[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

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[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

[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

[Finding God]

“To find God is to fall into bewilderment (hayra), not the bewilderment of being lost and unable to find one’s way, but the bewilderment of finding and knowing God and of not-finding and not-knowing Him at the same time. Every existent thing other than God dwells in a never-never land of affirmation and negation, finding and losing, knowing and not-knowing. The difference between the Finders and the rest of us is that they are fully aware of their own ambiguous situation. They know the significance of the saying of the first caliph Abu Bakr: ‘Incapacity to attain comprehension is itself comprehension.’ They know that the answer to every significant question concerning God and the world is ‘Yes and no,’ or, as the Shaykh expresses it, ‘He/not He’ (huwa la huwa).”

Source: William Chittick, The Sufi Path of Knowledge: Ibn al-Arabi’s Metaphysics of Imagination, p. 3-4

[Journey to the Lord of Power (III)]

“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

[Journey to the Lord of Power (II)]

“The Realms, although they are many, 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.

In our situation we only need an explanation of the Realm of this world, which is the place of responsibility, trial, and
works.

Know that since God created human beings and brought them out of nothingness into existence, they have not stopped being travelers. They have no resting place from their journey except in the Garden or the Fire, and each Garden and Fire is in accordance with the measure of its people. Every rational person must know that the journey is based upon toil and the hardships of life, on afflictions and tests and the acceptance of dangers and very great terrors. It is not possible for the traveler to find in this journey unimpaired comfort, security, or bliss.

For waters are variously flavored and weather changes, and the character of the people at every place where one stops differs from their character at the next. The traveler needs to learn what is useful from each situation. He is the companion of each one for a night or an hour, and then departs. How could ease be reasonably expected by someone in this condition?

We have not mentioned this to answer the people fond of comfort in this world, who strive for it and are devoted to the collection of worldly rubble. We do not occupy ourselves with or turn our attention to those engaged in this petty and contemptible activity. But we mention it as counsel to whoever wishes to hasten the bliss of contemplation in other than its given Realm, and to hasten the state of fana’, annihilation, elsewhere than in its native place, and who desires absorption in the Real by means of obliteration from the worlds.

The masters among us are scornful of this [ambition] because it is a waste of time and a loss of [true] rank, and associates the Realm with that which is unsuitable to it. For the world is the King’s prison, not His house; and whoever seeks the King in His prison, without departing from it entirely, violates the rule of right behavior (adab), and something of great import escapes him. For the time of fana’ in the Truth is the time of the abandonment of a station higher than the one attained.

Revelation corresponds to the extent and form of knowledge. The knowledge of Him, from Him, that you acquire at the time of your struggle and training you will realize in contemplation later. But what you contemplate of Him will be the form of the knowledge which you established previously. You advance nothing except your transference from knowledge ( ‘ilm) to vision ( ‘ayn); and the form is one.

[In contemplation] you obtain that which you ought to have left to its proper Realm, and that is the House of the Other World in which there is no labor. So it would be better for you if, at the time of your contemplation, you were engaged in labor outwardly, and at the same time in the reception of knowledge from God inwardly. You would then increase virtue and beauty in your spiritual nature, which seeks its Lord through knowledge received from Him through works and piety, and also in your personal nature, which seeks its paradise. For the human subtle nature is resurrected in the form of its knowledge, and the bodies are resurrected in the form of their works, either in beauty or in ugliness. So it is until the last breath, when you are separated from the world of obligation and the Realm of ascending paths and progressive development. And only then will you harvest the fruit which you have planted.”

Source: Ibn Arabi, Journey to the Lord of Power, pp. 27-9