Monday, 11 April 2011

Ibn Arabi's Ecocentric Metaphysics



Ibn ‘Arabî ’s world affirming spirituality is ideally ecocentric. For Ibn ‘Arabî  God is the all-pervading Environment (al-Muhit). His world-view is Realiy-centric or God-centric and thus transcends anthropocentrism and his notion of anthropos is not what humanism means by it but imago die, a microcosmos, a mirror of the Real and an isthmus between the two worlds – a truly ecocentric conception. This idea of one absolute and all-encompassing existence or unity extends to the whole universe. Everything has a right over us. The fundamental term wujud which means that awareness and consciousness lends itself to environmentalist appropriation. It also allies him with Whitehead’s panpsychism. For Ibn ‘Arabî  no universe is thinkable without the omnipresence of life and awareness. We share with Nature, the world of non-self the same Self, the Self of Compassion – an expression of Ibn ‘Arabî  that resonates with Buddhist expression. It implies we are can’t exploit it or oppose Nature. Nothing would be more absurd than to claim that things are dense or opaque and one needs to oppose the world to live in dignity (Camus) and that the world is something in the presence of which one could feel nausea (Sartre). Akbarian teachings provide a powerful counter-perspective to all anthropocentric secularist as well as dualist theological views that are hostile to ecoconsciousness and are a corrective to the ego-centered, other-directed, aggressive, exclusively tanzihcentric or transcendentalist (which Christianity is according to environmentalist White), alienating, possessive, manipulative and utilitarian perspective that has been the dominant view in the modern West. The creatures are the mirrors of God. Everything is vibrant with life as everything manifests the Divine Names. Cosmos as theophany means no descaralization which precedes exploitation of the environment.  Ibn ‘Arabî  establishes a universal brotherhood based on the most fundamental ontological basis that all things, animate and inanimate are essentially Absolute or its countless faces. We love our neighbour or a tree because at the most fundamental plane we are our neighbour and we are the tree. There is no other in absolute sense. To see the other is to see duality rather than the One Essence. The Beloved smiles in every face and invites us for a meeting in every form. God is Love. As separate individualities we are not. The One is all. All are one. In his words “you are everything, in everything, and from everything.” So why assert our exclusive claim to be and why impose our desire on the other?
For Ibn ‘Arabî  and most Muslim theologians no universe is thinkable without the omnipresence of life and awareness. The very word that is employed to refer to the underlying stuff of the universe – wujûd – is understood by them to express this. What exactly are things?  Not the hard, dense and metaphysicaly opaque and dead stuff or mere objects but they are living loci of divine manifestation, sacred and mysterious entities partaking of the mystery of Existence or God as everything is charged with the grandeur of God. They are, in Chitick’s words, “the concomitants (lawâzim) of Being, or the potentialities of manifestation latent in Infinite Possibility, or the never-ending delimitations of the Nondelimited. If a thing is found in the cosmos, it is a specific self-disclosure of Real Being, a face of God, a word articulated in the All-Merciful Breath, a color made visible by the radiance of Light.”  The creatures are the mirrors of God … Everything is vibrant with life as everything manifests the Divine Names and if we seriously take the vision of the Unity of Being, “how could we stretch out our hand to do harm to a creature” as Saud Hakim asks. The fact that life essentially is an appropriation, an injury or will to power as Nietzsche would forcefully remind us  and biology largely support his statement should not deter us to exercise universal compassion because we, as humans, are granted the capacity to transcend our ego and to love and love unconditionally. Ibn ‘Arabî  chooses – and asks us to choose – life over death, love over hate and mercy over wrath. In this choice alone do we fulfill our vocation and will continue to live in an increasingly fragile world and deteriorating environment. 
Thought must be transcended to commune with the Reality (Al-Haqq) because conceptual intellect divides and posits dualism of subject and object. “I” must be annihilated in fana so that one mirrors Existence or God. Ego divides part from the whole, man from Existence or Divine Environment. Man as limiting self disappears so that only God or Existence lives. Mysticism breathes life into nature by appreciating its impenetrable mystery. It celebrates nature as God’s visible Face. It doesn’t make it an object but one’s exteriorized Self. As an object it is the Beloved. For him this whole existence is the Garden of Eden. How far away it is from the typical modernist scientific humanist or absurdist’s constructions of the world. Such key modern figures as Camus are opposed with all their might to the world and in fact he defines the world as something to which he is opposed. The world is the other. Its sight provokes nausea. We are thrown into it, says Heidegger. Far from being the enchanted Garden it is a place of torture where man pays for some unknown sin as Beckett would have us believe. Modern thought, by and large, contests the notions that the world is our home and that we can be at peace with the world and all these things are incompatible with cocentrism. No wonder that environmental crisis precipitated in modern times only with such vehemence. The thesis of world’s reality – the world as autonomous reality cut off from transcendence, the Ground of being – implies God’s unreality and the unreality of everything beautiful and noble. Modern absurdism reduces man to nothingness and the world to hell because man is not related to the world. If the world is real and if the self is real oneness of existence is not realizable. Oneness of existence, the corner stone of deep ecology and related environmental movements is only possible if we have some grounding reality or common essence of every existent. Now in the modern philosophies which are not idealistic there is no ontological single essence. The unity of existence is understandable and realizable in mystical philosophies only and one of the most powerful and comprehensive statement of it is found in Ibn ‘Arabî. Modern environmentalism direly needs a firm metaphysical basis and here Ibn ‘Arabî with his conception of unity, the world as theophany and man as microcosmos comes handy. It is quite obvious that the defining characteristics of post-Renaissance and Enlightenment Western modernity – rationalist, masculine or androcentric, subject centred or egoistic, logical, dualist, outward looking or extrovert, aggressive, scientific, capitalist, desacralizing or secularist, humanistic, individualistic – create an environment, a worldview that is not congenial to environmentalist enterprise which  demands that the world is to be celebrated, cared for and loved with abandon.  Ibn Arabi is direly needed as providing a corrective to this dominant episteme.

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