Metaphysical Thinking and Sufism-1
Dr K.Loganathan


Dear Friends,

A few years ago I came across a book 'Faith and Practice of Islam" in which William C. Chittick (Published in Malaysia by S. Abdul Majeed &Co, 2210 Malayan Mansion, Lalan Masjid India, 50100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) had brought together THREE 13th century Persian texts all blissfully brief and in elegant prose. Since then I have kept it close to me and whenever I was free I went through the books especially the first one 'The Rising Places of Faith" in which not only I noted the presence of metaphysical thinking of the type I learned from Meykandar but also the notion of UNCONSCIOUS not as a monolithic dark mystery but rather something that is overcome but only in stages. This is what is called Soobaana MuRai in Saiva Siddhanta. Such similarities ' despite many differences, confirmed my belief that there is an  UNDERSTANDING that I called Metaphysica Universalis which is in the bosom of every person and which bursts forth at appropriate moments. In this series I propose to present the essence of the text and append it with my critical commentary to bring out more clearly the meaning of Metaphysical Thinking (henceforth m-thinking) so that the relevance of Agamic Psychology with its Access Testing become better known.

But before we proceed, let us Chittick on what he has to say about these texts and their authors.
" Most modern Islamic texts are very long or highly specialized. It is easy to find tomes of Koral commentary, Hadith, jurisprudence, theology, philosophy, and Sufism, or short works on the fine points of these sciences. But concise overviews of the essentials of Islamic faith and practice are rare. In what follows, I translate theree Persian texts written from a sufi perspective about the year 650/1252. They present their author's understanding of basic Islamic teachings succintly, clearly and simply. They may have been written by Sadr al-Din Qu~nawi~(d. 673/1274), the step-son of the "greatest master" (al-shaykh al-akbar), Ibn al-'Arabi (d. 638/1240), and a good friend of the foremost Sufi poet, Jala~l al-Din Ru~mi (d. 672/1273). It is more likely that they were composed by one Nasir (Na~sir) al-Din Qu~nawi~. The texts were almost certainly written in Konya or its encirons at about the time when Ru~mi and Qu~nawi~ were beginning their carriers. Whoever may be the author, he presents the teachings of Ibn al-Arabi and his school in a simplified and straightforward manner. "

About the first text with which we shall be concerned with, he says:" The first treatise, The Rising Places of Faith, deals primarily with explaining the objects of faith, which are presented in terms of Islam's " three principles": tawhi~d (the assertion of God's unity), prophecy (nubuwwa), and eschatology( ma'a~d)"

In view of all these I shall take the real author to be  al-Arabi himself, though the text may be actually written by somebody else.


The Rising Places of Faith

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate

 Gratitude is due to Him who lifts the veils and guides upon the paths, that Living King who made discipline and god-wariness the means to dispel the darkenesses of the sensory realms and who made faith in the unseen the key to the treasures of holy unveiling. Through these two premises-- faith and god-wariness --- He takes the knowers of the majesty of His unity and the lovers of the beauty of His eternity to the conclusion-- the paradise on encounter---- and he spreads the carpet of nearness in the highest garden


BEING is the One who UNVEILS and through that lead the individuals in the right path i.e. the Authentic Existence.  This presupposes that our ordinary understanding is VEILED .i.e there is always hidden , concealed from being SEEN.  In Saivism this same notion is termed Thirobavam, casting a screen so that somethings are hidden from being understood but disclosed as the person develops. The "darkness of the sensory realms " is the realm that remainss unavailable for the physicalistic seeing , the kind of seeing that remains locked towards the sensorial refusing to acknowledge to Hermeneutical, transductive, the trans-personal or in short the Metaphysical. When a person remains physical and refuses to become metaphysical , he condemns himself  to an existence in Darkness, in Ignorance or anjnjaanam. The conviction in the metaphysical possibilities of various kinds , that there are realities behind the phenomenal, an understanding that's already there but perhaps only vague and unclear is termed here the 'faith'. And the believe that it is BEING and no other can destroy this metaphysical Darkness is termed here god-wariness. The paradise is the CONCLUSION and NOT the beginning; it hovers as the metaphysical possibility YET  to be enjoyed; the End -In -Sight but which is NOT encountered and lived or enjoyed as such. And BEING takes the believers towards this and only He can do that for he is Loving King, a metaphor that even Meykandar uses, someone knows everybody with the POWER to provide to each according to his needs. BEING is the Leader for the creatures involved in the phenomenal game that we call Existence. The paradise is the HIGHEST GARDEN, which means there is NO garden BEYOND it and which means this is the Moksa, the  FINAL HOME( Ta. viidupeeRu).  Both are metaphoral terms but with sameness of meaning. And this implies that BEING through facilitating metaphysical excursions, uplifts the veil and through that bestows Moksa, existing in the Highest Garden.


 Blessings  be upon those who dwell in the pavilions of the dominion, the veil-keepers of the court of invisibility---- not least upon the confidant of the retreat of " 'Two Bows' Length" and the mystery and epitome of the two engendered worlds, Muhammad Mustafa, and upon his household, partisans, companions, and followers, who are the custodians of the Kaaba of unity and the keepers of the mysteries of divinity.


Of course here the 'court of invisibility'  is the mystical, the mysterious and which in psychology is also termed the Unconscious and in Hermeneutics, the hidden or concealed.  But the mysteries are not the Unconscious in the Freudian sense but more like the Collective Unconscious of Jung for the mysteries are 'mysteries of divinity' or imago dei i.e archetypes.  The prophets are seen as the keepers of  these secrets  and probably the Kaaba is seen as the place where there are openings towards these mysteries which are divulged only to the ripe and ready. With regard to the meaning of " 'Two Bows' Length" this is what Chittick has to say.
" 'Two Bows' Length' (qa~b-I-qawsayn). This koranic term is taken as an allusion to the station of divine nearness that the Prophet experienced in his mi'ra~j ( his ascent to God, or "night journey". The relevant verses read : HE STOOD POISED, BEING ON THE HIGHER HORIZON, THEN DREW NEAR AND SUSPENDED HUNG, THE TWO BOWS' LENGTH WAY, OR NEARER, THEN REVEALED TO HIS SERVANT WHAT HE REVEALED (53:6-10)
  This notion  of proximity with  BEING and because of which the person becomes the one to whom the mysteries are revealed, stands comparision with the Saivite notions of salookam, maamiippiyam, saruuppiyam and saayucciyam.  The salookam is the beginning stage of god-wariness, where  there is entry into the realms of gods and hence religoous kind of existence. The station of Samiippiyam is a stage of Closeness or Proximity where the person stands not just a believer but takes BEING as the most intimate friend love and so forth. The relationship is termed Bakthi, a love of kind that parallels the deep human love that transpires between a man and a woman.  Next to that comes Saruuppiyam , a similarity of Being as refelcetor of BEING. The personality undergoes a transformation so that the invidual egoistic qualities are lost and the divine universal and transcendent qualities come to prevail.  The saaucciyam is the ucci, the peak , that station beyond which there is NOTHING.  The saauciyam encounters NOTHINGNESS and because of which it is given to understanding that it the UCCI, the LIMIT, the PEAK beyond which is NOTHING.  And against this the "Two bows' Length" cannot be the UCCI for there is still a DISTANCE  and SOMETHING as opposed to NOTHING. Or as Meykandar would put it , there is still Cuttu and hence spatio-temporality, and along with it Historicality. This appears to be the Highest  Station within which the Al Koran was disclosed to Humanity.


 To come to the point: With the remoteness of the era of prophecy, God's carpet was rolled up and the foundation of religion destroyed. Hence, the sun of faith turned towards eclipse, the light of Islam hid in the corner of exile, and the truth of the allusion of the Shariah-bringer became manifest." Islam began as an exile and will become again as it was, a n exile. How happy are the exiles!" The fog of error filled every direction and the darkness of innovation and sectarian caprice spread to all the regions of East and West. A cry from the unseen voiced the situation with the words, COORUPTION HAS APPEARED IN THE LAND AND SEA[30:41]
  If you want enemies, Mahdi~,
   Come down from the sky!
  If you want helpers, Antichrist,
   Show yourself at once!

The era of prophecy was the creative period like the Bakthi period in India at about the same time. It was a period of great upheavals, the destruction of crust-laden past that has not only congealed and become hard and inflexible but also downtrodden wallowing in dirt and filth of  Metaphysical Ignorance, of Anjnjaaanam. It is the period of the rising Sun, God disclosing Himself  in his supreme Majesty in the bosom of some selected individuals , individuals who are over-powered and made the tools of BEING itself.  The BEING discloses Himself in the Being of such individuals and because of which they become Prophets. But after then the Antichrist takes over , the initial brilliance is over and thinking relapses into the hard and inflexible eclipsing the Sun of bold ventures into the Mysterious.  Such divine outbursts are always REVOLUTIONARY, always upsetting, unsettling and disconstructive and because of which it is said to be born as an exile and eventually also become the exile. The Rise and Fall alternate in a rhythmic pattern, like a never ending spiral  with each subsequent loop being higher than the previous. The "fog of error"  is thinking loosing its rational foundations and becoming stereotype, dogmatising insights that are initially fluid and flexible making them fundamental tenets of sectarianism. Men become not only divided among themselves but also wage wars and kill each other all in the name of God! This the CORRUPTION that appears after each aftermath of a cultural revolution of a fundamental kind.
The Antichrist is actually AntiBEING, the ANAVA MAALAM of Saivism, that metaphysical reality just as uncreated and eternal as BEING itself  and always ever ready to pervade the interiority of the psychic entities and introduce fogs so that CLARITY is no more. The thinking becomes clouded , rational objectivity does not hold anymore and men become supremely prejudiced and bigoted.

The revolution must be repeated periodically to keep the AntiBEING away and let BEING shine resplendently so that RATIONAL THINKING become the foundation of existence and hence people are led to lead the AUTHENTIC EXISTENCE.


 But the truthful master- upon him be peace-- has reported and promised that "A group among my community will never cease to support the Truth until resurrection day." Hence, as long as heaven and earth remain and the resurrection is held back, the blessing of those with living hearts and Jesus' breath-- those who guard the treasury of the presence of Lordship-- will remain in the e arthly world. " They are God's vicegerents in the earth and His elect creatures; it is they who call to His religion." Therefore, in an era like the present, to bring  dead souls to life and to incite seeking spirits with the desire to follow this group can be one of the best works.

Though this text was written with the fall of Muslims in mind, what is being said has a universal significance. Despite the dominanace of  AntiBEING, the POWER of Metaphysical Darkness  that is dominant at times, there will always be people in whose heart  shines resplendently BEING itself and because of which they never cease to fight for Truth, no matter what the consequences are.  BEING is all powerful and we are reminded here of Arunandi's words: ooti miiLkena aatal paarththittu:  BEING remains watchful allowing the ego-individuals to play around only to return unto BEING in the end.  The 'treasury of the Presence of Lordship' is wisdom of Absolute Understanding that is always the Being of BEING, the understanding of BEING that remains the possibility of every creature to attain own  and enjoy. Those who are gifted with this understanding, and there are always a few around in the world,  "are the God's vicegerents in this earth and His elect creatures" and they can't help but "to call to His religion".  This religion, though understood as Islam by Muslims and which   is Deathless  is that, in the language of Saivism, that calls forth towards Sivanjaanam. and hence also the SivaneRi. And those who call will have to  be revolutionary, brave and challenging for otherwise the dead souls, dead because the dominant presence of Anavam,  will not to come to life.  Combat and challenge, a call for a war of a kind, has the capacity to INCITE people and though that make them come alive. Pleasant and emotional rhetorics, hymns  songs and dances can only arouse feelings and emotions even a subtle  and sublime kind. But they  will not make people get aroused and thorough that awake. It is only people willing to fight to death  who will be able to wage the inner war with Anavam, the antiChrist or AntiBEING, the Metaphysical Darkeness that is the true and primordial ENEMY of all.


These words were written in the spirit of this introduction. They include an explanation of the three principles upon which the primordial religion is based and from which the creed of Mustafa is derived: faith in God, in prophecy, and in the Last Day.  These principles will be explained in a manner that accords with the Books of God, agrees with the Sunnah of the Messenger, corresponds with the consensus  of the Community, and is attested to by the  tasting of the masters of unveiling and the leaders of the path.

I have named this brief treatise "The Rising Places of Faith". My goal in these pages will be expressed in an opening, a conclusion, and three rising places. From God I seek aid, and from Him come guidance and success. "There is no power and no strength but in God, the High, the Tremendous".

The meaning of Mustafa, as Chittick mentions, is the chosen one and here it means prophet Muhammad Nabi(sal) The primordial religion is the natural religion, that which is already there for otherwise it won't be the PRIMORDIAL which is another way of saying that it is unfounded. This UNFOUNDED pre-existent and always existing religion  is disclosed as such and such by BEING and some individuals are chosen especially for this disclosure and because of which become a Mustafa. The Islamic people identify this with what they term Islam  while the Saivites call it Samayaathiitha Saivam, a religion that transcends the cultic and interpretive manifestations and but  which remains the Meta-Truth of all earthly religions. All phenomenal expressions of the religious have as their DEEP STRUCTURE  this primordial religion, whatever the name.

The three pillars of this Primordial Religion can be understood as follows: Faith in God: this has to be the same as acknowledgement of the presence of BEING, the presence that we can deny , refuse to acknowledge, forget conveniently etc. Being in touch with the primordial religion does not allow that.
The belief in Prophecy remains peculiarly Islamic and from which all others including the Saivites can learn. It presupposes that existence is Historical and as the Hermeneuts  such as Heidegger would say, ekstatic i.e. comes with the notions of the past , the present and the future. Or as the Saivites would say existence is Karmic bound, the past deeds determining the present and present deeds determining the future etc. The prophecy is TELLING THE FUTURE that results as the true consequence of the present course of actions. While Hindu people  go to astrology and such other pseudo-sciences, the Muslims avoid them judiciously and trust only the prophetic utterances when it comes to matters of the future.  The scientists, with their believe that everything is regulated by Laws of Nature, seek out the Laws in order to predict the future as an  extrapolation of the present aided by the laws discovered.   The believe in Prophecy goes against it and for an important reason. Nature especially Human Nature is NOT mechanical though there is an  ORDER or Niyathi.  The actions  effected beget the rewards and it is BEING who stands as the GROUND of the rewards system. And it is BEING who knows the FUTURE truthfully as He is above Time and therefore UNDERSTANDS what the ordinary historical mind sees as in the Future. And hence a true Understanding about the future is possible ONLY IF DISCLOSED as such by BEING i.e. only when it comes as Prophecy. The siddhas of Tamil country, the real developers of World Saivism call this Aruudam or more specifically Siddha Aruudam , foretelling the future through a process of divining the truth which involves getting the message from BEING itself through a process akin to dreaming.
 The meaning of Last Day has to be interpreted against the notion that ordinary existence is historically bound. The Historical way of Being, being unending,  cannot have a Last Day. There is always an after for otherwise it will not be historical. Even when the whole Universe  collapses and withdrawn into a Dot, there is an after in terms of its possible re-issuance. Hence the  Last Day here is not a point in the Historical but rather the LIBERATION of the historical constitution of Existence itself i.e. the Samsaaram. The Last Day then becomes the same as MOKSA, the disengagement of the psychic entities from the historical way of Being, from the entanglements of the chains of Samsara. The primordial religion is there to bring about this Moksa, a Last Day in the Historical ways of Being. This, I think,  is not the way most Muslims  view the matter.

Now there appears to be also an attempt, though a feeble one, to work out the Logic pertaining to the understanding of this Primordial Religion.  There is the Book of God, which in the Indian circle is termed the Agama PramaaNa,  something the positivistic Buddhists logicians like Dignatha Dharmakirththi and so forth refuse to acknowledge.  While for Muslims there is only ONE of God, in the Indian circle there are numerous for BEING discloses TRUTHS to different individuals in different ways. But all are to be taken as RELIABLE for the understanding of God.  Now it is also interesting that the consensus of the Community is insisted upon. I take it that this is an attempt to ensure OBJECTIVITY as outlined in Hermeneutic Science. Where a certain  way of SEEING is assented to by manu others who manage to SEE the same way, what is thus seen ceases to be a mental fiction, a fantasy an imagination etc.  The sameness of Seeing is possible only if it is Objective, as there in the world INDEPENDENT of the person who initially sees.  And such TRUTHS are continuously attested by "the tasting of the masters on unveiling" i.e. hermeneutic scientists concerned with the destruction of human Blindness  so that there comes to be Unveiling, the destruction of Unconscious. In modern parlance such people will be the well informed Agamic Psychologists whose business is the unveiling and  through that making people SEE for themselves the mysteries that surround their existence.