by Bulent Rauf

This article first appeared in the Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society, Volume VI, 1987.

Further reading:

Concerning the Universality of Ibn 'Arabi

There is only one Existence. That existence is, naturally, a state of Being. That being, then, is the One and Only, Infinite Being. It exists through its own existence irrespective of any other consideration. Naturally so, because there is no other premise than its own existence, therefore there is no other point of reference or relationship in respect of which it could be considered. When it is self-conscious it creates or constitutes its own consideration of itself. This bringing into consciousness of itself as a mentation of its own potential existence is when it "manifests" itself to itself. This is the only state of its own duality possible or imaginable where the duality is really no other than itself with its own image of itself. This self-consciousness of its own mentation of iis potentiality takes itself from its own singularity and uniqueness to its own duality of unique singularity only in its own consciousness. At this point of its singularity of duality it is necessary to give existence to all of its own potentialities since these potentialities are of the "fabric" of its own self-consciousness. These infinite number of potentialities which thus have come to and have acquired existence through the self-consciousness of the essentially self existing Unique, One and Only, Infinite Existence, then, are the only source of number and, consequently, of all possible plurality.

Universality presumes a locus or a multiplicity of areas, a plurality of loci. This plurality, in reference to the One and Only and Infinite Existence, must either deny it or allow a situation where plurality of the One is essentially a self-corporate mode of a many-faceted existence where "each" individual existence is a consideration of accommodation for this global Uniqueness in expression. Consequently, here the infinity of the one permeates the theoretically many facets of the global one. The result is One expressed manifoldly. Each of these manifoldly expressed facets of the One Infinite Existence are so many Universes all enclosed in the One and Unique Infinite Existent.

People who have been self-styled archi-erudites, motivated by a leaning towards a "byzantinism" and who have thus achieved a chair in the society of the cymini sectores, cannot coincide with Ibn 'Arabi's horizon which remains an unlimited, infinite universal vision simply because in Ibn 'Arabi universality is expressed by the infinity contained in the Essential Uniqueness. Here the word "contained" misrepresents a slate where nothing is "contained" since to "contain" requires a container which contains by the limits of its own structure. The Essential State has no such limits. Hence to qualify its own Infinity as being "contained" may lead to a misrepresentation of the Essential State of Being of the Uniqueness. This sui generis essentiality qualifies itself by its Uniqueness which naturally presumes unlimited, therefore Infinite, possibilities which are impossible of number. Incidentally, it could be said that Its numerality is only a conceptual consequence of the triplicity of its being Essential, Infinite, and Unique.

The juxtaposition of Uniqueness and Infinity are, somewhat, complementaries that form the Essentiality of its Latitude of Being. It is this Being which is expressed through its phase of Infinity that gives rise to our concept of a state of being universal. Then again Ibn 'Arabi underlines the infinite number of these universes ('awâlim) which according to him may be of ihe number of the grains of sand on the beach or more, and which, for convenience, he refers to as the Eighteen Thousand Universes.

This theocosmology, so to speak, of Ibn 'Arabi is in complete concordance with illumination received by him from the Qur'an, which Ibn 'Arabi follows assiduously, without ever deviating, even when scholars and "doctors" find divergence in the words of Ibn 'Arabi from the practice of the Mohammedan religion, thus "missing" the depth of the Mohammedian Way.

A passage of the Qur'an which reflects the infinite plurality of the universes says "Lord of the Heavens and of the Earth, Lord of the Universes" (Rabb-as Samawâti wa-l ard Rabb-el 'Alemîn). The mention of the second Lordship is not only a poetical adornment in the sentence. It is a pointer to the fact that even though the "Heavens" (Samawâti) are mentioned in plural, there is still room to draw the attention to the infinite existence of universes ('alemîn, 'awâlim) beyond our concept of the "Heavens". It is the infinity of Universes aspected with the Lordship and for every potentiality and possibility, beyond the concept of number as we understand it which qualifies the Esoteric Lordship represented in the Reality of Mohammed, the Reality of Realities or the Reality of the Mohammedian Way, by which is meant the esoteric reality of the Mohammedian meaning — a meaning that Ibn 'Arabi represents himself as the total heir and as the explicit and the implicit attributions of exposed and esoteric meanings involved in the divergent Unicity of the micro- and macro-cosmic Reality of Realities.

In that case the existence of Ibn 'Arabi himself is the attribution of Reality in the sense of the exposed meaning and the esoteric meaning hermeticized in the cosmos both as macro and micro where these two are inconsequentially equal before the Reality of Unique, Infinite, Essentiality.

This is the basis of the all-important "Universality" of Ibn 'Arabi.