by Cecilia Twinch
Delivered at the MIAS Symposium on Retreat, Berkeley, October 1997
(C. Twinch explores) the varying physical and metaphysical dimensions of retreat (al-khalwa )
In Ibn 'Arabi's Kernel of the Kernel (1), Hazreti Ali' is quoted as saying, "You thought you were a part, small, but in you there is a universe, the greatest." Similarly, retreat (al-khalwa ) is like going into the self in order to discover that what is hidden there is displayed outwardly in the universe.
Fleeing to God, in the context of Ibn 'Arabi's doctrine on the unity of existence [or: unity of being], is not a flight away from one thing towards another, since [in reality] there is nothing in existence but God; fleeing to God is ... a way of expressing the flight from ignorance to knowledge (2) - a theme which runs through all of Ibn 'Arabi's writings.
Ascetic elements of the retreat ... loosen the grip that the animal self exercises by curbing the natural appetites and they help in the cutting of worldly ties in order to bring the realisation of one's dependence on God Alone: that in silence and solitude conversation may take place with the Real One, for His is the Company, and through hunger and wakefulness it is known that God is the Nourisher and God is the One who gives repose.
However, Ibn 'Arabi seems to indicate that the means should not be taken as important in themselves, lest the seekers familiarize themselves with a method instead of finding closeness to God, and limit Him by trying to approach Him through something other than Himself.
... purpose of helping others to withdraw from their belief in the existence of anything besides the One and Unique existence.
Ibn 'Arabi says,
Ibn 'Arabi writes,
... Meister Eckhart talks of a similar idea ... (19)
The place in which retreat really takes place is in God:
"there is no place of retreat nor safety save in You"
(lâ malja' wa lâ manja' illa ilayka ) (20)
Ibn 'Arabi [then] asks, "From whom dost thou flee and there is nought in
existence but He?"
He warns that it is necessary to be wary of separating God from the world and fleeing to a divinity of one's own imagining. The cause of this imaginary flight ...
in: Ibn 'Arabi's Risalat al-anwar
written in reply to a question about "the modes of the journey to the Almighty Master..."(27)
These journeys ... may [also] be regarded as a constant process of return to the source and recreation with each breath.
This retreat and return to creation may be regarded both as spiritual stations of the perfect ones and as a practice at every moment for anyone who wishes to witness the truth, whatever their state, whether far or near, since, Ibn 'Arabi reminds us, it has been affirmed that God is with us wherever we are.
withdrawal from creation to God =:
withdrawal from illusion to the Real
from the belief that we have acquired existence ( al-wujûd al-mustafâd ),
not from acquired existence itself since, as Ibn 'Arabi affirms, 'there is none' (28).
⇐ the meaning of the command "[Be!] And it is" (Q.36:82)
is not that things acquire existence but that
that which hears the command acquires the property of being a place of manifestation.
Ibn 'Arabi: "Those people of wayfaring (ahl al-sulûk ) without knowledge of this ..."are not able to withdraw from the forms of things ... if they really understood the speech of things they would recognise the gift that God gives in imparting knowledge through it.
"For him whom God has given understanding, retreat and society (khalwa
and jalwa ) are the same.
⇐ it may be that society is more complete for a person and greater in benefit, since through it at every instant he increases in sciences about God that he did not possess."
Notes:1. See Chittick, The Sufi Path of Knowledge, Albany, NY, 1989, p.158
|•||8226||'(it) is', 'i.e.'||•|
|.||'to', or 'of'||.|
|=:||whole sentence is the following||=:|
|→||->||8594||'in', 'for', 'through', 'towards'||→|
|⇒||=>>||8658||'(is) hence', '(is) therefore' (implies)||⇒|
|=>||'is hence', 'is therefore' (no strong implic.)||=>|
|⇐||<<=||8656||'because', (implied by) + ('it is')||⇐|
|~=||which is, that is||~=|
|:~||'which', refers to last noun||:~|
|♥||heart||9829||topic of (last) paragraph (+'is')||♥|