Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries: The Mashahid al-asrar of Ibn 'Arabi

Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries: The Mashahid al-asrar of Ibn 'Arabi


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A major work of mystical literature, this account focuses on 14 visions in the form of dramatic conversations with the divine, interspersed with dazzling visionary episodes regarding the nature of existence, humans' relationship with reality, and the way to achieve true happiness. The introduction presents a resume of Ibn 'Arabi's life and examines in detail the style and symbolism of the contemplations. Presented for the first time in English, this work is a superb example of Ibn 'Arabi's inimitable style and deep perception.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781905937028
Publisher: Anqa Publishing
Publication date: 01/28/2008
Pages: 136
Sales rank: 309,192
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Ibn 'Arabi was an eminent scholar and teacher of Islam in the Moorish culture of Andalusian Spain during the 12th century. Cecilia Twinch is an experienced translator who has published various articles and presented papers on Ibn 'Arabi in Europe, the United States, North Africa, and the Middle East. Pablo Beneito is a professor at the department of Arabic and Islamic Studies–University of Seville. He has edited and translated three of Ibn 'Arabi's works, including The Seven Days of the Heart.

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Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries and the Rising of the Divine Lights

By Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi, Cecilia Twinch, Pablo Beneito

Anqa Publishing

Copyright © 2001 Cecilia Twinch and Pablo Beneito
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-905937-22-6


Contemplation of the Light of Existence (wujud) as the Star of Direct Vision (iyân) rises


The Real made me contemplate the light of existence as the star of direct vision rose, and He asked me, "Who are you?"

I replied, "Apparent non-existence."

Then He said to me, "And how can non-existence change into existence? If you were not an existing [entity], your existence would not be possible and real."

I replied, "That is why I said apparent non-existence, since hidden nonexistence does not have real existence."

Then He said to me, "If [one considers that] the first existence is identical to the second existence, then there is not a preceding nonexistence, nor a contingent existence. However, it is established that you are contingent."

"The first existence is not the same as the second."

"The first existence is like the existence of the universals, and the second existence is like the existence of the particulars."

"Non-existence is real and there is nothing else; and existence is real and there is nothing else."

I agreed, saying, "That is so."

Then He said to me, "Are you a Muslim by mere tradition or do you have your own standard of judgement?"

I answered, "I am not a [blind] imitator nor do I follow my own [rational] opinion."

He said to me, "Then you are no thing."

I said to Him, "I am the thing without likeness and You are the thing with likeness."

He said, "What you say is true."

Then He told me, "You are not a thing, nor have you been a thing, nor are you according to a thing."

"That is so," I replied, "since if I were a thing, perception would be able to apprehend me; if I were according to a thing, the three relationships would apply to me, and if I were thing I would have an opposite, but I have no opposite."

Then I said to Him, "I exist in the parts, although I do not exist, so I am named without name, qualified without quality and described without description, and this constitutes my perfection. However, You are named by the name, qualified by the quality and described by the description, and this constitutes Your perfection."

Then He said to me, "Only the non-existent knows the existent." "Only what is existent knows the existent as it is in reality. Existence is from Me, not from you, but it is in you, not in Me."

Then He said to me, "Whoever finds you finds Me and whoever loses you loses Me."

"Whoever finds you loses Me and whoever loses you finds Me."

"Whoever loses me finds Meand whoever has found Me does not lose Me."

"Finding and losing are yours, not Mine."

Then He said to me, "Every [kind of] limited and relative existence is yours and all absolute and unlimited existence belongs to Me."

"Relative existence belongs to Me not to you." "Differentiated existence, which is Mine, is through you, and integrated existence, which is yours, is through Me." "And vice versa."

Then He said to me, "Primordial pre-existence is not [really] existence, but below it is true existence."

"Existence is through Me, it comes from Me and it is Mine."

"Existence comes from Me, but it is not through Me, nor is it Mine."

"Existence is not through Me, nor does it come from Me." Then He said, "If you find Me you will not see Mebut you will see Me if you lose Me."

"Finding is losing Me and losing is finding Me. Were you able to discover taking, then you would know real existence."


Contemplation of the Light of Taking (akhdh) as the Star of Affirmation (iqrar) rises


The Real made me contemplate the light of [Divine] taking as the star of affirmation rose.

Then He said to me, "Taking is the same as letting go but not everything that is let go of is taken."

"You can find Me but you cannot take hold of me; 1 can take hold of you but I cannot find you."

"I do not take hold of you nor do I find you."

"I find you, but I do not take hold of you."

Then He said to me, "Taking only occurs from behind, since if it were from in front nobody would go astray."

"I have manifested myself in taking [the servant] and I have hidden Myself in letting [him] go."

"Taking implies three [aspects] and everything that exceeds this number is no longer taking."

"[In reality,] I took Myself."

Then He said to me, "Look at the 'inanimate beings' and listen to their glorification of God, for that is their responding 'Yes, indeed!'" "If I veiled you with the taking [keeping you in this state of extinction without return to subsistence], you would suffer eternal pain in everlasting happiness."

"I only take him [to] whom I have said ['Be!', giving him existence] and I have only said ['Be!' to] what is owned [by Me]. Nothing is owned unless it is dominated, and nothing is dominated unless it is confined, and nothing is confined unless it is newly arrived, and nothing arrives newly except the [potential] non-existence."

"I took what was dispersed and united it. I took it from the union and I reunited it. Then I dispersed it and united it [once more], and then there was neither division nor union."

Then He made me contemplate what is above taking, and I saw the Hand. Then the Green Sea poured forth between the Hand and me. I became immersed in it and I saw a tablet. climbed onto it and [like that] I was saved, since had it not been for [the tablet], I would have perished.

Then the Hand appeared, and behold! the Hand was serving as the shore of that sea, upon which the boats sailed until they arrived at the shore. When they reached it, the Hand pushed them along to a deserted place. The owners of the boats disembarked carrying with them pearls, jewels and coral; but as soon as they stepped onto dry land, these all turned into ordinary stones.

I said to Him, "How does one keep the pearls as pearls, the jewels as jewels and the coral as coral?"

He said, "When you come out of the sea, take away with you some seawater, for whilst the water remains, pearls, jewels and coral will continue in that state; but if the water dries up, they will turn into ordinary stones. In the Sura of the Prophets1 have made its secret clear."

And so I took [some] of that water to carry with me, and when I reached the deserted land I saw a verdant garden in the middle of that arid place. I was told, "Come in."

I went in and I saw its blossoms and radiant flowers, its birds and its fruit. When I stretched out my hand to eat of those fruits, the water dried up and the precious gems were transformed [into ordinary stones].

Then [I heard] the voice which reprimanded me saying, "Throw away the fruit that you have in your hand!"

I threw it away, and immediately the water flowed again and the gems regained their former state.

Then He said to me, "Go to the boundary of the garden."

So I went there and found a desert. "Cross it", He said. So I crossed it and [on the way] I saw scorpions, snakes, vipers and lions. Whenever they harmed me, I moistened the place [of the wound] with water and it healed.

Then, at the end of the desert, He opened up some gardens before me. I entered them and the water dried up. I stepped out of them and the water flowed again.

Then I entered a darkness and I was told, "Cast off your clothes and throw away the water and the stones, for you have found [what you were looking for]." I discarded everything I had with me, without seeing where, and I remained [just as I am].

He said to me, "Now you are you."

Then He said to me, "Do you see how excellent this darkness is, how intense its brightness and how clear its light! This darkness is the place from which the lights rise, the source from which the fountains of secrets spring forth and the [original] matter of the elements. From this darkness I have brought you into being, to it I make you return and I shall not remove you from it."

Then He showed me an opening like the eye of a needle. I went out towards it and I saw a beautiful radiance and a dazzling light. He said to me, "Have you seen how intense is the darkness of this light? Stretch out your hand and you will not see it." I stretched it out and, indeed, I did not see it.

He said to me, "This is My light, in which none but Me can see himself."

Then He said to me, "Return to your darkness, for you are far from your kind."

"There is no one but you in this darkness and I have brought into being from it no one but you; from it I have taken you."

"I have created from light everything that exists except for you, who have been created from darkness."

'"They have not valued God as they ought.' If He were in the light, then they would appreciate Him properly. You are truly My servant."

"If you want to see Me, lift the veils from My face."


Contemplation of the Light of the Veils (sutur) as the Star of Strong Backing (ta'yid) rises


The Real made me contemplate the light of the veils as the star of strong backing rose, and He said to me, "Do you know how many veils I have veiled you with?"

"No", I replied.

He said, "With seventy veils. Even if you raise them you will not see Me, and if you do not raise them you will not see Me."

"If you raise them you will see Me and if you do not raise them you will see Me."

"Take care of burning yourself!"

"You are My sight, so have faith. You are My Face, so veil yourself."

Then He said to me, "Take all the veils away from Me. Reveal Me, for I have given you permission, keep me in the treasuries of the hidden, so that no other than Me sees Me, and invite the people to see Me. You will find behind each veil what the Beloved found. So consider and recite [the verse] 'Glory [to God] ...' and when you come to [the words] '... the Hearer, the Seer', understand well My intention and tell the servants what you have seen, so that you awaken their longing for Me and fill them with desire for Me, and you will be a mercy for them."

Then He said to me, "Lift the veils one by one."

I lifted the first and I saw non-existence [and I continued lifting, successively, the following veils]: existence, the existent, the [primordial] covenants, the return, the seas, the darknesses, yielding, instruction, derivation, permission, prohibition, transgression, anger, imprisonment, letters, generation, partial death, total death, direction, transmission, holding fast, the two feet, universal privilege, wrapping, splitting open, purification, recomposition, interdiction, sanctification, intercession, mounting, travelling, milk, knocking, mixing, spirits, beauty, elevation, mastery, intimate conversation, dissolution, reaching the end, letting go, love, removal of the intermediaries, the secret [centre] (sirr), the chests, veracity, irresistible power, sense of shame, boldness, leave-taking, inheritance, uprooting, annihilation, subsistence, jealousy, spiritual will, unveiling, contemplation, majesty, beauty, disappearance of the individual essence (ayn), the imperceptible, the inaudible, the incomprehensible, the incommunicable, symbolic allusion, the whole.

A detailed explanation follows later.

The servant said: When I finished [lifting the veils] He asked me, "What have you seen?"

"Something magnificent", I replied.

Then He said to me, "What I have hidden from you is even more magnificent."

"By My glory! I have not hidden anything from you, nor have I shown you anything."

Then He burnt the veils [that remained] behind me, and I saw the Throne.

He said to me, "Lift it."

So I lifted it and He said to me, "Throw it into the sea."

I threw it and it disappeared. Then the sea cast it up again and He said to me, "Extract from the sea the Stone of Similarity."

I extracted it and He said to me, "Lift up the Balance." lifted it up and He said to me, "Put the Throne and all it contains in one scale and put the Stone of Similarity in the other." The Stone weighed more. Then He said to me, "Even if you put in a million times the [weight of the] Throne up to the limit of what is possible, this Stone would weigh more."

"And what is the name of this Stone?", I asked.

"Raise your head and look," He said. "You will find it written on all things."

I raised my head and I saw, indeed, that alif was in everything. Then He covered me with fifty veils and He uncovered from my face four hundred veils so subtle that I never felt them.

Then He said to me, "Add what you have seen in all things to the veils. The result of this combination is the name of that Stone."

"All this has been written since eternity without beginning, and all of it is [now] before you. So read:

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

[Letter] from the First Existence to the Second Existence:

Non-existence preceded you, you being already existent. Then I made a covenant with you in the Presence of Oneness, with your affirmation that 'I am God and there is no divinity but Me' and you gave Me testimony of that. Then I made you return.

After that I brought you out and I cast you into the sea. Next I flung your parts into the darknesses, then I sent you to them [as a messenger] and they accepted you with obedience and they yielded. I gave you the company and solace of a part of yourself, whose company is licit for you. Then I forbade you My Presence, but I allowed you to enter it [against My wishes]. I became angry with you and I imprisoned you, even though you are blessed.

After this, I formed the letters and I preserved them for you. I gave you the Pen and I sat you on your throne and you wrote on the Guarded Tablet what I wanted of you. I vivified part of you, giving you then the plenitude of life. Next I took out some parts of you, dispersed them in the corners of the prison [of the world], speaking in different kinds of languages. I fortified them with [the gift of] impeccability and seated them on their chairs.

Then I singled out one of them, for whose cause I have singled you out [too], and I strengthened him with the Words. 1 purified him from all blemish, I forbade him to turn to created things, I sanctified his place and I granted him the right of intercession in favour of all.

Then I plunged him into the sea and he mounted one of his mounts. He journeyed by night in the instant and I brought it down upon the Dome of Ann. Then I gave him total life and protected him from his partial nature, and I addressed him from his centre, saying, 'On leaving limitedness, 1 will love you and on the departing of the spirits, 1 will gladden you. Bring out and make manifest the heart of the veracious, and conquer. Take the secret of life and entrust it to whomsoever you wish. Draw the sword of vengeance: with it raise your sign and with it defeat whoever opposes you.

Then come to Me; let your son go, that he may take your place and tell him to be consumed in annihilation by his subsistence, not to be jealous of [communicating] his revelation and to contemplate Me in the attributes, but not in the essences, because I am not contained by them. Although he may listen, understand, know, allude, communicate, particularize or summarize, he will not comprehend Me. [However], in intuition (shu'ur) things show themselves clearly to the people of vision.'"


Contemplation of the Light of Intuition (shu'uur) as the Star of Transcendence (tanzih) rises


The Real made me contemplate the light of intuition as the star of transcendence rose, and He said to me, "I hide Myself in evidence and intuition from the people of veils."

Then He said to me, "Poetry is confined and it is the place of symbol and enigma. If they knew that the symbol and enigma of things is in the intensity of clarity, they would follow that. The luminous verses of the Quran have been revealed as indications of meanings which [otherwise] would never be understood."

"See Me in the sun and look for Me in the moon,but avoid Me in the stars."

"Do not be like the bird of Jesus."

"Look for Me in the vicegerent and amongst the guardians of the night and you will find Me."

Then He said to me, "When you see the cattle, horses and donkeys immersed in water up to their necks, then ride the mules, and leaning on the walls, try to reach the bank. If an obstacle should arise cutting you off from the bank, cover your eyes with your hands and let your hair fall over your forehead and enter the stream [without fear], for the water will not reach your saddlebow and you will be safe. Whoever is riding a horse or a donkey will perish in the river, but not he who is riding a mule."

Then He said to me, "If you stay in intuition, you will be the middle degree. Whoever is beneath you will look towards you and whoever is above you, will turn towards you, so that there is no one above you. In intuition you will find the instant."

"If you are the middle degree then travel in spring!"

Then He said to me, "Light is a veil and darkness is a veil. In the line between them both you will be aware of what is most beneficial. So follow this lineclosely, and if you arrive at the point in which it originates, make it disappear in the sunset prayer. Then sleep after the odd prayer of the night. When dawn comes, the legal obligation will be lifted, the burden [of prescriptions] will fall away, and you will be you, beyond such attributions."


Excerpted from Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries and the Rising of the Divine Lights by Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi, Cecilia Twinch, Pablo Beneito. Copyright © 2001 Cecilia Twinch and Pablo Beneito. Excerpted by permission of Anqa Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


Spiritual journey: "Rise beyond and you will discover",
Muhyiddin Ihn 'Arabi,
This edition,
The style and symbolism of the Contemplations,
The Arabic language,
From Ibn 'Arabi's Preface,
1 Contemplation of die Light of Existence (wujud) as the Star of Direct Vision (iyan) rises,
2 Contemplation of the Light of Taking (akhdh) as die Star of Affirmation (iqrar) rises,
3 Contemplation of the Light of die Veils (sutur as die Star of Strong Backing (ta'yid) rises,
4 Contemplation of the Light of Intuition (shu'ur) as die Star of Transcendence (tanzih) rises,
5 Contemplation of the Light of Silence (samt) as die Star of Negation (salb) rises,
6 Contemplation of the Light of Elevation (matla') as die Star of Unveiling (kashf) rises,
7 Contemplation of the Light of die Leg (saq) as die Star of the Summons (du'a') rises,
8 Contemplation of the Light of die Rock (sakhra) as die Star of the Sea (bahr) rises,
9 Contemplation of the Light of the Rivers (al-anhar) as the Star of Degrees (rutab) rises,
10 Contemplation of the Light of Perplexity (hayra) as the Star of Non-existence ('adam) rises,
11 Contemplation of the Light of Divinity (uluhiyya) as the Star of Lam-Alif rises,
12 Contemplation of the Light of Uniqueness (ahadiyya) as the Star of Servanthood ('ubudiyya) rises,
13 Contemplation of the Light of the Support (amd) as the Star of Singularity (fardaniyya) rises,
14 Contemplation of the Light of Argument (hijaj) as the Star of Justice ('adl) rises,
1 The manuscripts used in die edition of the text,
2 Ibn Arabi's preface,
3 Ibn Arabi's epilogue,
4 Correspondences in Contemplation 3,

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