Amman- The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
This discussion of the universal and soteriological significance of the prophet known as the Praised (ar. al-nabī muḥammad) for both the major modern propositional systems, theology and science, broaches the question of how the prevalent dichotomy that separates potential readings, understandings, and interpretations of concepts of key importance for the muslim intellectual tradition may possible bridged. The emphasis is upon possibilities for understanding the manifold of Being which might allow the propositional system of modern science to be derived from the relations of the incomparable and immeasurable One with Its manifestation in duality, the world of comparison and quantity. In the author’s opinion, this should make it possible to recognise how modern propositional systems partake of the nature of signs rather than of the absolute Real directly. It is hoped that such an attempt at epistemological reconstruction may allow the dichotomy between traditional and modern perspectives on and interpretations of the world to be relaxed. Accepting a pluralism of epistemological paradigms, their motility, mutability, and mutual translatability should, in the author’s opinion, allow a more convincing witness to the unity of God, the apostolate of the Praised, and the return of all things to the One to emerge within the new perspectives opened up.
What we know, we know in the now. Whatever from past or future we encounter, we do so within the individual self and the now. Contemplation of the beginning or end of one or of all things or anything between those extremes necessarily takes place within the phenomenological reality of the individual self, in our authentic creaturehood, which is intrinsically linked to our return to the One. The world and everything in it, from beginning to end, form a duality through which the One manifests itself and is confirmed.
This same humanity, manifest in each individual in so many different ways, is the perfect facility for revealing and affirming the One in duality. It gathers the knowledge of all the names and so of all creation, from most beautiful exaltation to lowest humiliation and back again. Nowhere in that general duality is or can there be the comparability of finitude. Symmetry is present in all the things of the world, but it cannot be reduced into the mere balancing of one side by the other or the advantage of one over the other. Absolute Peace is the One, beyond hindrance or compare. Existence as a whole, at all its levels, is the revelation and affirmation of that Peace, while at the same time irrepressible striving for It. Consequently, all things in existence are ceaselessly moving, without allowing contingency to overcome transcendence or manifestation its principle.
The human being, as the authentic gathering and comprehension of all things in existence, is a mirror of the connection between the world and absolute Peace. A perfect mirror, peaceful, resting-in-peace with absolute Peace, yet engaged in ceaseless disclosure of duality as witness of the One. This perfect facility, this unquantifiable quality of ours, is, for each and every one of us, our ever-present higher potential, that finer example with and through which we reveal ourselves to ourselves in the reason and purpose for which we are in the world and it in us. And being what we are for this reason and this purpose, we are dual, never one, never beyond compare.
What can we understand or say about the world that is not dual in form, a symmetry or an equation? When our reason grasps and frames something logically, it disposes of it within a propositional system. Modern science is interested only in what can be noted and described in mathematical language, measured and checked by experimentation. Unity, the principle of all duality, remains beyond propositional systems, at once absolutely near to and absolutely far from all things, beyond measurement and comparison. Duality is but its sign.
Can we reduce the dualities of logic, physics, mathematics and biology, in their ceaseless quantum-fluctuation and propositional systems, to fit within the compass of the confession that there is no god but God and the Praised is His servant and apostle? To answer this question requires insight into how the two ontologies, the modern and the traditional, and their respective cosmologies, anthropologies, and psychologies are related.
The plurality of epistemological paradigms is beyond doubt. They may be value-neutral, but the use made of them is not. None of them can be so securely anchored as to prevent them changing across time or space. Moreover, any radical investigation into the theistic epistemologies of the world necessarily raises the issue of atheism, as a direct or latent aspect of the paradigms being applied as the framework of investigation. Only by relating the different epistemological paradigms to each other and accepting the possibility that they may change and may be mutual intelligible can one open up new perspectives on what the signs arrayed across the micro-and macro- horizons of the world and in our own actions, thoughts, and transformations mean.
Existence as a whole is in motion. This serves the revelation of absolute Peace. It is being-at-peace-within-motion and motion-within-being-at-peace, as God says in the Recitation: “In Him has found peace whatsoever is in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly, and to Him they shall be returned.”(1) That all things are thus at peace means that nothing in existence can also be beyond or exempt from being-in-irrepressible-duality, part of the constant waning-and-waxing of symmetry. This is true of the Real, every moment of every day, of the quantifiable now, and of the present day in which the immeasurable absolutely transcendent and absolutely immanent now and today of God are merely reflected.
Addressing us, human beings, as the summation of all creation, who were offered free will to be the ground of our relationship with God, so that we might freely deny or affirm that which is, affirm it by being-at-peace with our duality, conscious of our poverty and our service to the Abundant and Lordly One, or deny it by obscuring the obvious and being oblivious to what is – God says: “Today I have perfected your debt for you, and I have completed My blessing upon you and I have approved being-at-peace as your debt.”(2)
This statement of God’s, sent down in the language of men, expresses the key relationship of eternity to temporality, of God’s Self and ours, of transcendence in contingency, and of absolute Peace with how it is manifest in the human self. This “Today”, spoken by the absolute Self, is not and cannot be under limit. It is reflected in creation through the sign of each daily “today”, a duality through which a-spatiality and a-temporality are made manifest.
According to a well-known tradition, the Archangel Gabriel says to the prophet, the Praised: “Tell me, O Praised, about being-in-peace.” Asked thus, the prophet replies: “Being-in-peace means to bear witness that there is no god but God and that the Praised is God’s apostle, to perform the ritual prayer, pay the alms taxes, fast during Ramadan, and make the pilgrimage to the House, if able to go there.”(3)
Essential to this five-dimensional whole is the act of witness expressed through ritual. None of it has the meaning of a descent of the Holy Ghost/Spirit of Truth, unless it both originate and issue in the double confession – that there is no god but God and that the Praised is His apostle (His servant and His prophet). It is important to stress that what is involved is confession and witness (“I confess”), not faith/belief (“I believe”). The concepts of confession/witness and of belief are very different and relate to very different semantic fields.(4) Failure to see this is the cause of much confusion in all the various exclusionary epistemological paradigms. One can express this witness in rational terms, but it derives meaning only through transcendence of the boundaries within which reason operates.
In the five clauses of being-at-peace one may clearly see:
- the first is pure knowledge and, it is our purpose here to point out, independent of epistemological paradigm;
- the second is worshipful understanding, a properly regulated synthesis of action and understanding;
- the third is an exercise of the will within time;
- the fourth is active and voluntary commitment to mandatory obedience;
- and the fifth a pilgrim investiture of the self within the self-time schedule of the world as a whole, as reflected in social action.
At the core of each of these aspects one finds its marrow, the confession of the Oneness of God and the apostolate of the Prophet, the Praised.
The first part of the confession seems, at first glance, general. It does not depend on place or time, language or individual. The human being, as creature and manifestation of the Creator, a duality that affirms the One, can only be a representation of Him, our knowledge of His, however far we have grown in it. This is why it is a condition of our proper relationship with the One that we reject every mere representation of It. This is a truth the self-evidence of which is built into the very essence of our humanity, contained within the act of our introjection into Being.
The second part of the confession seems, at first glance, to be contingent upon place and time, language and an individual. It takes place entirely within history and requires second-hand knowledge (tradition). The truth of this confession would appear to depend therefore upon meaning that has been passed on and not on something that the witness or confessor already contains in himself. If so, then this second confession cannot be confirmed by the signs in the world focused in the individual self. This appearance of historical contingency and consequent dependence upon traditional knowledge need fundamental investigation.
Before embarking upon such investigation, one should note that four of the elements of the Praised’s alleged answer are either ritual or active forms of understanding and affirming the confession through being. It is understood in and through the ritual act. There is no place for such a form of understanding within the propositional systems of modern science. Regardless of this impossibility, however, one may consider the proposed form of being-at-peace as a relationship between the contingent and the transcendent.
Evidently, being-at-peace is a relationship of two selves, the conditional human self and God’s absolute Self. All of God’s names are brought together within the human self. Disclosing them to oneself is to realise one’s humanity.(5) Accordingly, the person-of-peace discloses and affirms the divine name of Peace within his or her self, thus realising his or her self within the self by confessing that there is no absolute peace but God. This procedure is the same for each of God’s names disclosed within the original introjection of the human form of being into Being.(6)
We can truly bear witness only to that of which our knowledge is sure. Witness outside of such knowledge, on the basis of reserve or pretence, risks becoming unjust and violent, precisely because being-at-peace is only possible within motion, which means within action. Any action on the basis of false or incorrect witness is violence. In the Recitation, God instructs His prophet, the Praised, to say:
God – He guides to the truth; and which is worthier to be followed – He who guides to the truth, or he who guides not unless he is guided? What then ails you, how you judge? And the most of them follow only surmise, and surmise avails naught against truth. Surely God knows the things they do.(7)
To bear witness the witness must have an experience that is beyond any doubt. This means that its principal source must be the self. If the self of the witness is unsure, then so is the witness borne, regardless of any experience or knowledge garnered from the external world. Witness born of secure knowledge does not depend on merely learned knowledge.
The reasons for bearing witness must be accessible to each individual, within. Existence, in all its expansiveness toward the furthest horizons or inward concentration within the self, and the human form of being, in which it is all gathered, together provide everything required both for witness of the sort we are talking about and for it to be absolutely trustworthy. Otherwise, witness involves a danger of obscurantism (covering-over) and lying which are obstacles to the dis-covering of truth.
Bearing witness is how the witness relates to the object of witness in the incontestable knowledge that it is as spoken of and shown. Witness thus necessarily subsists within an epistemological paradigm, but does not depend essentially on one. It is subordinate to the paradigm only as a form of expression. However many forms there are, and there are as many as there are epistemological paradigms, the essence remains the same, independent of anything outside our authentic and original introjection into Being. Properly justified witness is witness in which the witness’s knowledge of the object of witness is beyond contest. But only God knows everything. His revelation is complete, knowledge of it His alone.
Human beings are given only a little knowledge.(8) This is why we can only be just witnesses of what we know for sure, indubitably. We are capable of unlimited growth in knowledge,(9) thus becoming more reliable witnesses of that through which God bears witness of Himself, and so ever more sure of the consequences of our witness.
The various expressions of the witnessed essence serve to recall it, because they depend upon it, but the reverse does not hold, namely that essence is sufficient in and of itself and capable of being expressed in the most various of ways.(10)
Human beings and the world are both signs of the One: all existence gathers in the individual self, while the individual self is in turn distended across all of existence. Consequently, the world reveals God through the individual, created in a lonely relationship with Him, from which the individual returns to Him.(11) Everything that appears within the horizons of the world and the self, all the unknowable things of the world, these are all signs corresponding to names.
When one takes these signs, in their limitless and illimitable multiplicity, interrelated by equation, as being independent of the One, then one loses the sense of their first gathering within the individual self. One consequence of this is that the world, as the revelation of the One and the form through which the individual self relates to Him, seems to surrender to a knowledge that does not depend on the self of the individual knowing subject. Indeed, it appears to surrender to a relationship of ceaseless mutual denial between two necessarily irreconcilable principles, as it is not possible for two things to assume the mantle of principle.
Such knowledge, which is no longer that of the self forging its relation to the Self of the One through self-discovery and self-realisation in and through that which is, finds itself confined within its propositional system. Intellect (contemplative or synthetic reason), which is the first and uniting creature, is replaced by its analytical avatar, reason (analytical reason). Oneness, which is the reason and purpose for which both we and the world exist, leaches out of the system, because it is not subject to anything beyond itself. Multiplicity, and so duality, becomes the framework within which knowledge loses both its reason and purpose within the One, of Which all dualities, both individually and together, are mere intimations.
Thus, witness to the Unity of Being is obscured by the acceptance of a duality separated or cut off from the Principle and independent of It. William C. Chittick warns us, regarding escape from this condition and the renewal of witness to the unity of humanity’s potential for perfectibility and so the return of all things to the One, that “No recovery of the intellectual tradition will be possible until individuals take steps for themselves. The tradition can never be recovered by imitation or by community action, only by individual dedication and personal realization.ˮ(12)
Intellectual knowledge exists for the purpose of witness to Unity. There are confirmations and tests of such knowledge within the individual self. This is why metaphysics, cosmology, spiritual psychology and ethics are an integral part of the self-realisation of the individual. The sense and the ideation that duality is the Real and not a mere representation of it deludes us into accepting that no escape is possible from the finite world, the closed propositional system in which we are confined and reduced to quantity.
Whatever our condition, we are always comprehended by the One. Our knowledge is always derived and consequently little. God has said of this: “He knows what lies before them and what is after them, and they comprehend not anything of His knowledge save such as He wills.”(13) What we know can always be expressed in terms of duality, as near or more remote from the Only, in the dualistic form of an equation. However far from or close to the Only we move, It comprehends us, so that in our relation to It, we are always nothing, but in Its relationship to us, we are always a clear sign of It, in and through our potential for perfectibility.
Witness that there is no god but God leads us to the constant creation of a new world, to the unknown, which reveals itself to us as a revelation of God. Instead of accepting a home in the closed world through which the Real presents itself, human beings can discover It itself, the It towards which we raise ourselves up, mindful of being strangers to all things in which It is revealed and thus of returning to the abode of Peace,(14) to the reason and purpose of our being. To rise up and return in this way is at all possible only because this duality in every created thing is not and cannot be in absolute equilibrium. The attributes of the One – light, mercy, knowledge, peace, good, et cetera – overcome each of their contraries, that is, dark, anger, ignorance, motion, evil, and so forth, in this unbalanced equilibrium.
With this, the witness that the Praised is God’s servant and His apostle becomes a way of realisation of the self as a sojourner on the path of ascent and return to Him in the individual self. It is of this that William C. Chittick says, “It was a path to discover the ultimate truths of the universe within the depths of one’s own soul, the only place where truth can be found.”(15) If all things within the horizons of the world praise God, this praise nonetheless gathers within the individual self, within the core of perfected humanity, in and through being both praised and praiser. Being a universe at rest, which is to say a revelation or reflection of Peace, this is what gathers within our human being-at-peace.
Through the self, we encompass all things, from the most beautiful uprightness to the lowest humiliation.(16) Every condition of the self, from being-at-peace(17) to instigation to evil,(18) corresponds to this range. We are called, in each of these possibilities and every level of existence, to discover harmony as our path back to the self in its most beautiful uprightness. We view the world, in all its limitless and illimitable differentiation, from the standpoint of the self and through the self. Everything we see in time or space across the entire world exists already within us, and that is a higher level, within the names which are made manifest through the signs distended across the horizons of the world and of the self.
God calls us, in the Recitation, to note any potential deviation from the primacy of the knowing self over the world its knows, saying: “Thou seest not in the creation of the All-merciful any imperfection. Return thy gaze; seest thou any fissure? Then return thy gaze again, and again, and thy gaze comes back to thee dazzled, aweary.ˮ(19) Without the assumption of the perfection of the witnessed (perceptible) world, the call to engage in contemplation, in describing what is seen in various languages, including mathematics, and to test those descriptions through experiments, which is what science, framed within a propositional system, is, would have neither meaning nor attraction.
This attractiveness is due primarily to the disclosure of the perfect self of the observer and is thus a reminder of the original and introjected presence of that perfection. Awareness of this primacy of the self is occluded within the modern propositional systems, since its focus is on the unity within which and with which the self gathers together all the variety of the world, returning in this way to its most beautiful uprightness and the reason and purpose for which it is a creature, transcending duality and revealing itself as a sign of the One.
This endeavour to disclose and return always takes place within boundaries, but also always involves transcending them. Howsoever deepened or expanded, the scientific perspective never transcends duality, through which the One reveals and conceals Itself. As God announced to His prophet, the Praised, all the prophets of the One, the absolutely First and absolutely Last, have reminded their flocks always and ever that absolute Priority and absolute Posteriority are not to be found in any visible things: “And We sent never a Messenger before thee except that We revealed to him, saying, ‘Verily, there is no god but I; so serve Me.’ˮ(20)
The nature of our knowledge means we comprehend but a little, which is, however a sufficient sign of the Principle, Which comprehends all with His knowledge.(21) Conscious of being a sign in relation to a signified, we dispose of our potential to self-realise in perfectibility, which is the unlimited and limitless path back to the One, through a process which cannot be exhausted within this world, as the prophet, the Praised, says: “The Hour will not arrive until on earth they cease to say ‘there is no god but God.’”(22)
However profound or sublime our insights into the worlds, no boundary to which we accede can block or frustrate the need of the self to pass beyond it. No image of the world can replace our need to discover ourselves in our perfectibility, beyond limitation. The prophet, the Praised, says: “No god but God is the best of good things.ˮ(23)
Asked what, if all knowledge about the world were to be lost, was the one, most essential thing that should be preserved above all others, Richard Feynman said:
I believe it is the atomic hypothesis (or the atomic fact, or whatever you wish to call it), that all things are made of atoms – little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another.(24)
The world is both praiser and praised, since it reveals and announces God as the Praised.(25) Everything in existence, both together and separately, glorifies its Lord with praise and thanks.(26) Consequently, the act of praise is the connection linking the world and God. But without human beings, there is no free will in the world, which is a servant, praising and praised without any facility of ever willingly doing otherwise. Not so with humanity. We have free will, which is the precondition for confidence or mutual faith as our form of relationship with God the Faithful. This is why we are the summation or epitome of all creation. We may deny this if we wish and so become the lowest of the low, or confirm it, and thus be most beautiful uprightness and, so, in the duality of our being, as both praised and praising, a perfect manifestation of God as Praised.
This is so because the world as a whole and human beings as so many epitomes of it, but with free will, confirm and reveal the Lord. There is nothing that we have not received as a borrowing from the One. The world and humanity are praised, precisely because the Praised is revealed through them. When they return that praise, then world and humanity are praising, so that the act of praise becomes their connection with the Praised. This relationship of the world, of which humanity is the absolute epitome, with God, the Praised, is evident in the text of the Recitation:
Unto God belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is on the earth. We have enjoined those who were given the Book before you, and We enjoin you to, ‘be conscious of God.’ But, if you conceal, unto God belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is on the earth; and God is Self-Sufficient, All-Praised.(27)
And it is He who sends down the rain after they have despaired, and He unfolds His mercy; He is the Protector, the All-Praised.(28)
All that is in the heavens and the earth magnifies God. His is the Kingdom, and His is the praise, and He is powerful over everything.(29)
And He is God; there is no god but He. His is the praise in the former as in the latter; His too is the Judgment, and unto Him you shall be returned.(30)
Proclaim thy Lord’s praise, and be of those that bow down, and serve thy Lord, until the Certain comes to thee.(31)
And be thou patient under the judgment of thy Lord; surely thou art before Our eyes. And proclaim the praise of thy Lord when thou arisest, and proclaim the praise of thy Lord in the night, and at the declining of the stars.(32)
But those who believe and do righteous deeds and believe in what is sent down to the Praised – and it is the truth from their Lord – He will acquit them of their evil deeds, and dispose their minds aright.(33)
The Praised is not the father of any one of your men, but the Messenger of God, and the Seal of the Prophets; God has knowledge of everything.(34)
God is Praised. By making Himself manifest through creation, by being Lord and giving existence to all things throughout signifying duality and so by giving to all things that they be His servants and reflections of His Lordship, He placed existence and all things in it under a debt of praise – of receiving and giving it. It is their endeavour to return what they have received that constitutes their being praisers. The connection of existence with the Praised, which is absolutely transcendent and immanent, is praise, the act of praise. Its most sublime moment, first and last in creation, is precisely the perfected human as both praised and praiser.
At the heart of the act of praise lies faith, knowledge of the beautiful, the attractive and the beloved. God reveals Himself in beauty in all His signs. Disclosing the names of the “Praised” within the individual self is precisely to realise the most beautiful example sent down of praised-praising, the most sublime potential within each self, and so the dearest of all conditions or way- stations on the upward path of return to God. Of this, it is said in the Recitation: “You have had a beautiful example in God’s Messenger for whosoever hopes for God and the Last Day, and remembers God oft.ˮ(35) This exemplary quality is both mother and seal for all the prophets and their followers, as God says: “You have had a beautiful example in Abraham, and those with him.ˮ(36) And again: “You have had a beautiful example in them for whoever hopes for God and the Last Day. And whosoever turns away, surely God is the All-Sufficient, the All-Praised.ˮ(37)
Insofar as being-praised is found or discovered as an aspect of the relationship of the observing self to the world of duality, and so in everything that may be expressed in the form of an equation, all these things are signs of the Praised and so confirmation that His name is known at the heart of the individual self. By saying that every sign, and, so, every duality, praises God, one intimates that the act of praise prevails over every contrary. This is thus a form of return to the self, its reason and purpose, and so to God. But if duality or symmetry are separated from the absolutely transcendent and immanent unity, then their quality of being praised and praising fades from the sight of the observer, because it transcends any mere appearance in the comparable and quantifiable.
5. The light sent down with him
We are linked to the world through our five senses – touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight. Through the sense of sight, we are connected with the remotest horizons. When we are said to raise our gaze towards the heavens, what we see is a herald of remote phenomena that emit light or reflect it. We are told of light in the Recitation: “God is the Light of the heavens and the earth.” (38) But, God is beyond measure and compare, like nothing, equal to nothing.
The light which certain bodies radiate and others receive, and which, having received, they retransmit, is a comparable and quantifiable phenomenon and consequently merely a sign of absolute Light. This radiated or reflected light is an electromagnetic wave whose spectrum includes wavelengths from radio frequencies to shortwave gamma rays. Consequently, the wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation are measures that fit at every level, from that of the atom to that of the cosmos as a whole.
Visions of the world, from the most remote stars to the innermost intimacies of the atom, are limited by the capacities of the human eye. More recently, the limitations upon these capacities have been significantly shifted both inward and outward by the telescope and the microscope. Moreover, parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, normally invisible to the eye, are now caught by various instruments. In this way, the traditional boundaries of the world have been fundamentally deepened and expanded. A new image has emerged of the depths of matter and the cosmos as a whole, one that is moreover subject to constant shifts in insight attained. The relationship between this process, taking place throughout the cosmos, in both atom and galaxy, over billions of years, with whatever humanity is has been affirmed. Laws have been formed which hold equally across all space and time. Still, the boundaries of the world so disclosed can only be made out within the framework of the electromagnetic wave, which is to say of light, as it reaches us.
However far we may shift the boundaries, it is clear that the final speed of light, which we may allow to be the fastest thing in all existence, entails an impossibility of passing over the temporal threshold from which it started off towards us. Even though growth in knowledge about the external world has taken on unexpected dimensions, the knowing subject has remained decisive in the process. In comparison to this explosive growth, it may appear minute, but it unveils a capacity to transcend both this and all other knowledge, which does not and cannot exist without it. This is why physical light, and consequently the entire composition of the electromagnetic wave, is just a sign of the Light of Which the prophet, when asked, “Did you see thy Lord?ˮ, replied, “He is Light. How could I see Him?ˮ(39)
By and through light, the near and far horizons are revealed to us. The light in the self, however, is that which the relationship of the enlightened individual with absolute Light reflects. The primordial maternal and sealing nature of the Prophet, the Praised, with whom Light descended into appearance, recalls this perfect humanity, cognizable through the Light sent down in the essence of our/Its introjection into Being.
Accordingly, taking the confession that there is no god but God to mean that there is no light but God’s light, surely it is clear that, in its sublime potential, the human self is Its fundamental expression. In the Recitation, God recalls us to the location and discovery of this light in perfect humanity:
Said He, “My chastisement – I smite with it whom I will; and My mercy embraces all things, and I shall prescribe it for those who are conscious and pay the alms, and those who indeed believe in Our signs, those who follow the Messenger, the maternal Prophet, whom they find written down with them in the Torah and the Gospel, bidding them to honour, and forbidding them dishonour, making lawful for them the good things and making unlawful for them the corrupt things, and relieving them of their loads, and the fetters that were upon them. Those who believe in him and succour him and help him, and follow the light that has been sent down with him – they are the prosperers.ˮ(40)
“The light that has been sent down with him” is, precisely, the manifestation of the One through and to creation, in which It never ceases to be present, manifest against non-existence. Countless is the multitude of ways in which It reveals and conceals Itself. Light corresponds to disclosure, Its disappearance to the disappearance of all things. The confession that there is no god but God means accepting His guidance out of the darkness towards the Light. Whatever our condition, we bear this Light within, sent down to us as the reason and purpose of our humanity, sent as a salvific rope from any eventuality of the self. By discovering It, we realise ourselves through service and consciousness of Its Lordship.
The Light so sent down is in darkness and faces it as the multitude of unlimited and limitless extinctions of dualities. None of them individually, nor all of them together, yield a beginning or an end in their symmetry. They cannot be compared or measured without remainder, without a fundamental otherness, indeed, without absolute Light, without the One and Only Which duality expresses and affirms, necessarily through the self of the individual observing the world as an expression of the Self.
Light, accessible to the human senses, is, like every other part of the electromagnetic spectrum, part of the created world, and consequently, may be expressed in terms of duality, in equations. This is because it is only a sign amongst the signs of the One. Even created light is nothing, in comparison to absolute Light or the Real, but darkness and unreality. Once the confession that there is no god but God has been applied to the worlds and to God, two conclusions follow – first, that compared to God, the worlds are nothing: “All things perish, save His Faceˮ;(41) and second, that in comparison to all the things of His creation, God is God: “Wheresoever you turn, there is the Face of God.ˮ(42)
One can speak of the various levels of existence only as of a greater or lesser presence of light. This is why darkness, in the absolute sense, in its absolute reality, is an impossibility for the confession that there is no god but God. Accordingly, all the levels of existence are shadows – shadows extending from absolute Light, through the created, down to the various levels of absence. Looked at from above, in descent through the various levels of Being, absolute Light is, in relation to every other level, that which it is. Looked at from below, each level above seems to give only light, but it is always as a sign of absolute Light.
Against the Light of the absolute Only stands the countless multitude of ways in which It may be manifest. All these are shadows in relation to the absolutely present and absent, Light and Its veil. Its first manifestation is the Light of the Praised. Since God, through His mercy, encompasses all things, the Light of the Praised is a duality through which the Praised reveals Himself throughout existence, in all the worlds, as mercy, as maternal, as the seal of all existence, from the most beautiful uprightness to the lowest of the low, and back again, through the return of all things to Light.
Moving towards the Light means rising up through the shadows towards the Light, while withdrawing is movement in the other direction. This relationship with Light is outlined in the final part of the Opening verse: “Guide us on the upright path, the path of those whom Thou hast blessed, not of those against whom Thou art wrathful, nor of those who are astray.ˮ(43)
6. Being Merciful
The human self is split between two extremes, Light and the thickest darkness. The reason and purpose for which we were created lies in Light, which is one and absolute, but manifest in a countless multitude of presences and absences, of shadows. It is not and cannot be fully absent, even in the deepest darkness. Every level of Its manifestation, which is really Its presence against its absence, is a sign, a symmetry or a duality. When taken as self-sufficient, as several and separate from the Only, duality occludes the unity of Truth, offering itself instead. Then, the sign of the Principle becomes a principle, a god in the place of God, so that the observer thinks to see more and know all.
There takes place in this form of relationship towards the signs across the world and in the self a turn of the self in the direction whereby the Light is occluded by the thickening of the dark and so by the appearance of Its absence. It is said in the Recitation, regarding these two directions on the path of our possibilities, one of which leads towards the Light and the Only, the other from It towards multiplicity: “God is the Protector of the believers; He brings them forth from the shadows into the light. And the concealers – their protectors are idols, that bring them forth from the light into the shadows.ˮ(44)
Speaking in principle, dualities are visible. They are spread out in an infinite series, from above downwards. One can properly say of each of them, when those of a higher level are compared to those of a lower one, that it is light, which is to say a sign of absolute Light. Nothing in duality is or can be a principle and no possibility of seeing God arises from such a thing except through His signs, except through the belief that He is manifest through unity in all the signs of His creation.
No matter how broadly our perspective may expand, it cannot encompass what is invisible to it. God says: “None knows the Unseen in the heavens and earth except God.ˮ(45) As we are ourselves dualities, we know only partially. If our faith is truly a relationship with the absolutely Faithful, Who comprehends all things in His knowledge, that knowledge is His and of Him. It is belief, the love of what is known and knowledge of the beloved. We are reminded of this by His revelation: “The eyes attain Him not, but He attains the eyes; He is the All-Subtle, the All-Aware.ˮ(46)
We aspire to identification with the Beloved and salvation from duality. Only belief allows us to discover a station on the path of ascent to the One in the knowledge of each and every thing in the sensible world. Wherever we find ourselves, we remain duality, the sign in which all duality is brought together. It is in this gathering that our purpose, return to most beautiful uprightness, lies, return to the reason which cannot be destroyed by any contingency within the shadows of existence. This is the discovery of mercy, the access of the human self to the Self of merciful God.
Through His mercy, God comprehends all. This means that nothing in existence evades, by plan or purpose, His mercy. It is by being a mercy unto the worlds that the Prophet is the maternal and sealing principle of all existence. God said: “I am the All-Merciful, and I created the tie of kinship. I have derived its name from My name. Whoever strengthens it, him I strengthen; whoever severs it, him I sever and cut off.ˮ(47)
The world of duality is constantly waxing and waning, dying and revivifying. However things may start out, going on to receive new forms of existence in the ceaseless process of symmetrical and folding, they cannot attain absolute meaning in this falling and rising up again. The full reason and purpose of the world and of humanity are signified and sensed in everything it is and we are. For it and us, there neither is nor can be any meaning outside of mercy.
Mercy is the reason and purpose of existence. It is realised in grounded and purposeful humanity, in return to God. When we discover or disclose the possibility that we may be praised-praisers and so connect with God by means of praising Him, we are lifted up and restored to our most beautiful uprightness by the power of mercy and the love of the beautiful. This, our perfect potential, is dearer to us than any other state of the self, it is the most beautiful example, it is the Prophet, the Praised who is present in the self always and everywhere and shared by all. Of him, God says:
We have not sent thee, save as a mercy unto all worlds. Say: “It is revealed unto me only that your God is One God; do you then accept peace?” Then, if they should turn their backs, say: “I have proclaimed to you all equally, even though I know not whether near or far is that you are promised.ˮ(48)
The space-time and energy momentum flux of existence lies between two shores, which represent its beginning and end and precisely thereby its principle lies outside of duality – priority without priority, posteriority without posteriority, interiority without interiority, externality without externality. It is comprehended by the “today” that cannot be comprehended, in which the debt is being-at-peace, the relationship of all things in that flux with that incomparable and immeasurable Peace, to Which there is nothing equal nor alike. In the manifest, all this is emergence and disappearance, the birthing and dying of dualities, which intimate the One, which is uncomprehended by and incomprehensible to emergence and disappearance, birth and death.
Existence overall is both at-peace and peaceful (a source of peace). This is absolutely so, since its will is the will of Peace. But, Its revelation would not be complete if there were no faith at the heart of this flux, that is to say without the relationship that connects faithful humanity to the God of Faith. For such faith our knowledge of duality and of the symmetry of all created things is and cannot be enough. For us to be faithful, to love what we know and know our beloved, we also require an absolute love of Him Who comprehends all things through knowledge and the love of Him through the ceaseless disclosure of His beauty. Thus, the Face of the Self that Abides reveals itself in the waxing and waning duality of the loving self, present throughout the entire flux of existence, but also absent from it.
In this relationship, the human self, as created duality, belongs entirely to the Self of God, absolute Unity. In this relationship, consequently, the self is entirely its own, absolutely free, but nonetheless contingent. Its duality is a manifestation of the Only. The irresistible attraction of the Beloved, the putting away of all dualities for the sake of return to Him Who comprehends through His knowledge and mercy all things, entails the disclosure of the self within the Self, seeing itself through His gaze.(49) In the Recitation, God says: “No compulsion is there in debt. Uprightness has become clear from error. So whosoever rejects the idols and believes in God, has laid hold of the most firm handle, unbreaking; God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.ˮ(50)
To cover over, deny and reject idols, gods in the place of God, is to disclose everything in existence as that which it is – duality, symmetry, or sign. Thus, the self admits itself in its contingency, as a sign of the Self, and so returns and ascends to It. This upwards path is “the most firm handle” reliance on which ensures that the praise of Unity, revealed through the light of the Praised, is faith.
Love is the relationship of the loving subject to that which it loves. Whatever that may be, love is subordinated to it. What is subordinate is incomplete, less than absolute, as it must have a boundary. Consequently, it is conditioned by something else. Absolute love is the transcendence of all boundaries, and so recognition of the impossibility of being-in-existence without being-dual. And Unity, in all the ways it may show itself, transcends all duality.
Existence as a whole and everything within it is therefore dual. The two sides relate through ceaseless comparison and measuring off. But neither side of duality may be reduced to the other. Realisation comes in the understanding that pure duality is just the revelation of the Only. When God sent down in the language of men the form or pattern according to which our love of Him, the absolutely One, is conditioned by following the most beautiful example and most sublime possibility of duality, so that God Himself might love us and forgive us our sins,(51) our opinions and behaviour based on little knowledge, it becomes clear that this love is at once both an absolutely immanent and absolutely transcendent possibility to which we are called by all the signs in the world and the self.
The Face of God stands always before us, but in an eternal process of occlusion and disclosure. It reveals itself by creation which neither adds to nor subtracts from Him. He has said: “To God belong the East and the West; wheresoever you turn, there is the Face of God; God is All-Embracing, All-Knowing.ˮ(52) Looking at the Face, what we see is Its signs, the countless multitude of dualities, which may always be reduced to the single duality of existence as a whole.
In the propositional system of modern science, this duality and, so, its every relationship may be described by equations, in which quantifiable variables are linked by dependencies, so that changing one side causes change in the other, in a way that is valid for all times and all places. These changes are an unceasing flow in which space and time are concentrated and rarefied in a countless multitude of curves, which correspond to the ratios of mass to energy momenta. One can transcend these limitations of the sensible world only through confession that there is no god but God and that all any duality has is being a sign of the One, Which may not be comprehended within a propositional system.
Dualities and the relationships that bind them throughout existence, from the most minute to the most expansive horizons, remain forever within the framework of the propositional system, expressed as equations. They allow for evermore profound descent and evermore exalted ascent towards the limits of existence, but what we know remains always duality, a sign of the Only, a thing that praises the ever-present and ever-absent Unity, so that the relationship of the praising subject to the Praised’s path of self-realisation lies always in a higher potential for return to the One, Who has the most beautiful names.
When Richard Feynman singled out the theory of the atom as the most exalted attainment of science, we should have recalled that the atom is not an indivisible particle, even if that is what its name implies. An indivisible particle is not even possible to the imagination. Duality, as the unbalanced balance of constant waxing and waning, emergence and disappearance, cannot be transcended in anything but the One, Which duality reveals and affirms.
In its descent from Unity into multiplicity, the divine discourse is a differentiation that corresponds to all of existence. Receiving it, we are its collator, so that it appears in us and with us as the Recitation or Lesson. In relation to the things of the world, it is the Light that has descended.(53) The Recitation is, accordingly, the discourse in which the confession that there is no god but God is revealed in the consequential necessity that there be no light but the Light. It is consequently justifiable to state that physical light is in fact darkness compared to the Light, Which is incomparable and unlike anything in existence, including that part of the electromagnetic spectrum which we perceive as light.
Physical light is an especial sign amongst all the signs in the world or self. It is, nonetheless, just a sign, a duality that may be described by equations. Like every other thing, it too may be understood as an idol or a god in the place of God. This is possible for each and every thing. When a thing is ascribed that ultimacy or priority beyond which no further ultimacy or priority is, then it has been taken for God. But this is really just a representation of God, one out of the countless multitude of possibilities.
As Lesson, the Recitation is the relationship between reciter/pupil, the individual under instruction, and teacher, the individual giving instruction. When it is God who is the Teacher and we the pupil, then the relationship is unidirectional. God embraces all things through His knowledge, so that His instruction is in fact the rendering manifest of His boundless and illimitable Self in the bounded and contingent world, in the showing of signs which connect the pupil under instruction with Him. Our capacity to be instructed in so growing in knowledge, to disclose and discover and realise ourselves in the reason and purpose for which we are created, is unlimited, precisely because God encompasses all things in His knowledge, so that the process of learning is a process of returning to Him and so His self-disclosure.
Addressing the Prophet, the Praised, God says: “We shall make thee recite, to forget not save what God wills. Surely He knows what is spoken about and what is hidden.ˮ(54) Elsewhere, He says: “Ours it is to gather it, and to recite it. So, when We recite it, follow thou its recitation. Then Ours it is to explain it.ˮ(55) The Lesson sent down by God has its guarantee in the fact that the bearing of it is entrusted to the Holy Ghost/Spirit of Truth. Consequently, it is both the same as and different from all other forms of sending down of the Word. It is the same, because it is brought forth by the One. It is different, because it has been received into the self of the chosen individual and consequently under determinate space-time conditions that may not be repeated.
The Messiah, Jesus, announced the Paraclete who would bear witness of him, when he came. This title may mean one who will profess, make manifest, and teach,(56) and consequently console, defend, encourage and assist people to recall that they have not been left without a reminder to turn them towards God and lead them on the path back to Him. The identification of the Paraclete with the Holy Ghost/Spirit of Truth is precisely what guarantees this continuity and so the presence of prophetic utterance, which is never left without the confirmation of the Holy Ghost/Spirit of Truth, through whose good offices it is that all the prophets are connected with God. Consequently, they are, both severally and together, in-gatherers of what is scattered and illuminators of the darkened signs in the self and in the world.
We are reminded in the Recitation of Jesus’s words to his disciples at the Last Supper, in which he announced to them the coming of the Paraclete.(57) It is difficult to explain certain contemporary interpretations of this relationship, such as the following:
Such an interpretation is, however, complicated by the next verse, 14:17, where Advocate or Paraclete is said to be “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you,” and by 14:26, where the Advocate is again equated with the Holy Spirit.(58)
As Prophet, the Praised is the first of the people of peace, and consequently the first manifestation of Peace, the maternal and sealing principle of humanity in the widest sense of the term. He is this in the witness of all the prophets. He is with them and in them. Realising our humanity is the discovery of him as the maternal and sealing duality through which God reveals Himself. The word which he has received and delivers is God’s. It has been brought down to him by the Spirit of Truth,(59) the Holy Ghost.(60) In receiving that word, the Praised, as Prophet, is, in his very essence, nothing but that Spirit of Truth, the Holy Ghost, the Word which he bears. He presents us with only a presentation of this identification. All the prophets and any who practise self-realisation through the confession that there is no god but God know him as such. This is because he is both in and with them.
God announced to all the prophets through the Holy Ghost, and through them to every human individual in every human time and in the most varied forms: “Verily, there is no God but I; so serve Me!” (61) This I, speaking to the Holy Ghost within the self of the Praised as Prophet, reveals to us that we have in the Apostle the most beautiful example of expectation of God and of the last day and persistent recollection of Him. This beautiful exemplarity is in recognition of duality, of the symmetry in all things which reveal God, but nonetheless always recall us to the priority of good over evil, mercy over wrath, light over dark, and so forth, through all God’s beautiful names.
This status of the self of the Praised, as Prophet, is our capacity as human beings to transcend duality through faith and so through knowledge of the Beautiful and love of Him, which is that ascending and salvific return of the self to the Self, by following the Prophet who is “closer to the believers than they are to themselves.”(62) This is so, because belief entails rendering-true in accordance with the most beautiful possibility, out of love for that higher possibility, and readiness to consider any condition or status of the self and mere sign through which the Lordship of God is made manifest in the service of humanity, on the path of following the Praised on his way back to God. This is the meaning of his saying: “None of you truly believes until he loves me more than his father, his children and mankind altogether.”(63)
In loving the Prophet in this way, we disclose the Face of God in everything in the world as his sign. Indeed, the essence of humanity is contained in thus loving the Praised: the aspiration to self-realisation into that state where we see our beloved as our own image. That beloved is perfected humanity, praising and praised, the most beautiful example, the material and sealing principle.
9. Being first
Absolute priority is also absolute ultimacy. Absolute nearness and absolute remoteness correspond to this. Such is the One. He has no other, nothing comparable, nothing like unto Him. Only duality, the unlimited and illimitable manifold, can reveal Him. The first revelatory duality is maternal for the entire manifold. Existence as a whole and all the things in it are sealed by It as at peace. Thus, Sahl al-Tustari says:
The ultimate ranks of the righteous are the initial states for the prophets, although our Prophet worshipped God Most High with all states of the prophets. There is no leaf in paradise among the leaves of the trees on which were not written the Praised. Through him is the origin of the thing and through him is their final sealing, for he is called the seal of the prophets.(64)
This “origin of the thing” is the Praised’s being first of the people of peace, his being both the mother and the seal of all the prophets. Each of the prophets, in a different way, makes manifest, in what he or she says and does, this unique and always identical priority and seal, fostering it and believing in it. (65) The following is said of this in the Recitation:
Say: “I have been commanded to be the first of them that are in peace: ‘Be not thou of the associaters.’ˮ(66)
Say: “My prayer, my ritual sacrifice, my living, my dying – all belongs to God, the Lord of all Being. No associate has He. Even so I have been commanded, and I am the first of those that are in peace.ˮ(67)
All prophetic being is dual. Its priority in being-at-peace incorporates full consciousness of having received everything from the One and of giving it on as a debt to God. Both receiving and giving are conscious service. This is a manifestation of God’s Lordship which nothing in existence outruns, since every duality reveals and affirms Him, as His sign and nothing more, but nothing less than that. Perfect duality receives everything from unity, realising itself through the recognition of this and returning in accordance with consciousness of it.
All of existence gathers within the human form of being. We display expansion, multiplication, or sending down in our very capacity to rise up, disclose and find in our perfect beginning, the perfect individual as the seal of all created beings, and so the seal of each individual and of every Prophet. The Praised, as Prophet, said, as he became conscious of himself as a servant in his relationship with God as Lord: “I was the first prophet to be created and the last of them to be sent; so He began with me before them.ˮ(68) Elsewhere he says: “Truly I was with God, the Seal of Prophets, when Adam was still kneaded in his clay.ˮ(69)
All the names, which is to say all things, come together in the individual. At the first level of being, where being-at-peace is prior, the individual is the same as first intellect. From there, he or she descends into the differentiated realm of space-time, to the names and the imaginal worlds, to analytical reason and the sensible world. From there, he or she returns, ascending towards this act of gathering which is our reason and purpose, to priority in being-at-peace as the most beautiful example and as the closest or dearest of all dualities, closest because in it abides that perfection of receiving and recognising our indebtedness for what we have received. In this process of descending and re-ascending, paradise is a higher level of consciousness of the signs of the visible world of witness. Consequently, it is to be found on every leaf of every tree in the world, which may serve as a metaphor for every duality throughout existence, an inscription of the Only, manifest and affirmed in duality. One such duality is the praising praised. It is beautiful. Consequently, it is in love with the absolutely Beautiful Whose image it is.
Mourning his dead son, the Prophet, the Praised said: “The eye weepeth, and the heart grieveth, nor say we aught that would offend the Lord.ˮ(70) The question of seeing God never arises for him in anything, not even in any of the experiences of good or evil,(71) because he saw Him in all things. As the first of the people of peace, he is secure in his relationship with Peace. This is why he is the maternal and sealing principle of all the prophets. None of them lacks that principle, but to their faith involves an additional connection with it and so with faithful God. Being at peace is the precondition for being faithful. Both these are the precondition for being one who does things in the most beautiful way, which is self-realisation in the hour, in the unity of being and knowledge.
Being at peace is that form of priority over all existence which is voluntarily, and that means faithfully, maintained in mind and heart. As the first of the people of peace, as Prophet, the Praised is that level of perfected humanity of which all the prophets are conscious, but which they realise in faith. We are reminded of this by what is said in the Recitation of the prophet Moses:
And when Moses came to Our appointed time and his Lord spoke with him, he said, “Oh my Lord, show me, that I may behold Thee!ˮ Said He, “Thou shalt not see Me; but behold the mountain – if it stays fast in its place, then thou shalt see Me.ˮ And when his Lord revealed Him to the mountain He made it crumble to dust; and Moses fell down swooning. So when he awoke, he said, “Glory be to Thee! I repent to Thee; I am the first of the believers.ˮ(72)
Being One and Only, incomparable and un-alike, God comprehends both space and time, but they do not comprehend Him. His being First and Last, Outer and Inner, lies beyond what space and time can comprehend, but is nonetheless within them. His Self-revelation is in duality, in being in space and time. No matter how close it is to Him, this manifestation is always infinitely remote from Him, while He is nonetheless infinitely close to it.
That the Praised is the first of the people of peace and Moses the first of the people of faith – these are manifestations in space and time. Insofar as God reveals himself through them, they cannot be confined to a particular space or particular time. At any given time or place, the Praised’s being first of the people of peace is a manifestation of absolute peace, while Moses being first of the people of faith is a manifestation of absolute faithfulness. Being at peace is a precondition for being faithful.
In the mid-20th century, in the quest for proofs of the big bang theory of the development of the cosmos, it was discovered that the microwave background can be understood or viewed as the trace present throughout the entire development of the universe of an ancient condition. It may be read as a sign, accessible on the horizons of the world, that refers us to being first of the people of peace. Such being transcends every other thing in all of creation. It clearly indicates the One. Connection with It is absolute, when it comes from and with free will. The most exalted pattern of this is being first of the people of faith. This priority is a seal on all things. It may be discovered in every phenomenon. When the totality of existence is brought together in a human individual, however, so the duality is willingly recognised as a confirmation or affirmation of the One, the seal of this is being first of the people of faith, but always under the prior seal of being first of the people of peace.
10. “No associate has He”
In traditional ontology, the scale of being passes from above to below. It may be presented in five levels – the essence or metaphysical zero, unity or God, the names, the imaginal world, and the sensate or quantifiable world. Each of the lower levels reveals and affirms the higher. Our perspective on this scale is from the lowest level, from the sensate and quantifiable world, from the bottom of the valley of existence. We can, however, overcome it in and through the self, discovering and interpreting it as the manifestation and affirmation of a higher level, of the imaginary world, and finding in the order of the heavens and the earth a clear discourse which leads us through the entirety of being. We can do this, because we have been introjected into being as a whole through existence and that means through arrival. In principle, this introjection contains knowledge of the reason and purpose of our being. This descending and ascending through the various layers of being is growing in knowledge and experience, accompanied by an attraction to and love of the known, which is always little, but nonetheless an evermore attractive manifestation of the Beautiful and Merciful.
In the Recitation, God reminds us of this relationship: “Naught is there, but its treasuries are with Us, and We send it not down but in a known measure.ˮ(73) Being in a known measure is only possible in duality or symmetry. This entails the impossibility of any form of being-at-peace. But that is precisely what reveals Peace, as the principle of all existence. All things are revelations of the names, but always within duality as the affirmation of unity, as is said in the Recitation: “God – there is no God but He. To Him belong the Names Most Beautiful.”(74)
When contemplation of the world is placed within the framework of comparability and measurability, there arises a need to exclude the observing subject and its faith, which, as loving the known and knowing the beloved, resists the reduction of logical, biological and physical dualities to mere quantities governed by the laws of logic, biology and physics. The science of the modern propositional system is de-anthropological, because any searching for something beyond its boundaries becomes something unnecessary and hindering for its growing body, which is independent of the individual self. For science established in this way there are no worlds that defy comparison or quantification. Their existence must be consigned to the regions of metaphysics, the imagination, teleology, and with some limitations, philosophy.
A number of questions which cannot be denied scientific status and so entirely relegated to other areas of human preoccupation remain, nonetheless, on the edges of science. One of these is the anthropological-cosmological principle: insofar as we exist, the universe must have certain properties or we wouldn’t be here to see it. Consistently applied to the question of reason and purpose, this claim cannot be unaffected by the questions of the openness of the self to transcendence of every limitation to knowledge and therefore of existence in any senses which might be other than as a sign of the absolute reason and purpose. This purpose must be beyond the limitations of space-time and energy-momentum, and consequently beyond the duality of the equation.
If life is the relationship of the living being to the absolute Living and therefore a sign of It, it is clear that existence as a whole is the enabling condition for that duality, as any investigator of the cosmos may confirm:
The values of the physical constants (not to mention the laws of physics) seem to be spectacularly ‘time-turned’ for life as we know it – indeed, almost ‘tailor-made’ for humans. In many cases, if things were altered just a tiny amount, the results would be disastrous for life, and even for the production of heavy elements on molecules. The Universe would be ‘stillborn’ in terms of its complexity.(75)
This is a perspective of human consciousness, which it is considered permissible to stretch beyond any boundary, so long as what it comprehends is not ascribed to an unconscious reason or unconscious purpose.
It is impossible to understand such an anthropological-cosmological fit without recognising the absolute knowledge of the Creator. This means that the perfect duality with which modern science occupies itself reveals the incomparable and immeasurable One. Once led to such a conclusion, the individual ceases to be understood as a quantity in a world of quantities, becoming open to discovery of the absolutely immanent and absolutely transcendent One, Who has no other. This teleological conclusion cannot, however, be tested within the propositional system of modern science. When all the things within the purview of the system, their descriptions and verifications are adopted as signs of the One, the system dissolves within any individual who is open as a result of faith in and transcendence of the merely comparable and quantifiable. This is a confirmation of the mutability and translatability of all epistemological paradigms.
With all this dealing with the reason and purpose for existence as a whole, we make little progress with the question: how and why did this world or hyperspace, by which we are encompassed, appear? Wherever we arrive at in our search for an answer to this question, the subject who poses it is, in his or her most exalted potential, both the reason and purpose, both the foundation and the keystone of everything that exists, because it is only through the questioning subject that questions and answers are possible at all.
And here we keep coming back to the self-disclosure of our two forms of witness – that there is no god but God and that the Praised is His servant and His apostle. However happy the scientist may be limited within duality, he and everything about him recalls, voluntarily and involuntarily, the world’s causality and purposiveness in Unity and the need to connect with Its infinitude, albeit always from the perspective of finitude. Here we may recognise a constant pressure of nostalgia for what is higher and lies beyond the boundaries of the quantifiable and of this mathematizable world. This nostalgia is just the sense that we cannot attain the proper purpose of being in the world in any state purely confined to space time and energy moments. Nostalgia is, accordingly, our sense of the reason for which we were introjected into being, so that the self desires its proper purpose and to be itself
Nostalgia and the desire associated with it to transcend the ceaseless flux of duality, of the emergence and disappearance of symmetries throughout existence, these stimulate or disclose within us our ethical nature and our recognition of the priority of mercy over wrath, justice over injustice, good over evil, et cetera. Witness to the unity of God, with witness of the maternal and sealing significance of perfected humanity in and for existence as a whole, confirms the ethical as our path to redemption from every shortfall. It is only together with the fundamental reason and fundamental purpose of both these forms of witness that the ethical can escape mere contingence and inertia. In and through it, essential humanity is disclosed.
11. The Enigma of brotherhood
We are all descendants of a single father, sisters and brothers forever. Tracing the various levels of relationship, one can talk of brothers in the literal sense, as children of a single father or a single mother, or in the metaphorical sense of brothers and sisters connected by consciousness of a common witness. This metaphorical form of brotherhood and sisterhood trumps the others, as God says in the Recitation:
Thou shalt not find any people who believe in God and the Last Day who are loving to anyone who opposes God and His Messenger, not though they were their fathers, or their sons, or their brothers, or their clan. Those – He has written faith upon their hearts, and He has confirmed them with a Spirit from Himself.(76)
Our reason and purpose within existence as a whole lies in our capacity to understand and realise this. Through faith and belief, that which links the individual of faith with the God of faith, we are connected in a way that transcends relations in the world of duality, as is stated in the Recitation: “And hold you fast to God’s bond, together, and do not scatter; remember God’s blessing upon you when you were enemies, and he brought your hearts together, so that by his blessing you became brothers.”(77)
Being faithful is a condition within the heart. Its external expression is the fraternal link between the faithful, as stated in the Recitation: “The believers are but brothers; so make peace between your brothers, and be conscious of God, that haply you may receive mercy.”(78) As Prophet, the Praised said: “Prophets are brothers of one father, having different mothers. Their debt is, however, one and there is no Apostle between us (me and Jesus Christ).ˮ(79) The general form of existing things’ relationship with God is the form of that which is at peace with Peace through the mechanism of being-at-peace. Once an individual becomes conscious of his own reason and purpose for being-at-peace, he begins to view others as brother creatures and brothers in this awareness.(80)
As Prophet, the Praised said in his farewell to his followers: “Know that every man-of-peace is a brother of every other man-of-peace, and that the men-of-peace are brethren.ˮ(81) On one occasion, he was amongst his followers and those who bore witness to him and said: “I wish I could meet my brothers.” The companions said, “Are we not your brothers?” The Prophet said, “You are my companions, but rather my brothers are those who believe in me yet they never saw me.ˮ(82)
Witness that the Praised is God’s servant and apostle presupposes knowledge of that beyond any doubt. To this is added faith in him on the basis of clearly stated tradition. When the Prophet mentioned those who will believe in him even though they have not seen him, it is clear that this relates to all generations across all time.
Consequently, every witness of him who also believes in him may expect to be his brother, which is to say to realise the reason and purpose of being in the world in and through the self. Since we are all ultimately descendants of the same father, we are all each other’s brother. Consciousness of being a servant in relation to the Lord and at-peace in relation to Peace, which we always can be, regardless of our condition, entails loving what is known and knowing what is loved, and that is faith.
One may conclude from these claims that the question of human fraternity is multidimensional and that there is a need to investigate and order our standard representations of it. If one accepts that there is not and cannot be a prophet after the Praised and that there was no one amongst his contemporaries who was his brother in the sense advanced above, then his brothers in the times that came after him are a living tradition, in which, one may properly suppose, the maternal and sealing prophecy is ceaselessly expressed by the tongues of those who interpret the world and the things in it in accordance with the ceaseless flow of increase in knowledge, who discover the Praised as Prophet and first of the people of peace, the most beautiful example and mercy unto the worlds, in and through themselves, in their introjection into being, at all times and in all languages, within all epistemological paradigms, recognising his maternity and sealing nature in comparison to all other prophets raised up in all the nations. Bearing witness of him, making no difference between apostles, the followers of the Praised do not and cannot differentiate between peoples. Recognising duality is the manifestation of the One, this is how they become conscious of both the reason and purpose of being in the world.
This becoming aware of the Praised’s being with and in all people entails the discovery of the individual self in its original and causative duality as manifestation and affirmation of the One. Anything beyond that may be, but is not necessarily, a support to that disclosure, realisation, and coming true of the self in its witness that there is no god but God. In this, every individual self, isolated as it comes into the world and as it returns out of it, discovers itself as a duality, like everything else in existence, and as a sign of the One, in ceaseless flow of emerging and disappearing equilibria between the dualities or things of the world. To such an one all things are foreign, to be passed by on the path of return and of the realisation of brotherhood towards the duality that clearly and unambiguously discloses and affirms the One.
12. Increase in knowledge
All of existence is in absolute service to God. Duality is that which announces and affirms the One. It is this at all levels of its existence, equally throughout the external world and in the interior human one, except in belief or faith, the condition for which is free will. This relationship of Faithful God and the individual of faith is expressed in the Recitation as follows: “We offered faith to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they refused to carry it and were afraid of it; and man carried it. Surely he is sinful, very foolish.ˮ(83) By freely accepting the offer of free will, which allows for the possibility of being consciously in agreement with the divine will, but also of being opposed to it, we became the only complete manifestation of the One, and at the same time the possibility of Its denial.
As Prophet, the Praised received the revelation in accordance with the manifestation of the Lord’s Self in his own servant-like humility: “And hasten not with the Recitation ere its revelation is accomplished unto thee; and say, ‘O my Lord, increase me in knowledge.’ˮ(84) The meaning of this revelation, with its prayer for increase in knowledge, is the strengthening of the knowing subject through being connected with God, Who comprehends all through His knowledge. This link is always conditional/contingent, because we can never escape the fact of having been created and consequently contingent, in comparison to the Creator, who is unconditioned. In the Recitation, God says: “God. There is no god but He, the Living, the Standing. Slumber seizes Him not, neither sleep; to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. Who is there that shall intercede with Him save by His leave?ˮ(85)
Human knowledge, as a connection with God, is always through His signs. Human beings are ourselves just such a sign, but it is also through us but all the signs are brought together. There is nothing that can come to be within us or in our consciousness, in our relationship with Conscious God, in our knowledge, in our relationship with the Knowing God, in our activity, in our relationship with the God Who acts, that is not also a sign of Him, as He Himself says through the Prophet Abraham: “Do you serve what you hew, and God created you and what you make.ˮ(86)
Starting from the above-mentioned thesis of human beings, and consequently of everything that can think or act, as such, as signs, it is clear that none of our representations, or indeed our imaginings, not even modern science, avoids the fate of being a sign. However solid and reliable such a sign may seem, it is not worthy of being accepted as complete, since it would then have to be ascribed reality beyond the Real. This is why the question of the denial of signs is inseparable from our yearning to disclose ourselves in our openness to transcendence beyond all boundaries or, to put it another way, for disclosing and affirming unity in recognition of the One, incomparable and immeasurable, an affirmation that necessarily takes place through the irrepressible flux of duality, of the signs of That One.
The denial of God’s signs is, accordingly, one of the key issues of the Recitation. How they are accepted or denied and consequently how the individual takes up an orientation towards the One or away from it, determine the possibility of disclosing/discovering the reason and purpose of the world. The discourse of the Recitation is focused, primarily, on this relationship through signs, which is to say through dualities that make manifest the One, and on their recognition or denial. The following may be found in the Recitation regarding this:
We shall show them Our signs in the horizons and in themselves, till it is clear to them that He is the truth. Suffices it not as to thy Lord, that He is witness over everything?(87)
Those that cry lies to Our signs and wax proud against them – the gates of heaven shall not be opened to them, nor shall they enter Paradise until the twisted rope pass through the eye of the needle.(88)
Believers, God has sent down to you, for a remembrance, a Messenger reciting to you the signs of God, clear signs, that He may bring forth those who believe and do righteous deeds from the shadows into the light.(89)
And those who cry lies to Our signs We will draw them on little by little whence they know not; and I respite them – assuredly My guile is sure.(90)
Reading, reciting, and interpreting signs in the constant flux of emerging and disappearing symmetries, with the priority of the beautiful over the ugly, of good over evil, – this means our open and never-to-be-completed participation in the revelation of God. No act can be completed, any more than an understanding or the associated process of forming the self in and through its increase in knowledge. When the Prophet, the Praised, asked God to increase in knowledge, it was clear that this was not an increase to which limits could be set.
His Prophet, the most beautiful example, the mercy unto the worlds, the always higher potential of every individual self, prays to Merciful God. The Lord he prays to is so great that no quantity may be compared with Him. All the reasons for our voluntary service to Him, which entails the ceaseless recalling of our connection with Him as Beautiful and therefore Beloved, are contained in that Majesty, according to which our increase in knowledge is possible.
All the prophets are brothers, as is confirmed by their prophetic maternity and sealing nature. Prophecy, in the proper sense of the term, ended with the Praised, as Prophet, but access remains open to each individual and to mankind as a whole towards the essence of prophecy, of participation in the general brotherhood of those who, recalled by prophecy throughout its existence, accept that our reason and purpose is to be discovered through ceaseless increase in knowledge, particularly in relation to Him Who comprehends all things through His knowledge and Who is loved in that increasing knowledge, and so also through cleaving to our inexhaustible moral responsibility towards Him and everything through which He is revealed. Thus, the prophetic brotherhood is transferred to the lasting and continuous increase in knowledge, to the ceaseless generation of new interpretations of God signs in the world and the self.
13. One and symmetry
The Recitation, which God sent down by means of the Holy Spirit/Spirit of Truth to the heart of the Praised, as Prophet, as His mercy in the language of men, is before and above all a discourse of people, the world, gods, and God in the ceaseless inversion and darkening over of the ontological hierarchy. At the heart of this discourse lies our relationship with God, disclosed in witness that there is no god but God. This witness is the relationship of the individual self to God’s self, involving the transcendence of the duality within, which is possible through recognition that the world and things are dualities, a sign through which the One makes itself manifest.
Whatever we, as human beings, are capable of saying is said out of our situation within immanence. When we talk about God, therefore, we do so exclusively with reference to His signs and never Him directly. His transcendence is the condition of our immanence. With regard to the perennial question of the omnipotence, omniscience, and all-encompassing mercy of God and attempts to answer it solely from within the perspective of the created world and finitude, therefore, as Toby Mayer points out:
Concepts of God are mere simulacra. Such, in brief, was the teaching of the great Hispano-Arab mystical theologian Muḥyi’l-Dīn ibn ‘Arabi (d. 1240). In his typically outspoken formulation, the conceptual God is just a “created God”. He is, according to Ibn ‘Arabī’s expression “the God created in dogma”.(91) In the Islamic ethos, such a deity is ultimately a deception.(92)
Existence as a whole appears in human reason, as reason itself does, as a duality, which is to say in ceaseless comparison and measuring off of all things in the phenomenality of space-time and energy-momentum. This general duality, within which all individual things are also dualities, remains always finite, regardless of the extent to which these boundaries may be shifted towards the depths or the expanses of the micro- and the macro- worlds, respectively. Duality cannot be a principle for itself. It is a sign of the One, which is incomparable and unlike anything. And it is precisely here, in this relationship of duality and Unity, of the comparable and the incomparable, the measurable and the immeasurable, that a divergence appears between two propositional systems, that of modern science and that of traditional wisdom.
All demonstrations of the laws of the physical world within the propositional system of modern science take the form of mathematical equations with corresponding symmetries. Duality is the supposed principle over all things. No third that might transcend duality is acceptable. This is because it would mean accepting the necessity of recognising that the perceptible world conceals a hidden one. But if all dualities are and can only be signs, these descriptive equations of the measurable world in fact confirm the unity that transcends all limitation.
For the modern scientist, the simple procedure of observing mathematical description and experimental confirmation imposes no necessity that every law of nature be recognised as a sign of the Only. But the duty that the observer feels and often stresses in the investigative relationship to the world is itself just as manifestation of the Only. Leon M. Lederman and Christopher T. Hill make clear this assumption:
There is solid scientific evidence that the laws of physics are unchanging, derived in part from the geological record of the early Earth. They are the same laws of physics today that supervised the very early universe. This unchanging, or invariant, set of laws is constructed from profound intrinsic symmetries, and they act to express the awesome beauty of nature.(93)
The same authors remind us of the role of symmetry in our, humanity’s, relationship with the world and with our own selves:
Indeed, in modern physics the concept of symmetry serves as perhaps the most crucial concept of all. Symmetry principles are now known to dictate the basic laws of physics, to control the structure and dynamics of matter, and to define the fundamental forces in nature. Nature, at its most fundamental level, is defined by symmetry. The picture we have now, which was constructed gradually, mostly throughout the twentieth century, is still incomplete. There are, however, enough pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in hand to know that symmetry is fundamental to all of it. The abstract concept of symmetry and its relationship to the physical world is enduring and here to stay.(94)
This postulate of symmetry as an important element of the visible and measurable world follows the investigator’s recognition of the presence and appearance of its beauty, and of the fact that it is neither confirmable nor measurable and cannot be expressed in equations. Given that this is the case and that the presence of evil in the world is also indubitable, theodicy, the question of the origin of evil in the world, necessarily leads us to recognition of the presence of good and beauty and mercy and knowledge, in contrast to all their symmetrical contraries.
Viewing the cosmos within the framework of the propositional system of modern physics has disclosed its breadth. On this basis, through application of the general theory of relativity, science has also confirmed the requirement that the cosmos have a beginning in space and time, which means a concentration of mass and energy within which the relations of the fundamental forces were somehow different. And so the conclusion has been reached: “We say that the ‘symmetry is broken’ at low energies. In high-energy interactions, the two forces cannot be distinguished and hence appear symmetric (unified).ˮ(95)
The two forces referred to here are the electromagnetic and weak nuclear forces, which combine to form the electro-weak force. The attempt to unify the initial four forces is thus reduced to a relationship towards three – gravitation, electro-weak, and strong nuclear. The last two are symmetrical at very high temperatures (around 1029 K). It is hypothesised that these two and gravity are also symmetrical at an even higher temperature, at a time 10-40 s (the Planck time) from “the beginning”. Understanding the physics of this early period in cosmic history requires the unification of quantum mechanics and general relativity, the two pillars of physics in the 20th century – that is to say a quantum theory of gravitation.
No matter how this knowledge was developed within the propositional system of modern science, one may without hesitation state: it will never be possible to exclude by any means the emergent and disappearing symmetry at all levels of existence. This is why it will always be possible in all forms of knowledge and in the activities based upon them to reconstruct the decisive need to turn from the dualities towards the Unity throughout the ontological layers. Realisation of the self is not possible in this without witness that there is no god but God and that every duality and consequently every expression of it in equations is a mere sign of the One, with Whom the believing subject is connected through belief, loving the Known and knowing the Beloved.
Answering the perennial questions about ourselves requires metaphysical, cosmological, anthropological, and psychological insight. Which come first and which last? Is there a clear and evident hierarchy between them? Under circumstances of modernity, these questions are clearly divided between the social and those which relate to the reason and purpose of each individual’s coming into the world and leaving it. But then being in history appears as a form of hindrance to liberty and being entirely oneself. This is clearly so from the mere fact of our biological existence, which is not grounded in the authentic freedom of a being-subject. To have come into the world by being born is quite beyond the free control of the being that arrives in this way. The same is true of our departure from the world. Death is the greatest challenge to freedom.
The confession that there is no god but God offers a foundational perspective on freedom and necessity. Necessity, as it is seen in the world of duality, becomes a sign of God’s absolutely being Himself and so absolutely Free. The service of the world, of the duality through which Unity reveals Itself, is an expression of the Lord’s Freedom and so of His love for Himself in being known. By confessing that there is no god but God, the self turns, out of necessity and away from it, towards the absolute freedom of God, Whose sign he is.
By turning and journeying towards the reason and purpose of our being, we begin to overcome the terror of our own ego and of every duality taken as self-sufficient and independent of the One. This journey, this overcoming of obstacles within the self in the world, ends in return to God, in the world that transcends all the worlds, in fulfilling our confession and making it true. As Prophet, the Praised, who is loved and followed, is first both in being-at-peace and in service, and so in transcending all contingencies through love of God.
In the Recitation, God says: “We have neglected nothing in the Book.ˮ(96) Insofar as the book is the revelation of God’s Word, of all his countless words in the language of men and women, encompassing His entire revelation as given within the horizons of the world, then, “neglected nothing”, we may legitimately claim, refers to the confession that there is no god but God and of the apostolate of the Praised as the most beautiful example and mercy unto the worlds.
The natural laws with which modern science occupies itself can always be expressed in dual form, in mathematical equations. In such representations, however, the Legislator, the One, is excluded and denied, passed over in silence, so that such laws, with their invariant validity across all of space and time, seem to be their own cause. God is no longer there as the Ternary of two. Things are no longer His signs. Duality is the cause and consequence of all things, no longer the manifestation and affirmation of the One. God’s laws become natural laws, the signs appear only in relation to each other and never in relation to the Signified. Consequently, the knowing subject is confined to the duality of existence, which denies him both transcendence and unlimited increase in knowledge, in favour of the increase or accumulation of knowledge independent of the knower’s self. The following is said in the Recitation regarding the relationship between the knower and the signs:
Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth; and the variation of the night and the day; and the ships that run upon the sea with benefits mankind; and the water God sends down from the sky whereby He revives the earth after its death, scattering all manner of beast therein; and the shifting of the winds; and the clouds subdued between the sky and the earth are surely signs for a people who understand.(97)
Signs are the words of the divine discourse. They are interwoven into the meaningful whole of existence, always related back to the One as the Signified. And so they are constantly flowing back and forth, into and out of existence, and always equally indicating the Signified Who neither becomes nor ends. He says: “Though all the trees in the earth were pens, and the sea-seven seas after it to replenish it, yet would the Words of God not be spent.ˮ(98)
Every sign is dual. As they all are together. They are manifestations of the One. The connection to Him lies through the essence or heart of humanity, through the confession that there is no God but Him, in the face that the manifold is simply a differentiated appearance of Unity, and the confession that the signs within it are a means of returning and rising again from the conditionality of the dual to absolute Unity. Every content and every level of creation is a shadow of which Light is the principle, utterly near and utterly remote in the signs of its manifestation. According to Ibn ‘Arābi: “Glory be unto Him who is hidden by that which is none other than Himself.ˮ(99)
The absolutisation of duality and its reducibility to equations excludes the absolutely transcendent and absolutely immanent Unity. It involves taking the Real for mere reality and assigning meaning and cause and consequence to mere existence. As a result, our relationship to existence becomes confined to propositional systems and their reducibility to mathematical equations. The validity of such a reduction, which corresponds to observation, may be proven only by measuring the variables included in the equation. It seems that by expanding the range of the equation one may arrive at full knowledge of Reality. But what one finds, in fact, is that no mathematical expression or equation is or can be a proper description of things without their absolute cause.
One can only guess at what was there before the Planck time (10-43 s). To remain within the framework of mathematical imagination, physicists must deal with conditions when the universe was approximately 10-37 s old, concentrating upon the grand theory of the unification of forces. For the mathematical way of imagining whatever preceded that, known as superstring theory, there is assumed to be only a single, super-unified force. According to this grand theory of the unification of forces, after the “lengthy” period of time between 10-43s and 10-37s, this great unified force and gravity separated from each other. At around about 10-37 s, the temperature fell to about 1029 K, so that the great unified force began to lose symmetry, becoming a strong nuclear and weak electric force.
This entire endeavour to approach the beginning and the end never transcends their expression in equation and quantity and consequently the destabilisation and maintenance of symmetry. The question of the One, the absolutely transcendent and the absolutely immanent, remains equally remote, regardless of how the extent of space time and energy momentum may look within either the micro or macro world. None of the potential answers to the question of how everything that is perceived really happens is capable of comprehending the question “why”.
The horizon problem – the great uniformity (homogeneity and isotropy) of the Universe – is explained in the mathematical way of imagining the beginning, in which the separating out of forces takes place. The basis of these spontaneous births and deaths of so-called virtual particle pairs is known as “quantum fluctuations”. Laboratory experiments have proven that quantum fluctuations occur everywhere, all the time. Even if the primordial symmetry has been destabilised, there is and cannot be anything for which it does not serve as the maternal and sealing principle. When one refers to “primordial symmetry”, this necessarily entails duality, so that it is a determinate phenomenon within existence, however imaginary. It can be given space-time attributes, which entails being a sign of the Only, Whom symmetries make manifest, but never to the extent of becoming a reason or end in and of themselves, beyond the One.
Constant shifting of the boundaries of what can be seen, measured and tested in the event-horizons and expanses of the world, through a form of imaginary mathematical gymnastics, has stimulated speculation regarding a multiplicity of universes. Welcomed and discussed by scientists, the hypothesis remains unfalsifiable. Nor has it proven possible to exclude the requirement of symmetry and its destabilisation in their imaginary constructions of this multi-verse, in the ceaseless quantum fluctuation of duality’s coming into and going out of existence.
No matter how our perspectives on the external world or the self may change or whatever forms of knowledge, such as have come into being through the propositional systems and human action based upon them, may impose themselves, human beings will always be simple duality, servants of their Lord, the One. Knowledge of the dualities of the created world, and all the ways of describing and testing them, will always itself only ever be a duality through which, by descent upon the ontological ladder, the One is made manifest, as the God Who has no other. And it is only in freedom in the face of bearing witness of these dualities that one can accept them as knowledge that vouches for the One, the irresistibly Beautiful and Attractive. Precisely because of our ability to be faithful to the God of Faith, the One, can we, human beings, transcend duality and so disclose It as absolutely near in all things.
To know is to bear witness of what is known. But faith, which requires this active witness of what is known, is more than knowledge. Only when it is known, witnessed as incontestable and, moreover, loved, does the self take on the quality of being faithful, and thus transcend every conceivable duality, loving what it signifies and therefore allowing it inviolable status in its contingency. There is no faith without love of what we know and knowledge of what we love. This is what it means to relate to beauty that is constantly coming and fading and whose attractiveness allows our ascent within the self, precisely through the confession that there is no real self but God’s.