light of the ascendant stars and the form of the universal order. And you will see directly the adab, the proper conduct, for entering the Divine Presence and the adab for standing before the Real and the adab for leaving His presence for Creation; and the perpetual contemplation by the different aspects of the Divine Names (al-asma ‘ al-ilahiyya) ‘the Manifest’ and ‘the Hidden’; and the Perfection of which not everyone becomes aware. For all that passes away from the aspect of the Manifest comes under the aspect of the Hidden. The essence is one. Nothing has passed away.

And after this, you will know the means of receiving divine knowledge from God Most High, and how one must prepare
oneself for its reception. So know the proper conduct of receiving and giving, contraction and expansion; and how to protect the heart, which is the place of the arrival of states, from burning destruction; and that all the ways are circles. There is no straight line. This letter is too brief to deal with matters like these.

And if you do not stop with this, He reveals to you the degrees of speculative sciences, sound integral ideas, and the forms of perplexing questions which confuse understanding. He reveals the difference between supposition and knowledge, the birth of possibilities between the world of spirits and the physical world, the cause of that genesis, the infusion of the Divine Mystery into the domain of His loving concern, the cause of abandoning the world by effort or otherwise and other related matters which require long explanations.”

Source: Ibn Arabi, Journey to the Lord of Power

[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

[There is a hierarchy of the real.]

  • “There is no more unpopular concept today than hierarchy. In most people’s vocabulary it means no more or less than ‘established, therefore, arbitrary power.'” Modernity has a distaste for hierarchy, as if it has become synonymous with oppression and antithetical to ‘democracy’. And so the modern revolutionist desires to liberate himself from the dictates of what he perceives to be an arbitrary authority.
  • No doubt history has produced hierarchies that confer power and status on people unequally, and that this power has often been abused. “And when in a particular place and time it became degenerate, it stood as the worst form of idolatry. Instead of functioning as a transparent symbol of the Hierarchy of Being, it became a counterfeit of that Hierarchy, a veil over the face of spiritual realities.”
  • The question of how to prevent hierarchies from becoming brutal, despotic regimes is a most serious one, but trying to solve the problem of unjust authority by attacking hierarchy per se is erroneous, even dangerous. Dangerous because the degeneration of the concept of hierarchy in the modern mind results in a false image of reality.
  • “In both the Old Testament and the Koran, the prime symbol of such falsification of spiritual hierarchy is the Pharaoh of Egypt. According to the Koran, the Pharaoh literally believed he was God—and this is exactly what happens when an elaborate royal or ecclesiastical structure begins to worship its own knowledge and magnificence instead of the God it exists to serve. True hierarchy, like the ladder in Jacob’s dream upon which angels were constantly ascending and descending, is there to provide an ongoing ‘two-way communication’, so to speak, between manifest existence and its transcendent Source. The universe itself is just such a hierarchy.”
  • Hierarchy is integral to the nature of Being. For the ancients, social hierarchies provided a concrete image and reminder of the true ontological hierarchy, the Great Chain of Being.
  • True hierarchy unifies. Unification is an ordering. Order brings about harmony, allowing the parts to function together as an integrated whole.
  • Inverted, false hierarchies are a symptom of social dysfunction. To be fully human is to exist in wholeness, yet, the mechanics of the Kali Yuga, the Age of Confusion, sow discord and disorder…”the world of evil is a chaotic world.”
  • “In other words, there is a hierarchy of the real. The manifold world of our everyday experience is real with a relative reality that is, on its own level, unquestionable; but this relative reality has its being within and because of the absolute Reality, which, on account of the incommensurable otherness of its eternal nature, we can never hope to describe, even though it is possible for us to directly apprehend it.” – Aldous Huxely, The Perennial Philosophy
  • “Moses, by God’s grace and power, was called to ascend Mt. Sinai, symbol of the Hierarchy of Being, to receive the Torah. Those who denied the reality of that Hierarchy, who wanted to relate to God through His Immanence alone while denying His Transcendence, remained below to worship the Golden Calf.”

Source: Charles Upton, The System of Antichrist, pp. 94-5

[Journey to the Lord of Power (IV)]

“If you know this, then know that God tests you through what He spreads before you. What He first discloses to you is His gift of command over the material order, as I shall discuss.

It is the unveiling of the sensory world which is hidden from you, so that walls and shadows do not veil you from what people are doing in their houses. However, if God has informed you of anyone’s secret, you are obliged to preserve it from exposure. For if you were to expose it and say this one is a fornicator and this one a drunkard and this one a slanderer and this one a thief, you yourself would be the greater sinner and indeed Satan would have entered into you. So act in accordance with the Divine Name al-Sattar, the Veiler. And if this person were to come to you, warn him privately about his actions and counsel him to have shame before God and not to transgress God’s limits. Turn away from this type of perception as much as possible, and occupy yourself with dhikr.

We shall explain [the means of telling] the difference between sensory and imaginational subtle perception. That is, when you see someone’s form or some created action, if you close your eyes and the perception remains with you, it is in your imagination; but if it is hidden from you, then your consciousness of it is attached to the place in which you saw it. [If it is perception of the latter kind] when you turn your attention away from it and occupy yourself with dhikr, you will move from the sensory to the imaginal level. And there descend upon you abstract intelligible ideas in sensory forms. This descent is difficult, since no one knows what is meant by these forms except a prophet, or whomever God wills among the righteous. So do not concern yourself with this. If you are offered something to drink, choose water.

If there is no water among the offerings, choose milk. And if both of them are presented to you, combine the water and the milk. This also applies to honey: Drink it. Be careful of drinking wine unless it is mixed with rainwater. Refrain from drinking it otherwise, even if it is mixed with the water of rivers and springs. Occupy yourself with dhikr until the world of imagination is lifted from you and the world of abstract meanings free of matter is revealed to you.

Occupy yourself with dhikr, remembrance, until the Remembered manifests Himself to you and calling Him to memory is effaced in the actual recollection of Him. However, this [vanishing of dhikr] is the essence not only of contemplation but also of sleep. The way to distinguish between them is that contemplation leaves its evidence and is followed by bliss, whereas sleep leaves nothing and is followed, on awakening, by remorse and the asking of forgiveness.

Then Almighty God spreads before you the degrees of the kingdom as a test. This is appointed to you as an obligation. First you will discover the secrets of the mineral world. You will become acquainted with the secret of every stone and its particular harmful and beneficial qualities. If you become enamored of this world, it will trap you, and you will be exiled from God. He will strip you of everything you held on to, and you will be lost. But if you let go and occupy yourself with dhikr and take refuge at the side of the Remembered, then He will free you from that mode and unveil the vegetal world.

Every green thing will call out to you its harmful and beneficial qualities. Let your judgment be what it was before. At the time of the unveiling of the mineral world let your nourishment be what increases heat and moisture, and at the unveiling of the vegetal world let it be what balances heat and moisture.”

Source: Ibn Arabi, Journey to the Lord of Power

[The Fourfold Being]

“…the four most universal realities…known to both Pythagorean and Far-Eastern teachings under different names, these [are]…: God, Providence (or universal spirit), Nature (or fate), and Man (or universal soul). According to this scheme, Providence and Nature both proceed from God, while man is as it were the child of Providence and Nature, though he is no less a creature of God at the same time. This peculiarity of human origin is also indicated by the account in Genesis where Adam and Eve are only created on the sixth day of creation, last of all beings. On this basis, the human being can be taken to be a resultant of the divine action and the created natural order as a whole. Because of this relation to creation as a whole, the human is understood to be an epitome or microcosm of all being, so that each person (the fourth order of being) will be composed of the same things as the ‘three worlds,’ namely the providential or archetypal world, the psychical or subtle world, and the material world. This is the three-fold inner structure which Fabre d’Olivet represents by the Intellective, Animic, and Instinctive spheres in the structure of the human soul.

These spheres are represented by four circles (see figure 4), three of which stand on a vertical line, while the fourth surrounds these three. The lowest circle of the three represents the life of instinct which attaches to the body, ruled only by pleasure and pain, because its higher possibilities depend on its participation in those of the soul. The central one represents what is most typically the soul, the realm of emotions, which are roused by the sense of good and bad. The third circle is that of intellect, which is activated by truth and falsehood.

All conscious activity is distributed among these three, in all kinds of combinations and proportions. Their combined effect is what determines the movement of the fourth circle, which represents the will of the whole person. At birth, the soul or self is almost wholly identified with the Instinctive sphere, and it is only through the development of the possibilities of this sphere that it is able finally to trigger the development of the second, or ‘Animic’ sphere, which is that of soul as such. Similarly, the development of life through the Animic opens up the possibilities of the Intellective sphere. This development can be represented in terms of Figure 4 as an expansion of the Animic sphere to the point where it strikes the center of the Intellective, which then begins its own expansion. Human beings are thus unique in being made up of a union of material, psychical, and noetic principles, reflecting the whole order of creation in miniature. In effect, the soul’s activity evolves from a level inferior to the one specific to it, through that of its intrinsic nature, and up to one above its own level, in which it participates in the intellect as the body participates in the soul.

This account of our inner formation is capable of being shown as another quaternary relationship, which reflects the universal one. The fourth circle, representing the will of the person, related to body, soul, and intellect in ways that reflect the relation of God to Providence, Nature (or Macrocosm), and Man (see figure 5). There are thus two tetrads with man as the common term: these could be called the Great and the Little Tetrads respectively, and which show the correspondences between Providence and Intellect, between Nature or Fate and the body, and between God and man. One thing this figure does not show is that these relations are dynamic, and in no way static, since the human will is able to strengthen or weaken the relationships it has to each of the three inner spheres, and create different combinations among them.

Unless there was such a being as man, comprising both archetypal and material reality at once, Providence and Fate (or nature) would have no means of relating to one another. It is thus a question of man’s being a natural or universal ‘pontifex’ or bridge-builder, therefore, so long as it is understood that this function is a potentiality in need of realization, which Fabre d’Oliver expresses as follows:

At the moment when man arrives on earth he belongs to Fate, which leads him captive for a long time in the vortex of fatality. But although he is immersed in this vortex and subject at first to its influence just like all the elementary beings, he bears a divine seed within him which can never be entirely confounded with it…when this seed is fully developed, it constitutes the Will of Universal Man, one of the great three powers of the universe.

Guénon points out that this mediating role of mankind in the cosmos is the macrocosmic equivalent of the mediating role of the soul in each human being, where it relates to and connects the intellect and the body. All this is of fundamental importance for the freedom of the will. If we start from the complex nature of the person, as above, and bear in mind that the Instinctive, Animic, and Intellective ‘spheres’ are by no means bound to act in concert, but can modify the will by the equivalent rotation at various speeds, both with and contrary to one another, there will be more than enough to support the idea of free will.

The loss of such ideas from modern philosophy has resulted in a point of view which is too simplified to correspond to reality. Its reasonings about free will are therefore based on the most minimal assumptions about human nature which ignore its internal levels of being. When the person is thus treated as a single subject who knows and wills, moreover, the discussion is biased against free will from the start, because, in nature, the simpler the structure, the less room there is for freedom. Simplistic thought is inherently deterministic; the simplest structure of all, like that of a stone, has no freedom at all.”

Source: Robert Bolton, Self and Spirit, pp. 74-9