Monday, 11 April 2011

Ibn Arabi and Human Perfection

The perfectibility of man is the central message of Ibn ‘Arabî. Man is the meaning of the universe and in a way God is in search of him and he is absolutely needed to accomplish the purpose of creation which is manifestation of divine attributes in all comprehensiveness. Man is the polished mirror in which God sees Himself. God needs man and the universe is a means to realize this. The Perfect Man is the barzakh between Necessity and possibility or between the cosmos and the Real. He is connected to both sides of creation, the divine and the cosmic and that explains his vicegerancy. In Futûhât  he explains how the Microcosm, i.e. man, is the spirit, cause and reason for the world. Ibn ‘Arabî  quotes Ali in his Kernel of the Kernel as saying, “"You thought you were a part, small, but in you there is a universe, the greatest." He conquers all the worlds with love. His place is placeless. His elaboration of the idea of the perfect man which is the key to his thought is fundamentally in consonance with traditional elaboration of it across different traditions from Hinduism and Buddhism to Taoism. Nietzsche's Superman, as interpreted by Ananda Coomaraswamy, is a dim shadow of him. He delineates the broad contours of the perfections of deiformity. These perfections can’t be enumerated, given that, as he tells us, their archetypes number 124,000, in keeping with the number of prophets from the time of Adam. Modern heroes, like their creators, are mostly resolutely against their being brought to life, frustrated in their attempts to be themselves, finding no reason to live and celebrate, are foil to such heroes as described by Ibn ‘Arabî  in the following words:
Listen, O my beloved!
I am the essence ('ayn) that is sought in creation,
The centre of the circle and its circumference,
Its complexity and simplicity.
I am the order revealed between heaven and earth…(al-Tajalliyāt al-ilāhiyya)
The notion of the al-insân al-kâmil, “the Perfect Man” can perhaps best be understood in Western terms as the Divine Logos as Landau explains in his provocative study of Ibn Arabi through which all things are created, stands at the center of Ibn ‘Arabî's worldview and integrates all its disparate dimensions. He presents Muhammad as the perfect man and as the ideal pole of man. Imitating Prophet whom he primarily conceives in metaphysical terms is the way to perfection and “an ideal of inclusion rather than exclusion, an ideal of integral culture, not an attitude of purity in peril, not xenophobia disguised as piety, not totalitarianism, not reaction.” Every flower that blooms, every bird that chips, every child that smiles, every blade of grass that grows proclaim the grandeur of the Prophet, the Man. All our endeavors, whether we know it or not, are ultimately directed to affirm and promote life and thus praise the Prophet who is understood as the Pole of existence. Our breathing, despite us, goes on and thus we go on blessing the Prophet. Wherever and in whatever form life dances and smiles there the Prophet is blessed. The Prophet is the positivity of manifestation as he is the principle of Manifestation. All endeavours are for realizing the station of Muhammad, all seeking is seeking of Muhammad, all roads lead to the abode of Muhammad. All prophets partake of the Logos that is Muhammad. History is moving prophetward. The electron, the earth, the sun, the galaxies all revolve round the centre called Muhammad. Being that which manifests or unveils Essence the Prophet is green in the leaves, red in the roses and gold in the rays of the sun. He is this life in its positivity, in its totality. And he is the silence of the darkness. And he is the joy of light abounding life of the world.

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