[To be free is to be intelligent. To be intelligent is to be real.]

(This post is continued from a previous post, here.)

“A high level of free will must employ a combination of these three levels thus: an idea or value or ideal in the intellective sphere must arouse an appropriate emotional response in the animic sphere, and that in turn must trigger a corresponding outward action. Where activity is consistently directed on this basis, the person in question is said to be an authentic being. (This is also a major example of the universal action of ‘vertical causality’, as opposed to the physical kind, acting here in the individual person, and so is under his or her direction.)

The converse of this is the case where the contents of the intellective sphere have little impact on the animic, whose emotional responses are nearly always triggered instead by whatever stimuli happen to be present. In this case, the contents of sense-perception, including the inclinations of other persons, are the causes of one’s actions because of their unopposed access to the animic sphere which prompts action. Where this condition is dominant, it is that of the inauthentic being, who is failing to exercise free will in any significant manner…

…The difference between the authentic and inauthentic person can also be understood in terms of the soul’s representation of its world. In the former case, the soul has full awareness owing to the conscious relations it has both to the intellect and to the senses, whereas in the latter, self-awareness is stifled by the soul’s habitual confusion of itself with the sense-content of its world. Such failures to realize the difference in degree of being between the self and its world reduce the power of free will. When the self puts itself on the same level as that of its own mental contents, or even lower, it is committing the fundamental confusion which I have already called the ‘cosmic illusion’, because in this case the individual cannot distinguish himself from his ‘cosmos’, or see himself as anything other than an item in the system which depends on his conception of it. All things under the headings of sins and crimes and vices result inevitably from this confusion. Such things are obviously failures to realize values in practice, because the nodal point or fulcrum of value, the difference in degree between the person and his perception, has been lost from his awareness.”

Source: Robert Bolton, Self and Spirit, pp. 93-4,95

[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 Capacity for Freedom]

This post is continued from a previous one here.

“[The] interior complexity of man means that each person has the means to unite himself or herself in an equally natural way to either the Providential or the Fatidic order. However, we do not apply the term ‘free will’ to both of these options, because what we understand by freedom does not belong to nature, where all is subject to efficient causality, but rather to Providence which comprises the archetypes or formal causes of all that belongs to nature. This is said to be free because it comprises the essential realities of the world as they are ‘before’ being instanced in material form and so subjected to all kinds of constraint.

The soul which aligns itself with Providence, and therefore with freedom, will thus be the one which realizes the possibilities of the spiritual nature to the fullest extent possible for the individual concerned. This involves an orientation of the whole person which is not to be confused with the divisive effects of an unintegrated intellectuality which is made an end in itself, and so denies its spiritual and sacramental role. On the contrary, it applies to the body as well, by its participation in the soul, which in turn participates in intellect; it too is spiritualised in its own way, therefore. Concerning the effect of this union, Guénon says: ‘In uniting itself to Providence and consciously collaborating with it, the human will can become a counter-balance to destiny and finally neutralize it.’ In the words of Fabre d’Olivet,

The harmony of the Will and Providence constitutes Good; Evil is born of their opposition. Man has received three forces adapted to each of the three modifications of his being…and the unity which binds them [these forces], that is to say Man, is perfected or depraved, according as it tends to become blended with the Universal Unity or to become distinguished from it.

In other words man approaches either perfection or depravity depending on which of the two poles of manifestation he gravitates towards: the pole of unity or the pole of multiplicity.

This also makes it easier to see how each soul can choose its own destiny, since the inward relations it makes with its material, psychical, and spiritual possibilities are in effect the formal causes of its relations to the external conditions under which it lives and develops. In other words, it is not so much a matter of the person being modified by a set of conditions as of a soul gravitating to a set of conditions which corresponds to its interior relations, and under which the latter will be best able to realize their potential. This leads to certain questions about the will which are hardly ever treated theoretically, particularly concerning the distinction between the things we do and the things we suffer. If the movement of the will is based on the component wills of Instinctive, Animic, and Intellectual principles, it can be seen that the adverse wills which confront us need only be the counterparts of unintegrated acts of volition within us.

Like wills can only connect with like, but if the whole person is harmonized in relation to the intellective principle, the will must be free, and so not liable to attract adverse volition to itself, having none within. The choice of freedom and free will outlined above is implicitly obedience to the will of God, where the universal Divine will can be discerned by means of the threefold constitution of the being. Its implication is that each person is born with a destiny to develop as much as possible through the Instinctive, Animic, and Intellective levels, with the grace of sacred tradition.”

Source: Robert Bolton, Self and Spirit, pp. 79-81

[“Man becomes aware of the sacred because it manifests itself, shows itself, as something wholly different from the profane.”]

  • “That is sacred which in the first place is attached to the transcendent order, secondly, possesses the character of absolute certainty and, thirdly, eludes the comprehension and control of the ordinary human mind. Imagine a tree whose leaves, having no kind of direct knowledge about the root, hold a discussion about whether or not a root exists and what its form is if it does: if a voice then came from the root telling them that the root does exist and what its form is, that message would be sacred. The sacred is the presence of the center in the periphery, of the immutable in the moving; dignity is essentially an expression of it, for in dignity too the center manifests outwardly; the heart is revealed in gestures. The sacred introduces a quality of the absolute into relativities and confers on perishable things a texture of eternity.” — Frithjof Schuon, Understanding Islam
  • To deny the root is to deny the sacred, to alienate oneself from oneself, to separate oneself from the universe, to be cast out into the barren deserts of time and space.
  • Tradition: Know thyself (to actualize one’s given nature; to become what one essentially is; to remember; to reconnect with a principle that is beyond the contingent events of time and space)
  • Modernity: Construct thyself (to be deprived of one’s essence; to become what one is not; to forget; to degenerate into materialism)
  • The traditional worldview seeks to harmonize human will with Nature, without intermediary.
  • The modern worldview seeks to dominate Nature through the intermediary of technology and other gods.
  • “What then is the sacred in relation to the world? It is the interference of the uncreate in the created, of the eternal in time, of the infinite in space, of the supraformal in forms; it is the mysterious introduction into one realm of existence of a presence which in reality contains and transcends that realm and could cause it to burst asunder in a sort of divine explosion. The sacred is the incommensurable, the transcendent, hidden within a fragile form belonging to this world; it has its own precise rules, its terrible aspects and its merciful qualities; moreover any violation of the sacred, even in art, has incalculable repercussions. Intrinsically the sacred is inviolable, and so much so that any attempted violation recoils on the head of the violator.” — Frithjof Schuon, Language of the Self
  • Desacrelization ultimately leads to destruction.
  • Man’s role is crucial in the actualization of the sacred.

Source: Title from Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion: The Significance of Religious Myth, Symbolism, and Ritual within Life and Culture (1961), translated from the French by William R. Trask, [first published in German as Das Heilige und das Profane (1957).

Glossary of Terms Used by Frithjof Schuon, Compiled and Edited by Deon Valodia, http://www.frithjof-schuon.com/Glossary%20Schuon%20Revised.pdf

[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

[Reza Shah-Kazemi: “Seeing God Everywhere”]

Dr. Reza Shah-Kazemi writes on a range of topics from metaphysics and doctrine to contemplation and prayer. He is presently a Research Associate at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, where, amongst other projects, he has been working on a new, annotated translation of Nahj al-Balagha, the discourses of Imam ‘Ali. Dr. Shah-Kazemi is also the founding editor of the Islamic World Report. His degrees include International Relations and Politics at Sussex and Exeter Universities, and a PhD in Comparative Religion from the University of Kent in 1994. He later acted as a consultant to the Institute for Policy Research in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.

Dr. Shah-Kazemi has authored and translated several works, including Paths of Transcendence: Shankara, Ibn Arabi and Meister Eckhart on Transcendent Spiritual Realization (World Wisdom Books, 2006), Doctrines of Shi‘i Islam (I. B. Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2001), Avicenna: Prince of Physicians (Hood Hood, 1997) and Crisis in Chechnya (Islamic World Report, 1995). Reza Shah-Kazemi has edited several books, including Algeria: Revolution Revisited (Islamic World Report, 1997). He has also published numerous articles and reviews in academic journals.