Metaphysical Thinking and Sufism-2


al-Arabi   The Opening

 You should know that those who uphold the truth of the Origin and Return and who, in brief, know that the posible things have a Support and that human beings will subsist after the annihilation og this body are divided into two groups. Either they have borrowed illumination from niche of prophecy and learned from the revelation and sending down of God, or they have traveled with the mental faculty and caught a scent through rational deductions. The first group is called the "the people of the creeds," the second the "the companions of the schools".
 As for the companions of the schools, their views and proofs conflict in the extreme and their steps toward the station of verification are as shaky as can be imagined. MOST OF THEM FOLLOW ONLY SURMISE, AND SURMISE AVAILS NAUGHT AGAINST TRUTH.[10;36]

 I wandered in all those places
  and cast my glance in all those regions-
 I saw only the hand of perplexity on the chin,
  Or teeth gnashing in regret

 Let your natural reason go
  Before your soul assumes
 The form of every heretic's imaginings
  Through logical proofs.

 " How evil a steed is man's opinion!" What a great loss it is for the determined and well-prepared seeker to follow contradictory views blindly and become a truth-concealer through imitation!
 If you want to fly to Mount Sinai
  Why weaken your winks with Avicenna?
 Fix your heart on Muhammad's words, o Son of 'Ali'
  How long will you listen to the Father of 'Ali'?
 If you have no eye that sees the Way,
  better a leader from Quraysh than Bukhara!

 As for the people of the creeds, they folllow the prophets step by step. They acknowledge the Ocean of Unseen through the Shariahs of the messenegers, hobbling their rational faculties with cord of commands and prohibitions. And now of those Shariahs, only the authority of our own Prophet's Shariah --- which has abrogated the other Shariahs --- remains on the face of the earth.

A distinction is being made here between what in Indian circles is termed baktas and samayakaNNakkar i.e. philosophers or more specifically  epistemologists who would try to Proof the truths taking certain fundamentals as piramaaNaas either in the sense of Reliability or Logical Validity. The baktas are the believers who have implicit trust in the presence of BEING and his disclosures through the saintly individuals. Avicena, the Father of Ali, the man from Bukhara epitomizes in the Islamic circle, the man of reason, of rationality,  of Logic.  These are the 'companions of the school' and their rational attempts in metaphysical truths are said to be shaky i.e. uncertain and not sufficiently convincing. Man's opinion, said to be ThaRpootham in Saivism, the constructions of the rational mind, is said to be 'evil steed' for they mislead man, take him the wrong way.
People of the creeds follow the man from Quraysh, i.e. prophet Muhammad for they serve as evidences for the Truth of the Ocean of the Unseen which in Agamic Psycholgy is rendered as Transcendental Collective Unconscious or more simply BEING. The Shariahs are the Disclosures, the bursting forth of BEING hobbling the rational faculties of man " with the cord of commands and prohibitons" .i.e. a set do's and don't's that shape and give structure to the ethics that are central towards nearing BEING. The ethical constitution is MORE IMPORTANT than rational and logical attempts for the understanding of BEING, the Ocean of Unseen.

The prophet's Shariah is said to have abrogated other Shariahs and scholars differ as the to meanings. Here the words of Al-Arabi that Chittick refers are enormously interesting. al-Arabi says "All the revealed religions [shara~I'] are lights. Among these religions, the revealed religion of Muhammad is like the light of the sun among the lights of the stars. When the sun appears, the lights of the stars are hidden, and their lights are included in the light of the sun. Their being hidden is like the abrogation of other revealed religions that atkes place Muhammad's revealed religion. Nevertheless, they do in fact exist, just as the existence of the light of the stars is actualized.  This explains why we have required in our all-inclusive religion to have in the truth of all the messengers and all the revealed religions. They are not renedered nul by abrogation-- that is the opinion of the ignorant."

It is interesting that Meykandar also uses the same analogy  to explain ,however, the hermeneutics of human understanding.  BEING stands along with the understanding and when understanding is allowed to be informed totally and completely by BEING itself, that understanding abrogates all other understandings produced by the human efforts. The understanding formed by BEING is the SUN( veyyoon) that  outshines all other previous understandings reducing to the little stars which now become invisible though existent,(CB sutra5).   al-Arabi compares the disclosure of Muhammad with the total and final disclosure of BEING itself that backgrounds all others with its own brilliance.
But there is a fundamental  difference that we should not fail to notice, a difference that constitutes a central difference that distinguishes Saivism from Islam. The UNDERSTANDING that displaces all others and push them to the background through its own brilliance, is the  most fundamental Metaphysical Truth which, being trans-historical is ALWAYS THERE to be enjoyed by anybody at all that BEING is pleased to Grace them with. In fact everyone is destined towards enjoying it, BEING means that and that it is MEANING of EXISTENCE itself. And as a transhistorical TRUTH, a Truth that hovers as always there cannot be that which is disclosed historically. This Siddhanta, the absolute and Final,  does NOT belong to the historically emerging  sequence of shariahs or disclosures but that which remains as the DEEP STRUCTURE of all such disclosures. Each one of the disclosures are TEXTS the Deep Structure of which is the hidden Civanjaanam, the most brilliant understanding that OUTSHINES all others. One historically earlier disclosure may serve as the ground for the emergence of the next and which may arise by inquiring into the Deep Structure of the disclosed. And this chain is ENDLESS, shariah after shariah will emerge endlessly. But the one who penetrates the Deep Structure of ALL such Shariahs, or darsanas in Indian  parlance, understands the FINAL, the Siddhanta. And this remains not only the possibility but the very MEANING of existence itself and hence the right of every individual. The utterances of the prophets can be taken only as reliable TEXTS but each individual must struggle on his own to attain an understanding of the DEEP Structure and thereby enjoy the most brilliant UNDERSTANDING that would transport him to final Station.  Such individuals become the MeykaNtaan, the one who has seen TRUTH and it remains the possibility  of everyone to become one himself.


 The verifiers of this creed are limited to the three groups.
 Thwe first group comprises the people of faith in the unseen. They accept the truth of everything that the prophets and messengers have brought to the creatures from the Presence of Lordship by means of the Holy Spirit.  They  say," We have faith in God and what has come from the Messenger of God as he has meant it; and we have faith in the Messenger of God and what has come from the Messenger of God as has meant it." In this faith, they make no attempt to travel the path of investigation and consideration. Rather, they dismiss their rational faculties and from meddlesome behaviour and set out on the path of safety. AND IF HE BE A COMPANION OF THE RIGHT , " PEACE BE UPON YOU, COMPANION OF THE RIGHT!"[56:90-91]]


It is interesting that here too there is a striking  parallel, a classification of human beings in terms of their capacity for understanding the Absolute Truth, a classification which has also a profound theory behind it. The people are divided into Sakalar, Pirayaakalar and Vinjnjanakalar, their differences worked out in terms in the modes of presence of the Metaphysical Darkness , the Maalam. In this the first group resembles the people of unthinking Faith as described above, those who just simply accept in unquestioning obedience and avoid reflective investigations and dismiss rational questionings and thereby avoid intellectual illuminations, the seeing of Metaphysical Truths, a trust in them being sufficient for them. In Saivism the inquiries have gone very deep into this; such people are said to be infected by the primordial Darkness breeding stuff Anava Maalam  and  also its derivatives  Kanma Maalam and Maayaa Maalam. AnavaMaalam breeds Darkness, eats up the Energy, the Sakthi that is provided by BEING and hence remains the cause of death and destruction, both physical and psychical.  Psychically it is that which acts as the Saitan leading human beings into the Dark of World of Bestiality. When it spreads its influence into the Energetic that underlies the capacity for being active and energetic, with plenty of Kinesis, then it is called Kanma Maalam. It breeds inaction,  mental torpor, lethargy and shunning penetrative questioning , an intellectual incapacitation of a kind. When it spreads its influence into the cognitive or mental, it is termed Maaya Maalam, that which causes the magical forms of thinking, belief in superstition miracles etc i.e. the absence rational approach to anything. BEING does not forsake even such individuals. Cognizant of their inherent limitations, BEING informs and instructs them  standing, as Meykantaar would put it, "pin ninRu" i.e. standing BEHIND the phenomenal, being there as the invisible, hidden unseen, exciting a blind Faith etc and at the same taking possession of some living individuals  and making them the GURU, the teacher of Divine Truths. The people of this type cling to their GURU as would a young child to his Mother in an irrational ATTACHMENT, an emotional bondage that makes sustenance possible. Such a form unthinking and total self surrender is also termed Pirapaththi, something very much emphasized in the Vaishnava tradition, and which recommende even by Saivites for such individuals.

It should also be noted that it is mainly for such individuals that Saivism raises temples along with many rituals and festivals in which the Puranic Lore, the Mythical Presence of BEING is made a central element.  These are NOT prohibited as in Islam but on the contrary insisted upon FOR REASONS OF RELIGIOUS PEDAGOGY. The children OUGHT to be taught in manners that they would UNDERSTAND. The gods are NOT stones and copper heaps , not even the FORMS that are made manifest by the idols. They  are TEXTS for children in the Spiritual World, to appreciate and reach the archetypes that exist in them and everywhere as mantra-complexes. Their function is purely pedagogical, something that serves a purpose in the personal development of a person to be transcended and discarded when the necessary spiritual mastery has been achieved.


 The second group includes the ulama and the people of heedfulness and consideration. Made restless by the mystery of THOSE--- HE HAS WRITTEN FAITH UPON THEIR HEARTS[58:22], they adopt true beliefs with unquestioning approval on the basis of the principles of the Book, the Sunnah, and the consensus of the Community. They turn their gaze to the details of the Shariah and the wondrous signs of the engendred things, giving this verse its due. SAY: " CONSIDER WHAT IS IN THE HEAVEN AND IN THE EARTH!" [10:101]  They gain knowledge of the unknown things through what they know. They nurture their reflective faith and the support of good works. They arrive at the vast expanse of the world of knowledge of certainty. GOD WILL RAISE UP IN DEGREES THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE FAITH AND HAD BEEN GIVEN KNOWLEDGE[58:11]


This second group clearly corresponds with the PraLayakalars of Saivism.  These are people  who have overcome the magical forms of thinking and through that have become immensely rational and hence the seekers of TRUTH. They are infected only with Kanma Maalam and hence also Anava Maalam that underlies it but bent upon overcoming both through seeking philosophic illuminations and hence inquisitive and investigatory. But it must be remembered that the kind of inquiry suggested here appears to be HERMENEUTICAL rather than the scientistic that was exemplified  for the Muslims by Avicenna, the man from Bukhara from whom the people of the creed are distinguished. These people do not seek  out  logical proofs, build epistemological theories about what is truth and what is not etc something most Western philosophers are in the habit of doing and to which category we can add also the early Buddhists logicians of India and some others.

Hermeneutical reflections begin taking things as Texts with a duality of structure, the Surface and the Deep. The surface features present the mysteries and a peep into the Underlying, that in the Depths that is synchronous with it and at the same Agentive , destroys the MYSTERY and understanding  becomes  LESS mystical. In this the most inclusive TEXT is the world as a whole and it is this that must be taken as a Text and understood. I take it that this is the meaning of the Koranic injunction " Consider what is in the heaven and in the Earth!" . Interestingly enough Meykandar also begins his celebrated SivanjanaBotham with a similar observation; The whole world understood in terms he, she , it and they are historical  i.e. come stay and disappear only to reappear .."

The kind of thinking that is encouraged is not logical but metaphysical: gaining knowledge of the unknown things from what is known by a process that is called anumaanam in the hermeneutic logic of the Tamils. The known is the surface structure of TEXTS , that which we are conscious and which poses no problem with respect to inter-subjective agreement.  But the unknown is what is IN THE TEXT but which is concealed, hidden , lying in the Depths or Unconscious as opposed to the conscious. Going from the known into the unknown that lies within is anumaanam, the metaphysical inference that I have called "ontopretation" to distinguish it from the ordinary interpretations of the Wetsern hermeneuts. These ontopretations  are  the stuff of reflective journeys " in the light of faith and the support of good works".  Each advance destroys  the the Metaphysical Darkness by flooding the understanding with Light (Ta. uLLoLi) and because of which they arrive at the end "at the vast expanse of the world of the knowledge of certainty" . This vast expanse is what is called Sith-ambaram in Saivism, the vast expanse of Pure Consciousness, of absolute certainty.

In Saivism such individuals are said to be instructed by BEING by standing in front of them (mun winRu uNarththal) as opposed to being behind. BEING does not remain anymore wholly the hidden and totally the  Mysterious but rather as the ONE in the personality of a certain individual, the Acaaryaa, the Guru like the way Meykandar was for Arunandi, his chief student. In Islam the place of Acaaryaa  appears to be  taken over by the Prophet for in the Prophet they don't see the ordinary person but rather BEING itself. The Prophet becomes the Pure Mirror that mirrors only BEING and nothing else and because of which whatever uttered  are utterances of BEING--- the Theyva Vakku , Bagavath Giithai etc of India.

Now we should not fail also to note an important similarity that is given a central place in Saivism viz. the developmental perspective but perhaps only a peripheral place in Islam. The word 'praLayaM' means catastrophe that changes the structure of the world and in  psychology the catharsis that changes the personality of the person usually for the better. Thus PraLayaakalar are individuals who develop and CHANGE in personality so that they are NO MORE the lowly individual that they were at the beginning. They improve themselves in STAGES,  in Degrees  that is termed Sobaana muRai.  It is like climbing up the hill step by step and eventually reaching the Peak where climbing terminates naturally.  This is the substance of the metaphysical journey through the processes on Ontopretations where each progress made destroys the Metaphysical Darkness by flooding the understanding with MORE LIGHT.  And this is actually moving UNTO BEING for BEING IN ITSELF is pure Radiance, Pure Light.  An individual CANNOT ON HIS OWN LIFT HIMSELF UP, someone already ABOVE must pull him up. And who else can it be except BEING? And I see that this is meaning of the Koranic Verse cited above: God wil raise up IN DEGREES those of you who have faith and have been given knowledge.


 The third group includes the friends of God and the possessors of unveiling. They drank the wine of HE LOVES THEM[5:54] at the banquet of Alast. "Then He sprinkled some of His light on them."
 We came from the Ruins of Love
  Drank with Alast.
 How could we say " Yes"?
  We all came drunk.

They came to this nest of darkness at the cry of GET DOWN OUT OF IT ! [2:36], putting on the clothing of composition within the four wall of human nature.

I think the soul forgot covenants through fever
 And homes it really did not want to leave.

Then they read for a while from the tablet of faith in the unseen. For a long  lifetime, they walked with the foot of god-wariness on the road of SAY [O MUHAMMAD!]: " IF YOU LOVE GOD, FOLLOW ME, AND WILL LOVE YOU"[3:31] Finally, they completely cleansed the rust of the possible things and the darkness of the engendered things from the mirror of the heart with the polish of faith and god-wariness. They became worthy to receive divine self-disclosures and holy illuminations. THOSE WHO HAVE FAITH AND DO GOOD DEEDS----- THEIR LORD WILL GUIDE THEM BECAUSE OF THEIR FAITH[10:9]   Once again, they witnessed the beauty of their own original disposition. They found their lost falcon. They heard this voice from the sky-light of the dominion: PEACE BE UPON YOU! WELL HAVE YOU FARED; ENTER IN , TO DWELL FOREVER! [39:73]

Solomon has found his missing ring!
 Lost Joseph has come back to Canaan!

The distraught lover from Khorasan has given a sign of their state in this verse:

The pain that we heard about
 from the people
Came from knowledge to actuality,
 From ear to breast


There are again interesting parallels between this third group of people of the creed with that of Vinjnjaana kalar of Saivism. The BEING instructs them not by standing behind and hidden as for the Sakalars, not by presenting himself as Guru( or a prophet) for the Pralayaakalars, but standing WITHIN and instructing from within He himself becomes the GURU. Because such people have BEING itself as luminous principle that guides from within, they can be taken as "the possessors of unveiling", people for whom the Thirobavam, the concealment of BEING is withdrawn slowly so that it shines resplendently from within. They don't anymore seek out proofs for the presence of BEING but only the gaining of more and more LIGHT and BEING sprinkles "His light on them" The  psychic interiority of such people becomes more and more radiant, shining with CLARITY of Consciousness and along with it indubitability, and apodictic certainty.  They begin to exist in Laadath thaanam, the world of clear light as Meykandar would put it.

"We came from the Ruins of Love": here what is meant probably is the overcoming  of earthly desires which in Saivism would be termed the Three Maalams, the Anavam etc that finitises the mind. Having overcome the human finitude,  they become the lovers of BEING and because of which BEING loves them. They drink  the wine of HIS presence and since this is the FINAL station, the banquet also becomes the banquet of Alast, the final feast.  But still there are uncertainties as there is the Hiddenness of BEING, the thirobava to be overcome but which can be only at mercy of BEING and therefore they have no choice but to love BEING, follow HIM with the trust that BEING will love them and Grace them. Then follows the final PURIFICATION, the cleansing of all the karmic and others deposits pulling down the souls back to the earthly.  The "rust of possible things"  is the hermeneutic looking ahead, being TEMPORAL, the awaiting for the yet to come. " The darkness of engendered things " is the karmic deposits of all the past actions, the memories coming the present life as well as the ancestral, in other words the Collective Unconscious. The purification and cleansing gets rid of all these contents of the psychic world flooding with LIGHT which can made possible only with the "polish of faith and god-wariness". This purification, the Thiikkai of Saivism is also only a preliminary, a preparation of self for the final " divine self-disclosures and holy illuminations." The BEING shows Himself as He is Himself , His Corubam. At the sighting of this the long historical existence, evolving through enormous numbers of births and deaths comes to a close, a state of affair that is termed Moksa in Saivism. " Well have you fared; enter in, to dwell forever". This HOME of permanent existence , is the VIIDU, and getting entry into it is the ViidupERu, the Moksa.


 I have written these hurried lines for the sake of this last group. Let them learn these words at the outset and conceive a rough idea of their meaning. When they overcome difficult obstacles in their wayfaring, leave behind the darkness of human nature, reach the Fountain of Life and , in the company of Khizr, drink their fill from the spring of WE TAUGHT HIM KNOWLEDGE FROM US [18:65], they will see everything they have been told about and know everything they have imagined. The tongue of their state will keep on saying,

 We are the sun, the crescent, the full moon of meanings
  We are the goal of the secret,"Be, and it was!"
 Having passed beyond the darkness of water and clay,
  We are Khizr and the Water of Life

Now let us enter our subject and seek nearness to the Presence of Unity by means of "There is no power and no strength but in God". EXALTER OF RANKS IS HE, THE POSSESSOR OF THE THRONE, HE CASTS THE SPIRIT OF HIS COMMAND UPON WHOMEVER HE WILL OF HIS SERVANTS [40:15]


This text, in being told as for the third group, the possessor of unveiling, then is NOT a treatise seeking to PROOF the presence of BEING thorough sophisticated and subtle philosophic or epistemological  arguments. That stage is over and the readers are taken to be those already on the WAY towards the FOUNTAIN of LIFE which in Saivism is termed the THILLAI AMBALALM, where 'thil' means to live. exist,  flourish etc.  It is re-establishing the original existence  from which the souls have been DISTRACTED away by the allurements of earthly pleasures. The wayfarers are those who  have left the "darkness of human nature" which in Saivism is the Mum Malaam, that which breeds the  darkness of IGNORANCE in the mind, blinding them clouding  or fogging their
perceptions and visions.  It has all been overcome  and what remains  now in life is the reaching of the Fountain of Life, the Thillai Ambalam.

Khizr or Khadir is said to be divine illuminations that such people  get in their final journey. It sounds very much like Ta. Kathir, meaning radiance, the sun and so forth.  It is interesting also that there is mention of both the sun and moon, the disclosures of Natham and Bindhu of Saivism and Yin and Yang of Taoism. Whether Taoism Saivism or Sufism, there are striking similarities like this , a commonness of vision and understanding and because of that a commonness in language and metaphors.  The Final Journey towards the Fountain of Life appears to the SAME for every body.

The Kathir and Water of Life are  also present, interestingly enough,  in the archetypal form of Siva: the Ganges and Crescent Moon on the Tuft. The Radiant principle cleans the soul through Thiikkai, burning to cinders the Karmic deposits. The Heavenly Ganges, The Water of Life, another expression of Bindhu(Yin)  provides the ThaNikkai, the cooling and regeneration. The combined functioning of both in the psychic interiority  makes possible eternal Youthfulness which is the meaning of the metaphorical expression " drinking the full from the spring " of BEING, a possibility that becomes real only for those brave souls who have 'passed the darkness of water and clay" .i.e rapacious earthly desires and uncontrolled passions.