Reshiyyat, Mysticism and Metaphysics
From the perspective of perennialism one could say that the term Reshi is Indian way of referring to Logos, the Light of Muhammad, and the Christ-Reality. If the first Reshi was Ahmad Reshi and the latter is synonymous with the pole of Existence, the Universal Man, the envoy of the Absolute as elaborated in Sufi metaphysics then Reshiyyat is an integral tradition and formulation of the Sanatana Dharma, the primordial Din, the Sophia perennis, javidaan khird. This makes it truly universalistic. Reshiyyat’s history doesn’t extend only to 4000 years as some have argued but to all eternity, to preeternity. Specifying Muhammad as the first Reshi is not to restrict Reshiyyat to post-Islamic period. In fact the Prophet’s name is Ahmed in heaven in Islamic tradition. Sheikh Nuruddin’s specification of the name as Ahmed Reshi seems to be an allusion to this heavenly or timeless transhistorical Muhammad. It is also established that Reshiyyat in Kashmir predates the birth of the Prophet of Islam. The Reshi’s journey is from pre-eternity to post-eternity and we are all, willy nilly summoned to take this great expedition. We are all fellow travelers on the path of Reshiyyat because to be a Reshi is to be concerned, ultimately concerned with our Ground of Being, which is none other than God who is none other the Self, the ideal pole of man.
What is common between Buddhism, Saivism, Tantricism and Sufism is the religious experience, the fruit of which is the peace that passeth all understanding. The path is transcendence of ego to realize the Infinite, the Unconditioned. Theologies are only different conceptual schemes to make sense of the religious experiences of the prophets and saints and are dispensable. Metaphysics which is the science of the supraphenomenal, the science of the Infinite and the Unconditioned transcends the theologies as it speaks of direct vision or gnosis (irfan). It is non-dualistic and takes Absolute or Godhead rather than the personal God of theology as the Ultimate Reality. Enlightenment/deliverance/ gnosis/ vision of God or the kingdom of God dissolves all questions that conceptual intellect raises. Theologies and forms are transcended as their supraformal referent and ground is realized. The great end is not merely mystical realization but metaphysical realization where the there is no limitation of finitude or individuality and knowing and being are merged as subject-object duality is finally transcended. Transcendence of the desiring self is the unifying element of all traditional religions. Perennialists convincingly argue that that there is no important difference between different mystical paths which constitute the inner reality of all religions. There can’t be any difference in the fruit either. They claim to derive logical conclusion from the Quranic verses that speak of the universality of revelation and ad-Deen and that describe the Quran as the testifier of previous revelations. Tawhid, Sufistically interpreted as ‘There is no truth but Truth or there is no reality but Reality,’ is seen to be the essence of all religious and mystical traditions. Iqbal’s description of the Prophet in such verses as Lowh b tou, kalm bi tou, tera wujood alkitab, Aayai Kaiyinat ka main-i- dareyaab tou/ niklae teri talash mai kafla haay rang-o boo, Nigahi isq-o- masti mai wahi awwal wahi aakhir approximates the metaphysical understanding of Muhammad (upon whom be peace and blessings – the very name Muhammad means the praised one. Organized ritual blessing on him is a practice in vogue in Kashmir. Praising Muhammad is, metaphysically speaking, praising and blessing Existence or Life. Durood is at root indicative of the attitude of yes-saying to life which could be contrasted to absurdist attitude of rebellion or nihilistic despair) that perennialists put forward in defence of their thesis that Muhammad is universally acknowledged by traditional communities. Muhammed, seen in mystical and metaphysical terms as the Pole of Existence, the Logos, the Principle of Manifestation, the positivity of existence, the envoy of the Absolute, the First stage of the Tanazullat-i-Sitta, the Praised One in the capacity of perfection of man, the ideal pole of man, the essence of Aadamiyat, the Light that was created before Adam, the revealer of Divine Attributes, the unfragmented integrated perfected manhood, the transhistorical or metahistorical or archetypal Muhammad is not denied by any integral religious tradition. Islam, metaphysically and mystically interpreted as the surrender of the finite self before the Infinite, the Totality, the Existence, is not a religion among other religions but the Religion. It is the religion of all prophets. Islam is not a set of propositions or a mere creedal system. It claims to be the Truth or Reality (Allah’s denotative name is al-Haqq) that is Manifest. Allah is the Manifest Truth according to the Quran. Islamic kalima is translatable in such terms that only a spiritually blind person who deliberately chooses to veil or cover the truth. Kafir, in the Quranic parlance, is one who denies the truth that is made manifest to him with dazzling clarity and not the one who denies certain theological proposition. The Quran is not reducible to theology. In fact it is not understandable in purely theological terms. Traditional Muslims have never encouraged kalam. At the stage of metaphysical realization the theological plane which is dualistic and inherently limited is transcended so that no question of exclusivist labels and identities is there. So the question whether Lalla was a Saivite or Muslim belonging to the theological plane cannot be entertained from the metaphysical plane.
Reshiyyat is not to be designated as a religion but as a metaphysic and esotericism that grounds different religions. This metaphysics assumes different forms in accordance with different religious traditions. This metaphysics forms the unifying element of all traditions religions. Religions are adaptations according to different human receptacles of the truths of metaphysics. Doctrinal content or dogmas of different religions are reducible to metaphysical principles. There is a difference between religion and metaphysics. As Guenon points out the metaphysical point of view is purely intellectual while as in the religious or theological point of view the presence of a sentimental element affects the doctrine itself, which doesn’t allow of it complete objectivity.1
The fact that Reshi is a transreligious term and can’t be spoken of as belonging to only a particular religious universes means we have to see the underlying metaphysical truths that he comes to realize. Forms are relative; only the Absolute is absolute. Theologies are forms. The supraformnal truth that Reshi comes to cognize allows him to penetrate the forms from within and then at the same time transcend them. The fact that Reshis have arisen within specific religious traditions and have remained loyal to a particular religious universe disproves crude syncretistic view that dissolves forms as irrelevant. Forms are also divine though relative. They conceal an esoteric supraformal truth of which they are clothing. It is for the insider only that a journey to the centre of religious universe which is Godhead is possible according to the perennialists. Ad-Deen is the eternal truth that different sha’ria and theologies express and it is the later that vary across time and space in the history of religions. By virtue of crossing the dark night of the soul and attaining to the stage of haqq-ul-yakeen the Reshi or the Sufi is able to have unmediated vision of truth that ad-Deen is. A Muslim Reshi is born in the bosom of Islam and lives Islam but that doesn’t mean the truth in previous revelations is thereby negated but only relived in a different form. Reshiyyat is not approachable as a particular philosophical system. It because it refers to the Universal, the Unlimited can’t be contained in a particular system. Metaphysics, being the truth of Universal Principles or the Infinite and All-Possibility isn’t definable. One can’t make a system or ideology out of it. Only reason constructs systems or ideologies. Darsanas of Indian origin and Sufism are not philosophical schools in the Western sense of the term. So those authors who use such phrases as Reshi ideology, Reshi philosophy or Saivite philosophy misuse the terms. Western philosophy lacks complete metaphysics and is not what Plato meant by it: a way of life and love of wisdom. Philosophy in the primordial sense of the term that prepares one for death and assimilation to God as Plato said is not a rational logical abstract discipline only and is allied to gnosis, a way of life or realization of the good. It is not a prerogative of ratio or mental faculty of reason but of nous, the supraindividual universal faculty of intellect. Metaphysics, the science of supraphenomenal universal principles, the Infinite, that transcends all binaries and dualisms that have plagued the Western philosophical and theological tradition, and resolves all contradictions in the One, the Absolute, coincidentia oppositorum, is intellectual (non-discursive intelligence) rather than rational discipline and postmodern critiques are hardly relevant to it as it is not dualistic, “structuralist,” or to be identified with metaphysics of presence. It is not a mere theoretical rational inquiry but a realization, intellection or noetic vision that transcends subject-object duality and demands something like ethical discipline that Plato argued for. Platonic philosophy, understood as a spiritual and contemplative way of life leading to illumination or enlightenment; an intellectual discipline based on intellection culminating in union (henosis) with ideal Forms; his “Orphic”-Indian conception of philosopher as one who seeks release from the wheel of cyclical term concurs with the perennialist understanding of metaphysics and Indian understanding of darsana. Reshiyyat is a philosophy in this sense and not in the typical Western sense.
Reshi metaphysics is not rational construction. It is not a totalizing system either. It is not a metaphysics of presence either as the Supreme Principle or Absolute in Buddhism, Kashmir Saivism or Sufism is not Being but pure Being or Beyond-Being or Non-Being best described as Void or Northing in Reshi literature. Deconstruction and other postmodern philosophies problematize rational metaphysics and theology only. Reshiyyat also doesn’t take a humanist view of self which postmodernism challenges. Postmodernism has indirectly helped to strengthen the realm of unreason that mysticism takes care of. Mystical traditions such as Reshiyyat transcend all thought constructions and the binaries of dualistic mind and thought. Reshi talks about the language of silence, of prelinguistic prereflective witnessing of phenomena and deconstruction can do nothing to discredit this “discourse” of silence.
History shows that mysticism in Kashmir has been the defining element of Kashmiri tradition and identity. Buddhism and Saivism are essentially mystical religions. Ritualism had been questioned from the very beginning in the history of religious thought in Kashmir. Buddhism that coloured Kashmir religious landscape before the advent of Saivism is strongly critical of ritualism. Saivist sages emphasized relativity and even dispensability of forms. Kashmir Saivism was especially Unitarian or nondualistic like Sufism that followed it. Tantricism was extreme development of esoterical viewpoint that led ultimately to disregard of law. Muslim Kashmir’s greatest sons have been mystics. Our greatest poets have been mystics. Our art is a reflection of our mysticism.