Islamic Calligraphy

ULTIMATE SYMMETRY:

Fractal Complex-Time and Quantum Gravity

by Mohamed Haj Yousef



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IV.2.3 The Real-Through-Whom-Things-Are-Created


It must be noted, however, that the divine creative Source-point at the center of the circle in Figure IV.2, though it is denoted as the Real, does not refer to God Himself, but to the Single Monad, or the Universal Intellect, who is also called the Pen, as we noted before, among many other different names or descriptions that have been described in Volume I. There is, however, some confusion between the Greatest Element and the Single Monad, since sometimes it is not very clear for some of these many variant names whether they are really for the Single Monad or the Greatest Element. One of these names is the real through whom creation takes place , as William Chittick translated it [6, p. 133], or the real through whom things are created , which Ibn al-Arabi describes as the most perfect Image of the Real, Allah, the Creator of all worlds. That is why he is also called the Perfect Human. Nevertheless, this name actually describes the Greatest Element rather than the Single Monad, because the latter is compound while the Greatest Element is the most elementary entity from which everything else emerges. Although the Single Monad is an indivisible unit, it is still composed of the Greatest Element in a manner that seem to be similar to how the World is being generated by the Single Monad.

Unfortunately, Ibn al-Arabi does not give any details about the Greatest Element. In his book of Uqlat al-Mustawfiz, the Bolt for the Restless, he stresses that this may not be disclosed to any creature, but he indicates that the creation, or origination, of this Greatest Element is all at once, without any intermediate or associated causes. So this original, metaphysical Greatest Element that is in some mysterious way the substrate of all subsequent manifest creation, whether purely spiritual, imaginal, or physical, is the only thing that in some way underlies, constitutes, or gives rise to the Single Monad that remains the basic indivisible structure in the manifest world. Ibn al-Arabi also mentions that there are  subtle luminous links between the First Intellect and the Greatest Element that is their origin. This number is in fact the cubic power of  (), which must be somehow related to the ancient sexagenarian system attributed to the Babylonians.

Borrowing his language from the atomistic physical theories of earlier Muslim theology, Ibn al-Arabi refers to the created world as being made up of monads and forms, where the monads are the substances and the forms are the various changing accidents that inhere in and qualify those substances. In the process of manifestation, the substances appear to remain relatively constant, while the accidents don t stay for more than one moment. The monad or substance can be a physical or metaphysical entity that exists by itself, through in both cases it is a compound but indivisible unit, whereas the form or accident exists only through or by some particular monad. The monad, however, may appear in existence only by wearing some form or another [II.179.26], so we don t see the monads but rather only the forms. Also Ibn al-Arabi asserts that the monad exists by itself and its existence is constant and invariable, while the form exists only in the monad and its existence is temporal; it only exists at the time and then it vanishes instantly and intrinsically, and the same form may never come back to existence again [II.677.30, III.452.24].

Literally it originally meant jewel , but in a very different philosophical context, the same Arabic word for monad (jawhar) was used to translate the first of the ten Aristotelian categories. In English, monad is derived from the Greek monados, which means ultimate, indivisible unit . It was used very early by the Greek philosophers of the doctrines of Pythagoras, and it was also used later, in a very different way, by the neo-Platonists to signify the One: thus God is described as the Monad of monads .

Like the neo-Platonists, Ibn al-Arabi sometimes uses this term in this higher theological sense to refer to the one , the essence , the real and the origin of everything in the world. However, in such cases he doesn t refer directly to the highest, transcendent dimension of God, but rather to the Universal Intellect or the Pen, who is also the Perfect Human, as we noted above.

On the other hand, although in this theological or cosmological sense the term monad ordinarily refers to the one real essence of the world, or of all creation, Ibn al-Arabi also sometimes uses the same term in the plural form, as monads, to refer to the essences or souls/spirits, or more precisely, to the partial intellects of human beings who are the perceivers of the world, as in contrast with the Universal Intellect, that is their origin. Even more generally, he sometimes uses it to refer to any entity, even inanimate ones, in the creation, whether angels, jinn, humans, animals, plants or elements. In this latter more generic sense, as we have already explained, he considers that everything in creation has a substance which is its monad and a particular form which is its appearance. These very different usages of the term monad, however, are also intrinsically linked, since all the monads of the world are created by, and are therefore the images , or reflections, or shadows, of the one Single Monad. Thus in that larger perspective of creation, they are nothing but different images of this one Single Monad that in reality may alone be described as having real existence [III.452.24].

Although the monad, being the ultimate substance, is indivisible unit, it is understood to be composed of even more elementary constituents. This means that there are smaller, but not necessarily physical, constituents , that somehow underlie and help manifest the monads, even though the monad itself is not physically divisible into those metaphysical constituents, but can only exist in manifestation as a substance created through those underlying constituent which is the Greatest Element.

The resulting relation between the manifest World, the Single Monad and the Greatest Element can be conceived by analogy to the relation between a building, the bricks and the clay. While the building is made up of similar unit bricks, the brick itself is made from fine clay. Thus Ibn al-Arabi also says:

 

the noble Greatest Element is in relation to the sphere of the World like the (indivisible) point, and the Pen (that is the Single Monad) is like its circumference, while the Tablet (i.e., the Universal Soul) is what is in between (the point and the circumference). So just as the point meets the circumference with its (whole) entity, so does this Greatest Element meet with its (whole) entity all the aspects of the Intellect, which are the () subtle links that we mentioned before. They are unique one in the Greatest Element, but in the Intellect they become multiple and manifold, because of the manifold receptivity (of the Intellect for knowledge) from the Greatest Element. So there is (only) one (divine) close attention for the (Greatest) Element, but there are many faces of receptivity for the Intellect, that is why this (Greatest) Element is more realized in the unity of Its Creator.

 

Ibn al-Arabi affirms that this Greatest Element is the most perfect thing in existence and that everything other than Allah (including, as we can see, the First Intellect) is somehow derived from it. However, he doesn t give much information about it, and he even says that he would explain the reality of this Element if he wasn t sworn not to disclose it.

Nevertheless, as we have repeatedly noticed before, the mysterious metaphysical relations between the constituents of the microcosm are repeatedly mirrored on many different dimensions of our own level of existence. In each of these different symbolic domains, the initial creation of this higher world and the relation between its elements, such as the First Intellect and the Greatest Element, is subsequently reflected on many different lower planes of existence.

Another important name of the Single Monad is the Universal Spirit, and Ibn al-Arabi shows that he deserves this name because he sweeps through all the states of the world: cycling through the capacious orbs of the knowledge of his Creator, through the states of the cosmos to give out to them what Allah entrusted him, and through his knowing himself by his need to his Lord and his Creator. So since he exhausted all these three cycles, he is thus called Universal , meaning Total , Spirit because there is no fourth cycle other than those to go through.

Yet another interesting name of this Single Monad is Everything ! This name is interesting because Ibn al-Arabi says that in everything there is everything, even if we don t recognize that . This is on the one hand another expression of his Single Monad theory because it renders into: the Single Monad is in everything . But also it might mean that the internal structure of the Single Monad is as complicated as the world itself because it means: in everything, even the Single Monad, there is everything, even the world! This last statement is plausible since both the Single Monad, that is the Perfect Human Being, and the world are both created on the divine Image. This reminds us in mathematics with fractals such as Mandelbrot set, Julia set and Sierpinski triangle, where the structure keeps repeating itself on any larger or smaller scale. This might in answering the question about the structure of the moment and whether it is divided into sub-moments. The moment could be indeed identical to the day where the Sun rises, moves gradually in the sky and then sets to rise again in the next day; as the Single Monad might be identical with the world, the moment might be identical with the day. It just depends on the scale we are using; if we were inside the Single Monad we might see creations such as the Sun, planets and the stars, but because we are outside we see it as a point. Similarly, if we suppose we go outside the Universe, we shall see it as a point; that is as the Single Monad, indivisible but compound. This is also similar in modern cosmology to the black hole, which occupies a single point in our space but itself is considered a complete world.

The mysterious metaphysical relations between the ultimate microcosmic constituents of creation are repeatedly mirrored in many different macrocosmic dimensions of our own life. In each of these different symbolic domains, the initial creation of this higher world and the relation between its elements, such as the First Intellect and the Greatest Element, is subsequently reflected on many different lower planes of existence. In fact these names themselves are clearly borrowed from the human physical and psychical composition, because they all have the same space-time structure, and therefore the same laws of physics could be applied on both the physical and psychological levels. The reason why these overlapping domains do not interact with the corporeal universe in the same way as physical objects interact between each other is that they exist in different time levels. This means that although these corporeal and incorporeal objects may exist together in the same place, the energies associated with each type, which are produced as a result of their corresponding motions in their own time frames, do not interact because they exist in different dimensions, albeit they could be overlapping.

The most visible example of Ibn al-Arabi s development of this cosmological symbolism in the Meccan Revelations involves the house of Allah , the Kaaba, to which millions of Muslims now go on pilgrimage every year. For Ibn al-Arabi, those circumambulating the Kaaba are mirroring the circles of higher angels surrounding the divine Throne [I.50.30]. In that symbolic context, the angels also represent the determining forces of the universal Nature, and the four Archangels who carry the Throne of Allah are the four main sustaining forces of Nature, corresponding to the fundamental interactions.

This centrality of the symbolism of the Kaaba is of course rooted in the fact that Ibn al-Arabi started the first chapter of his Meccan Revelations by mentioning his encounter with the Spirit from whom he took all that he wrote in this book, a Spirit whom he met while circumambulating the Kaaba. There, Ibn al-Arabi establishes a symbolic correlation between the seven circles of tawaaf, that the pilgrim is obliged to perform around the Kaaba during the pilgrimage, and the seven main divine Names responsible of creating the seven Days of the divine Week of creation. Then he says that his Lord told him: the Kaaba, in relation to the all-encompassing (divine) Throne, is like your heart with relation to your body [I.50.29]. So in fact the Kaaba on the Earth is symbolically like the Single Monad in the cosmos. This analogy also applies to many related details, because the cubic shape of the Kaaba is in fact the simplest structure which constitutes a body that occupies the three spatial dimensions. As Ibn al-Arabi mentioned [III.276.4], the body is composed of at least eight points, corresponding to the corners of the cube.

But more importantly, one corner of the Kaaba holds the mysterious Black Stone which, according to tradition, the angel Gabriel brought down from Paradise and gave to Abraham to put it in that corner of the Kaaba. For Ibn al-Arabi, this Black Stone symbolically represents the foundational role in the process of creation and manifestation of the Greatest Element. In other words, circumambulating the Kaaba starts from the south-eastern corner in which this Black Stone resides, and the pilgrim is supposed to make seven rounds (counter-clockwise) around the Kaaba: this corresponds symbolically to the way the Greatest Element first gives rise, communicates, to, the Single Monad that is the First Intellect, after which the Intellect brings forth the world of manifest creation in the seven divine Days.

According to tradition, the Prophet Muhammad said that this Black Stone resembles Allah s right hand on Earth . As is well known, Ibn al-Arabi holds that the Universal Reality , which is also another name for the Greatest Element, because it is the origin of the Single Monad [I.119.10], is identical with the Spirit of the Prophet Muhammad himself, as that Spirit is also, according to a number of widely known Hadith, the first thing to be created . Thus, at the very beginning of the opening chapter of the Meccan Revelations, when Ibn al-Arabi begins to speak about the underlying metaphysical reality of the Greatest Element, symbolized by the Black Stone that resembles Allah s right hand, he says in poetry:

 

People are ignorant of its Essence, so some say dense, and others say it is subtle.

He (the Spirit) said to me, when I asked why they don t know It: Only the noble may truly recognize the noble! [I.47.22]

 

Ibn al-Arabi then proceeds in these opening pages to give many mysterious symbolic details about what Allah creates in the Human Being (i.e., the Single Monad/First Intellect) and in the world with each round of the seven circumambulations around the Kaaba, and he relates that metaphysical teaching to the seven main Attributes of Allah which are responsible for the seven Days of the divine creative Week [I.49.32].

Just as the Greatest Element thus makes the Single Monad which scans the states of the world in seven Days, the pilgrim in Hajj has to make seven rounds around the Kaaba anti-clockwise, starting from the Eastern corner where the Black Stone resides, and moving towards the northern corner. This clearly supports the analogy between the Greatest Element and the mysterious Black Stone especially that we have said in the narration above that the Black Stone resembles Allah s right Hand on Earth .

Figure IV.3: Cubic representation of the trinitarian world which is composed of the three levels: spiritual, psychical and physical. The physical world is what appears in the outward level of time, and it is shown here as a dotted line to stress its discrete nature. In Islam, this is represented by the Kaaba, and as Ibn al-Arabi notes the twenty-eight layers of stones that make the walls of Kaaba correspond to the twenty-eight moon mansions, and the twenty-eight Arabic letters which also correspond to the twenty-eight elementary particles.

Another important example of the symbolic analogy between the metaphysical process and figures of the macrocosm and more human realities is the hierarchy of the spirits of the prophets and saints, a central theme that runs throughout the Meccan Revelations as well. To summarize the cosmological aspect of that theme, Ibn al-Arabi presents the lower realms of the cosmos as being ruled by a complex spiritual hierarchy, largely invisible to most human beings, though not to the elite spiritual saints. Among others, this hierarchy includes the spiritual Pole , the two Imams, the four Pillars, the seven Substitutes, the eight Nobles, and the twelve Chiefs, in addition to other lesser known groups. Each of these groups and figures has a special corresponding spiritual responsibility, some of which have to do with maintaining the wider cosmic order. Those pure spirits also have an ongoing series of living human representatives or agents amongst us [II.6.6].

Some of these members of the celestial spiritual hierarchy, as Ibn al-Arabi presents them in scattered passages of the Meccan Revelations, are assigned cosmological functions symbolically related, for example, to the twelve zodiacal signs, the seven heavens, and the seven geographical regions, the four cardinal points, or even the four corners of the Kaaba [II.13]. In particular, the highest level of the Pole, in this hierarchy, is the figure who apparently corresponds to the lofty metaphysical position of the Single Monad, which Ibn al-Arabi often pointedly refers to simply as the Reality of Muhammad .

Yet another important symbolic analogy between the metaphysical macrocosm and more familiar human realities, which again runs throughout the Meccan Revelations, is the world of letters . Ibn al-Arabi considers the letters of the Arabic alphabet, given their central place in the culminating divine revelation of the Quran, to constitute in themselves a real world like us [I.58.13]. He begins his detailed explanation of their symbolic metaphysical and cosmological functions in a long section in the opening chapter of the Meccan Revelations. As he explains there, the Arabic letters also have symbolic hierarchy similar to the spiritual hierarchy of the prophets and the saints, that we have just summarized above. This special example of the hierarchy of letters is in fact quite relevant to the microscopic world, because a detailed study of the Arabic alphabet, and relatively many other languages, reveals various basic symmetries that resemble in many ways the Standard Model of Elementary Particles, not the least because they both contain twenty-eight elements, which Ibn al-Arabi often relates to the mansions of the Moon, in addition to four accents or vowels that clearly correspond to the four bosons or force carriers, while many of the other consonants are also grouped in pairs in some ways, and trios in other ways, making a total of twenty-four, just like the main twelve fermions which become also twenty-four since each one has an anti-particle partner.

 



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As a result of the original divine manifestation, all kinds of motions are driven by Love and Passion. Who could possibly not instantly fall in love with this perfect and most beautiful harmony! Beauty is desirable for its own essence, and if the Exalted (Real) did not manifest in the form of beauty, the World would not have appeared out into existence.
paraphrased from: Ibn al-Arabi [The Meccan Revelations: II.677.12 - trsn. Mohamed Haj Yousef]
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