7.25.2017 Doc of the Day

1. Ibn al-Arabi, circa 1210 et seq.
2. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1853.
3. Journal of Sierra-Nevada History & Biography, 2008.
4. Frank Riley, 2010.

5. Arthur Schnitzler, 2014.

pens-keith-williamson-writing writer

Numero Uno“Know, that Being qua Being is neither external existence nor mental, since each one is a type of existence.  Being itself is not subject to condition nor is it restricted by either absoluteness or restriction.  It is neither a universal nor a particular, nor categorized by generality or particularity.  It is one, but not with a oneness superadded to its Essence, nor is it multiple, since each one of these, accompanies Being, in accordance with its respective degrees and stations, indicated by the verse, ‘Raiser of Ranks, possessor of the Throne.’  Being, therefore, becomes absolute, limited, universal, particular, general, specific, unitary or multiple, without experiencing any change in it its Essence and reality. Being is not a substance, for a substance exists externally without a locus, nor is it a quiddity, which were it to exist would also be in a locus.  It is not like specific substances, which need being and its concomitants for its realization.  Nor is it an accident, since an accident is defined as that which exists in a locus, or a quiddity, which were it to exist would be in a locus.  Being does not exist in the sense that it has a being superadded to it which would necessitate its restriction to a locus.  Being is not conceived mentally or externally, rather, its existence is essential and established by itself and not by something differentiated from it.  Additionally, if it were an accident, it would subsist in a locus that essentially precedes it in existence, and would result in the existence of a thing prior to itself.  Moreover, the existence of both [substance and accident] is superadded to them, whereas, it is not possible for Being to be superadded to itself, since the definition of both is derived from it, given that Being is more general than and separate from either [substance or accident].

Being is not a mental construct, as posited by the misguided, because of the realization of its Essence without a thinker conceiving it, above and beyond their concepts, rational or otherwise, as mentioned by the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) ‘Allah was, and there was nothing else with Him.’  A reality that can be conceived—’conditioned by association’—rationally and conceptually does not necessitate its being ‘unconditioned by anything”’as well.  Therefore, it is not an existential mental attribute such as necessity or contingency, for the Necessary and the contingent, respectively.  It is the most universal of all things because of its universal prevalence and embracing of quiddities, even to the extent that it presents the ideas of absolute non-being and relative non-being when contemplated in the mind.  The mind determines the difference between the two, namely the impossibility of one of them, and the possibility of the other.  Since that for which existence is possible, its nonexistence is also possible… and other such propositions.

Being is more manifest with respect to its realization and its identity such that is said that it is self-evident, although it is more hidden than everything else with respect to its quiddity and reality.  The one who is the most knowledgeable in creation, spoke the truth when he said in his supplication, ‘We have not known You with a full knowledge of Your reality.’  Nothing either in the mind or in external existence is realized except through Being, for it encompasses all things by its Essence and all are things are sustained by it.  Were it not for Being, there would be nothing in existence, either in the external world or in the mind.  Thus, Being sustains all things, rather is identical with all things.  It is Being that self-discloses in its different degrees, and manifests through their forms and realities, either noetically or in external reality; [Being] is called the ‘quiddity,”’(al-mahiya) or the Immutable Archetypes (ai-a’yan al-thabita), as will be discussed in chapter three, God willing.  There is nothing intermediate between Being and non-being, just as there is absolutely nothing intermediate between an existent thing and a non-existent thing.

Quiddity, however, is intermediate between its specific existence and non-existence. Something that is purely conceptual does not have realization in actuality (nafs a\-‘amrf\ and the present discussion concerns that which has realization. Being has neither contrary nor like. Since, contrary and like are two existents that are either opposed to each other or are equal to each other. Being, on the other hand, is different from all realities, because the existence of their opposite and the realization of their like is utterly separate from it. This is indicated by the verse, “Nothing is like unto Him.”19 Being qua Being is one; therefore, another existence cannot be realized facing it.

Through Being contraries are realized and likes are sustained. Indeed, it is Being that manifests itself in the form of contraries and other forms, necessitating the joining of both sides of a contradiction. Since each side [of the contradiction] negates the other, the difference between the two sides is only conceptual. However, in Being all aspects are united since manifestation and hiddenness and all contrary existential qualities are annihilated in Being itself, so there is no distinction except conceptually. Privative attributes despite their belonging to non-being also pertain to Being from one point of view. Each of the differing aspects—with respect to their mental existence—is the identical with all others, and since both [contraries] are joined in Being itself they are joined in mental existence as well. Since, were it not for the existence of both [in Being] they would not have been able to join. The inability of both to join in external existence—which is one type of absolute Being—does not negate their joining in Being qua Being.

[Being qua Being] does not accept division and partition, essentially, in the mind or in external reality, for it is simple. It, therefore, does not have genus, differentium, or definition. It does not accept intensification or decline in its Essence, since both are conceivable only with respect to either static [accidents] such as blackness and whiteness, each of which adheres in a separate location, or non-static [accidents], which are oriented in a certain direction such as increase and decrease in the case of motion, and non-increase and decrease, intensity, and weakness. Each of these pairs adheres to Being in accordance with its manifestation and its hiddenness in some of its degrees, just as occurs with static essences such as bodies, or non-static essences such as motion and time.

Being is absolute good and everything that is good is from it, by means of it, and subsists through its essence and for its essence since it is not in need of anything outside itself for its realization, for it issubsistentand established by itself and establishes all others. It has no beginning, otherwise it would be in need of an existing cause for its coming into being, for it would be contingent. It has no end, otherwise it would be subject to non-being and be described by its opposite, or it would undergo inversion. Being is pre-eternal and everlasting, the First, the Last, the Manifest and the Hidden, because all that is manifest in the Visible or hidden in the Unseen returns to it.

Being is omniscient with respect to all things because of its encompassing of all things by its Essence. The acquisition of knowledge by [any other] knower takes place through a given means. Thus, being is more entitled to having knowledge, rather all perfections are necessary for it and all attributes are established by it, such as life, knowledge, will, power, hearing, vision, etc, for it is the Living, the Knower, the One who wills, the Powerful, the Hearing, the Seeing, by its own Essence not by means of anything else. It attaches all things with their perfections, rather it manifests through its epiphanies and its transformation in various forms representing those perfections. Thus, it becomes subject to essences21 since they are specific existents subsumed in the degree of Singularity (martabat al-ahadiyya) and manifest on the degree of Unity (martabat al-wahidiyya).

Being is a unitary reality possessing no multiplicity. Multiplicity of its manifestations and forms does not violate the oneness of its Essence. Entification [of its manifestation] and distinction does not take place by an entification superadded to its Essence, since there is nothing in existence in contrast to it for it to share with it in one thing and distinct from it in another. That is not incompatible with its manifestation in specific degrees, rather it is the origin of all entification of the names and attributes and their manifestation in the [divine] knowledge and external world.

It possesses a oneness that is not in opposition to multiplicity rather, it is the origin of the oneness that is in contrast to it [multiplicity]. Its oneness is identical with its Singular Essence and the Unity of the names that contrasts with multiplicity—which is the shadow of that original oneness of the Essence—and is also identical with it from one perspective, as we will explain, God willing. Being is pure light, since all things are perceived through it. It is manifest by itself and through it things are made manifest. Being is the light of the unseen heavens, the spirits, the earth of bodies and forms, because all of these are realized and exist through it. It is the source of all spiritual and corporeal lights.

The reality of Being is unknown to other than it. It cannot be expressed as the cosmos (kawn), or occurrence (husul), or realization (tahaqquq), or subsistence (thubut), if the verbal noun is intended, since all of these would then be necessarily accidental. If, however, what is meant by these terms is the same is what is meant by the word “being,” then there is no dispute, in the same way that the people of Allah have used the word the cosmos (kawn) to mean existence of the world. In that case, Being would not be any these, whether they are substances or accidents, as just mentioned, nor can its reality be known, even though it is knowable with respect to its ipseity. Verbal definition must take into account general usage of the term in order to provide cognitive worth. “Being” (wujud) is more current than the cosmos but other than it, necessarily.

General being (wujud al-amm al-munbasit) which extends over the Immutable Archetypes in the [divine] knowledge is a shadow of it, qualified by generality. Similarly mental existence and external existence are shadows of that shadow [immutable Archetypes] because of the compounding of limitations, referred to by the verse, “Have you not seen how your Lord has extended the shadow, and if He had willed, He would have made it stationary?”(Al-Furqan: 45). He is the Necessary Being, the Truth, the Glorified, the Most High, subsisting in Himself, giving subsistence to others, described by the divine names, qualified by the attributes of Lordship, called upon by the prophets and saints, the Guide of His creatures to Himself, the Summoner of His manifestations through His prophets to the source of His collectivity (‘aynjam jami’ihi) and the Degree of Divinity {martabat al-uluhiya).

He has indicated through their tongues, “He is through His ipseity with everything, and by His reality with every living thing.” He has also indicated that He is identical with all things, by saying, “He is the First, the Last, the Manifest, the Hidden, and He is aware of all things.”His being identical with all things is by manifesting Himself in the raiment of the divine names, both in the [divine] knowledge and the external world. His being other than them is by His hiddenness in His Essence, His superiority by His attributes from that which brings about deficiency and dishonor, His transcendence from limitation and specification, and His being sanctified from the mark of origination and creation.

His engendering of things and becoming hidden in them—while manifesting Himself in them and His annihilation of them at the Greater Resurrection—is His manifestation in His oneness, His overwhelming them through removal of their entification and their marks, and making them dispersed, as in His words, “To whom does sovereignty belong today? To Allah, the One, the Subduer,” (Ghafir: 16) and “Everything is perishing, except His face.” (al-Qisas: 88) In the Lesser Resurrection, things are transformed from the Visible world to the Unseen realm or from one form to another in the same world.

Quiddities are the forms of His perfections and the manifestations of His names and attributes. They first appear in [His] knowledge, then in actuality because of His love for manifesting His signs, and raising His banners and flags. Multiplicity is due to forms, whereas He possesses real unity and everlasting perfections. He perceives the realities of things in the way that He perceives the reality His own Essence, but not by some other faculty such as the First Intellect, etc., since these realities are the same as His Essence in reality, even if they are other than Him by way of entitification. Others do not perceive Him, as mentioned in the verse, “Vision does not perceive Him, but He perceives all vision,” (al-An’am: 103) and “They cannot comprehend Him in their knowledge,” (Taha: 110) and “They do not regard Allah with the regard due Him,” (al-An’am: 91) and “Allah warns you to beware of Him, and Allah is most kind to His servants.” (al-‘Imran: 30) He has apprised His servants of this as a kindness and mercy lest they waste their lives in that which is impossible to obtain. Therefore, if it has become clear for you that Being is the Real, then you would understand His saying, “He is with you wherever you may be,” and “We are nearer to him [the dying man] than you are, though you do not perceive,” (al-Waqi’ah: 85) and “And in your selves, do you not then perceive?” (al-Dhariat: 21) and “It is He, who is God in the Heavens and God on the earth,” (al-Zukhruf: 84) and “Allah is the light of the Heavens and the Earth,” (al-Nur: 35) and “And Allah encompasses everything,” (Fussilat: 54) and, “I will be his hearing and his seeing,” (Hadith Qudsi) and the mystery in [the Prophet’s (peace and blessing be upon him)] statement “If you were to extend a rope [to the lowest level of the earth] it would reach Allah,” (Tirmidhi) and similar enigmatic statements pointing towards oneness (tawhid) in the language of allusions.

Remark for the People of Intuition in the Language of the Speculative Thinkers:

Being is necessary in itself, for if it were contingent, then it would require an engendering cause, resulting in a thing preceding itself. It cannot be said that a contingent thing does not require a cause because it is non-existent in our presence, given that it is conceptual. For we do not accept that a concept does not require a cause, since it cannot be realized in the mind except through the perceiver, and this is the cause. Furthermore, the perceiver is not realized in the external world except through existence, since if existence is totally removed from him, then the result would be absolute non-being. If [the perceiver] were conceptual, then everything in existence would be conceptual since quiddities—which are separated from existence—are concepts; the falsity of this claim is obvious. The realization of a thing by itself does not remove it from being something real. Since the nature of Being qua Being is obtained through the specific necessary existence in the external world, it is necessary for this nature to exist within it, but without an existence superadded to it. Thus, if it were contingent, it would have needed a cause, necessarily.

Another Remark

Being is neither substance nor accident, as mentioned previously. Everything that is contingent is either substance or accident. Therefore, Being is not contingent, but defined to be necessary. Furthermore, Being does not possess a reality superadded to itself, otherwise it would be like other beings in their of being; this is an infinite regress. Everything that fits this description is the Necessary in itself because of the impossibility of removing the essence of a thing from itself. It may be said that necessity is a relation occurring accidentally on a thing, when considering its external existence, so that which does not have existence externally superadded to itself, is not characterized by necessity. The reply would be that necessity occurs as an accident for a thing that is other than Being, from the aspect of its existence. However, if that thing is Being itself, then necessity is pertains to its essence and not other than it, since necessity requires absolute otherness not just in [external] reality, just as knowledge necessitates otherness between the knower and the thing known, sometimes conceptually when the thing is perceived in itself, and sometimes as [external] reality, when it is perceived by something else.

Furthermore, everything that is other than Being is in need of it with respect to its existence and realization. Being qua Being is not in need of anything, rather, it is independent from everything for its existence, and everything that is needless from others for its existence is the Necessary. Thus, Being is necessary in itself.

It may be said that Being qua Being is a natural universal (kulli Tabi’i)and every natural universal acquires existence only through one of its individuals, then Being qua Being would not be necessary since it would require an individual to be realized. The reply is that if what is meant by the greater premise is the natural contingent entities then this is acceptable. However, this does not yield the above conclusion, since it is the condition of contingent beings to enter and leave existence, but the nature of Being does not allow that, as we have seen. If however, what is meant by the greater premise is something more general, then the greater premise is false, and one should meditate on His statement, “There is nothing like Him…”

Indeed, we do not admit that the natural universal is dependent upon a type of existence occurring for it [externally], contingent or necessary. Since if this were true, then it would result in a tautology, whether or not the accidental brings about type (munawwi’) or is individuatingThis is because the accident is not realized without its object. If the object depended on the accident for its realization, it would result in a vicious circle.

The truth of the matter is that every natural universal, for its realization in the Visible world, requires its individuating deteirninants that are effused from its engenderer. For its manifestation in the world of meaning (a/am al-maani) as that which brings out its type, it requires its universal individuating determinants, not for the realization in itself.

Everything that is made a type or is individuated is subsequent to its nature as genus and type (tabiat al-jinsiya wa al-nauiya) and that which is subsequent cannot be a cause for the realization of that which is prior. Rather the converse is true, and that which makes the nature a nature is naturally more suitable than both to make the nature a type or individual, in addition to what occurs to them by the individuating determinants. All modes of existential individuation return to Being itself so it follows that the reality of Being does not need anything—for its existence in the external—other than it. In reality, there is nothing in existence except Being.

Another Remark

Every contingent being is receptive of non-being. Nothing of Absolute Being is receptive of non-being. Therefore, Being is necessary in itself. It cannot be said that the existence of a contingent being is subject to non-being. For we say that the existence of the contingent consist of its occurrence in the external world and its manifestations therein; further it is one of the accidents of real Being, returning to Being—in one aspect—insofar as relativeness is removed from [real Being], and not identical with it.

The recipient must exist simultaneously with the thing it receives, but Being cannot exist simultaneously with non-being. Therefore, the recipient [for Being] is through quiddity not its existence, thereof. It cannot be said: If you accept that non-being cannot attach to Being that is agreed, but why is it not possible for Being to cease itself and be terminated? The reply is: non-being is not a thing so as to attach to either quiddity or Being. When we say that quiddity accepts non-being, it means that quiddity is capable of having existence removed from it. This cannot apply to Being, since it would entail transmutation of Being into non-being.

The possibility of its cessation, therefore, is necessitated from its essence, but Being necessitates itself by its Essence, necessarily, as mentioned, and the essence of a single thing cannot necessitate both itself and the possibility of its own non-existence. Thus, its existence cannot cease.

In reality, the contingent does not cease to exist, rather, it disappears and enters the Unseen, from which it had emerged. One who is veiled maintains that it ceases to exist. Imagining the existence of the contingent to cease arises from the supposition that Being has individuals, such as external individuals as in the case of human beings. This is not the case, since Being is a single reality that possesses no multiplicity, while its individuations are conceived only in their relation to quiddities. These relations are conceptual and are not existent in themselves so as to cease and go out of existence. Rather what ceases is the relation of individuations to quiddities. Its cessation does not necessitate the cessation or negation of Being, otherwise it would entail the transformation of the reality of Being into the reality of non-Being, since cessation of essential Being is necessarily non-being, which is clearly inadmissible.


If there are no real individuals distinct from the reality of Being, [Being] is not a general accident for them. If Being were a general accident, it would be either a substance or accident. However, it has been established that Being is neither substance nor accident.

Being qua Being is predicated for relative existents, because of the truth of the statement, “This existence is existence.” Anything that is predicated for something else must have between it and its subject an aspect of unity and an aspect of distinction. In this case, the aspect of unity between the subject and predicate (in the above statement) is none other than Being, and the aspect of distinction is “this”-ness (hadhiya). So it is clear that Being qua Being is identical with the relative existents in reality, otherwise they would not have existence, necessarily. One who opposes this conclusion goes against the dictates of his own reason, unless he uses the same term “being” for them [contingent existents] and for Being qua Being with different denotations, which is also patently false.

It is said that Being does not apply to its individuals uniformly, for it applies to the existence of a cause and an effect through being prior and posterior, and to the existence of a substance and an accident through primacy or its lack thereof, and the existence of static and non-static through intensity or weakness; rather it applies to them through gradation. Whatever is applied through gradation can be neither identical with the quiddity of a thing nor a part of it.

If what is meant [by gradation] is priority or posteriority, primacy or lack thereof, intensity or weakness when applied to Being qua Being, this is inadmissible since these are all relative qualities that are conceivable only in relation to one another. Application of gradation is from the aspect of universality and generality, but Being qua Being is neither general nor specific.

If what is meant [by gradation] is that theyare joined to Being in relation to quiddities, this is correct, but it does not entail gradation in Being as it is since the aspect of the loci of accidentals is different from the aspect of Being.

This is precisely the view of the people of Allah, since they hold that as Being descends in the degrees of existence, it becomes manifest in the enclosures of contingency, and the multiplicity of intermediaries—its hiddenness intensifies, its manifestation and perfections weaken. Likewise, as its intermediaries decrease, its light is intensified, its manifestation strengthened, and its perfections and attributes appear. Therefore, to apply “Being” to a relatively strong manifestation is preferable to applying it to a relatively weak manifestation.

In affirmation of this you should know that Being has manifestations in the noetic realm, just as it has manifestations in the external world. Among them are general affairs and universals that do not have existence except in the noetic realm. The ascription of Being to individuals related to quiddities through gradation is in light of noetic manifestation. For that reason it is said that [gradation] is conceptual (i’tibari), and Being qua Being cannot be described by [individuals] through gradation, but only as a rationally predicated universal.

This meaning does not negate its being identical with the quiddity of its individuals, that is, from the aspect of its natural universal, just as the natural, “animal” is only part of the individual [animal], and not the subject of predication. However, from the aspect of its application—unconditionally—it is a genus that accepts predication and from the aspect of its being applied to species of a type subsumed under that natural universal, it is a general accident. The same is true for everything that is described by gradation through its individuals.

The disparity in the individual instances of Being is not in Being itself, rather it is in the manifestation of its properties, such as the agency and receptivity in cause and effect; and in its subsisting by itself in a substance, and does subsisting by itself in an accident; and in the intensity of manifestation in the static essence, and its weakness in the non-static essence. Likewise, the disparity in human beings is not a disparity in the humanness itself, but in the manifestation of its properties in them. Were there some escape for Being from being identical with the realities of individuals, there would have been an escape for humanness from being identical with the reality of its individuals. The disparity found within human beings is not comparable to the disparity found in other creatures. For this reason, some attain a higher level and a more sublime station than the angels, while others acquire the lowest degree, and a more wretched state than the animals, as mentioned in the Quran, “They are like cattle, rather more astray,” and,

“We have created man in the best form, then We brought him down to the lowest of the low.” For that reason, “The unbeliever will say, “I wish I were dust.”What has been mentioned at this juncture suffices for the people of perspicacity and whose inner vision has been illuminated by Allah, and for those who have understood the foregoing, who have deepened their gaze in it, and are not disabled by the doubts of their delusive imagination and false objections. And Allah is the Helper and upon Him we rely.

Remark Concerning Some the Universal Stations and some Terminology of the Group:

The reality of Being, if considered under the condition of nothing accompanying it, is called the Degree of Singularity (al-ahadiya) by the Group, wherein all the attributes and names are effaced, and it is also called the Collectivity of the Collectivity (jam al-jam), the Reality of Realities (haqiqat al-haqaiq), and the “Cloud” (al-‘ama). If it is considered as “conditioned by something” it is either conditioned by all of its concomitants, whether universal or particular, which are called the names and attributes, then it is the Degree of Divinity (al-uluhiya), called by the Group, the Unity (al-wahidiyya) and the Station of Collectivity (maqam al-jam). This degree, insofar as it conveys the manifestations of the names—which are the archetypes and realities—to the perfections appropriate to their potentialities in the external world, is called the Degree of Lordship. If it is considered as “not conditioned by something” and “not conditioned by nothing,” it is called the “Ipseity permeating all existents.”

If it is conditioned by the permanence of noetic forms in it, it is the degree of the name the Absolute Hidden, the First, the Knowledgeable, and the Lord of the Immutable Archetypes. If it is conditioned by the universals of all things only, it is the degree of the name, the Compassionate (al-Rahman), the Lord of the First Intellect (rabb al-‘aql al-awwal), which is also called the Tablet of Destiny (lawh al-qadha’), the Mother of the Book (um d-kitab), and the Highest Pen (al-qalam al-‘ala). If it is conditioned by universals in them as permanent particulars, without any veil from their universals, it is the level of the name, the Merciful (ar-Rahim), the Lord of Universal Soul (d-nafs al-kulliya), also called the Tablet of Decree (lawh al-qadr), the Guarded Tablet (al-lawh al-mahfuz), and the Manifest Book (al-hadith al-mubin).

If it is conditioned by the specific forms as being mutable particulars, it is the degree of the name the Effacer (al-Ma’hi), the Establisher (al-muthabbit), the Giver of Death (al-Mumit), the Life-giver (al-Mu’hyi), the Lord of the Soul Impressed on the Universal Body (rabb al-nafs al-muntaba’a fi al-jism al-kulli), and the Tablet of Obliteration and Establishment (kitab al-mahw wa d-ithbat). If it is conditioned by receiving types, spiritual and corporeal, it is the level of the name the Receiver, the Lord of Universal Prime Matter, referred to as the Inscribed Book (kitab al-manshur), and the Outstretched Parchment (riqq al-manshur). If it is conditioned by the ability to affect, it is the degree of the name the Active, also called the Originator (al-mujid), the Creator (al-khdliq), and the Lord of the Universal Nature (rabb al-tabia cd-kulliya).

If it is conditioned by immaterial spiritual forms, it is called the degree of the name, the All-knowing (al-‘alim), the Separator (al-mufassil), the Arranger (al-mudabbir), and the Lord of the Rational Intellects and Souls (rabb al ‘uqul wa al-nufus d-natiqa). That which the philosophers refer to as the Immaterial Intellect (al-‘aql-al mujarrad) is the Spirit in the view of the people of Allah. That is why it is said that the First Intellect is the Spirit of Sanctity (ruh al-qudus). What the former refer to as the Immaterial Rational Soul, the latter call the Heart, since universals are specified in it and witnessed individually therein. What the former refer to as the Soul, they refer to as the Impressed Animal Soul.

If conditioned by Unseen material forms, it is the degree of the name the “Fashioner,” the Lord of the Absolute and Relative Imaginal Realm. If conditioned by material form in the external world, it is the level of the name, the Absolute “Manifest”, and the Lord of the Dominion (mulk).

The degree of the Perfect Man consists of the collectivity of all divine and existential realms, from the universal and particular intellects and souls, and the degrees of nature to the final existential descent. It is also called the “Degree of the Cloud,” for it corresponds to the Degree of Divinity such that there is no difference between the two except that the first possess Lordship and the second receptivity thereto. For that reason he stands as the vicegerent of Allah. If you have grasped this, then you will have realized the difference between the degrees of divinity, lordship, and existence.

A certain scholar has made the Degree of Divinity identical with the First Intellect, due to the inclusiveness of the name the Compassionate (al-Rahman) of all other names, just as the name Allah is all-inclusive of them. Although this is true in one aspect, the very fact that the name Beneficent is subsumed under the name Allah calls for a distinction between the two degrees. Were there no difference between them, [Compassionate] would not have followed the name Allah, in “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.” So understand!


It has been mentioned that all perfection that adheres to things through Being, essentially belongs to Being, for it is the Living, the Eternal, the all-Knowing, the One who wills, the Able by Essence. No attribute is superadded to the Essence, for there would arise the need—for it to bring forth those perfections—for another life, knowledge, power and will, since it is not possible to bring them forth except what it already possesses.

If you know this, then you will know what is meant by, “His attributes are identical with His Essence.” A glimmer of its reality will appear to you, its meaning will be seen to be what has been mentioned and not what the mind conjectures in saying that the life, knowledge, and power that emanate from Him and are concomitant with Him, are identical with His Essence. Although this is true from one perspective, from another perspective, Being at the Degree of Singularity (al-ahadiya), negates all entification. There remains neither attribute, nor possessor of attributes, nor name, nor named, but only the Essence. However, at the Degree of Unity (al-wdhidiya), which is the level of the names and attributes, there are attributes, possessor of attributes, names and the named; it is the Degree of Divinity (al-uluhiya).

The meaning of our saying, “His existence is identical with His Essence,” is that He exists through Himself and not through the endowment of existence from Himself, so that existence is identical with His Essence—so too, His attributes of life, knowledge and power, and all the positive attributes are united, in the same way that the attribute and the possessor of the attribute are united in the first level [Singularity].

The mind perceives [attributes] as being distinct, just as it separates mentally the attribute and the possessor of the attribute, although in actual existence they are one. The mind perceives knowledge as being distinct from power and will just as [it perceives] a distinction between genus and differentium. However, in existence there is nothing other than the unitary Essence, just as in the external world [genus and differentium] combine in single thing, which is type. For this reason, Amir al-Muminin (Sidna Ali) said, “The perfection of sincerity is the negation of attributes describing Him.”

In the second level [Unity], knowledge is distinct from power and power is distinct from will. In this way, attributes become multiple, and through this multiplicity, the names and their manifestations become multiple. The divine realities are distinguished from one another so that knowledge, life and power, and other attributes each refer to both the Essence and its permanent reality. There is distinction among the attributes because of their shared connotation (ishtirak lafa), because these realities are from one perspective accidents because they are either purely relative attributes, essential attributes, attributes possessing relation, or substances from another perspective, in the case of immaterial beings, since their knowledge of their essences is one with their essences, from one aspect. Therefore, life, power, and will and the [unitary] Essence are exalted above being either substance or accident.

The meaning of this becomes clear for one to whom appears the pervasiveness of the divine Ipseity in all substances, with which these attributes are identical and from the fact that these realities are specific existents, and that the unitary Essence is absolute Being; that which is limited is the absolute with the addition of entification. This also results from the manifestations of the Essence. Applying [the attributes] to them and to the Essence is by way of using shared meaning (ishtirak al-mdnawi] through gradation (al-tashklk), while applying it to individuals of a single type (nau), such as a priori knowledge for example, is by way of applying the term uniformly (al-tawatu’).

These realities are neither substances nor accidents at times, given that they are necessary and pre-eternal, at other times, contingent substances occurring in time; and at other times they are accidents attached to substances. Whoever perceives the reality of what has been described, and grasps the various perspectives, is extricated from doubts and misgivings. And Allah is the Guide.

Qaysari’s Commentary

Shaykh Sidi Dawud al-Qaysari

“Matla’ Khusus al-Kilam fi ma’ani Fusus al-Hikam”

By Dr. Mukhtar Hussain Ali


Qaysari begins the Muqaddima with a discussion of Being. Given that the subject of Being is all-inclusive and lays out the foundation of every other science, any work that aims to outline the principles of mysticism must include a thorough investigation of the nature of Being. Furthermore, by opening the work with the subject of Being, Qaysari elucidates the fundamental issues concerning the Unity of God, His attributes, and His relation to the world, in order to repudiate many of the accusations leveled against the Sufis. Since many have misunderstood the sayings of the gnostics because of their lack of understanding of the existential world-view of Sufism, they have consequently failed to grasp complex ideas such as divine manifestations, unity within multiplicity, or attainment to God. Indeed, without understanding the very nature of Being, it is not possible to probe into secondary matters in mysticism such as the existence of the soul and its perfection, God’s immanence and transcendence, and the existence of the hereafter. Finally, as mentioned in the introduction, this science discusses the manifestation of the divine names, the methodology of wayfaring of the people of God, their practices, discipline, and the outcome of their efforts, and the result of their actions. Thus, understanding God and His attributes is a prerequisite for understanding the method of wayfaring and its corollaries.

Being, and that it is the Real

The gnostic uses the term the Real (al-haqq) to refer to God, Almighty and is synonymous with the term Being. There are numerous meanings of the term al-haqq, that include truth, reality, fact, rightness, to be established, and necessary. It is also one of the epithets of God, referring to the fact that He is the sole reality, the truth, the established, the necessary, the opposite of falsehood, and whose existence and reality are proved to be true. It also refers to absolute Being, the divine Essence, or that through which all things are known, so that the gnostic who obtains awareness of God, distinguishes that which is real and that which is false and illusory in existence. The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) was asked from which thing did he come to know God, to which he replied, “I came to know things through God,” that is, he came to know God through God, and not through contingent existence, since contingent things are known through their opposites and since God does not have an opposite, He cannot be known through them. Furthermore, what is real is in opposition to what is illusory, and what is true is in opposition to falsehood, which is, in a sense, illusory as well. God is real, established and the Necessary Being, and not the object of imagination, a mental construct, or an illusion.

For this reason, the gnostics have used the term al-haqq to prevent any attribution of contingency to the Necessary Being, who is the sole reality. Furthermore, since al-haqq, refers to Being, when the gnostic discovers Being, he discovers God. In the terminology of the gnostics, God, the Real, (al-haqq), and Being refer to one and the same reality.

Privative Properties of Being

Being qua Being is neither external existence nor mental, since both these types of existence are manifestations of non-delimited Being. External existence is in contrast to mental existence, although in another sense, it is a general category that includes mental existence, which is a type of external existence. Mental existence is a type of external existence that occurs in the mind of a perceiver. It is different from external existence in the specific sense since it does not possess the effects of the latter. For example, a person may conceive of the concept of fire without experiencing some of the effects of fire such as heat.

Being itself is not subject to condition nor is it restricted by either absoluteness or restriction. This is because absoluteness is itself a condition and is in contrast to limitedness. Each is a type of condition and cannot be posited for Being qua Being. In this regard, Imam Ali says:

The foremost [stage] in religion is knowledge of Him, and the perfection of knowledge of Him is attesting to Him, and the perfection of attesting to Him is affirming His oneness, and the perfection of affirming His oneness is positing transcendence for Him, and the perfection of positing transcendence for Him is negating attributes for Him—for every attribute indicates that it is other than the attributed, and that the attributed is other than the attribute. Thus, whoever ascribes an attribute to God, the Glorified, has associated Him [with another], and whoever associates Him [with another], has regarded Him as two, and whoever regards Him as two has divided Him, and whoever divides Him has misunderstood Him; and whoever misunderstands Him has indicated Him; and who indicates Him has posited limitations for Him; and who posits limitations for Him has numbered Him; and whoever asks ‘what is He in?’ considered Him contained, and whoever asks ‘what is His on?’ deems Him isolated.

Here Imam Ali is referring to absolute Being or the divine Essence, which is beyond the limitation of attributes and conditions. In fact, it can be said that Being transcends existence, in that existence is a manifestation of Being, whereas, Being precedes its own manifestation and is not dependent on it. This is not to say, however, that God does not possess attributes, since it is clearly stated in the Quran, “To Him belong the most Beautiful names,” rather the names and attributes are not superadded to His Essence, since His Essence in its entirety is knowledge, power, life, and not distinct and separate from the attributes.

It is neither universal nor particular. Attributes such as universality or particularity cannot be applied to Being qua being but only to its manifestations in various planes of existence. Only when Being is manifested through the agency of the divine names, does it become external, mental, universal or particular, unitary or multiple, in accordance with the respective plane of manifestation. Being is independent of all manifestations whereas the divine names necessitate their loci in order to become manifest. Were it not for the things upon which divine power could be exercised, the attribute of power would be meaningless, and likewise every other attribute which is in need of a locus of manifestation. Essential Being, however, has neither attachment, nor entification, nor name alluding to it, “There was Allah, and there was nothing else with Him.” As for the name “Allah,” it sometimes refers to the collectivity of the divine names and not the Essence itself, yet sometimes refers to the unknowable Essence. The name “Allah” is derived from the Arabic root alif, lam and ha, whose most basic meaning is ‘to be perplexed,’ from aliha. The word takes on the meaning of the passive particle, ma’luh, which means ‘that about which the minds are perplexed.’Thus, when “Allah” refers to the unknowable Essence, then “None knows God but God.” If, however, it refers to the collectivity of the names, its knowledge raises the question of whether knowledge of the first entification is possible, which will be discussed further in subsequent sections.

Being is not a substance, for a substance exists externally without a locus, nor is it a quiddity, which were it to exist would also be in a locus. Substance is a quiddity that exists in the external world without a locus, while accident is a quiddity that exists only in a locus. An example of a substance is a body since it does not need anything but itself to subsist, whereas color is an example of an accident since a color exists in the external world insofar as it inheres in a body. Although substances exist in the external world independent of loci, they are in need of Being to subsist. Being is superadded to substance and accident while nothing is superadded to it for its existence. It exists in and of itself and is the source of all other existents. Furthermore, as mentioned in the works of philosophy, quiddity is defined as essence, limit, or receptacle for existence. A thing’s existence is additional to its quiddity and answers the question, “What is it?” What is understood by existence is different from what is understood by quiddity, such that the mind divests the notion of “whatness” from its existence. Predication occurs in the mind after having extrapolated the concept of a thing from its actual existence. Likewise, negating its existence does not negate the concept in the mind.

Therefore, the philosophers mention that there are, in fact, two things in the external world, the existence of a thing, which is its actual existence, and the quiddity of a thing, which is a mental construct extrapolated from its actual existence. What is real is its existence while its quiddity is the defining limit of that thing. For example, a tree is what it is because of the existential limits of “tree-ness.” It is, therefore, not a mountain, nor an ocean, since the defining limits of the latter are not included in the quiddity of “tree-ness.” It is important to note that what is real is existence and not quiddity, since the defining limit of a thing is the negative predication of a thing, that is, what it is not Because the mind is accustomed to perceiving realities through quiddities, it supposes that the quiddity of a tree exists externally when contemplating the statement, “The tree exists.” In fact, what is real is the existence of a thing whose quiddity is “tree-ness.” This view is a reiteration of the Peripatetic view of the fundamentally of existence, which is echoed in the school of Ibn Arabi, although Ibn Arabi further says that all multiplicity is a manifestation of Being and possesses no real independent existence. Ashtiyani asserts this in his commentary citing the Shark al-hidaya of Mulla Sadra:

The Sufis, among the monotheists, are of the view that there is nothing in existence except the Real Being and the world is only the self-disclosure, manifestation and entiflcation of Being. They see nothing in existence except God and His manifestations, and they do not view the manifestations as an independent reality.

Substance and accident are quiddities that exist because of Being whereas Being exists in itself and is not due to something external or superadded to it. Furthermore, Being qua being is not limited by anything and therefore possesses neither quiddity nor definition.

Substance and Accident in the View of the Gnostics

In the view of the gnostics, Substance is none other than the reality of Being. Since Being qua Being is neither Substance nor accident, as mentioned previously, the term “substance” is used differently by the gnostics from the philosophers. Substance is the shadow of the Essence, also called extended Being (al-wujud al-munbasit), the First Engenderer (al-sadir al-awwal), the Outstretched Parchment, the Muhammadan Light, or, as Qaysari writes in his commentary on the Fusus, “If the Breath of the All-merciful is realized externally and entitled, it is called Substance.” Qaysari writes in the fourth chapter of the Muqaddima that substance is that which is antecedent and accidents are that which is subsequent. Thus, all entities, which are the words of God, originate from the Breath of the All-merciful. The former are subsequent and are accidents, and the latter is antecedent and is Substance.

The gnostics use the terms “substance” and “accident” to explain multiplicity originating from unity in the degree of Being that is considered the first level of the contingent realm. This is because the divine names and the Immutable Archetypes are not considered part of the contingent realm, whereas substance and accident are considered contingent. From another perspective, however, the gnostics do not maintain that substance is created since the first entity in creation is the Intellect, which is lower in the Arc of Descent than Substance. In the degree of Substance there is a greater degree of individuation and entification and the formation of types. The relationships between the divine names, such as their engendering, combining, and governance, which will be mentioned in the following chapter, are applied to the reality of substances as well. This is based on the premise that there is no disjunction between the descending degrees of creation; rather realities emerge as an emanation from a single source that manifests through gradation.

Qaysari s systematic elaboration of the ontology of mysticism is more clearly understood by observing the way in which he shows multiplicity emerging from unity in each successive chapter. For example, the first chapter is concerned with the issues related to Being qua Being and the absoluteness of the Essence. The second chapter is an elaboration of the divine names, which is the first degree of multiplicity originating directly from the Essence yet is identical with the Essence. The third chapter discusses the divine knowledge which are the forms of the divine names. The fourth chapter contemplates Being as it relates more directly to the contingent realm, which is the origination of multiplicity of the contingent entities. In the degrees prior to this, the notion of createdness is not applied; rather effusion and emanation are more appropriate to describe the realities of the Immutable Archetypes and the divine names. The degree that is associated with substances and accidents is below the degree of the Immutable Archetypes and the divine names.

* * *

Being is not a mental construct (i’tibari), as mentioned earlier, since anything that exists in the mind by way of mental existence is dependent on the mind of the thinker. This would imply that either the mind precedes Being or is the cause of it. A mental construct is any concept that does not have an extension in the external world. For example, concepts such as possession or leadership are abstract notions that are based on the relations between objects that do have extension in the external world. “Leadership” is an abstract idea that is applied to someone who fulfills certain functions of governance for a group. Likewise, possession, in and of itself, does not exist externally, but is assigned to someone who has a special relation with an object. Being is not an abstract mental construct because it has extension in the external world. In fact, both mental and external things are due to Being and therefore can neither precede Being nor be the cause of it.

Mental attributes are either primary intelligibles (ma’qulat al-awwaliya) or secondary intelligibles (maqulat al-thanawiya). Primary intelligibles are propositions that the mind assesses through its immediate association with the external world. When the blackness of coal is observed in the external world, the attribute of “blackness” is applied to the external existence of the coal and is performed immediately through sensory perception. Secondaryintelligiblesare propositions that require the operation of the rational faculty and do not have external extension. The concepts “necessary” and “contingent” are of this type since the rational faculty must be exercised and one cannot rely solely on sense perception. Universals such as “human,” “genus,” or “differentium” are descriptions of primaryintelligiblesbut are ascertained through ratiocination. Furthermore, philosophical secondaryintelligiblesare those that describe external objects such as “paternity,” and logical secondaryintelligiblesare those whose referent is not external, but conceptual, such as genus or species.

Positive Properties of Being

It is the most universal of all things. The reality of Being with respect to its manifestation and self-disclosure, its embracing of quiddities and pervasiveness in creation is more general than every existent thing. The pervasiveness of Being even gives rise to the concept of non-being, which, although has no external referent, exists in the mind. What has external existence is the concept in the mind, not actual non-being. Absolute non-being is singular, and its contrary is Being. Relative non-being may be multiple since it is the non-existence of a contingent being such as Zayd, etc. Or it may be the non-existence of the sight when speaking of a blind man. Relative non-being is different from conditioned non-being, conditioned by time for example.

Being is more manifest with respect to its realization. Being is self-evident and more manifest than anything else with respect to its realization while at the same time hidden with respect to its Essence and Quiddity. This is because things are known through their quiddities and distinctions while Being is without distinction and its “quiddity”107 is without limit, condition, or distinction. However, since all things subsist through Being, Being is not hidden, while at the same time since quiddities are by their nature limited and contingent, nothing in existence can point to the reality of Being itself. For this reason, the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) said, “We have not known You as You have deserved to be known,” that is, one cannot know the reality of Absolute Being without himself possessing absoluteness, which is impossible. However, this does not preclude the possibility of the knowledge of God through contemplating His signs, as it says in the Quran, “We will show them Our signs in themselves and on the horizons so it becomes clear that He is the Truth.” What is not possible however, is knowledge of the Essence of God, either through the prism of existence or through God Himself, since “None knows God but God.”

Being sustains all things, rather is identical with all things. This occurs through the divine effusion on the various planes of existence, which is none other than the manifestation of Being. The divine effusion is divided into two types, the Most Holy Effusion (al-fayd al-aqdas) and the Holy Effusion (al-fayd al-muqaddas). The Most Holy Effusion is the source of the divine names, which emanate directly from the divine Essence, whereas the Holy Effusion is the source of the Immutable Archetypes (al-a’yan al-thabita), which emanate from the divine names.

The Immutable Archetypes

The manifestation of Being occurs initially through the Most Holy Effusion bringing forth the divine names, then through the Holy Effusion bringing forth the Immutable Archetypes, which are the pre-existent realities in the divine knowledge. These realities are called “Archetypes” whereas the realities of the entities are called quiddities. They are called “Immutable” because they exist in the divine knowledge and do not undergo mutability and transformation. This is because His knowledge is identical with His Essence and mutability in His knowledge would imply mutability in His Essence.

The external worlds arise from these Archetypes and are divided into the Noetic realm (alam al-‘aql), the Imaginal realm (alam al-mithal), and the material realm (alam al-mddda), according to one classification.

Since Being is manifested in each of these realms, it is not distinct from any one of them, rather it is identical with them. This identity is in accordance with the existential capacity of the recipient and not in accordance with the absoluteness of the Essence. Since the Essence is the station of absoluteness, alluded to in the hadith “God was and there was nothing else with Him,” the Essence is behind an impenetrable veil, which is independent even from its own manifestation. However, manifestation occurs in a succession of descent from the degree of Singularity (al-martabat al-ahadiya) to the lowest form of primordial matter (al-hayula al-ula).

The Immutable Archetypes are either universals or particulars and are considered noetic forms of the divine names. However, they remain in the realm of the unseen—for they are governed by the name, the Hidden and the First—and do not partake in existence; they remain in the state of sheer potentiality. Entities in the external world are their manifestations and are consequently governed by the names, the Last and the Manifest. The philosophers call the universals among them quiddities and the particulars ipseities.

The Immutable Archetypes have not appeared in external existence. For this reason, they cannot be considered as being created or formed, just as ideas in the mind or the imagination of a person are not considered real until they appear in the external world. This is also the reason why the philosophers call the Immutable Archetypes quiddities, since quiddity possesses neither existence nor non-existence. Quiddities are conceptual and not real, in the same way that Immutable Archetypes are “concepts” in the divine knowledge and do not possess real existence. If they did possess real existence, then even the impossible contingents would be considered real, which is an obvious contradiction. What is meant by “real” is that which exhibits effects in the external world.

As mentioned, quiddities do not have real existence in the external world but they do possess noetic existence. They possess real existence on the plane of divine knowledge since God’s knowledge is identical with His Essence. The gnostics have preferred to name the objects of divine knowledge as the Immutable Archetypes instead of quiddities because the latter are only realized through existence while the former are ontological realities that are identical with the reality of Being. That which exists in the external world is quiddity and existence. The former is conceptual and extrapolated, and the latter is real and possesses effects. However, the Immutable Archetypes cannot be without existence given that divine knowledge is not separate from the Essence, and all that exists is none other than Being and its manifestations. This leads to an important distinction between external existence and noetic existence on the plane of divine knowledge, namely, that quiddities do not have real existence in the external world except when existence is superadded to them, whereas on the plane of divine knowledge, quiddity and existence are united. This is because in the higher degrees of being there is a greater degree of simplicity and ontological comprehensiveness and a lesser degree of multiplicity.

The ontological status of the Immutable Archetypes is superior to that of the quiddities that are contemplated in the mind, for it is possible to conceive of a thing without witnessing its realization in the external world. However, since the Immutable Archetypes are noetic realities and have real existence on the plane of divine knowledge they are not without their effects in the worlds, namely, the world of spirits, the Imaginal Realm, and the external world. Just as the divine attributes exist on the divine plane of Unity and have real existence that affect every subordinate degree of Being, the Immutable Archetypes possess a form of existence in every subordinate degree of Being appropriate for that degree. Quiddities in the mind of a perceiver are considered mental existence and are the weakest form of existence, since its effects are limited to the mind and do not extend to the external world. If those concepts find realization in the external world, it is Being that produces those effects and not the quiddities themselves.

Since the divine names are realities that do not possess form in and of themselves, it is only through the divine self-disclosure on the plane of the knowledge that they possess form. Yet, since they are noetic in nature, “form” is applied only metaphorically because God’s knowledge is identical with the Essence. Therefore, “entification” is more appropriate for the Immutable Archetypes and “form” is more appropriate for external entities. Just as the divine names are considered divine perfections on the plane of the divine Unity, the Immutable Archetypes are divine perfections on the plane of divine knowledge.

As mentioned earlier, Being self-discloses in descending degrees of perfection, each degree possessing a greater degree of multiplicity. The Immutable Archetypes are the first degree of multiplicity since the “multiplicity” of the divine names is only the distinction of their realities and they remain on the plane of Unity. Qaysari writes in the third chapter of the Muqaddima, “These forms emanate from the divine Essence by the Most-Holy Effusion and initial self-disclosure, by means of divine love and the petition by the Keys of the Unseen.”

As Qaysari mentions in the fourth chapter, the Immutable Archetypes can be viewed as an isthmus between the divine names and the external entities. If viewed from the perspective that they are forms of the realities of the divine names, they are bodies for spirits. If viewed from the perspective that they are noetic forms for external entities, they are spirits for bodies. This is because there is no distinct separation in the degrees of being, as in the words of the Quran, “You will not see in the creation of the All-Merciful any incongruity. Look again, do you see any rift?” Being is a continuum emanating from a single source, in the same way that the sun’s rays emanate from the sun, and the difference between the source and its emanation, the giver and recipient, differ only in aspect. Each degree of existence in relation with the degree above it is colored by multiplicity and unified in relation to the degree below it. Furthermore, that which is ontologically higher in existence possesses greater activity and unity, and governance. This is why the gnostics say that the Immutable Archetypes possess receptivity for the effusion that emanates from the divine names, called the Most Holy Effusion, and the external entities possess receptivity for the effusion pouring forth from the Immutable Archetypes, as mentioned by Ibn Arabi in the first chapter of the Fusus, “The recipient is only due to the Most Holy Effusion.” However, activity and receptivity exist both between the degrees of existence as well as within a specific degree. Some of the divine names are active in relation to others, such as the Mothers of the Names and the Universal Names in relation to the Daughters of the Names and Particular Names.

The degree of Singularity is the degree of Being in which all multiplicity is effaced, even the multiplicity of the divine names. It is the first entification of Being where the names are in collectivity and comprehensiveness. Unity is the degree of being which embraces the names but in respect of their infinite ontological potentialities. It includes all the modes of being but in potential. Since the Essence does not possess any entification, it is only at the degree of Unity that the Immutable Archetypes come into being, embracing the myriad objects of creation.

* * *

Being at the degree of the Essence and ipseity is unknown to everything but itself It can neither be known nor defined and is the Absolute Unseen. Even the term Being or existence is used in a metaphorical way since Being is in fact, above existence. Its reality is hidden behind the veil of inaccessibility, such that even the names and attributes cannot be spoken of. Whatever can be known of it is due to one of its manifestations, and the aspect of similarity (tashbih), while the unknowability of its Essence is due to the aspect of its transcendence (tanzih).

There is nothing intermediate between Being and non-being, just as there is no intermediate between an existent thing and a non-existent thing. However, the philosophers have said that quiddities occupy an intermediate position between the two in the sense that the definition of quiddity does not presuppose either the existence or non-existence of a thing. The concept of a tree does not necessitate its existence nor does it necessitate its non-existence. It is simply a mental construct that is indifferent to both being and non-being. In fact, what exists is the concept in the form of mental existence; the existence of a concept in the mind is not the thing itself. What exists in external reality is only Being, not quiddities in and of themselves. Contraries and likes and the multiplicity that arises from them are quiddities that are realized in external reality through Being, which is unitary.

Through Being contraries are realized and likes sustained. It is unitary without distinction and differentiation. What is observed in the external world by way of contraries is the manifestation of Being in accordance with the existential capacity of the recipient. Manifestation of “whiteness” is other than the manifestation of “blackness” from the point of view of quiddity. Both, however, are manifestations of Being, and the limitation is due to the limitation of material existence.

Since material existence is the lowest realm and that farthest removed from divine unity and is at the utmost extremity of multiplicity, it is the incapacity of this realm that does not allow for contraries to exist simultaneously. Material bodies do not possess the capability to have more than one form impressed upon them at any one time, unlike spiritual and non-material substances that may possess contrary qualities at one time. The immaterial soul, for example, may possess contrary properties because it is not limited to the confines of matter. As existence approaches the higher realms, it sheds multiplicity and partakes further in unity, thus becoming more comprehensive and less differentiated. A similar relation exists between the Singularity and Unity where the latter is a unity that opposes multiplicity and is the shadow of the former. The former, however, is a unity that is not in contrast with any multiplicity.

Although Being is unitary and without differentiation with respect to the Essence, there is gradation in existence with respect to its manifestations. Every realm of existence that is closer to the Essence through the first entification, that is, the station of Singularity, subsumes all that is below it. Every higher ontological realm is more comprehensive, simple, luminous, and governs that which is below it. That is why multiplicity is an attribute of the lower dimensions of existence while it is used with reservation when speaking of the names and attributes because of their proximity to and union with the Essence.

Often the metaphor of the sun is used to describe this relation between unity within multiplicity. From one perspective, the rays of the sun are distinct from the sun in that they display individual properties, while from another perspective they are none other than the sun. Were it not for the gentleness and subtlety of the sun’s rays, life would not have been possible, while at the same time everything perishes at the rays’ source. The closer one is to the sun, the greater the intensity of the rays and the lesser the differentiation, so that at a certain point the distinction between the rays and the sun itself disintegrates. In a similar way, the realms of existence are in one sense distinct realities making possible the existence of the creatures in each respective realm, yet at the same time they are not separate and independent of Being itself. Both perspectives must be borne in mind if one is to understand the contradictory relation between unity and multiplicity. In describing this relation Imam Ali says, “He is in all things but not contained within them, He is outside of all things but not isolated from them.”

Privative attributes despite their belonging to non-being also pertain to Being. Negative propositions that indicate that which cannot be predicated about Being are in reality taken from positive predications of Being, for the meaning behind negating contingency for Being is in fact positing the necessity of existence for it.

[Being qua Being] does not accept division and partition. Being is simple and not composed of parts. It is not composed of parts in the external world such as matter and form, since matter and form are both types of Being. If Being were composed of something that requires it for its own existence, Being would precede itself since the composite parts of Being would precede Being itself. Furthermore, Being is not composed of quantity since quantity is an accidental quality of bodies, which also necessitates Being for its existence. Being is not composed of mental attributes such as genus and differentium since both are by definition limitations of existence and require Being for their realization. Since Being pervades all things it has neither limit nor definition and thus cannot be composed of genus and differentium.

Such definitions are used in discursive reasoning and are based on the apparent properties of things. This type of knowledge is acquired knowledge (‘ilm husuli) and does not give certainty. The gnostics do not rely on this knowledge since it does not pertain to the essence of things and their transcendental source, giving preference to immediate knowledge (‘ilm huduri), which is acquired through immediate spiritual vision. Defining “man” through its quiddity as a “rational animal” does not indicate the reality of the human being, which can only be known through spiritual insight and unveiling. Just as Rumi says,

The world’s forms are foam upon the Sea. If you are a man of purity, pass beyond the foam?

Contingent existence has form and limit while Being cannot be limited by form. Thus, Being is simple and not composed of parts on which it might depend for its subsistence.

Division of the Contingent

The contingent is divided into the possible contingent and impossible contingent. The latter is further subdivided into those contingents that may be conceived rationally but do not possess realization in the worlds because of their impossibility and those that do not possess realization in the external world because they are eternally hidden in the Absolute Unseen; they are the names referred to by the Prophet as the “Reserved Names” (al-asma al-musta’thara) whose knowledge is reserved only for God. The first type of contingent is one that is hypothetical and has no reality either in the mind or in external existence, such as the supposition of the joining of a contradiction. For example, it is impossible to conceive that a thing can simultaneously exist and not exist at the same time and place. What is conceived is the hypothetical proposition of its existence and not the thing itself. That is, it has no referent either in the mind or in external reality and is subsumed under the category of absolute non-being. It may be asked, if one can conceive of “the joining of a contradiction in the mind, how can it be considered absolute non-being, while it has mental existence? It may be replied that what exists in the mind is the hypothetical concept of the “joining of a contradiction” and not the thing itself, since by definition the thing is impossible to conceive.

As for the impossible contingent entities that exist in the Absolute Unseen, they are impossible because they can never appear in the manifest realm. Impossibility is ascribed to them even though they exist in the divine knowledge, because their essences seek the Hidden and flee from the Manifest. Their particular forms are noetic divine realities on the plane of divine knowledge. There is no possible contingent entity that does not seek its manifestation in the external realms and does not receive it. If some entities were to receive existence over others, it would undermine the reality of God’s magnanimity, which by its very nature gives all things its due, namely existence. Or it would result in the inclination of a quiddity towards non-existence, while its reality necessitates existence.

Another division of the contingent entities is that of substance and accident. Substantial entities are either simple immaterial entities, such as spirits, intellects, and souls, or simple material such as elements or compound; such as concepts in the mind which consists of genus and differentium, or things that exist both in the mind and external world.

It does not accept intensification or decline in its Essence. Being qua Being does not undergo intensity and weakness in its Essence because these are applied only to accidents such as “blackness” and “whiteness” that exist in a specific locus. There is no gradation in the reality of Being; rather gradation originates at various levels of existence given that it is the source of multiplicity. The gnostics such as Sadr al-Din al-Qunawi”, Ibn Turka, and ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Kashani have negated the idea of gradation in the essential reality of Being, since this would undermine the foundation of essential oneness of Being. This view is based on the grounds that positing gradation in existence does not violate the oneness of Essential Being since Being pervades all things and is not separate from it either from the point of view of its Essence or names. In the same way that Essential Being embraces the myriad quiddities without undergoing any change or distinction in its Essence, gradation in existence is not superadded to the Essence. It is both one with the Essence insofar as the Essence embraces everything, and distinct from it insofar as nothing encompasses it.

Being is absolute good and everything that is good is from it. Every good that appears in existence is from it and subsists through it. Goodness in this sense is ontological and not ethical, that is, existence is a form of good and non-being a form of evil. This definition of good extends in the ethical dimension as well such that every good action is in fact a spiritual reality that the soul acquires increasing its ontological perfection thereby. Likewise, every evil deed is the deficiency of the soul in acquiring the appropriate ontological perfection. In the philosophic sense evil is non-being or the soul’s inability to reach a particular perfection, while goodness is the soul’s acquisition of it.

It has no beginning…It has no end. Being qua Being is neither preceded nor followed by non-being, and it exists neither through a cause nor is it transformed into non-being. Transformation of Being into non-being is impossible, because the very definition of Being is the negation of non-being. Being cannot remain itself and at the same time transform into non-being. In a similar fashion, the number “one” cannot undergo transformation into the number “two,” while still maintaining the definition of oneness. Being is the Hidden, the Manifest, the First and the Last. When Being self-discloses, it becomes manifest, while still remaining hidden. In other words, all realities emanate from Being becoming manifest from the hiddenness of their Immutable Archetypes, and return to the Hidden after their allotted period in the world expires.

Being is omniscient with respect to all things. Every attribute including life, knowledge and power not only originates from Being, is sustained by Being, but is also at one with Being. That is, every attribute in existence is in reality a divine attribute and name. Since all things originate from Being, Being is more entitled to be qualified by the attributes than the contingent beings. Being bestows these attributes on the creatures in accordance with their ontological receptivity. Therefore, when a creature has the ability to see or hear it is through the divine name of the Hearing and Seeing that it acquires the ability to do so, and it becomes the locus of manifestation of these names. If man has the capacity to know and see, how can it be that Being is not all-knowing and all-seeing?

How can it be that knowledge, power, and will, be attributed to man and not be attributed to God, upon whom creation is essentially dependent? In fact, no creature possesses any perfection except that it is a perfection of Being in the form of manifestation.

The forms of contingent realities follow their essences, which are quiddities annihilated on the level of Singularity but manifest on the level of Unity. In another sense, however, the essences also depend on contingent things so that they may be realized through them. Ibn Arabi writes, “The gnostic sees that causes are also caused by their effects, because the cause remains in a state of non-being without the realization of its effect.”119 In this way there is a mutual necessitation between cause and effect. Another example is that of the student and teacher. In one aspect the student follows the teacher by attending to his instructions, yet on the other hand the teacher follows the student in instructing the student in accordance with his needs and in accordance with his capacity. Likewise, the lower planes of existence depend on and follow the higher planes while at the same time the higher planes require and therefore need the lower planes in order to become manifest.

As for essences being obliterated at the station of Singularity, this is due to the fact that it is the plane on which there is neither form nor trace of anything, even the divine names. The objects of existence first appear at the station of Unity in the form of the divine names and then descend stage after stage throughout the various realms of existence.

Being is a unitary reality possessing no multiplicity. Multiplicity arises through the manifestation of Being which is unitary on the level of the Essence but multiple with respect to the forms of its manifestation. The Quran alludes to this in the verse, “Every day He is upon some task,” (al-Rahman: 29) that is, every moment He manifests Himself through the perpetual engendering of creation. This is what the gnostics call entification (ta’ayyun), or the manifestation of Being in a certain aspect qualified by the ontological receptivity of the receiver by virtue of its essence. It was mentioned previously that the station of Singularity does not allow for any form or trace. This does not imply that existence is in a state of absolute non-being; rather, it has no entification at this station. That is, all realities are in a state of collectivity such that it might be said that they are encompassed and absorbed by Absolute Being and no longer have any individual existence.

It possesses a oneness that is not in opposition to multiplicity. Being is one despite the multiplicity of its manifestation. In the same way that visible light appears unified yet the diffraction of its rays through a prism brings forth the multiple colors from which it is composed, the multiplicity of Being manifests itself in the prism of existence. This is why the gnostic sees God in everything, or from another perspective sees nothing but God. Imam Ali said, “I did not see anything except that I saw Allah with it, before and after it.” Therefore, these manifestations are not superadded to Being, rather originate from Being and are one with it. In the same way that a single person may be both father and son, Being is qualified by multiple designations all of which refer to the same entity.

There are however, different types of unity referred to by the gnostics. The first type is true unity, also referred to as general unity or absolute unity. This type of unity does not allow for any multiplicity or duality whatsoever, either conceptually or in reality. This is what the gnostics refer to as Being qua Being, and it permeates all levels of creation. The second type of unity is the unity of the names or relative unity, and it is the origin of all multiplicity. Multiplicity here is the multiplicity of the names, not of contingent existence, since the names are one with the divine Essence, but individual with respect to their own essences. Therefore, the unity of divine names is due to their unification with the Essence but subordinate to the absolute unity such that it is the shadow of its unity. The oneness of absolute unity is not superadded to its Essence, unlike the names whose unity is colored with the multiplicity of their individuation. Another type of unity is numerical unity that is in contrast to duality and multiplicity, since the number one is conceived in relation to the number two, three and so on.

Being is pure light since all things are perceived through it It is manifest in and of itself and through its luminosity everything else is made manifest. It illuminates the heavens of the unseen and the spirits, that is, the immaterial and noetic realms. These realms are luminous by their essences although their light is a ray of the pure divine light. The earth of material bodies refers to corporeal existence, which is the earth in relation to the unseen world. It is the source of all spiritual and corporeal light, which consists of the gnostic sciences and sensory objects, respectively.

The reality of Being is unknown to other than it. None knows the reality of Being but Being itself. Being is neither the cosmos (kawn), nor occurrence (thubut), nor realization (tahaqquq), since it is more general and comprehensive than each. Each is an expression of Being’s entification not Being qua Being. Although the knowledge of Being is self-evident, the reality of the essence of Being cannot be known. It is a self-evident reality whose innermost aspect is hidden. The following passage explains the reason for Being’s unknowability:

“God’s invisibility is due to the severity of His manifestation, and His remoteness is because of His extreme proximity. If an entity’s manifestation were to be more evident than knowledge, notion, and knower, and if it were to be nearer than the thing is to itself, such intense manifestation necessarily creates invisibility and such extreme proximity creates distance” .

General Being (al-wujud al-am al-munbasit) which extends over the Immutable Archetypes is a shadow of the essential reality of Being, since it is the origination of entification through the auspices of the Most Holy Effusion (al-fayd al-aqdas). It is also referred to as the Holy Effusion (al-fayd al-muqaddas), or the Breath of the All-merciful (al-nafas al-rahmani), which emanates from the Most Holy Effusion. It is also the first entification arising from the station of Singularity, which is the inner aspect of the Holy Effusion. Both mental and external existence are a shadow of the Immutable Archetypes, which are in turn a shadow of the divine knowledge, which is a shadow of essential Being emanating from the Holy Effusion. Each successive entification is a shadow of the preceding in the terminology of the gnostics, and a degree farther removed from the presence of essential Being. Or in other words, the first entification, which is the degree of Singularity, is the degree in which particulars are in collectivity, whereas the Unity is the degree in which collectivity is in the form of particulars.

As for its being called the Breath of the All-merciful, this is due to the fact that the breath symbolizes a state of collectivity through which words and meanings are engendered. Just as in man, words are brought into the external world from the domain of the intellect through the breath, the objects of creation and all divine perfections, which are the words of God, are made manifest and brought into the external worlds from the plane of divine knowledge through the breath of the All-merciful. “Thus, breath is a vapor, relieves constriction in the breast, and is the vehicle for words; in the same way the Breath of the All-merciful is a Cloud, relieves the constriction of the Immutable entities (or the divine names)—which desire to see the outward manifestation of their properties—and is the vehicle for God’s own words, which are the creatures.” Ibn Arabi writes:

God described Himself as having a Breath. This is His emergence from the Unseen and the manifestation of the letters as the Visible. The letters are containers for meanings, while the meanings are the spirits of the letters. The Breath of the breather is none other than the non-manifest of the breather. The breath becomes manifest as the entities of letters and words. It does not become manifest through anything superadded to the non-manifest, so it is identical with the non-manifest.

The Quran itself alludes to this idea in the verse, “Though all the trees in the earth were pens, and the sea—seven seas after it to replenish it—were ink, yet would the words of God not be spent.” Furthermore, the created process is described in the Quran as, “Our only speech to a thing, when We desire it, is to say to it ‘Be!’ and it is.”

Therefore, General Being is the second entification in which the particulars of the Immutable Archetypes are brought forth. From one perspective it is the outer aspect of the degree of Singularity and the inner aspect of the Immutable Archetypes, in the same way that the breath in the human being is the isthmus between ideas and words.

He has indicated through their tongues, “He is through His ipseity with everything, and by His reality with every living thing.” The prophets and saints whose ultimate purpose was to instruct mankind in divine unity have made the proofs of the oneness of God evident. However, it is God that guides in order to make manifest His attribute of the Guide, just as the attribute of the Light is manifested through the sun. Were it not for the prophets’ call to the oneness of His Being and the station of divinity, people would set their gaze on transient existence and be enveloped in multiplicity.

But since His ipseity is with everything, only those whose hearts are alive know that He is identical with existence by way of manifestation, in the raiment of the divine names and attributes but hidden with respect to His essence. Therefore, He is exalted above every limitation and blemish of createdness, since every created thing is limited in the aspect of temporality and occurrence. He becomes manifest through His engendering of things while still remaining hidden in them, as mentioned by Imam Ali, “He is in everything but not by being contained within them and separate from all things but not by being isolated from them.”

His engendering of things and becoming hidden in them—while manifesting Himself in them and His annihilation of them at the Greater Resurrection—is His manifestation in His oneness. His annihilation of all things during the Greater Resurrection is in fact, the return of the manifestation of His oneness, through the effacement of all multiplicity. This is because the Greater Resurrection is the return to the station of collectivity after the annihilation of multiplicity of contingent existence. In the Lesser Resurrection, which occurs immediately after physical death, it is the transformation of entities from their corporeal form to their spiritual forms hidden within them. There is another type of resurrection called the Intermediate Resurrection that occurs by the will of the wayfarer once he has died the death of the lower self. God’s manifestation also takes place in the transformation of forms in a single world.

Know that the Rising, as we have indicated, is behind the veils of the (physical) heavens and earth. Its relation to this world is like that of man (as an embryo) to the womb, of the bird to the egg: As long as the structure of outer appearance is not broken, the states of the inner reality cannot be revealed. For the Unseen (world) and the manifest one cannot be combined in a single place. So the “hour” (of the greater Rising) only occurs when the earth is shaken with its shaking (99:1) and the heaven is split apart (82:l).

The Greater Resurrection is the reversal of the governance of the names, the Manifest and the Hidden. All that is hidden in the external world, such as the realities of the soul, the inner meanings of acts performed by people, and intentions, will become manifest in the Greater Resurrection. Thus, the forms of paradise, hellfire and the Resurrection will become apparent after the cessation of this world because the dominion of the name, the Hidden, will encompass the dominion of the name, the Manifest.

The proofs of the Greater Resurrection, paradise, and hell are numerous, in both the Quran and hadith. Just as there is an external manifestation of these realities they exist in the spiritual realms as well, that is, on the plane of the spirit, heart and soul. In these realms, paradise corresponds to adorning the heart with moral virtues and praiseworthy qualities, while hell corresponds to immersion in base desires. Just as paradise and hell have manifestations and concomitants in each plane of existence, the resurrection (the Hour) has manifestation on each of the five divine planes.

Each type is considered the Minor or Intermediate Resurrection, which is followed by a particular kind of death, namely a spiritual transference called voluntary death.

The Macrocosmic Greater Resurrection:

There are two aspects of the Resurrection. The first concerns the macrocosm, such as the cosmic realities, the annihilation of the worlds, the rolling up of the heavens and the manifestation of some names over others, their governance and their terms. The second aspect is that which concerns the microcosm, or what is known as the Greater Resurrection of the spirit.

The Greater Resurrection in the macrocosm is the manifestation of the names the Inward and the Last, as well as the names, the Just, the One, and the Subduer, the Life-giver and the One who brings death. Although the Quran uses the term “afterlife” (al-akhira), to denote its posteriority, some of the gnostics believe that the Resurrection is not temporally posterior to the present world. Just as the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) states, “Whoever dies, his Resurrection has already begun,” that is, when the spirit has separated from its elemental body, the inward realities of Paradise and Hell are immediately perceptible to the spirit as there no longer remains any veil between it and those realities. Likewise in the hadith, “By Him who holds the soul of Muhammad in his hand, indeed paradise and hell is closer to each one of you than your shoelaces.”

Similarly, what the soul experiences by way of pleasure and pain in the intermediate state of the grave (barzakh), is due to the ontological unity of those realities in the spirit. This is alluded to in the Prophetic saying, “The grave is either one of the gardens of Paradise or one of the pits of Hell.” Likewise the following Quranic verses illustrate this, “Rivalry [and vainglory] distracted you until you visited the graves. No indeed! Soon you will know! Again, no indeed! Soon you will know! No indeed! Were you to know with certain knowledge, you would surely see Hell. Again, you will surely see it with the eye of certainty.” (al-Takathur: 1-7) The above verses and hadith indicate that those who have arrived at the station of the intermediate realm already perceive the realities of either Paradise or Hell with the eye of certainty. In relation to this type of perception Mulla Sadra writes:

In reality all that man conceives or perceives—whether through intellection or sensation, and whether in this world or in the other world—are not things separate from his essence and from his ipseity…Therefore, in the state of (bodily) death, there is nothing to prevent the soul from perceiving all that it perceives and senses, without any association with external material or with any bodily organ separate from the world of the souls and its own reality…None of the things that a man sees and directly witnesses in the other world—whether they be the blessings of Paradise, such as the houris, palaces, gardens, trees, and streams, or the opposite sorts of punishment that are in Hell—are outside the essence of the soul and separate from the soul’s being…

Therefore, from one perspective Paradise and Hell are immediately perceptible for one whose inward vision is not obscured by veils or has already passed beyond the material realm into the intermediate realm (barzakh).

However, in another sense, the Resurrection will occur after the annihilation of all contingent existence, including the angels, as referred to in the verse, “Everything shall perish, except His face,” that is, everything will be subsumed under the dominion of the Degree of Singularity, which is the effacement of all multiplicity, even the multiplicity of the names and attributes. Since the Resurrection is the return of all things to their origin, even the names will return to their origin, which is the Degree of Singularity of the Essence.

The Resurrection will occur on the basis of the governing properties of the names, the Hidden, the One, the Eternal, the Needless, the Mighty, the Returner, the Lifegiver, and other names necessitated by the mode of existence which is characterized by eternality, subsistence, reward and punishment, and sovereignty.

Qaysaripoints out that those who have only rational knowledge and have not witnessed through spiritual unveiling, doubt the realities of the Resurrection and of paradise and hell, their concomitant events and mode of existence, and the states of the soul in the afterlife. This is because these realities and other spiritual matters are beyond the comprehension of ordinary intellects and certainty in them is only possible through unveiling. Otherwise, one must have faith in the statements and descriptions of the prophets.

The Microcosmic Greater Resurrection:

In the macrocosm the Greater Resurrection is the cessation of the manifestations of contingency and the arrival of the manifestations that are particular to the Essence. Just as the multiplicity of the phenomenal world is annihilated in the wake of Essential unity in the macrocosm, there is a Greater Resurrection in the microcosm, which is the spiritual plane of the human being. It is the last station of development and movement in the Arc of Descent (qaus al-nuzuli) for human beings, whereas all other entities have a defined ontological position in their respective realms. The Microcosmic Greater Resurrection is the station of annihilation in the Real and subsistence in Him, with respect to human essence, attributes and acts, each corresponding to the divine Essence, attributes and acts.

In the same way that the individuation of the drops of water is annihilated when they return to the ocean, the individuation of createdness and the aspect of servitude are annihilated in the aspect of Lordship. Alternatively, certain human attributes are replaced by divine attributes, whereby God becomes the eyes and ears of the wayfarer and as a result, his activity in the world is none other than divine activity. Sayyid Haydar

Amuli discusses gnostic annihilation, which is the Greater Resurrection of the spirit:

[Annihilation] is the unveiling of the divine Essence and its Being from the veils of Beauty and Majesty, and the veil of seeing otherness is completely lifted, whereby one sees nothing other than Him. Rather, one sees a single Essence self-disclosing in the loci of infinite names.

This is similar to the statement of Junayd, “There is naught in existence except God.”At this point, the wayfarer reaches Unity of the Essence and rises for the Greater Resurrection of the spirit. This is because the Resurrection in the macrocosm is an expression of the verse, “To whom does sovereignty belong today? To Allah, the One the Subduer!” Since the microcosm is a mirror for the macrocosm, in the spiritual Resurrection sovereignty must also belong to Allah, the One, the Subduer. Therefore, the governance of the name, the One, must pervade the microcosm and all otherness must be annihilated by the name, the Subduer.

In the microcosm there are three resurrections pertaining to form. The first occurs through natural death which removes the veil of the corporeal body, the second is remaining in the intermediary world (barzakh) and experiencing the pleasures or torments pertaining to that world, and the third is the Day of Judgment itself. There are also three resurrections in the microcosm pertaining to meaning.

This degree of annihilation is not simply noetic; it is existential. The reality of annihilation and attaining unity with the divine Essence can be known only by one who experiences it. It can be said that true annihilation of the wayfarer in divine unity is comparable to the multiplicity of drops of water unifying with the ocean, or rays of light from both the sun and stars entering a house. In these examples multiplicity is dissolved in unity, which is something real, and not conceptual. If one observes unity within multiplicity in dense bodies, how is it not possible for one to attain unity with the All-encompassing, the Subtle, who is present in every realm of being?

* * *

Quiddities are the forms of His perfections and the manifestation of His names and attributes. Quiddities, in the terminology of the gnostics, are the Immutable Archetypes and are the forms of His perfections because they are the manifestation of the divine names and attributes. They arise initially in the divine knowledge, then in the external world because of His essential love of self-disclosure. This is in accordance with the Hadith Qudsi, “I was a hidden treasure and I loved to be known so I created creation so that I may become known.”

He perceives the realities of things in the same way that He perceives His own Essence. He does not perceive them through any intermediary such as the First Intellect, and so on.

This is because Being is unitary and pervades all multiplicity such that it is both unitary and multiple, hidden and manifest. It is multiple in view of its manifestation but unitary by virtue of its Essence and reality. However, the objects of creation do not perceive its reality because of the limitation of their own ontological horizon. This is why it can be said that God pervades all existence but everything is not God, in the same way that a mirror reflects the sun but is not the sun itself. The mirror emits light but not by its own essence, but through the property of reflection. Contingent existence, therefore, is one with Being by virtue of manifestation, but is other than it, since nothing encompasses Being; Being, however, is all-encompassing.

This relationship between Being and creation reflects the transcendence and immanence duality that is essential in the theological and mystical world-view of Islam. Transcendence indicates that the essential reality of Being is unattainable and unknowable, while immanence indicates that God can be known through His manifestation, since what He manifests is none other than Him. This idea is affirmed in a statement by one of the Shi’ite Imams, “There is nothing between the Creator and the created,” as well as a hadith from the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him), “If you were to extend a rope [to the lowest level of the earth] it would reach Allah.”

Necessity, Contingency and Impossibility

(Remark for the People of Intuition in the Language of the Philosophers)

Being is necessary in itself, for if it were contingent, then it would require an engendering cause, resulting in a thing preceding itself. That is, Being exists by the necessity that is found in its own essence and not by an external cause. Since a thing can either be necessary in itself, necessary by something else, contingent, or impossible, Being is necessary in itself in that it does not require a cause to be realized. The claim that contingent entities also do not need a cause since they are not realized in the external world but are mental constructs is negated, because if it were the case that contingent things also do not require a cause, then Being could be considered a type of contingent entity that does not require a cause. However, since the premise that contingent things do not require a cause is false, as demonstrated by Qaysari, the conclusion, that Being is contingent, is also false. The proof, as Qaysari demonstrates, is that contingent things, because they are quiddities, require a cause either in the external world, or in the mind of the perceiver.

(Another Remark)

Being is neither substance nor accident, as mentioned previously. Being is not contingent because it is neither substance nor accident and every contingent thing is either substance or accident. Necessity is intrinsic to Being but occurs accidentally with respect to quiddities that are themselves in need of Being for their realization in the external world. The distinction between the necessity with respect to contingent existence and that which is intrinsic to Being is only a mental construct, in the same way that knowledge, the knower, and the known are distinct in the mind, but are in reality united. This is because everything other than Being is in need of Being for its realization, whereas Being is independently realized due to its own nature.

It may be said that Being qua Being is a natural universal (kulli Taabi’i) and every natural universal acquires existence only through one of its individual, then Being qua Being would not be necessary since it would require an individual to be realized. If Being qua Being is a natural universal, which is only realized in the external world by means of its individuals, then Being would also need to be realized through individuation, and therefore, cannot be necessary. The natural universal possesses universality in the mind and is capable of corresponding to a multiplicity of things such as “human,” which possesses universality in the mind and corresponds to referents in the external world. Genus is also a universal but does not have a referent in the external world, and is therefore not a “natural” universal, unlike “human.”

However, the nature of Being is not like the nature of quiddities since it needs nothing other than itself for its realization, while at the same time, according to the hadith, “There was Allah, and there was nothing else with Him.” That is, all realization is the manifestation of Being, while at the same time, Being is independent of manifestation and is not dependent on it.

(Another Remark)

Every contingent being is receptive of non-being. Nothing of Absolute Being is receptive of non-being. When entities leave existence in the external world it is not because Being is affected with non-being; rather they return to the Unseen through the name, the Hidden. When non-existence is applied to contingent entities it is the removal of state of existence from its quiddity. That is why it is not permissible to say, “contingent existence is capable of accepting non-being,” except metaphorically. Non-being does not possess “thingness” (shay’iyya) such that it would be imposed upon quiddity; it is more accurate to say that existence is removed from quiddity. Furthermore, existence of a quiddity cannot accept non-being since this would render Being into non-being, which is impossible, since a thing cannot simultaneously be itself and its contrary.

The Oneness of Being

Since Being is a single reality that appears in different forms in accordance with the degree of its manifestation, it is never affected by non-being, despite the multiplicity and transformation of its manifestation. Its individuation through quiddities is the shadow of its Essence, which does not permit any deficiency whatsoever, let alone non-being, which is its contrary. One who does not see the oneness of Being, and is absorbed in the multiplicity of its manifestation, reckons that entities enter and leave existence, while in actuality non-being is a metaphor for the transfer of Being from one state to another. That is, either a thing never having received existence remains in the divine knowledge, or it acquires existence in the external world, which is the final plane of Being’s manifestation. Individual entities are associated with Being through an illuminative relation (al-iddfa al-ishrdqiyya), in the terminology of the gnostics. This relation is a mental construct and not individuation in the absolute sense because Being qua Being is singular and does not possess multiplicity. When an entity ceases to exist in the external world, the relationship between its existence and its quiddity is severed; it is not the transformation of its existence into non-existence.

Gradation in Being (Note)

Entities do not possess an independent reality separate from the reality of Being. A group of Peripatetic philosophers hold a similar view, positing that Being is a universal concept applied to entities that are each independent existential realities. However, the gnostics maintain that Being does not possess existential individuation independent of its own reality, nor does its individuation possess intensity or weakness in gradation; rather individuation is on the plane of quiddities.

The gnostics refute gradation in the essential reality of Being. Gradation is divided into various types. The first type, which is the Peripatetic view, is general gradation in which entities are all independent existential realities and similarity between two things is not in the same aspect. The second type of gradation is more specific and posits that Being is a graded reality differing in weakness and intensity in the same way that light is a single reality whose aspect of distinction is the same aspect of similarity, namely, the quality of light. That is, both weak and strong light share in the quality of luminosity, while at the same time differing in that very quality. The gnostics posit a more specific definition of gradation, namely, Being is a single reality that differs in the intensity and weakness of manifestation, since gradation implies distinction within independent degrees of Being. Since Being is a single reality, it is not possible to speak of independent degrees of its essential reality; rather distinction and differentiation are due to its manifestation in various forms. The gnostic, therefore, does not accept the terms individuations, extensions (masadiq), or degrees of Being in the same sense as the philosophers. They hold that the terms are valid only when referring to the manifestations of Being.

It is said that Being does not apply to its individuals uniformly. It is not the case that Being is predicated of its object uniformly in the same way “human” is predicated of Zayd and ‘Amr uniformly. Since it is not predicated of its objects uniformly, it is predicated through gradation. Whatever cannot be predicated uniformly cannot be identical to or part of its quiddity. It must be accidental and not essential to its quiddity. However, since priority and posteriority, strength and weakness, are relative accidents that are realized only in relation to each other, they are related to Being through their association with quiddities. Thus, since Being does not possess individuations as independent realities, it cannot be a general accident for them, otherwise it would be substance in the case of substances or accident in the case of accidents.

Every predication must agree with its subject in some aspect and differ with it in another. It is not possible to predicate a stone for human in “a human is a stone,” since there is no aspect of similarity between the quiddity of human and the quiddity of stone, whereas when it is said, “Zayd is standing,” the predication of standing can hold true for Zayd, while at the same time the predication is meaningful since the meaning of standing differs in the meaning of Zayd. Thus, when it is said, “this thing exists,” the aspect of similarity between the thing and its existence is existence itself, and the aspect of distinction is the quiddity of the object.

In short, gradation and distinction in Being arise from the manifestations of Being and the pervasiveness of the reality of Being, not within the essential nature of Being. The closer the manifestation is to the degree of Singularity, the more complete its manifestation. This gradation occurs on the plane of quiddities or the Immutable Archetypes. Ashtiyani clarifies this point in the following passage:

Being with respect to its descending degrees of manifestation on the plane of contingency, and the multiplicity of its self-disclosure, becomes farther and farther removed from the station of Absoluteness, and is therefore described as intense or weak. The greater the intermediaries of contingency, the more hidden the essential reality of Being becomes, and the weaker the manifestation of its absoluteness.

In affirmation of this you should know that Being has manifestations in the noetic realm, just as it has manifestations in the external world. The manifestations of Being both in the external world and noetic realm are identical with their loci of manifestation. The external world is not a vessel for Being’s manifestations, rather it is identical with the external world, in the same way that the breath of a person is identical with his speech in the external world. It is not the case that words are individuations or extensions of the breath since words are engendered simultaneously with the breath and by the breath. It is for this reason that gradation is considered a mental construct while in actuality Being is a single reality. In a similar fashion, the existence of a single object in the external world can be described as possessing matter and form, both of which are mental constructs denoting a single reality externally. This, however, should not lead to the conclusion that multiplicity in existence is a mental construct or imaginary. Multiplicity of contingent existence is real since it emanates from Being itself. An example of this principle is illustrated in the human being, in that a single person possesses a manifest aspect and a hidden aspect. The manifest aspect contains mineral, vegetal, and animal aspects, while the hidden aspect possesses various degrees of the soul, such as the imagination, the rational soul, the spirit, and other immaterial aspects. Each and every aspect of the human being refers to a single individual, whose various aspects do not negate its unity.

As for the disparity found in separate individuals, it does not lie in the quiddity of humanness, but in the manifestation of each particular individual. Therefore, just as it is not possible for unitary Being to be removed from the multiplicity of its individuals, it is not possible for the quiddity of human to be removed from its individuals despite the disparity of individuals with respect to their specific attributes.

The disparity in the individual instances of Being is not in Being itself The disparity found in individual humans is not like the disparity found in other creatures since the domain of the human being is more extensive than that of the other creatures. For this reason it is said that in the hereafter each person will be resurrected as a unique type (naw’) whose genus is human, whereas in this world, every individual is of the same type, that is, human, whose genus is animal and differentium is rational. This is because the other creatures do not diverge from their essential type since each animal acts in accordance with its instinctual nature and the properties of its type, whereas, human beings possess a nature that encompasses both angelic and bestial qualities and the free will needed to shape the ultimate outcome of their nature. The comprehensiveness of the human soul is such that humans are human insofar as their outer form is concerned, but as for their inner meaning and the reality of the soul, there is gradation in the level of humanness that each individual possesses. Some may appear human, but inwardly the entire domain of the soul is of a bestial nature, while another’s soul is adorned with angelic qualities.

The Universal Degrees

(Remark Concerning the Universal Degrees and Some Terminology of the Group)

The Universal Degrees of Being are the most important levels of manifestation in the view of the gnostics. The term “universal” denotes the extensive scope of these degrees and does not refer to a conceptual construct in logic.

Being, with respect to the Essence, independent of the names and attributes, is known as the Degree of Singularity (al-ahadiyya). It is the degree in which the names and attributes assume a state of collectivity without distinction and differentiation. This degree is the source of effusion of the Immutable Archetypes, the objects of divine knowledge. Similarly, in this station the Immutable Archetypes are not distinct realities but remain hidden and latent like a seed containing all the potentialities of the tree, as yet in the form of collectivity. Furthermore, it is the first entification of the unknowable Essence, above which there is no station, referred to as the Collectivity of the Collectivity (jam al-jam). Thus, the station of Singularity is not qualified by anything, even the names and attributes or the station referred to by the Quran as, “Independent of the worlds”.

Another term for this station is the Cloud (al-‘ama), because it is a veil and isthmus between the unknowable Essence and the multiplicity of the names and attributes, in the same way that a cloud is a veil and an isthmus between the earth and the sky.

Being, in view of the names and attributes, is called the Degree of Unity (al-wahidiyya), the Station of Collectivity (maqam al-jam), or the Degree of Divinity (al-uluhiyya). If this degree is viewed in light of bringing things to their completion and perfection, it is called the Station of Lordship (al-rububiyya), since the name al-rabb involves the aspect of nurturing and sustaining. In relation to the station of Singularity it is a manifest degree of Being, while in relation to lower degrees of Being, it is an inward and hidden degree. For this reason, the station of Singularity is the absolute Unseen and the external world is the absolute manifest realm. Although only God is aware of the absolute Unseen, the gnostic may become aware of the relative unseen realms depending on the strength of his inner spiritual vision.

The divine ipseity pervading all existence is Being conditioned by absoluteness; that is, it is not conditioned by anything such as the degree of Singularity or the degree of Unity. It is consideration of Being’s pervasiveness in all of creation as the water of a river pervades streams. It is also referred to as Expansive Being (al-wujud d-munbasit); or the Breath of the Merciful (al-nafas d-rahmani), from which creation emanates, or the Outstretched Parchment (al-riqq al-manshur), on which are written divine words of creation. It is also called the First Proceeder (al-sddir d-awwal), which some say is the degree before creation of the First Intellect (d-‘aql d-awwal). The First Intellect is the first among creation in the realm of contingency emanating from the First Proceeder, which is not considered to be part of the contingent realm.

If it is conditioned by the permanence of noetic forms in it, it is the degree of the name the Absolute Hidden. Noetic forms in the divine knowledge are governed by the names the Knowledgeable, the Hidden, and the First, since they have not emerged from the plane of the hidden to the plane of the manifest. Therefore, Being is the Lord of Immutable Archetypes, which are the objects of divine knowledge.

If Being is considered in view of universals in existence, then it is the plane of the name the Compassionate (al-rahman), which is all-pervasive and general mercy, subsumed under the name, Allah. Each designation, the First Intellect (al-‘aql al-awwd), the Tablet of Destiny (lawh al-qadr) and the Mother of the Book (umm al-kitab) refers to the fact that this degree possesses universals, and descends directly from the Immutable Archetypes, since the intellect comprehends universals. Destiny (qada) is universal and immutable, while decree (qadr) is the particular aspect of destiny. It is called the Mother of the Book since it is source of existential realities. It is called the Highest Pen (al-qalam al-‘ala) since particulars are inscribed by it on the tablet of creation. Ibn Arabi writes:

Since God created this First Intellect as a Pen, it sought through its own reality a place for its affectivity to write, since it is a Pen. From this search arose the Guarded Tablet, that is, the Soul. Hence the Tablet was the first existent thing to arise from something created, since it arose from the searching that subsisted in the Pen…

The Intellect cast to the Soul everything within itself to the Day of Resurrection, inscribed and arranged. This was the third existent thing, whose level was between the Tablet and the Pen and whose existence came after the Tablet…

The form of the Intellect’s acceptance from God was a self-disclosure of the All-merciful out of love between the Self-disclosurer and that to which He disclosed himself.

The First Intellect

The First Intellect is the first form in existence, mentioned in the hadith literature as the first creation, “The first thing that God created was the Intellect.” It possesses the perfections and potentialities of all things by virtue of its proximity to the source of perfection. As Imam Sadiq states, “God created the intellect and it was the first creation from the spiritual beings, proceeding from His light from the right side of the divine throne.”

The First Intellect and the Universal Soul are the forms of the Mother Book and the Immutable Archetypes. Whatever exists in the Universal Soul exists in the First Intellect, but as particulars. It is for this reason that the Universal Soul is called the Manifest Book, since that which is undifferentiated remains hidden, and becomes manifest only through individuation and differentiation. The form of the Universal body is the form of the Universal Soul and is more closely connected with temporal existence. It is for this reason that it is called the Book of Effacement and Establishment (al-mahw wa al-ithbat) since objects contained within it are not fixed because of the mutable nature of the temporal world. Furthermore, this book is connected to individual forms and their states rather than to universals, since universals are fixed.

The First Intellect is also called the Muhammadan Light, referred to by the hadith, “The first thing that God created was my light,” because it is the first creation emanating from the divine names. It is also called the World of Invincibility (jabarut) due to its intensity and strength. The First Intellect is also called the Highest Pen because it possesses two aspects, an aspect of receptivity from God and an aspect of activity in creation. Qunawi writes, “When God turned the attentiveness of His desire [toward creating the cosmos], this gave rise within the World of Writing and Inscription to a single ontological result that carried the unseen manyness of the relationships. God named it a “pen” and an “intellect.” Likewise, Ibn Arabi describes this dual nature of the Intellect in the following:

This reality is an “intellect” in respect of the face turned toward its Lord, a face that receives from Him bestowal and replenishment. The Intellect is the first entitled existent thing that intellectually perceives its own self along with everything that is distinguished from itself. It also perceives everything through which it becomes distinguished from other, in contrast to those who precede it in level, the “enraptured ones.”

God called it a “pen” in respect of its face turned toward the engendered world, so it exercises effect upon this world and replenishes it. Moreover, the Pen carries the unseen undifferentiated manyness that is deposited in its essence so that it may differentiate it in that which becomes manifest from it, whether through a level or some other way.

* * *

As for the level of permanent particulars, it is called Universal Soul, or the Tablet of Decree (lawh al-qadr) or the station of the name of the Merciful (al-rahim), which is specific divine mercy. This degree is a reflection of the previous degree except that it is in the form of particulars. It is called the Manifest Book (al-kitab al-mubin) since the universals of the Mother of the Book become evident because of their appearing as particulars. It is called the Guarded Tablet (al-lawh al-mahfudh) since it refers to the immutable aspect of particulars.Kashaniwrites:

There are four tablets: The tablet of precedent decree (qada) towers beyond obliteration and affirmation. It is the First Intellect.

The tablet of Measure (qadar) is the Universal Rational soul, within which the Universal things of the First Tablet become differentiated and attached to their secondary causes. It is named the Guarded Tablet.

The tablet of the particular, heavenly souls is a tablet on which is inscribed everything in this world along with it shape, condition, and measure. This tablet is called the “heaven of this world.” It is like the imagination of the cosmos, just as the first [tablet] is like its spirit, and the second [tablet] is like its heart.

Then there is the tablet of matter, which receives forms of the visible world. And God knows best.

If it is conditioned by the specific forms as being mutable particulars, it is the degree of the name the Effacer (al-ma’hi), the Establisher (al-muthabbit), the Giver of Death (al-mumit), the Life-giver (al-muhyi), since these names govern the external world. Specific forms of mutable particulars refer to the natural world, since universal forms are particularized, are engendered and effaced, and undergo change and transformation. Thus, it is called the realm of Generation and Corruption (al-kawn wa-alfasad)and the Tablet of Obliteration and Establishment(kitabd-makwwaal-ithbat).Particulars are mutable in this realm unlike the previous realm in which particulars are established and permanent.

The natural universal is mentioned in Qaysari’s commentary on the Bezel of Tsa in the Fusus as follows: “Nature in the view of the gnostics refers to the spiritual meaning pervading all existence, whether it is intellect, soul, immaterial, or corporeal, although for the philosophers it refers to the power pervading all bodies.”

If it is conditioned by receiving types, spiritual and corporeal, it is the level of the name the Receiver. Universal Prime Matter is that which possesses pure receptivity of forms. Likewise, both the Inscribed Book and the Outstretched Parchment refer to receptivity, whereas the names, the Originator and the Creator, refer to activity. Immaterial spiritual forms are related to the rational intellects and souls since the latter are immaterial and possess the capacity of acquiring knowledge. These divine names are associated with each descending realm of Being. Each realm of Being is governed by the divine names appropriate for it and this degree of Being is the degree of the All-Knowing.

That which the philosophers refer to as the Immaterial Intellect (al-‘aql-al-mujarrad) is the Spirit in the view of the people of Allah The spirit and heart are the microcosmic realities of the human being that correspond to the macrocosmic realities of the Supreme Spirit, the Spirit of Sanctity, or the First Intellect, respectively. The following sections discuss the concepts of the macrocosm and microcosm followed by a detailed discussion of the microcosmic spirit, heart and intellect.

The Macrocosm and the Microcosm

One of the concepts Ibn Arabi expounds is the Great Man (al-insan al-kabir). This is in conjunction with the Small Man (al-insan al-saghir), the Great World (al-alam al-kabir), and the Small World (al-‘alam al-saghir). The terms have multiple designations, each referring to the same essence but from different perspectives. The term Great Man often denotes the cosmos, which in essence refers to the reality of the form of man. Sometimes, however, it refers to man himself since man is the manifestation of the Supreme Name “Allah” and there is no greater entity in the realm of being. In this sense, the Small Man refers to the cosmos since the existence of the cosmos is a manifestation of the Supreme Spirit through its descent through the levels of being. Since the Supreme Spirit is the reality of the Muhammadan light as referred to by the hadith, “The first thing that God created was my light,” all levels of existence are the particulars of that light. The same correspondence can be applied to the Great and Small Cosmos. However, Qaysari employs the term Great Man to mean the macrocosm when defining the terms the First Intellect, the Supreme Pen, and the Universal Soul in order to contrast it with the microcosm which contains the Secret, the Arcane, the spirit, heart, etc., all of which are realities of the human spiritual landscape. In the tenth chapter of the Muqaddima he writes:

Just as there are manifestations of the divine names from the First Intellect, the Supreme Pen, the Light, the Universal Soul, the Guarded Tablet, and others we have alluded to, to indicate that reality of man is manifest by these realities in the macrocosm, there are manifestations of the divine names in the microcosm, according to the levels designated by the Folk of Allah (ura/a), and they are the Secret, the Arcane, the Spirit, the Heart, the Word, and ra —with a damma on the ra —the fu’ad, the Breast, the Intellect, and the Soul.

Qaysarihere draws a parallel between manifestations of the divine names in the macrocosm and manifestations in the microcosm, each reality in the macrocosm having a corresponding reality in the microcosm. Furthermore, it may be said that both the macrocosm and microcosm are essentially one reality that differ only with respect to their being governed by the names, the Manifest and the Hidden. Both modes of Being are in essence the manifestation of the Supreme Name, “Allah”, which refers to the cosmos as the Great Man and the human being as the Small Man. Since the Supreme Name “Allah” refers to all of the divine names before their differentiation, it can also be said that this name encompasses the realities of all things in the state of collectivity, while every other name besides it has governance only over that which defines it.

The Microcosmic Spirit, Heart and Intellect

Both the macrocosm and the microcosm are manifestations of the Supreme Spirit, which is the manifestation of the divine Essence, and the reality of the human spirit. Just as the macrocosm contains the First Intellect, which is the first creation in existence, the Highest Pen, the Universal Intellect and Soul, the microcosm, or the human dimension, possesses various degrees of manifestation, called the spirit, heart, intellect, and soul, etc. Qaysari describes these correspondences in the tenth chapter of the Muqaddima:

As you have come to know, the human reality has manifestations in the world in the form of particulars, know that there are also manifestations in the human world in the form of collectivity. The first of its manifestations in it is the form of immaterial spirit corresponding to the form of the Intellect. Then, it is the form of the heart corresponding to the form the Universal Soul. Then, it is the form of the animal soul corresponding to the Universal Nature (al-tabia al-kulliya) and the Impressed Celestial Soul (al-nafs al-muntabia al-falakiya), etc. Then, it is the subtle ethereal spirit known as the “animal spirit” by the physicians, corresponding to the Universal Primordial Matter (huyala). Then, it is the form of blood corresponding to the form of the Universal Body. Then, it is the form of the limbs corresponding to the Body of the Great World. It is from these descending degrees of manifestation on the human plane that there occurs a correspondence between the two replicas (nuskhatayn).

Although various terms are used to describe the inner landscape of the human being, it should not be imagined that the various manifestations of the Supreme Spirit are discrete entities like physical organs. Rather, it is a single immaterial reality that can be described from various perspectives, in accordance with the descending degrees of manifestation in the microcosm. Qaysari defines the various terms used to describe the microcosmic Supreme Spirit in greater detail in the following:

As for itsbeing called the secret, it is because none perceive its lights except the possessors of hearts and those firm in knowledge. It is called the hidden because of the hiddenness of its reality from the gnostics and others. It is called the spirit because of its lordship over the body, being the source of material life and the wellspring of effusion in the powers of the soul. It is called the heart because of its fluctuating from the side which faces the Lord, receiving illumination thereby, and the side which faces the animal soul, so that it emanates what it has received from its source, according to its capacity. It is called the word because of its appearing in the breath of the All-Merciful, in the same way that a word appears in the breath of the human being. It is called the inner heart due to its being affected from its source, since al-fa’d means “injury” and “affected,” literally. It is called the breast because it faces the body and is the source of its light, managing it. It is called the ru because of the fear and trepidation of the overpowering aspect of its origin, the divine name, the Subduer (al-Qahhar), since the etymology of the word rou indicates fear. It is called the intellect because of its discerning its essence and engenderer, and for its limitation and specific particularization, and its specifying and registering that which it perceives, and determining the objects of its cognition. It is called the soul because of its attachment to the body and its governance of it. It is called the “vegetal soul,” in reference to the appearance of vegetal activity by its custodians on the vegetal plane and called the “animal soul” in reference to animal actions appearing on the animal plane.

The term spirit is often used in contrast to body and symbolizes the fundamental conceptual duality of the cosmos. Everything other than the material realm is in some form spiritual (wham)That is, the term has wide application relating to everything that is connected to divinity. It has appeared in various contexts in both the Quran and hadith in reference to the divine spirit, the command of God, and the human spirit. Because of the central position of the spirit in Islamic thought, this section of the commentary examines the various terms that are used in describing the degrees of the human spirit.

The Spirit:

The lexical root of rah in the Arabic signifies breath, wind, or as the ancient natural philosophers maintained, “a subtle vaporous substance, which is the principle of vitality and of sensation and of voluntary motion, or the vital principle in man, or the breath that man breathes, and which pervades the whole body.” This definition of spirit, however, refers only the physical reality of man, while the spirit, insofar as it is an immaterial luminous substance, is divested from matter and independent of it. The Quran describes the spirit as a command of God. Commentators of the Quran explain this usage of the word “command” (amr) to mean the World of Commandwhich is a luminous world that originates from the engendering command “Be!”

The Quran refers to the Worlds of Creation and Command in the verses, “To Him belong the Creation and the Command; Glory be to the Lord of the worlds,” (al-‘Araf: 54) and “His only command when He wants a thing is to say to it ‘Be!’ and it is.” (Yasin: 82) The former verse indicates that there is a distinction between the Command and the Creation and that they are independent worlds. The latter verse indicates that the command of God is instantaneous and without intermediary. As a consequence, the World of Command is ontologically higher in the Arc of Descent since the higher the realm, the greater the simplicity, luminosity, and proximity to the Essential divine unity. Furthermore, the Quran mentions that the spirit is from the Command of God, or the World of Command. It is therefore, a unified substance that is not divisible into parts, nor susceptible to measure and quantity. In this regard, Najm al-Din al-Razi (573/1177-654/1256), a prominent gnostic and a contemporary of Ibn Arabi writes:

Know that the human spirit belongs to the World of Command and is set apart by a proximity to God that no other creature enjoys, as was explained in preceding chapters.

The world of Command consists of a world which is subject to neither amount, quantity nor measure, by contrast with the world of Creation, which is subject to these. The name of Command was given to the world of spirits because it came in to being upon the command “Be!” with neither temporal delay nor material intermediary. The World of Creation also came into being upon the command “Be!”, but through the intermediary of matter and the extension of days—”He created the heaven and the earth in six days” (Araf: 54).

…The spirit is itself the matter from which the world of spirits is derived, and the world of spirits is the origin of the world of Dominion, and the world of Dominion is the source of the world of Kingship. The world of Kingship subsists, in its entirety, by the world of Dominion; the world of Dominion subsists by the world of spirits; the world of spirits subsists by the human spirit; and the human spirit subsists by God’s attribute of self-subsisting. “Glorified be He in Whose hand is the Dominion of all things and to Whom ye shall be returned.”

The Supreme Spirit is the reality of human spirit, the manifestation of the divine Essence, and the locus of all of the divine names. Since there is no intermediary between it and the Command of God “Be!” it is the most proximate creation to the divine Essence. Furthermore, its reality is the reality of the Spirit of God since God refers to it as belonging to His spirit, “And when I have fashioned him and breathed into him of My spirit…” It should be noted that the Supreme Spirit is neither identical with the Essence nor a part of it, as elucidated in the verse by the use of the word “of,” in “… of My Spirit.” This is because the reality of the Essence transcends all existence and nothing can be likened to it. Furthermore, it cannot be a part of it since, as explained earlier, the spirit is not subject to quantity, measure and division. It is, therefore, the first entification in existence emanating from the divine Essence, possessing all the perfections of the Essence in the form of the names and attributes. In the terminology of the gnostics, it is the first manifestation of all realities on the plane of the Unity, also referred to as the First Intellect, the Muhammadan Reality, or the Muhammadan Light, and the Pen, as mentioned in various hadith, “The first thing that God created was my light,” and “The first thing that God created was the Intellect,” and “The first thing that God created was my spirit.” These terms refer to the reality of the spirit in the macrocosm, where it exists without the body before its descent into the phenomenal world. In the microcosm, however, the spirit attaches itself to the body and needs it to acquire spiritual perfections that are specific to the phenomenal world, namely, knowledge of the particulars, and to reap the benefits from actions that the body carries out in the visible world, as Rumi says:

The spirit cannot function without the body, and the body without the spirit is withered and cold. Your body is manifest and your spirit hidden: These two put all the business of the world in order.God made the body the locus of manifestation for the spirit.

After its attachment to the body in the microcosm, it is called the spirit, the heart, the intellect, and the rational soul. That is, it is called the spirit in light of the totality of divine names and attributes that it encompasses in the state of collectivity. When it acquires knowledge from the perceptible world it is called the heart, since it fluctuates between its spiritual essence and the phenomenal world and acquires knowledge of its particulars.

In the following verses of the Quran the relationship between the body and spirit is further elucidated:

“When your Lord said to your angels, ‘I am going to create a man from clay. So when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My spirit then fall down in prostration before him. Thereat the angels prostrated, all of them together except Iblis, He acted arrogantly and he was one of the faithless. He said, 0′ Iblis! What keeps you from prostrating before that which I have created with My two hands? Are you arrogant, or are you one of the exalted ones?’ He said, I am better than him, You created me from fire and You created him from clay.’”

Since the angels are each a manifestation of one of the divine names, the command of prostration was to place each of them under the governance of the Supreme Spirit of the Perfect Human, who is the manifestation of the Supreme Name “Allah.” As mentioned earlier, the name “Allah” is all-inclusive of the divine names and attributes. Rumi explains:

That is why the angels prostrated themselves before Adam: his spirit was greater than their existence. After all, it would not have been proper to command a superior being to prostrate himself to an inferior one. How could God’s Justice and Kindness allow a rose to prostrate to a thorn?

Since the form of Adam was created from clay, and his spirit from the divine attributes of Beauty and Majesty, referred to by “My two hands,” the reality of Adam encompasses both the corporeal and the spiritual dimension, or the manifest and the hidden. Clay is in opposition to spirit since the former is at the extremity of corporeality and the latter is at the extremity of immateriality. The divine duality of “My two hands,” is at work both with respect to the body’s relation to the spirit as well as the divine attributes of Beauty and Majesty that pertain to the degree of the spirit.

The command to prostrate was given to the angels as well as Iblis even though he was of the Jinn and not an angel. It is because of his activity and station that he was counted among them and was therefore, included in the command to prostrate. However, given that Iblis is of the Jinn, he was not able to comprehend the exalted station of the Supreme Spirit because the macrocosmic reality of Iblis is the Universal Imagination (al-wahm al-kulli), which cannot comprehend universals but only particulars.

This is clarified in the following statement:

This immaterial substance is the Intellect of the Great World which has been expressed by some as the first human and is other than Adam; rather, the spirit of Adam is a manifestation of it. In opposition to this luminous reality is another reality, the Universal Imagination (al-wahm al-kulli) in the absolute human, which inclines to evil and corruption by the impulse of its primordial nature and natural disposition and summons to error and devising. It is identical with the reality of the Iblis of Iblisess and the Greatest Satan of which all the rest of the Iblisess and Satans are a manifestation.

Therefore, Iblis was only able to see the outward form of Adam, which is a particular, and not the all-inclusive universality of his spirit. Rather than admitting to his inherent inability to comprehend the spiritual reality of Adam, he contended with God stating that Adam’s creation was from clay and that fire is superior to clay. Rumi discusses further the above passage of the Quran pointing out the inherent inability of Iblis to see beyond the form of Adam:

Of Adam, who was peerless and unequalled, the eye of Iblis saw naught but clay. When the angels prostrated themselves to him, Adam said to that one who saw only outward, “Simpleton! Do you consider it proper that I be but a tiny body?” Iblis saw things separately: He thought that we are apart from God. Do not gaze upon Adam’s water and clay, like Iblis: Behold a hundred thousand rose gardens behind that clay! With both eyes, see the beginning and the end! Beware! Be not one-eyed, like the accursed Iblis! Close your Iblis-like eye for a moment. After all, how long will you gaze upon form? How long? How long?

The Heart:

Of the various aspects of the spirit, perhaps no other aspect has greater significance from the point of view of the Quran and hadith than the heart. This is because the heart is the center of man’s consciousness, his innermost reality and the organ of spiritual vision through which God is known. Drawing on Quran and hadith Najm al-Din al-Razi describes the heart’s significance in the spiritual landscape of man:

Know that the relationship of the heart to the body is like that of God’s Throne to the world. In the same way that the Throne is the plane of manifestation for the repose of the attribute of compassion in the macrocosm, so too the heart is the place of manifestation for the repose of the attribute of spirituality in the microcosm… The heart, however, has a property and nobility that the Throne does not possess, for the heart is aware of receiving the effusion of the grace of the spirit, while the Throne has no such awareness.

The root meaning of the term qalb (heart) is to overturn, to return, to go back and forth, to fluctuate and to undergo transformation. As its name suggests, the heart has two aspects, one that faces the spirit and one that faces the corporeal body. The aspect that faces the body is called the soul and the aspect that faces the spirit is called the intellect. That which the heart acquires from the spirit are universals and that which it acquires from the soul and its faculties are particulars. Thus, the heart straddles two dimensions, as Najm al-Din al-Razi further describes:

Similarly, one face of the human heart is turned to the world of spirituality, and the other face to the world of the bodily frame. It is for this reason that the heart is called qalb, for it contains within itself two worlds, corporeal and spiritual, and constantly turns from one to the other. All sustaining grace received from the spirit is distributed by the heart.

The heart stands between the spiritual world of the spirit and the corporeal world of the body, also described by ‘Abd al-Razzaq Kashani:

The heart is a luminous, disengaged substance halfway between the spirit and the soul. It is that through which true humanity is realized. The philosophers refer to it as the rational soul. The spirit is the inward dimension, and the animal soul is its mount and its outward dimension, halfway between it and the body. Thus, the Quran [24:35] compares the heart to a glass and a shining star, while it compares the spirit to a lamp. The tree is the soul, the niche is the body. The heart is the intermediate reality in existence and in levels of descents, like the Guarded Tablet in the cosmos. The glass is an allusion to the heart that is illumined by the spirit and illuminates everything around it by shining light upon them.

There are numerous verses in the Quran that indicate the centrality of the heart in the human being. The heart is the locus of good and evil, right and wrong, knowledge and ignorance, and both people of faith and unbelievers have hearts. It is the center of the human personality and the place where man meets God. There is both a cognitive and moral dimension, as mentioned in the hadith, “God does not look at your bodies or your forms, but He looks at your hearts,” that is, it is the abode of piety and faith. Quranic virtues such as sincerity, piety, peace, love and repentance are located in the heart. Both spiritual cognition and moral rectitude arise from the purification of the heart. When the heart is oriented toward the mundane world and entangled in bodily pleasures, it turns its face away from the domain of the spirit and is subject to spiritual illnesses, as indicated by the verse, “In their hearts is a sickness,” (al-Baqara: 10) and “It is not the eyes that are blind, but blind are the hearts within the breasts,” (al-Hajj: 45) and “What, have they no hearts to use intelligence or eyes to see with?” (A’raf: 179) When, on the contrary it orients itself towards the spirit’s luminosity it becomes the locus of all the divine attributes that it receives from the spirit.

Since the heart is both a recipient of the divine effusion and the origin of all acts in visible world, purification of the heart is the essence of the spiritual path and the means by which one attains perfection. The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) said, “There is in the body of the son of Adam a piece of flesh which, if it be sound, causes the rest of the body to be sound; and if it be corrupt, causes the rest of the body to be corrupt.” Likewise, Rumi writes, “When you look carefully, you see that all good qualities dwell in the heart. All these disgraceful qualities derive from water and clay.”

The heart is the place where God reveals Himself to human beings. His presence is felt in the heart since it is the organ of spiritual vision, understanding and remembrance and in the words of the Hadith Qudsi, “Neither My heaven nor My earth embraces Me, but the heart of My servant with faith does embrace Me.” It might be asked why the spirit has not been singled out to embrace divinity rather than the heart? After all, the Supreme Spirit is the manifestation of all the divine attributes. The reason is that the heart encompasses both the spiritual and the corporeal, the hidden and the manifest, and possesses knowledge of both universals and particulars. The divine attributes in the spirit are in the form of collectivity, whereas the heart embraces both collectivity and differentiation. Through its interaction with the visible world, it acquires knowledge of particulars while at the same time it receives effusion from the spirit.

Thus, God ennobled that entity which possesses complete ontological receptivity of the divine as the essence of man; it was mentioned previously that man is the mirror of God and creation. In order to describe the heart’s ability to reflect the images cast on it, Najm al-Din al-Kubra (d. 618/l22l) uses a similar analogy:

Know that the subtle reality which is the heart fluctuates from state to state, like water that takes on the color of its container.” The heart is subtle and accepts the reflection of thoughts and meanings that circle around it. Hence the color of the thing that faces the subtle reality takes form within it, just as forms are reflected in a mirror or in pure water.

Some of the gnostics have described in detail the spiritual landscape of the human being, citing the Verse of Light in the Quran:

The similitude of His light is a niche in which there is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass, is as it were, a shining star, lit by the blessed olive tree, neither form the east nor West, whose oil would almost glow forth if itself though no fire touched it. Light upon Light! Allah guides to His light whom He wills.

The following section paraphrases ‘Abd al-Razzaq Kashani’s commentary on this verse describes these interrelationships. The first layer, which is considered the outermost aspect of the human being is the body (jism), which is corporeal, dark and dense. This is analogous to the “lamp-niche” which is dark and has no light of itself. The spirit is the lamp which illuminates out of its very essence, as fire intrinsically radiates light. The glass is the heart, since it draws luminosity from the lamp and is like a bright star in its radiance and high position. Moreover, the glass can transmit the essential luminosity of the lamp only if it is clean and translucent. Otherwise, an opaque glass would only limit the lamp’s essential luminosity since the glass covers the lamp. The blessed olive tree is the soul, as Kashani explains, for the soul has faculties and is the source of great benefit just as branches and fruits give benefit. Thus, the spirit is the source of divine perfections found within the very essence of man; the heart, the locus of receptivity of the spirits essential goodness, the soul, the heart’s mount, and the body, the mount for the soul. Here Kashani gives a positive view of the soul, although many authors have disparaged the soul as being the source of the bestial properties found in man. In Kashani’s view, it is the essential receptivity of the soul governed by the spirit’s divine nature that is taken into consideration. Thus, the spirit’s luminosity and essential goodness percolates to each level of one’s inner being, casting out all darkness and bestial attributes.

The Intellect:

The word in Arabic for intellect is ‘aql. The lexical meaning of ‘aql is to tie, fetter or bind, which also indicates its function, that is to tether ideas in the mind through limiting and defining them. The intellect gains access to universals and particulars through the process of a “complete definition” (al-hadd al-tamm), using the genus (jins) and differentium (fasl) such as the definition of man given by the logicians and philosophers, “a rational animal.”

The terms intellect, spirit, and heart are used interchangeably, all of which refer to man’s inward reality but differ only in aspect. Some of these complex correspondences are surnmarized in the following verses of Rumi:

Sense perception is in bondage to the intellect, oh friend! And know too that the intellect is in bondage to the spirit.The body is outward, the spirit hidden; the body is like the sleeve, the spirit the hand. Then the intellect is more hidden than spirit: the senses perceive the spirit more quickly. The spirit of prophetic revelation is beyond the intellect; coming from the Unseen, it belongs to that side.What is the spirit? One-half of a leaf from the garden of Thy Beauty. What is the heart? A single blossom from Thy provisions of plenty.Without doubt the intellects and hearts derive from the divine Throne, but they live veiled from the Throne’s light.Then the army of the human individual came from the world of the spirit; the intellect, the vizier; the heart, the king. After a time, the heart remembered the city of the spirit. The whole army returned and entered the world of Everlastingness.

The intellect is the faculty of understanding, cognition and rationality. It differs from the heart in that the heart is the organ of vision, faith, piety and moral attributes, whereas the intellect is the abode of thought and perception. The intellect seeks the good, the outcomes of affairs, and discerns between right and wrong. The intellect is the bearer of knowledge after reflecting on concepts and acquiring new sciences.

However, in many hadith, the term “intellect” is used synonymously with the Supreme Spirit. As mentioned earlier, these terms are interchangeable and point towards a single reality but they differ in degree and aspect. Thus, it cannot be said conclusively that the function of a particular aspect is this or that since their usage in the hadith and Sufi literature is often ambiguous. For this reason, many Sufi authors have put forward various schema, sometimes a five fold and sometimes a seven fold, often including terms such as the Kernel (lubb), the Grain (habbat al-qalb), the Core (suwayda), and the Pericardium (shaghaf).

* * *

The degree of the Perfect Man consists of the collectivity of all divine and existential realms. The Perfect Human (al-insan al-kamil), or the Complete Human, is one of the central concepts in the school of Ibn Arabi Its importance cannot be understated especially since Qaysari devotes many chapters in the Muqaddima expanding on various aspects of the human spiritual landscape. In fact, one may view the Muqaddima as focusing on two primary themes, divinity and man. The following section discusses the concept of the Perfect Human in relation to the other planes of Being.

The Five Divine Presences

In conjunction with the above division there is another set of terms that describe the fundamental degrees of Being. The gnostics use the term “presence” (hadra) to describe these degrees and to indicate that God is present in all the worlds. Although there are as many “presences” as there are manifestations, the gnostics have summarized the most fundamental divisions of the levels of Being as the five Divine Presences (al-hadarat al-ilahiyya). Chittick writes, “The Divine Presence is that “location” where Allah is to be found, or where we can affirm that what we find is He. It includes the Essence of Allah, which is God in Himself without regard to His creatures; the attributes of Allah, also called His names, which are the relationships that can be discerned between the Essence and everything other than He; and the acts, which are all the creatures in the cosmos along with everything that appears from them. Hence, the Divine Presence designates God on the one hand and the cosmos, inasmuch as it can be said to be the locus of His activity, on the other.”

The first presence is the Absolute Unseen. In contrast to this station is the absolute visible (al-shahada d-mutlaqa), which is the external world and is also called mulk or nasut. It is the last realm in the Arc of Descent, which is the final, and most outward manifestation of the Essence. Every world in relation to the Absolute Unseen is considered an external world. However, in relation to each other, the World of Universal Intellects and Souls (‘alam al-‘uqal wa al-nufus al-kulliya) is the relative unseen and the Imaginal World (al-alam al-mithal) is the relative visible. The Imaginal World is the shadow of the noetic realm and encompasses the absolute visible world. The visible world is the realm of multiplicity and differentiation. The first presence is also known as the presence of Immutable Archetypes; the second as the world of spirits, given that they are immaterial intellects; the third as the Imaginal World; the fourth as the material world; and the fifth, which is the comprehensive world encompassing the previous four, as the reality of the Perfect Human (d-insan d-kamil). Furthermore, each presence is a shadow of the previous realm, such that each successive higher realm encompasses the one below it. The Perfect Human encompasses all the realms and is the shadow of the name Allah, which represents all the divine names in totality.

These five presences are also considered the books of God, and differ from the words of God since the books represent stationary degrees in existence while words (kalimat) refer to the manifestations within those degrees that arise immediately from the divine command. That is, the books of God represent degrees of created reality, while the words of God arise from the divine breath or “exhalation” which results in the immediate engendering of things. The term “books” emphasizes the created order of things, and the way in which God’s command exists in the form of individuation and separation, while the “words of God” emphasize God’s independence from the need of intermediaries for the subsistence of the world, which is an expression of God’s engendering command, “Be!” One final distinction between the two is that “books” refer to the world in an individuated and differentiated state and “words” refer to the world in the state of being collective and undifferentiated.

The World of Dominion (malakut) is a manifestation of the World of Invincibility (jabarut), also called the world of spirits or the Muhammadan Spirit, which is the differentiated form of the Muhammadan Light, as the hadith mentions: “God spoke a word; He said to it, ‘Be light!’ then He spoke a word, and said to it, ‘Be Spirit!’ and He combined the spirit with the light.”

The World of Dominion is the realm occupied by the spiritual beings such as the angels and spirits. The lower degree of this realm is the Imaginal World because of the existence of forms in it, while its higher degree possesses the characteristics of the World of Invincibility and is totally devoid of any constriction by the sensory world and world of forms. This is why there are different classes of angels, some possessing form and not others. Furthermore, the sensory world is a manifestation of the World of Dominion. Each successive realm is a shadow of the former but since it is more distant from the Essence, the manifestation of the divine attributes in that realm is also weaker.

The fifth divine presence, as mentioned, is that of the Perfect Human (al-insan al-kamil), which is the comprehensive book containing the entirety of existence, and is therefore the microcosm of the Great World. Thus, within man there exists a corresponding division of the divine presences that exist in the macrocosm. The microcosm is the mirror of the macrocosm, or in the terminology of the gnostics, the human is the Small Man and the world is the Great Man, while at the same time, the human is the Small World and the world is the Great World. Another formula for this relation is that the human is the Great World, and the world is the Small World since only man is the direct and complete reflection of God, whereas the cosmos is subservient to God’s vicegerent, and therefore subordinate in worth.

Just as there are levels of manifestation, also known as the divine presences, there are also levels of human existence. The Perfect Human is none other than the reflection of the divine names in all levels of his being. The outermost aspect, which is referred to as the “lowest of the low”in the Quran, is the physical body. As one moves deeper inward, the aspects of the self become more subtle, immaterial, luminous, comprehensive, noble, and ultimately are a perfect reflection of the divine attributes. It is only when the inward journey is undertaken, that one actualize the divine names in one’s being, since there are some names that are manifested only on the level of the spirit, or the hidden (khafi). In fact, the greater one’s distance from immaterial spiritual realities the weaker the manifestation of any given name.

That is why in practical gnosticism the Perfect Human traverses all the realms of Being so that he reaches the plane of Singularity, which is the plane that encompasses all the divine names in collectivity. Just as the spirit represents the collectivity of all realities, or the Mother of the Book (umm al-kitab), and the heart represents the realities in the form of separation or the Manifest Book (kitab al-mubin), so too the Perfect Human actualizes the divine names associated with each plane of existence, whether it is in state of collectivity or separation.

Sadr al-Din Qunawi, the greatest expositor of Ibn Arabi’s works, writes in Kitab al-fuluk, a commentary on Ibn Arab’s Fusus al-Hikam,

Just as the Divine Presence, referred to by the name Allah, comprises all the specific Attributes, their particular properties, and their inter-relationships, so that there is no intermediary between the Essence and the Attributes, likewise, from the point of view of man’s reality and his station, there is no intermediary between man and God. His reality is such that he is the comprehensive isthmus (al-barzakhiyya d-jami’a) between the properties of necessity and possibility since he encompasses both.

Man’s inward reality is identical with the Divine Reality since the “Perfect Human is the locus of manifestation of the Comprehensive Name Allah and he has a share in the glory of his Master; thus he becomes sanctified.” While, other entities in creation manifest some attribute or another, man assumes the unique position of manifesting all the Names. Qunawi writes: “All beings are determined by the properties of the Names they manifest, each taking on a specific relationship and existential position.”

The Vicegerency of Man

In the opening chapter of the Fusus, Ibn Arabi describes the unique and noble position of man as the vicegerent of God and the complete manifestation of the divine names. One finds this idea clearly stated in the Quran where God says, “I am going to make a vicegerent on earth” (al-Baqara: 30), “And when I have breathed into him of My Spirit,” (Sad: 82)and “What prevented you from prostrating to whom I have created with My own two hands?” (Sad: 75) The Quran is explicit in many instances regarding the superiority of man due to the specific designation of vicegerency and God’s endowing him with the knowledge of all the names, as in the verse, “God taught Adam the names, all of them” (al-Baqara: 31). Furthermore, many gnostics have relied upon the hadith, “God created Adam in His own form,” as evidence for man’s extreme proximity to the divine being as well as being an explication of the true nature of man. In a hadith related by Imam Sadiq (peace and blessing be upon him) from Imam Ali, we find a clear and explicit statement concerning the form of man:

The form of man is the greatest proof of God in creation. It is the book that He wrote by His own hand, the edifice that He constructed by His wisdom, and the totality of the forms of the worlds. It is the summation of the Guarded Tablet, the witness of all that is absent, the argument against every denier, the straight path to every good, and the bridge spanning paradise and hell.

Imam Ali’s statement clearly indicates that the form of man is the totality of the forms of the worlds. However, his statement also conveys that were it not for man being created in the form of God, he would not have served as the greatest proof of God, since God does not need contingent beings to prove His existence. Thus, Imam Husayn says in the supplication of Arafa, “How can a thing which is dependent upon You for its own existence prove Your existence? When have you been absent that You should require a proof, and when have You been distant such that effects should lead to You? Blind is the eye that does not see You!” It is only through the reflection of the divine being in Man that he serves as the greatest proof of Him, since a proof is an indicator and a sign for some greater reality with which it is associated. Just as “world” in Arabic, al-alarn, which is derived from the word, sign, or token, as in ‘alama, serves as a sign and proof for His existence and acts as a mirror for the divine attributes, the existence of man is the greatest proof of His existence through his mirroring of the divine attributes in their totality.

From the Quranic point of view, God taught man all the names, a reality which was comprehended by neither Iblis nor the angels. Since man’s reflection is of the Supreme Name Allah, which is reserved for the Essence, without entification, the station of vicegerency is reserved for one whose existential capacity possesses all the divine names. Were there to exist a being in creation whose reality man did not encompass, it would not have been appropriate for Adam to hold the station of vicegerency, since the vicegerent possesses governance and dominion over his subjects. It would be possible, then, for that being to possess a degree of superiority in that aspect which was lacking in man, and therefore, nullify his vicegerency in that particular aspect. But since God taught man all the names, not even the angels were able to object to God’s designation of Adam. Although each angel wished to object to God’s preference of Adam, they were unable to relate the names as God commanded them, since each had been limited by the aspect of their own individual essences and consequently blinded by their own ontological limits. Ibn Arabi writes:

Thus no one was entitled to be the vicegerent except the Perfect Man, for God created his outward form out of all the realities and forms of the world, and his inward form on the model of His own form. Nothing, in the world possesses the comprehensiveness that is possessed by the vicegerent. In fact, he has obtained (his vicegerency) only because of his comprehensiveness.

Divine effusion (al-fayd al-uluhi) descends through the divine command “Be!” generating the different levels of existence without causal intermediaries. The descending command emanating from the “Non-delimited Effusion of the Essence (mutlaq al-fayd al-dhati) creates the First Intellect, also called the Pen, then the Tablet, then the Throne, then the Chair, then the Heavens, one after another, then the elements, then the ‘three progeny, minerals, plants, and animals, and finally man, who is colored by all that which passed before him.”

The Muhammadan Reality

Divine manifestation occurs in two grand movements known as the Arc of Ascent and the Arc of Descent. The former describes the movement of manifestation and the latter describes the movement of the Return, alluded to in the verse, “To Him we belong and to Him we shall return” (al-Baqara: 156). Since these two movements are carried out in both the macrocosm and the microcosm, it can be said that the entirety of existence is circular. The universe enters into existence from the degree of Singularity to the point of greatest differentiation of primordial matter and then returns to oneness through the human being’s spiritual ascent. Qunawi states, “The governing properties of existence, realities and the degrees of created things are circular, and the movements of noetic, sensible and other universals and their concomitants are also circular.” Ibn Arabi states further:

There is no divine name that is not between two divine names, for the divine affair is circular. That is why God’s affair in the things is infinite, for a circle has no first and no last, except by way of supposition… The affair occurs [with an inclination towards circularity] because things proceed from God and return to Him. From Him it begins and to Him it goes back… This does not happen in a linear shape, or it would never go back to Him, but it does go back. Hence there is no escape from circularity in both the suprasensory and sensory domains.

The existential circle is, more specifically, a process through which man originates from the state of Non-delimited Effusion of the Essence (mutlaq al-fayd al-dhati) to the physical form of a human. Man’s external existence is the final stage in creation succeeding the plants, animals and minerals; it is the furthest point from the divine Unity and is characterized by extreme multiplicity. It is however, his inner reality that remains divine and thus allows man to journey from existential lowness characterized by multiplicity and composition towards All-Comprehensive Unity (ahadiyat al-jam’a). In al-Fukuk, Qunawi writes,

If man reaches the highest stage of his wayfaring and unites with the Souls and Intellects, and traverses them in their essential states until he reaches the station of “isthmus” {barzakhiya), which is his original station after departing from the utmost extreme of multiplicity and its forms, he will also reach the Unity of this multiplicity, then the barzakhi state…So the one who reaches his original nature, is the one whom ‘We created in the best form (al-Tin: 4), and one who does not is the one whom ‘We brought down to the lowest of the low (al-Tin: 5), for being distant, due to his multiplicity, from his original station of Divine Oneness.

The first point on this circle is known as the singularity of the Muhammadan Reality, also referred to as the Muhammadan Light, and the First Intellect. Ashtiyani mentions that the Essence, with respect to its attribute of real singularity necessitates an entification, sometimes referred to by the people [gnostics] as the first entification and sometimes referred to as the Muhammadan reality. Ibn Arabi explains this further in the final chapter in the Fusus saying,

His is the wisdom of singularity because he is the most perfect existent of this human species, which is why the matter begins with him and ends with him, for he was a prophet while Adam was between clay and water. Then, in his elemental form he became the Seal of the Prophets.

Qaysari writes in his commentary on the Fusus,

It is the wisdom of singularity because of his singularity in the degree of divine comprehensiveness, above which is nothing except the degree of the Singular Essence. This is because it is the locus of the name Allah, which is the greatest, all-comprehensive name amongst all the names and attributes.

The Muhammadan reality is the first point in existence, engendered by the Most Holy Effusion from the divine degree of Singularity. It is, therefore, the locus of the name “Allah,” the all-comprehensive name. Qaysari further explains in his commentary:

The first that came about by the Most Holy Effusion from amongst the entities was his Immutable Archetype and the first thing that came to exist through the Holy Effusion in its outward aspect from amongst the existent things was his sanctified spirit, just as he said, “The first thing that God created was my light.” So he came about through the Singular Essence, the degree of divinity and his Immutable Archetype which was the first singularity.

There is a divine conflict in the external entities since each name is veiled from the other by the name, the Manifest, and requires another name to arbitrate between the entities. The conflict is resolved by the manifestation of the name, the Just, which guides each entity to its perfection and protects it from transgressing on each other. The just arbitrator is the real prophet and the eternal pole of existence that guides and brings all things to their ontological perfection. It is the Muhammadan Reality, who is the true prophet and the lord of the hidden and manifest realms.

Just as each prophet functions as the just arbitrator who guides a nation in a manner appropriate for that time, the Muhammadan Reality is the hidden prophet who guides each individual prophet in his own spiritual development. For this reason the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) stated, “I was a prophet while Adam was between water and clay,” that is, between spirit and body, or noetic form in the Immutable Archetypes and elemental form.

As for the Muhammadan prophethood in the visible realm, which is the manifestation of the Muhammadan Reality and the Supreme Spirit, it is for the sake of guidance and instruction of the creatures, enabling them to attain their individual perfection in accordance with their existential capacities.

In the terminology of the gnostics, both the Perfect Human and the Muhammadan Reality are the complete manifestation of the all-comprehensive name “Allah.” Both represent the totality of the divine attributes and perfections through which the rest of creation is endowed with existence. In one sense the terms are synonymous, both referring to the complete mirror of the divine Being. However, in another sense, the terms describe different aspects of the reality of man. Ibn Arabi points out this difference in ‘Anqa’ Maghribعنقاء مغرب في ختم الأولياء وشمس المغرب: “The spirit attributed to God [in verse 32:8, where it is said that God breathed ‘His Spirit’ into Adam] is the Muhammadan reality.”He continues: “The Muhammadan Reality arises out of the Light of Absolute Plenitude (min al-anwar al-samadiyya) in the dwelling of Singularity.” “The Muhammadan Reality was endowed with existence, and then out of it He drew the Universe.”

The difference between the concepts of the Perfect Human and the Muhammadan Reality is in priority and posteriority, respectively. The former describes man in terms of his primordiality and the latter describes man in terms of his finality.In other words, the Perfect Human refers to man’s origin and potential, while the Muhammadan Reality refers to the actuality of the Perfect Human. The Prophet is the realization of “God created Adam in His form,” and the ontological reality of the Perfect Human.

Lordship of the Muhammadan Reality:

It was mentioned earlier in this chapter that the divine names and attributes have governing properties and manifestations in all the realms. Each name has a dominion and period in which it is efficacious. When its period expires, it becomes subsumed under the governance of another name whose dominion is greater. As for the name “Allah,” since it is the Supreme Name, its governance does not expire and it exerts an effect in all realms and in every period. Since the Muhammadan Reality is the manifestation of the name Allah, its governance also extends in every realm and in every period, and thus possesses lordship over every manifestation. Just as the name Allah acts as lord (rabb) over the rest of the divine names, the Muhammadan Reality acts as lord over the forms of the worlds. The term “lord” refers to the divine name of the Essence that possesses a relationship with creation. The relationship of lordship includes ownership, possession, leadership, bestowal, nurturing, management of affairs and bringing things to their perfection. It is applied to the Muhammadan Reality since its lordship is a shadow of the Lordship of the Essence and its lordship permeates all of existence.

The divine effusion issues forth from the degree of Singularity and extends initially to the Muhammadan Reality, in the terminology of the gnostics, and the First Intellect. All subsequent effusion is from the Muhammadan Reality which possesses absolute lordship over creation. This is on account of its ontological comprehensiveness, since that which is ontologically higher in creation has the responsibility of nurturing that which is lower. Similarly, that which is ontologically lower in creation is subservient to that which is higher in the same way that the mineral kingdom is subservient to the vegetal, the vegetal kingdom is subservient to the animal, and the animal kingdom is subservient to man. But since man is the vicegerent of God, he is ontologically higher than all the kingdoms, including the angels and the Jinn. Within the species of man, the prophets are ontologically higher than the rest of humanity and are commissioned to guide humanity to perfection. Among the prophets, the “possessors of might” (ulu al-‘azm) are ontologically higher than the rest, and Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) is the leader and guide of them all, and therefore, possesses absolute lordship. Qaysari writes that lordship is conceived only with respect to giving everything its due and fulfilling the needs of every creature and requires complete agency and ability. It is for this reason that the Muhammadan Reality must actualize every divine attribute in every realm of existence.

The station of absolute lordship of the Muhammadan Reality is further clarified in Sayyid Haydar Amuli’s discussion of the relationship between the prophethood of Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) and the rest of the prophets:

Every prophet from Adam to Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) is a manifestation of the prophethood of the Supreme Spirit, for its prophethood is essential and eternal and the prophethood of [its] manifestations is accidental and interrupted, except for the prophethood of Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him), for it is eternal and uninterrupted. This is because its reality is the reality of the Supreme Spirit and its form is the form in which it manifests this reality. The rest of the prophets are the manifestations [of the Supreme Spirit] with respect to some of the names and attributes, whereby it self-discloses in each locus of manifestation some of the attributes and names, but it self-discloses in the Muhammadan manifestation its essence with respect to all of its attributes; and prophethood is sealed with him. Thus, the Prophet preceded all the prophets with respect to [his] reality and follows them with respect to [his] form, as he said, “We are the last, the first.”

Qaysari mentions in his Muqaddima that this lordship relates to the aspect of the Muhammadan Reality and not to the aspect of the Prophet’s humanness, since in the latter the Prophet is a servant of God. Therefore, his reality possesses two aspects, the aspect of divinity and that of servitude. The latter is the aspect of contingency, his descent into the phenomenal world and the appearance of his reality in the manifest realm. Those characteristic actions he performed in the manifest world also have spiritual significance, such as weeping because of his separation from the Real, or his heart’s constriction when dealing with the hypocrites. Therefore, his descent into the phenomenal world is his perfection just as his return to his original station. He is the comprehensive isthmus between the phenomenal and spiritual worlds.

The Muhammadan Vicegerency:

As mentioned previously, the Perfect Human is the vicegerent of God who is the epiphany of all the divine names, as mentioned in the verse, “And We taught Adam all the names.” As for the Muhammadan vicegerency, it is necessitated by God for all times because of the need for a vicegerent in both the hidden and manifest realms. Since the vicegerent is one who exercises delegated power on behalf of a Sovereign, he must possess all that the Sovereign Himself possesses, and he becomes, therefore, the pole around which existence revolves. Although each prophet is a vicegerent of God whose vicegerency and governance is in accordance with the manifestation of some of the divine names to the exclusion of others, they are each limited by a specific ontological horizon. Some are manifest prophets such as Ibrahim (peace and blessing be upon him) and some are hidden saints such as Khidr during the time of the manifest prophethood of Musa (peace and blessing be upon him). Khidr was governed by the name the Hidden and Musa by the name the Manifest. The Muhammadan Vicegerency, however, is present in both Musa and Khidr since it governs both Hidden and Manifest realms. Furthermore, its reality is the Supreme Spirit and it is the locus of manifestation of all the divine names.

Thus, when it is said in the Quran, “We do not differentiate between any of the messengers” (al-Baqara: 285), means that each messenger is a manifestation of the Supreme Spirit, which is a single all-encompassing reality. Just as every divine name is ontologically one with every other name, the prophets are ontologically united with the Supreme Spirit. However, just as the names differ with respect to their governing properties, periods, and degrees of inclusiveness, the prophets differ in degree in accordance with the governing properties of the names and the mode of their manifestation in each prophet, as indicated by the Quran, “These are the apostles, some of whom We gave an advantage over others” (al-Baqara: 253). This is why the scripture and code of laws of previous messengers was abrogated whereas the Quran and the Islamic Law shall remain in effect until the end of time.

Thus, the circle of prophethood begins with the Muhammadan Reality that is present with each prophet in every period and ends with the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) himself. The former is the hidden Muhammadan prophethood and the latter is the manifest Muhammadan prophethood. After the circle of prophethood is complete, there only remains spiritual guardianship (al-wilaya) or sainthood, which also must terminate before the Greater Resurrection.

Spiritual Guardianship (wilaya)

The guardianship that follows prophethood is an extension of the guardianship that is contained within prophethood. Indeed, it is the inner aspect and the reality of prophethood.

Lexically, wilaya, derived from the Arabic root letters wow, lam, andya, means to be near, close, to follow, to border, to have a relationship from two sides, and to befriend. Other derivatives include mutawali, which means something that follows something else, as in a chain, or events following each other. The word tali is used in contrast with muqaddam, which links two events that follow each other. The word wall, is in the form of fat but denotes the active participle (fail); it means one who possesses authority over something else and manages it, or one who displays love and support, that is, one who is a caretaker of another by virtue of the love that exists for the other.Thus, the basic lexical meaning of the root and its derivates indicates that the spiritual guardianship possesses a relationship with something else in succession, in the way that a father exerts guardianship over a child, a believer exerts guardianship over another, or in the way God possesses guardianship over the believers. God exerts wilaya over the believers in three aspects, by guiding them, by demonstrating His proofs through the prophets and revealed scriptures, by supporting them against their enemies and establishing His religion, and by rewarding them for their righteous actions.

As for the technical usage of the word wilaya with the kasra on the wow, it means authority, and walaya with the fatha on the wow means love or friendship.243 Thus, the former is connected to guardianship, in the sense of protection, management of affairs, and authority and superiority. Wilaya is the chain of authority extending from God’s own authority, as mentioned in the Quran, “Originator of the heavens and earth, You are my wali in the world and the hereafter.” Furthermore, this authority extends to the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him): “Indeed, your wali is Allah, and the Messenger, and those who are the ‘possessors of authority.’” This is the same authority that was given to Imam Ali on the Day of Ghadir when the Prophet said, “Do I not hold greater authority over you than your own souls? Then, whosoever considered me his master (mawla), ‘Ali is his master.” When the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) reminds the people of his own authority before delegating that authority to Imam Ali, he emphasizes the interconnectedness of the station of wilaya. The authority that the Prophet possesses directly from God, as mentioned in the Quran, is the very same authority he confers to his successor. Some commentators on the hadith of Ghadir have claimed that the meaning of waif in “Whosoever considers me his mawla, ‘Ali is his mawla,” is of love or friendship, and not authority. However, Muntaziri writes,

The wilaya the prophet established for ‘Ali is the very same wilaya he possessed himself, which is of authority, as mentioned in the verse. It is for this reason he began his speech proclaiming three times “Do I not hold greater authority (awla) over you than your own souls??” The apparent usage of the word mawla is the same in both sentences.

Although the meaning of wilaya includes friendship and love, the Shit theologians base their view of Imamate on the above interpretation of wilaya, which is an important cornerstone in the elaboration of Shi’ism.

Wilaya in the Terminology of the Gnostics:

As mentioned in the Quran, Wall is one of the divine names, and in the terminology of the gnostics, “It is a universal reality of the divine Essence, the source of manifestation and the origin of entification. Indeed, it describes the Essence and is the source for the entification of the divine names and attributes. And Allah is the Wali and Praiseworthy.’” Ibn Arabi elaborates this definition as follows:

Know that wilaya is the sphere which encompasses all other spheres, and for this reason it has no end in time…. On the other hand, legislative prophethood (nubuwwa) and the mission of the messengers (risala) do have an end which they have reached in the person of Muhammad, since after him there is neither any other prophet—meaning a prophet who brings a revealed Law or submits himself to a previously revealed Law—nor any other legislating messenger.

Qaysari mentions that there are two types of wilaya, the general and the specific. General wilaya is obtained by the believers and is commensurate with one’s level of faith. Those whose states of unveiling correspond to reality have the highest faith, whereas those whose faith is based on rational deduction and proofs have an intermediate level, and those whose faith is based on imitation of the veracious are at the lowest level. Nonetheless, God says in the Quran, “Allah is the wall of the believers; He takes them out of the darkness into light.”

The second type of wilaya is specific to the wayfarers who have arrived at the station of subsistence after their annihilation in the Real. The annihilation that precedes the station of subsistence is the removal of the attributes of contingency and does not refer to absolute non-being. Subsistence after annihilation is through the existential acquisition of divine attributes, as in the hadith, “Adorn yourselves with the divine attributes.” As mentioned earlier, this annihilation is not only noetic but existential as well, since there is an actual transformation in the visible aspect of the wayfarer due to the overpowering effect of his spirit. Qaysari illustrates this point with the analogy of a piece of coal that is adjacent to a fire. Initially coal is different from fire in all of its properties. However, its inherent receptivity for acquiring the properties of fire in addition to proximity to the fire itself brings about a complete transformation of the outer form of the coal. Were it not for the aspect of inherent similarity between the essence of the coal and the essence of the fire, it would not have been able to transform itself completely. Similarly, the wayfarer possesses an aspect of separation and an aspect of unity between himself and God. It is when he orients himself completely to the divine presence, thereby gaining proximity to the Real, that he acquires the properties of divinity and sheds the properties of contingency. Thus, the aspect of separation and individuation no longer remains.

Qaysari writes that annihilation of the absolute wall is because of the orientation to the Real due to essential love.  Mulla Hadi Sabzawari also expresses a parallel notion in Sha’h al-asma describing the two types of wayfarers.  Just as there are two types of wilaya, there are two types of wayfaring, that which is initiated by the Beloved, and that which is initiated by the lovers.  The first type is one in which the wayfarer attains God such that he arrives without effort, struggle, discipline, piety, or guidance of a master.  It is sheer divine providence and essential primordial guidance alluded to by the Quran in the verse, ‘Those to whom there has gone beforehand the best reward from Us’ (Anbiya’: 101).  The second type of wayfaring is that in which attainment of God is based on personal effort, struggle, discipline, abstention, piety, and the guidance of a master, alluded to by the verse, ‘As for those who strive in Us, We shall surely guide them in Our ways’ (Ankabut: 69).  As for the first category of wayfarers, it consists of the lovers among the prophets, saints and their followers who are distinguished by their primordial truthfulness and complete sincerity.  Their attainment of God is without effort and cause; rather it is the result of complete divine bestowal, succor and the Essential Will before the creation of the world and everything within it, as referred to by the verse, ‘Their Lord will give them to drink, a pure drink.’  Imam Ali further describes those saints in his statement:

‘Verily God Almighty has a wine for His friends (awliya), so that when they drink it, they become intoxicated; when they become intoxicated, they delight; when they delight, they melt away; when they melt away, they become pure; when they become pure, they seek; when they seek, they find; when they find, they attain; when they attain they unite, so when they unite, there remains no difference between them and their Beloved.’

The first type of wayfarers are the prophets and divinely appointed saints (awliya’), who possess a primordial nearness to God based on their essential ontological capacity, and who are the individuations of the absolute wilaya of God.  In Shi’ism, the divinely appointed saints are the twelve Imams who possess infallibility and are the inheritors of the absolute wilaya of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him).  This is because absolute wilaya is the inner aspect and the reality of prophethood which extends through these individuals until it reaches the Twelfth Imam, the Master of the Age.  Wilaya is more comprehensive than prophethood since it includes both prophets and saints and is a manifestation of the divine name al-Wali.”      Ibn al-Arabi, “Being and That It Is Real;” Chapter One of Pearls of Wisdom, circa 1210.  

"S&g1" by User:Kosmopolitat -
“S&g1” by User:Kosmopolitat –

Numero DosLETTER I.My Dear Friend,

employed the compelled and most unwelcome leisure of severe indisposition in reading The Confessions of a Fair Saint in Mr. Carlyle’s recent translation of the Wilhelm Meister, which might, I think, have been better rendered literally The Confessions of a Beautiful Soul.  This, acting in conjunction with the concluding sentences of your letter, threw my thoughts inward on my own religious experience, and gave immediate occasion to the following Confessions of one who is neither fair nor saintly, but who, groaning under a deep sense of infirmity and manifold imperfection, feels the want, the necessity, of religious support; who cannot afford to lose any the smallest buttress, but who not only loves Truth even for itself, and when it reveals itself aloof from all interest, but who loves it with an indescribable awe, which too often withdraws the genial sap of his activity from the columnar trunk, the sheltering leaves, the bright and fragrant flower, and the foodful or medicinal fruitage, to the deep root, ramifying in obscurity and labyrinthine way-winning—

In darkness there to house unknown,
Far underground,
Pierced by no sound
Save such as live in Fancy’s ear alone,
That listens for the uptorn mandrake’s parting groan!

I should, perhaps, be a happier—at all events a more useful—man if my mind were otherwise constituted.  But so it is, and even with regard to Christianity itself, like certain plants, I creep towards the light, even though it draw me away from the more nourishing warmth.  Yea, I should do so, even if the light had made its way through a rent in the wall of the Temple.  Glad, indeed, and grateful am I, that not in the Temple itself, but only in one or two of the side chapels, not essential to the edifice, and probably not coëval with it, have I found the light absent, and that the rent in the wall has but admitted the free light of the Temple itself.

I shall best communicate the state of my faith by taking the creed, or system of credenda, common to all the Fathers of the Reformation—overlooking, as non-essential, the differences between the several Reformed Churches, according to the five main classes or sections into which the aggregate distributes itself to my apprehension.  I have then only to state the effect produced on my mind by each of these, or the quantum of recipiency and coincidence in myself relatively thereto, in order to complete my Confession of Faith.

I.  The Absolute; the innominable Αὑτοπάτωρ et Causa Sui, in whose transcendent I Am, as the Ground, is whatever verily is:—the Triune God, by whose Word and Spirit, as the transcendent Cause, exists whatever substantially exists:—God Almighty—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, undivided, unconfounded, co-eternal.  This class I designate by the word Στάσις.

II.  The Eternal Possibilities; the actuality of which hath not its origin in God: Chaos spirituale:—’Απόστασις.

III.  The Creation and Formation of the heaven and earth by the Redemptive Word:—the Apostasy of Man:—the Redemption of Man:—the Incarnation of the Word in the Son of Man:—the Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Son of Man:—the Descent of the Comforter:—Repentance (μετάνοια):—Regeneration:—Faith:—Prayer:—Grace—Communion with the Spirit:—Conflict:—Self-abasement:—Assurance through the righteousness of Christ:—Spiritual Growth:—Love:—Discipline:—Perseverance:—Hope in death:—Μετάστασις—’Ανάστασις.

IV.  But these offers, gifts, and graces are not for one, or for a few.  They are offered to all.  Even when the Gospel is preached to a single individual it is offered to him as to one of a great household.  Not only man, but, says St. Paul, the whole creation is included in the consequences of the Fall—τῆς ἀποστάσεως—so also in those of the change at the Redemption—τῆς μεταστάσεως, καὶ τῆς ἀναστάσεως.  We too shall be raised in the Body.  Christianity is fact no less than truth.  It is spiritual, yet so as to be historical; and between these two poles there must likewise be a midpoint, in which the historical and spiritual meet.  Christianity must have its history—a history of itself and likewise the history of its introduction, its spread, and its outward-becoming; and, as the midpoint abovementioned, a portion of these facts must be miraculous, that is, phenomena in nature that are beyond nature.  Furthermore, the history of all historical nations must in some sense be its history—in other words, all history must be providential, and this a providence, a preparation, and a looking forward to Christ.

Here, then, we have four out of the five classes.  And in all these the sky of my belief is serene, unclouded by a doubt.  Would to God that my faith, that faith which works on the whole man, confirming and conforming, were but in just proportion to my belief, to the full acquiescence of my intellect, and the deep consent of my conscience!  The very difficulties argue the truth of the whole scheme and system for my understanding, since I see plainly that so must the truth appear, if it be the truth.

V.  But there is a Book of two parts, each part consisting of several books.  The first part (I speak in the character of an uninterested critic or philologist) contains the relics of the literature of the Hebrew people, while the Hebrew was still the living language.  The second part comprises the writings, and, with one or two inconsiderable and doubtful exceptions, all the writings of the followers of Christ within the space of ninety years from the date of the Resurrection.  I do not myself think that any of these writings were composed as late as A.D. 120; but I wish to preclude all dispute.  This Book I resume as read, and yet unread—read and familiar to my mind in all parts, but which is yet to be perused as a whole, or rather a work, cujus particulas et sententiolas omnes et singulas recogniturus sum, but the component integers of which, and their conspiration, I have yet to study.  I take up this work with the purpose to read it for the first time as I should read any other work, as far at least as I can or dare.  For I neither can, nor dare, throw off a strong and awful prepossession in its favour—certain as I am that a large part of the light and life, in and by which I see, love, and embrace the truths and the strengths co-organised into a living body of faith and knowledge in the four preceding classes, has been directly or indirectly derived to me from this sacred volume—and unable to determine what I do not owe to its influences.  But even on this account, and because it has these inalienable claims on my reverence and gratitude, I will not leave it in the power of unbelievers to say that the Bible is for me only what the Koran is for the deaf Turk, and the Vedas for the feeble and acquiescent Hindoo.  No; I will retire up into the mountain, and hold secret commune with my Bible above the contagious blastments of prejudice, and the fog-blight of selfish superstition.  For fear hath torment.  And what though my reason be to the power and splendour of the Scriptures but as the reflected and secondary shine of the moon compared with the solar radiance; yet the sun endures the occasional co-presence of the unsteady orb, and leaving it visible seems to sanction the comparison.  There is a Light higher than all, even the Word that was in the beginning; the Light, of which light itself is but the shechinah and cloudy tabernacle; the Word that is Light for every man, and life for as many as give heed to it.  If between this Word and the written letter I shall anywhere seem to myself to find a discrepance, I will not conclude that such there actually is, nor on the other hand will I fall under the condemnation of them that would lie for God, but seek as I may, be thankful for what I have—and wait.

With such purposes, with such feelings, have I perused the books of the Old and New Testaments, each book as a whole, and also as an integral part.  And need I say that I have met everywhere more or less copious sources of truth, and power, and purifying impulses, that I have found words for my inmost thoughts, songs for my joy, utterances for my hidden griefs, and pleadings for my shame and my feebleness?  In short, whatever finds me, bears witness for itself that it has proceeded from a Holy Spirit, even from the same Spirit, which remaining in itselfyet regenerateth all other powersand in all ages entering into holy soulsmaketh them friends of Godand prophets.  (Wisd. vii.)  And here, perhaps, I might have been content to rest, if I had not learned that, as a Christian, I cannot, must not, stand alone; or if I had not known that more than this was holden and required by the Fathers of the Reformation, and by the Churches collectively, since the Council of Nice at latest, the only exceptions being that doubtful one of the corrupt Romish Church implied, though not avowed, in its equalisation of the Apocryphal Books with those of the Hebrew Canon, and the irrelevant one of the few and obscure sects who acknowledge no historical Christianity.  This somewhat more, in which Jerome, Augustine, Luther, and Hooker were of one and the same judgment, and less than which not one of them would have tolerated—would it fall within the scope of my present doubts and objections?  I hope it would not.  Let only their general expressions be interpreted by their treatment of the Scriptures in detail, and I dare confidently trust that it would not.  For I can no more reconcile the doctrine which startles my belief with the practice and particular declarations of these great men, than with the convictions of my own understanding and conscience.  At all events—and I cannot too early or too earnestly guard against any misapprehension of my meaning and purpose—let it be distinctly understood that my arguments and objections apply exclusively to the following doctrine or dogma.  To the opinions which individual divines have advanced in lieu of this doctrine, my only objection, as far as I object, is—that I do not understand them.  The precise enunciation of this doctrine I defer to the commencement of the next Letter.



My Dear Friend,

In my last Letter I said that in the Bible there is more that finds me than I have experienced in all other books put together; that the words of the Bible find me at greater depths of my being; and that whatever finds me brings with it an irresistible evidence of its having proceeded from the Holy Spirit.  But the doctrine in question requires me to believe that not only what finds me, but that all that exists in the sacred volume, and which I am bound to find therein, was—not alone inspired by, that is composed by, men under the actuating influence of the Holy Spirit, but likewise—dictated by an Infallible Intelligence; that the writers, each and all, were divinely informed as well as inspired.  Now here all evasion, all excuse, is cut off.  An infallible intelligence extends to all things, physical no less than spiritual.  It may convey the truth in any one of the three possible languages—that of sense, as objects appear to the beholder on this earth; or that of science, which supposes the beholder placed in the centre; or that of philosophy, which resolves both into a supersensual reality.  But whichever be chosen—and it is obvious that the incompatibility exists only between the first and second, both of them being indifferent and of equal value to the third—it must be employed consistently; for an infallible intelligence must intend to be intelligible, and not to deceive.  And, moreover, whichever of these three languages be chosen, it must be translatable into truth.  For this is the very essence of the doctrine, that one and the same intelligence is speaking in the unity of a person; which unity is no more broken by the diversity of the pipes through which it makes itself audible, than is a tune by the different instruments on which it is played by a consummate musician, equally perfect in all.  One instrument may be more capacious than another, but as far as its compass extends, and in what it sounds forth, it will be true to the conception of the master.  I can conceive no softening here which would not nullify the doctrine, and convert it to a cloud for each man’s fancy to shift and shape at will.  And this doctrine, I confess, plants the vineyard of the Word with thorns for me, and places snares in its pathways.  These may be delusions of an evil spirit; but ere I so harshly question the seeming angel of light—my reason, I mean, and moral sense in conjunction with my clearest knowledge—I must inquire on what authority this doctrine rests.  And what other authority dares a truly catholic Christian admit as coercive in the final decision, but the declarations of the Book itself—though I should not, without struggles, and a trembling reluctance, gainsay even a universal tradition?

I return to the Book.  With a full persuasion of soul respecting all the articles of the Christian Faith, as contained in the first four classes, I receive willingly also the truth of the history, namely, that the Word of the Lord did come to Samuel, to Isaiah, to others; and that the words which gave utterance to the same are faithfully recorded.  But though the origin of the words, even as of the miraculous acts, be supernatural, yet the former once uttered, the latter once having taken their place among the phenomena of the senses, the faithful recording of the same does not of itself imply, or seem to require, any supernatural working, other than as all truth and goodness are such.  In the books of Moses, and once or twice in the prophecy of Jeremiah, I find it indeed asserted that not only the words were given, but the recording of the same enjoined by the special command of God, and doubtless executed under the special guidance of the Divine Spirit.  As to all such passages, therefore, there can be no dispute; and all others in which the words are by the sacred historian declared to have been the Word of the Lord supernaturally communicated, I receive as such with a degree of confidence proportioned to the confidence required of me by the writer himself, and to the claims he himself makes on my belief.

Let us, therefore, remove all such passages, and take each book by itself; and I repeat that I believe the writer in whatever he himself relates of his own authority, and of its origin.  But I cannot find any such claim, as the doctrine in question supposes, made by these writers, explicitly or by implication.  On the contrary, they refer to other documents, and in all points express themselves as sober-minded and veracious writers under ordinary circumstances are known to do.  But perhaps they bear testimony, the successor to his predecessor?  Or some one of the number has left it on record, that by special inspiration he was commanded to declare the plenary inspiration of all the rest?  The passages which can without violence be appealed to as substantiating the latter position are so few, and these so incidental—the conclusion drawn from them involving likewise so obviously a petitio principii, namely, the supernatural dictation, word by word, of the book in which the question is found (for, until this is established, the utmost that such a text can prove is the current belief of the writer’s age and country concerning the character of the books then called the Scriptures)—that it cannot but seem strange, and assuredly is against all analogy of Gospel revelation, that such a doctrine—which, if true, must be an article of faith, and a most important, yea, essential article of faith—should be left thus faintly, thus obscurely, and, if I may so say, obitaneously, declared and enjoined.  The time of the formation and closing of the Canon unknown;—the selectors and compilers unknown, or recorded by known fabulists;—and (more perplexing still) the belief of the Jewish Church—the belief, I mean, common to the Jews of Palestine and their more cultivated brethren in Alexandria (no reprehension of which is to be found in the New Testament)—concerning the nature and import of the θεοπνευστία attributed to the precious remains of their Temple Library;—these circumstances are such, especially the last, as in effect to evacuate the tenet, of which I am speaking, of the only meaning in which it practically means anything at all tangible, steadfast, or obligatory.  In infallibility there are no degrees.  The power of the High and Holy One is one and the same, whether the sphere which it fills be larger or smaller;—the area traversed by a comet, or the oracle of the house, the holy place beneath the wings of the cherubim;—the Pentateuch of the Legislator, who drew near to the thick darkness where God was, and who spake in the cloud whence the thunderings and lightnings came, and whom God answered by a voice; or but a letter of thirteen verses from the affectionate Elder to the elect lady and her childrenwhom he loved in the truth.  But at no period was this the judgment of the Jewish Church respecting all the canonical books.  To Moses alone—to Moses in the recording no less than in the receiving of the Law—and to all and every part of the five books called the Books of Moses, the Jewish doctors of the generation before, and coëval with, the apostles, assigned that unmodified and absolute theopneusty which our divines, in words at least, attribute to the Canon collectively.  In fact it was from the Jewish Rabbis—who, in opposition to the Christian scheme, contended for a perfection in the revelation by Moses, which neither required nor endured any addition, and who strained their fancies in expressing the transcendency of the books of Moses, in aid of their opinion—that the founders of the doctrine borrowed their notions and phrases respecting the Bible throughout.  Remove the metaphorical drapery from the doctrine of the Cabbalists, and it will be found to contain the only intelligible and consistent idea of that plenary inspiration, which later divines extend to all the canonical books; as thus:—“The Pentateuch is but one Word, even the Word of God; and the letters and articulate sounds, by which this Word is communicated to our human apprehensions, are likewise divinely communicated.”

Now, for ‘Pentateuch’ substitute ‘Old and New Testament,’ and then I say that this is the doctrine which I reject as superstitious and unscriptural.  And yet as long as the conceptions of the revealing Word and the inspiring Spirit are identified and confounded, I assert that whatever says less than this, says little more than nothing.  For how can absolute infallibility be blended with fallibility?  Where is the infallible criterion?  How can infallible truth be infallibly conveyed in defective and fallible expressions?  The Jewish teachers confined this miraculous character to the Pentateuch.  Between the Mosaic and the Prophetic inspiration they asserted such a difference as amounts to a diversity; and between both the one and the other, and the remaining books comprised under the tithe of Hagiographa, the interval was still wider, and the inferiority in kind, and not only in degree, was unequivocally expressed.  If we take into account the habit, universal with the Hebrew doctors, of referring all excellent or extraordinary things to the great First Cause, without mention of the proximate and instrumental causes—a striking illustration of which may be obtained by comparing the narratives of the same event in the Psalms and in the historical books; and if we further reflect that the distinction of the providential and the miraculous did not enter into their forms of thinking—at all events not into their mode of conveying their thoughts—the language of the Jews respecting the Hagiographa will be found to differ little, if at all, from that of religious persons among ourselves, when speaking of an author abounding in gifts, stirred up by the Holy Spirit, writing under the influence of special grace, and the like.

But it forms no part of my present purpose to discuss the point historically, or to speculate on the formation of either Canon.  Rather, such inquiries are altogether alien from the great object of my pursuits and studies, which is to convince myself and others that the Bible and Christianity are their own sufficient evidence.  But it concerns both my character and my peace of mind to satisfy unprejudiced judges that if my present convictions should in all other respects be found consistent with the faith and feelings of a Christian—and if in many and those important points they tend to secure that faith and to deepen those feelings—the words of the Apostle, rightly interpreted, do not require their condemnation.  Enough, if what has been stated above respecting the general doctrine of the Hebrew masters, under whom the Apostle was bred, shall remove any misconceptions that might prevent the right interpretation of his words.



My Dear Friend,

Having in the former two Letters defined the doctrine which I reject, I am now to communicate the views that I would propose to substitute in its place.

Before, however, I attempt to lay down on the theological chart the road-place to which my bark has drifted, and to mark the spot and circumscribe the space within which I swing at anchor, let me first thank you for, and then attempt to answer, the objections—or at least the questions—which you have urged upon me.

“The present Bible is the Canon to which Christ and the Apostles referred?”


“And in terms which a Christian must tremble to tamper with?”

Yea.  The expressions are as direct as strong; and a true believer will neither attempt to divert nor dilute their strength.

“The doctrine which is considered as the orthodox view seems the obvious and most natural interpretation of the text in question?”

Yea, and nay.  To those whose minds are prepossessed by the doctrine itself—who from earliest childhood have always meant this doctrine by the very word Bible—the doctrine being but its exposition and paraphrase—Yea.  In such minds the words of our Lord and the declarations of St. Paul can awaken no other sense.  To those on the other hand who find the doctrine senseless and self-confuting, and who take up the Bible as they do other books, and apply to it the same rules of interpretation—Nay.

And, lastly, he who, like myself, recognises in neither of the two the state of his own mind—who cannot rest in the former, and feels, or fears, a presumptuous spirit in the negative dogmatism of the latter—he has his answer to seek.  But so far I dare hazard a reply to the question—In what other sense can the words be interpreted?—beseeching you, however, to take what I am about to offer but as an attempt to delineate an arc of oscillation—that the eulogy of St. Paul is in nowise contravened by the opinion to which I incline, who fully believe the Old Testament collectively, both in the composition and in its preservation, a great and precious gift of Providence;—who find in it all that the Apostle describes, and who more than believe that all which the Apostle spoke of was of Divine inspiration, and a blessing intended for as many as are in communion with the Spirit through all ages.  And I freely confess that my whole heart would turn away with an angry impatience from the cold and captious mortal who, the moment I had been pouring out the love and gladness of my soul—while book after book, law, and truth, and example, oracle, and lovely hymn, and choral song of ten thousand thousands, and accepted prayers of saints and prophets, sent back, as it were, from heaven, like doves, to be let loose again with a new freight of spiritual joys and griefs and necessities, were passing across my memory—at the first pause of my voice, and whilst my countenance was still speaking—should ask me whether I was thinking of the Book of Esther, or meant particularly to include the first six chapters of Daniel, or verses 6–20 of the 109th Psalm, or the last verse of the 137th Psalm?  Would any conclusion of this sort be drawn in any other analogous case?  In the course of my lectures on Dramatic Poetry, I, in half a score instances, referred my auditors to the precious volume before me—Shakespeare—and spoke enthusiastically, both in general and with detail of particular beauties, of the plays of Shakespeare, as in all their kinds, and in relation to the purposes of the writer, excellent.  Would it have been fair, or according to the common usage and understanding of men, to have inferred an intention on my part to decide the question respecting Titus Andronicus, or the larger portion of the three parts of Henry VI.?  Would not every genial mind understand by Shakespeare that unity or total impression comprising and resulting from the thousandfold several and particular emotions of delight, admiration, gratitude excited by his works?  But if it be answered, “Aye! but we must not interpret St. Paul as we may and should interpret any other honest and intelligent writer or speaker,”—then, I say, this is the very petitio principii of which I complain.

Still less do the words of our Lord apply against my view.  Have I not declared—do I not begin by declaring—that whatever is referred by the sacred penman to a direct communication from God, and wherever it is recorded that the subject of the history had asserted himself to have received this or that command, this or that information or assurance, from a superhuman Intelligence, or where the writer in his own person, and in the character of an historian, relates that the word of the Lord came unto priest, prophet, chieftain, or other individual—have I not declared that I receive the same with full belief, and admit its inappellable authority?  Who more convinced than I am—who more anxious to impress that conviction on the minds of others—that the Law and the Prophets speak throughout of Christ?  That all the intermediate applications and realisations of the words are but types and repetitions—translations, as it were, from the language of letters and articulate sounds into the language of events and symbolical persons?

And here again let me recur to the aid of analogy.  Suppose a life of Sir Thomas More by his son-in-law, or a life of Lord Bacon by his chaplain; that a part of the records of the Court of Chancery belonging to these periods were lost; that in Roper’s or in Rawley’s biographical work there were preserved a series of dicta and judgments attributed to these illustrious Chancellors, many and important specimens of their table discourses, with large extracts from works written by them, and from some that are no longer extant.  Let it be supposed, too, that there are no grounds, internal or external, to doubt either the moral, intellectual, or circumstantial competence of the biographers.  Suppose, moreover, that wherever the opportunity existed of collating their documents and quotations with the records and works still preserved, the former were found substantially correct and faithful, the few differences in nowise altering or disturbing the spirit and purpose of the paragraphs in which they were found; and that of what was not collatable, and to which no test ab extra could be applied, the far larger part bore witness in itself of the same spirit and origin; and that not only by its characteristic features, but by its surpassing excellence, it rendered the chances of its having had any other author than the giant-mind, to whom the biographer ascribes it, small indeed!  Now, from the nature and objects of my pursuits, I have, we will suppose, frequent occasion to refer to one or other of these works; for example, to Rawley’s Dicta et Facta Francisci de Verulam.  At one time I might refer to the work in some such words as—“Remember what Francis of Verulam said or judged;” or, “If you believe not me, yet believe Lord Bacon.”  At another time I might take the running title of the volume, and at another the name of the biographer;—“Turn to your Rawley!  He will set you right;” or, “There you will find a depth which no research will ever exhaust;” or whatever other strong expression my sense of Bacon’s greatness and of the intrinsic worth and the value of the proofs and specimens of that greatness, contained and preserved in that volume, would excite and justify.  But let my expressions be as vivid and unqualified as the most sanguine temperament ever inspired, would any man of sense conclude from them that I meant—and meant to make others believe—that not only each and all of these anecdotes, adages, decisions, extracts, incidents, had been dictated, word by word, by Lord Bacon; and that all Rawley’s own observations and inferences, all the connectives and disjunctives, all the recollections of time, place, and circumstance, together with the order and succession of the narrative, were in like manner dictated and revised by the spirit of the deceased Chancellor?  The answer will be—must be—No man in his senses!  “No man in his senses—in this instance; but in that of the Bible it is quite otherwise; for (I take it as an admitted point that) it is quite otherwise!”

And here I renounce any advantage I might obtain for my argument by restricting the application of our Lord’s and the Apostle’s words to the Hebrew Canon.  I admit the justice—I have long felt the full force—of the remark—“We have all that the occasion allowed.”  And if the same awful authority does not apply so directly to the Evangelical and Apostolical writings as to the Hebrew Canon, yet the analogy of faith justifies the transfer.  If the doctrine be less decisively Scriptural in its application to the New Testament or the Christian Canon, the temptation to doubt it is likewise less.  So at least we are led to infer; since in point of fact it is the apparent or imagined contrast, the diversity of spirit which sundry individuals have believed themselves to find in the Old Testament and in the Gospel, that has given occasion to the doubt;—and, in the heart of thousands who yield a faith of acquiescence to the contrary, and find rest in their humility—supplies fuel to a fearful wish that it were permitted to make a distinction.

But, lastly, you object that—even granting that no coercive, positive reasons for the belief—no direct and not inferred assertions—of the plenary inspiration of the Old and New Testament, in the generally received import of the term, could be adduced, yet—in behalf of a doctrine so catholic, and during so long a succession of ages affirmed and acted on by Jew and Christian, Greek, Romish, and Protestant, you need no other answer than:—“Tell me, first, why it should not be received!  Why should I not believe the Scriptures throughout dictated, in word and thought, by an infallible Intelligence?”  I admit the fairness of the retort; and eagerly and earnestly do I answer: For every reason that makes me prize and revere these Scriptures;—prize them, love them, revere them, beyond all other books!  Why should I not?  Because the doctrine in question petrifies at once the whole body of Holy Writ with all its harmonies and symmetrical gradations—the flexile and the rigid—the supporting hard and the clothing soft—the blood which is the life—the intelligencing nerves, and the rudely woven, but soft and springy, cellular substance, in which all are imbedded and lightly bound together.  This breathing organism, this glorious panharmonicon which I had seen stand on its feet as a man, and with a man’s voice given to it, the doctrine in question turns at once into a colossal Memnon’s head, a hollow passage for a voice, a voice that mocks the voices of many men, and speaks in their names, and yet is but one voice, and the same; and no man uttered it, and never in a human heart was it conceived.  Why should I not?—Because the doctrine evacuates of all sense and efficacy the sure and constant tradition, that all the several books bound up together in our precious family Bible were composed in different and widely-distant ages, under the greatest diversity of circumstances, and degrees of light and information, and yet that the composers, whether as uttering or as recording what was uttered and what was done, were all actuated by a pure and holy Spirit, one and the same—(for is there any spirit pure and holy, and yet not proceeding from God—and yet not proceeding in and with the Holy Spirit?)—one Spirit, working diversely, now awakening strength, and now glorifying itself in weakness, now giving power and direction to knowledge, and now taking away the sting from error!  Ere the summer and the months of ripening had arrived for the heart of the race; while the whole sap of the tree was crude, and each and every fruit lived in the harsh and bitter principle; even then this Spirit withdrew its chosen ministers from the false and guilt-making centre of Self.  It converted the wrath into a form and an organ of love, and on the passing storm-cloud impressed the fair rainbow of promise to all generations.  Put the lust of Self in the forked lightning, and would it not be a Spirit of Moloch?  But God maketh the lightnings His ministers, fire and hail, vapours and stormy winds fulfilling His word.

Curse ye Merozsaid the angel of the Lordcurse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof—sang Deborah.  Was it that she called to mind any personal wrongs—rapine or insult—that she or the house of Lapidoth had received from Jabin or Sisera?  No; she had dwelt under her palm tree in the depth of the mountain.  But she was a mother in Israel; and with a mother’s heart, and with the vehemency of a mother’s and a patriot’s love, she had shot the light of love from her eyes, and poured the blessings of love from her lips, on the people that had jeoparded their lives unto the death against the oppressors; and the bitterness, awakened and borne aloft by the same love, she precipitated in curses on the selfish and coward recreants who came not to the help of the Lordto the help of the Lordagainst the mighty.  As long as I have the image of Deborah before my eyes, and while I throw myself back into the age, country, circumstances, of this Hebrew Bonduca in the not yet tamed chaos of the spiritual creation;—as long as I contemplate the impassioned, high-souled, heroic woman in all the prominence and individuality of will and character,—I feel as if I were among the first ferments of the great affections—the proplastic waves of the microcosmic chaos, swelling up against—and yet towards—the outspread wings of the dove that lies brooding on the troubled waters.  So long all is well,—all replete with instruction and example.  In the fierce and inordinate I am made to know and be grateful for the clearer and purer radiance which shines on a Christian’s paths, neither blunted by the preparatory veil, nor crimsoned in its struggle through the all-enwrapping mist of the world’s ignorance: whilst in the self-oblivion of these heroes of the Old Testament, their elevation above all low and individual interests,—above all, in the entire and vehement devotion of their total being to the service of their divine Master, I find a lesson of humility, a ground of humiliation, and a shaming, yet rousing, example of faith and fealty.  But let me once be persuaded that all these heart-awakening utterances of human hearts—of men of like faculties and passions with myself, mourning, rejoicing, suffering, triumphing—are but as a Divina Commedia of a superhuman—O bear with me, if I say—Ventriloquist;—that the royal harper, to whom I have so often submitted myself as a many-stringed instrument for his fire-tipt fingers to traverse, while every several nerve of emotion, passion, thought, that thrids the flesh-and-blood of our common humanity, responded to the touch,—that this sweet Psalmist of Israel was himself as mere an instrument as his harp, an automaton poet, mourner, and supplicant;—all is gone,—all sympathy, at least, and all example.  I listen in awe and fear, but likewise in perplexity and confusion of spirit.

Yet one other instance, and let this be the crucial test of the doctrine.  Say that the Book of Job throughout was dictated by an infallible intelligence.  Then re-peruse the book, and still, as you proceed, try to apply the tenet; try if you can even attach any sense or semblance of meaning to the speeches which you are reading.  What! were the hollow truisms, the unsufficing half-truths, the false assumptions and malignant insinuations of the supercilious bigots, who corruptly defended the truth:—were the impressive facts, the piercing outcries, the pathetic appeals, and the close and powerful reasoning with which the poor sufferer—smarting at once from his wounds, and from the oil of vitriol which the orthodox liars for God were dropping into them—impatiently, but uprightly and holily, controverted this truth, while in will and in spirit he clung to it;—were both dictated by an infallible intelligence?—Alas! if I may judge from the manner in which both indiscriminately are recited, quoted, appealed to, preached upon by the routiniers of desk and pulpit, I cannot doubt that they think so—or rather, without thinking, take for granted that so they are to think;—the more readily, perhaps, because the so thinking supersedes the necessity of all afterthought.



My Dear Friend,

You reply to the conclusion of my Letter: “What have we to do with routiniers?  Quid mihi cum homunculis putata putide reputantibus?  Let nothings count for nothing, and the dead bury the dead!  Who but such ever understood the tenet in this sense?”

In what sense then, I rejoin, do others understand it?  If, with exception of the passages already excepted, namely, the recorded words of God—concerning which no Christian can have doubt or scruple,—the tenet in this sense be inapplicable to the Scripture, destructive of its noblest purposes, and contradictory to its own express declarations,—again and again I ask:—What am I to substitute?  What other sense is conceivable that does not destroy the doctrine which it professes to interpret—that does not convert it into its own negative?  As if a geometrician should name a sugar-loaf an ellipse, adding—“By which term I here mean a cone;”—and then justify the misnomer on the pretext that the ellipse is among the conic sections!  And yet—notwithstanding the repugnancy of the doctrine, in its unqualified sense, to Scripture, Reason, and Common Sense theoretically, while to all practical uses it is intractable, unmalleable, and altogether unprofitable—notwithstanding its irrationality, and in the face of your expostulation, grounded on the palpableness of its irrationality,—I must still avow my belief that, however fittingly and unsteadily, as through a mist, it is the doctrine which the generality of our popular divines receive as orthodox, and this the sense which they attach to the words.

For on what other ground can I account for the whimsical subintelligiturs of our numerous harmonists—for the curiously inferred facts, the inventive circumstantial detail, the complemental and supplemental history which, in the utter silence of all historians and absence of all historical documents, they bring to light by mere force of logic?  And all to do away some half score apparent discrepancies in the chronicles and memoirs of the Old and New Testaments—discrepancies so analogous to what is found in all other narratives of the same story by several narrators—so analogous to what is found in all other known and trusted histories by contemporary historians, when they are collated with each other (nay, not seldom when either historian is compared with himself), as to form in the eyes of all competent judges a characteristic mark of the genuineness, independency, and (if I may apply the word to a book), the veraciousness of each several document; a mark, the absence of which would warrant a suspicion of collusion, invention, or at best of servile transcription; discrepancies so trifling in circumstance and import, that, although in some instances it is highly probable, and in all instances, perhaps, possible that they are only apparent and reconcilable, no wise man would care a staw whether they were real or apparent, reconciled or left in harmless and friendly variance.  What, I ask, could have induced learned and intelligent divines to adopt or sanction subterfuges, which neutralising the ordinary criteria of full or defective evidence in historical documents, would, taken as a general rule, render all collation and cross-examination of written records ineffective, and obliterate the main character by which authentic histories are distinguished from those traditional tales, which each successive reporter enlarges and fashions to his own fancy and purpose, and every different edition of which more or less contradicts the other?  Allow me to create chasms ad libitum, and ad libitum to fill them up with imagined facts and incidents, and I would almost undertake to harmonise Falstaff’s account of the rogues in buckram into a coherent and consistent narrative.  What, I say, could have tempted grave and pious men thus to disturb the foundation of the Temple, in order to repair a petty breach or rat-hole in the wall, or fasten a loose stone or two in the outer court, if not an assumed necessity arising out of the peculiar character of Bible history?

The substance of the syllogism, by which their procedure was justified to their own minds, can be no other than this.  That, without which two assertions—both of which must be alike true and correct—would contradict each other, and consequently be, one or both, false or incorrect, must itself be true.  But every word and syllable existing in the original text of the Canonical Books, from the Cherethi and Phelethi of David to the name in the copy of a family register, the site of a town, or the course of a river, were dictated to the sacred amanuensis by an infallible intelligence.  Here there can be neither more nor less.  Important or unimportant gives no ground of difference; and the number of the writers as little.  The secretaries may have been many—the historian was one and the same, and he infallible.  This is the minor of the syllogism, and if it could be proved, the conclusion would be at least plausible; and there would be but one objection to the procedure, namely, its uselessness.  For if it had been proved already, what need of proving it over again, and by means—the removal, namely, of apparent contradictions—which the infallible Author did not think good to employ?  But if it have not been proved, what becomes of the argument which derives its whole force and legitimacy from the assumption?

In fact, it is clear that the harmonists and their admirers held and understood the doctrine literally.  And must not that divine likewise have so understood it, who, in answer to a question concerning the transcendant blessedness of Jael, and the righteousness of the act, in which she inhospitably, treacherously, perfidiously murdered sleep, the confiding sleep, closed the controversy by observing that he wanted no better morality than that of the Bible, and no other proof of an action’s being praiseworthy than that the Bible had declared it worthy to be praised?—an observation, as applied in this instance, so slanderous to the morality and moral spirit of the Bible as to be inexplicable, except as a consequence of the doctrine in dispute.  But let a man be once fully persuaded that there is no difference between the two positions: “The Bible contains the religion revealed by God,” and “Whatever is contained in the Bible is religion, and was revealed by God,” and that whatever can be said of the Bible, collectively taken, may and must be said of each and every sentence of the Bible, taken for and by itself, and I no longer wonder at these paradoxes.  I only object to the inconsistency of those who profess the same belief, and yet affect to look down with a contemptuous or compassionate smile on John Wesley for rejecting the Copernican system as incompatible therewith; or who exclaim “Wonderful!” when they hear that Sir Matthew Hale sent a crazy old woman to the gallows in honour of the Witch of Endor.  In the latter instance it might, I admit, have been an erroneous (though even at this day the all but universally received) interpretation of the word, which we have rendered by witch; but I challenge these divines and their adherents to establish the compatibility of a belief in the modern astronomy and natural philosophy with their and Wesley’s doctrine respecting the inspired Scriptures, without reducing the doctrine itself to a plaything of wax; or rather to a half-inflated bladder, which, when the contents are rarefied in the heat of rhetorical generalities, swells out round, and without a crease or wrinkle; but bring it into the cool temperature of particulars, and you may press, and as it were except, what part you like—so it be but one part at a time—between your thumb and finger.

Now, I pray you, which is the more honest, nay, which the more reverential proceeding—to play at fast and loose in this way, or to say at once, “See here, in these several writings one and the same Holy Spirit, now sanctifying a chosen vessel, and fitting it for the reception of heavenly truths proceeding immediately from the mouth of God, and elsewhere working in frail and fallible men like ourselves, and like ourselves instructed by God’s word and laws?”  The first Christian martyr had the form and features of an ordinary man, nor are we taught to believe that these features were miraculously transfigured into superhuman symmetry; but he being filled with the Holy Ghostthey that looked steadfastly on himsaw his face as it had been the face of an angel.  Even so has it ever been, and so it ever will be with all who with humble hearts and a rightly disposed spirit scan the sacred volume.  And they who read it with an evil heart of unbelief and an alien spirit, what boots for them the assertion that every sentence was miraculously communicated to the nominal author by God himself?  Will it not rather present additional temptations to the unhappy scoffers, and furnish them with a pretext of self-justification?

When, in my third letter, I first echoed the question “Why should I not?” the answers came crowding on my mind.  I am well content, however, to have merely suggested the main points, in proof of the positive harm which, both historically and spiritually, our religion sustains from this doctrine.  Of minor importance, yet not to be overlooked, are the forced and fantastic interpretations, the arbitrary allegories and mystic expansions of proper names, to which this indiscriminate Bibliolatry furnished fuel, spark, and wind.  A still greater evil, and less attributable to the visionary humour and weak judgment of the individual expositors, is the literal rendering of Scripture in passages, which the number and variety of images employed in different places to express one and the same verity, plainly mark out for figurative.  And lastly, add to all these the strange—in all other writings unexampled—practice of bringing together into logical dependency detached sentences from books composed at the distance of centuries, nay, sometimes a millennium from each other, under different dispensations, and for different objects.  Accommodations of elder Scriptural phrases—that favourite ornament and garnish of Jewish eloquence; incidental allusions to popular notions, traditions, apologues (for example, the dispute between the Devil and the archangel Michael about the body of Moses, Jude 9); fancies and anachronisms imported from the synagogue of Alexandria into Palestine, by or together with the Septuagint version, and applied as mere argumenta ad homines (for example, the delivery of the Law by the disposition of angels, Acts vii. 53, Gal. iii. 19, Heb. ii. 2),—these, detached from their context, and, contrary to the intention of the sacred writer, first raised into independent theses, and then brought together to produce or sanction some new credendum for which neither separately could have furnished a pretence!  By this strange mosaic, Scripture texts have been worked up into passable likenesses of purgatory, Popery, the Inquisition, and other monstrous abuses.  But would you have a Protestant instance of the superstitious use of Scripture arising out of this dogma?  Passing by the Cabbala of the Hutchinsonian School as the dotage of a few weak-minded individuals, I refer you to Bishop Hacket’s sermons on the Incarnation.  And if you have read the same author’s life of Archbishop Williams, and have seen and felt (as every reader of this latter work must see and feel) his talent, learning, acuteness, and robust good sense, you will have no difficulty in determining the quality and character of a dogma which could engraft such fruits on such a tree.

It will perhaps appear a paradox if, after all these reasons, I should avow that they weigh less in my mind against the doctrine, than the motives usually assigned for maintaining and enjoining it.  Such, for instance, are the arguments drawn from the anticipated loss and damage that would result from its abandonment; as that it would deprive the Christian world of its only infallible arbiter in questions of faith and duty, suppress the only common and inappellable tribunal; that the Bible is the only religious bond of union and ground of unity among Protestants and the like.  For the confutation of this whole reasoning, it might be sufficient to ask: Has it produced these effects?  Would not the contrary statement be nearer to the fact?  What did the Churches of the first four centuries hold on this point?  To what did they attribute the rise and multiplication of heresies?  Can any learned and candid Protestant affirm that there existed and exists no ground for the charges of Bossuet and other eminent Romish divines?  It is no easy matter to know how to handle a party maxim, so framed, that with the exception of a single word, it expresses an important truth, but which by means of that word is made to convey a most dangerous error.

The Bible is the appointed conservatory, an indispensable criterion, and a continual source and support of true belief.  But that the Bible is the sole source; that it not only contains, but constitutes, the Christian Religion; that it is, in short, a Creed, consisting wholly of articles of Faith; that consequently we need no rule, help, or guide, spiritual or historical, to teach us what parts are and what are not articles of Faith—all being such—and the difference between the Bible and the Creed being this, that the clauses of the latter are all unconditionally necessary to salvation, but those of the former conditionally so, that is, as soon as the words are known to exist in any one of the canonical books; and that, under this limitation, the belief is of the same necessity in both, and not at all affected by the greater or lesser importance of the matter to be believed;—this scheme differs widely from the preceding, though its adherents often make use of the same words in expressing their belief.  And this latter scheme, I assert, was brought into currency by and in favour of those by whom the operation of grace, the aids of the Spirit, the necessity of regeneration, the corruption of our nature, in short, all the peculiar and spiritual mysteries of the Gospel were explained and diluted away.

And how have these men treated this very Bible?  I, who indeed prize and reverence this sacred library, as of all outward means and conservatives of Christian faith and practice the surest and the most reflective of the inward Word; I, who hold that the Bible contains the religion of Christians, but who dare not say that whatever is contained in the Bible is the Christian religion, and who shrink from all question respecting the comparative worth and efficacy of the written Word as weighed against the preaching of the Gospel, the discipline of the Churches, the continued succession of the Ministry, and the communion of Saints, lest by comparing them I should seem to detach them; I tremble at the processes which the Grotian divines without scruple carry on in their treatment of the sacred writers, as soon as any texts declaring the peculiar tenets of our Faith are cited against them—even tenets and mysteries which the believer at his baptism receives as the title-writ and bosom-roll of his adoption; and which, according to my scheme, every Christian born in Church-membership ought to bring with him to the study of the sacred Scriptures as the master-key of interpretation.  Whatever the doctrine of infallible dictation may be in itself, in their hands it is to the last degree nugatory, and to be paralleled only by the Romish tenet of Infallibility—in the existence of which all agree, but where, and in whom, it exists stat adhuc sub lite.  Every sentence found in a canonical Book, rightly interpreted, contains the dictum of an infallible Mind; but what the right interpretation is—or whether the very words now extant are corrupt or genuine—must be determined by the industry and understanding of fallible, and alas! more or less prejudiced theologians.

And yet I am told that this doctrine must not be resisted or called in question, because of its fitness to preserve unity of faith, and for the prevention of schism and sectarian byways!  Let the man who holds this language trace the history of Protestantism, and the growth of sectarian divisions, ending with Dr. Hawker’s ultra-Calvinistic Tracts, and Mr. Belsham’s New Version of the Testament.  And then let him tell me that for the prevention of an evil which already exists, and which the boasted preventive itself might rather seem to have occasioned, I must submit to be silenced by the first learned infidel, who throws in my face the blessing of Deborah, or the cursings of David, or the Grecisms and heavier difficulties in the biographical chapters of the Book of Daniel, or the hydrography and natural philosophy of the Patriarchal ages.  I must forego the means of silencing, and the prospect of convincing, an alienated brother, because I must not thus answer “My Brother!  What has all this to do with the truth and the worth of Christianity?  If you reject à priori all communion with the Holy Spirit, there is indeed a chasm between us, over which we cannot even make our voices intelligible to each other.  But if—though but with the faith of a Seneca or an Antonine—you admit the co-operation of a Divine Spirit in souls desirous of good, even as the breath of heaven works variously in each several plant according to its kind, character, period of growth, and circumstance of soil, clime, and aspect; on what ground can you assume that its presence is incompatible with all imperfection in the subject—even with such imperfection as is the natural accompaniment of the unripe season?  If you call your gardener or husbandman to account for the plants or crops he is raising, would you not regard the special purpose in each, and judge of each by that which it was tending to?  Thorns are not flowers, nor is the husk serviceable.  But it was not for its thorns, but for its sweet and medicinal flowers that the rose was cultivated; and he who cannot separate the husk from the grain, wants the power because sloth or malice has prevented the will.  I demand for the Bible only the justice which you grant to other books of grave authority, and to other proved and acknowledged benefactors of mankind.  Will you deny a spirit of wisdom in Lord Bacon, because in particular facts he did not possess perfect science, or an entire immunity from the positive errors which result from imperfect insight?  A Davy will not so judge his great predecessor; for he recognises the spirit that is now working in himself, and which under similar defects of light and obstacles of error had been his guide and guardian in the morning twilight of his own genius.  Must not the kindly warmth awaken and vivify the seed, in order that the stem may spring up and rejoice in the light?  As the genial warmth to the informing light, even so is the predisposing Spirit to the revealing Word.”

If I should reason thus—but why do I say if?  I have reasoned thus with more than one serious and well-disposed sceptic; and what was the answer?—“You speak rationally, but seem to forget the subject.  I have frequently attended meetings of the British and Foreign Bible Society, where I have heard speakers of every denomination, Calvinist and Arminian, Quaker and Methodist, Dissenting Ministers and Clergymen, nay, dignitaries of the Established Church, and still have I heard the same doctrine—that the Bible was not to be regarded or reasoned about in the way that other good books are or may be—that the Bible was different in kind, and stood by itself.  By some indeed this doctrine was rather implied than expressed, but yet evidently implied.  But by far the greater number of the speakers it was asserted in the strongest and most unqualified words that language could supply.  What is more, their principal arguments were grounded on the position, that the Bible throughout was dictated by Omniscience, and therefore in all its parts infallibly true and obligatory, and that the men whose names are prefixed to the several books or chapters were in fact but as different pens in the hand of one and the same Writer, and the words the words of God Himself: and that on this account all notes and comments were superfluous, nay, presumptuous—a profane mixing of human with divine, the notions of fallible creatures with the oracles of Infallibility—as if God’s meaning could be so clearly or fitly expressed in man’s as in God’s own words!  But how often you yourself must have heard the same language from the pulpit!”

What could I reply to this?  I could neither deny the fact, nor evade the conclusion—namely, that such is at present the popular belief.  Yes—I at length rejoined—I have heard this language from the pulpit, and more than once from men who in any other place would explain it away into something so very different from the literal sense of their words as closely to resemble the contrary.  And this, indeed, is the peculiar character of the doctrine, that you cannot diminish or qualify but you reverse it.  I have heard this language from men who knew as well as myself that the best and most orthodox divines have in effect disclaimed the doctrine, inasmuch as they confess it cannot be extended to the words of the sacred writers, or the particular import—that therefore the doctrine does not mean all that the usual wording of it expresses, though what it does mean, and why they continue to sanction this hyperbolical wording, I have sought to learn from them in vain.  But let a thousand orators blazon it at public meetings, and let as many pulpits echo it, surely it behoves you to inquire whether you cannot be a Christian on your own faith; and it cannot but be beneath a wise man to be an Infidel on the score of what other men think fit to include in their Christianity!

Now suppose—and, believe me, the supposition will vary little from the fact—that in consequence of these views the sceptic’s mind had gradually opened to the reception of all the truths enumerated in my first Letter.  Suppose that the Scriptures themselves from this time had continued to rise in his esteem and affection—the better understood, the more dear; as in the countenance of one, whom through a cloud of prejudices we have at least learned to love and value above all others, new beauties dawn on us from day to day, till at length we wonder how we could at any time have thought it other than most beautiful.  Studying the sacred volume in the light and in the freedom of a faith already secured, at every fresh meeting my sceptic friend has to tell me of some new passage, formerly viewed by him as a dry stick on a rotten branch, which has budded and, like the rod of Aaron, brought forth buds and bloomed blossomsand yielded almonds.  Let these results, I say, be supposed—and shall I still be told that my friend is nevertheless an alien in the household of Faith?  Scrupulously orthodox as I know you to be, will you tell me that I ought to have left this sceptic as I found him, rather than attempt his conversion by such means; or that I was deceiving him, when I said to him:—

“Friend!  The truth revealed through Christ has its evidence in itself, and the proof of its divine authority in its fitness to our nature and needs; the clearness and cogency of this proof being proportionate to the degree of self-knowledge in each individual hearer.  Christianity has likewise its historical evidences, and these as strong as is compatible with the nature of history, and with the aims and objects of a religious dispensation.  And to all these Christianity itself, as an existing power in the world, and Christendom as an existing fact, with the no less evident fact of a progressive expansion, give a force of moral demonstration that almost supersedes particular testimony.  These proofs and evidences would remain unshaken, even though the sum of our religion were to be drawn from the theologians of each successive century, on the principle of receiving that only as divine which should be found in all—quod semperquod ubiquequod ab omnibus.  Be only, my friend! as orthodox a believer as you would have abundant reason to be, though from some accident of birth, country, or education, the precious boon of the Bible, with its additional evidence, had up to this moment been concealed from you;—and then read its contents with only the same piety which you freely accord on other occasions to the writings of men, considered the best and wisest of their several ages!  What you find therein coincident with your pre-established convictions, you will of course recognise as the Revealed Word, while, as you read the recorded workings of the Word and the Spirit in the minds, lives, and hearts of spiritual men, the influence of the same Spirit on your own being, and the conflicts of grace and infirmity in your own soul, will enable you to discern and to know in and by what spirit they spake and acted—as far at least as shall be needful for you, and in the times of your need.

“Thenceforward, therefore, your doubts will be confined to such parts or passages of the received Canon as seem to you irreconcilable with known truths, and at variance with the tests given in the Scriptures themselves, and as shall continue so to appear after you have examined each in reference to the circumstances of the writer or speaker, the dispensation under which he lived, the purpose of the particular passage, and the intent and object of the Scriptures at large.  Respecting these, decide for yourself: and fear not for the result.  I venture to tell it you beforehand.  The result will be, a confidence in the judgment and fidelity of the compilers of the Canon increased by the apparent exceptions.  For they will be found neither more nor greater than may well be supposed requisite, on the one hand, to prevent us from sinking into a habit of slothful, undiscriminating acquiescence, and on the other to provide a check against those presumptuous fanatics who would rend the Urim and Thummim from the breastplate of judgment, and frame oracles by private divination from each letter of each disjointed gem, uninterpreted by the Priest, and deserted by the Spirit, which shines in the parts only as it pervades and irradiates the whole.”

Such is the language in which I have addressed a halting friend—halting, yet with his face toward the right path.  If I have erred, enable me to see my error.  Correct me, or confirm me.



Yes, my dear friend, it is my conviction that in all ordinary cases the knowledge and belief of the Christian Religion should precede the study of the Hebrew Canon.  Indeed, with regard to both Testaments, I consider oral and catechismal instruction as the preparative provided by Christ himself in the establishment of a visible Church.  And to make the Bible, apart from the truths, doctrines, and spiritual experiences contained therein, the subject of a special article of faith, I hold an unnecessary and useless abstraction, which in too many instances has the effect of substituting a barren acquiescence in the letter for the lively faith that cometh by hearing; even as the hearing is productive of this faith, because it is the Word of God that is heard and preached.  (Rom. x. 8, 17.)  And here I mean the written Word preserved in the armoury of the Church to be the sword of faith out of the mouth of the preacher, as Christ’s ambassador and representative (Rev. i. 16), and out of the heart of the believer from generation to generation.  Who shall dare dissolve or loosen this holy bond, this divine reciprocality, of Faith and Scripture?  Who shall dare enjoin aught else as an object of saving faith, beside the truths that appertain to salvation?  The imposers take on themselves a heavy responsibility, however defensible the opinion itself, as an opinion, may be.  For by imposing it, they counteract their own purposes.  They antedate questions, and thus, in all cases, aggravate the difficulty of answering them satisfactorily.  And not seldom they create difficulties that might never have occurred.  But, worst of all, they convert things trifling or indifferent into mischievous pretexts for the wanton, fearful difficulties for the weak, and formidable objections for the inquiring.  For what manfearing God dares think any the least point indifferent, which he is required to receive as God’s own immediate Word miraculously infused, miraculously recorded, and by a succession of miracles preserved unblended and without change?—Through all the pages of a large and multifold volume, at each successive period, at every sentence, must the question recur:—“Dare I believe—do I in my heart believe—these words to have been dictated by an infallible reason, and the immediate utterance of Almighty God?”—No!  It is due to Christian charity that a question so awful should not be put unnecessarily, and should not be put out of time.  The necessity I deny.  And out of time the question must be put, if after enumerating the several articles of the Catholic Faith I am bound to add:—“and further you are to believe with equal faith, as having the same immediate and miraculous derivation from God, whatever else you shall hereafter read in any of the sixty-six books collected in the Old and New Testaments.”

I would never say this.  Yet let me not be misjudged as if I treated the Scriptures as a matter of indifference.  I would not say this, but where I saw a desire to believe, and a beginning love of Christ, I would there say:—“There are likewise sacred writings, which, taken in connection with the institution and perpetuity of a visible Church, all believers revere as the most precious boon of God, next to Christianity itself, and attribute both their communication and preservation to an especial Providence.  In them you will find all the revealed truths, which have been set forth and offered to you, clearly and circumstantially recorded; and, in addition to these, examples of obedience and disobedience both in states and individuals, the lives and actions of men eminent under each dispensation, their sentiments, maxims, hymns, and prayers—their affections, emotions, and conflicts;—in all which you will recognise the influence of the Holy Spirit, with a conviction increasing with the growth of your own faith and spiritual experience.”



My Dear Friend,

In my last two Letters I have given the state of the argument as it would stand between a Christian, thinking as I do, and a serious well-disposed Deist.  I will now endeavour to state the argument, as between the former and the advocates for the popular belief,—such of them, I mean, as are competent to deliver a dispassionate judgment in the cause.  And again, more particularly, I mean the learned and reflecting part of them, who are influenced to the retention of the prevailing dogma by the supposed consequences of a different view, and, especially, by their dread of conceding to all alike, simple and learned, the privilege of picking and choosing the Scriptures that are to be received as binding on their consciences.  Between these persons and myself the controversy may be reduced to a single question:—

Is it safer for the individual, and more conducive to the interests of the Church of Christ, in its twofold character of pastoral and militant, to conclude thus:—The Bible is the Word of God, and therefore, true, holy, and in all parts unquestionable?  Or thus:—The Bible, considered in reference to its declared ends and purposes, is true and holy, and for all who seek truth with humble spirits an unquestionable guide, and therefore it is the Word of God?

In every generation, and wherever the light of Revelation has shone, men of all ranks, conditions, and states of mind have found in this volume a correspondent for every movement toward the better, felt in their own hearts, the needy soul has found supply, the feeble a help, the sorrowful a comfort; yea, be the recipiency the least that can consist with moral life, there is an answering grace ready to enter.  The Bible has been found a Spiritual World, spiritual and yet at the same time outward and common to all.  You in one place, I in another, all men somewhere or at some time, meet with an assurance that the hopes and fears, the thoughts and yearnings that proceed from, or tend to, a right spirit in us, are not dreams or fleeting singularities, no voices heard in sleep, or spectres which the eye suffers but not perceives.  As if on some dark night a pilgrim, suddenly beholding a bright star moving before him, should stop in fear and perplexity.  But lo! traveller after traveller passes by him, and each, being questioned whither he is going, makes answer, “I am following yon guiding star!”  The pilgrim quickens his own steps, and presses onward in confidence.  More confident still will he be, if, by the wayside, he should find, here and there, ancient monuments, each with its votive lamp, and on each the name of some former pilgrim, and a record that there he had first seen or begun to follow the benignant Star!

No otherwise is it with the varied contents of the Sacred Volume.  The hungry have found food, the thirsty a living spring, the feeble a staff, and the victorious warfarer songs of welcome and strains of music; and as long as each man asks on account of his wants, and asks what he wants, no man will discover aught amiss or deficient in the vast and many-chambered storehouse.  But if, instead of this, an idler or scoffer should wander through the rooms, peering and peeping, and either detects, or fancies he has detected, here a rusted sword or pointless shaft, there a tool of rude construction, and superseded by later improvements (and preserved, perhaps, to make us more grateful for them);—which of two things will a sober-minded man,—who, from his childhood upward had been fed, clothed, armed, and furnished with the means of instruction from this very magazine,—think the fitter plan?  Will he insist that the rust is not rust, or that it is a rust sui generis, intentionally formed on the steel for some mysterious virtue in it, and that the staff and astrolabe of a shepherd-astronomer are identical with, or equivalent to, the quadrant and telescope of Newton or Herschel?  Or will he not rather give the curious inquisitor joy of his mighty discoveries, and the credit of them for his reward?

Or lastly, put the matter thus: For more than a thousand years the Bible, collectively taken, has gone hand in hand with civilisation, science, law—in short, with the moral and intellectual cultivation of the species, always supporting, and often leading, the way.  Its very presence, as a believed Book, has rendered the nations emphatically a chosen race, and this too in exact proportion as it is more or less generally known and studied.  Of those nations which in the highest degree enjoy its influences it is not too much to affirm, that the differences, public and private, physical, moral and intellectual, are only less than what might be expected from a diversity in species.  Good and holy men, and the best and wisest of mankind, the kingly spirits of history, enthroned in the hearts of mighty nations, have borne witness to its influences, have declared it to be beyond compare the most perfect instrument, the only adequate organ, of Humanity; the organ and instrument of all the gifts, powers, and tendencies, by which the individual is privileged to rise above himself—to leave behind, and lose his individual phantom self, in order to find his true self in that Distinctness where no division can be—in the Eternal I AM, the Ever-living Word, of whom all the elect from the archangel before time throne to the poor wrestler with the Spirit until the breaking of day are but the fainter and still fainter echoes.  And are all these testimonies and lights of experience to lose their value and efficiency because I feel no warrant of history, or Holy Writ, or of my own heart for denying, that in the framework and outward case of this instrument a few parts may be discovered of less costly materials and of meaner workmanship?  Is it not a fact that the Books of the New Testament were tried by their consonance with the rule, and according to the analogy, of faith?  Does not the universally admitted canon—that each part of Scripture must be interpreted by the spirit of the whole—lead to the same practical conclusion as that for which I am now contending—namely, that it is the spirit of the Bible, and not the detached words and sentences, that is infallible and absolute?  Practical, I say, and spiritual too; and what knowledge not practical or spiritual are we entitled to seek in our Bibles?  Is the grace of God so confined—are the evidences of the present and actuating Spirit so dim and doubtful—that to be assured of the same we must first take for granted that all the life and co-agency of our humanity is miraculously suspended?

Whatever is spiritual, is eo nomine supernatural; but must it be always and of necessity miraculous?  Miracles could open the eyes of the body; and he that was born blind beheld his Redeemer.  But miracles, even those of the Redeemer himself, could not open the eyes of the self-blinded, of the Sadducean sensualist, or the self-righteous Pharisee—while to have said, I saw thee under the fig-tree, sufficed to make a Nathanael believe.

To assert and to demand miracles without necessity was the vice of the unbelieving Jews of old; and from the Rabbis and Talmudists the infection has spread.  And would I could say that the symptoms of the disease are confined to the Churches of the Apostasy!  But all the miracles, which the legends of Monk or Rabbi contain, can scarcely be put in competition, on the score of complication, inexplicableness, the absence of all intelligible use or purpose, and of circuitous self-frustration, with those that must be assumed by the maintainers of this doctrine, in order to give effect to the series of miracles, by which all the nominal composers of the Hebrew nation before the time of Ezra, of whom there are any remains, were successively transformed into automaton compositors—so that the original text should be in sentiment, image, word, syntax, and composition an exact impression of the divine copy!  In common consistency the theologians, who impose this belief on their fellow Christians, ought to insist equally on the superhuman origin and authority of the Masora, and to use more respectful terms, than has been their wont of late, in speaking of the false Aristeas’s legend concerning the Septuagint.  And why the miracle should stop at the Greek Version, and not include the Vulgate, I can discover no ground in reason.  Or if it be an objection to the latter, that this belief is actually enjoined by the Papal Church, yet the number of Christians who road the Lutheran, the Genevan, or our own authorised, Bible, and are ignorant of the dead languages, greatly exceeds the number of those who have access to the Septuagint.  Why refuse the writ of consecration to these, or to the one at least appointed by the assertors’ own Church?  I find much more consistency in the opposition made under pretext of this doctrine to the proposals and publications of Kennicot, Mill, Bentley, and Archbishop Newcome.

But I am weary of discussing a tenet which the generality of divines and the leaders of the religious public have ceased to defend, and yet continue to assert or imply.  The tendency manifested in this conduct, the spirit of this and the preceding century, on which, not indeed the tenet itself, but the obstinate adherence to it against the clearest light of reason and experience, is grounded—this it is which, according to my conviction, gives the venom to the error, and justifies the attempt to substitute a juster view.  As long as it was the common and effective belief of all the Reformed Churches (and by none was it more sedulously or more emphatically enjoined than by the great Reformers of our Church), that by the good Spirit were the spirits tried, and that the light, which beams forth from the written Word, was its own evidence for the children of light; as long as Christians considered their Bible as a plenteous entertainment, where every guest, duly called and attired, found the food needful and fitting for him, and where each—instead of troubling himself about the covers not within his reach—beholding all around him glad and satisfied, praised the banquet and thankfully glorified the Master of the feast—so long did the tenet—that the Scriptures were written under the special impulse of the Holy Ghost remain safe and profitable.  Nay, in the sense, and with the feelings, in which it was asserted, it was a truth—a truth to which every spiritual believer now and in all times will bear witness by virtue of his own experience.  And if in the overflow of love and gratitude they confounded the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, working alike in weakness and in strength, in the morning mists and in the clearness of the full day; if they confounded this communion and co-agency of divine grace, attributable to the Scripture generally, with those express, and expressly recorded, communications and messages of the Most High which form so large and prominent a portion of the same Scriptures; if, in short, they did not always duly distinguish the inspiration, the imbreathment, of the predisposing and assisting Spirit from the revelation of the informing Word, it was at worst a harmless hyperbole.  It was holden by all, that if the power of the Spirit from without furnished the text, the grace of the same Spirit from within must supply the comment.

In the sacred Volume they saw and reverenced the bounden wheat-sheaf that stood upright and had obeisance from all the other sheaves (the writings, I mean, of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church), sheaves depreciated indeed, more or less, with tares,

            “and furrow-weeds,
Darnel and many an idle flower that grew
Mid the sustaining corn;”

yet sheaves of the same harvest, the sheaves of brethren!  Nor did it occur to them, that, in yielding the more full and absolute honour to the sheaf of the highly favoured of their Father, they should be supposed to attribute the same worth and quality to the straw-bands which held it together.  The bread of life was there.  And this in an especial sense was bread from Heaven; for no where had the same been found wild; no soil or climate dared claim it for its natural growth.  In simplicity of heart they received the Bible as the precious gift of God, providential alike in origin, preservation, and distribution, without asking the nice question whether all and every part were likewise miraculous.  The distinction between the providential and the miraculous, between the Divine Will working with the agency of natural causes, and the same Will supplying their place by a special fiat—this distinction has, I doubt not, many uses in speculative divinity.  But its weightiest practical application is shown, when it is employed to free the souls of the unwary and weak in faith from the nets and snares, the insidious queries and captious objections, of the Infidel by calming the flutter of their spirits.  They must be quieted, before we can commence the means necessary for their disentanglement.  And in no way can this be better effected than when the frightened captives are made to see in how many points the disentangling itself is a work of expedience rather than of necessity; so easily and at so little loss might the web be cut or brushed away.

First, let their attention be fixed on the history of Christianity as learnt from universal tradition, and the writers of each successive generation.  Draw their minds to the fact of the progressive and still continuing fulfilment of the assurance of a few fishermen, that both their own religion, though of Divine origin, and the religion of their conquerors, which included or recognised all other religious of the known world, should be superseded by the faith in a man recently and ignominiously executed.  Then induce them to meditate on the universals of Christian Faith—on Christianity taken as the sum of belief common to Greek and Latin, to Romanist and Protestant.  Show them that this and only this is the ordo traditionisquam tradiderunt Apostoli iis quibus committebant ecclesias, and which we should have been bound to follow, says Irenæus, si neque Apostoli quidem Scripturas reliquissent.  This is that regula fidei, that sacramentum symboli memoriæ mandatum, of which St. Augustine says:—noveritis hoc esse Fidei Catholicæ fundamentum super quod edificium surrexit Ecclesiæ.  This is the norma Catholici et Ecclesiastici sensus, determined and explicated, but not augmented, by the Nicene Fathers, as Waterland has irrefragably shown; a norm or model of Faith grounded on the solemn affirmations of the Bishops collected from all parts of the Roman Empire, that this was the essential and unalterable Gospel received by them from their predecessors in all the churches as the παράδοσις ἐκκλησιαστικὴ cui, says Irenæus, assentiunt multæ gentes eorum qui in Christum credunt sine charta et atramentoscriptam habentes per Spiritum in cordibus suis salutemet veterum traditionem diligenter custodientes.  Let the attention of such as have been shaken by the assaults of infidelity be thus directed, and then tell me wherein a spiritual physician would be blameworthy, if he carried on the cure by addressing his patient in this manner:—

“All men of learning, even learned unbelievers, admit that the greater part of the objections, urged in the popular works of infidelity, to this or that verse or chapter of the Bible, prove only the ignorance or dishonesty of the objectors.  But let it be supposed for a moment that a few remain hitherto unanswered—nay, that to your judgment and feelings they appear unanswerable.  What follows?  That the Apostles’ and Nicene Creed is not credible, the Ten Commandments not to be obeyed, the clauses of the Lord’s Prayer not to be desired, or the Sermon on the Mount not to be practised?  See how the logic would look.  David cruelly tortured the inhabitants of Rabbah (2 Sam. xii. 31; 1 Chron. xx. 3), and in several of the Psalms he invokes the bitterest curses on his enemies: therefore it is not to be believed that the love of God toward us was manifested in sending His only begotten Son into the worldthat we might live through Him (1 John iv. 9).  Or, Abijah is said to have collected an army of 400,000 men, and Jeroboam to have met him with an army of 800,000 men, each army consisting of chosen men (2 Chron. xiii. 3), and making together a host of 1,200,000, and Abijah to have slain 500,000 out of the 800,000: therefore, the words which admonish us that if God so loved uswe ought also to love one another (1 John iv. 11), even our enemies, yea, to bless them that curse us, and to do good to them that hate us (Matt. v. 44), cannot proceed from the Holy Spirit.  Or: The first six chapters of the book of Daniel contain several words and phrases irreconcilable with the commonly received dates, and those chapters and the Book of Esther have a traditional and legendary character unlike that of the other historical books of the Old Testament; therefore those other books, by contrast with which the former appear suspicious, and the historical document (1 Cor. xv. 1–8), are not to be credited!”

We assuredly believe that the Bible contains all truths necessary to salvation, and that therein is preserved the undoubted Word of God.  We assert likewise that, besides these express oracles and immediate revelations, there are Scriptures which to the soul and conscience of every Christian man bear irresistible evidence of the Divine Spirit assisting and actuating the authors; and that both these and the former are such as to render it morally impossible that any passage of the small inconsiderable portion, not included in one or other of these, can supply either ground or occasion of any error in faith, practice, or affection, except to those who wickedly and wilfully seek a pretext for their unbelief.  And if in that small portion of the Bible which stands in no necessary connection with the known and especial ends and purposes of the Scriptures, there should be a few apparent errors resulting from the state of knowledge then existing—errors which the best and holiest men might entertain uninjured, and which without a miracle those men must have entertained; if I find no such miraculous prevention asserted, and see no reason for supposing it—may I not, to ease the scruples of a perplexed inquirer, venture to say to him; “Be it so.  What then?  The absolute infallibility even of the inspired writers in matters altogether incidental and foreign to the objects and purposes of their inspiration is no part of my creed: and even if a professed divine should follow the doctrine of the Jewish Church so far as not to attribute to the Hagiographa, in every word and sentence, the same height and fulness of inspiration as to the Law and the Prophets, I feel no warrant to brand him as a heretic for an opinion, the admission of which disarms the infidel without endangering a single article of the Catholic Faith.”—If to an unlearned but earnest and thoughtful neighbour I give the advice;—“Use the Old Testament to express the affections excited, and to confirm the faith and morals taught you, in the New, and leave all the rest to the students and professors of theology and Church history!  You profess only to be a Christian:”—am I misleading my brother in Christ?

This I believe by my own dear experience—that the more tranquilly an inquirer takes up the Bible as he would any other body of ancient writings, the livelier and steadier will be his impressions of its superiority to all other books, till at length all other books and all other knowledge will be valuable in his eyes in proportion as they help him to a better understanding of his Bible.  Difficulty after difficulty has been overcome from the time that I began to study the Scriptures with free and unboding spirit, under the conviction that my faith in the Incarnate Word and His Gospel was secure, whatever the result might be;—the difficulties that still remain being so few and insignificant in my own estimation, that I have less personal interest in the question than many of those who will most dogmatically condemn me for presuming to make a question of it.

So much for scholars—for men of like education and pursuits as myself.  With respect to Christians generally, I object to the consequence drawn from the doctrine rather than to the doctrine itself;—a consequence not only deducible from the premises, but actually and imperiously deduced; according to which every man that can but read is to sit down to the consecutive and connected perusal of the Bible under the expectation and assurance that the whole is within his comprehension, and that, unaided by note or comment, catechism or liturgical preparation, he is to find out for himself what he is bound to believe and practise, and that whatever he conscientiously understands by what he reads is to be his religion.  For he has found it in his Bible, and the Bible is the Religion of Protestants!

Would I then withhold the Bible from the cottager and the artisan?—Heaven forfend!  The fairest flower that ever clomb up a cottage window is not so fair a sight to my eyes as the Bible gleaming through the lower panes.  Let it but be read as by such men it used to be read; when they came to it as to a ground covered with manna, even the bread which the Lord had given for his people to eat; where he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack.  They gathered every man according to his eating.  They came to it as to a treasure-house of Scriptures; each visitant taking what was precious and leaving as precious for others;—Yea, more, says our worthy old Church-historian, Fuller, where “the same man at several times may in his apprehension prefer several Scriptures as best, formerly most affected with one place, for the present more delighted with another, and afterwards, conceiving comfort therein not so clear, choose other places as more pregnant and pertinent to his purpose.  Thus God orders it, that divers men (and perhaps the same man at divers times), make use of all His gifts, gleaning and gathering comfort as it is scattered through the whole field of the Scripture.”



You are now, my dear friend, in possession of my whole mind on this point—one thing only excepted which has weighed with me more than all the rest, and which I have therefore reserved for my concluding letter.  This is the impelling principle or way of thinking, which I have in most instances noticed in the assertors of what I have ventured to call Bibliolatry, and which I believe to be the main ground of its prevalence at this time, and among men whose religious views are anything rather than enthusiastic.  And I here take occasion to declare, that my conviction of the danger and injury of this principle was and is my chief motive for bringing the doctrine itself into question; the main error of which consists in the confounding of two distinct conceptions—revelation by the Eternal Word, and actuation of the Holy Spirit.  The former indeed is not always or necessarily united with the latter—the prophecy of Balaam is an instance of the contrary,—but yet being ordinarily, and only not always, so united, the term, “Inspiration,” has acquired a double sense.

First, the term is used in the sense of Information miraculously communicated by voice or vision; and secondly, where without any sensible addition or infusion, the writer or speaker uses and applies his existing gifts of power and knowledge under the predisposing, aiding, and directing actuation of God’s Holy Spirit.  Now, between the first sense, that is, inspired revelation, and the highest degree of that grace and communion with the Spirit which the Church under all circumstances, and every regenerate member of the Church of Christ, is permitted to hope and instructed to pray for, there is a positive difference of kind—a chasm, the pretended overleaping of which constitutes imposture, or betrays insanity.  Of the first kind are the Law and the Prophets, no jot or tittle of which can pass unfulfilled, and the substance and last interpretation of which passes not away; for they wrote of Christ, and shadowed out the everlasting Gospel.  But with regard to the second, neither the holy writers—the so-called Hagiographi—themselves, nor any fair interpretations of Scripture, assert any such absolute diversity, or enjoin the belief of any greater difference of degree, than the experience of the Christian World, grounded on and growing with the comparison of these Scriptures with other works holden in honour by the Churches, has established.  And this difference I admit, and doubt not that it has in every generation been rendered evident to as many as read these Scriptures under the gracious influence of the spirit in which they were written.

But alas! this is not sufficient; this cannot but be vague and unsufficing to those with whom the Christian religion is wholly objective, to the exclusion of all its correspondent subjective.  It must appear vague, I say, to those whose Christianity as matter of belief is wholly external, and like the objects of sense, common to all alike; altogether historical, an opus operatum—its existing and present operancy in no respect differing from any other fact of history, and not at all modified by the supernatural principle in which it had its origin in time.  Divines of this persuasion are actually, though without their own knowledge, in a state not dissimilar to that into which the Latin Church sank deeper amid deeper from the sixth to the fourteenth century; during which time religion was likewise merely objective and superstitious—a letter proudly emblazoned and illuminated, but yet a dead letter that was to be read by its own outward glories without the light of the Spirit in the mind of the believer.  The consequence was too glaring not to be anticipated, and, if possible, prevented.  Without that spirit in each true believer, whereby we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error in all things appertaining to salvation, the consequence must be—so many men, so many minds!  And what was the antidote which the Priests and Rabbis of this purely objective Faith opposed to this peril?  Why, an objective, outward Infallibility, concerning which, however, the differences were scarcely less or fewer than those which it was to heal; an Infallibility which taken literally and unqualified, became the source of perplexity to the well-disposed, of unbelief to the wavering, and of scoff and triumph to the common enemy, and which was, therefore, to be qualified and limited, and then it meant so munch and so little that to men of plain understandings and single hearts it meant nothing at all.  It resided here.  No! there.  No! but in a third subject.  Nay! neither here, nor there, nor in the third, but in all three conjointly!

But even this failed to satisfy; and what was the final resource—the doctrine of those who would not be called a Protestant Church, but in which doctrine the Fathers of Protestantism in England would have found little other fault, than that it might be affirmed as truly of the decisions of any other bishop as of the Bishop of Rome?  The final resource was to restore what ought never to have been removed—the correspondent subjective, that is, the assent and confirmation of the Spirit promised to all true believers, as proved and manifested in the reception of such decision by the Church Universal in all its rightful members.

I comprise and conclude the sum of my conviction in this one sentence.  Revealed religion (and I know of no religion not revealed) is in its highest contemplation the unity, that is, the identity or co-inherence, of subjective and objective.  It is in itself, and irrelatively at once inward life and truth, and outward fact and luminary.  But as all power manifests itself in the harmony of correspondent opposites, each supposing and supporting the other; so has religion its objective, or historic and ecclesiastical pole and its subjective, or spiritual and individual pole.  In the miracles and miraculous parts of religion—both in the first communication of Divine truths, and in the promulgation of the truths thus communicated—we have the union of the two, that is, the subjective and supernatural displayed objectively—outwardly and phenomenally—as subjective and supernatural.

Lastly, in the Scriptures, as far as they are not included in the above as miracles, and in the mind of the believing and regenerate reader and meditater, there is proved to us the reciprocity or reciprocation of the spirit as subjective and objective, which in conformity with the scheme proposed by me, in aid of distinct conception and easy recollection, I have named the Indifference.  What I mean by this, a familiar acquaintance with the more popular parts of Luther’s works, especially his “Commentaries,” and the delightful volume of his “Table Talk,” would interpret for me better than I can do for myself.  But I do my best, when I say that no Christian probationer, who is earnestly working out his salvation, and experiences the conflict of the spirit with the evil and the infirmity within him and around him, can find his own state brought before him, and, as it were, antedated, in writings reverend even for their antiquity and enduring permanence, and far more and more abundantly consecrated by the reverence, love, and grateful testimonies of good men, through the long succession of ages, in every generation, and under all states of minds and circumstances of fortune, that no man, I say, can recognise his own inward experiences in such writings, and not find an objectiveness, a confirming and assuring outwardness, and all the main characters of reality reflected therefrom on the spirit, working in himself and in his own thoughts, emotions, and aspirations, warring against sin and the motions of sin.  The unsubstantial, insulated self passes away as a stream; but these are the shadows and reflections of the Rock of Ages, and of the Tree of Life that starts forth from its side.

On the other hand, as much of reality, as much of objective truth, as the Scriptures communicate to the subjective experiences of the believer, so much of present life, of living and effective import, do these experiences give to the letter of these Scriptures.  In the one the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we have received the spirit of adoption; in the other our spirit bears witness to the power of the Word, that it is indeed the Spirit that proceedeth from God.  If in the holy men thus actuated all imperfection of knowledge, all participation in the mistakes and limits of their several ages had been excluded, how could these writings be or become the history and example, the echo and more lustrous image of the work and warfare of the sanctifying principle in us?  If after all this, and in spite of all this, some captious litigator should lay hold of a text here or there—St. Paul’s cloak left at Troas with Carpus, or a verse from the Canticles, and ask, “Of what spiritual use is this?”—the answer is ready:—It proves to us that nothing can be so trifling, as not to supply an evil heart with a pretext for unbelief.

Archbishop Leighton has observed that the Church has its extensive and intensive states, and that they seldom fall together.  Certain it is, that since kings have been her nursing fathers, and queens her nursing mothers, our theologians seem to act in the spirit of fear rather than in that of faith; and too often, instead of inquiring after the truth in the confidence that whatever is truth must be fruitful of good to all who are in Him that is true, they seek with vain precautions to guard against the possible inferenceswhich perverse and distempered minds may pretend, whose whole Christianity—do what we will—is and will remain nothing but a pretence.

You have now my entire mind on this momentous question, the grounds on which it rests, and the motives which induce me to make it known; and I now conclude by repeating my request: Correct me, or confirm me.



Faith may be defined as fidelity to our own being, so far as such being is not and cannot become an object of the senses; and hence, by clear inference or implication to being generally, as far as the same is not the object of the senses; and again to whatever is affirmed or understood as the condition, or concomitant, or consequence of the same.  This will be best explained by an instance or example.  That I am conscious of something within me peremptorily commanding me to do unto others as I would they should do unto me; in other words a categorical (that is, primary and unconditional) imperative; that the maxim (regula maxima, or supreme rule) of my actions, both inward and outward, should be such as I could, without any contradiction arising therefrom, will to be the law of all moral and rational beings.  This, I say, is a fact of which I am no less conscious (though in a different way), nor less assured, than I am of any appearance presented by my outward senses.  Nor is this all; but in the very act of being conscious of this in my own nature, I know that it is a fact of which all men either are or ought to be conscious; a fact, the ignorance of which constitutes either the non-personality of the ignorant, or the guilt; in which latter case the ignorance is equivalent to knowledge wilfully darkened.  I know that I possess this knowledge as a man, and not as Samuel Taylor Coleridge; hence, knowing that consciousness of this fact is the root of all other consciousness, and the only practical contradistinction of man from the brutes, we name it the conscience, by the natural absence or presumed presence of which the law, both Divine and human, determines whether X Y Z be a thing or a person; the conscience being that which never to have had places the objects in the same order of things as the brutes, for example, idiots, and to have lost which implies either insanity or apostasy.  Well, this we have affirmed is a fact of which every honest man is as fully assured as of his seeing, hearing, or smelling.  But though the former assurance does not differ from the latter in the degree, it is altogether diverse in the kind; the senses being morally passive, while the conscience is essentially connected with the will, though not always, nor indeed in any case, except after frequent attempts and aversions of will dependent on the choice.  Thence we call the presentations of the senses impressions, those of the conscience commands or dictates.  In the senses we find our receptivity, and as far as our personal being is concerned, we are passive, but in the fact of the conscience we are not only agents, but it is by this alone that we know ourselves to be such—nay, that our very passiveness in this latter is an act of passiveness, and that we are patient (patientes), not, as in the other case, simply passive.

The result is the consciousness of responsibility, and the proof is afforded by the inward experience of the diversity between regret and remorse.

If I have sound ears, and my companion speaks to me with a due proportion of voice, I may persuade him that I did not hear, but cannot deceive myself.  But when my conscience speaks to me, I can by repeated efforts render myself finally insensible; to which add this other difference, namely, that to make myself deaf is one and the same thing with making my conscience dumb, till at length I became unconscious of my conscience.  Frequent are the instances in which it is suspended, and, as it were, drowned in the inundation of the appetites, passions, and imaginations to which I have resigned myself, making use of my will in order to abandon my free-will; and there are not, I fear, examples wanting of the conscience being utterly destroyed, or of the passage of wickedness into madness; that species of madness, namely, in which the reason is lost.  For so long as the reason continues, so long must the conscience exist, either as a good conscience or as a bad conscience.

It appears, then, that even the very first step—that the initiation of the process, the becoming conscious of a conscience—partakes of the nature of an act.  It is an act in and by which we take upon ourselves an allegiance, and consequently the obligation of fealty; and this fealty or fidelity implying the power of being unfaithful, it is the first and fundamental sense of faith.  It is likewise the commencement of experience, and the result of all other experience.  In other words, conscience in this its simplest form, must be supposed in order to consciousness, that is, to human consciousness.  Brutes may be and are scions, but those beings only who have an I, scire possunt hoc vel illud una cum seipsis; that is, conscire vel scire aliquid mecum, or to know a thing in relation to myself, and in the act of knowing myself as acted upon by that something.

Now the third person could never have been distinguished from the first but by means of the second.  There can be no He without a previous Thou.  Much less could an I exist for us except as it exists during the suspension of the will, as in dreams; and the nature of brutes may be best understood by considering them as somnambulists.  This is a deep meditation, though the position is capable of the strictest proof, namely, that there can be no I without a Thou, and that a Thou is only possible by an equation in which I is taken as equal to Thou, and yet not the same.  And this, again, is only possible by putting them in opposition as correspondent opposites, or correlatives.  In order to this, a something must be affirmed in the one which is rejected in the other, and this something is the will.  I do not will to consider myself as equal to myself, for in the very act of constructing myself I, I take it as the same, and therefore as incapable of comparison, that is, of any application of the will.  If, then, I minus the will be thethesis, Thou, plus will, must be the antithesis, but the equation of Thou with I, by means of a free act, negativing the sameness in order to establish the equality, is the true definition of conscience.  But as without a Thou there can be no You, so without a You no They, These, or Those; and as all these conjointly form the materials and subjects of consciousness and the conditions of experience, it is evident that conscience is the root of all consciousness—à fortiori, the precondition of all experience—and that the conscience cannot have been in its first revelation deduced from experience.

Soon, however, experience comes into play.  We learn that there are other impulses beside the dictates of conscience, that there are powers within us and without us ready to usurp the throne of conscience, and busy in tempting us to transfer our allegiance.  We learn that there are many things contrary to conscience, and therefore to be rejected and utterly excluded, and many that can coexist with its supremacy only by being subjugated as beasts of burthen; and others again, as for instance the social tendernesses and affections, and the faculties and excitations of the intellect, which must be at least subordinated.  The preservation of our loyalty and fealty under these trials, and against these rivals, constitutes the second sense of faith; and we shall need but one more point of view to complete its full import.  This is the consideration of what is presupposed in the human conscience.  The answer is ready.  As in the equation of the correlative I and Thou, one of the twin constituents is to be taken as plus will, the other as minus will, so is it here; and it is obvious that the reason or super-individual of each man, whereby he is a man, is the factor we are to take as minus will, and that the individual will or personalising principle of free agency (“arbitrement” is Milton’s word) is the factor marked plus will; and again, that as the identity or co-inherence of the absolute will and the reason, is the peculiar character of God, so is the synthesis of the individual will and the common reason, by the subordination of the former to the latter, the only possible likeness or image of the prothesis or identity, and therefore the required proper character of man.  Conscience, then, is a witness respecting the identity of the will and the reason, effected by the self-subordination of the will or self to the reason, as equal to or representing the will of God.  But the personal will is a factor in other moral synthesis, for example, appetite plus personal will = sensuality; lust of power, plus personal will = ambition, and so on, equally as in the synthesis on which the conscience is grounded.  Not this, therefore, but the other synthesis, must supply the specific character of the conscience, and we must enter into an analysis of reason.  Such as the nature and objects of the reason are, such must be the functions and objects of the conscience.  And the former we shall best learn by recapitulating those constituents of the total man which are either contrary to or disparate from the reason.

I.  Reason, and the proper objects of reason, are wholly alien from sensation.  Reason is supersensual, and its antagonist is appetite, and the objects of appetite the lust of the flesh.

II.  Reason and its objects do not appertain to the world of the senses, inward or outward; that is, they partake not of sense or fancy.  Reason is supersensuous, and here its antagonist is the lust of the eye.

III.  Reason and its objects are not things of reflection, association, discursion, discourse in the old sense of the word as opposed to intuition; “discursive or intuitive,” as Milton has it.  Reason does not indeed necessarily exclude the finite, either in time or in space, but it includes them eminenter.  Thus the prime mover of the material universe is affirmed to contain all motion as its cause, but not to be, or to suffer, motion in itself.

Reason is not the faculty of the finite.  But here I must premise the following.  The faculty of the finite is that which reduces the confused impressions of sense to their essential forms—quantity, quality, relation, and in these action and reaction, cause and effect, and the like; thus raises the materials furnished by the senses and sensations into objects of reflection, and so makes experience possible.  Without it, man’s representative powers would be a delirium, a chaos, a scudding cloudage of shapes; and it is therefore most appropriately called the understanding, or substantiative faculty.  Our elder metaphysicians, down to Hobbes inclusively, called this likewise discourse, discuvsus discursio, from its mode of action as not staying at any one object, but running, as it were, to and fro to abstract, generalise, and classify.  Now when this faculty is employed in the service of the pure reason, it brings out the necessary and universal truths contained in the infinite into distinct contemplation by the pure act of the sensuous imagination—that is, in the production of the forms of space and time abstracted from all corporeity, and likewise of the inherent forms of the understanding itself abstractedly from the consideration of particulars, as in the case of geometry, numeral mathematics, universal logic, and pure metaphysics.  The discursive faculty then becomes what our Shakespeare, with happy precision, calls “discourse of reason.”

We will now take up our reasoning again from the words “motion in itself.”

It is evident, then, that the reason as the irradiative power, and the representative of the infinite, judges the understanding as the faculty of the finite, and cannot without error be judged by it.  When this is attempted, or when the understanding in its synthesis with the personal will, usurps the supremacy of the reason, or affects to supersede the reason, it is then what St. Paul calls the mind of the flesh (φρόνημα σαρκός), or the wisdom of this world.  The result is, that the reason is superfinite; and in this relation, its antagonist is the insubordinate understanding, or mind of the flesh.

IV.  Reason, as one with the absolute will (In the beginning was the Logosand the Logos was with Godand the Logos was God), and therefore for man the certain representative of the will of God, is above the will of man as an individual will.  We have seen in III. that it stands in antagonism to all mere particulars; but here it stands in antagonism to all mere individual interests as so many selves, to the personal will as seeking its objects in the manifestation of itself for itself—sit pro ratione voluntas;—whether this be realised with adjuncts, as in the lust of the flesh, and in the lust of the eye; or without adjuncts, as in the thirst and pride of power, despotism, egoistic ambition.  The fourth antagonist, then, of reason, is the lust of the will.

Corollary.  Unlike a million of tigers, a million of men is very different from a million times one man.  Each man in a numerous society is not only coexistent with, but virtually organised into, the multitude of which he is an integral part.  His idem is modified by the alter.  And there arise impulses and objects from this synthesis of the alter et idem, myself and my neighbour.  This, again, is strictly analogous to what takes place in the vital organisation of the individual man.  The cerebral system of the nerves has its correspondent antithesis in the abdominal system: but hence arises a synthesis of the two in the pectoral system as the intermediate, and, like a drawbridge, at once conductor and boundary.  In the latter, as objectised by the former, arise the emotions, the affections, and, in one word, the passions, as distinguished from the cognitions and appetites.  Now, the reason has been shown to be superindividual, generally, and therefore not less so when the form of an individualisation subsists in the alter than when it is confined to the idem; not less when the emotions have their conscious or believed object in another, than when their subject is the individual personal self.  For though these emotions, affections, attachments, and the like, are the prepared ladder by which the lower nature is taken up into, and made to partake of, the highest room—as we are taught to give a feeling of reality to the higher per medium commune with the lower, and thus gradually to see the reality of the higher (namely, the objects of reason), and finally to know that the latter are indeed, and pre-eminently real, as if you love your earthly parents whom you see, by these means you will learn to love your Heavenly Father who is invisible;—yet this holds good only so far as the reason is the president, and its objects the ultimate aim; and cases may arise in which the Christ as the Logos, or Redemptive Reason, declares, He that loves father or another more than Meis not worthy of Me; nay, he that can permit his emotions to rise to an equality with the universal reason, is in enmity with that reason.  Here, then, reason appears as the love of God; and its antagonist is the attachment to individuals wherever it exists in diminution of, or in competition with, the love which is reason.

In these five paragraphs I have enumerated and explained the several powers or forces belonging or incidental to human nature, which in all matters of reason the man is bound either to subjugate or subordinate to reason.  The application to faith follows of its own accord.  The first or most indefinite sense of faith is fidelity: then fidelity under previous contract or particular moral obligation.  In this sense faith is fealty to a rightful superior: faith is the duty of a faithful subject to a rightful governor.  Then it is allegiance in active service; fidelity to the liege lord under circumstances, and amid the temptations of usurpation, rebellion, and intestine discord.  Next we seek for that rightful superior on our duties to whom all our duties to all other superiors, on our faithfulness to whom all our bounden relations to all other objects of fidelity, are founded.  We must inquire after that duty in which all others find their several degrees and dignities, and from which they derive their obligative force.  We are to find a superior, whose rights, including our duties, are presented to the mind in the very idea of that Supreme Being, whose sovereign prerogatives are predicates implied in the subjects, as the essential properties of a circle are co-assumed in the first assumption of a circle, consequently underived, unconditional, and as rationally unsusceptible, so probably prohibitive, of all further question.  In this sense, then, faith is fidelity, fealty, allegiance of the moral nature to God, in opposition to all usurpation, and in resistance to all temptation to the placing any other claim above or equal with our fidelity to God.

The will of God is the last ground and final aim of all our duties, and to that the whole man is to be harmonised by subordination, subjugation, or suppression alike in commission and omission.  But the will of God, which is one with the supreme intelligence, is revealed to man through the conscience.  But the conscience, which consists in an inappellable bearing-witness to the truth and reality of our reason, may legitimately be construed with the term reason, so far as the conscience is prescriptive; while as approving or condemning, it is the consciousness of the subordination or insubordination, the harmony or discord, of the personal will of man to and with the representative of the will of God.  This brings me to the last and fullest sense of faith, that is, the obedience of the individual will to the reason, in the lust of the flesh as opposed to the supersensual; in the lust of the eye as opposed to the supersensuous; in the pride of the understanding as opposed to the infinite; in the φρόνημα σαρκός in contrariety to the spiritual truth; in the lust of the personal will as opposed to the absolute and universal; and in the love of the creature, as far as it is opposed to the love which is one with the reason, namely, the love of God.

Thus, then, to conclude.  Faith subsists in the synthesis of the Reason and the individual Will.  By virtue of the latter therefore, it must be an energy, and, inasmuch as it relates to the whole moral man, it must be exerted in each and all of his constituents or incidents, faculties and tendencies;—it must be a total, not a partial—a continuous, not a desultory or occasional—energy.  And by virtue of the former, that is Reason, Faith must be a Light, a form of knowing, a beholding of truth.  In the incomparable words of the Evangelist, therefore, Faith must be a Light originating in the Logosor the substantial Reasonwhich is co-eternal and one with the Holy Willand which Light is at the same time the Life of men.  Now, as Life is here the sum or collective of all moral and spiritual acts, in suffering, doing, and being, so is Faith the source and the sum, the energy and the principle of the fidelity of man to God, by the subordination of his human Will, in all provinces of his nature, to his Reason, as the sum of spiritual Truth, representing and manifesting the Will Divine.”     Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit; Letters I-VII & “Essay on Faith,” 1853, edited by Henry Coleridge.  

Numero TresYellow Bird His name was Cheesquatalawny.  He lived in Grass Valley.  He died young at the age of forty, but what he did changed American popular culture to this day.

In the quiet Greenwood Cemetery, near Lyman Gilmore School, there is a row of markers for the Ridge Family.  Most prominent among them is the stone for John Rollin Ridge, one of the most interesting and influential figures of Gold Rush California history.

Born a Cherokee

John Rollin Ridge was the son of a powerful Cherokee family.  He was born in 1827 in the Cherokee Nation, near today’s Rome, Georgia.  His native name was Cheesquatalawny, which translates into ‘Yellow Bird.’

Book coverJohn Rollin Ridge personally experienced the most traumatic moments in the tribe’s history.  In 1830, the Indian Removal Act accelerated the removal of Cherokees from their homes in the Southeast.  The Cherokees resisted, but there were divisions within the tribal community as to how to proceed in the future.  Federal officials exploited these disagreements.  In 1835 the government convinced twenty-one Cherokees, including John Rollin’s grandfather, Major Ridge, and John Rollin’s father, John Ridge, to sign the Treaty of New Echota.  The treaty provided for the removal of the tribe to the West and for the abandonment of all Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi.  Some Cherokees supported the treaty, while others felt it was a betrayal.  A portion of the Indian Removal, in which thousands of Cherokees died enroute to Indian Territory (today’s Oklahoma), came to be called ‘The Trail of Tears.’

Ridges Murdered by Cherokees

quoteThe 12-year-old John Rollin witnessed his father’s assassination. unquote

Conflicts about removal within the tribe intensified following the treaty. Within months of removal, the tensions burst into violence. In 1839, Major Ridge and John Ridge were murdered by other Cherokees. The 12-year-old John Rollin witnessed his father’s assassination.

John Rollin Ridge left Indian Territory immediately and went to Arkansas, where he lived for four years. In 1843, young John Rollin was sent to Massachusetts for schooling. He returned to Arkansas in 1845 and began law practice. John Rollin was particularly interested in Cherokee politics and closely followed the developments within the tribe. On one occasion, he expressed a desire to avenge the deaths of his father and grandfather.

In 1847, he married Elizabeth Wilson, a white woman he had met in Massachusetts, and one year later, the couple had their only child, Alice Bird.

First novel written by a Native American

John Rollin’s involvement in tribal politics strengthened. He grew increasingly passionate, and, in 1849, his passion boiled over into bloodshed. John Rollin killed David Kell; a Cherokee that he believed was one of his father’s assassins.

John Rollin RidgeLargely to escape prosecution, John Rollin fled. In 1850, he arrived in California, during the early days of the California Gold Rush. In 1852, Elizabeth Wilson Ridge and Alice Bird made the long journey to the gold fields by way of the Isthmus of Panama to join him. From 1852 to 1864, John Rollin and his family lived in six different California communities, including Sacramento and San Francisco.

After briefly working as a miner, John Rollin Ridge gained a reputation as a writer of note. He wrote poetry (most notably the poem “Mt. Shasta”), but mostly became known as a newspaper editor, reporter and columnist. In 1854, he would write a novel about a celebrated California bandit. It is generally considered to be the first novel written by a Native American and the first novel published in California.

But … more about that in Part Two.

Editor and a Sacramento Bee Founder

From 1857 to 1862, Ridge worked as an editor for several California newspapers, including the California Express, the National Democrat, the San Francisco Herald, and the Red Bluff Beacon. Ridge is also considered to be one of the founding members of the Sacramento Bee.

quote John Rollin often ignored, perhaps deliberately, the abuses suffered upon natives by the government. unquote

Not surprisingly, John Rollin wrote extensively about Native American politics. Surprisingly, he was often scathing toward Native Americans. He disagreed with the notion that Indians should remain independent from government control, believing that the federal government provided necessary guidance and assistance to the tribes. John Rollin often ignored, perhaps deliberately, the abuses suffered upon natives by the government. He felt California Indians were inferior to other natives and supported policies that stripped California natives of their lands and rights.

In his earlier days, John Rollin had been a slaveowner and he found himself sympathetic to the conservative faction of the Democratic Party that supported slavery and its extension to California. With the advent of the Civil War, John Rollin’s writings were a study in contradictions. He supported retaining national union at all costs, but he also protested the election of Abraham Lincoln and was favorable toward the Confederacy.

Grass Valley Newspaper Owner

In 1864, John Rollin Ridge and family moved to Grass Valley. He purchased an interest in the Grass Valley National newspaper. He was co-editor with W.S. Bryne. In 1866, Bryne would buy the Grass Valley Union.

John Rollin Ridge and his family lived in a house on Church Street in Grass Valley. Ridge worked as Editor of the National until his death in 1867. In 1866, he briefly traveled to Washington, D.C., as part of a Cherokee delegation hoping to annex the tribal region into the Union as a state. The effort failed and Ridge returned to Grass Valley. He fell ill and died on October 5, 1867. In his October 8th obituary, it was written: “As a writer probably no man in California had a wider and better reputation than John R. Ridge. He possessed a good education had a clear and vigorous mind, was well up in classical lore; and in the possession of these essentials to journalistic distinction it is not surprising that he was professionally successful. With more energy and with stronger aspirations to place his name among the highest literary lights he might have added many volumes to the purer and better literature of the time….He wrote with ease, and as is generally the case with genius, sometimes carelessly…. His remains were yesterday interred in Greenwood Cemetery near this place, his funeral cortege being a very large one….”

Today, John Rollin Ridge rests in final slumber next to his wife; his daughter; his brother, Andrew Jackson Ridge; and some in-laws.

Tree in His Honor Still Stands

In 1876, his widow Elizabeth planted a red maple tree at the corner of School and Neal Street in honor of her husband. The tree came from the battlefield at Gettysburg. It still stands proudly, although it was seriously damaged by a powerful January 2005 storm.

However, John Rollin Ridge lives on through the impact of his stories of Joaquin Murieta, the legendary bandit hero of the California Gold Country. The mythology surrounding Joaquin Murieta stubbornly refuses to expire. Throughout the Mother Lode, his name is still invoked. Sprinkled throughout the region are plaques, inscriptions, and markers recounting the prodigious feats of Murieta, “our” Joaquin. And his legend began with John Rollin Ridge.

“I am Joaquin!”

Drawing of Murieta by NahlHe was crafty, generous, vindictive, heroic, and remarkably cool under pressure. He was kindly benefactor and cold-blooded killer. He was a man of startling handsomeness and bravado. He was a stealthy avenger, a resourceful escape artist, loyal friend of the downtrodden, and swashbuckling defender of a lost culture. He was real—flesh and blood—his supporters steadfastly proclaimed, while his detractors sniffed that he was the purest fantasy—the creation of John Rollin Ridge’s feverishly romantic imagination. He was Joaquin Murieta, legendary bandit hero of the Gold Country.

Seemingly, Joaquin was everywhere.

quote… there once was a well-hidden treehouse that secreted the elusive public enemy … unquote

Saw Mill Flat, outside the Southern Mother Lode town of Sonora, boasts of being the location of Joaquin’s first homestead upon arriving from Sonora, Mexico, in 1850. Down the road in Murphys, they still tell the tale of how the brave young Murieta swore revenge on the Anglo hooligans who tied him to a tree, beat him bloody and senseless, and then killed his half-brother and raped Joaquin’s girlfriend Rosita. A few miles away, in San Andreas, the story is of Joaquin’s miraculous bulletproof vest, constructed for him by a sympathetic French argonaut. Joaquin was grateful but practical—to test its effectiveness, he made the Frenchman wear the vest while Joaquin shot at him. In Hornitos, they point to a tunnel supposedly used by Murieta in an escape from heavily armed pursuers. Miles away in Volcano, it is claimed that there once was a well-hidden treehouse that secreted the elusive public enemy as tired lawmen rested below him. Dozens of towns claim that Joaquin was here—Joaquin escaped here—Joaquin slept here—Joaquin distributed his loot here—Joaquin. Joaquin. Joaquin.

Did He Really Exist?

Did it actually happen? It is known that in 1853, a man who was called Joaquin Murieta was killed by a hired gunman.

But … was this the legendary Joaquin? And how much of this tale is fact? How much fiction? It is here that the historical paths diverge.

There are a handful who claim that every incident, every nuance is true, all true. Some admit that the facts may have been fudged a mite, but the skeleton of truth is secure. A few historians acknowledge that some facts are in the historical record, but, for the most part, the story of Joaquin Murieta is an exaggeration. Many scholars believe that the Murieta tale is myth—an entertaining yarn constructed of whole cloth, smoke and mirrors. This latter view is now the predominant historical interpretation.

However, those who argue that the Murieta case is a mixture of fact and folklore offer the following evidence.

Taxes, Crime and Thieves

In early Gold Rush California, it is indisputable that the clash between the once dominant Californio Latino culture and the newly arrived Anglo-American gold miners intensified. In the wake of the 1850 Foreign Miners’ Tax (which required Latinos and other non-English speaking immigrants to pay $16 a month) and the often wholesale expulsion of Californios and Mexicans from the gold fields, land pirates began preying on the mining communities. While many of the outlaws were known to be of European heritage, the majority appear to be Latino. Crime increased dramatically and fear mounted among the good citizens of the Mother Lode.

By 1852 and 1853, the Southern Mines were troubled by a number of thieves. Most of them were called or claimed to be named Joaquin. However, the last names varied—Valenzuela, Carillo, Botilleras, Ocomorenia, and Murieta. They were all mobile, all deceptive, all elusive, and all bothersome. It was difficult, if not downright impossible, to determine which Joaquin had committed a crime. Authorities frequently reported that the criminal was often identified only as “Joaquin” by those interviewed at the scene.

California Legislature Hires Ranger Harry Love

Drawing of Murieta by NahlWhat to do? The Mother Lode mining communities were crying for the immediate apprehension of this wily criminal (or criminals). In May 1853, the California legislature responded by hiring gunman and former Texas Ranger Harry Love to capture the outlaw Joaquin—no last name specified. Dead or Alive. The legislature had debated five different full names, but decided on instructions that used only the generic name of Joaquin. As a reward, the state government offered Love and his twenty member posse a $5000 reward and $150 monthly stipend for all involved. This was a huge sum of money in the days when a few hundred dollars was considered an excellent annual income, and a lot of cash even considering the inflated prices of the Gold Country.

By now this diverse group of lawbreakers had begun to assume a single identity—Joaquin Murieta. Love and his compatriots rode out to seize the cunning Joaquin and his reported accomplice, Three Fingered Jack. Three Fingered Jack was the alias of Manuel Garcia, who was wanted throughout California for theft and murder. On top of the threat to the general populace, it was noted that Garcia hated the Chinese and was a suspected serial killer of Chinese miners in Calaveras County. It was claimed that Joaquin Murieta had killed as many as 200 Chinese as well. In this tense atmosphere, the pressure to deliver Joaquin weighed heavily upon Love’s crew.

Three Fingers’ Hand and Joaquin’s Head?

Poster of travelling showFor several weeks, they had no luck. Then … near Panoche Pass, outside of Hornitos in the Southern Gold Country, Love’s patrol encountered a Mexican band. At least two of the Latinos were killed. One had claimed to be the group’s leader, but he did not mention his name. Love decapitated this supposed chieftain and had his head sealed in a jar of alcohol. Additionally, a hand was severed from a second victim and placed in a separate jar. Love claimed the head was that of Joaquin Murieta and the hand had once belonged to Three Fingered Jack. He returned triumphantly to reclaim his reward. Others were skeptical to say the least. A surviving member of the Mexican party stated that the head was clearly that of Joaquin Valenzuela. Witnesses who saw the gruesome pickled head swore that it bore no resemblance to the “actual” Joaquin. Love insisted that the grotesque relics were authentic. He exhibited them throughout the Gold Country for a $1 admission fee. Interestingly, Harry Love never displayed his grisly trophies in Calaveras County where the “real” Joaquin Murieta reportedly had a primary hangout.

Initially the show drew large crowds, but, by 1856, interest was dwindling. In that year, a San Francisco entrepreneur purchased the head and hand. They became permanent attractions in that city’s Pacific Museum. The items were said to have vanished in the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire.

Joaquin’s Legend Grows Through John Rollin Ridge

While Love and his macabre carnival traveled the countryside, the legend of Joaquin Murieta grew.

In 1854, as recounted in the first part of this two-part series, a struggling gold miner turned writer named John Rollin Ridge (also known by his Cherokee name Yellow Bird) collected the various Joaquin stories and fused them into a single myth. From Ridge’s fertile imagination sprung a book entitled The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, The Celebrated California Bandit. Ridge consolidated the stories, exaggerated actual details, invented breathtaking situations, concocted wild escapes, and promoted the image of Joaquin as a Mother Lode Robin Hood driven to crime by social injustice. The book is considered to be the first novel written by a Native American and the first novel published in California. Ridge’s introductory passage presented Joaquin’s persona and set the stage for the adventures that followed.

The first that we hear of him in the Golden State is that, in the spring of 1850, he is engaged in the honest occupation of a miner in the Stanislaus placers, then reckoned among the richest portions of the mines. He was then eighteen years of age, a little over the medium height, slenderly but gracefully built, and active as a young tiger. His complexion was neither very dark or very light, but clear and brilliant, and his countenance is pronounced to have been, at that time, exceedingly handsome and attractive. His large black eyes, mouth, his well-shaped head from which the long, glossy, black hair hung down over his shoulders, his silvery voice full of generous utterance, and the frank and cordial bearing which distinguished him made him beloved by all with whom he came in contact.

A longer passage is presented separately in this article – click here.

Ridge’s Tale – Fact or Fiction?

Ridge exploited common knowledge of Love’s pursuit and cleverly ended his tale with the criminal genius captured and decapitated by the relentless Texas Ranger.  When issued the account was considered comprehensive.  The public knew that Love had killed a Mexican, most likely a bandit, so the assumption was made that the preceding passages had to be true.  To this day, Ridge’s story is viewed as accurate by some and a few history books still cite Ridge’s fabrications as fact.

Painting by NahlGrass Valley resident John Rollin Ridge died at age 40 in 1867, having realized little financial gain from his fable.  But others profited.  Contemporary artists, most notably the prominent Gold Rush artist Charles Nahl, painted fictionalized ‘portraits’ of Joaquin Murieta which were widely disseminated and sold well.  In 1919, the famous silent movie director D.W. Griffith made his only western—’Scarlet Days’—based upon the Joaquin Murieta legend.  The film has been lost, although a handful of stills remain.  Griffith passed on a young actor touted as being the perfect Joaquin—Rudolph Valentino.  In 1932, Walter Noble Burns published The Robin Hood of El Dorado, a collection of Joaquin stories.  In 1936, another Joaquin Murieta movie biography was produced starring Warner Baxter of Cisco Kid fame.  Most folklorists believe the Zorro stories, popularized by author Johnston McCulley in his 1919 novel The Curse of Capistrano, are based, at least in significant part, on the Joaquin Murieta mythology.  The combination of Ridge’s catalyst linked with these later creative endeavors solidified the position of Joaquin Murieta as a California historical and cultural icon.  Zorro continues to be a popular cultural icon with movies and TV series produced to this day.

Love’s Life Ends

One who did not profit significantly was Harry Love.  Following the sale of his dismembered objects, Love operated a sawmill in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  In 1858, he married but the relationship was bitter and argumentative and the couple separated soon afterward.  In 1868, Love accused another man of having an affair with his estranged wife.  The two men exchanged gunfire and Love was fatally wounded.  He died on the operating table.

While having origin in the oppression of Gold Rush Latinos, the story of Joaquin Murieta is myth, speculation, conjecture, and fabulous adventure.  It is not history, but legend.  But it is entertaining legend that reflects historical actualities, romantic visions, and cultural exasperation.  As long as there are those who remember the past, dream of adventure, or hope for the end of discrimination, it can truly be said that ‘Joaquin was here.’

And the myth’s beginnings were in the agile mind and prolific pen of the author known as Yellow Bird—John Rollin Ridge of Grass Valley.”     Journal of Sierra-Nevada History & Biography, “The California Bandit and Yellow Bird: the Story of Joaquin Murieta and John Rollin Ridge;” 2008.  

CC BY-NC-ND by Martin Beek
CC BY-NC-ND by Martin Beek

Numero Cuatro“Seldom has a popular artist received such venomous attacks and opprobrium than Bob Dylan on his appearance at Newport Folk Festival in May 1965 and after when he ‘went electric.’  Indeed, this continued for years, and even has echoes today.  Dylan’s performance at Newport had tremendous repercussions, not only in the folk music world, but throughout popular music based on American traditions, especially rock music.

Dylan brought the use of meaningful lyrics back into the popular song.  More than that, he sparked poetic lyrics and was, for good or ill, the progenitor of a myriad of singer-songwriters.  Even the Beatles said that they got away from teeny-bop words under the influence of Dylan.  But the role of the ‘Communist’ Party (CP) – in the US and, later, Britain – in, first, building him up, and then trying to knock him down, has not been explained adequately.  The Communist parties were allied to the bureaucratic regime in the Soviet Union, supported the totalitarian state as genuine socialism and, invariably, justified every twist and turn of Soviet policy.

When Dylan turned up on stage in Newport with an electric rock band and burst into the song Maggie’s Farm, a rewrite of an old folk song, Penny’s Farm, there was uproar among the folk traditionalists.  Pete Seeger, the then (and now) veteran ‘leader’ of the American folk scene, who had suffered blacklisting during the McCarthy era, went apoplectic.  There are many legends told about that day: such as, that Seeger tried to cut the electric cable with an axe, and that his and Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman, wrestled in the mud.

Seeger did admit to saying: ‘If I had an axe I’d cut the cable,’ and there were rows going on between the organisers and ‘Dylan’s people’ behind the scenes.  What is certain is that Dylan was booed by a substantial part of the crowd.  Order had to be restored and, eventually, Dylan came back on stage with an acoustic guitar and sang some of his more ‘acceptable’ songs.

To what extent the Newport outburst was organised heckling no one really knows, although there certainly seemed to be organisation behind the booing that he received at all his concerts on his ensuing world tour.  His ‘going electric’, however, should not have come as a great surprise.  Dylan’s album, Bringing It All Back Home, acoustic on one side, electric on the other, and which included Maggie’s Farm, had been on sale for months.

In fact, Dylan had started out playing rock and roll when at school, and had even played piano at a couple of gigs with Bobby Vee, very much a bubblegum pop star.  In his school yearbook, where students write down what they intend to do next, even though he was going to Minnesota University, he wrote: ‘Gone to join Little Richard”.’ If anything, therefore, his ‘treachery’ was merely a return to type.  And he was to switch codes many times during his long career, often delighting, bemusing and irritating fans, colleagues and critics in equal measure.

The young Robert Allen Zimmerman who became Bob Dylan, from Hibbing, a Minnesota mining town, rapidly rose to fame in 1962-63 on the back of a couple of ‘protest’ songs he had written in the folk tradition, notably Blowin’ in the Wind and The Times they are A-Changin’. Since then, Dylan has written and performed all forms of American popular songs from diverse traditions – folk, rock, blues, country, gospel, even jazz – becoming, probably, the most influential songwriter and performer in the post-war era. Although he was originally held up as some sort of political Messiah, and carefully groomed by the American CP, against his wishes and knowledge, he suddenly became a ‘traitor’ for moving on.

A new Woody Guthrie?

DYLAN HAD ARRIVED in New York in 1961 aged 19, a musical devotee of folk singer Woody Guthrie, whom he visited before he died in a New Jersey hospital. Guthrie was a close associate of the CP. His colleagues, led by Pete Seeger, were reviving what they regarded as ‘the people’s’ songs as part of their political activity. Although Guthrie probably never formally joined the CP, he accepted the party line just as much as his card-carrying colleagues. He had for a time a column in the CP newspaper, People’s Daily World. He also wrote and sang peace songs between 1939-41, during the time of the Stalin-Hitler pact, when the Communist parties in Britain and the US opposed the war.

Indeed, according to Seeger, it was Guthrie who first changed the line when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. Seeger said: “Woody had a smile on his face. He said: ‘Well I guess we won’t be singin’ any more peace songs’. I said: ‘What? You mean we’re gonna support Churchill?’ He said: ‘Yup, Churchill’s flip-flopped. We got to flip-flop’. He was right”. (Interview with Phil Sutcliffe, Mojo issue 193, December 2009) It is interesting that they did not say that it was Stalin, but Churchill, who had been forced to flip-flop!

Guthrie had become famous in the US mostly through his song This Land is Your Land, which he conceived as a radical alternative ‘anthem’ to Irving Berlin’s God Bless America. However, the feeling of the song owes more to the American Dream than a demand for public ownership of the land. He was co-opted by Roosevelt government agencies to promote the New Deal, being paid to sing in depressed towns and villages about to be destroyed to make way for hydro-electric schemes, including the Grand Coulee Dam, honoured in his song of that name.

Dylan gravitated to the working class-cum-bohemian Greenwich Village, New York. A precocious talent, he was nurtured by the much older artists around Seeger and became romantically involved with Suze Rotolo, a 19-year-old artist who worked in the civil rights movement. (She was on the cover of his second album, Freewheelin’.) Rotolo was what she calls a ‘red diaper baby’, her parents having been working-class CP activists. She had grown up in this milieu.

CP members, Seeger and Irwin Silber, publisher of Sing Out! a magazine that put out new ‘topical’ songs, were constantly in touch with Rotolo, making sure she kept their protégée onside, although it seems that she was not wholly aware of what they were up to. As far as she was concerned she was just helping Bobby. They were hoping Dylan would become the new Woody Guthrie and help spread their version of socialism while becoming the big star of the folk world.

Dylan openly admits that he ran his political songs past Rotolo before release. “She’ll tell you how many nights I stayed up and wrote songs and showed them to her and asked her ‘Is this right?’. Because I knew her father and mother were associated with unions and she was into this equality-freedom thing long before I was. I checked the songs out with her”. (Robert Shelton, No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan) He later said that he did not know that they were communists, and would not have cared even if he had. Dave von Ronk, folk singer and self-styled ‘Trotskyist mayor of McDougall Street’ (Greenwich Village), also befriended Dylan, and soon discovered he was apolitical.

A ‘musical expeditionary’

THIS DOES NOT mean that Dylan was not sincere in his civil rights songs and actions. His love of music with African-American roots, and his Jewish upbringing, made him a natural anti-racist. Black artists also had a great rapport with Dylan – he was never regarded as a white liberal salving his conscience. American black artists, from gospel singers, the Staples family, through Stevie Wonder to Jimi Hendrix, recorded Dylan songs. Bobby Seale dedicates a chapter of his book, Seize the Time, to a discussion with Huey P Newton, leader of the Black Panthers, of the Dylan song Ballad of a Thin Man. Ironically, while the CP was attacking this song and others, Columbia records almost did not release it on the grounds that it was ‘communistic’!

Harry Belafonte, a black singer who had been successful in the mainstream, dedicated much of his time and money promoting new black artists. Nevertheless, he gave Dylan his first recording experience: playing harmonica on the Belafonte album Midnight Special. Dylan still occasionally reverts to political comment in his songs. As recently as 2006, Workingman’s Blues #2 contains the lines: “The buyin’ power of the proletariat’s gone down/Money’s gettin’ shallow and weak”.

Dylan was greatly underestimated by those who sought to exploit him, including the CP. Far from being the country hick from Hibbing, Dylan was a ruthless user of everyone who could further his career. His fellow students and musicians at St Paul’s and Minneapolis had discovered this. He soaked up everything that could be used later, nicknamed the ‘sponge’ for his merciless theft of anything he could use musically: ideas, songs and arrangements. He still attempts to justify this by saying he was a “musical expeditionary”.

What the folkies around Seeger really objected to most in 1965 was not the switch to electric instruments but Dylan’s refusal to write any more “finger-pointin’” (as Dylan called protest) songs. They accused him of being ‘introspective’ and, therefore, it was implied, reactionary. This was an echo, in fact, of the sterile ‘socialist realism’ and ‘proletarian culture’ espoused by Stalinism and which manifested itself in the folkies’ insistence on musical ‘purity’.

Britain’s folk scene

IN BRITAIN, A similar development had occurred in the folk music world. In 1951, the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) published a pamphlet, The American Threat to British Culture. The perceived threat to ‘British’ music was taken up in earnest by party members Bert Lloyd (well known as folklorist A L Lloyd) and folk singer Ewan MacColl (real name Jimmy Miller), writer of the popular song Dirty Old Town, about his home town of Salford.

MacColl had started out in radical drama (his first wife was Joan Littlewood). After meeting American folklorist and CP member Alan Lomax, whose secretary happened to be Carla Rotolo, sister of Suze, he switched his attention to folk music. MacColl and Lloyd set out, successfully, to launch a folk revival in Britain. There was much cross-fertilisation between Britain and the US. Indeed, there is some evidence that Pete Seeger, whose folk singer sister Peggy later became MacColl’s partner, modelled his folk revival in the US on the work of Lloyd and MacColl.

This was also the year that produced the CPGB programme, The British Road to Socialism, a completely reformist affirmation of the Stalinist theory of ‘socialism in one country’. MacColl’s theories on music flowed directly from this. A debate about ‘purity’ and ‘workers’ songs’ raged in the British folk world, with MacColl being a leading protagonist. He eventually reached the absurd position that if a singer was from England the song had to be English; if American, the song had to be American, and so on. There were also detailed definitions of ‘traditional’, ‘commercial’, ‘ethnic’, ‘amateur’, etc. This was adopted as policy in those folk clubs (a majority) where MacColl and his supporters held sway.

Enter Bob Dylan into this minefield. In 1962, Dylan came to Britain. After some difficulty getting into the Singer’s Club, based in the Pindar of Wakefield pub in London, he was allowed to sing three songs, two of them his own. Contemporary accounts say that MacColl and Peggy Seeger, who ran the club, were hostile. As Dylan was little-known, one interpretation could be that Alan Lomax had talked to them about him. Dylan did not get on well with Carla Rotolo – a relationship immortalised in Dylan’s Ballad in Plain D: “For her parasite sister I had no respect” – so this may explain it. Or it may be that they did not regard his self-written songs ‘valid’ folk. Later, when Dylan was pronounced anathema by the CP, MacColl went one step further and announced that all Dylan’s previous work in the folk idiom had not been true folk music.

Civil rights campaigning

DYLAN ONLY RARELY got involved in public political action. He went to the southern states of the US with Pete Seeger to support the black voter registration campaign. He also sang, with Joan Baez, next to Martin Luther King on the platform on the March on Washington – the occasion of the ‘I have a dream’ speech. (Baez’s political activity stemmed from a Quaker peace movement background: her father was an eminent physicist who refused to work on weapon-related projects and her hardcore traditional folk songs came from her Scottish-American mother.)

When he was with Seeger in the south, Dylan sang a new song, Only a Pawn in Their Game, about the recent murder of civil rights leader, Medgar Evers. Everyone knew that redneck Ku Klux Klan member, Byron De La Beckwith, did it. But it took 30 years (1994) to find a Mississippi jury prepared to convict him. In the song, Dylan lays the blame firmly on capitalism, pointing out that the poor whites are used to split the working class as pawns in the ruling class’s game. The line: “The poor white man’s used in the hands of them all like a tool”, sums up the message of the song.

Seeger says he found this an “interesting new slant” on the issue. (No Direction Home, film documentary by Martin Scorsese, 2005). This exposes the CP’s liberal position: seeing racism simply as a black-and-white issue. Dylan’s words, on the other hand, reflect a certain class consciousness.

The ‘Judas’ protest

ONE MONTH AFTER the Newport debacle, on 28 August 1965, Dylan played Forest Hills with a newly formed rock group based on The Hawks, later to be called The Band.  A crowd of 14,000 applauded his opening 45 minutes acoustic set and then booed throughout the second half of the concert when the band came on.  On 24 September 1965 in Austin, Texas, Dylan began a tour across America and then the world which would last a full year.  The pattern of Forest Hills was to repeat itself everywhere.  Never before had anyone known people buy tickets to go to a concert to express vociferous dissatisfaction.  Levon Helm, the drummer, gave up in disgust before they even left America and was replaced.

By the time the tour reached Britain in May 1966, the pattern was set.  In Edinburgh, the Young Communist League had a debate and decided to stage a walk-out when the electric instruments were brought on stage.  Similar events occurred in Dublin and Bristol.  There was little press coverage of this, except for the Melody Maker which carried the headline on 14 May, The Night of the Big Boo, so the suspicion of covert organisation remains.  Prior to the concert in Manchester the University Folk Society had a meeting which voted to boycott, though not disrupt, it.

This was the background to the extraordinary scene at Manchester Free Trade Hall on 17 May 1966 (See CP Lee, Like the Night, Helter Skelter publishing, 1998).  The concert had the usual trouble-free first half.  Then, three songs into the second set – ironically, immediately after the ‘communistic’ Ballad of a Thin Man – slow-hand clapping began, then individual heckles.  A girl went up to Dylan and gave him a piece of paper which, it later transpired, said: ‘Tell the band to go home.’

Then, in a moment of silence between songs there rang out loud and clear the now infamous protest call: ‘Judas!’  Dylan was audibly angry and shaken – the concert is now on official CD release after years of availability as a bootleg (misnamed the Albert Hall Concert).  Although this is generally regarded as the peak of this bizarre period, things became much more serious in Glasgow, where a ‘fan’ tried to get into Dylan’s hotel room armed with a knife.  No one can seriously blame the Communist Party for this last event, but there is little doubt that some of its members were cheerleaders in the extraordinary events of the 1965-66 tour, based on a twisted Stalinist interpretation of ‘proletarian culture’ dashed with an unhealthy dose of nationalism.”     Frank Riley, “We Live in a Political World: Bob Dylan and the Communist Party;” Socialism Today, 2010.  

Numero CincoAuto da Fé was originally published as Die Blendung in 1935 and was translated in 1946 by C.V. Wedgwood (Dame Cicely Veronica Wedgwood) and was translated ‘under the personal supervision of the author.’  A more literal translation would be, I believe, The Blinding.  Auto da Fé refers to the burning of heretics by the Spanish and Portuguese inquisition.  I first read this book about twenty years ago and have been meaning to re-read it for years; GLM4 has given me a good excuse to do so.Canetti_Auto-da-Fe-fcXC-700pxThe book is split into three parts: A Head Without a World; Headless World; The World in the Head.  The first part introduces us to the main character, Peter Kien, who lives his bookish life largely inside his own head.  In the opening pages we see Kien as he goes on his daily early morning walk which he takes between seven and eight o’clock before the bookshops open so he won’t be tempted to buy any more books but also to reassure himself that the bookshops only sell substandard books.  He has his own personal library of 25,000 volumes, mostly on his specialist subject of Chinese Literature, and he even carries around a small portion of it in a suitcase wherever he goes.  Unusually for Kien he takes an interest in a small boy who seems to share his interest in Chinese literature, maybe because this boy reminds him of himself as a child.

We soon learn that Kien has a housekeeper called Therese Krumbholz who has been employed by him for eight years; she was attracted by his advertisement in which it was stated that ‘money was no object.’  Kien’s wealth comes solely from an inheritance and although he publishes papers he’s not employed by any academic institution.  He lives frugally except when it comes to acquiring books.  He dislikes talking: ‘The greatest danger which threatens a man of learning, is to lose himself in talk.’  Food is irrelevant to him: ‘As a rule he would not have been able to say what precisely he had in his mouth.’  But he likes books and thinking: ‘He reserved consciousness for real thoughts; they depend upon it; without consciousness, thoughts are unthinkable.’  Therese, in her blue starched skirt, believes that Kien has a secret vice – just what does he do in his study between six and seven a.m.?

One day he believes that Therese is taking an interest in his books and he offers to lend her one. When he’s reminded of his promise he gives her a tatty old novel and is surprised and impressed with the reverence that she has for it; she wears gloves to handle it, she wraps it up to stop it getting damaged and re-reads each page several times. Throughout the novel Kien and the other characters make decisions through torturous logic which they usually regret, so it is very often difficult for us, the reader, to understand their thought processes. Impressed by her devotion to books and taking advice from an imaginary conversation with Confucius Kien rashly decides to marry Therese; this is the beginning of his downfall.

For the rest of Part One Therese gradually takes over control of Kien’s flat, such as insisting on them having meals together, buying new furniture; she demands more control over the finances and is convinced that Kien is hiding his fortune from her. Therese becomes increasingly avaricious so that by the end of Part One she refuses to cook him any food and virtually has him imprisoned in his room and just wants him to hand over his bankbook. Kien takes the only route open to him and impersonates a stone statue. Yes, Auto da Fé gets gloriously weird at times:

Therese grabbed him by the legs of his chair and shoved him heavily to one side. She let go of the chair, went over to the writing desk and pulled out a drawer. She searched through the drawer, found nothing, and made for the next one. In the third, fourth and fifth she still could not find what she wanted. He understood: a ruse of war. She was not looking for anything; what could she be looking for? The manuscripts would all be alike to her, she had found papers in the very first drawer. She was working on his curiosity. He was to ask, what was she doing there. If he spoke he would be stone no longer, and she would strike him dead. She was tempting him out of his stone. She tore and wrenched at the desk. But he kept his blood cold and uttered not a breath.

By the end of Part One Therese throws Kien out of the flat – but he at least has the bankbook.

There are so many crazy characters in this novel, but one character who appears throughout the whole book is the brutish caretaker of the building. This man is an ex-policeman who just loves using his fists. Strangely enough Kien had befriended him over the years by paying him a monthly stipend to keep the building free of hawkers, beggars and other undesirables. This man, Benedikt Pfaff, bullied both his wife and daughter, and made their lives unbearable. There’s a brilliant one-page interior monologue of Pfaff’s thoughts; to give you a taste of his character here’s the beginning of that monologue:

Women ought to be beaten to death.  The whole lot of them.   I know them.  I’m fifty-nine.  Twenty-three years I was a married man.   Almost half my life.  Married to the same old woman.  I know women.  They’re all criminals.  You just add up the poisoners, Professor, you’ve got books, have a good look at them.  Women haven’t any guts.  I know all about it.  When a man tries anything on with me, I smash his face in so he has something to remember me by, you sh–, I say, you dirty little sh–, how dare you?

And so, with Part Two it gets even more weird.  Kien ends up getting involved with a hunchbacked dwarf called Fischerle who is also intent on relieving Kien of his money which he has withdrawn from his bank account.  Curiously he actually has Kien’s wallet twice in his hands but can’t seem to simply steal the money.  Instead, when they visit a pawnbrokers he convinces Kien that when people pawn their books there they actually get eaten by the ‘hog.’  Kien is so distressed by this that he stands watch on the stairs and pays people to take their books away from the hog.  Fischerle soon gets a group of old friends together to take books along to the pawnbrokers when Kien is standing guard so that Fischerle can get Kien’s money.  In his warped mind, Fischerle believes that he’s getting Kien’s money legally and that he’s a great entrepreneur.

There’s just too much to mention in this section; we learn that Kien can somehow load up his head with physical books and unload them at night – or is this just Kien being delusional?  We can never be too sure.  There is also a brilliant scene when Therese and Pfaff turn up at the pawnbroker’s to pawn some of Kien’s books – a magnificent tussle ensues and then an amazingly confused trip to the police station.  This scene highlights how none of the characters ever understand what any of the other characters are thinking, feeling or what motivates them.  They’re all isolated from each other and are just interested in their own obsessions.  Fischerle however escapes with most of Kien’s money and the last chapter of Part Two is probably the weirdest of the novel; we follow Fischerle as he’s preparing to go to America (or Japan – it’s a bit confusing!) until a surprising and shocking ending involving a button.

Part Three initially calms down a bit and we get a bit of background information about Pfaff and we learn that he’s even nastier than we’ve thought up until this point.  Kien is temporarily staying at Pfaff’s basement flat whilst Therese is still occupying Kien’s flat.  Pfaff is virtually living with Therese and is spending most of his time there as well.  In all the confusion of Part Two Fischerle had sent a telegram to Kien’s brother George, a famous psychiatrist, and out of concern for his brother George turns up and helps to restore an element of calm and order.  So there’s a happy ending?  Er, almost, but not quite!  As with the rest of this novel it can easily turn weird and/or nasty.

If you enjoy Kafka or Beckett then you should enjoy this novel.”     Arthur Schnitzler, “Auto da Fe by Elias Canetti;” Intermittencies of the Mind, 2014.