Saturday, June 8, 2013
The heart of knowledge, part I
Despite all the talk about a movement into a wordless state or place, to acquire knowledge is divine.
Ibn Arabi notes, "God never commanded his prophet to seek increase of anything except knowledge, since all good lies therein... By knowledge I mean only knowledge of God, of the next world, and of that which is appropriate for this world, in relationship to that for which this world was created and established. Then man's affairs will be upon insight wherever he is, and he will be ignorant of nothing in himself and his activities." (Futuhat al Makkiyya, II 370.4).
He furthermore mentions, "...knowledge is for the heart to acquire as that thing is in itself... knowledge is the attribute gained by the heart through this acquisition. The knower is the heart, and the object of the knowledge is that acquired thing."
It would be naïve of us to presume that the Sufis had some mistaken idea of the physical heart as functioning as a mental brain... they knew better. What they meant is that to know through the heart is to know through intuition, through the feeling capacity — which arises through a connection of the centers.
Although we could say that this knowing is wordless, in fact, it forms a thread of connections to words, and words can be employed in intelligent ways to help illustrate the need to know through the heart. If it weren't for this capacity to form a thread, there would be no fabric woven in the hearts and minds of men. There would be no patterns to discern, and no paths to follow.
Balanced between the impossible knowledge of the transcendent, and the required knowledge of the immanent, the adept is tempted to throw himself headlong into the bliss of the transcendent, assuming that this will somehow excuse him from understanding the immanent. It may seem odd to say this, but terrorism arises from this kind of action; a willingness to destroy and obliterate everything that manifests, in the service of the un-manifest. The idea, which begins with a heartfelt motive, becomes irrational as it is perversely translated by lower impulses. The magnetic attraction of the transcendent — which is a natural phenomenon arising from the heart of love itself — is likely to confuse minds that are not properly prepared to receive it according to their own level. The story of Adam and Eve was originally meant to illustrate this problem. Both Ibn Arabi and Swedenborg consistently (and insistently) stress the need for such preparation.
So we need to know from within the heart, according to our own nature. We need to know what is appropriate for this world. And to know from within the heart is to know organically—from within sensation—and even more from within a blend of sensation, feeling, and intelligence, which is intellect rightly ordered and aligned with the other parts.
This action is rarely present. Self-study accompanied by a right sensation unmasks the missing elements of feeling that belong in an intelligent exchange; and yet such intuition of the heart cannot be invoked or forced upon a situation. It is a Love that arises naturally. This is the intelligence we seek, and which can be given if we search.
One might think that the acquisition of knowledge puts one above all others, but this is definitely not the case. Ibn Arabi explains this quite eloquently in his passage on the meaning of knowledge and prostration. To acquire knowledge is, paradoxically to know one does not know; and to know that all knowledge comes from a higher level. This is, actually, one of the esoteric meanings of the word understanding, and we can infer quite specifically, from a careful reading of Ibn Arabi, that Gurdjieff took his meaning of the word in large part from these Sufi sources.
Jeanne de Salzmann well understood the intimate link between intuition and knowledge. From The Reality of Being: "We have to guard against judging with our mind before we have allowed our intuition, which is at the heart of the experience, to bring us knowledge." (p. 181.)
The idea of an abandonment of knowledge is, in other words, categorically incorrect. We would not have the words and records of the search of the great masters, throughout all cultures and throughout all time, without the effort to acquire knowledge, which both Gurdjieff, Ibn Arabi, Swedenborg, Sri Anirvan, and countless other luminaries considered to be an essential part of one's inner effort. The temptation to immolate oneself in the absolute bliss of dissolution is a dangerous one; one must stand up right in oneself to demand a greater discipline than this.
May your soul be filled with light.