The Nameless, the Formless, the Unborn Tao
The only valid knowing
is the knowing of the Tao
and when you try to know the Tao,
the Grand Reality behind all
you can't help but pay heed
to the Tao,
and when you start paying heed to Tao
ie. you're well into the practice of heeding the Tao
paying attention to every Sign and Signal
along the way embedded
in the scheme of ten zillion things,
you shall soon
come to realize Tao-heed (Tawhid)
the Transcendent Unity of Oneness, of Being.
The following paragraphs are quoted from Dr. Tarik M. Quadir's recently published book Traditional Islamic Environmentalism: The Vision of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a book of profound beauty, gnosis and light, which I am reading at the present:
Islam in its outward or exoteric aspect, contains the principles of tawhid (Unity of God), the hierarchic structure of reality, and of the ultimate meaningfulness or purposefulness of the cosmos, corresponding to the principles of the perennial philosophy of reality as such.
The principle of tawhid is the basis and the central pole of Islam. It corresponds to the perennial principle of the unity of reality. In the ordinary sense, tawhid implies the absoluteness and the Unity of God. God is not only eternally One (al-Ahad), He is also Sovereign (al-Malik) over all things and there is none like unto Him (112:4). This transcendent aspect of God is however complemented by suggestions in the Qur'an that He is Near (al-Qarib), Most Loving (al-Wadud), that all natural phenomena are His Signs and Wherever you turn there is God's countenance (2:115), suggesting an ever present link between God and the cosmos.. Tawhid points to an inseparable ontological bond between God and the created order that cannot be explained by an understanding of God in His transcendent aspect alone.
.. The Qur'an raises questions that require deeper reflection and an understanding of the immanent aspect of God in light of His transcendence. Indeed, in the Qur'anic references to the principles of tawhid and hierarchy of reality, the absolute transcendence of God vis-a-vis His creation seems to be only one side of the story. One clue on the relationship between God and the universe that Seyeed Hossain Nasr and other Islamic environmentalists never fail to point out is that both the entities in nature and the verse in the Quran are related by the same term aya (sign or symbol) of God. This is a clear indication that just as the Quran is a means for knowledge of God, so is nature. We might say that Islamic metaphysics (ma'rifah) is the full exploration of the realization that everything inside and outside of us, and not only the Qur'an, is a means of knowledge of God.
Indeed, the famous Sufi Abu Bakr al-Kabadhi (d. 994) cited Junayd al-Baghdadi (d. 910), one of the greatest authorities on Sufism, in asserting that metaphysics (ma'rifah) is either direct Self-disclosure of God within His servants or the true knowledge God instructs of His Signs (ayat Allah) on the horizon and within themselves (41:53). Abd Allah Ansari (d 1088), another famous Sufi, reiterates this understanding in stating that metaphysics (ma'rifah) is "the comprehension of the essence of a thing as it is." In other words, from the metaphysical point of view, the knowledge of the "essence of a thing as it is" is equivalent to the knowledge of the "Self-disclosure of God."
One of the greatest Sufi Masters and Thinkers, Ibn Arabi's metaphysical exposition of Tawhid can be cited here which speaks of the immutable archetype, Theophany/ Self-Disclosure of God and Unity of Being.
The immutable archetype in Islamic metaphysics is derived from the Qur'anic affirmation that Allah knows the reality of things even before He brings them into existence: Whenever We will anything to be, We but say unto it Our word "Be" - and it is (16:40). The "thing" before God gives existence to "it," is the "immutable archetypes" of any existent entity.
God's purpose for creation is expressed in majestic simplicity in the hadith qudsi, "I was a hidden treasure; so I loved to be known, hence I created creatures in order that I might be known." Ibn Arabi interprets this divine utterance as evidence of God's desire to be known through the things He creates: "God says to a thing, 'Be!'.. it becomes a locus of manifestation for the Real. This is the meaning of His words, ['Be'] And it is." In other words, the immutable archetype becomes the "locus of manifestation" for God when He desires to give its existence.
As to what the existent things manifest in particular at the "locus of manifestation of the Real," Ibn 'Arabi directs our attention to the divine names revealed in the Qur'an. God in His Essence is unknowable. He becomes known through His attributes corresponding to His names which are His first delimitations. Thus His names are His first Self-disclosures (tajalli) in His desire to be known.
For Ibn Arabi, the Quran is a Self-disclosure of God in a linguistic mode where God reveals His attributes most directly through His names. Though God in His Essence is unknowable, like light which is invisible but become known only as multiplicity of differentiated colours, God can be known by His attributes.
The divine names function as universal archetypes of the created order. The Being of God is present in all entities, but either they do not all reveal the same attributes of God or the attributes do not shine with same brilliance in each entity.. By existentiating each archetype, God reveals a unique combination of His attributes. Thus, all existent entities in Ibn Arabi's language are 'Self-Disclosures' of God (tajalli) in accordance with their immutable archetypes in the knowledge of God.
An immutable archetype can be said to be one of the infinite possibilities of God's Being. In other words, an immutable archetype is His knowledge of a particular possibility of His Being. He may or may not existentiate this archetype, but as a possibility of His Being, it must remain fixed, and therefore immutable in His knowledge eternally. Therefore, even when an entity on earth perishes, it does not bring an end to its immutable archetype.
We never see the immutable archetypes of the existent entities because the archetypes in themselves are from the realm of unseen and beyond ideas of beyond. What we perceive in the cosmos are actually the divine attributes themselves, inasmuch as they are manifest. As Ibn Arabi writes:
God says, We created not the heavens and the earth, and what is between them, save through the Real (15:85), which is Pure Being. Hence, there came to be ascribed to It everything given by the realities of the entities.. the effects belong to the divine names.
Consisting of Self-disclosures of God, the cosmos is a theophany; it is the Cosmic Qur'an (al-Qur'an al-takwini). But this view of the cosmos as theophany must not be confused with the deification of the cosmos. Ibn 'Arabi explains that coming into existence with the Creative word "Be" does not mean that a thing itself gains "being" of its own or that God is no longer transcendent: "This does not mean that the thing 'acquire existence.' It only acquires properties of being a locus of manifestation... He is He, and things are the things."
Each existent entity is like a mirror of nothingness reflecting some qualities of God. In other words, the ultimate meaning of an entity is the qualities of God revealed through it and its ultimate purpose is to make God known in that capacity.
Wahdat al-wujud or Unity of Being, is derived from the reality that the cosmos is composed of non-existent immutable archetypes existentiated solely by the one God, thereby affirming tawhid. Thus, the doctrine of Wahdat al-wujud does not imply that multiplicity is false, but simply that Being is One while existents are many. For each existent, its being neither separate nor independent of the Being of God. All entities have the presence of the Being of God in Its totality but can reveal only those divine qualities determined by their immutable archetypes. Since the immutable archetypes are in themselves non-existent, wahdat al-wujud posits the existence of the Being of God alone without negating the multiplicity of existents. Thus Wahdat al-wujud is sometime referred as "Transcendent Unity of Being."
- from Traditional Islamic Environmentalism: The Vision of Seyyed Hossein Nasr by Tarik M. Quadir
We and our existences are non-existent: Thou art the
Absolute appearing in the guise of mortality.
~ Mevlana Rumi
All thou beholdest is the act of the One.
In solitude, but closely veiled is He.
Let him but lift the screen, no doubt remains:
The forms are vanished, He alone is all.
~ Ibn al-Farid
The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things
Thus, without self-identification, one observes its essence
with self, one observes its manifestations
These two emerge together but differ in name
The unity is said to be the mystery
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders.
~ Tao Te Ching
* Black Pearl by Henry Bayman
* POSTSCRIPT to The Black Pearl: Online Only by Henry Bayman