Sunday, June 9, 2013

The heart of knowledge, part II

Ibn Arabi's insights on the pursuit of knowledge, as encountered in the Futuhat al Makkiyya, are eloquent. Knowledge — of whatever kind — is not to be scorned, but rather valued. In a universe of infinitely diverse arisings, each one completely unique and each one expressing a name of God, it is the sacred duty and responsibility of beings to seek knowledge of the Names of God.

There is an interesting correlation here between the infinite manifestations of the universe — what I call objects, events, circumstances, and conditions — and impressions.

If we understand Ibn Arabi's doctrine of the Names of God — which, as I have demonstrated elsewhere, is intimately tied to the enneagram— we will see the following:

The names of God are uncountable and infinite; yet they exist in a hierarchy, and are organized within a vast and incomprehensible form. We can comprehend portions of the form, but never the whole form, because the form itself embodies a transcendent formlessness, in a mystery that can never actually be penetrated.

The "overarching" names of universal forces that form the hierarchy as expounded in the essay on the enneagram and the Names of God are, in a certain but very real sense, the least of the question; every single arising within the universe that can be known is a name of God, and we can legitimately say that every arising is an impression.

The doctrine of the Names of God is thus, in other words, the definition of the universe as consisting of impressions, each one of which is divine, and constitutes a specific way of knowing God through one of His infinite names. This teaches us why the taking in of impressions is a sacred action. It explains why it is so important; and furthermore explains why conscious organisms have been created to undertake this work. The taking in of impressions is, in fact, both a form of prayer and a form of worship, since every consciously apprehended, ingested, and comprehended impression is an increase of knowledge within the system of the names of God.

Because the infinite, individually arising Names of God are appellations of God, identities of God, we can specifically understand that this action is an effort to remember the Self, since each and every single instance of the conscious knowing of a Name is a remembering of the Universal Self that expresses its Being within the cosmos. The act of self remembering, in other words, can never be separated from an understanding connected to both impressions and the knowing of the Names of God.

It's no coincidence that Ibn Arabi specifically mentions preparation (check the first link in this post) as a critical element in this work. Every kind of knowledge acquired is a preparation for the next kind. In this way, human beings have been given the capacity to "build" a hierarchical inner order that mirrors the hierarchical order of the cosmos, as expounded in the enneagram. This hierarchical inner order must be harmonious in order to be properly understood; hence all the emphasis on balanced development which one finds in Gurdjieff's work.

 The fact that this knowing — this inner, intuitive knowledge — cannot be strictly intellectual should be self evident, since impressions in the universe consist of every kind of impression, not just the ones that an intelligence can produce. Sensation and emotion are equally valid, and must be incorporated into the understanding and knowledge that a human being attempts to acquire in their efforts to prepare.

 One of the most beautiful passages in the quote linked to this essay is the following:

Bringing to be is never cut off,
So objects of knowledge are never cut off,
So knowledges are never cut off.

How can there be quenching?

No one believes in quenching except him
Who is ignorant of what is created within himself,
Constantly and continuously.

And he who has no knowledge of himself
Has no knowledge of his Lord.

 I plead guilty to the art of reconfiguring this poetically, in order to demonstrate the magnificent Dharma of Arabi's  prose. His words are reminiscent— and worthy— of Zen master Dogen's legacy.

 We will continue this investigation in the next post.

May your soul be filled with light.

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