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This is to certify that the research work described in this thesis is the original work of the author and has been carried out under my direct supervision. I have personally gone through all the data/results/materials reported in the manuscript and certify their correctness/authenticity. I further certify that the material included in this thesis has not been used in part or in full in a manuscript already submitted or in the process of submission in partial complete fulfillment of the award of another degree from any other institution. I also certify that the thesis has been prepared under my supervision according to the prescribed format and I endorse its evaluation for the award of PhD degree through the official procedures of the University.

Signature_________________ Signature
Name: Name Prof. Dr. Sajid Ali Designation: Designation Chairman, Department of Philosophy University of the Punjab Lahore


Abstract Acknowledgements Abbreviations List of Tables and Figures A Note on Sources ONE Introduction 1 1.1 1.2 1.3 Preliminary Review of Literature Methodological Considerations 1.3.1 1.3.2 1.4 1.4.1 1.4.2 1.4.3 The Method of Comparison Critique of Socio-Historical Method Pre-modern- modern Break Metaphysics-Religion Dichotomy Reason- Intellect TWO The Ontological Foundations 17 2.1 Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> on Totality 2.1.1 2.1.2 2.2 2.3 Eriugenas Concept of Totality Ibn Arabi>s Concept of Totality viii x xi xii xiii

Theoretical Framework

Ontology-Intelligibility Connection and Perspectival Ontology in Eriugena Ontology-Intelligibility Connection and Perspectival Ontology in Ibn Arabi> 2.3.1 2.3.2 Ibn Arabi> on Ontology and Intelligibility Ibn Arabi>s Perspectival Ontology


THREE Metacosm I: God 38 3.1 Defining God 3.1.1 3.1.2 3.2 3.2.1 3.2.2 3.3 3.3.1 3.3.2 3.4 3.4.1 3.4.2 3.5 3.5.1 3.5.2 3.6 3.6.1 3.6.2 3.7 3.7.1 3.7.1 Eriugena on the Definition of God. Ibn Arabi> on the Definition of God. Eriugenas Standpoint Ibn Arabi>s Standpoint Eriugena on Divine Knowability Ibn Arabi> on Divine Knowability Eriugena on Trinity Ibn Arabi> on Unity, Trinity and Multiplicity Eriugenas Affirmative, Negative and Superlative Theologies Incomparability, Similarity and their Synthesis in Ibn Arabi>

Divine Self-Creation

Divine Knowability

Divine Unity and Trinity

Talking About God

Divine Nothingness

Nihil as a Divine Name in Eriugena

God and Nothingness according to Ibn Arabi> Eriugena on Divine Self-Knowledge Ibn Arabi> on Divine Self-Knowledge FOUR MetacosmMetacosm-II: The Primordial Causes 73

Divine Darkness


The Nature of Primordial Causes and their Functions in Eriugenian Cosmology 4.1.1 4.1.2 4.1.3 4.1.4 4.1.5 The Scriptural Basis of Primordial Causes Causes as the Origin of Intelligible and Sensible Creatures Primordial Causes and Materia Prima Immutable Perfection of the Causes Questions of Knowability

4.1.6 4.1.7 4.1.8 4.1.9

Primordial Causes and Evil Timeless Creation of Primordial Causes No Nature between God and Primordial Causes Hierarchy of Primordial Causes

4.1.10 Infinity of Primordial Causes 4.1.11 Simplicity and Unity of Causes 4.1.12 Priority of Goodness and Objectivity of Hierarchy 4.2 Fixed entities in Comparison with Primordial Causes 4.2.1 4.2.2 4.2.3 4.2.4 4.2.5 4.2.6 4.2.7 4.2.8 4.2.9 Scriptural Foundation of the Concept Ontological Status Fixed Entities and Material Prima Entities and Knowledge Entities Created or Eternal? Order and Hierarchy in Entities Intermediate Status of Entities Essence, Names and Entities The Highest Fixed Entity

4.2.10 Unity and Multiplicity 4.2.11 Entities and the Word 4.2.12 Infinity of Entities 4.2.13 Fixed Entities and Evil FIVE MacrocosmMacrocosm-I: Participation and Divine Roots 120 5.1 Eriugena on Participation 5.1.1 5.1.2 5.1.3 5.2 5.2.1 5.2.2 5.2.3 5.3 Participation: History and Context Participation and All that is (omne quod est) Participation: Literal and Metaphorical Explications Divine Roots and omne quod est Divine Roots and Participation Literally Understood Divine Roots and Metaphors of Participation

Ibn Arabi> on the Divine Roots.

God and Categoriae Decem


5.3.1 5.3.2

Eriugena on God and Categories Ibn Arabi> on God and Categories SIX MacrocosmalMacrocosm-II: Theophany and al -Tajalli> 151


Eriugena on Theophany 6.1.1 6.1.2 6.1.3 6.1.4 6.1.5 Etymology and Importance of the Concept Dionysian Influences: Form-assuming, Illumination and Elitism Epistemological Theophany and Unknowability Ontological Theophany and Transcendence Functions of Theophany in Eriugenas Thought Centrality of the Concept Etymology and the Qura>nic usage of the term


Ibn Arabi> on al-Tajalli> 6.2.1 6.2.2 6.2.3 6.2.4 6.2.5

Al-Tajalli>: Ontological and Epistemological

Form-Assuming, Illumination and Elitism

Al-Tajalli> and Divine Transcendence

SEVEN Microcosm: Man, God God and Nature 173


Containment: Man and Nature in Eriugena 7.1.1 7.1.2 7.1.3 7.1.4 7.1.5 Theory of Universal Human Containment Containment and Human Self-Knowledge Containment in the Light of Holy Scripture Containment and Six Days of Creation Unity and Trinity: Divine and Human The Scriptural Basis How is Man a Microcosm? Man as Intermediary Man: the Final Creature Microcosm: Problems of Labeling


Man as Microcosm in Ibn Arabi> 7.2.1 7.2.2 7.2.3 7.2.4 7.2.5



Deiformity: God and Man in Eriugena 7.3.1 7.3.2 7.3.3 7.3.4 7.3.5 Preliminary: Scriptural Basis Body and the Divine Image Which Man was Created upon Divine Image? Why and How Man was Created upon Divine Image? The Metaphysical Principle of Deiformity Islamic Foundations of the Concept in Ibn Arabi> The Meaning of Deiformity Does the Divine Image Extend to the whole of Humanity? The Cosmic Deiformity Human Body and Deiformity The Ethical Dimensions of Deiformity Why Deiformity: Metaphysical Explanations EIGHT


Ibn Arabi> on Al-S}ur > ah al-Ila>hiyyah 7.4.1 7.4.2 7.4.3 7.4.4 7.4.5 7.4.6 7.4.7

Conclusion: Summary, Interpretation and Implications Works Cited Appendix: Published Research Work

212 234 241

In this dissertation we propose to undertake a comparative analysis of the cosmological doctrines of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> in order to show that in spite of belonging to different religious, historical and geographical contexts, their views show remarkable similarities on the concept of God, nature and man and their correlation. Their conceptions of totality and its division are similar, while Ibn Arabi>s picture is more comprehensive in view of his accommodating absolute not-being. Both connect ontology with intelligibility and present perspectival ontologies. Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> alike extend the term God to include theophanies. They are agreed on Divine unknowability, self-creation and they both synthesize negative and affirmative theologies. However, in view of their different conceptions of knowledge they disagree on the possibility of Divine Self-knowledge. Eriugena's primordial causes which mediate God and creation, are shown to be functionally similar to Ibn Arabi>s fixed entities and the ontological status of both is similar. However, the former are contained within the Logos while the latter are not contained within the Perfect Man. We argue that the way Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> relate the world to God is similar by showing resonance between Eriugenas notion of participation and the doctrine of Divine roots we reconstruct from scattered passages of Ibn Arabi>s magnum opus. We also show that Eriugenas understanding of theophany is completely in line with Ibn Arabi>s view of the nature of al-tajalli>. Our exposition of the Divine roots theory also includes a discussion of Ibn Arabi>s views on the relationship between God and ten categories which he, unlike, Eriugena, connects ontologically to the Divine nature. Finally, we show how, on the one hand, Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> alike relate man to God


via the notion of imago dei, on the other, they relate man to the created nature by
viewing nature to be contained by man. It is shown that Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> agree not only on broader outlines but in certain important details as well, for instance, the way they understand the meaning of human deiformity is same. On the methodological side, the most prominent feature that is shared by these two philosophers is their keenness to relate philosophical doctrines and notions to their respective Scriptures. We observe, however, that whereas Eriugenas interpretation of the Bible seems in most of the cases to be allegorical and arbitrary, when Ibn Arabi> interprets the Qura>n he is extremely careful regarding its letter and offers his creative interpretation more often than not within the interpretational space allowed by the text itself. Another methodological insight that is common to both is that instead of aligning themselves with extreme positions on most of the important questions, they usually prefer midway house standpoints which enable us to see the pros and cons of all options. We conclude by making a case for the importance and practical relevance of the results of our comparative analysis. We argue that by considering the world to be a theophany and contained within man who is created upon Divine image Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> give us the conceptual keys to reconstruct a worldview that is based on perfect harmony between God, man and created nature and it is this view that is really needed to come to terms with the environmental crisis our world is facing. Moreover, their tendency to take middle positions and indeed the way they situate the world between absolute goodness and absolute evil offers us a cosmology of tolerance. This cosmology requires that instead of having recourse to either/or logic of the sword we see everything as consisting of elements of goodness and imperfection.

Acknowledgments Acknowledgments
I am grateful first of all to my supervisor Dr. Sajid Ali for all his encouragement, guidance and help. I would like to thank my mentor Dr. Zafar Ishaq Ansari, Director Islamic Research Institute International Islamic University, for making it possible for me to work on this dissertation by granting me study leave and supporting me in every manner. I am grateful to my friend Syed Rizwan Zamir for making me think about the subject of present dissertation in pragmatic terms. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to all those who helped me in using the Bodleian Library Oxford and John Rylands Library University of Manchester in September 2005.


Most commonly used works are abbreviated as under.

DDN Hom. Hom Praed. Praed Fut. Fus. Fus Insha> SPK SDG Ringstones JMIAS

Eriugena: De Diuisione Naturae Eriugena: Homilia in prologum Evangelii Secundum Joannem Eriugena: De Divina Praedestinatione Ibn Arabi>: Al-Futu>ha } t > al-Makkiyah Ibn Arabi>: Fus}us > } al-H}ikam Ibn Arabi>: Insha> al-Dawa>ir William C. Chittick: Sufi Path of Knowledge William C. Chittick: Self Disclosure of God Caner Dagli: Ringstones of Wisdom

Journal of the Muh}yiddi>n Ibn Arabi> Society, Oxford

Notes Notes: 1. Except for the last title abbreviated here, we have cited all other sources within the text in parentheses. parentheses. The footnotes refer only to secondary material or consist of comments. 2. The verses from the Holy Qura>n are cited within parentheses, number of Su>rah followed by verse number. For example (2:13) 2:13) means the second su>rah and the thirteenth verse.


List of Tables and Figures

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Ibn Arabi>s Division of Totality: Synthesis I Page 23 Ibn Arabi>s Division of Totality: Synthesis II ... Page 23 Eriugena on Knowing God from Creatures . Page 45 Principle and Manifestations of Primordial Causes in hierarchy Page 86 Fixed Entities in Hierarchy .. Page 110 Ibn Arabi>s circle of Categoriae Decem . Page 141 Divine Roots of Categoriae Decem . Page 143


A Note on Sources
Editions of the primary sources used. For the Latin text and English translation of the first three books of Eriugena's De

Diuisione Naturae we use I.P Sheldon-Williams parallel Latin-English edition (Dublin:

Institute of Advanced Studies, 1968, 1970, 1981). For the necessary references to Latin text of fourth and fifth books we refer to the text in volume 121 of J.P Mignes

Patrologia Latina (CD- ROM). For the English translation of these two books we refer
to the complete translation by J OMeara Periphyseon (Dumbarton Oaks/Montreal: Bellarmin, 1987).

} t > al-Makkiyah we use the undated Dr S}dir, Beirut Edition. For Ibn Arabi>s Al-Futu>ha
Translations Translations We do not undertake to translate passages from this work until we do not find them already translated by William Chittick or in rare occasions when we find justification to differ from his translation.


Introduction Introduction
1.1 Preliminary
This is a comparative analysis of textual parallels from John Scottus Eriugena (810870)1, the Irish philosopher and translator of the works of Greek authorities, and the great Muslim mystic-philosopher Muh}yiddi>n Ibn Arabi> (1165-1240) as far as their cosmological doctrines are concerned. However concern with cosmological doctrines does not mean that we are going to be exclusively focussed on that part of Eriugenas work which is related to nature and origin of the physical universe. It is not possible to compartmentalize the work of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> into theology, cosmology and anthropology. These two authors consider cosmos as a totality of theophanies, the greatest of which is human being. Instead of trying to slice some cosmological part from the work of Eriugena we focus on his De Diuisione Naturae as a whole and then consider its textual parallels in the writings of Ibn Arabi>, especially but not exclusively, in his major work al-Futu>ha } t > al-Makkiyah. Since the world is prefigured in the Divine, man is created upon Divine image and the world is contained within human nature it does not matter whether we call Eriugenas system theology, cosmology or anthropology. Thus after comparative study of ontological foundations in the second chapter we analyze the nature of God and primordial causes as metacosm, of the created world as macrocosm

In addition to being the author of De Praedestinatione, De Diuisione Naturae and Homily Eriugena is the

translator of Ambigua of St. Maximus the Confessor (d. 662), De Hominis Opificio of St. Gregory of Nyssa (d. post 394) and of works of Pseudo-Dionysius. He also wrote commentaries on St. Johns Gospel,

Consolatio Philosophiae of Boethius (d. 524/5) and on De Coelesti Hierarchia by Ps. Dionysius.

2 and the relation of man as imago dei to God and as microcosm to nature in the seven chapters that follow. A summary is presented in the final chapter as well as some points related to interpretation and significance.

1.2 Review of Literature

Studies of the thought of both Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> abound in many languages of the world. At least two major organizations are devoted to the promotion of the study of these two thinkers, Society for the Promotion of Eriugenian Studies (SPES) and Muh}yiddi>n Ibn Arabi> Society (MIAS) which is also publishing a Journal. Countless conferences have been organized on aspects of their thought. In case of Eriugena so much work has been accomplished that numerous surveys of studies can be found. Mary Brennan has produced a survey of 523 writings from 1930 to 19872 which presents summaries of books and articles in various European languages by classifying them into writings of Eriugenas life, works and thought including his sources doctrine and influence. Before this work Brennan had already published a bibliography of works in the field of Eriugenian studies from 1800 to 1975.3 Brennans work has been complemented by Gerd van Reel who has published bibliographical surveys of publications ranging from 1987-19954 and from 1995-2000.5 Although many recent studies of Ibn Arabi>s thought contain detailed bibliographies, it seems that apart from

2 3

A Guide to Eriugenian Studies: A Survey of Publications 1930-1987 (Fribourg: Editions du Cerf, 1989)
Bibliography of Publications in the Field of Eriugenian Studies in Studi Medievali, XVIII (1977), 401A Bibliographical Survey of Eriugenian Studies 1987-1995, in Iohannes Scottus Eriugena: the Bible Eriugenian Studies 1995-2000 in History and Eschatology in John Scottus Eriugena and His Time


and Hermeneutics (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1996), 367-400.


(Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2002), 611-636.

3 Martin Notcutts 1985 handlist of printed materials6 no full scale survey of publications in the field of Ibn Arabi> studies has been made. This is not to deny that many major studies do contain selected bibliographies annexed to them. Since we are concerned in the present work with the comparison of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> we are not supposed to enumerate or discuss studies that deal with either of them. We would like, however, to make one exception by mentioning and briefly discussing one particular study of the thought of Eriugena in view firstly of our numerous references to it and of our disagreement with it at certain important points of reading and interpreting Eriugena. This is Dermot Morans book The Philosophy of John

Scottus Eriugena: A Study of Idealism in the Middle Ages.7 The major themes that are
discussed in this book range from Eriugenas sources, his understanding of dialectic, and his position on meaning of nature, human knowledge and not-being. Moran interprets Eriugenas philosophy as a meontology (from the Greek words me on i.e. not-being) rather than ontology, arguing that the concept of not-being is more central and characteristic of Eriugena than being. Against this Deirdre Carabine has observed that this reading of Eriugena would be anachronistic since the primacy of being was not established until St. Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century.8 Some nineteenth century German commentators saw Eriugena as a predecessor of the idealism that ruled the German academia at that time.9 Moran agrees with these interpretations of Eriugena
6 7

Ibn Arabi: A Handlist of Printed Materials: Part II, in JMIAS, IV (1985), 65-74. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. Henceforth abbreviated as The Philosophy. See Carabine, John Scottus Eriugena, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 41. For example G.B. Jche, Der Pantheismus (Berlin: Reimer, 1828), Band II: 128 and J Huber Johannes

Scotus Eirgena (Munich, 1861, repr., Hildesheim: Olms, 1960), xi. Both these works are discussed by
Werner Beierwaltes, The Revaluation of John Scottus Eriugena in German Idealism, in Dominic J. OMeara, ed., The Mind of Eriugena: Papers of a Dublin Colloquium, 14-18 July 1970 (Dublin: Irish University Press, 1973), 192-193.

4 in the main and throughout his work one finds him interpreting Eriugena as an idealist. However, Moran claims that he has tried also to look at Eriugena in the historical context in which the latter lived and wrote specially the intellectual resources that were available to him and were assimilated by him. One of the reasons Moran mentions for making an idealist out of Eriugena is that he dissolves all hierarchy into the selfexpression of subjectivity10 and that the four divisions receive form only by being contemplated.11 So Eriugena is an idealist because he subjectivises. Ironically, Hegels follower Baur criticized Eriugena as not being an idealist precisely because he subjectivised notions like creation, resurrection and incarnation etc.12 It is strange that one and same characteristic is being interpreted by two scholars as implying contrary philosophical affiliation. Moran writes about Eriugenas four divisions of Nature that they receive form only by being contemplated. This is the true nature of the four divisions of nature. They are not substances or realities but are manifestations which appear to the perceiving mind. The word but indicates that the interpretation is

reductionist. Is there any justification to think that manifestation cannot be reality?

The interpreter is in fact trying to read idealism into a text that does not necessarily imply it. This is one of the perils of modernist approaches to pre-modern thought that concepts like manifestation are subjectivised and relativised.13 Inclining more to the

10 11 12

Moran, The Philosophy, 262. Ibid. 266. F. Ch. Baur Die Christliche Lehre van der Vershnung (Tbingen, 1838), 132-134, quoted in Similar reductionism is apparent in John Marenbons statement in connection with Eriugenas theory of

Beiewaltes, Revaluation, 196.


return: And the return to God becomes neither a moment in the metaphysical analysis of nature, nor the mystical goal of the sage but rather in a way which reflects the thought of Gregory of Nyssa-a physical process, involving all things and bringing them, at the end of time, back to God. John Marenbon, Early

Medieval Philosophy, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983) 64. Emphasis added.

5 opinion of Miles Burnyeat that there is no possibility of idealism in ancient philosophy14 we argue in our dissertation that Eriugena cannot straightforwardly be labeled as an Idealist since his position is a complex one with many indications of realist tendencies. Another point where we disagree with Morans reading of Eriugena is the formers claim that the modes of distinguishing being from not-being given by Eriugena at the beginning of his DDN are not central to the work. Do we find any comparative studies of the thought of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi>? The only Muslim philosopher to whom Eriugena has been compared is Al-Kindi> (d. 873c.) Ibn Arabi>s thought has been studied in comparison with that of Albertus Magnus (d. 1280),15 St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274),16 Meister Eckhart (d. 1328c.),17 Nicholas of Cusa (d. 1464),18 St. John of the Cross (d. 1591)19 and Derrida (d. 2004),20 while Peter Coates has produced a study of Ibn Arabi> in context of modern Western thought titled Ibn Arabi and Modern Thought.21 To the extent of our information no comparative study of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> has been undertaken. The only work that might be presented as an exception to this statement is Michael Sells The Mystical

Miles Burnyeat, Idealism in Greek Philosophy: What Descartes Saw and Berkeley Missed, in See Adam Dupr, Muh}yiddi>n Ibn Arabi> and St. Albertus Magnus of Cologne, in JMIAS, I (1982), T.L. Suttor, Thomas of Aquino and Ibn al-Arabi>, Hamdard Islamicus, VI (1983). Reza Shah Kazemi, Paths to Transcendence: According to Shankara, Ibn Arabi> and Meister Eckhart A. V. Smirnov, Nicholas of Cusa and Ibn Arabi>: Two Philosophies of Mysticism, in Philosophy East Luce Lpez-Baralt, Saint John of the Cross and Ibn Arabi>: The Heart or Qalb as the Translucid and Ian Almond, Sufism and Deconstruction: A Comparative Study of Derrida and Ibn Arabi>, (London: Peter Coates, Ibn Arabi and Modern Thought: The History of Taking Metaphysics Seriously. (Oxford:

Idealism: Past and Present, ed., G. Vassey (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 19-50.

16 17

(Bloomington: World Wisdom Books, 2006).


and West, XLIII (1993) 65-85.


Ever-Changing Mirror of God, JMIAS, XXVIII (2000), 57-90.


Routledge, 2004).

Anqa Publishing, 2002).

Languages of Unsaying.22 This fascinating work is a study of apophasis or negative

theology as cross-cultural mode of discourse, emerging out of a variety of religious and cultural traditions and sharing key semantic features.23 In addition to Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> this work is based also on readings of Plotinus (270c.), Marguerite Porete (d. 1310) and Meister Eckhart. Rather than blocking the way of further inquiry regarding comparison of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> this work opens the way for it and is an indication of the feasibility of such a project. Although this work provides important insights for the task before us, its focus is not the overall cosmological doctrines of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> and it is not as such a comparative analysis of these two writers. Our proposed research differs from the work of Sells in being focused only on Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> and in not being exclusively concerned with the issue of negative theology. Although we deal with this issue, our major concern is to see where Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> agree or disagree in their views regarding the nature of God, man and universe and the relation between these three.

1.3 Methodological Considerations

1.3.1 The Method of Comparison
In the wake of postmodernism comparison as a scholarly method has come under attack. In an important essay Jonathan Z. Smith isolated four basic models of comparison, ethnographic, encyclopedic, morphological and evolutionary.24 He attempts
22 23

(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994). Ibid. 206. The ethnographic approach is the one in which comparison functions primarily as a means of

overcoming strangeness. The encyclopedic approach presents topical arrangement of cross-cultural material without providing any clue as to how comparison might be undertaken. The morphological approach allows the arrangement of individual items in a hierarchical series of increased complexity and organization. The evolutionary approach is the one which factors in the dynamics of change and

7 to show that the first two are entirely inadequate, no instance of satisfactory application of the fourth exists while the third model inspite of being better than others is not attractive in view of the Romantic, Neoplatonic Idealism of its presuppositions. Smith concludes that the only option appears to be no option at all.25 Smith thinks that comparison, like magic, is a confusion of a subjective relationship with an objective one.26 According to him, from a dj vu feeling that what the scholar is reading he has come across already, he goes on to assert that similarity and contiguity have causal effects. In the words of Simth, this is a process of working from psychological association to a historical one.27 In the task of comparative analysis that we have set befor us, we admit the presence of dj vu feeling, but Smiths objection does not apply to our project since we are not concerned with asserting any objective association between the ideas of two thinkers whom we are going to compare so we are not drawing any conclusions of historical nature from a subjective feeling. This subjective feeling provided simply a motivation for further study and investigation of the matter. The purpose of our comparative analysis is pragmatic rather than exclusively theoretical. It consists in an attempt to find out certain concepts that are shown to be useful to reassert a worlview based on harmony between God, man and nature. Barbara A. Holdrege has highlighted three objections to the method of comparison in an essay written in response to Smiths aforementioned work and has

persistence over time in response to adaptation to a given environment. Jonathan Z. Smith In Comparison a Magic Dwells, in A Magic Still Dwells: Comparative Religion in the Post-modern Age, eds. Kimberley C. Patton and Benjamin C. Ray (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 27-29.
25 26 27

See ibid. Ibid. 25>. Ibid. 26.

8 described how her own method has been able to evade those objections.28 The first objection is that comparison pays insufficient attention to differences. We intend the expression comparative analysis in the title of our dissertation to be understood as an exercise which reveals differences as well as similarities. In order to avoid the first objection we pay attention to differences between the thought of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> at every step, attempting to explain them and reconcile them with reference to underlying unity wherever such unity can be found.Where such unity cannot be objectively found we do not attempt to invent artificial unities between the two thinkers. Thus at one point within our comparative analysis we disagree with a reading of Eriugena put forward by one of the most prominent contemporary Eriugena scholars although her interpretation would have brought Eriugenian position closer to that of Ibn Arabi> on an issue of central importance.29 We do not discard non-reducible gaps between them, rather we highlight them within the chapters and also when we summarize the results of the whole project at the end. The second objection asserts that the comparative method neglects the diachronic dimension and the third points out that this method pays insufficient attention to context. In order to avoid these imperfections the first of three phases of Barbaras own methodology consisted in analyzing each network of symbols separately, within the context of its respective tradition.30 In conducting comparative analysis here we have followed this suggestion of Barbara Holdrege. Thus we do not juxtapose the positions of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> but deal with them separately,

28 29

See Whats beyond the Post? Comparative Analysis as Critical Method in A Magic Still Dwells, 77-83. See 6.1.5 where we discuss the function of theophany in relation to Eriugenian synthesis of negative Whats beyond the Post? 79.

and affirmative theologies.


9 placing each within his own context. For instance while comparing primordial causes and fixed entities we first discuss the historical background, meaning and usage of the former in Eriugena by connecting them to his sources which have been established either on the basis of internal textual evidence (e.g. Eriugenas citing some of the Greek fathers) or on the basis of independent historical research. We then proceed to analyze Ibn Arabi>s notion within the context of the intellectual tradition in which he worked. However the results of comparison are not given separately in independent sections rather they are mentioned after or alongwith our discussion of Ibn Arabi>. While explaining certain differences we also refer to the difference of contexts to which our two philosophers belonged. Having dicussed certain points regarding the particular method of comparison we are employing, we proceed now to describe some of our theoretical presuppositions and demonstrate how they relate to comparative analysis of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi>.

1.3.2 Critique of SocioSocio-Historical Method

In the work at hand we do not apply the historical method of comparative study which focuses on finding out origins of ideas, something that was criticized by Smith as confusing subjective connections with objective ones. Nor do we attempt to reduce the meaning and worth of every intellectual phenomenon to the social context in which it is presented. In spite of the popularity of these methods nowadays, we think that there are serious problems with them. Instead of the socio-historical method we have chosen the analytical method based on the careful study of textual parallels in the writings of Eriugena and Ibn Arab. The comparative philosophical studies undertaken under spell of the historical method, especially by the European or American writers, more often than not contain what Ren Guenon calls the classical prejudice namely, the tendency

10 on the part of occidental scholars to find all over the world pure and simple equivalent modes of thought that are peculiar to themselves.31 This of course does not mean that Orientals can legitimately find all over the world equivalent modes of thought that are peculiar to themselves. Secondly, a research that concludes at pointing out that certain idea originated with a certain thinker living at certain time in a particular society tells us nothing why such person should have thought in that way at all.32 When this objection is raised against the historical method the so called sociology of knowledge comes to its aid. Having traced the origin of an idea to some thinker prior to whom none of its traces can be found, it is claimed that this idea owes itself to the sociopolitical context of the thinker in which he lived. This combination of historical with sociological method can be symbolized as a () the vertical part representing the tracing of ideas from one thinker to a previous one while the horizontal part representing the tendency to see the origin of philosophical and religious ideas in the contemporaneous circumstances of the society. Both these methods have been convincingly criticized by many writers. We feel affinity in particular with the argument presented by the Mediaevalist Etienne Gilson that what is wrong with the effort to account for the rise of philosophical ideas by historical, sociological and economic factors is not that it does not work but that it always works. Gilson has argued that contrary to what should have been the case in the light of socio-historical method, we find one and same idea, e.g. Aristotelianism among people living in societies ranging from slavery-based society

31 32

Rene Guenon, Introduction to the Study of Hindu Doctrine (London: Luzac & Co., 1945), 124. In the words of Frithjof Schuon, People are relieved when they recall that the usage in question dates

from the middle ages or perhaps that it is Byzantine. They forget completely that there is only one question that must always be asked, namely, why the Byzantines did such a thing; more often than not one finds that the answer to this why is situated outside time. Light on the Ancient Worlds (London: Perennial Books, 1965), 125.

11 of Greece, feudal and bourgeoisie. On the other hand we find people belonging to same socio-historical context flatly contradicting Aristotelian philosophy. He concludes by saying that the ultimate explanation of philosophy has to be philosophy itself.

Finally, with Karl R. Popper,34 it can be asserted that the sociological method of explaining philosophical ideas away can be shown to be self-refuting. If all ideas originate in the socio-economic conditions and this reduces their philosophical and objective worth then this idea itself has little philosophical and objective worth to its since it has origins itself in social settings.

1.4 Theoretical Framework

Our theoretical framework for comparative analysis consists of some concepts, distinctions and principles derived from the works of Rene Guenon (d. 1951), Frithjof Schuon (d. 1998) and Nasr (b. 1933). These principles include an emphasis upon the premodern/modern break based on the loss of vertical dimension and exclusive emphasis upon the horizontal, a distinction between revelation/intellect and reason and the one between religion and metaphysics. Let us explain these and see some instances of their application in our comparative analysis of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi>.

1.4.1 PrePre-modernmodern-Modern Break

The whole movement of thought in the West from Renaissance to Hegel writes Seyyed Hossein Nasr, is a movement toward anti-metaphysics and an even greater


Etienne Gilson, The Unity of Philosophical Experience (New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 1965), See Sir Karl R. Poppers devastating critique of the sociology of knowledge in his The Open Society


and its Enemies (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1950), 401-409.

12 alienation from all that constitutes the very basis of all true philosophy.35 An emphasis upon pre-modern/modern break gives us one additional reason for not applying the historicist method. This method presupposes that explanation of ideas, and for that matter, of everything, can be afforded only upon horizontal axis, it is unscientific to appeal to vertical, meta-historical sources, metaphysical principles. Both writers whom we seek to compare here present their own work primarily as exegesis of the Scripture and one of them further claims that most of what he says is based on spiritual unveiling. An attempt to locate their thought in socio-economic circumstances or historical source would be first of all an unjustified falsification of their self-understanding. Moreover, a consistent application of the historicist method would also demand that we assign a horizontal origin and socio-economic explanation for the Scriptures in question, something we are not ready to undertake. Obviously, if a method cannot be applied consistently, it is pointless to apply it to arbitrarily isolated areas, texts, notions, beliefs and practices. We do not endorse the attempts to compare our both thinkers to any modern or post-modern writer. In particular we do not endorse the attempt to see in Eriugena a predecessor of Descartes,36 of German idealism or Marxist centuries before Marx.37 Our approach also excludes the endeavor to find in Ibn Arab germs of Derridas deconstruction or anything like that.


Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Conditions for Meaningful Comparative Philosophy, in Philosophy East and Brian Stock argued with reference to DDN IV: 776B that Eriugenas cogito was a link between

West, XXII (1972), 57-58.


Augustines affirmation of individual existence and Descartes cogito. Stock, Intelligo me esse: Eriugenas Cogito: in Jean Scot Erigene et lhistoire de la philosophie, ed., R. Roques (Paris: CNRS, 1977), 327.

This opinion of J. Kabaj, from his article Homme et nature dans la Cosmologie de Jean Scot Erigena,

Studia Mediewistyczne 18, i (1977), 3-50 is cited here via its summary given by Mary Brennans Guide to Eriugenian Studies.


1.4.2 MetaphysicsMetaphysics-Religion Dichotomy Dichotomy

The way we distinguish between metaphysics and religion is based on the ideas of Rene Guenon who has emphasized that while comparing Eastern and Western religious systems attention must be paid to the difference between metaphysical and theologicoreligious elements on the one hand and metaphysical and philosophical on the other.38 A metaphysical doctrine stands apart from the religious in the formers being purely intellectual, unlike the latter in which there is an additional element of sentimentality and concern with personal salvation.39 A metaphysical doctrine is not a philosophical doctrine because, unlike the latter, it pertains to the intellectual level and not merely to the rational level. The distinction between metaphysics and religion finds many interesting applications in the comparative analysis of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi>. Let us mention one by way of example. While discussing the philosophy of Eriugena, John Marenbon has observed about sacred history of creation which includes fall, redemption and resurrection that It is a counterpart on a historical level, to the scheme of permanence, procession and return, advanced on the plane of metaphysics.40 Here the metaphysical plane could have been contrasted with the religious level instead of the historical one. Similarly, Eriugena suggests at one place that the affirmative way of talking about God is for the simple minded believers while the negative way that of spiritually more advanced. (DDN I: 511C) Here again we can equate the former with metaphysics while the latter with religion.

38 39 40

Guenon, Hindu Doctrine, 41. Ibid. 124. John Marenbon, Early Medieval Philosophy, 64.

14 In the beginning of his Al-Futu}ha } t > Ibn Arabi> states his credo which is completely in line with the orthodoxy. The modern editions of his works usually like to cite this credo in order to prove his orthodoxy. But the credo terminates at the strange claim, never quoted in those editions, that this is the belief of ordinary members of Muslim community which implies that he professes two sets of belief, one of which is in line with orthodoxy, while the other not necessarily so. Latter Sufism developed this

> of Ordinary Folk and Tawh}id > of the Elect and this as a dichotomy between the Tawh}id
eventually misled some critics to consider Sufism as a religion parallel with Islam. 41

> with metaphysics while the former with religion Now if we identify the latter tawh}id
then they appear as belonging to two different levels and consequently no conflict occurs between them. Using this terminology we can say that the Doctrine of oneness of God is a religious Doctrine while the doctrine of Oneness of Being is a metaphysical doctrine. A religious doctrine is to be evaluated in religious terms while a metaphysical doctrine is to be treated as such, the religious, theological and legal, categories when applied to metaphysics cause serious confusions. During our comparative analysis of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> we will find more occasions to apply this distinction.

1.4.3 IntellectIntellect-Reason Dichotomy Dichotomy

The difference between intellect and reason is explained by Schuon who characterizes the former as being contemplative power, receptivity in respect of the Uncreated Light, the opening of the Eye of the Heart, which distinguishes transcendent intelligence from


A case in point of such confusion is the opinion of contemporary Pakistani scholar Javaid Ah}mad

Gha>midi>, in view of such dichotomy within Ibn Arabi>, that Sufism is a religion parallel with Islam. This opinion expresses a half truth. Sufism consists of metaphysical dimension of Islam which parallels its purely religious dimensions.

15 reason while the latter as perceiving the general and proceeding by logical operations.42 This distinction between intellect and reason is relevant in the present context. Apparently, Eriugena seems to be a rationalist theologian-philosopher since he always praises and upholds reason while Ibn Arabi> is more of a mystic because he is critical of reason and attaches more value to religious experience. But when we look into this matter a little deeper, a different picture emerges. Firstly, as Dermot Moran has noted, [t]he dialogue [i.e. DDN] is not merely written to instruct and impart knowledge but also to provide a vehicle for traveling on the roads towards spiritual enlightenment and ultimately unity with the Truth itself.43 Secondly, and more importantly, Eriugena seldom mentions reason alone and he often uses the expression reason and intellect (ratio et intellectus) and the identification of intellect with discursive reason is a typically modern phenomenon. Michael Sells recognizes this point:
By reason the Nutritor has in mind something other than the respect for rules of logic and argumentation that is sometimes called discursive reason. Elsewhere he characterizes reason as a being-in-constant-motion, a continual movement of the mind, an infinitely deepening exploration of a reality that itself has no end.44

Likewise, Ibn Arabi> differentiates discursive reason and intellectual intuition by analyzing the etymology of aql and qalb and notes that the former tends to be static and binding but the latter is dynamic and never stopping. (Fut. II: 114) If we keep this in mind then Eriugenas usage of reason, as explained by Sells, is closer to Ibn Arabi>s

heart than it is to mind.


Schuon, Vicissitudes of Different Spiritual Temperaments, in Gnosis Divine Wisdom (London: John That this is correct might be seen with reference to DDN IV: 784A, IV: 858B, V: 864B and V: 1010C. Michael Sells, The Mystical Languages of Unsaying, 49. The reference here is to DDN III: 643 B-D.

Murray, 1959), 49.

43 44

16 In the same context, Michael Sells has also raised a pertinent and relevant question, Is Periphyseon (DDN) a Mystical text? He answers that [i]f we define mystical writing as the autobiographical account of personal, subjective experience, then the answer is no. Eriugena is explicit in his devotion to dialectical reason as the method of exploring nature.45 This is how it appears from Eriugenas own writings about reason but it is unlikely that Eriugena, who transforms the meaning of key terms, when praises reason, has in mind only its discursive sense. We have just seen Sells himself explaining that Eriugena does not use reason in sense of discursive reason which supposedly is the key in differentiating philosophy from mysticism. But Sells does pay attention to the other possibility by saying that the mystery of being, of life and of consciousness is unfathomable. Reason is led by its own reasoning beyond itself continually without arriving at a final entity or conclusion. In that particular sense of allowing reason to lead beyond itself, Eriugena can be considered a mystic.46 Thus the distinction between intellect shows that the project of comparing Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> cannot be criticized by claiming that the former is rationalist philosopher while the latter is a mystic.

45 46

Ibid 59. Ibid. 60.


The Ontological Foundations Foundations

Prior to comparing Eriugenas first division of nature, namely God as the first cause, with the teachings of Ibn Arabi>, it seems necessary to pay attention to the prologue to

De Diuisione Naturae in which the ontological foundations of cosmology are laid down.
This comparison is purported to reveal points where the two philosophers agree or disagree as far as their conceptions of totality and criteria of differentiating being from not-being are concerned. This chapter consists of three sections. In the first section we present and compare conceptions of totality. The second section discusses Eriugenas modes of demarcating being and not-being as he puts them forward in the prologue. This discussion purports to demonstrate firstly that Eriugena connects being with knowing and secondly that his ontology is a perspectival one according to which the concepts of being and not-being are relative. In the third and final section of this chapter which consists of two subsections, we demonstrate that like that of Eriugena Ibn Arabi>s ontology is also connected with intelligibility and is perspectival.

2.1 Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> on Totality

2.1.1 Eriugenas Concept of Totality:
Eriugenas De Diuisione Naturae commences with presenting a division of totality. The name Eriugena prefers to give to totality there is nature (natura) which is said to be the general name for all things, those that are (ea quae sunt) and those that are not (ea


quae non sunt). (DDN I: 441A). As has been noted by Dermot Moran,47 Eriugena does
not stick to this definition of nature but also uses it to imply ineffable nature of God, His creative nature, realm of incorporeal, cosmic hierarchies, and objects found in the spatiotemporal world and laws of nature. Now this is the most fundamental division one can make between things that can be grasped by the mind or lie beyond its grasp. (Ibid) If we take into account the fact that in the former division the reference point was being or not-being while now it is the grasp of mind, we can see that Eriugena has added epistemological categorization to the ontological one. This addition heralds the fact that Eriugena is going to connect these two levels. It is however not obvious at this stage how these two levels correlate in the context of division of totality. There seem to be two ways of interpreting the preliminary division of nature. First, there are two categories of things: those which can be grasped by the mind and those which lie beyond its grasp. Each of these is further divided into things that are and thing that are not. Second, things which can be grasped by the mind correspond to things which are while those that lie beyond its grasp are not. In the light of first interpretation the epistemic division becomes more basic than the ontological. According to this division both knowable and unknowable are divided into things that are and those that are not. Consequently to be will not be necessarily synonymous to to be known since among the unknowables there is one class of things which are said to be. While on the latter interpretation, the epistemic level is not only more basic than the ontological but is its paradigm.48 Probably, the second interpretation will be favored
47 48

See The Philosophy, 249. It is strange that Moran who is always anxious to prove Eriugena's idealism does not refer to this point

even where he is concentrating on the opening of De Diuisione Naturae. See Moran, Natura

19 by those who are fond of making an Idealist out of Eriugena, while the former would go against such attempts. Eriugena divides nature into four species, viz., the cause of all things that are and that are not, who is God, primordial causes, things that become manifest through coming into being in times and places (DDN, I: 442B) and God as the end of all things.49 Nature as such is comparable to universitas, a term Eriugena has coined to denote totality of God and creatures. (Ibid. II: 528B) However, although Eriugena has taken the steps of joining God and creature under one head, he was careful to point out that the God world relationship is neither that of genus-species nor that of part-whole. (See ibid. II: 525B) In Eriugena there is an ultimate reduction of four divisions of nature to one division. This reduction takes place in three steps. Firstly he collapses the second and third divisions by suggesting that cause and effect have the same meaning and thus should be considered identical and not as two things. (See ibid. III: 693A-B.) Secondly, first and fourth divisions are unified since they both denote God, the former as first cause and the latter as final cause. (Ibid. II: 526C.) Hence we are left with created nature and uncreated nature. The most drastic step is the third one where these two are reduced to one. The reason for this reduction is that there is nothing in creature save Him who alone truly is for nothing apart from Him is truly called essential since all things that are are nothing else, in so far as they are, but the participation in Him who alone subsists from and through Himself. (Ibid)

Quadriformata and the beginnings of the Physiologia in the Philosophy of Johannes Scottus Eriugena, in

Bulletin de Philosophie Medievale, XXI (1979), 41-46.


This explanation of the fourth division is not provided until the second book (526D) where the Nutritor

speaks in some detail about it.

20 After mentioning the four divisions of nature, Eriugena proceeds towards describing their mutual logical connections in the light of the square of oppositions and says that the first [uncreated creator] is opposed to the third [created-uncreating] while the second[created creator] is opposed to the fourth [uncreated-uncreating]. (Ibid. I: 442A)

2.1.2 Ibn Arabi>s Concept of Totality

Instead of using nature to denote totality that should include God, cosmos and nonexistence, like Eriugena has done, Ibn Arabi> understands by the Arabic counterpart of this word t}abi>ah something that can become receptacle for Divine imprint or activity. This understanding alludes to the inherent passivity of created nature. (See Fut. I: 94) Though we do find in Ibn Arabi>s work divisions of totality he does not identify them with diuisione naturae as does Eriugena. Since we can equate nature and totality, a comparison of the opening lines of De Diuisione Naturae to this aspect of Ibn Arabi> is plausible. In Ibn Arabi>s opinion a circle is the perfect representation of totality and he finds in the Qura>n something which he takes to be a reference to the most comprehensive of circles, one which encompasses both creator and the creature. In the context of Prophet Muh}ammads proximity to the Divine that he attained during his Night Journey ( )the Qura>n says: Then he drew close, so He came down and he was two bows length ( ) away or closer. (53:8-9) Two bows according to Ibn Arabi> are two arcs of the circle which is what he often calls the totality ().50


William Chittick, Self Disclosure of God, 233.

21 There are two divisions in Ibn Arabi> that should be compared with Eriugenian

} t > al-Makkiyah he presents a division of objects of division of totality. In Al-Futu>ha

knowledge ( )and in Insha> al-Dawa>ir a division of things. In Futu>ha } t > Ibn Arabi> speaks of three objects of knowledge without a fourth, non-delimited being () , which does not become delimited ( ) equated by him with God, non-delimited nothingness ( ) which is non existence in itself and finally something which shares the characteristics of both. (Fut. III: 46) Ibn Arabi> introduces another division in Insha> al-Dawa>ir :
Know that things exist solely according to three modes, and that knowledge depends solely upon these three modes. These three modes comprise: 1. that which is qualified by existence itself it is unlimited absolute being. such is God. 2. That which is existent through God and is limited being. The latter includes the world 3. that which is qualified neither by existence nor by nonexistence call it the reality of realities, hyl, Primordial matter or the root of roots.(15-19) 51

Notice that the former division includes absolute non-existence while the latter excludes it. Also notice that the latter includes the spatio-temporal world while the former does not mention it but gives its place to the third thing. Before we try to synthesize these two divisions let us mention one difficulty. In the former division by calling three categories objects of knowledge Ibn Arabi> seems to imply that absolute non-existence can be known. But the reason that he excludes absolute non-existence from the second division is precisely that that which is other than these three modes is pure non-being, neither known, unknown nor function of another thing. (Ibid)


The translation into English is by Paul Fenton and Maurice Gloton, The Book of the Description of

Encompassing Circles, in Muh}yiddi>n ibn Arabi>: A Commemorative Volume, ed. Stephen Hirtenstein and Michael Tiernen (Shaftsbury: Element Books, 1993), 24-27.

22 Moreover, in the former division the third thing is said both to be and not to be while in the in the latter we are told that it can be said neither to be nor not to be. Having observed these ambiguities, we can attempt to synthesize the two divisions mentioned above. It appears that there can be two, not entirely different, ways of accomplishing this task. Firstly, we can have one division consisting of four terms: God, the world, absolute non-existence and the third thing. Secondly, by collapsing second and third terms into the category of intermediary realm, isthmus (), , we can have a division though consisting of three terms but still synthesizing the two divisions Ibn Arabi> gave. Hence, we have four basic concepts: Absolute Existence, Relative existence, third-thing and Absolute non-existence. From the viewpoint of

transcendence/immanence Ibn Arabi> also calls the first and the fourth poles respectively He ( )and not-He ( ) i.e. the former identical and the latter nonidentical with the Divine. While what comes in between accepts both properties, existence and non-existence, and is at once identical and non-identical to the Divine. Therefore it is called He/Not-He ()| . This station belongs to the cosmos and the third thing which Ibn Arabi> calls Reality of realities ( ) in Insha> al-Dawa>ir and identifies with locus of the immutable entities in Al-Futu>ha } t > . This is the comprehensive reality which comprises all the intelligible and universal realities and is thus called reality of realities.52 It is equidistant from the other two poles. (See Fut. III: 46) The other part of barzakh, which happens to be cosmos, however, is nearer to nonexistence than to existence, that is, it is more not-He than He: We have a reality


See Masataka Takeshita, An Analysis of Ibn Arabi>s Insha> al-dawa>ir with Particular Reference to

the Doctrine of the Third Entity, in Journal of Near Eastern Studies, XLI (1982), 245.

23 that receives both descriptions, but we are closer to non-existence. (Ibid. II: 248; trans.

SPK: 87)


God Pure Existence

The World Existence/ Nonexistence

Third Thing Existence Nonexistence

Impossible Pure Nonexistence

Ibn 'Arabi> 'Arabi>s Division of Totality: Synthesis I


God Pure Existence

Intermediary Existence/Nonexistence

Impossible Pure Non-existence

Third Thing

The World

Ibn 'Arabi> 'Arabi>s Division of Totality: Synthesis II

24 Although Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> include both esse and non esse in their divisions of totality, we see that Ibn Arabi> goes a little farther than Eriugena. Eriugena does not understand by his quae non sunt absolute non-existents so he has not included them in his division of nature. He asks rhetorically, For how can that which absolutely is not, and cannot be, and which does not surpass the intellect because of the preeminence of its existence, be included in the division of things. (DDN I: 443C) Ibn Arabi>s concept of totality is more inclusive since it encompasses absolute nothingness and places relative existence/nonexistence between absolute being and absolute nonexistence. Although this is a step forward, it seems that Eriugena had made room for this step in a qualification that he inserted within the remark just quoted by granting the possibility of awarding some sort of ontological status to absences and privations and thus including them in the division of things (in rerum diuisionibus). At another place he even seems ready to welcome the impossible by making an allowance for reckoning the possible and impossible in the number of things. (See DDN II: 597B) Hence the difference between Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> is somewhat reduced.

2.2 Eriugenas Modes of Being: Ontology - Intelligibility Intelligibility Connection and Perspectival Ontology
After defining totality and mentioning the four divisions of nature, Eriugena discusses what differentiates ea quae sunt from ea quae non sunt and presents what he calls five modes of interpretation (modos interpretationis), or perspectives. There is some dispute regarding the place of these five modes of being and notbeing in Eriugenas thought. Dermot Moran has tried to underestimate their importance by pointing to the fact that Eriugena never returns again to these modes in the course of


De Diuisione Naturae.53 Dierdre Carabine is of the opinion that through his discussion
of the modes, Eriugena shows that being and non-being, while being contradictory, are dissolved, not only in God but also at every level of reality depending on ones starting point.54 At this point we think that Carabines opinion depicts a truer picture of the case and we will demonstrate at various points in the following chapters that these ontological discussions especially the modes of differentiating being from notbeing are very important for the elaboration of four divisions of nature. Anyway the welding together of the ontological with the epistemic which was indicated in the opening lines of Eriugenas work is reasserted here in the first perspective on being and nothingness.55Accordingly, things which fall within the scope of sense perception or intellect are truly and reasonably said to be, while those which elude, because of the excellence of their nature, not only all sense but also all intellect and reason are said not to be. A number of important points are worth noticing in the passage that discusses this perspective. First, not-being is here considered more excellent than being and God is mentioned as instantiating things that are said not to be, as they elude sense perception and intellect due to the excellence of their essence (per

excellentiam), not due to some lack or imperfection on their part. This concept is a
distinctive mark of Eriugenas thought and we will say more on it in the next chapter. In that chapter on the nature of God we shall also discuss the perspective from which God can be said not to exist according to Ibn Arabi> as well. Eriugena emphasizes

54 55

See The Philosophy, 226.

Dierdre Carabine, John Scottus Eriugena, 40.

This way hints at a relationship between the twofold division of natura and the first of the five modes.

The connection, thus seems to be the reference to comprehensibility. Anyway Dominic OMeara grapples at length with the problem of relating five modes to the concept of natura. He thinks that the former explains and clarifies the latter. See his article The Concept of Nature in John Scottus Eriugena, in

Vivarium XIX(1981), 134.

26 incomprehensibility of God by intellect and instead of limiting this incomprehensibility to God as He is in Himself beyond every creature extends it to God when considered in the innermost depths of the creature which was made by Him and which exists in Him. (DDN I: 443B) The second mode is based on hierarchy and differences within created nature. Here we find two sided perspectival approach to being and non-being. Hence each order, excluding the highest and the lowest ones can be said both to be and not to be depending on whether we are considering it in contrast with higher orders or the lower ones. The lowest order according to Eriugena is that of bodies while the highest is God. God as the highest member of the order will be said not to be, since unknown by the lower order, there being nothing above to know Him. The lowest order will be said only to be, since known by higher orders but having no order lower than it which could be stopped from knowing it. Just before explaining the third mode Eriugena adds another formulation of the second mode which also hinges upon knowability relative to orders lower or higher than a given ordo rationalis et intellectualis

creaturae.(DDN I: 444C) In its dependence upon knowability this last formulation

brings second mode close to the first one, and thus to the twofold division of natura. Although Eriugena does not give an example of this sense it is easy to find one. For instance the soul that is higher than the body but lower to God can be said both to be and not to be. It can be said to be in so far as it is known to God but it is not in so far as it does not permit itself to be known by the bodies. According to the third perspective only those things can be said to be which have proceeded out of their primordial causes into the spatiotemporal world. Before their manifestation, when they are still hidden in the secret folds of nature, they are not. This perspective is described as based on human convention (humana consuetudine).

27 Eriugena mentions as example the creation of all human beings at once in that first and one human being whom God made in his image. They are, obviously, not brought into the visible world simultaneously with the creation of the first man. Conventionally, human beings can be said to be once they are brought in the visible world but before that they are not. As Eriugena puts it, those who have already become visibly manifest in the world are said to be while those who are as yet hidden, though are destined to be are said not to be. (DDN I: 445A) Although Eriugena also mentions the more familiar example of nature latent in seeds and manifest in form of trees and flowers, the mentioning of first human being as one of the primordial causes is a little curious. Firstly because this concept does not coincide with type of things that Eriugena gives as instances of primordial causes.56 Second, it gives rise to the question regarding the nature of creation of first human being, whether or not it was tantamount to bringing him into the visible world. How to differentiate between making and producing in the context of creation of human being? According to the fourth perspective, which is said to be those of the philosophers, things that can be said to be are those which are knowable by intellect. Asymmetrically, Eriugena names corruptible things as those which are said not to be. This perspective can be rendered thus: immutable and incorruptible things which are intelligible are while the corruptible and mutable ones that are known by sense perception are not. The fifth perspective is applicable to the two human natures, fallen and redeemed through Christ. Man is created upon Divine image but through sin renounced


See DDN II: 616C; III: 622B-623C. The list includes only attributes like justice, truth, eternity and does

not mention persons.

28 the honour of the Divine image. In this state man is said not to be. But he begins to be when he is brought back to his former condition, restored by the grace of Christ. Eriugena quotes here the words of Apostle and presents two interpretations. The Apostle says, [a]nd He calls things that are not as things that are. Firstly, this would imply Gods calling through faith, those who had fallen into a kind of non-subsistence, to be those who are already reborn. The second possible interpretation is, unlike the first religious one, metaphysical in character. Eriugena writes:
But this too may be understood of those whom God daily calls forth from the secret folds of nature in which they are considered not to be, to become visibly manifest in form and matter and in the other conditions in which hidden things are able to become manifest. (DDN I. 445D )

Here the secret folds of nature clearly refer to the state of things in their primordial causes before spatiotemporal manifestation. This is also consistent with the third mode of being and not-being. Let us notice, in passing, a similarity between this mode of demarcation given by Eriugena and Ibn Arabi>s ontology. One definition of existence Ibn Arabi> gives is: Wuju>d is the manifestation of the existent in its entity () .\ (Fut. III: 31) According to this definition something can be said to be only after it has become manifest in the spatio-temporal world. As we shall discuss in the third chapter, prior to manifestation in concreto, everything is an object of Divine knowledge, a fixed entity ( ) and it is well known that Ibn Arabi> calls these nonexistents. (See ibid. I: 702; II: 392; III: 296; IV: 136) Moreover, Gods calling things daily to be resonates with Ibn Arabi>s doctrine of perpetual creation which he founds upon the Qura>nic words, Each day He is upon some task, (55:29) Although in Book I Eriugena mentions only five perspectives for marking off what is from what is not, he admits that his list here is not meant to be exhaustive since

29 keener reasoning can discover some modes besides these. (DDN I: 446A.) Dermot Moran has tried to extract some further modes of being and not-being from various places of De Diuisione Naturae.57 This he does with a view to support the opinion that these five modes are not very important in the overall scheme of DDN and Eriugena abandons them soon after introducing them. According to him, Eriugena uses at III: 646B a sixth mode of being whereby God possesses all being and the creature is mere nothingness.58 The way Eriugena introduces the five modes into the discussion shows that he is concerned with the connotation or sense of existence and non existence and not primarily with enumerating what kind of things there are, that is with the denotation or reference of existence and nonexistence. On the other hand what Moran has mentioned here is in fact not the mode itself (that is, connotation) but only the result of its application (that is denotation). It is not clear what the criterion of distinction itself would be. At III: 646 the underlying mode itself seems to depend on whether we are considering creatures in themselves or as participating in God. They can be said not to be in the former sense but to the extent of the latter they are said to be. All this, of course, implies that in a complete and real sense only God can be said to possess being.59 Even if this is a criterion or mode, it would be quite unlike the previous ones, since it is applicable to creatures only. It makes no sense to ask whether God participates in God. We can look at the creatures from the perspective of participation

57 58

See Moran, The Philosophy, 226-227. See ibid. 226. The exclusive attribution of being to God belongs to the early Augustinian period of

Eriugenas thought (in his De Praedestinatione), before his embarking upon the translations of Greek sources. See Bernard J. McGinn, Negative Theology in John the Scot, in Studia Patristica: Papers

Presented to the Sixth International Conference on Patristic Studies, XIII (1975), 233-234.

Cf. DDN I: 454A viz.: everything which is said to exist exists not in itself but by participation in the

Nature which truly exists.

30 or otherwise. Therefore, we cannot say that according to the sixth mode only God is but creatures are not rather that God absolutely is while creatures can either said to be or not to be depending upon whether we are looking upon them as participating in God or not. Whatever be the criterion behind the so called sixth mode of being the result of its application is perfectly in line with the central tenet of Ibn Arabi>s doctrine of oneness of being. Ibn Arabi> writes after formulating this tenet as there is nothing in Being/existence but God, (See Fut. I: 279; trans. SPK, 94) that although creatures exist their existence is through Him and He whose existence is through other-than-himself is non-existent. (See ibid.) As the seventh mode Moran mentions Eriugenas saying that substance alone exists and those things which are accidents and relations do not have being and comments that this is an Aristotelian concept of being and not-being.60 Eriugena holds that everything has being only in so far as it subsists essentially, but other things understood in reference to essence or substance are not to be reckoned in the number of the universe of things. (DDN IV:764C) In our opinion this, although relevant to the modes of being and not- being, does not amount to a separate mode in itself. This is just an application of the fourth mode since substances are said to be because they are immutable and accidents are not so because they undergo change and corruption. In view of this analysis of additional modes it would be incorrect to say that Eriugena abandons the five modes of being in the main body of his DDN.


Moran, op cit.


2.3 Ontology - Intelligibility Connection and Perspectival Ontology in Ibn Arabi>

2.3.1 Ibn Arabi> on Ontology and Intelligibility
The definition of nature presented by Eriugena as well as the first and fourth modes of demarcating being from not-being have shown us that he connects ontology with intelligibility and the overall nature of his ontology is perspectival. Although we have already made a couple of remarks regarding some points of comparison with Ibn Arabi>, in the present section and the subsequent ones we are going to dwell more fully on the latter in order to see whether his ontology shares these two general characteristics with Eriugena or not. The Arabic word for existence/being is wuju>d. Another derivative from this same root, w j d, is wijda>n or finding. Since Ibn Arabi> draws philosophical conclusions from the co-relation of various derivatives from single root he defines existence, wuju>d as finding: In the view of the Tribe wuju>d is finding the Real ( ) in ecstasy. (Fut. II: 538; trans. SPK: 212). 61 God exists as He is found, in fact nothing is found but Him as He is the Manifest. Other than Him exist since these are found by Him. The elect who have reached the stage of mystical verification are given the title of people of unveiling and finding (ahl al-Kashf wa al-wuju>d). This welding of existing with finding is apparently a bringing together of the ontological with the epistemic which is very close to the Eriugenian repeated references to things that can or cannot be grasped by mind in the context of ontology, to the extent that it has lead certain commentators to deem him an idealist of sorts.62

In view of its dual meaning William Chittick translates this word at various places as Having noted that the Arabic word for perception is translated into Persian also as finding Chittick


32 Commenting on a Qura>nic verse No! I swear by what you see and by what you do not see. (69:38-39) Ibn Arabi> says that within this swear fall all kinds of existent things and also non-existence ( )and non-existents (), which is (denoted by) His saying what you do not see. (See Fut. II: 672) At another place he has further commented upon the same words thus: God says, No! I swear by what you see which is what becomes manifest to us and by what you do not see (69:38-39), which is what is hidden from us. (Fut. III: 108; trans., SDG: 334). Here Ibn Arabi> is considering the division of totality into epistemic categories (what we see/what we do not) as more basic and subsumes the ontological division (existent/non-existent) under it. This corresponds to second interpretation of Eriugenas considering natura to be a name of things graspable and ungraspable by the mind. It should not be objected that Eriugena refers to mind while Ibn Arabi> is mentioning seeing. Although the Arabic word is used to denote only the outward eye and the word is reserved for the inward eye or insight and Ibn Arabi> follows this custom (E.g. Fut. IV: 30), he does use the former to denote both, for instance when he says that man possesses sight ( )in his hidden ( )as well as his manifest part (). (Ibid. I: 405) We submit, however, that just as Eriugena does not always subjugate the ontological to the epistemic but at times shows the opposite, realist tendency, as he does when he implies that only that can be understood which has being, so does Ibn Arabi>. Eriugena says For everything which is not from God cannot be understood in any way since it has no being in any way. (DDN IV: 765A)63 Just as God is being and

writes, the perception which takes place through the light is the finding that takes place through wuju>d.

Sufi Path of Knowledge, 214.


This statement, if our reading of it is adequate, poses serious challenge to Idealist interpretation of

Eriugena. The causal dependence of epistemic upon ontological is incompatible with Idealism. See what

33 everything else mere not-being, so whatever is from God can be said to be and consequently can be understood, while whatever is not from him is not and cannot be understood in anyway. In one passage Ibn Arabi> presents a division of totality in terms of light, darkness and shadow according to which God is sheer light and the impossible is sheer darkness while creation is in between these two extremes. He remarks that the difference between light and darkness consists in the fact that the former is perceived and through it perception takes place while the latter is perceived but through it no perception takes place. (See Fut. III: 274; trans., SPK, 213-214) If we take into account the identification of God with Absolute Being and of the Impossible with Absolute nonexistence we can discern here a connection between epistemic and the ontological, but their co-relation here is not tilted towards idealism because it is implied here that what is found is found due to existence. The metaphor of light makes this abundantly clear: were it not for the light, nothing whatsoever would be perceived, neither object of knowledge nor sensory object, nor imaginal object. (Ibid. III: 276, SPK: 214) When Ibn Arabi> attempts to solve the problem of free will and predestination, he once again refers to the dependence of knowledge upon reality and this time extends it to include God: Knowledge follows the object of knowledge And the Real does not know except that (condition) upon which the object of knowledge itself is. (Ibid. IV: 18) Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> maintain similar, though complex, position regarding the relationship between ontology and intellectuality. In the face of this one must be as careful in declaring Ibn Arabi> a firm empiricist with Masataka Takeshita, as one

Frederick Copleston points out against Berkeleys analysis of existence. A History of Philosophy (New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1950), V: 220.

34 should be in making Eriugena an Idealist with Dermot Moran and others.64

2.3.2 Ibn Arabi>s Perspectival Ontology Ontology

As has been noticed by many commentators, Eriugenas five modes of demarcation give us a perspectival conception of existence. The denotation and status of existence and non-existence depend upon the perspective from which one looks at them. Depending upon perspective, non existence may denote Divine Essence, primordial causes, unknowability of the higher to the lower and post-fall human condition. From one perspective non-existence is more eminent than existence while from another, opposite is the case. The interpretational significance of such approach to ontology is that it helps us understand the consistency of Eriugenas view regarding Divine nothingness. That is to say, there is no contradiction between saying that God is non-existent and that only God truly is and everything else is not as his sixth mode provides, since different perspectives are involved. Though Ibn Arabi>s writings are replete with insightful comments upon the nature of existence and non-existence, it is in his short treatise Insha> al-Dawa>ir that he treats the subject in some detail. Let us examine the salient features of his conception in comparison with Eriugenas. 1. According to Ibn Arabi>, existence and non-existence are relative concepts and this relativity comes from the fact that they are nothing additional to existent and nonexistent entities.


Takeshita writes: Ibn Arabi> is a firm empiricist. According to him existence in concreto is

independent from existence in knowledge, and the former is the source of the latter. See The Homo

Imago Dei Motif and the Anthropocentric Metaphysics of Ibn Arab in the Insha> al-Dawa>ir, in Orient: Report of the Society for Near Eastern Studies in Japan, XVIII (1982), 113.

Know that existence and non-existence are not realities superadded to an existent ( )or non-existent ( )but are inherent in these. Thought however deems that existence and non-existence are two attributes applying to the existent or non-existent thing, like a dwelling ( )which the existent and non-existent enter. (Insha>, 6)

For the exclusive purpose of clarification one could compare this comment to the opinion of those critics of ontological argument like Kant, who argued that existence is not an attribute. It is recommended that Ibn Arabi>s views on the nature of existence in his other works should always be read in the light of what the above quoted passage provides. Hence whenever one finds him saying about an existent that it is qualified with existence or about non-existent that it is qualified with non-existence, one should understand that Ibn Arabi> is just speaking the ordinary language the logical pitfalls of which he has already recognized and laid bare elsewhere. 2. The identification of existence and non-existence with existent and nonexistent things implies their relativity and mutual compatibility.
When, then, the individuality of a thing is affirmed or denied, it is possible to qualify it simultaneously by non-existence and existence. But this is so by virtue of relation and correlation () . For example an individual named Zayd is existent at the market and nonexistent in the house. If existence and non existence were qualifications referring to the existent like black and white it would be impossible to attribute these qualities to Zayd simultaneously. It is then well established that this is absolutely a matter of relations and correlations like east-west, right-left and front-behind. (Ibid. 7)


Ibn Arabi> responds to the question whether it is possible for a thing to be nonexistent in itself and still qualified by existence in another world ( )or by another consideration? in affirmative and adds that everything other than God

36 can be said to exist in one or more of four senses (or as he calls them, degrees) of existence: First, existence of a thing in its concrete essence, second, its existence in knowledge, third, its existence in speech. The fourth is the existence of a thing in script. (Ibid.) So these are the perspectives, additional to the spatio-temporal one mentioned above in the example of Zayd, from which we can look at existence and non-existence. Ibn Arabi> applies this perspectival approach in the passage just cited and also in Al-

Futu>ha } t > . In the former place he says that existence of Allah, the Real, the Exalted, with
reference to our knowledge has these degrees except that of (existence in) knowledge.65 In Al-Futu>ha } t > he explains this: the third mode is mental existence and it is the object of knowledges being conceived as it is in itself in its reality. In case the concept is not in accordance with the reality, which will not be its existence in mind. (Fut. IV: 300) However he mentions that the application of second mode depends on our understanding of the nature of Beatific vision whether it entails positive knowledge of God () , that is attainment of a picture in mind or not. (Insha> 8) He also discusses the relationship between mental existence and concrete existence and draws a boundary between Divine and human realm in this regard. In case of human beings something has to exist in its entity before it could become an object of knowledge while the opposite holds in respect of God. Here knowledge is ontologically, not temporally, prior to a things existence in its entity. (See ibid.) The qualification of priority as non-temporal allows him to consistently add what he calls a mystery to this view. Ibn Arabi> has

Ibid. . Fenton and Gloton have translated this

sentence as: Our present knowledge of the existence of God the Real, may He be exalted, presents itself according to these modes Encompassing Circles, 18. This translation is not entirely adequate, since it makes the four degrees qualify our knowledge of Gods existence while they in fact qualify Gods existence, since they are modes of existence not of knowledge, knowledge being one of them.

37 mentioned in Al-Futu>ha } >t that the third and fourth modes of existence are the most comprehensive ones since they encompass all objects of knowledge even impossible and non-existence. (Fut. IV: 300) Hence, we could speak of existence of nonexistence if we mean by existent something in the form of marks on a paper and words spoken. We have already discussed at length that Ibn Arabi>s canvas of what there is is as comprehensive as Eriugenas. However, what gives his ontology a little more clarity is his explication of the senses in which something can be said to be. Thanks to these, one is saved from understanding by existence only spatio-temporal existence (like the post-positivism epistemology does) and consequently there remains no need to remark that Ibn Arabi> seems to assign some sort of reality to thing that do not exist, remarks that one comes across in Eriugena scholarship.66 Having compared the ontologies of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> and noticed the common ground between them we are now about to begin with the comparative analysis of Eriugenas first division of nature, namely, that which is not created but creates with Ibn Arabi>s view on similar matters.


For instance see Moran, The Philosophy, 231.


MetacosmMetacosm-I: God

The present chapter investigates similarities and dissimilarities between the way Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> envisage Divine nature. We shall pay attention in particular to Eriugenian view that God is created in His effects, Divine unknowability, non-existence, darkness, affirmative, negative and superlative theologies in comparison with Ibn Arabi. It might be thought that a work devoted to analysis of cosmology should not include discussion of Divine nature, a subject that belongs properly to theology or philosophy of religion. This objection would have been valid had we been concerned here with modern cosmology. It is not possible in traditional cosmologies to discuss the nature of tangible world without reference to Divine nature. This impossibility is reflected in the very definitions Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> provide for God.

3.1 Defining God

3.1.1 Eriugena on the Definition of God.
Eriugena identifies the first division of nature with God as origin of being and the fourth division with God as the end. He goes on however, to imply that all the four divisions should be considered as both from God and in God, (DDN III: 690A) which means that these are theophanies.67 Now while it is easy to consider the second and third divisions, namely primordial causes and the world, as theophanies it is a little difficult to consider

Ibid. 252.

39 God Himself a theophany, i.e., revelation or manifestation of God. Perhaps this difficulty can be removed by inquiring into the meaning of the word God. Eriugena explains this while introducing the concept of theophany for the very first time in DDN. According to this explanation not only Divine essence is indicated by God but also that mode by which God reveals himself in a certain way to intellectual and rational creatures according to the capacity of each. (DDN I: 446C-D) Again while summarizing an earlier discussion Eriugena states clearly that not only the Divine essence which exists in itself without change [is] called God but also the theophanies which are reproduced out of it and by it in the intellectual nature are themselves given the name God. (Ibid. I. 448B)

3.1.2 Ibn Arabi> on the Definition of God.

As we saw, for Eriugena God gives a multi-layered meaning, something by which Ibn Arabi>'s understanding of Divinity is also characterized. While referring to God Ibn Arabi> uses the word the Divine presence ( ) which he defines by saying that There is nothing in existence save Divine presence which is His essence (), His attributes ( )and His Actions (). (Fut. II: 114) The first thing to be observed here is a similarity with the so called sixth Eriugenian mode of being discussed in the previous chapter. This definition reiterates that real being belongs only to God. Second, obviously, the definition does not limit divinity to Divine essence but includes Divine attributes, signified by so many Divine names and Divine actions by which Ibn Arabi> understands nothing but creatures. While Eriugena has clearly extended the meaning of God to include Divine manifestations what about attributes/names and actions that Ibn Arabi> includes in his definition of God? According to Ibn Arabi>, Divine Essence is absolutely unknowable and

40 transcendent. The only connection creatures have with It is through attributes/names which are declared to be so many veils ( )upon Divine essence, simultaneously covering and uncovering it. Ibn Arabi> adopts the Mutazilite stance that attributes are identical with the Divine essence. The creatures are manifestations of the names of God, what Eriugena calls theophanies. Ibn Arabi> has expressed this in a characteristic manner, there is nothing in existence but His names. (Ibid. II: 303) It is not merely that God has manifested Himself to human intellects in creatures, rather human being is the greatest of Divine self-manifestations. Ibn Arabi> thinks that things are manifestations of the Real in which He revealed Himself for them, even in their own entities and it is His saying We shall show them Our signs upon the horizons and within their own souls until it is clear to them that it is the Real (Qurn, 41:53). Therefore, Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> are united in the way they define God.

3.2 God as Uncreated and Created

3.2.1 Eriugenas Standpoint
Eriugena declares that God is understood to be anarchos i.e., without beginning, because He alone is the Principle cause of all things which are made from Him and through Him. (DDN I: 451C-D) In addition to being the beginning and the End God is also the Middle, the Beginning because from Him are all things that participate in His essence; the Middle because in Him and through him they subsist; the End, because it is towards Him that they move in seeking rest from their movement and stability of their perfections. (Ibid. I: 451D) On the other hand, Eriugena also asserts that the Divine nature not only creates but is created. (Ibid. I: 452B) The Alumnus expresses his perplexity since Divine nature has been maintained to be creative and not created. (Ibid. I: 454D) Though the

41 Nutritor recognizes that this is hard to swallow he digresses into analysis of the etymology of the Greek word for God and comes back to the issue only after having followed his line of thought a little farther than the etymology of theos. Certainly the notion that God is made in creatures should not be taken at its face value. At a later place in DDN Eriugena implies that he does not want God to be included in the number of all things that are created. (Ibid. I: 468C) According to him the statement only means that the Divine nature is establishing the nature of things. For the creation of itself, that is, the manifestation of itself in something is surely that by which all things subsist. (Ibid.I: 455B) This identification of creation as selfmanifestation is the key to resolve the perplexity. Divine nature can be understood as being created because that which is invisible in itself becomes manifest in all things that are. (Ibid. I: 454 A) Eriugena also says that it is said to be created since nothing except itself exists as an essence since it itself is the essence of all things.(Ibid.) To bring the point home he establishes an analogy with intelligences being created in its effects and says that the Divine Essence is created in those things which are made by itself, through itself and in itself just as the intelligence of the mind or its purpose or its intention or however this first and innermost motion of ours may be called, having entered upon thought and received the forms of certain fantasies and having then proceeded into the symbols of sounds or the signs of sensible motions it is not inappropriately said to become. (Ibid. I: 454C) The claim that God is made in all things remains a figure of speech,68 a metaphor, although not arbitrary but grounded in reality but still a metaphor which provides a single expressive form for the coordinate themes of theophany, procession, division of nature and Gods essential inherence within the

Eriugena writes: when God is said to be made, this is obviously by a figure of speech DDN I:


42 created order.69 In sum, then, to say that God makes himself in creatures is to say that He manifests himself in them and that their subsistence is dependent upon God.

3.2.2 Ibn Arabi>s Standpoint

Like Eriugena Ibn Arabi> calls the Divine reality The Middle. He is the first and the Last (57:3) and He is what is between these two. (Fut. I: 642) He also considers God to be the intermediary between two other Divine names while explaining the degrees of Divine presence: there are three degrees in the Divine presence, the hidden, the manifest and the middle. (Ibid. II: 391) Also noteworthy is Ibn Arabi>s explication of the Divine Name, the First and the Last:
God possesses Firstness ( ) because He brings everything into existence. He also possesses lastness ( ) for He says To Him the whole affair is returned (11: 123) and To him you will be returned (2: 245) and Surely unto God all affairs come home (42:53), so He is the Last just as He is the first and between the first and the last appear the degrees of Divine names. (Ibid. IV: 299; trans. SDG, 204)

Notice how completely this resonates with Eriugenas statement at I: 451D cited above. In addition to this Ibn Arabi> maintains that God is the middle between nonexistence and existence. Things pass through this middle path and are colored in His color, which is none other than existence. (See Fut. IV: 108, trans. SDG, 46) That Ibn Arabi> can indeed agree with Eriugena in the concept of Divine selfcreation is signaled by the fact that he makes some reservations to talking about Godworld relationship in terms of cause and effect (see Fut. I: 720). Since according to Ibn Arabi> all creatures are nothing but Divine manifestations, he would have no problems with Eriugenas God creates himself so long as creates stands for manifests

See Donald F. Duclow, Divine Nothingness and Self-Creation in John Scottus Eriugena, in Journal of

Religion 57 (1977), 109-3.

43 Himself. We find Ibn Arabi>> explicitly saying He made nothing manifest in endangered existence save what He is in Himself. It is as if He were non-manifest and became manifest through the cosmos. (Ibid. II: 399; trans. SDG, 70). So Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> are in complete harmony as far as the formers concept of Divine selfcreation is concerned. As for the usage of the expressionbeing created for God, we find Ibn Arabi> doing that in a different context, namely, that the upholder of every doctrine about God imagines in his mind a particular thing and worships it saying: this is Allah! and indeed it is Allah no one else and at that particular locus only Allah has created it. (Ibid. IV: 211)70 Here Ibn Arabi> explains the meaning of Gods creating himself in the heart of the believer by sticking to the ordinary meaning of creating as making. But then he attributes the act of creation to the believer rather than God, he, just like Eriugena, equates creating with self-manifesting. There is a clear parallel between the example of intelligence creating its object by contemplating and imagination creating God by particularizing Him in a specific form. In sum, Ibn Arabi> does accept what Eriugena means by the expression God creates himself, the expression itself with a different meaning and finally, relates both the expression and meaning by saying that in creating Himself in the heart of a believer God manifests Himself to the believer. This diversity of Divine manifestation for different objects is an idea that is also dear to Eriugena who has written, speaking about the ineffable Divine essence that it is One and the same and remains unchanging, it will be multiple to the sight of those whom it shall be given to dwell in it. (DDN I: 448C) He

The first rather long sentence is my own translation. The rest has been taken from William Chittick,

Imaginal Worlds: Ibn al-Arabi> and the Problem of Religious Diversity, (New York: State University of
New York Press, 1994), 164.

44 shows similar spirit while expressing his views on the multiplicity of the interpretations of Scripture which he tries to explain with the help of the image of peacocks feather (penna pavonis), unity and diversity all in one. (See ibid. IV: 749C)

3.3 Divine Knowability

3.3.1 Eriugena on Divine Knowability
The theology of self-manifestation of transcendent God includes the issue of Divine comprehensibility. This is an issue regarding which there is remarkable correspondence between Eriugena and Ibn Arabi>. For the former the Divine Essence, is in itself comprehensible to no bodily sense, to no reason, to no intellect, whether of man or of angel. (Ibid. I: 447C) Though this incomprehensibility is inherent in the Divine transcendence, it is also metaphysically grounded71 in the principle propounded by the second mode of differentiating what is from what is not. As every order of nature can be said to be since it is known by the orders above it and it can be said not to be since it cannot be known to the orders below it, therefore reason or intellect being on a lower order than God, cannot understand the latter. Moreover, that which has the capacity to define something must be greater than that something. (DDN I: 485B) However, the Divine essence is incomprehensible in itself but when it is joined to an intellectual creature it becomes manifest after a wondrous fashion (mirabili modo): so that the former, I mean the Divine essence, is seen alone in the latter, namely the intellectual creature (DDN I: 450B), God who is incomprehensible in Himself is after a certain mode comprehended in creature. (Ibid. I: 451B) Eriugena makes it clear that from the existence of creature what can be discovered about Divine Essence is only

See Deirdre Carabine, The Unknown God: Negative Theology in the Platonic Tradition: Plato to

Eriugena (Louvain: Peeters Press, 1994), 304-305.

45 that it is not what it is. (Ibid. I: 455B) Fortunately, a few facts about Divine nature can be deduced from the nature of what exists.

Facts about Creature Essence: Essence That the creatures exist Order: Order That these are divided into essences, genera, species and individuals Motion: Motion That all things have stable motion and moving rest

Facts deducible about God Essence: Essence That Divine Essence is Wisdom: Wisdom That it is Wise

Life: Life That It lives

While being manifest in His creatures, God remains incomprehensible at the same time and this incomprehensibility is not the same as that of his essence as contrasted to its manifestation rather it is His incomprehensibility in His very

manifestation. Eriugena says:

For just as God as He is in Himself beyond every creature is comprehended by no intellect, so is He equally incomprehensible when considered in the innermost depths of the creature which was made by Him and which exists in Him. (Ibid. I: 443B)

This two-sidedness is in fact involved in the very logic of principle-manifestation metaphysics, as is made beautifully clear by Schuon:
[T]here is always a certain element of inversion in the relationship between subject and object, that is, the subject which reflects inverts the object reflected. A tree reflected in water is inverted, and so is false in relation to the real tree, but it is still a tree even this tree and never anything else: consequently the reflected tree is perfectly true, despite its illusory character.72


Frithjof Schuon, Orthodoxy and Intellectuality in Stations of Wisdom (Lahore: Suhail Academy,

2001), 22.

46 As Deirdre Carabine has summed up Eriugenas views in this connection, the reality of the Divine nature is that it both can and cannot be understood when contemplated in its effects.73 According to her, the whole focus of Eriugenas thought can be stated in terms of the Dionysian problematic of how God is understood to be transcendent and immanent, similar and different, hidden and revealed.74 In Eriugenas words, nothing is more hidden than it (i.e. Divine essence), nothing more present, difficult as to where it is, more difficult as to where it is not. (DDN III: 668C)

3.3.2 Ibn Arabi> on Divine Knowability

Ibn Arabi> says that that Engendered existence has no connection whatever to knowledge of the Essence. (Ibid. II: 597; trans. SPK, 60) He also presents a polysyllogistic reductio of the knowability of Divine Essence:
Were it known It would be encompassed. Were It encompassed it would be limited. Were it limited It would be confined. Were It confined, It would be owned. But the Essence of the Real is High above all this. (Fut. I: 160; tans.

SPK, 62)

However this is incomplete story. The absolutely incomprehensible Divine essence manifests itself first in Divine names, attributes and then in Divine actions in the forms of the cosmos, and it is through these theophanies that certain things can be known about God. Ibn Arabi>s doctrine of Divine names bestows some clarity upon the mode in which the essence manifests itself, so here the position is more systematic and less ambiguous than Eriugenas wondrous mode (mirabilis modo): All the cosmos is a word that has come with a meaning, and its meaning is God, so that He may make His properties manifest within it (Ibid. III: 148; trans. SDG, 5)

73 74

Deirdre Carabine John Scotus Eriugena, 46. Carabine, The Unknown God, 306.

47 The last sentence points out that the Divine names are transitive in nature, they logically demand their objects, in Ibn Arabi>s terminology loci of manifestation. ( )For instance one of the Divine names is All-Merciful which demands an object of Divine mercy and obviously this has to be something other than God because he cannot become object of his own mercy, hence the cosmos is created as locus of manifestation of the Divine mercy.75 Ibn Arabi>s concept of Divine names as constituting an intermediary realm between Essence and cosmos can be considered an important unpacking of what Eriugena calls the wondrous fashion in which Essence manifests itself. Now Ibn Arabi> explains the epistemological function of theophanic cosmos within the framework of the Qura>nic concept of the signs of God within our souls and upon the horizons and declares that these constitute the only path to the knowledge of God: Hence the Real turned us over to the horizons, which is everything outside of us, and to ourselves, which is everything we are upon and in. When we come to understand these two affairs together, we come to know Him. (Ibid. II. 298; trans. SDG, 8) It must be remembered that the transcendence and unknowability of the Divine Essence is not compromised by Divine self-disclosure (theophania) within the souls and the cosmos but is only complemented. This is again something upon which we find Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> in perfect agreement. Eriugena has written, The ineffable excellence of the former (i.e. Divine Essence) surpasses (superat) every nature which participates in it, so that in all things nothing else but itself is presented to those who have understanding, while in itself it is not manifest in any fashion. (DDN I: 450B) Ibn Arabi> is more emphatic as he thinks that it is as if God is saying, I did not bring


For an excellent elaboration of this doctrine see Fut. I: 322 and III: 316.

48 the cosmos into existence to signify Me The cosmos is a mark of the realities of the names, not of Me. (Fut. II: 541; trans. SDG, 11) This reminds one of Eriugenas distinction between knowing what He is and that He is. If for Eriugena the unknowability of Essence was a repercussion of one his modes being and not-being, for Ibn Arabi> ultimate non-manifestation of Divine essence is implied by his parallel to Eriugenas sixth mode of being.76Since being exclusively belongs to God there is no possible subject for having knowledge of God: The Real says, There is no thing to which I manifest Myself, because I am identical with each thing. (Fut. IV: 8) Ibn Arabi> believes, like Eriugena and St. Gregory of Nyssa before him (DDN III: 637C), that God is the coincidence of the opposites (coincidentia oppositorum) and one of his favorite examples to illustrate this is the Qura>nic pair of Divine names Manifest-Nonmanifest (( ) Qura>n, 54:2). He thinks that God is Manifest to Himself and Nonmanifest with respect to His creatures. (Fut. IV: 326; trans. SDG, 206) Hence, Divine Essence is unknowable in itself, manifests itself and remains unknowable even in its manifestation. Thus we are taught both by Eriugena and Ibn Arabi>.


He writes in a short poem that inaugurates chapter 402 of Fut.: Were we to become manifest to the thing, It would be other than We But there is no other than We So where is manifestation? Ibid. IV: 8; trans. SDG, 41.


3.4 Divine Unity and Trinity

3.4.1 Eriugena on Trinity
In the account of Trinity in the first book of De Diuisione Naturae Eriugena takes his position appealing to the authority of Dionysius and Gregory Nazianzus. He appeals to former to warn the readers that in view of its absolute transcendence, the Divine essence cannot be described either by unity or by trinity and adds that the triune nature of God was discovered only in the light of spiritual understanding and rational investigation so that the religious inclinations of pious minds may have something to think and something to say concerning that which is ineffable and incomprehensible. (DDN I: 456 A-B) Perhaps it was this statement that has led some scholars to maintain that for Eriugena the Trinity has merely a subjective-meaning and merely in human consciousness.77 There is one point where Eriugenas understanding of Trinity seems to differ from that of Pseudo Dionysius. Eriugena connects the three known facts about God namely essence, wisdom and life to His triune nature and maintains that by God in its essence is understood the Father, in its wisdom the Son, in its life the Holy Ghost. (Ibid. I: 455C) Referring to Gregory Nazianzus as his authority, Eriugena presents a relational concept of Divine trinity according to which the relation or condition (habitum) of the Unbegotten Substance to the begotten substance was called Father, the condition of Proceeding Substance to the Unbegotten and to the Begotten Substance Holy Spirit.


F.C Baur. and Th. Christlieb held these positions while L. Scheffczyk and Beierwaltes have disagreed.

See Beierwaltes, Unity and Trinity in Dionysius and Eriugena, in Hermathena: Proceedings of the

Dublin Conference on Neoplatonism, 1992, (Dublin: University of Dublin, 1994), 10, 17 notes 46-47.

50 (DDN, I. 456 B-C.)78 Justifying the Gregorian position Eriugena makes the following remark: For in one and the same nature, there cannot be two names, differing the one from the other.(Ibid. I: 457A) As against this principle, the Alumnus points out the counter example of the names Abraham and Isaac, which though differing in sound but not in sense are both names of the same nature which is there in the father and his son. (See ibid. I: 457B) Eriugena denies this by maintaining that the meaning of Abraham is different from Father and the meaning of Isaac is different from son. Hence, the names Abraham and Isaac refer to the individual substances while the names father and son refer not to substances but to relations. (See ibid. I: 457B-C) The conclusion, as stated by the Alumnus, is that whether in the Divine Nature or the human, the name of a relation cannot be applied to a substance or essence. (Ibid. I: 457D) Anyway, Eriugenas statement that God transcends both Unity and Trinity is perfectly in line with his negative theology to be discussed more fully below, according to which no positive descriptions by way of names and attributes can apply to God who is beyond them and this concept as we shall show after comparison with Ibn Arabi> goes a long way towards bridging the Muslim and Christian theologies otherwise radically separated due to the doctrine of Trinity. Same can be said about his relationalist or nonsubstantialist remarks on the meaning of Father and Son in the Trinity.

3.4.2 Ibn Arabi>s Views on Trinity

Let us now turn to Ibn Arabi> and attempt to find out what implications the doctrine of Trinity has for our comparative study of Eriugena with Ibn Arabi> as the latter belongs to a religious background which does not accept this doctrine but is based upon the


St. Gregory had said, in his reply to the Eunomians, regarding whether the name Father signified a

nature or a function, that it signified neither of these but rather the relation of the Son.

51 doctrine of pure oneness of God. We shall take up this issue at two levels, firstly on theological or religious level where the Christian Trinity itself is discussed, secondly on the metaphysical level where instead of trinity we discuss the issue in terms of multiplicity. Although a univeralist in his approach towards religious diversity, 79 Ibn Arabi> does not usually deal with particular dogmas of other religions. There are, however, some exceptions and the doctrine of Holy Trinity seems to be one of these as Ibn Arabi> has applied his pluralistic principles to this particular case. The triadic systematization is one of the structural principles of Ibn Arabi>s thought just as it is of Eriugenas.80 This is obvious from his reflections upon the triadic structure of the letters of the Basmalah, (Fut. I: 103)81 three presence of three Divine names in it (Ibid. III: 126), the triadic appearance in the first sight of Kabah (Ibid. I: 696)82, triadic nature of reality behind three names of the Qura>n, (Ibid. III: 129) dependence of creation upon the number three which Ibn Arabi> considers to be the first compound number,83 three dimensional nature of bodies and the bestowal of existence

An excellent study of this aspect of Ibn Arabi> is William Chitticks Imaginal Worlds referred to above.

The work of Frithjof Schuon, especially his Transcendent Unity of Religions can be taken as a contemporary and practical application of principles propounded by Ibn Arabi>.
80 81

This feature of Eriugenas thought has been pointed out by Werner Beierwaltes, Unity and Trinity, 6. [E]very letter of the Basmalah is triadic corresponding to the levels of the worlds. Also see Ibn At Fut. IV: 32 Ibn Arabi> writes that the actual structure of Kabah including is itself triadic, the The first of numbers is two and nothing at all comes forth from two unless the three conjugates them

Arabi>, Fus}us > } al-H}ikam, 115-117: The origin of the cosmos is trinity.

cube emerges only if we consider the building as it stands presently.


and connects them with each other and that (third) brings them together, only then comes forth from them whatever comes forth from them. Three is the first of odd numbers, from this name ( the odd) became manifest whatever has become manifest from amongst the entities of the possibles. No possible thing has become existent from the one but has become existent from plural and the smallest compound number is three and it is the odd. Fut. III: 126.

52 through three realities namely His He-ness (), attentiveness (tawwajjuh) and word84, to the triadic nature of rational arguments and repercussions for knowing God. (Fut. IV: 32) Ibn Arabi> is perhaps the only Muslim mystic-philosopher to have given Trinity such a sympathetic treatment.85 One might become astonished at this but there is nothing to warrant the conclusion that he borrowed Trinity from Christianity


weld it with his mystical doctrines, since he knew that patches from Christianity were not going to help legitimize his views. This is moreover the case since Ibn Arabi>s apparent source regarding trinity is the Qurn and Arabic language and he does not refer to any Christian authority. Anyway, Ibn Arabi> attempts to analyze the aspects of truth and falsehood in this doctrine and finds excuses for its upholders, even ways of ultimate salvation. The springboard for his discussion of the Christian doctrine of Trinity is Qurn 5:73: They are unbelievers ( ) who say God is the third of the three. The first important move Ibn Arabi> makes in his interpretation of this verse is emphasizing that the label that the Qurn is applying to the Trinitarians, namely unbelievers ( )and not the

Ibid. III: 276. Chittick explains He-ness: It is God in as much as He is designated by the name He Frithjof Schuon, whose work can be considered an extension of Ibn Arabi>s in many respects, has

(), which is a pronoun designating absence and therefore nonmanifestation. SPK, 964 note 15.

explained the Qurnic opposition to Christian trinity by bringing to light various shades of its meaning. He envisages trinity according to a vertical perspective or according to either of two horizontal perspectives, the former of them being supreme and the other not. The vertical perspectiveBeyondBeing, Being and Existence, the supreme horizontal perspective corresponds to the Vedantic triad Sat,

Chit and nanda, the non-supreme horizontal perspective is ontological and represents the three
fundamental aspects or modes of Pure Being, whence the triad: Being, Wisdom, Will (Father, Son, Spirit). According to Schuon what is opposed to Islam is solely the ontological Trinity alone, as it is envisaged exoterically. See his Understanding Islam (Lahore: Suhail Academy, 1999), 54.

This rather hasty conclusion is drawn by A.E. Affi>fi> in his commentary on Fus}us >. } See his comments,



polytheists (( )See Fut. III: 126), who according to it deserve eternal damnation
in hell. Second, he interprets the word literally as meaning the one who covers so the Trinitarians are so since they cover the first with the second and the second with the third. Third, he points out that something is wrong with the expression He is third of

three Rather it is said that He is the third of two After all He is not of the same
kind as that to which He is being ascribed in any sense for nothing is as His likeness and

He is the Hearing, the Seeing (42:11). (Fut. IV: 306; trans., SDG, 179) So what is
problematic is Gods inclusion with a group as one of its members. This last remark is not very different from orthodox Muslim theological stance and Ibn Arabi> considers this specific formulation of Trinity a violation of Divine transcendence. The most explicit defense of trinity Ibn Arabi> presents is in its connection with his discussion of kinds of tawh}id > . The profession of three gods, according to Ibn Arabi>, is clearly an instance of polytheism but he does not equate trinity with polytheism. (Ibid. III: 126) According to him, it is rather another kind of tawh}i>d, namely the oneness of composition. (Ibid. III: 173) While committing trinity to the profession of oneness of composition and presence of oddness and thereby making room for it, Ibn Arabi>> has in the corner of his mind the Divine saying: He is odd and He loves the odd.87 Accordingly the profession of oneness is also of two kinds or in Ibn Arabi>s terminology, belong to either of two presences: the presence of oneness ( ) and the presence of oddness ( ). That is to say that there are two possible ways to profess Divine oneness, pure oneness and composed oneness. The Muslim tawh}id > , so to speak, belongs to the former one, while the Christian Trinity belongs to the latter. Even though the latter is not the


Muslim, S}ah}ih > }, Kita>b al-Dhikr wa al-Dua>: Ba>b fi> Asma> Alla>h.

54 pure oneness, it is still a profession of oneness, since the number three is the first odd number (See Fut. IV: 32), a believer in Trinity has still the advantage of deviating only one degree from pure oneness. Anyway this explanation does not exhaust the meaning of . In one of his shorter treatises Ibn Arabi> goes to the extent of identifying it as the tawh}id > of Moses, Muh}ammad and all the prophets while calling the other tawh}id > that of the disobedient followers of Muslim community.88 It is necessary to have a look at how Ibn Arabi> views multiplicity and unity as far as the nature of God is concerned because this is one of the core issues in the Muslim-Christian discussion of unity and trinity. There is no doubt that the cornerstone of Ibn Arabi>s thought is the Islamic doctrine of oneness of God (). His doctrine that has become famous as oneness of being ( ) is but a mystical version or the esoteric core of this same doctrine. A unique feature of Ibn Arabi> is that instead of considering multiplicity an illusion he relates it to the Divine reality. His guiding metaphysical principle is that nothing appears in existence that does not have a root in the Divine reality. (Ibid. II: 508) Since multiplicity is a feature of existence as it appears to us it must also have a Divine root. According to the first principle of Islam, God is one. Ibn Arabi> takes the very bold step of adding that God is One/Many () .89 He applies this term in the framework of Essence-Attributes discourse. Essentially, God is one but He has many

See Ibn Arabi>, Al-Tadbi>ra>t al-ila>hiyyah fi> Is}la>h} al-Mamlakah al-Insa>niyyah (Beirut: Da>r al-Kutub al-

Ilmiyyah, 2003), 90. Some other Sufis, before and after Ibn Arabi>, also consider this as the higher level of tawh}id > . See Abu> Ha>mid Al-Ghaza>li, Mishka>t al-Anwa>r, Ed. Abul Ala> al-Affi>fi> (Cairo: Al-Da>r alQayyu>miyyah, 1964), 60 and Mah}mu>d al-Farka>wi>, Sharh} Mana>zil al-Sa>iri>n (Cairo: Mahad al-ilmi> alfaransi> li al-a>tha>r al-Sharqiyyah, 1953), 36.

Ibn Arabi> applies this term in other contexts as well. In Fus}us >, } he seems to be applying this term to

anything having organic unity like one person having many bodily organs. He also applies it to the world as a whole and then to God in view of the endless multiplicity of His theophanies. See Fus}. 183-184.

55 names and these names require the objects in which their properties or meanings should be manifested, hence, the plurality of created objects. There is nothing but Allah, the necessary of existence, the one in as much as His Essence, the Many in as much as His names and His rulings. (Fut. I: 703) Still, these names are not substances, but only relations between God and the world. Therefore the entities of the created nature do not multiply the Divine Essence, so we must not say that He is one or many but that He is One/many. (Ibid. III: 276) In order to separate the Divine essence from this attribution of relational multiplicity Ibn Arabi> at one place equates One/many to Manifest/non-manifest ( ). This shows again that multiplicity pertains to God inasmuch as He manifest Himself and not as He remains Non-Manifest. Hence multiplicity belongs to the names/attributes aspect of the Divine Side () . This discussion gives us at least two features of Ibn Arabi>s thought that he shares with Eriugena. Apart from the correspondence of the term one-many to Eriugenas unum multiplex, utilizing the essence-attributes apparatus also brings Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> interestingly close. Eriugenas identification of the three persons of trinity as essence, life and wisdom has already been given by Wolfson an important place in the discussion of trinity as origin of Muslim doctrine of attributes.90 In his discussion of trinity or multiplicity Ibn Arabi> does not refer normally to life and wisdom because these are intransitive so do not require objects, which makes them irrelevant from the point of view of cosmogony. Although this particular feature moves him a bit away from Eriugena it brings him close to the latter in another regard. From the historical point of view, like that in which Wolfson is discussing the subject in this


Philosophy of Kalam, 123.

56 particular place, the former fact will seem more serious, since it would emphasize the difference between them, while the latter fact from the thematic-analytical standpoint that we have taken here, bridges such gap. This is because even if the attributes mentioned by Ibn Arabi> are not exactly like the members of Eriugenian, or for that matter, of previous Platonic triads, they still are attributes. Moreover, Ibn Arabi>s reference to the transitive attributes, unlike those mentioned by Eriugena, allows him to introduce the concept of relation. We have seen above that Eriugena followed the Greek fathers and presented a relational concept of the three persons of trinity. We see presently that Ibn Arabi> emphasizes time and again the relational nature of Divine attributes and Divine names, the seedbed of multiplicity in the Divine presence and in the world, and he does this apparently to forestall reified Divine multiplicity. Though it is difficult to say that Ibn Arabi>s interpretation of trinity would be acceptable to the Christian authorities, however, as far as the Muslim-Christian debate on Trinity is concerned, there is no doubt that Ibn Arabi>s position is a breakthrough.91

3.5 Affirmative, Negative and Superlative Theologies

3.5.1 Apophasis in Eriugena
One of the major issues that Eriugena discusses in Book I of De Diuisione Naturae is that of the applicability of Categoriae Decem to God. Eriugena believes that this question can be discussed in terms of two theologies, that is, ways of talking about God:92 the negative theology, via negativa (apophasis) and affirmative theology, via

That this indeed is the case can be seen by placing it in the debate from Mutazilites through Al-Kindi>,

a debate which has been presented and studied by Wolfson. Cf. Philosophy of Kalam, Chapter IV: II-III, 310-337.

On the place of this discussion and the meaning of term theology by Eriugena see Bernard J. McGinn,

Negative Theology in John the Scot, in Studia Patristica: Papers Presented to the Sixth International


affirmativa (cataphasis). Though Eriugena takes this from Pseudo-Dionysius,93 he also

names Boethius and Augustine among those who alluded to the negative theology. Still Eriugena is believed to be the first Latin theologian to have made it a systematic part of his thought.94 Negative theology is defined as denying that the Divine Essence is any of the things that are. Eriugena, after briefly presenting how Pseudo-Dionysius has emphasized Divine transcendence, says that Nothing can be said properly about God, since He surpasses every intellect and all sensible and intelligible meanings, who is

better known by not knowing Him (DDN I: 510C-D)

Affirmative theology is defined as that which predicates all the things that are, of the Divine Essence or Substance. It does not say that It is those things but that all things take their being from it. (Ibid. I: 458B)95 According to this way the Divine Essence can be said to be not only those things which accord with nature like truth, goodness, essence, light, justice, sun, star, spirit, water, lion, bear and worm but also the things which are contrary to nature, like being drunken and mad. (See ibid.)96 Obviously the reason for the viability of this continuity is everythings taking being from God. Eriugena makes this explicit by providing the principle: that which is the cause can be expressed in terms of the things that are caused, the same principle using which he reduces the last two divisions of nature to the first and second. He writes, all things
Conference on Patristic Studies, XIII (1975), 234-235.

See Pseudo Dionysius, The Mystical Theology, in Pseudo-Dionysius: Complete Works, (Mahwah: See Bernard McGinn, Negative Theology, 237. Here the connection of God-world identity with the causality is obvious. In case of Ibn Arabi> this was At 511C-512B, Eriugena gives a more extensive list of names dividing them into glorious and exalted

Paulist Press, 1987), Chapter III: 1032D-1033D.

94 95

not so clear, so it fell upon the shoulders of his defenders to point this out.

names such as life or Virtue, intermediate names such as Sun and Light, those taken from lower motions of the visible creature like breath and Cloud and lastly those which are taken from the created nature and applied to creative nature by a kind of metaphor like man, lion, ox etc.

58 that are, from the highest to the lowest, can be spoken of Himsince He is the source of all things that can be predicated of Him. (Ibid. I: 510D) Following Saint Augustine, Eriugena maintains that positive Divine names used in the Scripture signify the simple and immutable Divine essence and there is no difference, as far as God is concerned, between loving, desiring and willing etc. (Ibid. I: 518 B-C) Names like Truth, Goodness, Essence, Light, Justice and others of the sort are said to apply to Him metaphorically, that is to have been transferred from creatures to the Creator. (Ibid. I: 458C)97 To show the inadequacy of affirmative theology Eriugena appeals to the principle that anything which has an opposite cannot properly be predicated to God, and argues that all the aforesaid Divine names are confronted by other names (e.g. being by non-being and life by death) therefore they cannot be properly predicated of God. (Ibid. I: 459 B-C) In view of this, properly speaking, God is neither Essence nor Goodness, nor God,98 nor Truth, Life and Light but superessential, more-than-Goodness, more-thanGod, more-than-Truth, more-than-Life and more than-Light. The Divine names included in this third group, called super-affirmation or hyperphatic theology,99 harmonize via

affirmativa and via negativa as in outward expression they possess the form of the
affirmative, but in meaning the force of the negative it is essence, affirmation; it is non-essence, negation; it is superessential, affirmation and negation together. (Ibid. I:

It seems that Ibn Arabi> would not have agreed to this transference because for him such names

properly apply only to God while they apply to creatures metaphorically. This seeming difference can be reconciled if we differentiate between the ontological and epistemological contexts of religious language and hold that Eriugena has in view the epistemic context while Ibn Arabi> speaks in the ontological context.

Eriugena denies the proper applicability of God to Divine substance in view of Greek etymology of Carabine, The Unknown God, 312.

the word. Hence God is more-than-seeing and more -than- running.


59 562C) In the final analysis however, this third way remains fully negative way since it only tells us that God is not essences but it does not reveal what that is which is more than essence (Ibid. I: 562D) Bernard McGinn believes that it is only in these lines that an answer worthy of the name is given to the question asked many passages ago by the Alumnus about

proper predication of these terms to God. The answer is, yes and no, depending on the
type of definition one believes to be involved in by these terms. If they provide a

diffinitio quid est, that is what it is then, no, since such a definition is a limitation,
inconceivable in case of God. But if the definition involved is only diffinitio quia est that is of that it is then yes these terms are properly applied to God.100 Interestingly, Ibn Arabi> also denies the possibility of such definition of God in view of its limiting character. However, according to him, separately taken both affirmative and negative ways imply a limitation of Divine Substance. One gets rid of this delimitation only by synthesizing both ways. (See Fus}, 68-69) Eriugenas final position on this issue, on the one hand, at least apparently, is

Affirmatio simul et abdicatio, the combination of two ways (with a tilt towards the
second). That is the final message of Eriugena on the issue of religious language and also, as we shall see in a later chapter, on the question of God-world identity. It is the negative way that he considers to be the better expression of truth of the matter. For he says that God is more truly and faithfully denied in all things than He is affirmed, For whatever negation you make about Him will be a true negation, but not every affirmation that you make will be a true affirmation. (Ibid. I: 510C) There is also the suggestion that the affirmative way is for the simple-minded followers of the religion

See McGinn, Negative Theology, 237. McGinn has also observed the close connection between this

question and that of the nature of definition.

60 (those who are as yet ignorant in the simplicity of the teaching of their faith) while the negative way belongs to the more advanced. (Ibid. I: 511C) Still, there are ways in which the whole negative enterprise can be rendered in positive terms. One of these is discovered when one looks at Eriugenas adherence to the Augustinian dictum that God is better known by not knowing (melius nesciendo scitur). Second, in Eriugenas explanation of final theophany Divine essence is described as in assessable light which blinds the eye and is thus called darkness. Here, as Dierdre Carabine has pointed out we find the notion of negation and deprivation linked to the positive idea of plenitude.101 Hence affirmation points beyond itself to negation and negation, in turn, back to affirmation. This reflects the dialectic of transcendence and immanence Michael Sells speaks about as an open ended process by which the original assertion of transcendence looks critically upon itself.102 It reiterates the metaphysical principle, which finds expression in almost all traditions: transcendence necessarily comprises immanence, and immanence just as necessarily comprises transcendence.103

3.5.2 Incomparability, Similarity and their synthesis in Ibn Arabi>:

In Ibn Arabs concepts of incomparability (), similarity ( )and synthesis of both we have parallels of what Eriugena calls negative, affirmative and superlative ways of speaking about God. Whereas Eriugena introduces these concepts while treating the

Carabine, The Unknown God, 320. Emphasis added. Carabine locates the metaphysical foundation of

the application of both theologies, positive and negative, in the Plotinian dictum the One is all and no thing. See ibid. 324.
102 103

Mystical Languages of Unsaying, 207

Frithjof Schuon, The Way of Oneness, in Esoterism as Principle and As Way (Lahore, Suhail

Academy, 2005), 236 and in his Our Father Who art in Heaven, in To Have a Centre (Bloomington: World Wisdom Books, 1990) 127, Schuon says that there is no transcendence without immanence and no immanence without transcendence which in one way is reminiscent of Ibn Arabi>s saying, The assertion of similarity is not capable of escaping the assertion of incomparability, nor is the assertion of incomparability capable of escaping the assertion of similarity. Fus}, 182 trans. Ringstones, 229.

61 question of applicability of categories to God, behind Ibn Arabi>s use of these terms stand pre-Mutazilite positions of anthropomorphists ( )who favored Qura>nic verses ascribing human attributes to God and the early Muslims ( )who preferred verses which emphasize Divine incomparability, as Ibn Khaldn describes the origin of Islamic Theology. A third position seeking to harmonize the previous two positions by

interpreting the verses conveying the message of similarity. This third position,
examplified by the saying that God is a body unlike bodies is only superficially similar to Ibn Arabi>s synthesis as will be obvious from what follows. Incomparability and similarity are two relationships as possessing which human beings witness the Real. (Fut. II: 3. SPK, 277) Incomparability ( )having negative formal character is the exact parallel of Eriugenas negative theology since it is to describe the Real as having no connection with the attributes of temporally originated things (). (Ibid. II. 672; trans. SPK, 70) The Qura>nic concept of i.e. Glorification is understood by Ibn Arabi> as referring to a declaration of incomparability and praising God not with positive attributes (Ibid. III: 148; trans. Ibid) 104 in the light of the Quran> 37:180 viz. Lord of inaccessibility above what they describe (37:180) (Ibid. II. 580; trans. SPK, 71) These words were ordinarily interpreted as meaning that God is free of attributes that are not proper to Him. However Ibn Arabi>s explication of

tanzi>h goes well beyond this traditional interpretation. In accordance with his broader
concept of it, tanzi>h would demand not attributing to God anything that can also be attributed to anyone. At one place Ibn Arabi> goes to the extent of claiming that even


Ibn Khaldu>n points out that in view of fact that all Qura>nic verses speaking about incomparability are

negative in form early Muslims preferred them over the positive anthropomorphic ones. Ibn Khaldu>n, The

Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History, trans. Franz Rosenthal (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul,
1986), III: 45.

62 the Divine names given by scripture cannot be considered to be ascribable properly since they are ascribable to human beings. (Ibid) The only laudation worthy of God, according to this perspective, then, is his Glorification, which is as we have seen negative and not positive. Ibn Arabi> very clearly sees that the doctrine of similarity lies at the very heart of incomparability attesting thus to the principle that immanence and transcendence are interdependent. Whereas Eriugena thought that describing God by positive terms would amount to limiting him, Ibn Arabi> takes the further step of declaring that not only positive but negative attribution also amounts to the same thing. He expresses this idea by saying that God possesses non-delimited being, but no delimitation ( )prevents Him from delimitation. (Fut. III: 162) Consequently Ibn Arabi> declares that neither of these two points of view presents complete picture of Divine reality therefore these two must be combined. Ibn Arabi> asserts that Whoever in knowing Him brings together the assertion of incomparability and that of similarityknows Him. (Fus}, 68-69; trans. Ringstones, 3738) This combination of incomparability and similarity, which is a requirement of Divine perfection, Ibn Arabi> reads in the words of the Scripture, There is nothing like unto Him and He is the Hearing, the Seeing (42:11). According to Ibn Arabi>, there is nothing like unto Him points to incomparability while the words He is the Hearing, the Seeing point toward similarity. Ibn Arabi> always mentions these Qura>nic words as the combination in one place of incomparability and similarity, although he does not rule out other ways for understanding these words. We submit that this synthesis of the formally negative incomparability and formally affirmative similarity in Ibn Arabi> is comparable to Eriugenas superlative

63 theology, which combines both by lacking negation in form but being fully negative in meaning. (DDN I: 462C) However there is one important difference between the two syntheses which must not be lost sight of but explained. We noticed at closing the discussion of Eriugenas superlative theology that he tilts finally towards negative theology, even though seeking to combine it with affirmative. In case of Ibn Arabi> one finds an obvious tilt towards the affirmative theology based on the perspective of similarity. This was most evident from his words quoted above about non-delimitation being delimitation as far as the Absolute is concerned. This difference in orientation of the apo-cataphatic synthesis presented by Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> stands in need of explanation. We submit that this difference can be explained with reference to the religious traditional background against which the syntheses were presented by Eriugena and Ibn Arabi>. In regard to their views on immanence and transcendence Christianity and Islam belong to different religious types according to Frithjof Schuon. In Schuons view there are two ways of approaching the Absolute, the one is founded upon the notion of God as such while the other is based on God become man. Christianity belongs to the latter type while the former is represented by Islam, 105 which brought God back, so to speak, to His primary meaning and to His transcendent essentiality.106 Thus the explanation of Eriugenas final tilt toward apophasis and Ibn Arabi>s toward cataphasis lies in the fact that each of the two was responding to the background of his tradition. Christian tradition titled toward affirmative theology and Islamic tradition, as reaction to Christian over emphasis, toward negative theology.

Schuon, Outline of Religious Typologies, in Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism (Bloomington, Schuon, The Mystery of the Hypostatic Face, in ibid. 95.

Indiana: World Wisdom Books, 1986), 103.



3.6 The Concept of Divine Nothingness

3.6.1 Nihil as a Divine Name in Eriugena
Eriugena considers nihil, not-being, to be one of the names of God. Firstly, this conclusion is entailed by the very first mode for distinguishing being from non-being. If one starts from the said mode God must be considered amongst those things which elude all sense, reason and intellect due to excellence of their essence (per excellentiam

suae naturae), hence represent quia non sunt. Secondly, God can also be said not to be in
view of the second mode for differentiating being from not-being. If creatures, belonging to the lower order of hierarchy, are said to be, God must be said not to be, since an affirmation of the lower is negation of the higher. It is obvious that this attribution of nihil to God is relative and unlike the previous one not a requirement of Divine transcendence. Hence, there is an opposite side to the mode as well according to which God is said to be while and when the creatures are said not to be. Thirdly, Eriugena returns in book three of DDN to give a fuller treatment of the concept of nonexistence. Having contested the identification of nothing in the phrase creation out of nothingness (creatio ex nihilo) with privation, Eriugena contends that by nihil is signified the ineffable and incomprehensible and inaccessible brilliance of the Divine Goodness. (DDN, III 680D) Thus Eriugena believes that ex nihilo actually means ex

deo and thinks that this interpretation is entailed by a true understanding of Scripture.
This Eriugenian view of the nature of nihil is subject matter of the so-called Treatise on

nothingness within DDN (634A-690B).

It would be an injustice and misunderstanding to criticize this identification of

nihil as a Divine name as derogatory to the Divine substance. When we emphasize per excellentiam suae naturae part of Eriugenas first mode referred to above, it becomes

65 clear that Eriugena is not employing the term not-being in privative sense so as to imply some imperfection or lack. Rather he is interpreting the phrase in the sense of more than being.107 He writes about the Divine nature that it does not descend beyond the lowest effects by which it would be seen both to be created and to create. (DDN III 689B) Therefore Willemien Otten has rightly remarked that For God the denial of being does not entail any consequences that should affect His existence in any negative way

and that [t]he predication of non-being appears to be the only

appropriate figure of speech aptly to represent Gods transcendence with regard to creation without comprehending it. Eriugena manifestly rebuts any other interpretation of non esse.109 The point being made here can be better understood in the light of a distinction made by Frithjof Schuon regarding negation of nihil from God and its ascription to Him. Like Otten, Schuon has highlighted the etymological ground of the controversy and pointed out two ways of understanding the word nihil, firstly, according to its proper meaning it means that which is below existence and secondly the esoteric interpretation according to which it is that which being principial and hence nonmanifested is above existence.

It goes without saying that it is not in the former

sense that Eriugena applies this word to God. According to this opinion the difference about the application of nihil to God is in fact a linguistic one and not metaphysical.


See DDN III: 634B-C: I would not easily concede that the Divine superessentiality was nothing [or

could be called by so privative a name]. For, although it is said by theologians not to be, they do not mean that it is nothing but that it is more than being.
108 109 110

Willemien Otten, The Anthropology of Johannes Scottus Eriugena (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1991), 44. Ibid. 37. Schuon, Creation as a Divine Quality in Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism , 51.

66 This is supported by a noted Eriugena scholar Ottens opinion that the discussion of

nihil reflects a problem of language.111

3.6.2 God and Nothingness in Ibn Arabi>

Let us turn our attention now to Ibn Arabi>. It would appear from a number of texts in Ibn Arabi>s works that he does not favor attribution of nihil to God. He says, for example, since the Real rightfully demands wuju>d by His Essence (), non existence is impossible for Him. (Fut. II: 99) In his Kita>b al-Azal Ibn Arab rejects an opinion because it implicitly qualifies God with nothingness which is impossible for Him.112 He also considers nothingness incompatible with eternity and mentions the principle the one whose eternity has been established, his nothingness becomes impossible.(Fut. II. 99)113 In addition to eternity, Ibn Arabi> also hesitates in applying nothingness to God in view of his identifying existence with good and nonexistence with evil (See ibid. I: 213) and because God is essentially necessary of existence.(Fut. III: 477) However, one should consider the fact that in all these places Ibn Arabi> is talking about as privation, lack or imperfection while Eriugena attributes it to God not as lack but as super-abundance or being more than being. Eriugena, on the other hand, while attributing nihil to God, considers it not as privation or lack but as super-

essentiality, that is to say, more than being. Besides Ibn Arabi> counter-balances the
abovementioned view firstly by providing a perspective from which the chasm between and God can be abridged and secondly, by making explicit ascription of nihil


Otten, Anthropology, 44. Dermot Moran had claimed that Eriugena founded a tradition of negative Ibn Arabi>, Kitb al-Azal in Rasa>il (Beirut: Da>r al-Kutub al-Ilmiyah, 1999), 122. ( ) Ibid. II: 384. Also see III: 477 where Ibn Arabi> says that since God is being

ontology which runs parallel to that of the primacy of being. See The Philosophy, 100.
112 113

therefore He is free from non-existence.

67 to God. In one place he seems to be implying that God can be said both to be and not to be from two different perspectives: In the same manner He is and is not: He is the manifest so he is but the distinction among the existents is intelligible and perceived by the senses because of the diversity of the properties of the entities, so He is not (Fut. II: 160; SPK, 95) In that particular place he is in agreement with Eriugena over the issue of Divine nothingness. In the second place, we find Ibn Arabi> explicitly granting the application of nothingness to God in one passage. Discussing glorification (tasbi>h) } he writes:
Glorification is to assert Gods incomparability [tanzi>h]. It is a description by non-existence. Hence He made absolute non-existence eminent by describing Himself by it, for He says Glory be to thy Lord, the Lord of exaltation, above what they describe (37:180). (Ibid. II: 672; trans. SDG, 31)

In this passage Ibn Arabi> comes closest to Eriugena firstly because of obviously considering nihil to be a Divine quality, but also the context and rationale is the same. One of the reasons for Eriugenas doctrine of Divine nothingness is his negative theology, emphasis upon apophasis. Ibn Arabi> is also pointing to the Divine nothingness in the very same context of Divine transcendence or as he calls it, (). The second resonance here is that Ibn Arabi> is grounding his view in his reading of the Qura>n just as Eriugena thinks that his identification of nihil with God is implied by the Scripture itself. (DDN III: 684C-685A) A third similarity between Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> on the point under discussion becomes manifest by the latters remark that nothing other-than-God makes God known with greater knowledge than does absolute non-existence. (Fut. II: 672) Here the description of nonexistence as being the best signifier or God in a manner

68 reminiscent of Eriugenas declaration that God is better known through negation than through affirmation. Finally, a comparative remark about Eriugenas identification of Deus with nihil in the context of creation out of nothingness is in order. Ibn Arabi> shares Eriugenas view that creation out of nothingness does not mean creation out of absolute nothingness and furthermore interprets creation as Divine self-disclosure just as Eriugena does. Moreover, in the elliptical opening sentence of his Al-Futu>ha } t > (Fut. I:1) Ibn Arabi> writes: Praise belongs to Alla>h who created things from non-existence and its non-existence. ( ) The words an adam wa adamihi can be interpreted to mean that God did not create the world out of pure nonexistence but from nonexistence plus the non-existence of none existence (adam wa adam al-adam) i.e. being. And the identification of being with God is one of the axioms of Ibn Arabi>s thought. All this implies that the world was created out of nothingness plus the existence that belongs to God. Anyway, the doctrine of Divine nothingness has some important doctrinal implications. One of these is that since God is nothing, that is no-thing, He does not know Himself. To a consideration of this we turn now.

3.7 Divine Darkness:

3.7.1 Eriugena on Divine SelfSelf-Knowledge
In our opinion, one of the strangest dimensions of Eriugenas thought is his denial of Divine self-knowledge: So God does not know of Himself what He is because He is not a what. (DDN II: 589B-C)

69 An attempt to make Eriugenas statement plausible by emphasizing, as Carabine does, Gods knowledge, in His very ignorance of Himself, that he is not at all any of the things or that he is more than all things. Such approach would be perfectly in line with Eriugenas own argument. What seems problematic, however, in this account is that in discussing Divine self-knowledge a reference to things seems to be a projection of human point of view upon God. It is human knowledge (or pseudo-knowledge or whatever) of God that has to depend upon God and God while thinking about His essence does not have to contrast him with things other than Himself. At one place in book II Eriugena argues again that God does not know of Himself what He is. Here the argument presupposes that when we ask regarding the

quiddity of anything we in fact make a demand for its definition, hence to know
something is to define it in terms of circumstances which circumscribe it, so to speak, within limits. (Ibid. II: 586D) From this general observation about human knowledge Eriugena leaps to Divine Knowledge: If, then, God knows of himself what He is, doe He not define Himself? --- for everything which is understood by itself or by another as to what it is can be defined and therefore is not infinite. (Ibid. II: 587B) What we find questionable in this argument is the leap from finite sphere of human knowledge to the infinite sphere of Divine knowledge and the presupposition that since our knowledge of what something is amounts to having a definition of it; this must also be the case with God.114 Where is the argument for this transition? Is not this a violation of via negativa of which Eriugena is so fond?


Augustine says in another context that which specially leads these men astray to refer their own

circles to the straight path of truth, is, that they measure by their own human, changeable, and narrow intellect the Divine mind, which is absolutely unchangeable, infinitely capacious, and without succession of thought, counting all things without number, The City of God and the Christian Doctrine, ed. Phillip

70 Moreover, if one is really to construe Divine infinity spatially and push it to its farthest logical limits then the only option is to say nothing at all about God, not even that He is infinite, unknowable, absolute etc., and there remains no room for talking about God either in affirmative or negative or superlative manner. We submit that human beings, since they are finite beings cannot know the Infinite however the Infinite can know Himself since He does not fall short of His own Infinity, if such way of expressing the point be permissible.115 The correct entailments of Divine infinity and simplicity seem to be, not that God does not know what He is, but that the question whether or not He knows what he is, is misplaced. Divine Simplicity is already compromised the moment this question is put before giving an affirmative answer to it.

3.7.2 Ibn Arabi> and Divine SelfSelf-Knowledge

As far as Ibn Arabi> is concerned, one of Ibn Arabi>s most favorite aphorisms, attributed to al-Ghaza>li> (d. 1111) and Abu> Sai>d al-Kharrz (d. 890) is: None knows God but God. (e.g. Fut. I: 271; II: 69) Although Ibn Arabi> quotes this mostly in order to emphasize its negative part regarding unknowability of Divine essence, but the saying explicitly affirms Gods knowledge of Himself. He differentiates between knowing quiddity of something and defining

something in his commentary upon an argument that took place between Pharaoh and

Schaff (New York: The Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1890), 238. The City of God also contains a detailed refutation of the claim that God does not know infinite. See Book XII chapter 18.

The concept of Divine infinity has been used by Beierwaltes in a defense of Eriugenas attempt to see

the self-unfolding of Tri-unity in the light of causality against the objection that it subordinates second and third persons to the first person who is the cause. Beierwaltes holds: it (i.e. the principle) sets a second cause which is begotten but in the infinite realm not less than the first, but indeed necessarily equal. Beierwaltes, Unity and Trinity, 11 (emphasis added).

71 the Prophet Moses regarding the nature of God. (See Fus}. 208-209) Toshihiko Izutsu comments:
Strictly speaking, asking about the ma>hiyyah of something is not exactly the same as asking for its logical definition. To ask about the ma>hiyyah of a thing, as understood by Ibn Arabi>, is to ask about the reality of that object which is unique and not shared by anything else. Definition in the logical sense is different from this.116

On this account if question about the whatness of definable creatures is not a question about their definition then the question as to what He is a fortiori is not about His definition, since He cannot be defined. As Ibn Arabi> has put it succinctly the knowledge of the infinite that it is infinite is without encompassing. 117 Hence on the question of Divine Self-Knowledge Ibn Arabi>s standpoint differs from that of Eriugena. An alternate interpretation of Eriugenas position on Divine Darkness can be made in the light of his saying 1) Divine Nature willing to emerge from the most hidden recesses of its nature in which it is unknown even to itself, it knows itself in

nothing because it is infinite [ in nullo se cognoscit quia infinita est]. (DDN III.689B)
If we emphasize in nullo instead off quia infinita est we can see the meaning of the claim that God does not know himself in a new light. The meaning of saying that God does not know Himself will simply be that there is nothing other than Him in which He could know Himself. This interpretation fits in nicely with his claim that from His ineffable nothingness God emerges and knows Himself in theophanies.

116 117

Toshihiko Izutsu, Sufism and Taoism, 29. Ibn Arabi>, Kita>b al-Aba>dilah (Cairo: Maktabat al-Qa>hirah, 1994), 122.

72 The interpretation of Eriugena suggested here bridges the gap between him and Ibn Arabi>. Let us conclude by pointing out something upon which Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> seem to be in complete agreement. This concerns Eriugenas assertion that God is not a what. We find that Ibn Arabi> negates, unlike other classical Muslim philosophers and exegetes118, that God could be a called a thing since the traditional Islamic sources, in his opinion do not warrant the application of this name to God. (Fut. II: 99; trans. SPK, 88)


Fakhruddi>n al-Ra>zi>, Ibn Arabi>s famous contemporary theologian, philosopher and exegete, with

whom he also corresponded, takes the position that God can be called a thing since the Qur'a>n says: Say, what thing is most weighty in evidence? Say: Alla>h, witness between me and you. (6:19). He has mentioned that Jaham ibn Safwan is the only one who denied that God is thing and adds that this is just a verbal disagreement. See al-Tafsi>r al-Kabi>r relevant verses.


Metacosm Metacosmcosm-II: Causes and Entities

According to Saint Augustine119 God did not create the material world directly but creation took place in two phases. In the first phase the seminal reasons (rationes

seminales) of everything were created simultaneously. These are, to quote Copleston,

germs of things or invisible powers or potentialities, created by God in the beginning in the humid element and developing into the objects of various species by their temporal unfolding.120 The second phase consisted of successive creation of the effects of those seminal reasons. Eriugenas second division of nature termed by him as primordial causes can be seen as continuation of Augustines seminal reasons. In Ibn Arabi> we also find a concept that channels the creation of material world and this is his famous concept of , variously translated as fixed entities,121 permanent archetypes122 or immutable identities123 etc. In the present chapter we undertake a comparative analysis of Eriugenas primordial causes and Ibn Arabi>s fixed entities. The first section deals with the nature, functions and characteristics of primordial causes in Eriugenian Cosmology while the second section investigates whether or not those characteristics are shared by Ibn Arabi>s concept of fixed entities.

Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis, volume I (Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1982) Book V chapters Frederick Copleston, A History of Western Philosophy, Vol. II Medieval Philosophy, 76. William Chittick in Self Disclosure of God. Toshihiko Izutsu in Sufism and Taoism: A Comparison of Key Philosophical Terms (Berkeley: Caner Daglis translation in The Ring-stones.

7, 20 and 23.
120 121 122

University of California Press, 1984).



4.1 The Nature of Primordial Causes and their Functions in Eriugenian Cosmology
4.1.1 Meaning and Scriptural Basis of the Primordial Causes
We have already met with the concept in Book One where Eriugena discusses the modes of being. We have seen that in accordance with the third mode, whatever of the primordial causes through generation is known as to matter and form, as to times and places is said to be while whatsoever is still held in those folds of nature and is not manifest as to as to form or matter, place or time, and the other accidents, is said not to be.124 Hence the primordial causes are the secret folds of nature for things which have not yet emerged in the spatio-temporal boundaries. Also, they are the principles of all things because all things whatsoever that are perceived or understood, whether in the visible or the invisible creation, subsist by participation in them. (DDN II: 616B). Eriugena identifies the primordial causes with a myriad of concepts from traditional philosophy and his own original ones. These identifications, given below, encapsulate the nature and function of the primordial causes: 1. He reminds us that they are what the wise men of the Greeks call

prototypa, that is, the principal exemplars which the Father made in the
Son and divides through the Holy Spirit. 2. They are also called poorismata or predestinations or predefinitions, for in them whatever is being and has been and shall be made by the Divine Providence is at one and the same time and immutably predestined. For nothing naturally arises in the visible and invisible except what is pre-defined and pre-ordained in them before all times and places. As we shall see below, the primordial causes are the connection between the superessential God and the world. Since there is not found

See supra chapter II, section 2.2.

75 in the nature of things any power, whether general or specific which does not proceed by an ineffable participation from the primordial causes, whatever things are good, alive, wise, true, just, powerful, healthy, eternal or subsist or understand or practice reason are so and do so by participation in primordial causes. (See DDN II: 616 C-D) 3. Eriugena identifies them with what the philosophers customarily call Divine volitions (theia thelemata) because everything that God wished to make He made in them primordially and causally; and things that are to be have been made in them before all ages. 4. They are what the Greeks call ideas ideae that is the eternal species or forms and the immutable reasons after which the visible and the invisible world is formed and governed.125 5. At one place the primordial causes are simply spoken of as the origins of things (occasiones rerum) (See DDN II: 562B) and at another as

primordial essences which were created before all things. (See ibid, II.

In his translations of the works of Pseudo Dionysius Eriugena calls the primordial causes paradigms (paradigmata). In a long quotation from Pseudo Dionysius De Divina Nominibus given at the very end of DDN II an explanation of paradigmata can be found: the reasons in God which substantiate existing things and were preformed after a unitary mode which the Divine word calls predestinations and Divine and good volitions which determine and make the existents and after the pattern of which the Superessential has both predestined and brought forth all things. (Ibid. II: 619A-620A)126

125 126

The first four labels are provided in DDN II:529B while their explanation is taken from II. 615D-616B. Pseudo Dionysius also writes that the Cause of the earth, of it (i.e. the Sun) and of all things

preformed on high in itself the exemplars (paradigmata) of all existents in one superessential unity, and it then brings forth the essences by an emanation from Essence. De Divina Nominibus 824C This passage is quoted by Eriugena at DDN II. 618D-619A.

76 These labels gathered from various places of the second book of DDN give us a fair idea of what primordial causes are and what function they are meant to play. Their discussion properly starts at 545B and after another long digression continues from 615D to 618 and then in Book 3 from 619A-630A. Let us turn now to the question of their scriptural basis. According to Thomas Duddy Eriugena reveals his Neo-Platonic sympathies while trying to characterize the second division of nature and he does so by slipping a Neo-Platonic element into the relationship between creator and creation. The question of Neo-platonic influence aside, Eriugena attempts to establish himself before anything else upon the authority of Holy Scripture itself. In the beginning and by way of preamble the Nutritor says that the text of present book makes no further demand than that to the best of our ability we discuss whatever the light of minds shall have granted concerning the primordial causes and that we take the beginning of our discussion from the Divine Oracles, i.e. the Holy Scriptures. (Ibid. II: 545B) The passages that follow take the opening verses of Genesis as springboard for the introduction of the primordial causes. Eriugena offers his symbolic commentary on In the beginning God made heaven and earth (in principio creavit Deus caelum et terram). Without naming or contradicting anyone, he mentions some interpretations of the words heaven and earth mentioned in Genesis I: 1. The first opinion, identified by Sheldon-Williams as that of Philo and the Alexandrines, is that these two words constitute a compendious expression comprehending the whole [perfecte d] creature. According to this

opinion, by the creation of heaven the creation and formation of the whole of spiritual and intelligible creatures is intended while making of earth means the constitution of the whole corporeal and sensible creatures. According to the second opinion, attributed

77 to St. Gregory of Nyssa, what is signified is the formlessness of each creature, the inception of the spiritual by the name heaven and that of this corporeal world by the appellation of earth. This opinion is soon going to confuse the Alumnus with the laudable effect of furthering the clarification of the relation between primordial causes and prime matter. Two more opinions, of St. Basil and St. Maximus the Confessor, are mentioned but the Nutritor considers it tedious and irrelevant to the subject of the present work to prolong the discussion. This reluctance to contradict the opinions of the fathers bespeaks, of course, of Eriugenas reverence for them. It also points to the arbitrariness of his interpretation of the words without any hermeneutic necessity. This fact would become clearer when we contrast the scriptural basis of primordial causes to that of Ibn Arabi>s immutable identities in the second section of the present chapter.

4.1.2 Causes as the origin of intelligible intelligible and sensible creatures

Without intending to refute these opinions Eriugena solemnly offers his own interpretation: I think that in the aforementioned words of the Scripture, we should understand the primordial causes of the whole creature, which the father created in his only begotten son, who is given the name of beginning. According to Eriugena heaven signifies the primordial causes of the intelligible and celestial essences while

earth points to those of the sensible things by which the universe of this corporeal world
is made up. Sheldon-Williams has noted that here primordial causes are not identical with the intelligibles, but the common cause of intelligibles and sensibles. This apt observation serves to distinguish Eriugenas causes from Platos ideas which are normally understood to be the intelligible archetype of the sensible objects. We can add that Eriugenas interpretation can be considered a combination of the opinions of Philo/Alexandrines and St. Gregory of Nyssa and not a complete contradiction thereof.


4.1.3 Primordial Causes and materia prima

Now, although Eriugena had refused to enter into controversy with competing interpretations of Genesis, the Alumnus expresses his slight trouble over seeing how Eriugenas interpretation differs from the one which identified heaven and earth with the formlessness of things because we say that the formless matter and its formlessness are a kind of cause of things. In reply the Nutritor shows that prime matter cannot be called cause in a proper sense and that there is a world of difference between his interpretation and that of St. Gregory of Nyssa. First, the difference cannot be slight between formlessness of things and cause of things since nothing is closer to true non-being than the former while nothing is closer to true being than the created causes of created things. He then refers to the principle that the cause, if it truly be the cause, most perfectly pre-encompasses in itself all things of which it is the cause and perfects in itself its effects before they become manifest in anything. Therefore, we cannot call formless matter a cause of essence and form and perfection of things but rather it is privation of the essence, form and perfection of things. After listening to these arguments the Alumnus suddenly gets wiser and not only concedes to them but tries to elaborate the distinction further than his teacher. As he puts it, the formlessness of things is nothing else but a certain motion which is departing from absolute non-being and seeking its rest in that which truly is. The primordial causes, on the other hand, are so created in the Beginning, that is in the word of God which is truly said to be and is, that they do not by any motion seek their perfection in anything. Since the causes of place and time are in them they have nowhere to depart but they themselves by no means look toward the things that are below them, but eternally contemplate their Form which is above them. (Ibid. II: 547B-D) He also adds that the primordial causes have a

79 cause of everything and this includes prime matter itself so the latter cannot be identical to the former. (See ibid. II: 548A)

4.1.4 Immutable perfection of the causes

The Nutritor then comments on Genesis I.2-3: But the earth was waste and void and darkness was over the face of the abyss (terra autem erat inanis et vacua et tenebrae

super faciem abyssi). He mentions that the earlier commentators have identified waste
and void with the formlessness of visible creatures and dark abyss with the formlessness of invisible essence and earth. He also talks about those who pointed to this hulk of earthly body to be intended by the aforementioned words. Like before, he announces his reluctance to adjudicate between the opinions of the Holy fathers and his interest in selecting out of these the one which seems after rational consideration to accord the better with the Divine Oracles. (See ibid. II: 549A) As one would expect, these words refer to nothing other than the primordial causes. (Ibid.) The words waste and void signify rather the most complete and immutable perfection of the primordial nature that was created before all things in the Word than the mutable and imperfect and as yet formless procession of this sensible world extended in places and times and coming into being through generation and seeking to be formed in the diverse individuals of the sensible creatures. (Ibid. II: 549B) After giving some examples from classical literature of the usage of these words, Eriugena concludes that there is no wonder that if the primordial causes of visible things are figuratively signified by waste and void earth on account of their excessive subtlety and the ineffable simplicity of their intelligible nature before they flowed forth through generation into species and sensible individuals.


4.1.5 Questions of Knowability:

Darkness of the primordial causes
As for the word abyss it is applied by the scripture to the primordial causes of intelligible essence on account of its unfathomable depth. Likewise they earn the name of darkness because of their purity. (See ibid. II: 550C) In his explanation of darkness Eriugena points out that the sun often brings darkness upon those who look into it since they are unable to face its excessive brilliance, thus there was darkness over the abyss of the primordial causes. For before they entered into the plurality of the spiritual essences no created intellect could know of them what they were, and darkness is still over this abyss because it is perceived by no intellect except that which formed it in the beginning. (See ibid. II: 550D-551A) Here Eriugena has maintained that the primordial causes are unknowable, hence an inquiry into this issue ensues. Eriugena asks whether this unknowability is permanent or pertains only to this visible world. He thinks that the causes are always invisible and dark. (Ibid. II: 551C) The Nutritor likes this answer and adds that the causes both proceed into the things of which they are the causes and at the same time do not depart from their Principle that is, the wisdom of the father in which they are created, remaining themselves eternally concealed in the darkness of their excellence, they do not cease to appear by being brought forth into light as it were of knowledge in their effects. (See ibid. II: 552A) As far as their unknowability is concerned, the primordial causes are just like the uncreated creator we dealt with in the previous chapter.

The Nutritor next attends to the question about the self-knowledge of the primordial causes. Since it is not to be believed that anything was created in the Divine Wisdom

81 which is not wise and does not know itself all things that were made in Wisdom, as wisdom knows herself and the things that are made in her, so not only know themselves but also do not lack knowledge of the things of which they are the principles. (See ibid. II: 552B) Creation of the primordial causes took place through the Holy Spirit. In order to establish this dimension of the causes, Eriugena refers to a slightly different version of Genesis I: 2 viz., Et spiritus dei fouebat acquas, and the Spirit of God fermented the waters. This means in Eriugenas understanding that the Holy Spirit nourished the primordial causes in the fermentation of the Divine Love so that they might proceed into their effects, like the eggs are fermented by the birds. (See DDN II: 554B). In addition to bringing out the function of Holy Spirit, this passage also reminds us that the causes were made in the Son of God. Hence the creation of primordial causes involves God the father, God the Holy Spirit and God the Son, all three persons of Trinity. In view of this a long digression starts into the nature of this trinity.127 Eriugena resumes the discussion of primordial causes at DDN II: 615D by identifying them with some Greek philosophical concepts.128

Primordial Causes Known to God

In order to show that the primordial causes, unknowable to every intellect, are after all known to God, Eriugena offers his symbolic interpretation of Genesis I.2, And the spirit of God was borne above the waters (et [spiritus Dei] superferebatur super aquas). God comprehends them in His super-eminent (and) infinite Gnostic power since He


Since we have treated the subject of trinity in Eriugena and Ibn Arab in the previous chapter, we will We have mentioned these in the beginning of this section.

not touch upon it in the present chapter.


82 made them in the beginning as a kind of foundations and principles of all the natures which are from Him. (See ibid. II: 553A) One of the reasons for the aforementioned words of the Genesis Eriugena thinks is that in their absence one could have thought that the primordial causes of all (things) are of such excellence that no higher cause precedes them so as to surpass them. For there is one and the same cause of all things out of which, through which and in which and for which the causes and preceding origins of all things were first created. (Ibid) Again, a further meaning of the superferebatur super acquas is given, viz.: it is borne above all things because it precedes the order of the universal creature which takes the beginning of its being from it and in it finds its end. (Ibid. II: 553B. Emphasis added) Obviously the former explanation was epistemological one while this latter is ontological since it involves the existence of primordial causes rather than the question of their knowability. While summing up his interpretation Eriugena combines both in this way: Only the Creator Spirit is super-eminent over created causes in the excellence of His knowledge and is the one and only cause which precedes and excels over all the causes. (Ibid. II: 553C)

4.1.6 Primordial Causes and the Evil

The notion of primordial causes being made in Wisdom gives rise to an interesting question: If the primordial causes have wisdom of themselves because they are created in wisdom and subsist eternally in that which admits nothing unwise in itself, how is it that from the wise causes many unwise things proceed?(DDN II: 554B) Eriugena suggests an answer with the help of an analogy: It is not strange that the causes of unwise things subsist in wise exemplars when we see that the origins of darkness

83 naturally inhere in the rays of the sun and that while these allow no darkness in themselves, yet they produce it as opposite. (See ibid. II: 552C) Thus he admits that the responsibility for things thought to be evil exists in primordial causes he is not ready to believe that this implies that these causes themselves are evil. However, this very example shows that the relation he is willingly admitting between primordial causes and evil in not a direct relation but an indirect one. The sun is directly responsible for light while darkness is inevitable but indirect result of a ray from the sun. Those who are fond of making connections with Neo-Platonism might discern behind this explanation an identification of evil with non-existence, in our opinion the most valuable implication of this proposed solution is that evil can be considered as the logically necessary counterpart of the good.

4.1.7 Timeless creation of the primordial causes:

In connection with there being a cause of primordial causes two caveats must be made. First, since Eriugena has mentioned the precedence of the spiritus dei over the primordial causes, he is quick to add that it is not implied that one thing is created sooner or later than another in a temporal sense, for all things are eternally in it and were created by it at the same time. (Ibid. II: 553B) The second caveat is that the timeless creation of primordial causes should not be taken to mean being made out of nonexistence but they are participations of the one cause of all things, namely the most high and holy trinity. (Ibid. II: 616B)

4.1.8 No creature between God and the primordial causes.

Although the primordial causes are intermediary between God and the spatio-temporal world there is nothing between them and God. The Scripture mentions the spirit being borne above the water because, Eriugena says, the Divine providence brought forth

84 from non-existence into existence the universe of created nature in an order (which is) ineffable and incomprehensible to every intellect and because they are in the immediate and proximate presence of God without the interposition of any higher creature (See

DDN II: 553B-C) This notion of the direct relation of primordial causes to God has its
merits and demerits. On the one hand it makes Eriugena safe from susceptibility to third-man like arguments. On the other hand it gives rise to confusion. One might wonder how it is possible to say that there is nothing between God and primordial causes once it is admitted with Eriugena that these causes were made by the Father in

the Son.

4.1.9 Hierarchy of Primordial Causes:

Eriugena has already enumerated some of the primordial causes in Book II, but, as the Alumnus complains, in an confused and indiscriminate sequence: Goodness-throughitself, being -through-itself, Life-through-itself, Wisdom-through-itself, Truth-throughitself, Intellect-through-itself, Reason-through-itself, Power-through-itself, Justicethrough-itself, Health-through-itself, Magnitude -through-itself, Omnipotence-throughitself, Eternity -through-itself and Peace-through-itself. (See ibid. II: 616C) Urged by the Alumnus to explain the natural order of the causes and by appealing to the authority of Pseudo Dionysius, Eriugena presents ten primordial causes in an order of hierarchy. The first is goodness-through-itself by participation in which whatsoever things are good are good. (See ibid. III. 622 B-C) The highest primordial cause is followed by Essence (being), Life, Reason, Intellect,129 Wisdom, Power, Blessedness, Truth, Eternity and Infinity. Important questions arise regarding the specific ordering of the primordial


On the difference between reason and intellect see DDN, II.577B-C and section 1.4.3.

85 causes but before addressing them let us first analyze the passage referred to above in order to map the place of primordial causes within the cosmic hierarchy. Eriugena tells us in that passage that the creatures forming the external world participate in primordial causes which in turn participate in God. But God in whom each specific primordial cause participates will be mentioned by a specific name. In the passage at hand the primordial cause being discussed is goodness-through-itself and God is mentioned as Supreme Goodness or Goodness-through-itself. Same will be the case with all primordial causes. For instance, we will say that whatever has being in this world is so by participation in being- in- itself which participates in nothing but is participation of being which is Super-essential Goodness. Hence in order for a specific primordial cause to be a participation of super-essential Good it must participate

specifically in Super-essential Good. What is the nature and what are the principles of this specification? Eriugena seems to be silent so we have to place a question mark in
the following table of Eriugenas cosmic hierarchy. We are pressing this point since we hope to find a clearer position in this regard in our discussion of a similar notion in Ibn Arabi>. The hierarchy of the causes themselves within a wider cosmic hierarchy is presented diagrammatically on the next page.


4.1.10 Infinity of Primordial Causes

The above table on the previous page gives us three divisions of nature, God, causes and the world shown in the three rows and these can be reduced to just the first one, as we have already seen in a previous chapter.130 Let us notice here that the ten causes that Eriugena mentions here are only the first ten out of infinite number of them. Since the causes can be reduced to their principle which is none other than God, Eriugena sees no problem in calling them infinite: For as the First Cause of all things, from which and in which and through which they are created, is infinite so neither do they know any end to limit them (Ibid. III: 623D) The presumption seems to be that the effect must resemble its cause.

4.1.11Simplicity 4.1.11Simplicity and Unity of Primordial Causes

About the hierarchy Eriugena observes that it is constituted not in themselves but in the aspects, that is, in the concept of the mind which investigates them and which conceives in itself such knowledge of them as is permitted (Ibid. III: 624A) A little latter he says, The order of the primordial causes is constituted in the judgment of the mind which contemplates them a devout and pure-minded philosopher may start from any one of them at will. (Ibid. III: 624 C) The real intention of Eriugena in emphasizing role of mind is not to deny their objective status as much as to emphasize their unity, first with their principle and then among themselves. Thus he writes, explaining the above quoted passage III: 624A, For in themselves these first causes are one and simple and none knows the order in which they are placed or distinguished one from another. For, this is something that happens to them in their effects. (Ibid. III: 624A-B) Second,


See chapter 2 section 2.1.

88 near the end of discussion of hierarchy Eriugena makes the Alumnus exclaim, who would reasonably look for order or number in those things which are created by the Creator of all things because of the loftiness of their nature beyond every order and every number, seeing that the beginnings of all number and all order are in themselves united with one another and cannot be seen apart in the eyes of any lower nature. (Ibid. III: 626C) Eriugena also says, For they are one and a simple one and not a one that is composite of many.(Ibid. III: 624B) There is no way to distinguish the primordial causes from one another accept through looking at their effects. Hence, in themselves they are one but they are multiplied by proceeding into their effects. Eriugena provides his readers with two models to illustrate the simplicity of primordial causes, firstly subsistence of all numbers in the monad (Ibid. III: 624 A-B) and secondly, the unity of all lines at the centre point. (Ibid. III: 625A) These two facts, namely their simplicity/ unity and their containing the cause of order, provide the basic rationale for the claim that there is no order among the primordial causes in themselves but only in the mind that contemplates them. Eriugena is not consciously putting forward an idealistic view of nature, as Moran and others think.131 He is not absolutely denying the objective existence of order but denying it only from a certain perspective. Moreover, the existence of order only in the judgment of contemplating mind does not prevent primordial causes from creating order within their effects. Thus, Eriugena asserts that every ordered thing is ordered through participation in its primordial cause which is order-through-itself and which in turn participates in Order which is the Cause of all things. (See DDN, III: 624B) If the provision of hierarchy leads someone to suppose that there is real multiplicity within the

Cf. Dermot Moran, The Philosophy, 261.

89 causes, it would be said that hierarchy exists only in mind. Hence even though the order of causes is in mind, it is not an illusion.

4.1.12 Priority of Goodness and Objectivity of Hierarchy

The idealistic implications of above discussed passages are further jeopardized when Eriugena explains why he started with a particular primordial cause by giving an objective criterion. The Alumnus expresses the desire to know why his dialogue partner started with a particular cause, goodness-through-itself rather than any other since it is not the way of those who dispute in an orderly manner to waste time in saying anything without reason. (Ibid. III: 627A) The question presupposes that although every mind is free to order the causes as it likes, there is no room for arbitrariness, solid reasons must be there for the order particularly envisaged. After making an esoteric confession of his humility, the Nutritor gives two reasons. First, he had learnt from the authority of holy fathers, especially Pseudo Dionysius that goodness-through-itself is the most general of the Divine gifts and in some manner precedes others. (See ibid. III: 627C) He asserts emphatically that goodness must be prior to and considered more basic than being, for all things that are, are insofar as they are good, but in so far as they are not good, or rather they are less good, to that extent they are not, and so if goodness is removed, no essence remains. (Ibid. III: 628A) This assertion is bound to seem a little curious in the first sight. Eriugena grants that one could object that in order for there being goodness, there first must be something which is good, so it would seem more appropriate to say that if being is removed no goodness remains. He takes the bold step of including nothingness within goodness and indeed the bolder one of saying that non-existent things are better than those which are, for the further they transcend essence by reason of their excellence, the nearer they approach the Superessential Good, namely God,

90 whereas the more they participate in essence the further they are separated from the Superessential good. (Ibid. III: 628 B)132 Eriugena proceeds to establish goodness as the highest genus (summum genus) that has as species two groups, things that are and things that are not. Hence the second primordial cause is one species of genus goodness. Likewise, being is the genus which includes things that live and things that do not; life includes reason, reason wisdom, so on and so forth. The Alumnus quickly formulates the rule underlying the ordering, or as Eriugena calls it, the division of primordial causes: Everyone who employs the method of division correctly ought to begin from the most general and proceed through more general, and so arrive at the most specific. No arguments need to be mustered in order to show that the original apparent idealism of the hierarchy of primordial causes loses its strength by the time we arrive at this point in argument.

4.2 Ibn Arabi>s Fixed Entities in Comparison with Primordial Causes

The concept of primordial causes implies that Eriugena does not believe in a single and direct act of creation but in a sort of double creation because God creates first the primordial causes and then their effects are brought about. Will there be a place for this or a parallel concept in Muslim religious cosmology? It would seem that the Qura>n precludes any such view by saying that His command, when He desires a thing, is to say to it Be! and it is. (36:82). Hence all that the Creative act involves is Divine will, a Divine command (Be!) and things come to be. Nothing lies between Divine command and the coming into existence of a thing. Ibn Arabi>, however, does not read the Qura>n

Cf. Schuon viz., To speak of the world is to speak of separation from the Principle and to speak of

separation is to speak of the possibility and necessity of evil. See his The Problem of Theodicies, in

Islam and the Perennial Philosophy (Lahore: Suhail Academy, 1984), 165.

91 36:82 in that way and puts forward the concept of fixed entities ( ) that interpolates, in a way, between Divine command and the thing that comes into existence.

4.2.1 The Scriptural Foundation of the Concept

Just as Eriugena introduced his concept of primordial causes through his understanding of Scripture, Ibn Arabi> comes up with the concept of fixed entities by his reading of the Qura>n, interestingly, of the very passage referred to above as implying direct creation through Divine will and command. He requires from us to pay closer attention to the letter of those Qura>nic words. As if he is asking that if creation takes place out of absolute nothingness, so that the desired thing does not exist in any sense of the word, then to whom is Gods command is addressed? In his discussion of Divine nothingness in Eriugena this very question is raised by Michael Sells in connection with what he aptly calls the problem of ontological shadow, a problem that according to him haunts Eriugenian doctrine of participation.133 As we have seen, participatio is the relation between primordial causes and their creator on the one hand134 and between them and their spatio-temporal effects on the other and both these sides raise this problem. As for the participation of primordial causes in being, how can being flow into primordial causes and make them to be? They would have to be in order to act as vessels receiving the flow of being.135 Regarding the participation of the effects in their primordial causes, we can ask, What were they before they received their being?
133 134

See his Mystical Languages of Unsaying, 38. At DDN III: 632B-C Eriugena also expresses this particular relation with the help of an emanation

metaphor according to which, in Sells summary, After welling up within the source everything which is in the source of all things then flow out first into the primordial causes and then make them be. Mystical Languages, 40.


92 When Ibn Arabi> asks Whom is God addressing with His command Be! at the moment of creation, supposedly, out of absolute nothingness? he is obviously raising this very ontological shadow problem. However when he comes up with his concept of fixed entities, it is a result of accepting the logical requirement of this very problem.136 To provide further scriptural foundation to his concept of fixed entities, Ibn Arabi> refers to another Qura>nic verse, There is nothing whose treasuries are not with us (15: 21):
But treasuries are nothing but the fixed objects of knowledge, which, then, are fixed with Him, he sees them and sees what is in them so He brings out from them whatever he likes and he keeps whose being in them he desires. (Fut. IV: 295)

The identification of Divine treasuries as the container of fixed entities reminds us of an expression Eriugena used to talk about things when before coming into spatio-temporal existence, they are still in their primordial causes. According to the third mode of demarcation, things which are still held in those secret folds of nature and are not as yet manifest are said not to be. The secret folds of nature at this point without doubt is the Eriugenian counterpart of the treasuries of everything of which Ibn Arabi> talks. Hence before existence attaches to them, things are in the treasuries of God, as fixed objects of His knowledge. These fixed objects of Divine knowledge are called fixed entities and these are addressed by the Divine Command Be! Creation therefore consists in bringing them out, in the sense of bestowing spatio-temporal existence upon them. Thus Ibn Arabi> talks about two phases of creation separated by the Divine command, first, the creation of determination ( ) and second which is

Cf. the Kantian view that something must exist first in order to become predicated with perfection or

any other such attribute.

93 coextensive with the Divine command, the creation of existence giving (( ) Ibid. IV: 210; trans. SDG, 50) The first creation consists, not in making (facere), but in determining the nature of what is to be created. Once the nature is determined, Divine command is directed to the object determined in the Divine knowledge, so the thing mentioned in Qura>n 36:82 is the fixed entity. Does this mean that the entities are mutable? Ibn Arabi> likens fixed entities with the pole around which a round millstone revolves, while the pole itself neither revolves nor moves from one point to another. (Fut. IV: 416) Izutsu observes about these entities that they have been fixed once and for all in the eternal past, and are therefore absolutely unalterable and immovable. There is no altering in the words of God.(10:64)137 However, Ibn Arabi> himself has also allowed mutability in the fixed entities by saying, Each entity receives changes of state, qualities, accidents, and the like, for it becomes clothed in the affair that is off to its side and toward which it changes. (Fut. IV: 210; trans. SDG, 51) To understand this conflict between

immutability and mutability a distinction must be made. It will be observed that the change which Ibn Arabi> allows does not include change of essence but only of accidents and states etc. Hence one entity never changes into another; it might change its state. The above discussion shows that, just like Eriugenas primordial causes, Ibn Arabi>s concept of fixed entities is based on his understanding of Scripture. However, unlike Eriugena, here Ibn Arabi>s interpretation does not seem arbitrary and allegorical rather it is literal and necessitated by logic. Ibn Arabi> does not simply identify a word in the Scripture with a philosophical concept but raises a hermeneutical question on the text and then suggests his solution relying upon other Qura>nic verses. His


Toshihiko Izutsu, Sufism and Taoism, 168.

94 interpretation is in line with the basic principles of Qura>n interpretation stressing the necessity of honesty to language and taking into account different passages of the Scripture itself. Although Ibn Arabi> tries to show that his concept has scriptural foundations and he develops it to its farthest limits, he frankly admits its historical roots in Muslim theology. (See Fut. IV: 210) These roots lie in the controversy over whether or not the nonexistent ( )is a thing, a controversy which in Wolfsons opinion, hid the question of ex nihilo creation, behind it.138 Ibn Arabi> takes sides with the Mutazilites and thinks that their position can be supported by evidence from the Islamic sources:
It has been narrated from the prophet who narrated it from God the Exalted that He said: I was a treasure but was not known so I loved to be known and I created the creatures and made myself known to them. In the words, I was a treasure, one finds an affirmation of the immutable entities which were upheld by the Mutazilites. (Ibid. II: 232; trans. SPK, 294)

Hence, the fixed entities are the objects of Divine knowledge which under Divine command come into engendered existence.

4.2.2 Ontological Status

An important issue in the comparison of primordial causes and fixed entities is that of their ontological status. As far as the primordial causes are concerned we have to synthesize two Eriugenian positions. On the one hand we see Eriugena, in book III, assigning them a place closest to the true being in contrast to the prime matter which is said to be next to nothing. He considers them so perfect in all respects that they do not seek perfection in anything, including existence. According to this standpoint, primordial causes really are. On the contrary when we recall the third mode of being, in

See The Philosophy of Kalam, 359 passim.

95 Book I, we remember Eriugena saying that whatever of these (i.e. primordial) causes through generation is known as to matter and form, as to times and places, is said to be while whatsoever is still held in those folds of nature and is not manifest as to form or matter, place or time, and the other accidents is said not to be. According to this mode primordial causes belong to the category of non-existent things whike their spatiotemporal effects are among things which exist. Eriugena comes back to this mode in a latter place. When the alumnus questions him about things being made and being eternal at the same time, Eriugena tells him that they were always; they were not always. They were always as causes in the word of God, in potentiality, beyond every quality and quantity. They were not always because before they flowed out throught generation into the forms they were not in generation. (DDN III: 665B)139 This shows that it would be closer to the intentions of Eriugena to say that primordial causes both are and are not. Ibn Arabi> frequently emphasizes that the fixed entities are called fixed since they are fixed in nonexistence: The identities (=entities) which have an immutable non-existence within Him, have not sensed the odor of any existent. (Fus}. 76; trans.

Ringstones, 53) This view of non-existence of fixed entities can be seen as a response to
a difficulty raised by the Qura>nic declaration that a thing is nonexistent before creation: Will not man remember that we created him aforetime, when he was nothing. (19:67) While Ibn Arabi>s interpretation of Qura>n 36:82 was that things in some way do exist before creation. Therefore Ibn Arabi> divides what he calls thingness ( )into two sorts which give us two phases in the history of anything namely, thingness of fixity and thingness of existence. ( ) and thingness of


Some important problems in this passage are discussed by Sells, Mystical Languages, 54-55.

96 existence () . Before coming into spatio-temporal world of existence the thing is in the former state. Ibn Arabi> does not contrast immutability with mutability but with existence and consequently a fixed entity remains fixed in its non-existence. (Fut. III: 566; trans. SPK, 29-30) They come to be once God, The Exalted Light, discloses Himself to them while they are in the state of their non-existence. (See Fut. I: 732) It is certainly very odd to consider non-existent something which has been posited as the listener of Be! before emergence in spatiotemporal existence. The whole point of Ibn Arabi>s interpretation of Divine command was to show that the addressee must exist before existing (ref. ontological shadow), hence labeling of fixed entities as nonexistence must not be the whole story and we have to look for the other half of it. On the other hand we find in Ibn Arabi> several indications that one must not press the non-existence of fixed entities too far. Firstly, he clarifies that by the nonexistence of the fixed entities he does not mean absolute nonexistence. He connects the ontological sense of non-existence (i.e. not-being) to the epistemological one (i.e. not being known or found) by identifying it as an existence which we do not perceive. So things are never in sheer nonexistence, on the contrary, the apparent situation is that their nonexistence is a relative nonexistence, the things are witnessed by God. (Ibid. III: 193; trans. SPK-87)140 Secondly, Ibn Arabi> also allows a specific sort of existence to the fixed entities which he calls imaginalized existence (Ibid. IV: 210; trans. SDG, 51) and it is well known that the imaginal with Ibn Arabi> is not the imaginary or unreal.

What is with you comes to an end but what is with God remains. (16:96)

97 One of the reasons behind Eriugenas claim that primordial causes are closest to the real Being is revealed by his assertion that no creature interpolates between the Creator and the primordial causes. Now, even if Ibn Arabi> does assign non-existence to his fixed entities he is at one with Eriugena at this point. He writes, speaking about the fixed entity he has in the Divine knowledge, I am nearer to the Real in the state of my being qualified with nonexistence than in the state of my being qualified with existence due to the claim ( )that is found in it. (Ibid. II: 528) He means that since real existence is Gods but in some sense creature also exists and seeing that there is certain continuity between two sorts of existence the creature might become proud and claim existence vis. a vis. God. Since nonexistents lack this continuity they are immune from making such proud claim so they are in a better position than the existents. In section 4.1.12 we found Eriugena elevating the non-existents over the existents on account of their similarity to Divine nothingness. Ibn Arabi> thinks that it is on account of their dissimilarity with Divine being that nonexistents are better than the existent. At this point the final conclusion of our both writers is identical although they are assigning different reasons for reaching that conclusion. In the second chapter we discussed Ibn Arabi>s division of totality and came across the third thing. We mentioned there that Ibn Arabi> identifies this with the locus of fixed entities. This makes it possible to synthesize the apparently conflicting standpoints that fixed entities are both existent and nonexistent. Ibn Arabi> writes about the locus of fixed entities:
This is the Supreme Barzakh, or the Barzakh of Barzakhs. It possesses a face toward being and a face toward nothingness. It stands opposite each of these two known things in its very essence. It is the third known thing in its very essence. (Ibid. III: 46; trans. SPK, 204)

98 Hence Ibn Arabi>s position on the ontological status of fixed entities contains two contrary claims which are synthesized in a third claim. If our reading of Eriugena on the same question was accurate then his view of the status of the primordial causes was the same. This synthetic view is the only inevitable one on account of the ontological shadow, present in Eriugena as a problem but in Ibn Arabi> as a way to a new concept which demands that certain things exist before they are (priusquam essent). In a context like the present one, where existence is not considered to be limited to spatio-temporal existence only, it can be more helpful to set apart the word existence for things that exist in space and/or time and use the word reality for things that although non-existent in the specific sense are not unreal. If this terminological suggestion is accepted then we can say that although both primordial causes of Eriugena and the fixed entities of Ibn Arabi> do not exist, they are real.

4.2.3 Fixed Entities and Materia Prima

Another point can be briefly mentioned at this juncture is with reference to the relation of primordial causes and fixed entities with materia prima. Eriugena is not ready to identify primordial causes with prime matter since the former are perfect beings while the latter is next to nothing. Ibn Arabi> is more positive to the concept of prime matter and uses it to elaborate the relation between fixed entity and existent entity. In his shorter work Insha> al-Dawa>ir, having identified the presence of fixed entities with the third thing he likens the relation of the realm of fixed entities to the world to the relation between a chair or any wooden piece of furniture with wood and explicitly permits labeling the third thing as hyl ( )or prime matter. (Insha>, 19) 141 However, it must be observed that the basic purpose of mentioning prime matter here is not to

The translation has been taken with modification from Izutsus Sufism and Taoism, 162.

99 identify it literally with one of Ibn Arabi>s concepts but only that of analogically elaborating one of his doctrines.

4.2.4 The Questions of Knowability

An important and multidimensional issue in Eriugenas discussion of primordial causes was that of knowability. First, does God know them? Second, do the causes know God? Third, are they accessible to human knowledge? Here we raise these very questions, again, but with respect to Ibn Arabi>s concept of the fixed entities, in order to shed some more light on their nature in comparison with Eriugenas primordial causes. Divine knowledge and the Fixed Entities: Ibn Arabi> subjects his fixed entities to Divine power and knowledge in a fashion similar to Eriugena since the latter tried to infer from the Scripture (i.e. et spiritus dei superferebatur super acquas) that primordial causes are under the power of their creator. Ibn Arabi> writes, interpreting a Qura>nic verse And He is powerful over everything (5: 120) that here the Qura>n is speaking about the thingness of fixed entities, and telling that they are under the authority of God. . (Fut. II: 95) The fixed entities also do not escape Divine knowledge rather their very essence consists in being objects of Divine knowledge. As always, at this point too, Ibn Arabi> appeals to the Qura>n. He writes, taking advantage of the word thing in a Qura>nic verse And He knows everything (2:29) and interpreting the word everything as thingness of entities and thingness of existence in so far as its genera, species and individuals (Ibid. II: 95) Since there is nothing hidden for God He sees us in the state of our non-existence in the thingness of our fixity as He does in the state of our existence. (Ibid. I: 732) Do Entities know God? Thus, God knows the entities that are fixed in nonexistence, but do the entities know Him? Absolutely not, answers Ibn Arabi> interpreting

100 symbolically a h}adi>th saying, Majesty is His cloak and tremendousness His shawl.142 He tells us that when God addressed the fixed entities with His word The Cosmos was witnessed by Him but He was not witnessed by it. Upon the eyes of the possible things was the veil of non-existence, no other. (Ibid. II: 303; trans. SPK, 93-94)

Are they knowable to us? The third question in this discussion is: Can we know things
in the state of their fixity of nonexistence or is our knowledge limited to the objects that exist in spatio-temporal terms? The answer is that the entities are not absolutely inaccessible to human knowledge. When God wills, some of His servants can know them through spiritual unveiling: there are servants of God whom God gives to see, through unveiling, the fixed entities. Then they see them in the form of the adjacency that we have mentioned. But rational consideration does not see that the entities have either state or locus. (Ibid. IV: 81; trans. SDG, 34) Ibn Arabi> also thinks that the workings of human imagination are grounded in knowledge of the fixed entities. Thus he writes, When any human being who possesses an imagination and the power to imagine imagines something, his gaze extends into this Barzakh, though he does not know that he is looking upon that thing in this presence. (Ibid. III: 47; trans. SPK, 205) Here Ibn Arabi> adds a limitation to the imaginal knowledge of the entities, one knows them without being conscious of them. He tells us in his Fus}us > } that knowledge of fixed entities is bestowed upon some individuals and this bestowal is not permanent but is made at certain times. (Fus.} 99; trans. Ringstones, 94)143 Mus}ta } fa> Ba>li> Za>deh, a commentator on Fus}us >, } tells us that these individuals are the Prophets and Friends of

142 143

Muslim, S}ah}ih > }, Kita>b al-Birr wa al-S}ilah, ba>b tah}ri>m al-Kibr We do not agree with Daglis translation of the italicized three words. See the note below.

101 God.144 The limitation is that even these individuals do not always know the fixed

> } commentator, puts it This entities but, as Da>wu>d al-Qays}ari>, another great Fus}us
unveiling is not permanent but is at certain moments and not at others as He said to his Prophet Say I do not know what shall be done with me or you (46:9). All this applies to the knowability of entities in general and Ibn Arabi> marks an area as unknowable mystery by maintaining that the form of existentiation or acceptance of existence of the entities always remains beyond the knowledge of creatures. Only God knows these modalities. (See Fut. II: 103) Thus, the fixed entities are partially knowable to some human beings and that too through special acts of Divine grace and not through rational understanding but by a spiritual unveiling. In summing up the issue, it can carefully be maintained that like the primordial causes the fixed entities do not escape Divine knowledge but unlike the former they are partially knowable to human beings under certain conditions. Just like for Eriugena God is unknowable to all creatures, whether these belong to the second division of nature or to the third one, in Ibn Arabi> God remains unknown to the entities fixed in their nonexistence.


This second limitation is unfortunately misunderstood by some English translations but is fortunately to mean that an individual is granted the unveiling when he is

discerned by major Arabic and Persian commentaries on the work. Both R.W Austen and Caner Dagli have understood the words not in the company of others but in his solitude, which does not make much sense. Arabic commentaries of Qays}ari> (Tehran: Sharikat Intisha>ra>t e Ilmi, 1375), 681, Mus}ta } fa> Ba>li> Za>deh, Sharh} Fus}us > } al-H}ikam (Beirut: Da>r al-Kutub al-ilmiyyah, 2002), 121 and the Persian commentaries by H}asan Za>deh Amooli,

Mumidd al Himam (Tehran: Waza>rat e Farhang e Isla>mi, 1378 A.H), 227; Ta>j al-Di>n Khawa>rzami>
(Tehran: Intisha>ra>t e Mawla>, 1368) I: 331 all understand that the unveiling is not permanent but is bestowed some time or the other.


4.2.5 Entities Created or Eternal?

It is abundantly clear that Eriugenas primordial causes are creatures which God has created in His Word. Are the fixed entities which we are comparing with these are also created? On the face of it, the fixed entities are not the creatures. Since the fixed entities are primarily the objects of Divine knowledge it is not possible to maintain that they are created as Divine knowledge is eternal (ref. in deo nihil accidit). The doctrine of fixed entities does not mean that God makes the world twice, but that he makes what he knows already and the object of knowledge is already there, God did not make it in Him but eternally knew it. Ibn Arabi> expresses the fact that fixed entities were not created by saying that He invented us actually not that He created in himself our exemplar and there is no existentiation in exemplar. (( ) Fut. I: 91) This means that that the exemplar which is the fixed entity does not itself originate through an act of existentiation, only spatio-temporal objects, or effects in Eriugenian language. This interpretation fits in with Ibn Arabi>s statement about the entities that these did not attain existence from Him. (Ibid. II: 246) Ibn Arabi> also characterizes fixed entity as the eternal relationship of eternity which has no beginning () . (Ibid. II: 55) In order to preclude the inference that creation took place in the state of fixity or nonexistence Ibn Arab interprets the Qura>nic verse, Will not man remember that we created him aforetime, when he was nothing (19:67) by saying, That is, we determined it in its state of thingness, toward which was directed His command, to another thingness for the Divine dictum, Our only speech to a thing, when we desire it, is to say to it Be! and it is. (Ibid. II. 62) So creation in nothingness does not mean the creation of fixed entities but determination of the object about to be created in the spatio-temporal world. We have already seen him extending the meaning of creation to

103 include pre-creation Divine determination. All this shows that fixed entities are not created according to Ibn Arabi>. Now this characterization of fixed entities creates a gap between them and the primordial causes, a gap which can make the comparison less plausible. We submit that this gap is bridged by bringing out the meaning Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> assign to the word creation or the phrase being created. Ibn Arabi> is not denying the createdness of fixed entities in the sense in which Eriugena affirms the createdness of his primordial causes. If the meaning of Eriugenian creation is made explicit then an express affirmation of the creation of fixed entities in that sense can be found in Ibn Arabi>. It is well known among Eriugena scholars that when he uses the term creation in the context of Gods creation of the creatures, he does not understand by it temporal making out of nonexistence but self-manifestation and moving from incorporeal to corporeal.145 At DDN III 689A Eriugena himself tells us that the Divine nature creates itself that is, allows itself to appear in its theophany. Hence creation for Eriugena is theophany and by theophany Eriugena understands, primarily, the appearance of God, (DDN I: 446C-D) or ineffable descent of the Supreme Goodness into the things that are, so as to make them to be. (Ibid. 678: D)146 Therefore, when he says that something is created by God what he actually means is that it is a theophany.


Dermot Moran, The Philosophy, 177. Moran has admitted that Eriugena considers primordial causes as

theophanies and this position Eriugena adopts, in Morans view to get round a difficulty regarding their status. In Morans words, What kinds of beings have the primary causes? If they are real beings they would seem to impose an intermediate ontological level between God and the created effects, if they are not fully real and are merely Divine appearances then it is difficult to speak of creation. Ibid. 262.

A detailed comparison of theophany with some terms used by Ibn Arabi> will be undertaken in

chapter 7.

104 It can be argued that in all instances where Ibn Arabi> negates the creation of fixed entities he only negates that in the sense of making out of nonexistence and that his fixed entities, like primordial causes are theophanies. Ibn Arabi> writes at one place that the fixed entities, being , relate to the Divinity in same relationship. (Fut. II: 95) Speaking about a fifth universal reality identified with the manifestation of Divine realities and lordly ( )forms in the fixed entities Ibn Arabi> says that these latter are . (Ibid. II: 103) With reference to the fixed entity of a human being he says that it is what God took as a and manifested Himself in it. (Ibid. II: 513) The word with which Ibn Arabi> is identifying the fixed entities is grammatically a noun of place derived from, which means manifestation, outwardness, appearance.147 Notice how close this term is to theophany which, as Michael Sells explains, is derived from two Greek words, theos (god) and phanio (bringing to light, make appear) and it is an appearance or manifestation of deity.148 Thus it is clear that the fixed entities although not created in the sense of being made they are created in the sense of being theophanies that is to say the loci of selfdisclosure of God ( .). In this way the apparent gap between Eriugenas primordial causes and Ibn Arabi>s fixed entities, vanishes.

4.2.6 Order and Hierarchy within the Fixed Entities

We saw that the primordial causes are arranged in a hierarchical order, a hierarchy which some writers argue is not objective but only in mind. Is there any order within the fixed entities and if there is, what is the principle of this order, hierarchy or something

147 148

See William C. Chittick, The Sufi Path of Knowledge, 89. See Mystical Languages of Unsaying, 43.

105 else? We shall try to answer these questions presently. Let us begin by trying to

} t > al-Makkiyah: understand the following obscure passage from Al-Futu>ha

order in the entities of possible things in the state of their fixity became manifest with the wisdom of the Wise, as there is no possible thing attributed to a possible thing but that it can be attributed to another possible thing for itself. However Wisdom required arranging it with its decree as it is according to its time and state in the state of its fixity. This is the knowledge which has become specific to the Real, the Most Exalted and which from Him was not known (by anyone). With it the decree appeared in the order of entities of possible things in the state of their fixity before their existence. Hence the Divine knowledge became connected to them according to that at which the Wise One had ordered it, so wisdom bestowed the possible thing what it was in the fixity, the contrary of which is permissible and the order gave the knower the knowledge that the affair is like this so he does not give existence except in accordance with what it is at in fixity which is the order of the Wise one according to decree of Wisdom. (Fut. IV: 258)

This passage implies that there is order within the fixed entities. The primary intent is not to claim the existence of order but it is to show that order is based on Divine wisdom and the difference and relation between Divine wisdom ( )and Divine knowledge ( )and the order of fixed entities is being discussed as an instance or playground of these two qualities. According to Ibn Arab, every possible thing that is related to one thing can be or could have been related to another possible thing. This means that the actual order between the entities is not necessary, it could have been otherwise. But still it is one specific order, that is to say, for instance, that entity x actually is related to y and not to z although it could have been related to z. That is why Ibn Arab says about this order near the end that its contrary is permissible ( ) . The next point that needs to be clearly understood before making sense of the

106 full passage is the subordination of Divine knowledge to Divine wisdom149 and to reality as it is created by the latter. It is well known principle of Ibn Arabi>s metaphysics that knowledge, Divine or human, does not determine but is determined by the thing known as it is in itself () . In the present case Ibn Arab is telling us that the reality of the order of fixed entities is created by wisdom upon which Divine knowledge is based as much as He is the Knower. Now we can understand his words: Hence the Divine knowledge became connected according to decree of Wisdom. One final thing remains to be clarified. If knowledge is subordinate to wisdom then why does Ibn Arabi> identify both by saying in the beginning, this is the knowledge which? The answer is that the word knowledge ( )does not mean the relation between knower and the known but is to be understood as the known, that is to say, knowledge here means an item of knowledge. So Ibn Arabi> is trying to tell us that the wisdom behind a particular order is known only to God. There is one particular type of order which Ibn Arabi> is careful enough to negate within the fixed entities. This negation is so emphatic that it might give the impression that he is negating any order and hence contradicting himself. Ibn Arabi> has written:
Entrance into the thingness of wuju>d happens only in order. The affair of the things in the thingness of fixity is otherwise, because none of them is ordered. After all their fixity is described by eternity without beginning, and there is no order in eternity without beginning, no priority, no posteriority. (Ibid. III: 280; trans. SDG. 194)

Despite appearance Ibn Arabi> here is not negating order per se in fixity but only

temporal order and the reason he gives is quite obvious. Since fixed entities are objects


This is the case only from this particular point of view, otherwise Ibn Arabi> also provides for the

priority and generality of knowledge as compared to wisdom. For more see Fut. II: 237, 243 etc.

107 of Divine knowledge they are eternal and eternal things cannot be arranged in temporal order. So Chitticks remark on this passage that Although the entities follow an order in wuju>d, they have no order inasmuch as they are fixed entities in Gods knowledge150 is not adequate. It would have been more appropriate for Chittick to include the passage from Fut. IV: 258 and present a synthetic view of order within the fixed entities. Unfortunately, he does not take this passage into account, so his view remains onesided. The order about which Ibn Arabi> speaks is the network of particular relations in which fixed entities and their existent counterparts are found. This general concept of order as relation implicitly contains the concept of hierarchy.151 We find Ibn Arabi> providing for the hierarchical order within the fixed entities in the Fus}u>s} by providing that
What is first encompassed by Gods Mercy is the thingness of that entity which existentiates Mercy through Mercy. So the first thing encompassed by Mercy is itself; then the thingness indicated; then the thingness of all existents that exist, which have no end (Fus}. 177; trans. Ringstones, 219)

As the final sentence of this passage implies, the Divine names demand the existence of entities existentiating them and that the highest entity is the one that existentiates the name Merciful or the attribute Mercy. Then come all other fixed entities which are existentiated through Divine command Be! Our reading of the above passage differs from Izutsus since he thinks that the thingness of that entity

150 151

William Chittick, The Self Disclosure of God, 194. It is significant that the Arabic word which is used by Ibn Arabi> is translated by Chittick in his

Self Disclosure as order and in Sufi Path of Knowledge as hierarchy. He explains that this is because the Arabic word for level ( )is derived from the same root as the term (). See his Self Disclosure of

God, 194.

108 refers to Divine Essence. He thinks that this sentence implies that by the very first manifestation of its own Mercy, the absolutely Unknown-Unknowable turns into a thing (). 152 We think that this reading involves certain difficulties. For one thing, it makes Divine Essence subject to and manifestation of an attribute or a Divine name and it is well known that according to Ibn Arabi> names and attributes belong to a level below that of Essence. In his technical terminology the level of absolute Divine essence is called unity ( )while that of names and attributes is called oneness () Furthermore to make the Essence locus of manifestation is itself problematic. The difficulty can be seen clearly if we take into account what has been said even by Izutsu himself in the same work. At one place he has admitted that the Absolute in its Essence is completely independent of the world which also implies that it has no need of the names.153 Secondly, he has related to us that there is no manifestation at the level of unity ()154, so how can something belonging to the next level convert the Essence into a thing? In our opinion the reading of Caner Dagli is more plausible and his reasons for understanding thingness as the fixed identity of the name Merciful are sound. According to him Ibn Arabi>s saying that the first thing encompassed by Mercy is itself means that The All-Merciful is given an immutable identity over which it is Lord. 155 His interpretation should be understood in the light of the fact that fixed entities themselves are manifestations of the Divine names just like Eriugenas world does not

152 153 154

Sufism and Taoism, 119-120.

See Ibid. 101. See Ibid. 24: The tajalli of the Absolute begins to occur only at the next stage, that of the oneness

(wa>hidiyyah) which means unity of the Many.


Dagli, Ringstones, 220n.3.

109 directly participate in the superessential good but in its participation, i.e. primordial cause.156 Hence there is hierarchy within the immutable identities and the climax is constituted by the entity that is governed by the Name al-Rah}ma>n. Entities of other Divine names come next to it, which then have their existent entities in the spatiotemporal world. Having seen that there is order and hierarchy within the fixed entities we are in a position to construct a table of hierarchy of fixed entities and compare it to that of the primordial causes and see what we can learn from this comparison. We submit that the former hierarchy can help us understand a dark area within the latter. It will be remembered that we had to place a question mark on the relation between the supreme Good and its first participation, by participation in which good-through-itself has its being. This confusion in Eriugenian hierarchy can be removed by learning a lesson from the parallel hierarchy within the fixed identities, since, here the logic of first (Divine names), second (fixed entities) and third (existent things) participations is clear. This logic consists in the fact that Divine names and attributes require the existence of their subjects, just as being father requires the existence of son.


Each existent has an identity which is itself the form of a Divine Name that determines what it is. It

is this name which is the lord of that specific existent. This comes as a comment on Ibn Arabi>s saying Every existent has a specific lord in God. Caner Dagli, Ringstones, 79n.1.

Level I Level II

Ah}adiyyah| Absolute Divine Essence

Wa>hi } diyyah| Names and Attributes Determining the
Essence God


4.2.7 The Intermediary Status of Entities

As it is obvious from the diagrammatic presentation of the hierarchy, and as Professor Izutsu and others have elaborated,157 the fixed entities occupy an intermediary status between God and the world. This fact is very important from the comparative perspective which concerns us here. We can compare the intermediary ontological status of fixed entities with Eriugenas primordial causes on this particular juncture from two points of view. As it will appear, from one standpoint two concepts stand apart but from the second the gap between them is reduced. On the one hand Eriugena claimed that nothing interpolates between the Creator and the Creatures which implies that the primordial causes are not to be considered intermediary between these two poles. Comparing the fixed entities to primordial causes from this point of view it might be concluded that the formers explicit intermediary character marks them off from the latter, but if we look at the fact that the fixed entities according to Ibn Arabi> are firstly, not existent and secondly, not outside Divine principle but exist within Divine consciousness as objects of knowledge the difference between the two is reduced. Fortunately however, we also possess another Eriugenian perspective on the primordial

See Sufism and Taoism, 158-163.



Level I Level II

Supreme Fixed Entity Manifesting the Merciful Fixed Entities Manifesting all other Divine Names Existent Entities in this World Manifesting the fixed entities



Table: Fixed Entities in Hierarchy

111 causes according to which they are intermediaries between the Creator and creature. This perspective becomes clear when we understand the latter as referring to effects of the primordial causes and excluding the causes themselves. From this perspective Eriugena says that the other goods do not through themselves participate in the supreme and substantial Good but that which is through-itself the first participation of the Supreme Good. And this rule is uniformly observed in the case of all primordial causes. (DDN III: 622 B-C) From this perspective there is no difference between the primordial causes and the fixed entities, the intermediary status of which has been described by Izutsu thus: [b]riefly stated the plane of archetypes (=entities)158 occupies a middle position between the Absolute in its absoluteness and the world of sensible things. As a result of this peculiar ontological position, the archetypes have the double nature of being active and passive, that is, passive in relation to what is higher and active in relation to things that stand lower than themselves.159 Note that the simultaneous activity and passivity of the entities is parallel to the primordial causes which on the one hand participate in (to be more exact, are participations of) what is higher than them and on the other hand are participated in by what is lower than them, that is to say their effects.

Izutsu translates as permanent archetypes which is based in his view, I think unjustified

view, that the entities are universals and as such remind us of the Ideas of Plato. See Sufism and

Taoism, 164. We think that none of the texts which Izutsu presents as evidence in favor of his position
deals with fixed entities, rather all of them talk about Divine attributes, which, as we have seen and as Izutsu himself asserts, are one level above the entities. Besides, inter-relation among the Platonic ideas is that of one over many but for Ibn Arabi> each particular existent has one particular fixed entity which is not shared by or participated in by other individuals. So there is a one-to-one relationship between fixed entities and existent ones. There is no difference between a fixed entity and existent entity except that the latter has existence while the former does not have it, as Ibn Arabi> has written, the thing in the state of its immutability is identical to the thing in the state of its existence, except that God has clothed it in the robe of existence through Himself. Fut. IV: 320.

Sufism and Taoism, 159.


4.2.8 Essence, Names and Entities

It will be recalled that in the diagrammatic presentation of Eriugenian hierarchy we highlighted an unanswered question. Since the table representing cosmic hierarchy conceived by Ibn Arabi> also consists of parallel levels, two levels of divinity and two of fixed entities, same question arises as to the relation between the first two levels of divinity namely, that of essence and names. We saw that the fixed entities are forms of Divine names160 while things existing in this world of space and time are manifestations of the fixed entities. At one place Ibn Arabi> uses the shadow metaphor to describe the relation of fixed entities to the existent entities and tells us that the existent entities are shadows of fixed entities, and as a shadow cannot exist in the absence of light, the light that illuminates the fixed entity giving rise to its shadow in the form of existent entity is Divine name Al-Nu>r (the Light). (Fut. III: 47) Thus Ibn Arabi> enlightens us here about all the members of hierarchy, and what is more, explains the relationship between first two levels with a clarity that was missing in Eriugena. Hence we get here, firstly, non-delimited being, the name Al-Nu>r, the fixed entities and existent entities. Ibn Arabi> tells us that the fixed entities are shadows of Non-Delimited Being in respect of the Name Al-Nu>r. This expression which we translate as in respect of is the key to solution. It indicates that there are many respects from which the non-delimited being can be related to creatures at the level of delimitation or determination ( )\. So the relation of Divine names to the Absolute is that of perspectives or relations. They are, as Izutsu has aptly described them, the channels through which the Absolute articulates itself at the first state of manifestation.161 The notion of aspects or perspectives, which Ibn Arabi> himself uses, makes an implied reference to the
160 161

See footnote 157 above. Izutsu, Sufism and Taoism, 160.

113 existent entities, from whose point of view the Absolute can be seen through these aspects.

4.2.9 The Highest fixed entity

Eriugenian cosmic hierarchy gives priority to Supreme Goodness while the highest fixed entity according to Ibn Arabi>s hierarchy is the one that is essential form of the Name All-Merciful. In other words, the fixed entity of Mercy is the foremost and all other entities are found through and due to it. Although for Eriugena the specific order of primordial causes is not the only one and we have just seen that from one point of view Ibn Arabi> assigns fundamental cosmogonic role to Divine name Al-Nu>r, it is pertinent to compare goodness with Mercy spoken by Ibn Arabi>. Eriugena said that it is a property of the Divine goodness to call things that were not into existence. (DDN III: 627C-D) We can compare this to Ibn Arabi> when he says that Every identity has an existence that it seeks from God, His Mercy applies universally to each identity. Through his Mercy, by which He shows mercy upon each He accepts their desire for existence so existentiates them. (Fus}. 177; trans.

Ringstones, 219)162 This comparison reveals that the function of Goodness for Eriugena
and that of Mercy for Ibn Arabi> is one and the same since it consists in bestowing existence upon the non-existents. We can conclude that although for Eriugena it is goodness-through itself that is the highest primordial cause and for Ibn Arabi> this place


Note that the Arabic word for existence is derived from the root while that for munificence is

from though these are different roots but they contain same letters in different order. As Titus Burkhardt has explained, between such roots there is sometimes certain continuity. See his essay The Impact of the Arab Language published in Mirrors of the Intellect: Essays on Traditional Science and

Sacred Art (Lahore: Suhail Academy, 2001), 240 n.6.

114 is given to Divine mercy, the function of these respective concepts are in both cases ontological and not passional or ethical.

4.2.10 Unity and Multiplicity

Eriugena showed that the multiplicity of primordial causes is only from the perspective of their effects and as far as their principle i.e. God is concerned they are one and simple and not multiple. Since oneness of God ( )is one of axioms for Ibn Arabi> and since fixed entities are forms of Divine names and Divine names are multiple in contrast to the absolutely one Divine Essence, the problem of the multiplicity is also important one for Ibn Arabi>. Interestingly, his solution is not very different from Eriugenian in which a reference is made to the effects. Ibn Arabi> maintains that the entity of Being is One, while the properties ( )are diverse in accordance with the diversity of the immutable (=fixed) entities, which are the others without doubt, though in the immutability, not in existence, so understand. (Fut., II: 519; trans. SPK, 91) The concept of properties plays here the same function that is played by effects in Eriugenas response to the issue of multiplicity of primordial causes. The difference however is that, for Ibn Arabi>, this multiplicity is not absolutely isolated from Being, but relates to it at a certain level. Thus he says speaking from a specific perspective that Being becomes manifest only in accordance with the properties of the fixed entities. (Ibid) Fundamentally, the entity of Being is one, and we know that Being is God, hence God is one. However, unlike Eriugena, Ibn Arabi> does not try to make unity latently include multiplicity, with references to monad or the circles centre, but makes the latter dependent upon the effects of the perspectives through which to look at Being. He seems to be less afraid of multiplicity than is Eriugena. So he admits the multiplicity of the entities in the state of fixity and for the person who contemplates God through the

115 entities God becomes manifest through the different colors, so to speak, of those entities.163 There is yet another facet of the fixed entities, mentioned already, which gives us an additional clue. Pointing out that fixed entities are non-existent, William Chittick has explained the above-quoted passage by saying, Being is one and Manifest. Hence multiplicity and distinction arise from the properties of the nonexistent things, which are many and non-manifest.(Ibid.) Ibn Arabi> simultaneously makes use of both clues, that the Divine essence, He-ness is beyond relations and thus multiplicity, and that it is the fixity, i.e. non-existence, of the entities which makes the Essence into multiple relations. (See Fut. II: 94; trans. SPK, 313)

4.2.11 Entities and the Word

According to Eriugenas allegorical interpretation of Genesis, creation of primordial causes in the beginning and in Divine wisdom means that these were created in the Word of God, personified in the person of Christ. A comparison of primordial causes with fixed entities must take into account this particular characteristic of the former. Can we get over this issue by simply saying that personified word of God is peculiar to Christianity so no parallels can be found in non-Christian, especially Muslim thought? It seems that this is not the case since the Christian conception of word of God (logos) can plausibly be compared with the concept of Perfect Man ( ) or Muh}ammadan Reality () , but in the present context this comparison is not very helpful, since the plane of fixed entities is not contained by this since Ibn Arabi> speaks of an

entity of the perfect man as well. (Ibid. II: 642) Hence there is no possibility of claiming


This is an epistemological interpretation of Ibn Arabi>s saying that such a person observes in the very

being of the Real the properties of the fixed entities. Fut. II: 519.

116 that Muh}ammadan Reality contains the fixed entities of everything. So at this point the fixed entities are unlike the primordial causes and this is an important non-reducible difference between the two conceptions.

4.2.12 Infinity of Entities

Although Eriugenas primordial causes are creatures (in the sense of being theophanies) they are infinite. The fixed entities are also infinite. One obvious reason for the infinity of fixed entities is that they are objects of Divine knowledge and Divine knowledge is infinite. Another more philosophical reason is presented by Ibn Arabi>. According to it, immutable entities are the form of Infinite Being which It sees in the mirror of NonDelimited nothingness and consequently the form is as infinite as the Infinite Being whose form it is. (Ibid. III: 47; trans. SPK, 205)164 Accordingly, fixed entities are infinite since they exist because of coming of two infinites face to face, absolute existence and absolute non-existence. In addition to being quantitatively infinite and eternal without beginning (), Ibn Arabi> points out at various places, the fixed entities are also eternal without end (): Subsistence is the permanent state of a servant which does not end because non-existence of his fixed entity is one of the impossible things.(Ibid. II: 516)

4.2.13 Fixed Entities and Evil

As the creation of primordial causes in wisdom raises the question of evil for Eriugena so does the notion of fixed entities for Ibn Arabi>. In the context of creation of the world out of the fixed entities he makes an important remark in the twenty-first chapter of the

Fus}us > } (Ringstones). Although he shares Eriugenian adherence to the principle that evil

Also see ibid. III: 46 where Ibn Arabi> talks about infinity of the Supreme Barzakh which is the

presence of fixed entities and IV: 295 where he writes about them that limitation and finitude is imagined regarding them while they are infinite.

117 is non-existence and thus privation,165 he does not appeal to it when talking about evil in the context of fixed entities and he could not have, as we shall see at present. Let us see how the problem arises for him in this specific context. Fixed entities are eternal objects of Divine knowledge. However creation takes place when spatio-temporal existence is bestowed upon a particular fixed entity. Now since there are existent entities which can be considered evil, the question is why God bestows existence on fixed entities of evil things since this makes Him directly responsible for these evil existents. To respond that evil is nonexistent will not do since the nonexistence that is evil is absolute nonexistence166 and not the relative non-existence that is the world and we are talking about the existence of evil in this world. So why does God clothe the fixed entities of things having evil accidents with the robe of existence? Let us first note how Ibn Arabi> defines evil. Evil according to him is failure to reach ones desire ( )and what is agreeable ( ) to ones nature.(Ibid. III: 389) This definition clearly brings out that something is evil with reference to someone who looks at it with a specific desire or having a specific nature. Now Ibn Arabi> simply states that all fixed entities request existence and since Divine mercy applies universally to each identity: Through His Mercy, by which he shows mercy upon each, He accepts their desire for the existence of their identities, and so existentiates them.The attainment of some purpose or the agreeability with ones nature are not taken into account as far as it is concerned; indeed what is agreeable and what is not are all encompassed by the Divine Mercy in

165 166

For instance see Fut. III: 373: evil is only the nonexistence of good. Ibn Arabi> has written, The Real possesses non-delimited being ( ) without any

delimitation. He is sheer good without any evil. He stands opposite non-delimited nothingness () , which is sheer evil without any good. Ibid. trans. SPK-290. Ibn Arabi> also recognizes that although the world is good in its essence evil occurs to it as an accident since it does not stand in the level of Necessary Being which is sheer good. See Fut. III: 389.

118 existence. (Fus}. 177; trans. Ringstones, 219-220) This is tantamount to accepting that God is indirectly responsible for the existence of accidentally evil things. Thus at another place in the same work Ibn Arabi> writes: To Him the whole affair shall be

returned (XI: 123), thus applying to the blameworthy as well as the praiseworthy.
Naught is there but the praiseworthy and the blameworthy. (Fus}. 60)167 Now, does this

solve the problem of evil? It endorses one horn of the dilemma that constitutes the
problem of evil but at the same time relativizes and subjectivises the concept of evil itself. In the light of the above conducted comparative analysis, it can be safely concluded that Eriugenas concept of primordial causes and Ibn Arabi>s concept of fixed ideas share most of their characteristic features and perform almost identical role in their respective cosmologies, that of mediating Divine Self and spatio-temporal world in the context of creation. Hence, one is presented as the secret folds of nature from which things that are said to be proceed and the other is described, alluding to the Scriptural expression, as the treasuries of everything with God wherefrom God reveals things in accordance with His knowledge and wisdom. In some way, both predetermine the nature and scope of spatio-temporally existing things. This is clear from Eriugenas calling his causes predestinations and foundations and principles of all nature and it parallels in Ibn Arabi>s arguing for the absolute power of the fixed entities and with comparing them with materia prima. Moreover, both concepts are


Ibn Arabi> cannot be taken to contradict what he himself says in many places commenting on the

saying of the Prophet The good, all of it is in Thy hands, while evil does not go back to Thee! that evil becomes manifest from the side of a possible thing not from the direction of God (Fut. III: 289) since there is difference between good/evil and praiseworthy/blameworthy similar to the one between the good and the right.

119 ontologically rooted in Divine wisdom, since Eriugena talks about the causes as being comprehended by God in his super-eminent wisdom and Ibn Arabi> defines his fixed entities as the objects of Divine knowledge. This, however, is not to deny that there are differences, apparent and real, between two doctrines.


Participation and Divine Roots

In the present chapter we wish to raise the following question: How does Eriugena conceive the spatiotemporal world (his third division) and relates it to God (the first division of nature) and are there any interesting parallels between him and Ibn Arab? We intend to show that our both thinkers conceive the world and its relationship to the Divine in remarkably similar, if not identical, manner. Eriugena is not primarily interested in physics, that is to say, nature of the world. He is more interested in relating it to its principle and Ibn Arabs cosmology shares this spirit. Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> agree that the world is symbolic of the Divine. Eriugena says For it is in my opinion that there is no visible or corporeal thing which is not the symbol of (significet) something incorporeal and intelligible. (DDN V: 865D-866A) Similar remarks are scattered here and there in the works of Ibn Arabi>, according to whom the Arabic word for the world derives from the same root as which means that the world is a signpost for God. (See Fut. II: 473; trans. SDG, 3). The scriptural basis of Ibn Arabi>s teaching that the entities of the cosmos are signs of God is the Qura>n 41: 53 which reads We shall show them Our signs upon the horizons and in themselves until it is clear the them that He is the Real, (Fut. II: 151; trans. SPK, 93). Moreover, he comments on the Qura>n 22: 32, viz., Whoever magnifies Gods waymarks, () that is of God weariness of the hearts by saying that there is no entity in the cosmos

121 that is not one of Gods waymarks ()168 inasmuch as the Real has put there to signify Him. (Fut. III: 527; SDG, 10). It goes without saying that these words of Ibn Arabi> resonate completely what we saw Eriugena saying above. We can understand Eriugenas position on God-World relationship through an analysis of his two terms, participatio and theophania. The present chapter deals with the former while we address the latter in the following chapter. If we look at God-World relationship from the worlds side, it participates in Him but if we view from Gods side, He manifests Himself in the world. These two ways can be symbolized respectively as the upward way from world to God and the downward one from God to the world. It can be shown that the Eriugenian concepts participationand theophany correspond respectively in Ibn Arabi>s thought to Divine Roots doctrine and al-tajalli>. Eriugena and Ibn Arab alike diverge from usual views regarding creation and are not ready to accept that the world was created out of absolute nothingness. An investigation of this question is bound to lead into questions of the nature of nothingness and the discussion of Six Divine Days of creation (Hexaemeron) according to Eriugena and Ibn Arabi>. We however would not discuss these issues here. We have already made some comments on the former question in the first and the third chapters. As for the

Hexaemeron, Eriugena presents his more or less allegorical exegesis of Genesis and


The word shaa>ir (sing. Shai>rah) is one of the Qura>nic terms the basic meaning of which is a place

[of the performance] of religious rites and ceremonies of the pilgrimage, and all those services which God has appointed to us as signs; as the halting (wuqu>f) [at Mount Arafa>t] Edward William Lane, An

Arabic English Lexicon, (Beirut: Librarie Du Liban, 1863), part IV: 1561. Although Chittick has rendered
this word plausibly as waymark in many translations of the Qura>n it has been translated as symbol. It is also very important to notice that the word comes from the same root as that of shuu>r meaning to know, understand, be cognizant of something. Since derivatives from a single root share some element of the meaning, shai>rah or shaa>r is an object which lets one know of another thing. Hence, the word

shaa>ir is equivalent of symbols.

122 concentrates on what was created on each day. Ibn Arab seems to be more interested in the container rather than the content, that is to say, he has to say more on the nature of a Divine day than what God did during that day. One of the reasons for this difference is that although both Genesis and the Qura>n mention creation in six days, the latter does not give details of the Divine work of each day. However, it provides that Each day He is in some affair and this interests Ibn Arab more than the contents of the

Hexaemeron. Moreover, the views of the latter have been competently analyzed and
discussed in a recent work by Mohamed Haj Yousef.169 One of the important themes that Eriugena discusses in the first book of his

DDN and which should have been discussed in our third chapter is the relationship
between God and ten categories (Categoriae Decem). We however are going to analyze this subject in the present chapter since it cannot be understood without elaborating Ibn Arabi>s doctrine of Divine roots first.

5.1 Eriugena on Participation

5.1.1 Participation: History and Context
Eriugena properly inaugurates discussion of the third division of nature in Book III 630A-634 with an account of participation. This concept of participation links the first division of nature (God) to the second (Primordial Causes) and the second to the third (the world). In view of this function we do not see any reason to agree with


See his book Ibn Arabi>: Time and Cosmology (London: Routledge, 2008), chapter 3, 73-100.

123 Dermot Morans view that Eriugenas more complex relations of being and non-being make the concept of participation less relevant.170 Eriugena is neither the first nor the last thinker to use the term participation. It already was used by Plato to explain the relationship between intelligible forms and their sensible instances.171 In spite of being critical of Platonic forms, Aristotle himself used the concept while referring to human participation in the essential life.172 The concept was popular with Neo-Platonism inherited by the Alexandrines, latter Christian Platonists like Saint Augustine and his Franciscan followers. It also lurks behind the medieval proofs for the existence of God from the degrees of being, truth, goodness and perfection. This fact is epitomized by Augustine who advises: Look at what you see and seek Him, Whom you do not see.173 After Eriugena it was also used by Saint Anselm in his lesser known a posteriori proofs for the existence of God and by Saint Thomas Aquinas who held that things participate in Divine perfections by an imitation according to an ordered proportion corresponding to their respective modes of being.174 The contemporary ears are also not completely unfamiliar with this term since Paul


Dermot Moran, The Philosophy, 234 n. 23. The way Michael Sells has used the notion in his recent

study for understanding negative theology also shows importance of this concept for Eriugena. See

Mystical Languages, 34-63.


Sr. M. Annice, Historical Sketch of the Theory of Participation, New Scholasticism, 26 (1952): 49-

79. She concludes the sketch by remarking that Participation by the diminished and imperfect in the whole and perfect is held by all outstanding philosophers from Plato to St. Thomas. Platonic Caveat (Phaedo 100d) is emphasized by David C Schindler, Whats the difference? On the Metaphysics of participation in a Christian Context, Saint Anselm Journal, 3(2005), 46.
172 173

Historical Sketch, p. 56. The reference is to Aristotles Metaphysics, Book XII, chapter 7, 1072a. Quoted in Ibid. 60 from the Saints

Sermo CXXVI. Available online at mb-

soft.com/believe/txuf/august7d.htm (last visited on 12-03-2009.)


Whats the difference? 46.

124 Tillich used it to differentiate between sign and symbol.175 The concept of participation, however, has been criticized by some Christian theologians as well. David Schindler thinks, that while being suitable to Christian thinking, participation also leads away from the Christian Weltanschauung, firstly since its implied reference to the beyond twists participation to pantheism and secondly it seems to deprive the finite, temporal, and physical world of any reality of its own.176 These two problems have not forced any major dissent within Christian tradition, since the only dissenting voice we hear is that of Sren Kierkegaard in 19th century. In our opinion, out of the two issues raised by Schindler only the former posits a serious question, but can be answered satisfactorily from the standpoints of both Eriugena and Ibn Arab. As for the second problem, it seems to be begging the question. One has to show first why it is necessary for the finite, temporal, and physical world to have any reality of its own especially in the context of Christian worldview. If participation means metaphysically, as Schindler himself says, that one thing has what it is with and indeed after and in pursuit of, another: it has its reality by virtue of something other than itself then precisely this is the intent of impassibility, recognized by Christian philosophical tradition as one of the metaphysical Divine attributes. Impassibility also implies the ontological dependence of the world on spiritual/intellectual realities and ultimately on God something which is expressed by participation, as Schindler himself admits.177


Paul Tillich, The Nature of Religious Language, in Theology of Culture (New York: Oxford Schindler, Whats the difference? 2. Ibid. 1.

University Press, 1964), 54-55.

176 177


5.1.2 Participation and All that is (omne quod est)

Eriugena uses participation in order to divide everything that is (omne quod est) into the following three categories: God, the primordial causes and the world. He divides everything that is into four categories, participant, participated in (i.e. object of participation), participation and that which is both participated and participant simultaneously. The Supreme principle of all things is only participated since it participates in nothing above itself while the first member of this division, created nature, is participant only since there is nothing below it which should participate in it. Naturally the realm of primordial causes is what simultaneously participates in the first division of nature while it is participated by the third division. (See DDN III: 630A630D) Thus Eriugena gives three levels of being, the highest, the lowest and the intermediary. It goes without saying that there is nothing above the highest to be participated in and below the lowest to participate in it. Hence it is only the intermediate region that can both be participated and participant. It is difficult, however, to see the point of including Participation as a member of this division. Sheldon-Williams remarks that it is rather general name for things which are since things which are neither participants nor participated nor both would not fall under things which are

However, this remark is not of much help since it interprets

Eriugena as having included the whole as one of its parts.


See Sheldon-Williams note 5 to the text of DDN.


5.1.3 Participation: Literal and metaphorical explication

Eriugena understands that the Latin term particpatio has a reference to taking parts (partem capere) which would imply the existence of parts in the thing participated.179 Therefore he not only makes it explicit that participation is not the taking of some part, but the distribution of the Divine gifts and graces from the highest to the lowest through high orders to the lower (DDN III.631A) but also prefers its Greek counterparts metoxe and metoxia for its explication. These Greek terms have the advantage of being free from any reference at all to parts. He reads metoxe as if it were meta ex ousia as meaning having after or having second while metoxia as simply meta-ousia, that is, after-essence and concludes that participation means nothing but the derivation from a superior essence of the essence that follows [after it] (ex superiori essentia secundae deriuationem) and the distribution from that which first possesses being to that which follows it in order that it may be. Moreover, his understanding of participation as somethings coming after another is close to the literal sense the prefix met gives in compositional words, after or behind.180 Eriugenas exposition, therefore, falls somewhere between literalism and metaphor. Although he rules out the partem capere element he does accept the having after sense which is implied by the Greek met. Eriugena also resorts to metaphors in order to elaborate the meaning of participation. He first presents an arithmetical metaphor and says that between all the natural orders from the highest to the lowest the participations by which they are related are similar, just like as the proportions between the terms of numbers, that is, among the

179 180

See Schindler, What is the Difference? See ibid. 1.

127 numbers when they are constituted under one principle, are similar. (DDN III: 631A) He characterizes participation with the distribution of gifts by which every nature subsists and graces by which every subsisting nature is adorned. So the distribution of these gifts and graces flows down by degrees from the Supreme Source of all good gifts and graces through the higher orders to the lower as far as the lowest of all. (DDN III: 631A-B) This flowing to all orders is important since Eriugena emphasizes that none of the nature not even the lowest must be thought to be denied participation in a Divine grace proportionate to itself.(Ibid) However, Divine gifts and graces other than being and well being, like sense, reason, wisdom, do not descend to the lowest since, for instance life does not extend to the lowest order. (DDN III: 631C) Eriugena then draws our attention to the way all radii are already present and united within the central point of a circle and it is only when they approach toward the circumference that they become separated. Thirdly, we are given the example of a river which first flows forth from its source, and through its channel the water which first wells up in the source continues to flow always without any break to whatever distance it extends. In the light of these metaphors, the concept of participation can be considered tantamount to being included in something and then having come out of it. Out of these three metaphors the last mentioned is most physical of all and reveals this meaning most clearly. The number and centre metaphors also point in this same direction since the lines that connect the central point to circumference are contained by the point itself and all the numbers greater than the unit are nothing but aggregates of the self-same unit. Therefore, to say that the relationship between the world, primordial causes and God is that of participation would mean that the world is derived from a higher essence, i.e. the primordial causes, which in turn derive from God. We can also

128 say that whatever the world is, it is with or after the primordial causes and God and whatever the primordial causes are they are with and after God. As for God Himself whatever He is or has, is with Himself and in Himself. As Eriugena says, God is God per

essentiam, whereas man is God per participationem. (DDN III: 145C) Similarly, he
states later that the human nature is not the Light but only participates in light. God alone is the Light per se; we are light per participationem. (Hom. 0292C-D) Moreover participation implies existence of participant in God and in grace and Eriugena explains that the participation of effects in the causes means that the causes are nothing but the essence of all things. (DDN III: 145C)

5.2 Ibn Arab on Divine Divine Roots

5.2.1 Divine Roots and Omne quod est
Ibn Arab states: There is nothing ( ) but the Divine presence () comprising of the Essence (), Attributes ( )and actions () . (Fut. II: 173)181 The essence is God as He is in Himself without reference to anything else. The attributes/ Divine names, being identical to the Divine Essence, do not have substantial existence but simply are relations between Divine Self and creatures. Ibn Arabi> equates Divine actions with the created world. The first two constituents of the Divine presence, essence and attributes, to the exclusion of the world, may be called in Ibn Arabs language the Divine side () .


See Frithjof Schuon, The Five Divine Presences, in Form and Substance in the Religions (New

Delhi: Third Eye, 2005), 51. At page 55 Schuon identifies God as creator i.e. Being with the degree of Divine qualities which obviously is a reference to Attributes mentioned by Ibn Arabi>. For more on five presences also see William Chittick, The Five Divine Presences: From al-Qu>nawi> to al-Qays}ari> The

Muslim World, 72(1982), 107-128.

129 We can now formulate our question concerning God-world relationship more precisely: What relationship the world (Divine actions) has to the Divine Side (Divine Essence + Names/Attributes), according to Ibn Arabi>? Ibn Arabi> states that no property ( )becomes manifest in existence except that it has a root ( )in the Divine side by which it (i.e. the property) is supported. (Fut. II: 508) At another place he writes that There is no existent possible thing in everything-other-than-God182 that is not connected to the Divine relationships and lordly realities ( ) which are known as the most beautiful names. Therefore every possible thing ( )is in grasp of a Divine reality. (Fut. II: 115; trans. SPK, 37) Before exploring the doctrine of Divine roots we need to make a few observations by way of clarification and comparison regarding what has just been mentioned. Firstly, it can be observed that Eriugenas participation and Ibn Arabi>s Divine roots theory are both set in the context of a classification of totality. Eriugena talks about omne quod est while Ibn Arabi> uses the negative expression for the same thing namely, there is nothing but However, there is certain divergence between the two which must not be lost sight of. Whereas the three members of Eriugenian division stand in same relation to each other, namely participation, in Ibn Arabi> a participationlike relationship holds only between the Attributes/Names and the World. As far as the Essence and Attributes/Names are concerned the question of relation does not arise for a relation would necessitate substantial distinction which in Ibn Arabi>s theology does not appear. Since Ibn Arabi> believes in Essence-Attributes identity and moreover, to


This is the name Ibn Arabi> gives to cosmos.

130 ask what relation there is between something and a relationship would be susceptible to the third-man argument and will thus lead into infinite regress. Secondly, the tripartite division of Divine presence (totality) can be considered to contain origins of the broader doctrine of five Divine presences which came to be generally accepted in the Sufi circles. Five Divine presences are, in ascending order: human realm (), realm of royalty (), realm of power (), Realm of the Divine ( ) and Ipseity ().183 The reduction of five to three presences can be made more conveniently if we have before us Schuons description of these, in an ascending order, as 1) material states, 2) animistic states, 3) angelic states, 4) qualified being and 5) Beyond-being. Here the first three presences can be reduced to one, namely the cosmos, or as Schuon himself would have preferred, existence. We would thus acquire three presences namely Existence, Being and Beyond-Being which correspond to Ibn Arabs Actions, Attributes and Essence. Thirdly, the identification of one component of the Divine presence (viz. actions) with the world seems to imply that the latter is included in God, an apparently pantheistic position. However, this inclusion need not necessarily be interpreted as pantheism. For one thing, Ibn Arabi> does not go for out and out God-world identity but assigns to the world the mid-way-house of being He/not-He ( | ). (Fut. II: 379) He

relates deiform world184 to God via his doctrine of Divine roots. Moreover, the orthodox teachings of Islamic tradition leave ample room for maintaining the inclusion thesis without verging on pantheism. Schuon has excellently related the idea with Qurnic

183 184

The translation of the terms is taken from Schuon Five Divine Presences, 53 Ibn Arabi> believes that God created the world upon His image. See Fut. II: 557. Further details are

discussed in the seventh chapter.

131 teachings. He writes, encapsulating Ibn Arabi>s spirit185 But in reality it is the Principle which envelops everything; the material world is only an infinitesimal and eminently contingent content of the invisible Universe. In the first case, God isin the language of the Qoranthe Inward or the Hidden (), and in the second, He is the Vast or He who contains (), or He who surrounds (). 186 In the third chapter we have noticed that Eriugena himself extends the definition of God to include Divine manifestations and the world187 and we have seen that he always attempts to retain a distinction between God and the world. Fourthly, when Ibn Arabi> says that Nothing becomes manifest in existence ( )he wants us to take the expression in existence quite seriously. Therefore, only positive realities are rooted and not privations like darkness and ignorance. This is why he refuses to connect ignorance to some Divine root as it is a quality pertaining to non existence while the names only bestow existence they do not bestow nonexistence. (Fut. II: 592; tr. SPK 55) Talking about the Divine roots of levels he writes that levels themselves do not have Divine roots since they are only relations only their designation is so rooted in divinity. (Fut. II: 468-469)188 Now, if there is a Divine root for every manifestation, contemplation can proceed in two ways. One can start from a specific Divine name or attribute and


Ibn Arabi> writes: Surely He encompasses everything (41:54) in the cosmos. Encompassing ()

a thing conceals that thing. Hence the Manifest is the Encomapsser ( )Hence within the Encompasser that thingthat is, the cosmosis like the spirit within the body Fut: II: 151; trans.

SPK, 93).
186 187 188

Schuon, Five Divine Presences, 51. See chapter 3 section 1 with reference to DDN I: 448B. It is somewhat perplexing, though, to find out the ontological criterion under which designation

pertains to existence but relation does not.

132 contemplate what stems from that root in the world. Or one could proceed the other way round. Ibn Arabi> seems to have elaborated his doctrine of Divine roots in both ways.

From the World to the Names

Throughout his al-Futu>ha } t > Ibn Arabi> tries to discover the Divine roots of various phenomena. He starts by some of the microcosmic or macrocosmic features and tells us what their Divine roots are. Two basic features of the world, plurality ( )and polarity ( )have roots in the Divine side. Multiplicity is a manifestation of the

diversity of Divine names and attributes while polarity is rooted in the fact the all
attributes submerge under two basic ones namely, mercy ( )and wrath (). Divine names are either names of beauty ( )or those of majesty () . The former imply the similarity or proximity of the Divine to the cosmos while the latter show Divine transcendence. This division is ultimately reducible to Gods two Hands spoken of in the Qura>n.189 It is not difficult to see that the cosmic polarities especially the male-female polarity, are rooted in this fact about the Divine nature. Multiplicity and polarity respectively imply two further features, hierarchy ( )and contention ( )and these are also rooted in the Divine nature. Ibn Arab writes: The Divine Names that are attributed to the Real have various levels in attribution. Some of them depend upon others, some of them supervise others and some have a more inclusive connection to the cosmos and more effects within it than the


Sachiko Murata summarizes this as follows: In brief, they (i.e. Ibn Arabi> and his followers)

understand the two hands to indicate a polar relationship in God Himself. That He should create Adam with these two hands indicates that He employed this polarity to bring the microcosm into existence. The microcosm itself, made in the image of God, must have two hands in the same qualitative sense that God has them, not only physically. And so also must the macrocosm, which is the microcosms mirror image. Sachiko Murata, The Tao of Islam: A Sourcebook on Gender relations in Islamic Thought (New York: SUNY, 1992), 82

133 others. (Fut. II: 34) For example the Divine name Alive ( )has the most tremendous degree among the names since it is the precondition of the other names. 190 (Fut. IV: 228; trans. SPK, 49) This hierarchy is the Divine root of cosmic hierarchy. The Divine root of the cosmic conflict is the fact that Divine names having diverse properties demand diverse effects within the cosmos. The name Avenger ()

demands the occurrence of vengeance in its object, while the name the Compassionate
demands its removal. (Fut. II: 93; trans. SPK, 55) Hence, the cosmic plurality, polarity hierarchy and contention between various levels are all rooted in the divinity. Other cosmic realities whose Divine roots Ibn Arab mentions include prophethood ( )which is rooted in the Divine name The All-Hearing (( )Fut. II: 252), all human character traits rooted, especially love, in Divine character traits (Fut. II: 241),191 possibility of human transmutation in different forms rooted in Divine transmutation(Fut. III: 44), changes of states (( ) Fut. II: 385), days () 192 and the present moment (( )Fut. II: 539) rooted in Gods being upon a task everyday (Qura>n: 55:29), productivity of and receptivity towards effects in Divine responsiveness (( )Fut. II: 453), feeling of inner sweetness (Fut. II: 507) and spiritual movement rooted in Gods rejoicing and joyfully receiving his repenting servant (Fut. II: 366) and cosmic contraction ( )which is rooted in Gods describing himself with attributes of the creatures especially in being embraced by a believers heart. (Fut. II: 509)


This means that God has other essential attributes (like Hearing, Speaking, Will, Power etc.) because Vide Fut. II: 241 viz.: For God is the Necessary Being through Himself while man exists through his For discussion of relationship between solar days and Divine days in Ibn Arabi> see Mohammed Haj

He has Life.

Lord, so he acquire s existence and character traits from Him. Trans. SPK, 287.

Yousef, Ibn Arabi> time and Cosmology , 73-77.


From the Names to the World

In the long 198th chapter of al-Futu>ha } t > Ibn Arab starts with specific Divine names and tells us what originated within the cosmos through their particular attentiveness (). In the main he mentions 28 Divine names but some further names occur within the discussion of the first name . Heterogeneous phenomena manifest from these Divine names: principles, levels of reality, letters of Arabic alphabet, heavenly spheres and bodies, days of the week, prophets and genera etc. Through the attentiveness of the name The Life-Giver ( )originated what appeared in water, the letter ( )and the stars included in the Sagitta. The angels were created through attentiveness of the Overpowering (( )Fut. II. 466) while man was created through that of the Uniter (). (Fut. II: 468) It is easy to see the connection between these Divine names and feature of things which originate through their attentiveness. Water is the principle of life, as the Qura>n says that From water we made everything alive.(21:23) hence its connection with The Alive; the Jinn are subtle creatures hence their connection with The Subtle; the angels are the most powerful of Gods creatures hence they originate through the attentiveness of The Overpowering and it is only man who unites within him the Divine image and the cosmic image hence his origin is from the name The Uniter. However, it is less clear how certain names, particular days, Arabic alphabets, heavens, and heavenly bodies, spiritual states can be connected with specific Divine names. Ibn Arab remarks that all Divine names related to cosmos have effect in everything and he specifies one of these only because it has more powerful and effective rule over it. (Fut. II: 468) This implies that understanding the sense of Divine names is not sufficient for understanding its cosmological connection since the affair is not entirely amenable to rational investigation but is based on spiritual unveiling.

135 Ibn Arabi> maintains that more than one Divine name concurs in an individual substance. For example, he provides two Divine names and which jointly attend to the manifestation of days etc. He has explained earlier that in it there are numerous aspects requiring a corresponding number of Divine Names. For the reality of its creation ( )requires the Name, the Powerful ; while the aspect of its perfection [ ]requires the Name, the Purposer; and the aspect of its manifestation [] requires the Name, the Seer[], the Observer [ ]and other [such Names]. (Fut.

I: 100)193 The first two aspects i.e. existence and perfection remind one of Eriugenas
distinction between Divine gifts and graces in terms of some-things being and wellbeing. Thus the relationship between a Divine root and its manifestation is not one-toone relation like the one between Platonic forms and objects. This qualifies William Chitticks view that what corresponds to the Platonic Ideas in Ibn al-Arabi> is the Divine names. 194 (SPK 84)

5.2.2 Divine Roots and participation literally understood

Like Eriugena Ibn Arabi> would certainly have ruled out the worlds literal taking part in God since the Divine names which relate the world to God as Divine roots are not

parts of divinity but aspects and relationships. However, as stemming from their Divine
roots, existents might be considered to participate in Divine side in the sense of being derived from higher essences. Things can be considered to participate in the sense of having with and coming after, not only in the sense of temporal succession but also of ontological dependence. The worlds coming after Divine roots is explicit from the way Ibn Arab understands the Qura>n 15:21: There is nothing whose treasuries are

The relevant text has been translated by Gerald Elmore, Four Texts of Ibn al-Arabi> on the Creative See SPK, 84. In as much as their archetypal function the Divine names do correspond to Platonic ideas.

Self-Manifestation of the Divine Names. JMIAS, XXIX(2001), 23.


136 not with us but We only send down thereof in due and ascertainable measures. This demands, according to him, that He bring them out from treasuries which are with him, that is, from an existence which we do not perceive to an existence which we do perceive. (Fut. II>: 587) 195 In one of his prayers Ibn Arabi> says, From Him ( )and with Him ( )is the existence of everything.196 This expression of worlds being brought and, especially, sustained into existence by God is given a characteristic metaphysical touch by Ibn Arab in his commentary upon the cosmology of alphabet. He uses the first letter to symbolize Divine Essence and to symbolize attributes.197 This is very apt since , whose numerical value is 1, is the only letter which never attaches itself to another, something designating the absolute transcendence of the Essence. Commenting on Abu Madyans saying I have never observed anything except that I observed written over it Ibn Arab says that this letter accompanies all existents which points to the fact that everything appeared with Him (). (Fut. I: 102) One of the meanings of saying that the cosmos is rooted in divinity is to say that it appear within it, an apparent parallelism with participation.

5.2.3 Divine Roots and Metaphors of Participation

The metaphors Eriugena presented for explication of participation are also relevant for the comparison. His first metaphor highlights the principle that all orders of reality are identical in being participants but differ from each other in other respects. His view that none of the orders of nature how-low-so-ever can be denied participation in Divine

Although treasuries do not directly refer to Divine names but to the fixed entities, they do so indirectly Ibn Arabi>, Awra>d al-Ayya>m wa al-Laya>li> (Oman: Da>r al-Fath}: 2003), 46. Trans. Pablo Beneito and

as the entities are nothing but manifestations of Divine names as we saw in the previous chapter.

Stephen Hirtenstein, The Seven Days of the Heart (Oxford: Anqa Publishers, 2008), 28 (with slight modification).

Souad Hakim, Al-Mujam al-S}uf > i (Beirut: Dandarah, 1981), 181.

137 gift or grace appropriate to itself reiterates the same principle. This principle finds its application in Ibn Arabs cosmology at two levels. First, the Divine names are one in referring to Essence and in determining it but they are different in view of their specific meanings. Second, in the created world everything is different and separate from others in respect of its quiddity but identical to them in being a manifestation of God. Likewise Ibn Arab considers all existence Divine symbols ( )and says that nothing of the world can be discarded or held in contempt. (Fut. III: 527) He, however, would have corrected Eriugenas claim that graces like sense and life do not descend to the lowest levels of existence since in his view there is nothing in the world which is not alive and glorifying its Lord with an eloquent tongue. (Fut. II: 504) Having discussed Ibn Arabi>s doctrine of Divine roots in general and having looked at some of its specific examples we now turn to an important issue that is very dear to Eriugena and which Ibn Arabi> solves in the light of his Divine roots theory, namely the question of applicability or non applicability of ten categories to God.

5.3 God and Categoriae Decem

5.3.1 Eriugena on God and Categories
After many digressions Eriugena comes at last to treat the question of applicability of ten categories to God in I: 562 which was asked many passages ago. His position is clearly stated at the beginning of the long dialogue that ensues. The Alumnus declares that the categories cannot apply to God since God is neither genus nor species nor an accident while the application of categories would have implied Gods being a genus. (See DDN I: 463C) The Nutritor happily accepts this as being in line with the requirements of via negativa he has propounded in preceding passages, but the Alumnus himself starts wavering in the assertion he has made. Hence he asks that the category of

138 relation should be allowed to be properly predicated to God. This request is not granted since it is contrary to an assertion already made and agreed upon, namely, that nothing can properly be predicted of God. So this category is also predicated of God metaphorically. But after discussing the nature of various categories the alumnus again shows hesitation in accepting that action and affection are not properly predicated of God, who according to Scripture and patristic writings is said to have made the world, to love and be loved etc. One of the examples that the Alumnus cites is the saying of Christ: Whoso loves me shall be loved by my father and I shall love him and shall reveal myself to him. In response Eriugena implies that although he loves seems to be an active verb in fact it is in fact not so since he who loves or desires suffers himself while he who is loved or desired acts therefore we cannot take God loves literally since that would imply that He is moved by His love and Gods loving someone is a metaphorical expression for His being loved. (DDN I: 505A)198 As is shown by this specific example the categories do not really apply to God and whenever they are found to be applied in the Scripture they should be taken as metaphors. However, there is one limitation in the analysis Eriugena presents for Gods loving; although it shows that action cannot apply to God properly it anyway applies the category of affection to God understood in the sense of being object of an action since it replaces loving with being loved.


Interestingly, Ibn Arabi> looks at this issue from a quite different angle and makes a point contrary to

Eriugenas. He claims that God can love creatures but creatures cannot love Him. Since love is related to the non-existent, so no love is conceivable from the creature to God. (Fut. II: 113) The point being made is that since love for something or someone implies lovers lack of that thing or distance from that person and since it is God who truly is and the creature never was, only God can love the creature by bringing it from nonexistence to existence.


5.3.2 Ibn Arabi> on God and Categories

Ibn Arabi> gives the initial impression that he dislikes the whole discussion as a part of which the question arises. In his discussion of the combination between the standpoints of incomparability and similarity Ibn Arabi> observes regarding the debate among Muslim theologians on the applicability of Categoriae Decem to God that it feels like the proverb says I hear the grinding, but I do not see any flour. (Fut. II: 116; trans.

SPK, 75) At another place he combines this distaste for the discussion of categories and
God with the practical demands of Sufi piety. Indulging into such discussion is not recommended since it distracts one from focusing on one thing needful that is, knowing oneself and makes one do something God has prohibited to do, namely contemplation upon Divine Essence. The Qura>n says, God warns you regarding His self. (Ibid. III: 81-82) However, many interesting and insightful comments are scattered on the question of Gods relation to the categories throughout his major as well as some shorter works. To begin with Ibn Arabi> does not hold a substantial view of the nature of categories but considers them to appear with the appearance of substance for itself when the Real brings it out from its hiddenness.(See ibid. III: 11) Quite contrary to Eriugena who holds that the categories apply really to creatures and metaphorically to God Ibn Arabi> is of the opinion that all are attributes of Gods perfection and only secondarily apply to other things. (See ibid. II: 473; trans.

SPK, 7576) Hence Ibn Arabi>s position regarding the applicability of specific
categories to God is different from Eriugenas but, interestingly, his understanding of the nature of these categories and their correlation is same as Eriugenas. Thus the

140 relational status that he awards to all the categories is indirectly comparable to Eriugenas considering the categories to be incorporeal. (DDN I: 478D-479A) Secondly, as John Marenbon has observed, Eriugenas was not a pure Aristotelian version of categories since according to it the first category substance (ousia) was not an individual of such and such a kind but the most inclusive of all classes and is conceived as substrate to which accidents are attached.199 That Ibn Arabi> also understands ousia as a substrate is obvious from the diagrammatical presentation of the ten categories in his Insha>.200 It appears that for Ibn Arabi> too this category is the most basic of all and relates to them like a substrate does. This presentation consists of a circle representing Primordial Matter which comprises all knowable realities, existent, nonexistent and those which are beyond existence/non-existence. In that diagram ousia is given the central position while the rest of ten categories form a circumferential circle around it:


John Marenbon, John Scottus and the Categoriae Decem in W. Beierwaltes, ed., Eriugena: Studien

zu seinen Quellen, (Berlin: Carl Winter Universitts Verlag, 1980), 122. At DDN I: 492C Eriugena says
concerning ousia that it subsists in its subdivisions eternally and immutably as a whole that is always together and all its subdivisions are always together as an inseparable unity in it.

See Insha> al-Dawa>ir, 24-25. The diagram given here is scanned from Fenton-Gloton translation of

Insha> cited earlier from Ibn Arabi>: A Commemorative Volume.

141 Ibn Arabi> Arabi>s Circle of Categoriae Decem

Coming to the question of the applicability of categories to the Divine nature, as a point of departure we could consider Ibn Arabi>s negative response that in view of the fact that nothing makes God known in positive terms, there is nothing of the ten categories, except for a verified passivity and a definite activity. (Fut. II: 211; trans.

SPK, 349) Hence none of the ten categories can be really applicable to Divine reality
except for the fact that from the passivity observable in the nature one is able to infer the existence of an agent. But this agent himself remains beyond knowledge. At another place Ibn Arabi> indicates that he does not construe Divine agency in the sense of first cause. While discussing the ritual of stoning the Satans, which Ibn Arabi> symbolically interprets as a dialogue between the pilgrim and Satan, he negates applicability of the

142 word cause to divinity since whenever there is cause, effect must be there, while God was there and there was nothing beside Him, at least in the sense of spatio-temporal existence. (See ibid. I: 720). Ibn Arabi>, however does not stop at this negative standpoint but recognizes a correspondence between God and the world characterized by the categories. We submit that this is an application of one of his Divine roots doctrine.201 The correspondence between categories and the nature of God is established

} t > , at I: 180 and III:11. in at least two places in al-Futu>ha

At III: 11 after providing that the world consists of the entities of substances and the relation that follows them, i.e. the remaining nine categories, Ibn Arabi> provides the principle that since the world is a copy of its archetype in Divine knowledge and Divine knowledge of the world is identical with Divine self-knowledge the world must be upon the image of the creator. Then he immediately mentions Divine qualities that correspond to the ten categories by which the spatio-temporal world is characterized and crowns this enumeration by commenting that the categories constitute the form of the world. If we combine this list of correspondence with the one mentioned at Fut. I: 180 we might see the former as explaining latter and bringing out certain important differences. This can be seen from the table given below.


This can also be seen as an implication of Ibn Arabi>s commitment to principle-manifestation

continuity along with a discontinuity, which finds its expression in his synthesis of incomparability and similarity.


Table: Divine Roots of Categoriae Decem

Categories Substance Quantity Quality The Roots in the Divine Side I.180 I.180 Essence Names SelfDisclosures III. 11 Essence

Number of His Names

Each day He is upon some task(55:29) We will finish with you, O mankind and jinn.(55:31) The All-merciful sat upon the throne. (20:5).


Sitting upon

He came to be in a Cloud (h}adi}th) And He is God in the Heavens.

Time Posture


He is God in the Eternity Allah spoke directly to Moses (4:164) Master of the Kingdom (3:26); Creator of Creatures




Action Affection

Munificence Manifestation

A Balance in His Hand, lifts it and lowers it He is called upon and Responds; Asked and gives; Is

in forms of asked forgiveness and forgives beliefs


Some Observations on the Correspondence between Divine Nature and Ten Categories
Posture: The root mentioned for posture at I: 180 is which is a term used by Ibn Arabi> to denote Face to face address of the Real in the imaginal world. () (Ibid. II: 128) Gods direct address to Moses is mentioned at III.11 as an instance. Quality and Place: Place: The table reveals that one root is assigned to different categories. Hence sitting upon ( ) is assigned to quality202 in the first list and to place in the second one. It seems that istawa> itself does not answer the question regarding qua ( )as is obvious from the question placed before Ma>lik b. Anas regarding the quality of istawa>.203 It is possible to take istawa> in the text quoted from Ibn Arabi> not as a single word but as an abbreviation for the whole statement in which it occurs.204 In that case the Divine root of istawa> not necessary the quality denoted by istawa> but some other fact meant by the words The All-Merciful sat upon the throne. From some of his comments upon these words we do get an idea of the quality to which the word istiwa> points. In this case, by mentioning istawa> as the Divine root of quality, Ibn Arabi> can be taken to be pointing to mercy, which clearly corresponds to quality. State: State: The category of state is missing from both lists. It is worth our while to try to complete this list by finding out what Divine root state could have. In the circle of


At another place Ibn Arabi> has explicitly claimed that istawa> is an attribute of God. See Fut. III: 162.

A quality according to Aristotles Categories (8a:25), is that in virtue of which people are said to be such and such. The Works of Aristotle (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.) II. 13.

See Abd al-Kari>m al-Shahrista>ni>, Al-Milal wa al-Nial (Beirut: Da>r al-Marifah, 1975), chapter 3, Al-

ifa>tiyyah. Certainly sitting, even though it is not a very accurate translation of istawa>, is mentioned by Aristotle himself as instantiating the category of position. See Categories, 2a.

This strategy can be justified by invoking analogy with Ibn Arabi>s treatment of the category of

quantity in the two lists given in the table. Although at I: I80 the root for quantity is just names we know from III: 11 that this word is just an abbreviation for number of names.

145 categories that we came across in Ibn Arabi>s Insha> al-Dawa>ir, he uses the word for the category in question. This word is introduced from philosophy and Kala>m into Sufism to denote a spiritual state, corresponding to theophany or Divine selfmanifestation. Normally, Ibn Arabi> uses this word in its original linguistic meaning and at other times as a technical Sufi term. Since a term retains some of its original meaning even when it is taken over by some specific discipline, we hope to learn something about the relationship between Divine nature and state as one of the ten Aristotelian categories. We hypothesize that we could find the Divine root of state in the Qura>nic words quoted by Ibn Arabi> at III.11 as providing Divine root for the category of quality. Before we attempt to find textual evidence for our hypothesis from Ibn Arabi> let us recall that Ibn Arabi> has derived roots of two categories from a single Qura>nic text in the parallel lists of Divine roots shown in the table above. Secondly, Ibn Arabi> has mentioned the Qura>nic verse against the category quality and according to him, the qualities are states. (Fut. I: 195)205 At another place while discussing love he considers the states as subordinate to quality and speaks of one qualitys having multiple states. (Fut. II: 337)

Although at a number of places Ibn Arabi> mentions

that the fact that there are Divine roots of state, and for that matter all other categories, in Divine states () , this does not mean that the predicate can be applied directly to God, but that there is something about God which causes the characterization of spatio-temporal world with state. In the Eriugenian language of negative theology we can say that God is beyond states or creator of states. This can be

At Fut. II: 305 Ibn Arabi> identifies this term just after quoting Qura>nic verse on Divine tasks. At II:

368 he relates the Divine states with certain characteristics mentioned in some traditions like Gods joyfully receiving His servants and happiness upon repenting servant.

Ibn Arabi> writes about the Sixth Pole ( ) that he does not take any of his states except

from his Lord, so his states are the states of his Lord. Ibid. IV: 82.

146 seen from what Ibn Arabi> expresses by connecting difference in human states and Divine relations.
If it is asked why Divine relations have become different we would reply, due to difference in states! so the one whose state is hunger prays, O AllProvider and the one whose state is drowning prays O Helper. (Fut. I: 265)

In this passage it is apparent that states characterize engendered existence but are connected to Divine nature. Here we also find Ibn Arabi> referring to the Qura>nic verse about Divine tasks in the context of states, which encourages us to use it as a source of their Divine root. In view of these textual sources, we can finally submit that that the root in the Divine side of the appearance and existence of state is the fact the God is upon some task every day. This being upon is the archetype for the symbol of state. Time: Time: The primary consideration within God-time problematic is the fact that time is taken to essentially imply movement, mutability, corruption, finitude and death207 while God has to be free of all these imperfections. On the one hand this consideration entails that God is beyond time, on the other hand, it necessitates spiritual attempts to overcome temporality. As far as Eriugena himself is concerned, since he recognizes that time implies mutability

and since he has maintained that the categories do not

properly apply to God, he had to conclude that time and place are to be counted among the things that have been created and since God is not to be counted among the created things He cannot properly be called time and place. (See DDN I: 468C) In view of its supra-temporality Eriugena frequently uses the words now and always (nunc et

See Dermot Moran, Time and Eternity in the Periphyseon, in History and Eschatology in John

Scottus Eriugena and his Time, ed. James McEvoy and Michael Dunne, (Leuven, University Press, 2002),

Eriugena writes, Time is the exact and natural measure of movement and pauses. DDN V: 890.


semper) to denote Divine eternity. (See ibid. IV: 860) However, Eriugena identifies
creation of the world with Divine self-creation and his superlative theology demands that we transcend this positive attribution. As Moran expresses it, For Eriugena, time belongs to the self-expression, self-externalization, self-manifestation or self-creation of the creator God and also to the self-articulation of nous in sensibility.209 In a famous passage Eriugena mentions the supratemporals making himself temporal

(supertemporalis temporalem). (See DDN III: 678C) Therefore while creating the spatio temporal world God makes Himself temporal. Moreover, since one must proceed from affirmative to negative to superlative theology, one must say that God is, is not and is more than eternal.210 A number of scholars have focused on Ibn Arabi>s concept of time.211 In the light of these studies Ibn Arabi>s relevant views can be discussed conveniently by dividing time into Principial time and theophanic time. The latter can further be divided into microcosmic time and macrocosmic time. The Arabic word is taken to mean Principial time or time with which God has identified himself, while the word is considered to be the counterpart of time as it relates to theophany, whether microcosmic or macrocosmic. Thus when Ibn Arabi> relates the Prophetic saying Do not curse Al-Dahr because Al-Dahr is God he considers it to be about the Principial time, which stands

209 210 211

Dermot Moran, Time and Eternity, 488. Ibid. 497-8. Particularly mention-worthy are Gerhard Bwerings Ibn al-Arabi>s concept of Time, in Gott ist

Schon und Er liebt die Schonheit: Fetschrift Annemarie Schimmel, eds. A Giese and J.C. Burgel (Zurich:
Lang Verlag, 1994)71-91 and Ibrahim Kalin From the Temporal Time to the Eternal Now: Ibn al-Arabi> and Mulla Sadra> on Time in JMIAS, LXI (2007), 31-63 inter alia.

148 above temporal time and thus presents permanence against transience.212 Therefore, since this Divine time is eternal time, identifying God with it does not necessarily entail the implausible consequence of attributing mutability or corruption to God, since time spoken of here is different from time as we experience it.213 The first subdivision of theophanic time is microcosmic time i.e. time as we experience it and is called the moment()by Ibn Arabi> and other Sufis. An important principle of Ibn Arabi>s theory of theophany, as we shall see in the next chapter, is that the Principle manifests Himself in accordance with the disposition or preparedness ( ) of the locus of manifestation (). Moment, according to Ibn Arabi> is what you are with and upon and what is decreed by and passed onto you.214 This definition which connects time to the category of state also refers to Divine manifestation by mentioning Divine decree. As Kalin has summed it up, The moment designates a state of being in which individual acquires Gods decree in tandem with his disposition.215 By the macrocosmic moment every natural event is an emergence or appearance. Just like the disposition of the individual the universe also has a disposition according to which Gods decrees emerge in different degrees of

212 213

Ibrahim Kalin, Ibid. 50. A further step can be taken in the light of Iqbals discussion of God and time, according to which even

change can be ascribed to God without thereby implying any imperfection to Him, since one can understand change in connection with God just like one understands Divine time different from human or cosmic time. Iqbal writes, for instance, that The Ultimate Ego exists in pure duration wherein change ceases to be a succession of varying attitudes, and reveals its true character as continuous creation, untouched by weariness and unseizable by slumber or sleep. To conceive the Ultimate Ego as changeless in this sense is to conceive Him as utter inaction, a motiveless, stagnant neutrality, an absolute nothing. To the creative Self change cannot mean imperfection. Muhammad Iqbal, Reconstruction of

Religious Thought in Islam, Ed. M. Saeed Sheikh (Lahore: Institute of Islamic Culture, 1986), 48.
214 215

Ibrahim Kalin, From the Temporal Time, 47. The first definition of moment is given at Fut. II: 539. Ibid. 48.

149 ontological intensity.216 Theophanic time of both kinds is rooted in the divinity, as Ibn Arabi> writes that The support of the present moment in the Divine things is the fact that He describes himself with the words, Each day He is upon some task. (Fut. II: 539; trans. SPK, 38) Hence the category of time (of course theophanic time) is rooted in the same facet of divinity in which the category of state is rooted. What we have been calling Principial time is called Eternal time by Kalin, Eternity by Bwering, who has concluded his article by remarking that Eternity belongs to God alone, but Gods creature has the present moment.217 It would be wrong to get the impression from these terms that just like we/the world are in time, God is in eternity. This is a conclusion that Ibn Arabi> tries hard to contest in his Kita>b al-Azal. With the help of a complex argument Ibn Arabi> seeks to show that azal (eternitywithout-beginning) conceived after likeness of time or as extension leads to absurd conclusions like attribution of God with nothingness, negation of Divine unity by positing another eternal existent, naming God illegitimately and finally, of circular reasoning ( )by posing eternity as one of his attributes, since He has his attributes eternally and having eternity eternally is circular. After negating this concept Ibn Arabi> recommends that instead of saying God spoke in eternity we should say Divine Speech is a beginningless attribute of Allah, without qualification (kayf).218We can conclude from this that on the one hand we have Principial time which is God, not

216 217 218

Ibid. Bowering, Ibn al-Arabi>s Concept of Time, 91. Ibn Arabi>, Kita>b al-Azal in Rasa>il Ibn Arabi>, 121-122. Compare Paul Helm: it is better to think

of timelessness not as separate attribute but as a mode of possessing attributes. It is not that God is both omniscient and timeless but that He is timelessly omniscient. Eternal God: A Study of God without

Time (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 17.

150 something that encompasses Him and on the other hand theophanic time which has its root in Gods being upon some task each day. To sum up the discussion of Gods relation to Categoriae Decem, Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> agree on the main features of the nature of categories and on the view that in consideration of Divine transcendence none of these categories should apply literally to God. However Ibn Arabi> connects Divine nature and the existence of these categories since they constitute the form of the world and in the opinion of latter form of the world is ontologically connected to Divine Nature. This fact sets him apart from Eriugenas position only to a certain extent, because he is drawing implications of a metaphysical principle of his which is found in Eriugena as well. So the difference is only that one of these writers is applying his principle to the full while the other keeps it to a certain limit. It can safely be concluded from the preceding analysis that Ibn Arabi>s doctrine of Divine roots squares fairly with Eriugenas concept of participation. However, he is more elaborate than the latter since he not only provides a general principle but also endeavors to relate particular existential realities to Divine realities. Eriugena, in contrast, was more elaborate in explaining the meaning of participation while Ibn Arabi> gave us more specific information while leaving the task of defining and discovering principles to his readers. In the next chapter we turn to the concept of theophany and its counterpart in Ibn Arabi>s cosmology.


MacrocosmAl-tajalli> Macrocosm-2: Theophany and Al-

In the present chapter we complete our comparative analysis of the views of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> on metacosm-macrocosm relation by addressing the second of two key Eriugenian terms, namely theophany. We compare the meaning, nature and functions of this concept in Eriugenas philosophy with al-tajalli> as it is understood and put to work by Ibn Arabi>.

6.1 Eriugena on Theophany

6.1.1 Etymology and Importance of the Concept
The word theophany is derived from the Greek theos (god) and phanio (to come/bring to light, make appear, appear). A theophany is an appearance or manifestation of deity.219 Professor Nasr has claimed that [t]heophany, literally to show God does not mean the incarnation but the reflection of Divinity in the mirror of created forms.220 However, it seems that historically there has been some connection between the concept of theophany and the idea of incarnation since Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea (c.263c339) penned a book called Peri-Theophania in which he treated of the incarnation of

219 220

See Michael Sells, Mystical Languages of Unsaying, 43.

Knowledge and the Sacred, (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1989), 215 n. 6.

Professor Nasr has also noted the correspondence between theophany and al-tajalli>. See his book Religion

and the Order of Nature (Lahore: Suhail Academy, 2004), 229 n. 63.

152 Jesus Christ.221 This latter idea is sometimes described as Christophany. To realize the importance of theophany for Eriugena one has merely to observe that he wants us to understand the four divisions of nature as theophanies: They are from God and in God. (DDN III: 690A) He exclaims that no deeper thing there can be for human inquiry than theophany. (DDN I: 449A)

6.1.2 Dionysian Influences: FormForm-Assuming, Illumination Illumination and Elitism

Pseudo-Dionysius is one of Eriugenas most important sources, and the concept of theophany is one of those areas where this influence is most apparent. Dionysius applies the name theophany to that beholding of God which shows the Divine Likeness, figured in Itself as a likeness in form of That which is formless, through the uplifting of those who contemplate the Divine; inasmuch as a Divine Light is shed upon the seers through it, and they are initiated into some participation of Divine things.222 This definition can be analyzed into following components: Theophany (is)
1. Beholding of God 2. Shows Divine likeness 3. Is figured in the form of that which is formless 4. Through the uplifting 5. Of those who contemplate


Translated by Samuel Lee as Eusebeus on Theophania or Divine Manifestation of Our Lord and

Saviour Jesus Christ (Cambridge University Press, 1843) available at http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/

last visited on 25/3/2010.

Pseudo Dionysius, Celestial Hierarchy. Chapter IV., 161 at http://www.esoteric.msu.edu, last visited

on 28th March 2009.

6. Inasmuch as a Divine light is shed 7. And they are initiated into some participation of Divine things

The first component is a succinct expression of the etymology of the word

theophania. Although this expression is compatible with basic Greek etymology of the
term as appearance or manifestation of deity it must be noticed that by using the word beholding it assigns primary role to man who beholds God rather than God who

becomes manifest or appears. This is only to say that as far as this component is
concerned agency belongs to man and not to God. However this is significantly qualified by the components 4, 6 and 7. A combined reading of these three shows that a double agency is involved in the phenomenon of theophany. One part is played by human being and another by Deity. Man contemplates while God uplifts and initiates. Hence agency belongs partially to man and partially to God. The fifth component signifies that Dionysian concept of theophany is elitist. Beholding of God is a privilege of those who contemplate not others. Again, this dimension is completely in line with the general elitism of Dionysius, for he has written: These things thou must not disclose to any of the uninitiated, by whom I mean those who cling to the objects of human thought, and imagine there is no super-essential reality beyond.223 Furthermore, in the light of what was just said, among those who contemplate, theophany belongs only to those upon whom Divine light is shed. That is to say theophany belongs to those contemplatives who are illuminated. Hence, Dionysian theophany, in addition to being elitist, is illuminationist.


The Mystical Theology, 192.

154 If we emphasize the italicized word likeness then it gives us an important feature of the concept. In the light of the doctrine of Uknowability of God, to which Pseudo Dionysius adheres,224 it can be interpreted as ruling out the appearance of Divinity in itself in theophany and emphasizing the appearance of its likeness only. This characteristic shows that Dionysian theophany does not compromise Divine transcendence. A look at the way Eriugena uses and explicates the term theophany reveals deep Dionysian influences. In fact most of the components into which we analyzed Dionysian articulation of theophany find an expression in Eriugena. We say most of since Eriugena seems to be more honest to the Greek etymology of the word since he identifies theophanies with Divine manifestation (DDN I: 446). He seems to have taken and developed the other strands from Dionysian definition of theophany. Thus we find in Eriugena theophanys characterization as form-adopting of the Formless, double agency, elitist illuminationism and the essential unknowability of Deity. In the famous

negati affirmatio passage where Eriugena introduces theophany for the first time, he
typifies it as the form of the formless (forma informis). (DDN III 633B) As for the elitist-illuminationist dimension, Eriugena says that
it is for very few, wholly detached from earthly thoughts and purged by virtue and knowledge to know God in these visible creatures as the patriarch Abraham knew Him from the revolutions of the stars, with natural law for his guide and as Moses in the Bush and on the summit of the mountain. (DDN III. 689B-D)

The illuminationist dimension of Eriugenas concept of theophany was recognized by E.C McCue, S.J., who devoted a whole chapter to it in his doctoral dissertation as early


See the first chapters of two Dionysian treatises The Divine Names and The Mystical Theology.

155 as 1939. Commenting on the word vehitur (i.e. is carried.) in Eriugenas explanation of intellect-reason relation (DDN IV: 745D) McCue wrote that it signifies that to be moved or carried the soul must receive some impetus from the one to which it is drawn.225 Interestingly, at one place Eriugena himself gives the impression that he is speaking as someone who has been illuminated by a theophany.226 He adds this dimension to the Eschatological theophanies, i.e. the Beatific Vision in the After-life. Referring to the saying of Christ There are many mansions in my Fathers House, Eriugena writes that each shall receive a form according to the degree of his own sanctity and wisdom. (DDN I: 448C) He also maintains that each man shall have his proper place according to his conduct in this life. (Ibid. V: 983A) Those who have gone beyond human nature (transcended their selves in Schuons terminology227) in their holiness will not only be granted a theophany of God but will actually enter into the cloud surrounding God, to experience what Eriugena describes as theophany of theophanies.(See ibid. I: 450B; V: 905C, 963C-964A)

6.1.3 Epistemological Theophany and Unknowability

In the above mentioned settings, both mundane and eschatological, theophany signifies a mode of knowing God. This implies that theophany is an alternate for knowing something as it is in itself. So Eriugena contrasts theophany with objective reality. Indeed, he uses the term for the first time in DDN while negating the possibility

Theophany: A Study of God and His Manifestations in the work of the ninth Century Irish Philosopher
This is inferred by Dermot Moran from DDN III: 656D-657A: you assign to me the things that are

John Scottus Eriugena, Dissertation by E.C. McCue (St. Louis University), 146.

harder to seek and find and demonstrate. However it is my part to seek, but to find is His alone who illumines the hidden places of Darkness. His alone is the Demonstration because He [alone] can open the senses of those who seek and the intellect. For of what use is a demonstration from without if there is no illumination within. See The Philosophy, 76.

See Frithjof Schuon, Survey of Integral Anthropology, in his To Have a Centre.

156 of comprehending primordial causes in themselves, saying that in the intellect of the angels there are certain theophanies of those reasons and not reasons themselves. (DDN I: 446C) If primordial causes cannot be known as they are in themselves, then a fortiori the essence of God cannot be seen or known either. (See DDN I: 448) Beatific vision is

mediated through theophanies even for the elect (See DDN I: 450C; V: 926C, 988C).228
It seems that here Eriugena is doing nothing more than developing the Dionysian element of theophany according to which it shows likeness of God. The contrast of theophany with knowing the essence of God serves a very important role, namely, that of retaining the God-World duality. Dierdre Carabine thinks that in view of this contrast Eriugena always retains a basic distinction between the self-manifestation of God and Gods self. Even in the final theophany when all things will have returned to God and God shall be all in all Eriugena never conflates God and creature.229 Since God is found only in theophany to a certain extent, and not found as to what He is in himself, the quest for God will be endless (DDN V: 919AD).230 The final word on this question is that God is both found and not found. He is found through theophanies, but not found through contemplations of Divine nature itself. (DDN V: 919C)


Eriugena also writes But because they cannot behold the most high and holy Trinity in itself, for it is

incomprehensible and transcends the intelligible vision and all the faculties of mind and can only contemplate It in comprehensible Theophanies which are of like nature with themselves, therefore they are called the clouds of heaven. DDN V: 1000C.
229 230

John Scottus Eriugena, 33.

Carabine has pointed out the presence of this strand of thought in St Gregory of Nyssa, according to

whom the search for God will be infinite since the Divine nature is infinite. See John Scottus Eriugena, 125 n. 11.


6.1.4 Ontological Theophany and Transcendence

In addition to considering theophany a mode of knowing Eriugena mentions that every visible and invisible creature can be called a theophany, that is, a Divine apparition since the ineffable and incomprehensible brilliance of the Divine Goodness begins to appear in its theophanies and it can be said to be known in all essence. (DDN III: 681A) As manifestation of the hidden and becoming visible of the invisible theophany is the ineffable descent of the Supreme Goodness, which is Unity and Trinity, into the things that are so as to make them to be, indeed so as itself to be in

all things (DDN III: 678D, emphasis added). This requires that the understanding of theophany as a mode of knowing be complemented by its understanding as a mode of being. Should this descent into the things be taken to mean that Eriugena is
propounding pantheism? Many Eriugena scholars are now agreed that it does not. Otten has pointed out that this does not mean an act of audacious pantheism since being Divine apparitions theophanies cannot be put upon a par with the underlying essence of God,231 adding that on the level of the text the comparison between God and his theophanies leads us to declare them identical, although in the final analysis they cannot be ranked on the same level, since one is ranked on the level of creative and the other on the level of created nature.232 Hence, everythings being theophany lands us somewhere between immanence and transcendence and is not a plain denial of Divine transcendence. It should be recalled here that according to its epistemic understanding theophany has given us a similar middle position on the question of finding God.

231 232

Otten, Anthropology, 88. Ibid. 89 n. 12.


6.1.5 Functions of Theophany in Eriugenas Thought

Let us briefly outline the functions of theophany in general and its ontological understanding in particular in the cosmology of Eriugena. A brief discussion of the functions of theophany in Eriugena will shed more light on its centrality and importance. Otten has come up with insightful remarks regarding the role played by theophany. According to her theophany counterbalances Eriugenas negative theology by permitting the description of God in terms deriving from the realm of creation, while guaranteeing the natural, hierarchical distance between God and creation.233 Although this contention of Ottens seems to be corroborated by Eriugenas famous characterization of theophany as negati affirmatio, that is to say, affirmation of the negated, it loses its weight when seen in the light of Eriugenas emphatic negativization of his synthesis of affirmative and negative theologies as we pointed out and explained in the third chapter. Secondly, it is through theophany that Eriugena could associate scripture with the natural order of the cosmos.234 Eriugena believes firmly in analogy between scriptura and creatura which he says are two garments of Chirst indicating that under the difference of apparel the same contents can be found. (See DDN III: 690A).235 To these two proposed functions of theophany we can add some other. In an earlier chapter we witnessed Eriugena claiming that in creating the universe God creates Himself. This problematic saying can be explained with the help of theophany, understood ontologically. Hence if the universe is nothing but theophany then when God creates it He creates only His theophany or appearance. Moreover, the fact that God is
233 234 235

See ibid. 83. See Ibid 84 n. 3 See ibid. 102-3.

159 the Middle as well as the Beginning and the End can be understood in this very light. Eriugena describes two modes under which God appears as the Middle to its observers. First when the Divine Nature is seen to be created and to createfor it is created by itself in the primordial causes, and therefore creates itself, that is allows itself to appear

in its theophanies and second when it is seen in the lowest effects of the primordial
causes (DDN III: 689A-B). The italicized expressions indicate that what is at stake here primarily is not knowing God but Gods appearing first in primordial causes and then in the spatio-temporal effects of these causes. This is to say that this function as well as the previous one is played by theophany in its ontological sense. Before analyzing Ibn Arabi>s notion of al-tajalli>, let us summarize salient features of Eriugenas doctrine of theophany discussed above. This will help us find out the extent to which both notions correspond to each other. We brought out centrality of the notion in overall cosmology of Eriugena and its Greek etymology gave us the meaning of appearance of God. We discussed the Pseudo-Dionysian concept of theophany and noticed that Eriugenian elaboration of the notion is predominantly Dionysian. In the light of an analysis of Dionysian definition of theophany and its usage by Eriugena, the following features of Eriugenian doctrine were brought out: first, theophany is appearing into form of a being who is formless; second, Divine self-manifestation is not open to all, but to the spiritually self-disciplined elite and in accordance with piety. Finally, it was maintained that Eriugenas use of the notion renders it analyzable into two kinds. Understood epistemologically, theophany means knowing God while understood ontologically, it implies being God. Contrary to their appearance these two ways do not compromise Divine transcendence but rather help preserve it. The former point of view establishes an appearance-reality dichotomy

160 as far as our knowledge of God is concerned. It also connects nature to the scripture and serves to explain the meaning of theologically strange Eriugenian idea of Divine Self

Creation and Gods being the Middle.

6.2 Ibn Arabi> on al al-Tajalli> Tajalli>

6.2. 6.2.1 Centrality of the Concept
If Eriugena knows nothing deeper for the human inquiry than theophany, the term self-

disclosure (tajalli)236often translated as theophany plays such a central role in Ibn

Arab s teachings that he has been called one of the companions of SelfDisclosure (as}ha } b > al-tajalli>).237 Indeed Chittick, the maker of this remark, has found no word to title his book on Principles of Ibn Arabi>s Cosmology better than Self

Disclosure of God.
Since Ibn Arabi> has to say many things on this subject and in the space of one subsection we cannot analyze all his ideas, we stick to the main features of Eriugenas doctrine of theophany, outlined at the end of last subsection and see where does Ibn Arabi> stand and why. However, we would discuss those of his other views which either explain or add important dimensions to what was said by Eriugena. Having seen that these two notions occupy central place in the cosmologies both of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi>, let us begin with comparing the etymologies of these terms.


Self-disclosure is not satisfactory translation of . The Arabic word does not have a reference to

Divine self. If we take the word self seriously it would denote Divine essence which does not have disclosures. In the Qura>n itself tajalli> never occurs with the Divine Name Allah but al-Rabb which pertains to the level of divinity not of Ipseity. It is better to translate the word simply as disclosure.

William C. Chittick, The Self Disclosure of God, 52.


6.2.2 Etymology and Qura>nic usage of the term.

Tajalli> is a noun derived from the root j-l-w. The verb jala> from this root means to be or
become clear, un-obscured, exposed to view, displayed, laid open, disclosed or uncovered.238 Ra>ghib al-Isfaha>ni> (d. 1108), the famous lexicographer of the Qura>n, maintained that disclosure is either essential or through an action or imperative.239 This means that either something is essentially manifest or else, it has to do something in addition to merely being there in order to become manifest.240 Day appears with the simple appearance of the Sun and the Sun does not have to do anything in addition to just being there in order to make the day manifest. Al-Is}faha>ni> thinks that the Divine disclosure is not like appearance of the day. God is manifest only when He wills and to whosoever He wills. Ibn Arabi> derives almost all of his technical vocabulary from the Qura>n itself and an examination of the Qura>nic usage of the term reveals that the basic etymological meaning of appearance is retained by it. Ibn Arabi> has connected the idea that God is witnessed in the creation to the already quoted Qura>nic verse, We shall show them (41:53). (See Fut. II: 305). He also mentions in this context the prophetic tradition to the effect that God transmutes ( )in the forms. However these are only indirect references in addition to which the word itself occurs twice in the Qura>n. At one place we read
By the day, as it appears in glory. (92:2)

238 239 240

See Edward William Lane, An Arabic English Lexicon, II: 82. See Al-Mufrada>t fi> Ghari>b al-Qura>n, Karachi: As}ah}h} al-Mat}ab > i,1961), 94-95. See Ibid.

162 Then while narrating the famous Mount Sinai event when Moses requested that he must see God, the verb is ascribed to the Lord: ...
When his Lord revealed Himself to the mountain (7:143)

Most of the Qura>n interpreters render here simply as i.e. appeared.241 Some, however, find it necessary to qualify and explain that Gods appearing means a manifestation of His power and Glory etc. One of these is the Mutazilite alZamakhshari> (d.1144)242 and the other is the anti-Sufi Burha>n al-Di>n al-Biqa>i> (d. 1480).243 Both occurrences of the latter word in the Qura>n connote appearance or disclosure which parallels the Greek phanio and in one of these the word is applied to God which makes a correspondence with the Greek theo-phania. All this manifests that as Ibn Arabi>s understanding of tajalli> is rooted in the sources of Muslim orthodoxy as is Eriugenas notion of theophany immersed in the Christian tradition and that as far as their etymology is concerned theophany and al-tajalli> are synonymous.

6.2.3 Al AlOntological and Epistemological -Tajalli>: Ontological

We mentioned two modes of looking at Eriugenas concept of theophany, ontological and epistemological. According to the former theophany is a mode of Gods appearing

in the forms of the entities while in the light of the latter it is Gods making Himself known. Now in case of Ibn Arabi> this distinction is more clearly present within the
doctrine itself and we do not have to introduce it from outside, as many followers of Ibn Arabi> have noticed its presence in Ibn Arabi>s understanding and use of the term

241 242 243

For example Abdulla>h b. Ah}mad al-Nasafi>, Mada>rik al- Tanzi>l, (Beirut: Da>r al-Nafa>is, 2005) , II: 108. See his al-Kashsha>f an H} aqa>iq al-Tanzi>l (Beirut: Da>r Ih}ya> al-Tura>th al-Arabi>, n.d.), II: 146. See his Naz}m al-Durar fi> Tana>sub al-A>ya>t wa- al-Suwar (Beirut: Da>r al-Kutub al-Ilmiyah, 2002), III:



tajalli>. Abd al-Kari>m al-Ji>li> (d. 832) set apart the term tajalli> for the epistemological
theophany while used the word to capture the ontological dimension of the notion.244 In the writings of Ibn Arabi> himself if one wanted to have a term for exclusive reference to the ontological theophany one could refer to manifestation which is the name given to the Absolutes stepping, so to speak, out of Its sheer Absoluteness. According to Chittick, the term tajalli> may be employed in the context of ontology, epistemology oras more commonly happens, without any distinction being employed between these two domains.245 Those who prefer to use single term

tajalli> and maintain at the same time the distinction follow Abd al-Rah}ma>n Ja>mi>
(d.1492) in dividing it into and . Ibn Arabi> has in his mind an ontological sense of the word tajalli> when he says: So He, the Exalted One, has a general tajalli> perpetually in the world and the degrees of the world in it vary in accordance the intrinsic differences in the degrees of the world, so He manifests according to their preparedness. (Fut. II: 556) Or when he says: The world is naught but His self-Disclosure in the forms of their immutable identities, whose existence would be impossible without it (Fus. 81; Ringstones, 61). As far as the epistemological tajalli> is concerned it is obviously intended when Ibn Arabi> says that
Perfect knowledge only abides in Divine self-disclosure and in what the Real unveils in removing the coverings from the eyes of discernment and vision. One will then perceive thingsthe eternal among them and those which come to be, their non-existence and existence, their impossible, necessary and contingent as they are in their realities and identities. (Fus. 133; trans. Ringstones, 150.)


Abu>l-ala> al-Affi>fi>, Ibn Arabi> fi> Dira>sa>ti>,> in Al-Kita>b al-tidhka>ri> li Muh}yiddi>n Ibn Arabi> (Cairo:

Da>r al-Ka>tib al-Arabi>, 1969), 28-31.


SPK, 91.

164 Here Ibn Arabi> is obviously referring to tajalli> as a mode of attaining the highest degree of knowledge. So in its epistemological sense the term can be considered synonymous with famous Sufi terms and that are normally translated as intuition, unveiling,

illumination or opening, although in one place (see Fut. IV: 32) Ibn Arabi> does seem to
be differentiating between tajalli> and kashf.246 However the above quoted passage and others are explicit in indentifying both these terms and the final sentence of the passage quoted above takes us to the next level of the comparative analysis of the terms theophany and tajalli>.

Does the claim that one can perceive things as they are in their realities and

identities means that tajalli> based knowledge is knowledge of things as they are in
themselves? An affirmative answer to this question would imply that Ibn Arabi>s concept of tajalli> differs from Eriugenas theophany as sources of knowledge. We have seen that Eriugena contrasts knowledge through theophany to objective


Ibn Arabi> writes: The first One-third of Divine knowledge is what can be known of/from/about Him

( )through arguments/signs; the second one-third is what is known of/from/about Him, may He be Exalted, through witnessing on the occasion of tajalli> and the final one-third is what is known of/from/about Him through His informing, may He be Exalted, and this is the truest of categories as far as knowledge of God is concerned. This passage is not explicitly establishing a semantic dichotomy between al-tajalli> and al-kashf, though one of many possible readings might suggest so. We should read it in combination with Fut. I: 39: The first way is that of unveiling. ... This kind of knowledge may also be actualized through a self-disclosure given to its possessors In this way we can get the more consistent view according to which in Fut. IV: 32 Ibn Arabi> is not dividing knowledge into that through tajalli> and that through kashf but is giving us two sub classes, [witnessing (musha>hadah) and unveiling (muka>shafah or kashf)] of the epistemic tajalli> itself. This interpretation is further supported by the fact that Ibn Arabi> not only differentiates between witnessing and unveiling but considers the latter as more excellent and perfect than the former. For more on Ibn Arabi>s usage of these terms see al- Mujam al-S}uf > i>, 664-665.

165 knowledge.247 However, the above quoted passage from Ibn Arabi> does not imply that

tajalli> based knowledge is that of things as they are in themselves. This is because by
eternal things, he understands nothing but the eternal objects of Divine knowledge, so that in the sentence quoted above eternal things and realities and identities refer to a single reality. Hence both Eriugenas theophany and Ibn Arabi>s tajalli> constitute an epistemological isthmus ( )or veil ( )between the knower and the known, and as such simultaneously manifesting and concealing the veiled object. The agreement on this point becomes clearer when it comes to the theophanic knowledge of God Himself. Ibn Arabi> is of the opinion that the Divine Self ( ) can never become manifest, so no tajalli> makes It known. As usual his opinion is based on an extraordinarily careful reading of the Qura>n. He directs our attention to the Divine name al-Rabb (the Lord) that accompanies tajjali> in the Qura>nic words fa lamma> tajalla> rabbuhu> and says that

tajalli> belongs only to the God [al-ila>h] and the Lord (al-rabb), never to Allah for He is
the Independent. (Fut. III: 178; trans. SDG, 54). We also find him expressing this idea in clear terms by saying that, The inmost centre of His majesty is not perceived by any rational faculty, nor is the inmost center of His Essence perceived by eyesight when He discloses Himself, wherever He should disclose Himself to His servants. (Fut. III: 371; trans. SDG, 55) In spite of the resonance between our two thinkers it must be emphasized once again that the way Ibn Arabi> analyzes Divine Reality into Essence, Attributes/Names and Actions makes his views on Divine nature more precise and detailed than those of Eriugena.


We saw that according to Eriugena the Angels do not know the primordial causes themselves but only

certain of their theophanies.


6.2.4 FormForm-Assuming, Illumination and Elitism

Finally, the same ontological understanding of the concept is involved in Ibn Arabi>s countless references to Gods appearing in forms () .248 He discusses this notion in various contexts and in order to explain a number of different things. For instance, he explains through it the entification of everything (( ) Fut. I: 188) and the existence of religious diversity (Fut. IV: 166). He also mentions the opinion that different theological sects share single belief concerning the nature of God because God appears in same form to all of them. Although he seems to disagree with this opinion in view of his principle that a particular theophany does not repeat itself for two or more individuals, this disagreement still includes a reference to theophany in

forms. (Fut. III: 384) He writes at one place, So it is the Real who is Being and the
things are forms of Being, thus the affair is interconnected like form and matter are interconnected. (Fut. IV: 100) This notion of Divine disclosure in forms parallels Eriugenas characterization of theophany as form-assuming of the formless (forma

informis). At the end of this subsection, we come once again to theophany and Divine
form assuming in the discussion of loci of manifestation. Let us have a look for the moment at the questions of elitism and illumination. As for elitism in Ibn Arabi>, obviously, it is only the knowledge or understanding of the true nature of some fact that can be privilege of some intellectual or spiritual elite and not the fact itself. Otherwise one would end up endorsing sheer Sophism. Therefore the question of elitism arises in connection with epistemic tajalli>/kashf and not with ontological one. The fact that God appears in the forms of the world remains a fact whether it is known to all or some. At a number of places in his al-Futu>ha } t > Ibn Arabi>


Also see Fut. III: 95 and IV: 101.

167 explicitly states that knowledge acquisition through theophany or unveiling is specific to some. At least at two place he mentions Prophets and Friends of God as those who are exclusively bestowed with theophanic knowledge. (See Fut. I: 31 and I: 319) In this context Ibn Arabi> speaks of Gods singling out any of his servants whom He wills to be granted access to this knowledge. (See Fut. I: 218) These few examples are sufficient to show that epistemic theophany as understood by Ibn Arabi> is elitist in a general manner. Some more specific dimensions emerge by taking into account a few distinctions he makes. First, there is a distinction between theophany in a dream and while one is awake. Second, we have to differentiate between the fact of theophany and knowledge of its real nature. Third, an important distinction is made between exoteric and esoteric scholars of Islam. In the light of first distinction, Ibn Arabi>s concept of theophany is elitist in the sense that although ordinary folk may have a theophanic dream it is the privilege only of the Prophets and Friends of God to have theophanic vision while they are awake. (Fut. IV: 200). In the light of second distinction, For many of the folk of the Path of God, even if they witness the Reals self-disclosure (tajalli>), have no knowledge of that, nor of what they see, nor of the form of the actual situation. (Ibid. III: 516; SDG, 56). Finally, it is in the light of the third distinction that we find Ibn Arabi> saying, The Gnostics witness Him in the forms of the created things while the veiled ones from amongst the exoteric scholars ( ) do not recognize Him, so for the former He is named al-Z}ah > ir while for the latter He is named al-Ba>ti } n. (Fut. III: 541). The real and objective nature of theophany is grasped by, to use Chitticks expression, only a tiny minority even of the esoteric scholars.

168 However, to this elitist strand an important qualification must be added. The unknowability or obscurity of theophany for the majority has as its cause a subjective element also. As Ibn Arabi> himself maintains, Know that God discloses himself perpetually ( ) and the veils are only lifted from our eyes. He, the Exalted One said, Now have We removed thy veil (50: 22) and He said We are nearer to him than ye, and ye see not (56: 85). (Fut. I: 706, emphasis added). This shows that unlike Eriugena and Pseudo Dionysius, Ibn Arabi>s conception of theophany is not completely elitist but he has brought out the subjective cause of its accessibility to the chosen few. The word subjective can be confusing here so let us make it clear that we are not using it in the sense of relative or illusory. According to prevailing analysis, also followed by Chittick, there are two components of theophany (tajalli): the Self-Discloser ( )and the locus of manifestation ( or ) . While this is true in most of the cases, there are certain cases where there is a human recipient of theophany in addition to the locus of manifestation. In the case Burning Bush, God is the Manifest, the mount is locus of manifestation and Moses is spectator. The mount itself was both the locus and spectator. Now what we meant by saying that the veils are subjective rather than objective was that it is not God who is veiled rather it is the recipient that is veiled. As Schuon has put it, Grace surrounds us infinitely and it is only our hardness that makes us impervious to its radiation, in itself omnipresent. It is the soul which is absent, not grace.249 We must not forget however, that in one sense of the word subject God is the subject of theophany and man is its object.


Echoes of Perennial Wisdom (Bloomington: World Wisdom Books, 1992), 37.

169 The second component of theophany mentioned here, namely, the locus of manifestation or recipient corresponds to the forma in Eriugenas forma informis. A locus of manifestation is the form in which God becomes manifest. According to Ibn Arabi> the whole cosmos is nothing but loci of Divine self-manifestation and consequently anyone who loves the cosmos in this regard has loved it with Gods love and has loved nothing but Gods beauty (Fut. II: 345; SDG, 28) A locus is not simply passive receiver of theophany but exercises a certain influence over it by determining its nature and channelizing it: Hence in the image the ruling property ( )of the presence of locus of manifestation is greater than that of the Discloser. (Fut. III: 109) The relationship between the Manifest and the locus of manifestation is not one sided but dialectical one. This is one of the most significant aspects of Ibn Arabi>s doctrine of theophany. In this regard he has formulated a general principle (the principle of preparedness) that a theophany is always according to preparedness of the locus of manifestation. (Fus}. 62; Ringstones, 25). Ibn Arabi> explains the principle by referring to many examples, of a single ray from the Sun having contrary effects on a person of cold temperament and the one with a hot temperament and then on the washer-man and the clothing. He therefore says that the theophanies of the One are diverse in accordance with the diversity of the preparedness of loci of manifestation. (Fut. I: 287; SPK, 92) This shows that the nature and limitations of the object condition the nature of theophany itself. For Ibn Arabi> this explains, inter alia, the relationship between Being and the existent things. Each entity is a receptacle of theophany. One other aspect of Ibn Arabi>s views on tajalli> closely related to the elitist strand which is, moreover, comparable to Pseudo Dionysian and Eriugenian view is illuminationism. Theophany as mystical source of knowledge is identified with light

170 thrown by God in the believers heart: Sound knowledge is only that which God throws

into the heart of the knower. It is a Divine light for which God singles out any of his servants whom He wills, whether angel, messenger, prophet, friend, or person of faith.
(Fut. I: 218)

6.2.5 AlAl-Tajalli> and Divine Transcendence

In our discussion of Eriugenian view above scholarly consensus was mentioned on the opinion that Eriugenas concept of theophany does not compromise Divine transcendence. We saw that in spite of using seemingly pantheistic terminology Eriugena always retains a distinction between God and the world. Although Ibn Arabi> sees the world as Divine theophany and also considers theophany one of the modes of knowing God, he is careful not to compromise Divine transcendence in maintaining all this. His ultimate response to the question of God-world relationship remains somewhere in between transcendence and identity. Just like Eriugena who maintained that God both is and is not found in the theophanies, Ibn Arabi> says, in more ontological way, that the world both is and is not Him. In his terminology the world is He/notHe. (Fut. II: 501). Moreover, Ibn Arabi> agrees with Eriugena in subscribing to the view that there is no end to the journey of knowing God. In his thought this belief follows as a conclusion from a cluster of concepts like those of infinite theophanies, perpetual creation and non-repetition of Divine self-disclosures. Ibn Arabi> has expressed this view by saying that on the Path to Gods knowledge there is no quenching of thirst, so that a seeker of theophanic knowledge remains always thirsty. Hence Divine transcendence is compromised neither by Eriugenian theophany nor by Ibn Arabi>s al-tajalli>.

171 With the comparative analysis of participation and Divine roots in the previous chapter and that of theophany and tajalli> in the present we have shown that there is remarkable correspondence in the way Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> understand the relationship between God and the macrocosmic world. In the final chapter of this study we are going to compare the thought of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> regarding the nature of man vis. a vis. God and created nature in terms of the concepts of containment and Divine image.


Man, Man, God and Nature

After discussing the concepts of totality and ontology in the second chapter we have presented in the three chapters that followed, a comparative analysis of the nature of God, of the primordial causes and spatio-temporal world in relationship with God in terms of participation and theophany. A discussion of the world without a substantial account of the nature of man and his place vis a vis God and created nature would be wanting. In the present chapter we discuss man according to Eriugena and Ibn Arabi>. However, we are not going to, and cannot possibly within the scope of this short chapter, present all anthropological views of these two thinkers. We shall remain content, rather, with their views on man in relation on the one hand to God, and on the other to cosmos.

7.1 Man and Nature in Eriugena

7.1.1 Theory of Universal Human Containment
Eriugena presents man not as one isolated being among others but in relation, on the one hand, to God and on the other to the created nature. This is shown first and foremost by the very definition that Eriugena offers us for man, namely, notio in mente divina, i.e. a notion in the mind of God. (DDN IV: 768B) It is shown secondly, by Eriugenas adherence to and use of the traditional concept of human deiformity, i.e. creation upon Divine image or form. On the other hand the keyword for the Man-Cosmos relation in Eriugena is containment, the doctrine that man contains all the created nature.

173 It would have been appropriate from the point of view of systematic treatment to discuss first man-God relationship in terms of deiformity and proceed then to man-world relationship. However this strategy is unfortunately difficult to follow since in Eriugena human deiformity and containment are interconnected in a complex explanatory relation to each other. In view of this difficulty let us take up the discussion from the side of containment. The strategy of treating man-nature relationship before man-God relation although a result of a difficulty is nonetheless justified since nature mediates God and man in the sense that man reaches God through himself and through Nature, as we are taught both by Eriugena and Ibn Arabi>. The leading question in the discussion of containment is related to its modality, i.e. how everything is contained in man? Throughout his discourse on the doctrine of containment Eriugena attempts to remain grounded in the Scripture in addition to reason and tradition (i.e. the Church Fathers). Thus he refers to Scriptural text to the interpretation of Six Divine Days of creation, Gods creating Adam last of all creature and inviting him to name all the things. At one occasion he refers to the commandment Preach the Gospel to every creature. (DDN IV: 760A) If preaching to man is considered tantamount to preaching to every creature by the Scripture then it is implied that every creature is in man. Now, although he would provide a detailed discourse into the question of modality of containment later on, Eriugena does attempt to make sense of the doctrine in its very first statement. This attempt is made with reference to the obvious fact that man shares some of his characteristics with each of two fundamental categories of creation. On the authority of Saint Maximus the Confessor Eriugena says that in as much as his body man possesses the characteristics of sensible creatures but inasmuch as his soul, those of the intelligible creatures thus, he contains within him all

174 creation. (See DDN II: 530C) Commenting on the same masters words he has written that human nature supplies a middle term between the sensible and intelligible creatures which are opposed to one another as the extreme terms of created natures, for in it they are joined to one another and from being many become one. (See ibid.) According to the Homily also, man represents medietas between matter and spirit and is posited as the third world (Tertius mundus) which brings in itself (unum facit lit. unifies) soul (anima) and the body (corpus), the former from the spiritual world while latter from the corporeal world. (Hom. XIX: 0294B) Since in man every creature from the highest to the lowest is found, he is called agent of (continuity of) all things. (See DDN II: 530C-531A) For the same reason he is termed the conjunction of the extremities of all creation and the workshop of everything (DDN IV: 893C) Eriugena, however, does not like to use the term microcosm for man (DDN IV: 793C). This he does following Gregory of Nyssa who did not want to use that term since that would downplay human deiformity. At 793C Eriugena has quoted from Gregory of Nyssays De Hominis Opificio where the latter has criticized the usage of microcosmos for man. It seems that Gregory is against this usage not because he thinks that man is not a microcosm, rather he is against considering mans greatness to lie in his likeness to the created world rather than having been created according to the image of the Creator of Nature (IV: 794A). Therefore, using microcosm for human being will not be disapproved of by Gregory, and following him by Eriugena, if it is placed beneath the concept of imago dei and is not made the principal reason for human dignity. This also shows that an overemphasis on the continuity of the theme of containment from middle ages to Renaissance, as is done by

175 Dermot Moran,`250 is somewhat misplaced. It disregards the break between the medieval conception of containment that was connected to homo imago dei motif and the Renaissance appropriation of the idea that was humanistic and sought to make man master of the universe in isolation from his Divine roots. Now a more sophisticated explanation, or what Gracia calls ontological characterization251 of the precise nature of containment is called for since man is also part of the created nature himself. Thus we find the Alumnus confused as to how to make sense of this doctrine of containment: In what way are all things created in man, and how do they subsist in him? Are they in him simply as essence, or simply as accidents, or do they play in him all the roles which we observe in universal creation, that is, essence, species, difference, property and everything which is understood to relate to them? (DDN IV: 764C) Eriugena finds it difficult to give a rational answer to this question since if one responds that everything was created in man simply as essence, this leads to the dilemma of either leaving things which are understood to relate to essence or substance out of the universe of things (Ibid.) or contradict the basic claim that nothing whatsoever among created things is excluded from containment in human being. (DDN 536B) The second option, that not only the essences but all things which are understood to naturally relate to them are from God and to be numbered among parts of the whole leads likewise to unacceptable consequence of mans containing bestiality, quadrupidality, volatility and all the other innumerable attributes which seem to be so far removed from human nature (DDN IV: 765B) So how is it that everything is created in man after all?
250 251

See The Philosophy , 173-174. G.J. E Gracia, Ontological Characterization of the Relation between Man and Created Nature in

Eriugena, Journal of the History of Philosophy, XVI (1978), 155-166.

176 At this crucial point in the argument Eriugena turns away from the external world of essences and properties to the internal world of knowledge and imagination. The argument is founded on a statement made by alumnus himself to the effect that everything which is known by the intellect or the reason or imagined by the senses can somehow be created in the knower and perceiver (DDN IV: 765C). It is agreed in the subsequent steps of the argument that knowledge of things made in the soul is not only of a different ontological order than the objects of knowledge themselves (Ibid) but of higher one as well, inasmuch as they are in a better nature, namely the minds that understands, but the relation between this knowledge and the things themselves which are its objects I do not fully grasp. (DDN IV: 766A-766B) At this point the Nutritor suddenly embarks upon the discussion of the relation between man and arts. This digression is related firstly in an indirect way to the confession made by the Alumnus in his initial statement at DDN 765C since the relationship between man and art is equivalent to that between objects and their notions. Secondly, as the discussion below shows, through the discussion of arts-minds relationship Eriugena will give us his final answer to the basic question under debate, namely, the way everything was created in man. Now, as Eriugena proceeds to explain in the discussion that follows that art is nothing other than the notions of things252 the relation of art to man is presented as that of a substantial part to a whole. (DDN IV: 767D) Consequently a conception of human nature emerges according to which it consists of human mind, its art and the skill that it needs to acquire the latter (Ibid).

It has been stated that this is a trinity of

Mind of co-essential and co-substantial members in the same way that God the
252 253

Gracia, Ontological Characterization, 161. See ibid. 162

177 Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are coequal members of the Trinity.254 This interpretation, which is justified by the reference to Catholic Faith made in the passage immediately following those words (DDN IV: 768A), has the additional merit of showing how Eriugena considers the nature of human mind a theophanic reflection of Divine nature, in accordance with the God-world relationship discussed in the previous chapter.255 The trinity of mind is identified with the notion of man possessed by God and eventually man is defined as certain intellectual notion formed eternally in the Divine mind. (768B)

7.1.2 Containment and Human SelfSelf-Knowledge

Now Gracia has made a problematic out of this definition of man by considering it to imply a most curious but at the same time important consequence namely that, because he is a notion, man cannot know himself, for to do so would necessitate that he contain the notion of man, that is himself, and that would be contradictory.256 Gracia thinks that Eriugena himself has put this point clearly at the end of 767D, as quoted by him with certain words omitted, the human mind understands through its art and it is understood in its art not in terms of what it is , but that it is; otherwise it would not be a coessential and coequal trinity. Now we would like to disagree with Gracias reading of Eriugena. It seems that he has unnecessarily interpreted Eriugena as denying the possibility of human self-knowledge as such. For, a milder conclusion can be drawn which both does justice to the text of what Eriugena says and saves from any contradiction as well. Eriugena has said in clearer statement on the issue at hand that It is only the Mind of God which possesses in Itself the true knowledge (notitiam veram)
254 255 256

Ibid. This theme in Eriugena is briefly discussed below under the subject of Six days of creation. Ibid. 163.

178 of man. (DDN IV: 768 A) Now the knowledge of man that is exclusively possessed by Divine mind according to this statement of Eriugena is perfect knowledge of human nature and this does not exclude the possibility of human self-knowledge as such. This is implied by the italicized word true in the statement just quoted. This interpretation is vindicated; moreover, by Eriugenas explicit provision that although there was in human nature the potency of possessing the fullest knowledge of itself had it not sinned, the desire for bliss that remains in post-fall human nature would not have been there if she had lost all knowledge of herself and her God. (See DDN IV: 777C-D) Anyway the impossibility of true self-knowledge does not imply any imperfection on the part of human being. It rather is a requirement of human deiformity, It is this which reveals most clearly the Image of God to be in man. For just as God is comprehensible in the sense that He can be deduced from His creation that He is, and incomprehensible because it cannot be comprehended by any intellect what He is so to the human mind it is given to know one thing only, that it isbut as to what it is no sort of notion is permitted it. (DDN IV: 771B-C) Again, Nor is this unreasonable. For if it were known to be something, then at once it would be limited by some definition and thereby cease to be a complete expression of the Image of its Creator (DDN IV: 771D) Hence Brian Stocks conclusion257 that inasmuch as it bears the image of God, human mind does not know itself and inasmuch as it does not bear that image, it has self-knowledge, makes more sense in the light of our reading of Eriugena. On the one hand it shows the connection of human self-knowledge with human deiformity and


See Brian Stock, The Philosophical Anthropology of Johannes Scottus Eriugena, Studi Medievali,

ser. 3a 8 (1967), 22.

179 on the other hand tells us that the lack of self-knowledge does not imply imperfection but dignity. Besides, if one grants the conclusion drawn by Gracia, namely that according to Eriugena man cannot know himself, it would seem curious that Eriugena himself is trying to define man and at the same time saying that man cannot be known. Be that as it may, this discussion of mind and art has established the essential relation between man (i.e. human mind) and his knowledge of the things.

7.1.3 Containment in the Light of Holy Scripture

Let us now go back to the original question regarding the modality of containment in the light of above discussion. The reasoning from 768 C onwards starts by showing that there is a kind of concept in man of all the sensible and intelligible things the human mind understands. This premise is based on an interpretation of the Holy Scripture according to which man has been given dominion over everything. The Scriptural passage referred to is Genesis: 2: 19 which reads, Therefore having formed out of the earth every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens The Lord God brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever he called every living soul that is its name. According to Eriugenas own commentary, firstly, being able to name the things implies a prior understanding of them (IV: 768D); secondly, whatever name man gave to an object is the very notion of that object (name = notion); thirdly, the notion of an object may be called its substance, for where they are comprehended, there they are; and they are nothing other than the understanding of themselves. Hence, every creature is created as substance in man. (DDN IV: 772A) The argument thus constructed gives us Eriugenas final answer as to how does man contain everything. One logical gap, however, must be pointed out in this scripturally reasoned argument.

180 What Eriugena seeks to show is a universal proposition, namely, every creature is created/contained in/by man and the scriptural text seems not to warranty this universal containment even granted the interpretation Eriugena offers for it. For, the Genesis text does not talk about every creature but only about beasts and birds and at the end explicitly limits its import to the living. It seems that Eriugena was aware of this logical gap in his argument to a certain degree since in the next passage he claims that the scope of human knowledge extends from animals to similar things such as the elements of the world, the genera and species of grasses and trees, quantities and qualities and all the innumerable multitude of differentiations. (DDN IV: 769B) Although this statement bespeaks of an awareness of a logical gap in the argument from Genesis 2: 19 to universal containment theory, it does nothing to fill it. Eriugena might have filled the gap if, for instance, he held, like Ibn Arabi,258 that there is nothing among the creatures which is not alive. Anyhow, the argument is recast at 774A, this time with an emphasis upon hierarchy of mind, notions and things: Furthermore, if the things themselves subsist more truly in the notions of them than in themselves, and the notions of them are naturally present to man, therefore in man are they universally created. This passage also points to another possible argument from the fact that everything Returns to its Creator via man which implies that everything must already be in man. Eriugena then tries to clarify a confusion regarding what has been said so far. The alumnus inquires in what way every creature is created in man seeing that man


Ibn Arabi> says basing himself as usual upon the Qura>n that since everything sings glory of God, there

is nothing that is not alive. Fus}us >, } 69 consequently he refuses to consider rationality (in the sense of being able to speak) a defining characteristic of humanity since in the universe there is nothing which is not alive and rational.

181 himself was created last of all? This question is especially interesting since Eriugena wanted the fact that man was created last of all to imply that all was created in man. The Alumnus, however, is pitching the very premise against the conclusion Eriugena wants to draw from it (vide e.g., DDN IV: 782 C-D). The Nutritor starts a lengthy discourse in response to the question raised, but what we are interested in here is the way we can make sense of Eriugenas position on the temporal sequence of creation of everything. For in addition to accepting the Scriptural assertion of mans creation being the last as it is, he also says that there was, then, no creature, either visible or invisible before the creation of manneither in place nor in time nor in rank nor in birth nor in eternity nor, in a word, in any order of precedence. (IV: 779D) Does Eriugena contradict himself at this point? There is a way in which we can reconcile these two positions. It would appear from a careful reading of DDN IV: 781D to 786B that Eriugena does not divide creation-process into two phases, one consisting of creation of everything other than man and the other of creation of man himself. On the other hand, he simply takes the whole work of six days to be the process of creation of man himself in two phases. The work of first five days was in fact non-manifest creation of man while the sixth day was the day of manifest creation of man. Speaking of the Sixth Day Eriugena writes, Thus man himself, whose creation is detail by detail mystically foreshadowed in the contemplations of the Divine Act referred to before, seeing that all the foregoing were created in him and with him, not in chronological order but the order in which causes flow forth into their effects, is at last manifestly formed as the climax of the whole universe (785D: emphasis added) In this light it can safely be said that Eriugenas position on the sequence of creation is not inconsistent.


7.1.4 Containment and Six Days of Creation

Now the final point worth discussing under the subject of universal human containment is to show in detail how everything mentioned to have been created on each of the Six Days can be seen to exist in man. Eriugena introduces this detailed discussion as part of response to a question asked by the Alumnus as to why is man not introduced at the very beginning of the contemplative Act of the whole creation, instead of at the conclusion of all? (DDN IV: 782A). Now according to Eriugenas interpretation of Genesis, creation of Light on the First day means creation of the principal part of man, the most sublime light that is to say, intellect and reason together with the angelic nature. (DDN IV: 783C). Creation of the firmament on the Second Day is not specifically interpreted to be in human nature but simply a rhetorical question is asked, Do we not recognize that the firmament is established in the essence of man? (DDN IV: 783A-B) On the Third Day two elements of human nature namely stability of substance and instability of accidents are signified to be created by two words respectively, Dry Land and Waters. The Sun, Moon and Stars reported to have been created on the Fourth Day are declared to be metaphorical expressions for three modes of sensation which are established in human nature. The first mode likened to the Sun is that which without danger of error announces to the mind the species of the sensibles since it does not deceive the mind but with all brightness of the sun uncovers every sensible species. (DDN IV: 783C-D) The second mode, likened to the Moon, is one through which the mind is often deceived and consequently it cannot easily form true judgments upon objects it receives through sense. (DDN IV: 783D) The third mode of sensation admits to the mind, in multiplicity and accumulation, numbers of sensible forms and attempts by means of certain logical processes, to make statements which will to some extent resemble the truth. (784B). This mode is likened to the stars since

183 it offers sometimes opinions which like bright stars, show a degree of clarity and proximity to the truth; sometimes opinions that are more obscure and farther from truth, like dimmer stars. (Ibid) Since these modes of sensation have been classed according to the degree of certainty and clarity of data achieved through them, they can be seen to form a spectrum the one extreme of which is the first mode that always gives certain and true knowledge and on the other is the second mode which always deceives while the third mode comes in the middle since sometimes it gives true knowledge and sometimes it deceives. Eriugena thinks that the fact that the bodily senses are signified by the greater things of the world, namely the celestial bodies implies human dignity since the unity of man is greater than the whole universe. (DDN IV: 784D) The creation of creeping things of the sea and birds of the air on the fifth day signifies a further distribution within sensation since it is not confined to man but is shared by other animals too. We have already seen the way creation of man on sixth day fits in with the preceding five days. We also find a numeric symbolism in Eriugenas attempt to relate the creation of everything to that of man. The creation of exterior sense of man, symbolized by creation of sun, moon and stars, was mentioned by the Scripture to have taken place on the fourth day since human body to which sense is attached is composed out of four elements. (DDN IV: 783C) Likewise, the creation of sense common to all nature was on the fifth day since the sense itself is fivefold. (Ibid. IV: 785C)

7.1.5 Unity and Trinity: Divine and Human Human

We observed in our discussion of trinity of mind that Eriugena impliedly asserts a parallel between Divine trinity and human nature. In fact Eriugena addresses Divine trinity in connection with human nature a bit more explicitly after treating of the Six

184 Divine Days of Creation and tries to infer unequalled human dignity. He notes that the reference to Holy Trinity in the account of creation of all things before that of man is only implicit and can be read between the lines. In the words In the beginning God created Heaven and Earth, God the Father is implied by God, Son by the beginning while Holy Spirit is mentioned a little latter in the words, And the Spirit of God brooded over the waters. However when it comes to the creation of man on the sixth day both the Unity and the Trinity of the Divine Nature are stated most explicitly, the unity in the words and He said while in the plural verb Let Us make are expressed the three substances of the One Essence. (786B-C) It is not clear how one could differentiate the references in these texts to Trinity by calling one implied and the other most explicit. However the reading of trinity in verses relating story of creation of other beings is allegorical with a certain amount of arbitrariness while it is symbolic in the case of verse relating the story of mans creation and required by an interpretational exigency. Gracias paper on the ontological characterization of containment concluded that according to Eriugena What is created in man is not things (i.e. what Aristotle called

individuals or primary substances) or their characteristics, but the notions of things

therefore, rather the notions (notitiae) of things and their accidents find a place in the human mind.259 While this cannot be dismissed as invalid conclusion it must be pointed out that in Eriugenas philosophy there is no hard dichotomy between notions and primary substances as is implied by Gracias conclusion. Eriugena identifies substance with notion therefore when he predicates notion to something that does not necessarily exclude the application of substance to it. Thus, while it is true that


Gracia, Ontological Characterization, 160.

185 man contains everything in the sense of having their notion, it does not prevent Eriugena to state that every creature is created as substance in man.(DDN IV: 722A) Keeping in view this Eriugenian understanding of substance if we are asked whether creatures are found in man in the sense of notions or substances, the answer would be, in both senses. Moreover, Eriugenas identification of creatures created in the five days with things in human nature gives a third category to characterize containment, namely, metaphor. When Eriugena likens, for example, the Sun, moon and stars with three modes of human sensations and claims that these three celestial bodies are created in human nature this means that it has their notions neither directly nor indirectly (i.e. through saying that they substantially exist in human nature) rather a characteristic of human nature is just being likened to something non-human. Therefore, if we are to take the treatment of Six Days in book four of DDN seriously, Eriugenas position on how every creature is contained in man is much more complex. Whatever analysis anyway is given to the doctrine of containment, its importance in Eriugenian system cannot be denied. It is this doctrine, for one thing, which explains why the function of bringing everything back to its creator should be assigned to man. (vide DDN IV: 900D) It seems, however, that the logical relation between containment and return via man is presented from both sides, that is, as implying and being implied by each other. Same circularity of argument can be observed in the attempts to relate containment to human deiformity. One reason as to why he wished to create all creation in him? is that He wished to make him in His image and likeness, so that, just as the Primal Archetype transcends everything by the excellence of His essence so His image should transcend all created things in dignity and grace. (DDN IV: 764B; Also see IV: 795). Earlier in book II, however, Eriugena has already

186 said man was made among primordial causes in the image of God that in him every creature both intelligible and sensible of which he is composed as of various extremes should become an inseparable unity, and that he should be the mediating term and unification of all creatures. (536B) Obviously, in the former text containment is the means for human deiformity while in the latter it is the other way round.

7.2 Ibn Arabi> on Man as Microcosm

Three concepts are central to Ibn Arabi>s view on the relationship between God, man and the world: firstly, that man was created upon Divine image, secondly, that he is Gods vicegerent upon earth and finally that he is microcosm. Here there is considerable resonance between the thought of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> not only in broader outlines but in certain important details as well, for instance, the scriptural groundedness of these concepts, explanation of their meaning and their implications. Although, Eriugena does mention occasionally the concept of human dominion over all creatures he does not seem to make too much of it in his philosophical anthropology. However, this is a negligible difference since, as we shall see, in Ibn Arabi> the concept of human vicegerency is given the same explanation as that of human deiformity and consequently these two can be submerged. Accordingly, we will not discuss this topic separately but will refer to it in our discussion of human deiformity. Although he is able to infer the containment doctrine from some of the Qura>nic passages and Prophetic traditions, it is the concept of human deiformity that is more explicitly grounded in the Islamic sources.

7.2.1 The Scriptural Basis

The Human being that is Adam comprises of the World as a whole since He is the small man and a summary of the Macrocosm, writes Ibn Arabi>. (Fut. II: 124; Also see

Fus}. 49-50) As usual he takes care to ground himself in the Revelation and refers to the

187 Qura>n 41:53 We shall show them Our signs in the Horizons and within their own souls and comments so that they know that human being is a summary ( )of the World consisting of the signs that are in the World. (Ibid. II: 150) He also invites us to note that this Qura>nic verse mentions the horizons, that is, the external world, prior to the souls, that is, the inner world which is to show the precedence of the world over human being. (See ibid. II: 151) Another Qura>nic teaching that Ibn Arabi> appropriates to shed light on the microcosm theory is that which states that God created Adam with His two Hands. God asked Ibli>s, What prevented you from prostrating yourself to him whom I created with My two hands? (38:75) Ibn Arabi> thinks that creation with two hands implies that God gave human nature all realities of the world and manifested Himself for it through all the Divine Names. Consequently human nature possesses both the Divine image and the Worldly image. He also thinks that man is to the world like the human soul is to the human body. Thus if Man departs the world, the world dies. (Fut. II: 468; Also see Fus}: 54-55) Apart from being a clue to the scriptural ground of the notion, here we come across some other important points relevant from the standpoint of comparison with Eriugenian anthropology. Firstly, by referring to the Divine names, Ibn Arabi> points towards an explanation of the meaning of mans being a microcosm. Secondly, he also points towards the intermediary status occupied by man which is one of the reasons for human configuration to be the most universal of all configurations. Thirdly, and finally, here there is also a hint toward the eschatological significance of human micro-cosmic status, although Ibn Arabi> does not seem to provide further theoretical elaboration of that point. This parallels the Eriugenian view that everything in this world returns to God through man since man contains everything.


7.2.2 How is Man a Microcosm?

Ibn Arabi> writes at one place, When God created the World as the Great Man and made Adam and his progeny a summary of this world and for this reason gave him All the Names, that is, all the names attending to existtiation ( )of the world ... The world, therefore, as a whole is Great Man () . (Fut. 3: 74) All the Names, refer, of course, to the words of the Qura>n, He taught Adam the Names, all of them. (2:31) These words echo, with certain important differences, Genesis 2:19 viz. The Lord God brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever he called every living soul that is its name. Hence it is interesting to notice that parallel scriptural passages are being interpreted identically by Eriugena and Ibn Arabi>. We have described in the previous chapter how Ibn Arabi> considers everything in the world to be a theophany, i.e. manifestation of one or more of the Divine Names. Mans being microcosm or the worlds being Great Man is to be understood as mans uniquely and absolutely having share in all Divine names or being the locus of manifestation of all of them.260 Ibn Arabi> makes the point sometimes by drawing our attention to the particular Divine Name, Alla>h, which occurs in the h}adi>th about Adams creation upon Divine image. This name is the most comprehensive names and all other Divine names are included in it and attributed to it.

7.2.3 Man as Intermediary

Let us dwell a little more on the consequences of the facet of human nature just alluded to. Human beings having share in all Divine names make the human configuration the most perfect of configurations (( ) Fut. II: 103). Like Eriugena Ibn Arabi>


Since the same explanation holds for the concept of human deiformity we will have the occasion to

further elaborate these points in the next subsection.

189 emphasizes at a number of occasions mans intermediary status` by calling him an Isthmus (). For instance he considers the Perfect Man as the middle ( )that separates within the Divine Presence, the Manifest ( )and the Non-Manifest (), hence, being a barzakh whose one face is turned towards the Manifest and the other towards the Non-Manifest, he is the Real since he appears with the Divine Names

and he is creature since he appears with the reality of contingency. (See Fut. II: 391)
This double nature of human being according to Ibn Arabi> can be considered to parallel Eriugenas notion of double nature of man as both an animal and not an animal with noticing the difference that Ibn Arabi> is presenting both aspects of human nature within the Divine presence, leaving no room for disparaging the creaturely aspect. He also writes that since God has taught man all the names and gave him the AllComprehensive words ( ) man brought-together-in-himself image of the Real and image of the World. In this way he constitutes an intermediary between God and the World. (See Fut. III: 298) Here Ibn Arabi> can be seen as taking one step ahead of Eriugena who maintained that man, being intermediary, combines in himself two sorts of creatures, intellectual and material while Ibn Arabi> is proposing for human nature a more comprehensive status by considering it to be combining within itself both Divine and cosmic images.

7.2.4 Man: the Final Creature

We saw Eriugena repeatedly referring to the fact that Man was created after everything else in support of his notion of universal human containment. Likewise Ibn Arabi> repeatedly points out the fact that man is the final of creatures and connects this to the doctrine of microcosm. Thus he says, Man, therefore, is the Small world, while the world is Great Man so Man is the last begotten in the world that God has created as

190 bringing together the realities of the whole world. (Fut. II: 150; Also see II: 396) One favorite phrase used by Ibn Arabi> to express the idea that everything of the created world is contained within human being is that man was created upon the image of World or vice versa: He originally is upon the image of the World whose image is after that of the Exalted One, so everything is upon His image. (Ibid. III: 343; See also II: 512 and II: 652) In the context of six days of creation Ibn Arabi> says about Friday that the reason for its eminence is that it is the day on which this human configuration was created for the sake of which the creatures were created from Sunday to Thursday. (Fut. I: 466) It goes without saying that here Ibn Arabi> comes closest to Eriugenian interpretation of the Six days of creation. Moreover, we saw Eriugena referring to the words of Bible Preach the Gospel to every creature. (760A) impliedly taking them to mean that every creature is in man. Interestingly Ibn Arabi> has said something so relevant that it seems almost a gloss on Eriugenas use of these Biblical words in the context of containment. Ibn Arabi> writes about man that certainly he is the sum total of all realities of the world so he who addresses man addresses the whole world. (Fut. II: 95)

7.2.5 Microcosm: Problems of labeling

Finally we have to deal with a critical issue of this comparative analysis of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> on the containment doctrine. This issue concerns Eriugenas and before him St. Gregory of Nyssas refusal to call man microcosm and Ibn Arabi>s applying this label to man. Ibn Arabi> would not disagree with the claim that the principal reason for human excellence is not the fact that man contains everything but that this eminence consists rather in human deiformity: You must know next that certainly Allah has created man upon the best of moulds by virtue of the image (s}ur > ah) with which He has

191 distinguished him, and it is this (image) which has bestowed upon him this rank. (Fut. II: 616) He would however have disagreed with Gregory of Nyssas disparaging attitude towards the world vis. a vis. man. We find him very careful about mans being apex of all creation that it should not lead him to disparage, enslave and exploit the world. He therefore points out at one place the perspective from which the world has a rank higher than that of the human beings: Man, therefore, has no eminence over the world as a whole, rather the world is more eminent than man since it is a degree above man that is (the fact that) man was created out of the Macrocosm so it is a degree of causality above him because he was begotten from it. So it is mandatory for man to exalt his parents and the world, all of it, is its mother. (Fut. III: 11). For the sake of explanation of this point one can use the whole-part symbolism and point out that although a whole is greater than its parts nonetheless it is a whole thanks to its parts. Hence although man is a world apart and everything other than him is (not the whole world but) a part of the world. (Fut. I: 67) Although the world is created due to man upon Divine image and if the world is deprived of man, it would not be upon the image. (Fut. III: 107), there is no reason for holding the cosmos in contempt.

7.3 Human Deiformity: Eriugena on God and Man

7.3.1 Preliminary: Scriptural Basis
The Bible tells us that God said Let us make man in our image and likeness. (Genesis 1: 26) Eriugena makes this concept an important part of his philosophical anthropology since he logically connects, as we saw above, the containment of every creature in man to this very doctrine. The central critical issue of Eriugenas treatment of imago dei from the standpoint of our present interest is the precise meaning of human creation upon Divine image with a number of questions to which this gives rise, for instance,

192 whether or not the whole human nature participates in it, why was man so created, does deiformity extend to the whole humanity or simply to Christ and what metaphysical principles are involved in the notion. Many other peculiar Eriugenian doctrines emerge as episodes of the attempt to make sense of his position, for instance, interpretation of the original sin, the fall, spiritual body, the nature of paradise etc. We, however, cannot discuss these in this subsection and will be content with the questions just mentioned.

7.3.2 Human Body and Deiformity

Just as man mediates intelligible and sensible creatures he combines within his nature the characteristics of animals and those of celestial essences. Hence he both is and is not an animal (animal est, animal non est). There is, thus, a double nature261 to man.
For when consideration is given to his body, his nutritive Life Force, to his senses, and to his memory of sensible and to all his irrational appetites such as rage and covetousness, he is altogether an animal... but in his nature which consists of reason and mind, and the interior sense, with all their rational motions which are called virtues and with the memory of the eternal and Divine things, he is altogether other than animal. (DDN IV: 752C-D)

These two aspects of human nature Eriugena terms Outer man/Animal Man and Inner Man/Spiritual Man referring to St. Paul who uses the words animalis

homo and spiritualis homo at 1 Cor. 2:14-16. (DDN IV: 753A-B) To the double
nature of man corresponds his double creation: That in him which resembles the animals was created with the animals and that which resembles spiritual creatures was created with the spiritual creatures. (Ibid. IV: 753C) Thus emerges Eriugenas answer to one of the important questions raised above: it is only mans interior and intellectual nature which is made in the image of God, as far


On this point see Brian Stock, The Philosophical Anthropology of Johannes Scottus Eriugena, 13-14.

193 as his exterior, his body, is concerned, it is external to human nature which is made in the image of God and is superimposed upon it because of our sin. (Ibid. IV: 799D) Moreover, the division of human beings into male and female is also not part of deiformity but a consequence of Sin. (See ibid. IV: 827A) Gregory of Nyssa, whom we shall find Eriugena quoting at length, has in fact said that the qualities of being male and female are alien from the properties of God. (Ibid. IV: 795B) The correspondence between inner/ outer dichotomy and male/female one is worthy of notice since it becomes the foundation of an allegory that Eriugena presents while interpreting the Scriptural passages about Adam, Eve and the Serpent. Eriugena writes: And the ancient enemy would not have access to the male part of the soul that is the mind which is created in the image of God, unless first he had seduced the corporeal sense, which is, so to speak, a woman. (DDN IV: 847C) Hence in the story of the fall inner man/ outer man dichotomy is synonymous with male/female dichotomy. Hence it is not complete human being, the complete workshop that is created upon Divine image according to Eriugena but only one aspect of it. What about the fact that Man committed the sin after a body was attached to him and was divided into sexes? Eriugena has to reply first with the doctrine that all things were created at one and the same time. (DDN IV: 807B) The two creations, therefore, took place simultaneously. Secondly, he has to tell us that in view of His foreknowledge at the same time that God created man He created the consequences of his sin even before he sinned. (See ibid. IV: 807C). Thirdly, in an implied contradiction to Augustine, and perhaps to himself as well, Eriugena is not ready to believe that the body that was attached originally to Adam was this very material and earthly body

194 rather it was a spiritual body. He speaks of this body in an eloquent passage consisting of contrasts between pre-fall and post-fall human bodies. (See ibid. IV: 760A-C) Since Eriugena has provided for man being everywhere a whole in himself the Alumnus thinks that it follows that the whole image must subsist in the whole animal and the whole animal in the whole Image throughout the whole man. (Ibid. IV: 759A) In response Eriugena claims that it is here precisely that the image and likeness of God in human nature can be recognized and seeking help of the superlative theology attempts to show that just as by being whole in all things He does not cease to be whole beyond all things in the same way human nature is in its own world. For even the lowest and least valuable part, the body is according to its own principles whole in whole man, for the body, insofar as it is truly body, subsists in its own principles which were made at the beginning of creation. (Ibid. IV: 759B) Hence, to the question whether man was created upon Divine image in his whole being (body as well as higher intellectual nature) Eriugena would like to give a Yes and No answer just like he gives in response to questions about predicating attributes to the Divine Essence. This last mentioned fact mitigates Eriugenas otherwise disparaging attitude towards human body. He moreover is careful not to seem attacking wedlock and the procreation of children in his maintaining that the division of human nature into male and female were the penalties for transgression. He explains that not only he does not attack these institutions rather praises them since they are permitted and ordained by God. (See ibid IV: 846D-847 B)

7.3.3 Which man was made upon Divine Image?

Eriugena gives a rather long quotation from Saint Gregory of Nyssas De Hominis

Opificio (On the making of Man) (DDN IV: 793C-797D) and it is through this quotation

195 that one can see most clearly how Eriugena would characterize human deiformity, since the latter does not disagree on any point with what he cites. St. Gregory poses the question how an unhappy thing can be called by Holy Scripture a similitude of what is Divine and blessed? (Ibid. IV: 794D) and answers, That which was made in the image is one thing and that which is shown now to be in unhappiness another (Ibid. IV: 795A). It is implied by the explanation that he gives for this in the light of a careful analysis of Genesis 1:26-27, that it was Jesus Christ, the Logos, which was made upon the Image of God and not the fallen human beings, the creation of whom, he thinks is intended in particular by Genesis 1: 27, Male and Female created He Them (Ibid), While in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female. (Ibid) Strangely, contrary to the point made here, we find Gregory going on to show that Divine image does extend to whole of humanity. He first of all draws attention to the fact that man instead of Adam is mentioned in the Genesis (Ibid. IV: 797A) and secondly that mind is allotted to all men alike (Ibid. IV: 797B-C) and concludes that the man who was revealed in the first constitution of the world and the man who is to come after the consummation of all things both equally bear within them the Divine Image. (DDN IV: 797C). There seems to be considerable ambivalence as to who precisely was made upon the Divine image in the passages quoted by Eriugena although the latter does not take any notice of it and proceeds to cite another passage from the same book on the issue of male-female differentiation. The considerations made until this point in the present subsection were mainly of a negative nature in the sense that they purported to show that according to Eriugena human deiformity does not extend to certain elements of human nature. It is necessary now to attend to the positive side of the subject and attempt to understand what it really

196 means for the human being to have been created upon Divine image in positive terms in addition to the fact that the higher reaches of human nature participate in the imago dei.

7.3.4 Why and how man was made upon the Divine Image?
The real attempt at explaining the meaning of human deiformity is made by Gregory with reference to Divine Nature in general and Divine Goodness in particular. Since God creates human life for no other reason than that well-being should be its property and since God is free of stinginess and envy, He implied a perfect power of goodness and He did not withhold full participation of man in all that He contains. This statement can become a compact answer to the question as to why God created man upon Divine if it is interpreted, as it must be, in the light of traditional principle that Good tends to communicate itself.262 In this light the meaning of saying that God created man upon His image means that He bestowed upon man all of His goodness, withholding nothing. The Scriptural passage informing us of human deiformity can be taken as summary of all good qualities that were given to human being. Thus,
The catalogue of individual goods is long and not easy to enumerate, Scripture indicates them all comprehensively by saying that man was made in the image of God. For by this is meant that he made human nature a participant in every good. For if God is the plenitude of good things and man is an image of God the image must resemble the Primal Exemplar in this respect also, that it is the plenitude of all good. (DDN IV: 795C-796A)

In chapter V of De Hominis Opificio Gregory has given some examples of the Divine qualities as they manifest themselves in us. God is mind and word and you see in yourself word and understanding, an imitation of the very Mind and word. God is love and the Fashioner of our nature has made this to be our feature too. Finally, the


We take this formulation of the principle from Frithjof Schuon.

197 Deity beholds and hears all things and searches all things out; you too have the power of apprehension of things by means of sight and hearing263 In this citation too Gregory is taking the view that Divine image is not the privilege of Logos only but extends to the whole genus of humanity, as the words in yourself, our feature and you too indicate.

7.3.5 The Metaphysical Principle of Deiformity

One metaphysical principle, namely, that the Good tends to communicate itself, has already been referred to supra in our comment on the first sentence of quotation from Gregory of Nyssa. Another related principle is firstly presupposed by his question how an unhappy thing can be called by Holy Scripture a similitude of what is Divine and blessed? and eventually is brought out at the end of the lines we quoted above. This is the principle that the image must resemble the Exemplar perfectly. Perfect image is defined as one which has all features common with the archetype (DDN IV: 822A) Eriugena asks, How would [the soul] be an image if in some aspect she differed from that of which she is the image? Except of course in relation of the subject about which we spoke in earlier books when we were discussing the Prototype or Principle-exemplar and its image. (DDN IV: 778A) As the ending of this rhetorical question indicates, the universal resemblance of image to its Archetype does not exclude difference between the two. Eriugena has stated that the Exemplar is subsisting through, by and in Himself, neither created nor formed nor changed by anything while the image is, created by Him Whose image it is, it has received being in accordance with its nature (Ibid) This fact must not be taken as a self-contradiction since firstly, both Gregory of Nyssa and Eriugena are

Gregory of Nyssa: Dogmatic Treatises etc.: On the Making of Man, (Grand Rapids, CCEL) p. 534

198 speaking simultaneously of all but two and not firstly of all and then of not the two differences. Secondly, it must be remembered as was said in a former chapter that this exception is not made arbitrarily but is required by the very nature of things. Although the image is image of the Exemplar, it still is image and not the Exemplar. In the language of superlative theology it would be more appropriate to say that the image both is and is not the Exemplar, the affirmation applies from the perspective of its being an image while the negation does from its not being the Exemplar.

7.4 Ibn Arabi> on al alal-S}ur > ah al -Ila>hiyyah

The central place of human deiformity in Ibn Arabi>s epistemology with special reference to his short treatise Insha> al-Dawa>ir has already been studied at length by Mastaka Takeshita.264 Our focus here, as in the previous chapters, will be on Ibn Arabi>s Futu>ha } t > with occasional references to Fus}us >. } In this section we make an attempt to find out responses to issues raised by its Eriugenian form. These include the scriptural foundations of the concept, its meaning, the question whether or not deiformity extends to the whole human race, the status of human body and the division of sexes, the metaphysical explanation of the deiformity and implications for the ethical realm. We begin our investigation of this topic with discussing Islamic foundations of the concept of human deiformity.

7.4.1 The Islamic Foundations Foundations of the Concept in Ibn Arabi>

Although the exact parallel of the Biblical homo imago dei is not found in the Qura>n Ibn Arabi> thinks it can be inferred from one of its verses. He therefore writes, He (i.e. God) said about man that He has created man in the best of moulds (( ) 95:4),

See his paper The Homo Imago Dei Motif and the Anthropocentric Metaphysics of Ibn Arabi> in the

Insha> al-Dawa>ir, in Orient: Report of the Society for Near Eastern Studies in Japan, XVIII (1982), 111129.

199 i.e. the mould upon which He has created man is more excellent than every other mould and this quality, due to which man was given excellence over others, would not become true except for Allahs creating him upon His form. (Fut. II: 683) Although the words more excellent than every other mould express comparative degree they really should be taken in the sense of superlative degree, above which no other degree exists since this is what is required by the grammatical form of the noun ah}san in the Qura>nic verse. This point is of importance because it makes possible the identification of Divine form to best of moulds. Ibn Arabi> himself has paid attention to this point by stating, So he (i.e. man) was upon the best of moulds not by (way of) comparison

} lah) rather it is the absolute goodness for the perfect servant like the absolute (mufa>da
majesty that is the Reals, so he is best of moulds not compared to this or that like the Real is Great (akbar) not in comparison with this or that. (Fut. II: 616) A more direct foundation for the concept of human deiformity, however, is a

h}adi>th according to which Prophet Muh}ammad (peace be upon him) forbade slapping
someone on his face saying Certainly Allah has created Adam upon His form.265 The context of this Prophetic text signals one important implication of human deiformity in Islam different from the Christian thought, especially Eriugena. That is, it implies the inclusion of human body in creation upon Divine form. Were it not for this fact it would have not been possible to extend the ethical repercussion to physical punishment. A comparison of the above quoted h}adi>th text with the Biblical text about creation on Divine image reveals another important difference which enables Ibn Arabi> to add an interpretational nicety. According to the Bible God spoke in the first person (our image) but in the h}adi>th we have the third person his. Ibn Arabi> thinks that this

Muslim, Al- Ja>mi al- S}ah}ih > , } Kita>b al- birr wa al-s}ilah, ba>b al-Nahy an d}arb al-wajh.

200 statement can be read and understood in two ways depending upon which noun one thinks is being qualified by the pronoun his in his form. In addition to the prevalent

imago dei reading one can interpret these words as God has created Adam upon
Adams Form, since grammatically a pronoun refers to a noun that is closest to it in a sentence. Although the context of the h}adi>th makes this interpretation a little odd Ibn Arabi>s explanation of it makes a lot of sense given the fact that Adam was the first human being directly created by God: he did not pass from one stage of creation to another like semen passes stage by stage from being water to being man, rather God created him as he appeared. (Fut. II: 124) One could add another interpretation of this second reading of the h}adi>th by saying that God created Adam into the spatio-temporal world according to the form Adam eternally had in Divine knowledge. Although Ibn Arabi> does not give this interpretation, it is based on his general doctrine of creation as bestowal of existence upon the fixed entities which are objects of Divine knowledge. In Eriugenian terminology, to say that God created Adam upon his image would mean that he created him firstly as a primordial cause and then he was created in this spatiotemporal world. Be that as it may, apart from the short passage just cited Ibn Arabi> always takes the h}adi>th to mean that Adam was created upon Divine form.

7.4.2 The Meaning of Deiformity

What does Ibn Arabi> understand by mans creation upon the image/form of God? His understanding of human deiformity is similar to the one cited by Eriugena from Saint Gregory of Nyssa according to which it means that God gave man all of his goodness. Ibn Arabi> asks us first of all to notice the particular Divine name that is mentioned in the h}adi>th informing us of human deiformity, that is Allah rather than Al-Qayyu>m or Al- Jabba>r etc. He therefore says, So Adam appeared upon the image of the name

201 Allah since that name encompasses all Divine names. (Fut. II: 124). Although everything in the world manifests some particular Divine quality, it is only the human configuration in which all Divine names manifest themselves since Allah taught Adam the Names, all of them, that is the Divine Names from which all the objects were created. (Fut. I: 216) As he understands it, one thing cannot be said to be upon the image of another unless it is identical to it in all respects. (See Fut. III: 344) Hence Ibn Arabi> shares with Eriugena, in general terms, the principle of image exemplar identity. In this context Ibn Arabi> builds upon another important Qura>nic concept i.e. human vicegerency () . Before creating Adam God said to the Angels I will create a vicegerent on earth. (II: 30) A vicegerent ( )cannot be properly so called unless he is given the qualities of the one whose vicegerent he is made: Vicegerency was for Adam over against other genera of the world in view of Allahs having created him upon his image as the vicegerent appears to what he has made vicegerent on, in the image of the one who made him vicegerent otherwise he would not be a vicegerent in them. (Fut. I: 263) In response to the question What characterizes Adam? he explains His characteristic attribute is the Divine Presence if you will or the totality of Divine names if you will. (Fut. I: 67) At another place we find him saying God created Adam upon His image that is, everything that applies to the Divine Presence applies both to the Small Man and the Great Man. (Fut. 2: 139) The Divine names obviously connote some qualities and mans manifesting the names means being able to realize those qualities. This fact becomes the foundation of an ethics based upon the concept of human deiformity. Ibn Arabi> has written, He, the Exalted One, did not name Himself with any of the Names except that He made a share from it for human being to assume its character trait (( )Fut. I: 124). We would say more about the ethical implications of this doctrine below.


7.4.3 Does the Divine image extend to all human beings?

With reference to a passage quoted by Eriugena from Saint Gregory we observed that although it was Christ and not the fallen human being that was made upon the Divine image the whole of humanity is included in the Divine image in a manner explained neither by Gregory nor by Eriugena. We have to see now who precisely was made upon the Divine image according to Ibn Arabi>. Unfortunately, his position on this question is as ambivalent as that of Eriugena since he seems to limit Divine image to the primordial Perfect Man and at the same time not only extends it to what he calls the Animal Man (al-insa>n al-haywa>n) but to the whole world. After looking at a few texts from Al-

Futu>ha } t > which underscore these two positions we would attempt to interpret the
ambivalence and see if that interpretation can be helpful in making sense of the viewpoint of St. Gregory/Eriugena as well. The assertion that Divine image is the privilege of the Perfect man in Ibn Arabi> is made possible in the first place by the Islamic textual foundation of the concept of human deiformity, i.e. the h}adi>th which, unlike the Bible, does not say that Man was created upon Divine image but uses the word Adam. This point is important for our comparative analysis because we have seen St. Gregory emphasizing and utilizing the fact that Biblical text uses the word man instead of Adam. It is also important since it would make it possible for Ibn Arabi> to be more explicit in limiting the Divine image to the Perfect Man which he identifies at Fut. II: 468 with Adam. Hence he says about the Perfect Man that no one contains the Divine image other than him. (Ibid. III: 282) Again, Certainly not every human being is upon the Image since there is the Animal Man as well as the Vicegerent Man. (Ibid. IV: 56) Animal man resembles the Perfect man in his external form but not otherwise just as a monkey resembles man in respect of all his external organs (Ibid. III: 266)

203 On the other hand we find Ibn Arabi> saying in so many words that the Divine image has a governing property (h}ukm)266 in every individual. (Ibid. III: 184) He also says in passing that not only the Perfect Man but his vicegerents (khulafa>uh) were also created upon the Divine image. (See ibid. III: 280) Even more interesting is the fact that he does not see any discrepancy between fallen mans ability to sin and the share he has out of deiformity. In Ibn Arabi>s opinion man is able to disobey his Lord only because he was created upon the Divine image. Is there any way to reconcile the two seemingly contradictory positions, holding on the one hand that a particular human being, whether Adam, Christ, Inner Man or Perfect man was created upon the Divine image and on the other hand that the image extends to the whole of humanity? One way to this reconciliation could be to opine that the primordial man enjoyed the Divine image to its absolute perfection while the rest of humanity has merely some share from it. On the basis of Ibn Arabi>s explication of deiformity in terms of the doctrine of Divine names, one could say that every human being including the primordial man has a share in some basic Divine attributes like Life, Knowledge, Power etc. while it is only the primordial man who has actualized all the rest of attributes as well. Other human beings have to struggle in order to realize those attributes. This interpretation is made plausible by reference to the final return of everything to the Divine Goodness according to Eriugenian thought and to the ethics of Divine names in Ibn Arabi> which we shall discuss below in section 7.4.8.


We have translated the word h}ukm here as governing property following William Chittick. For

various possible translations of this word see his Sufi Path of Knowledge, 48.


7.4.4 The Cosmic Deiformity

Ibn Arabi> stretches his doctrine of creation upon Divine image beyond humanity and states that the whole world was created upon Gods image (See Fut. II: 403; IV: 231) in the sense of manifesting the realities of the Divine Names (See ibid. II: 139). Lest it be thought that the concept of macrocosmic deiformity contradicts what Ibn Arabi> said elsewhere (i.e. Ibid. III: 8) about man being more perfect than everything, we would like to add Ibn Arabi>s argument that the World becomes perfect only when man is included in it and without Man it is imperfect. (Ibid. III: 343) The fact that there is no clash between human and cosmic deiformity can be seen through observing that Ibn Arabi> infers the former from the latter through the concept of containment. (See ibid.) The concept of macrocosmic deiformity is one of those important points where Ibn Arabi>s position diverges from that of Eriugena and his Cappadocian predecessor Gregory. As we noticed that Gregorys refusal to apply the term microcosm to man was based on contempt for the world as compared to man who is believed to be exclusively created upon Divine image. Ibn Arabi> however extends deiformity to include cosmos itself and this has profound ethical implication for the human behavior towards the world that surrounds us. Thus he goes beyond Eriugena on this point although both agree on the identification of creation with Divine self-manifestation and the general concept of theophany.

7.4.5 Human Body and deiformity

On the question of bodys participation in the Divine image Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> represent differing standpoints and this can easily be explained with reference to their different traditional backgrounds. We have seen that Eriugena does not think that

205 human deiformity extends to human body but holds that man was created upon the Divine image in his soul only, that body was attached to the soul as punishment for the Sin, although we also observed him making a comment which somewhat mitigates his negative attitude towards human body. We observed in the beginning of this section on Ibn Arabi> that the context of the h}adi>th about imago dei refers primarily to the physical part of human being. This fact coupled with the general non-disparaging view towards human body in Islam leaves no room for the exclusion of human body from deiformity. For Ibn Arabi> one factor adding to this difficulty is his doctrine, explored in the previous chapter, that whatever appears in this spatio-temporal world is rooted in the Divine Nature. Likewise there is nothing in the world without a share from the Divine form. (See ibid. II: 431) The existence of bodies is ontologically rooted in the Divine

> ir (the Manifest).(See ibid. II: 433) Far from being punishment and Name al-Z}ah
debasement it was out of Divine mercy that bodies were attached to the souls. (See ibid. III: 171) Ibn Arabi> would also differ on Eriugenas exclusion of bodily senses from deiformity. Referring to a h}adi>th in which God is reported to have said about the servant He loves that He becomes his hearing through which he hears and his eyesight through which he sees Ibn Arabi> draws our attention to the fact that God Almighty has mentioned the sensory form but did not describe Himself as rational, reflecting or imagining. (Ibid. III: 189). More particularly, he thinks that the human sensory faculties are rooted in the Divine nature just like everything else that exists. (Ibid.) There is one place where it might seem that Ibn Arabi> does hold the view that human body is excluded from deiformity.267 Speaking about the Angels objection to creation of Adam as vicegerent upon earth as mentioned in the Qura>n Ibn Arabi> writes,

We have analyzed Ibn Arabi>s views on body more fully in Ibn Arabi>s Metaphysics of Human

Body, in Islamic Studies, 46 (2007), 499-525.

206 (man) is not called khali>fah except through the perfection of Divine image that is why the Angels saw nothing of Adam except his dense, elemental, dark bodily and physical appearance and said what they said but when God informed them of perfection of image in it and asked them to prostrate before him, they hurried in prostrating before him. (Ibid. III: 156) However, the concern of this passage is the perfection of Divine form and not its existence or non-existence. Therefore, what this passage shows is not that the soul is deiform over against the body but that in the former Divine form is perfect while in the latter it is not. Another issue related to that of the human body vis. a vis. human deiformity is that of the division of mankind between male and female which Eriugena thinks was an addition to the pristine humanity as a consequence of the Sin. At this point too Ibn Arabi> does not agree with Eriugena and the difference in the present case too is understandable in terms of traditional background of these two writers. For one thing the Qura>n mentions repeatedly the phenomenon of male-female divide, although not exclusively human but cosmic as well, as one of the signs of Allah and His blessings. (See e.g. 16: 72; 30:21 and 78:8) Although the h}adi>th about Divine image mentions Adam this should not be taken to mean the exclusion of Eve from deiformity since Man includes woman because Eve is a part of Adam. (Ibid. I: 541) Ibn Arabi> also tells us that Adam was created upon Divine image while Eve was created upon Adams image which logically implies that Eve was also created upon Divine image. (See ibid. I: 679)

7.4.6 The The Ethical Dimensions of Deiformity

Ibn Arabi> points out that by being informed of creation upon Divine image humanity is put to one of the greatest trials. The purpose of this trial is to see whether man stands

207 by his servanthood and contingency or becomes conceited due to the status of his image. (See ibid. II: 189) The success in this trial consists of never losing sight of servanthood, contingency, poverty and needfulness. (Ibid.) Those human beings who forgot these essential qualities and claimed divinity for themselves actually failed this trial. (See ibid. II: 642) In this respect, as well as in some others, deiformity is likened to human vicegerency. The office of caliphate brings with it enormous responsibilities and as was said in one h}adi>th Ibn Arabi> refers to, it will be an occasion of regret for those who failed to fulfill these responsibilities. (See ibid. III: 183-4) Ibn Arabi> advises that it might help us abstain from taking pride in our deiformity if we look at the world around us, which although was created for our sake, still its creation is greater than ours. (See ibid. III: 9) In addition to these guidelines Ibn Arabi> makes the fact that man was created upon Divine image in the sense that Divine names and qualities manifest through man a basis for an ethics of Divine names. Deiformity, as we repeatedly noticed, implies that the Divine qualities, connoted by the Divine Names, were bestowed upon man. Now some of these qualities, like Life and Vision were bestowed upon each and everyone while we are ethically obliged to realize in our personalities all the rest of qualities. Divine Mercy, for example, requires human being to be merciful and so on.268

7.4.7 Why Human Deiformity? Metaphysical Explanations

Gregory of Nyssa, as quoted by Eriugena, explained human deiformity by referring to Divine quality of Goodness. What explanation do we find in Ibn Arabi>? Well, he tells us that Certainly Allah has not created the creature for the sake of creation but as an


See Qaiser Shahzad, Ibn Arabi>s Contribution to the Ethics of Divine Names in Islamic Studies

XLIII (2004), 5-39.

208 example for Him For this reason He made him upon His image. (Ibid. IV: 252) Since God willed to be known and He could not be known except by someone who is upon His image he created man upon His image. (See Fut. III: 266) This explanation is of course based on a saying oft quoted by Ibn Arabi> and other Sufis as raison dtre of the creation namely, I was a hidden treasure and I loved to be known so I created the creature. In the very beginning of Fus}us > } al- H}ikam Ibn Arabi> put this idea as under:
The Real willed, glorified be He, in virtue of His Beautiful Names, which are innumerable, to see their identities -- if you so wish you can say: to see His Identityin a comprehensive being (kawn ja>mi) that comprises the whole affair For the vision a thing has of itself in itself is not like the vision a thing has of itself in another thing, which will be like a mirror for it. (Fus. 48 Trans.

Ringstones, 3)

Hence the deiform man is a mirror created by God for Himself. The explanation given by Gregory/Eriugena for deiformity is similar to the one provided by Ibn Arabi> in respect of the fact that both refer to God, but more precisely, whereas the former takes into account the Divine Nature, the latter revolves around Divine Will. Divine Nature is concerned with the way Divinity is and the Divine Will obviously concerns what It wants or desires.269 The metaphysical explanation also includes an exploration of the relation that exists between the Divine Exemplar and its human image, whether it implies complete identity or allows some ontological gap between the two. It was observed in the discussion of imago dei in Eriugena that in spite of being grounded in the principle of complete exemplar-image resemblance, he does retain the basic creator-creature


This important distinction we take from Frithjof Schuon who has shown how losing sight of it leads to

theological mistakes in his essay Dilemmas Within Asharite Theology in Islam and the Perennial


209 difference. Let us now look at the way Ibn Arabi> conceives this issue. Like Gregory and Eriugena Ibn Arabi> does firmly believe that the image must resemble the exemplar in all respects and he is likewise careful to emphasize that this principle does not imply a collapse of Creator-creature distinction.270 His position is, further, a little more elaborate than the other two writers. He writes that It cannot be said about one thing that it is upon the image (ala> s}ur > ah) of something unless it be that thing in all respects except that which cannot be said to be (identical to) it. (Fut. III: 343) However this does not collapse all the distinctions, so after all The Real is The Real, human being is human being and the world is the world. (Ibid.) Therefore being upon image of the exemplar means that most of what can be said about the latter can also be said about the former but this does not imply that we have one entity instead of two or that the essential defining characteristics of both are same. We find further explanatory remarks on this point in Ibn Arabi>s writings. At one place he says drawing our attention to the word created in the hadi>th that Allah created Adam upon His image that it lets man know that even though he is upon the image of God, he still is creature and consequently he does not become haughty. (See ibid. IV: 210). This distinction between exemplar and image with reference to createdness was recognized by Eriugena as we saw above. Human deiformity, as Ibn Arabi> views it, is just like weighing a gold bar with ironweights, just as the latter does not equal the former so nothing can be weighed by the human form except what it requires from amongst the Divine Names of the sum of which it consists and the ones that attended to its creation and which manifested their effects within it. (Fut. III: 8) Image exemplar identity is thus to be understood with reference to creatures being loci of manifestation of Divine Names, however on this


See 7.4.2 supra.

210 point too Ibn Arabi> is careful to emphasize the creator-creature boundary. Thus he says that although all the Divine names can apply to the Perfect Man who was created upon Divine image, nevertheless these names apply to him individually ( ) and one by one ( ) and the totality of Divine names does not apply to him in one word so that the Lord be distinguished from the perfect servant. (See Fut. III: 409) What he means in fact is that although man can be addressed with all the Divine names, unlike God himself whose essential name is Allah which contains all other Divine names, man does not possess any such all-comprehensive name in which other names should be included. By making these qualifications Ibn Arabi> is concerned as much with ethical dimensions of human deiformity as he is with the metaphysical truth. He continues to say after giving the iron-weight example, So know that you are (as if) an iron-weight with which an unparalleled corundum, has been weighed even though you equal it in quantity you do not equal its worth or its essence or its characteristic, exalted is Allah, so stick to your servanthood and know your worth. (Ibid. III: 8-9) Why there should be ontological gap between image and exemplar and why exceptions should be made to the principle that an image must resemble the exemplar in absolutely all respects? One answer can be seen in the afore-cited lines from Fut. IV: 210 to the fact that an image is after all a creature which must be different from the Creator. However, the categories of creator and creature pertain to the religious level and we are interested here in having an explanation on the metaphysical level. In Ibn Arabi> metaphysical explanation takes into account the doctrine discussed in the previous chapter271 that a Divine self-manifestation takes place subject to the nature and


See the subsection titled Form-assuming, Illumination and Elitism.

211 limitations of the locus (). With this doctrine in mind we can read Ibn Arabi>s words: Likewise when the human form accepted the Divine Image in the presence of Contingency ( )it did not appear upon the property of the Discloser ( )in all respects since the presence of the locus of manifestation, that is the contingency, held sway over it rather than the presence of the Necessary of Existence. (Ibid. III: 109) This means that the Divine image, both microcosmic and macrocosmic cannot be absolutely equal to the Divine Exemplar since it is as it were composed of characteristics borrowed from both extremes of the totality of Being namely contingency and necessity. The former is termed presence of the locus of manifestation while the latter as the Discloser by Ibn Arabi> in the citation just made. Referring to the intermediary status of Macro/microcosm between the Higher and Lower realms one could say that the Divine Image must necessarily manifest characteristics of both instead of just being absolutely identical to the Higher.


Conclusion: Summary, Interpretation and Implications Implications

Having presented in the preceding seven chapters a comparative analysis of the cosmological doctrines of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> in terms of ontology, metacosm, macrocosm and microcosm we are ready now to bring the dissertation to a close. It is time therefore, firstly, to put the results of comparison and contrast succinctly and reiterate remarkable similarities and significant differences and see whether these latter are reconcilable or not; secondly, to interpret certain points that emerge out of this summary and thirdly, to tell what the difference or differences our conclusion is supposed to make and what are its implications. These, therefore, are the tasks we set before ourselves in this final chapter of our dissertation.

8.1 Summary
Out of Eriugenas four divisions of nature we presented a comparative analysis of three divisions with the cosmological thought of Ibn Arabi>, in addition to focusing on the ontological discussions of the prologue to DDN. We did not touch upon the fourth division of nature since it concerns eschatology and requires separate treatment. What follows is a chapter by chapter summary.

A division of totality is central to the cosmologies of both Eriugena and Ibn Arabi>. Whereas both include not-being side by side with being under this division Ibn Arabi>s

213 division of totality seems to be more comprehensive. This is in view of the fact that the not-being Ibn Arabi> talks about in the context of totality is not relative not-being but non-delimited or absolute non-being. Moreover instead of dichotomizing totality into these two categories like Eriugena, Ibn Arabi> comes up with a third-thing which he identifies at times with the spatio-temporal world and at others with the eternal objects of Divine knowledge that at any rate are the origin of the world. Anyhow this totality which consists of being and not-being is coextensive with Eriugenas universitas which combines both creator and creature. There are two more facets of the ontologies of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> where considerable resonances are discernible. These two facets come to the light when we focus on Eriugenas famous modes of distinguishing being from not-being in the light of Ibn Arabi>s thought. Out of these modes it is the so called sixth mode which has greatest affinity with the thought of Ibn Arabi>. Thus, as far as this perspective of differentiating being form not-being is concerned, true being belongs to God while everything the existence of which depends upon or derives from Divine Being is properly speaking non-existent. Moreover, according to his third mode things that are still hidden in the secret folds of nature are considered non-existents while they are considered to be once they appear in the spatio-temporal world. Ibn Arabi>s cosmological doctrine contains the scripturally grounded concept of treasuries of things from which they are created and manifested in the spatio-temporal world. But so long as things are still in those treasuries they are considered not to be. However one important difference here is that a thing never really escapes the treasuries since Ibn Arabi> identifies them with the objects Divine knowledge from which nothing can escape. Eriugenas first mode implied the application of not-being to God in view of His

214 super-abundant excellence and being to the things that do not escape intellect, reason or sense, thus this mode has an implication that is totally opposed to that of the sixth mode. This fact instead of being an inconsistency in Eriugenian ontology, is actually one of the two facets we just spoke of, namely, that differentiating being from not-being for Eriugena depends upon the perspective from which one is contemplating. That this perspectival nature of ontology is definitely shared by Ibn Arabi> can be seen firstly from the fact that he does not consider existence something additional to the existents themselves and secondly through his differentiating various meanings of the word exists i.e. verbal, mental and external etc. So one thing might exist in one of these meanings and not exist from another one. The second facet reflected in Eriugenas modes of being is the subordination of ontology to intelligibility or that of being to being known. This parallels Ibn Arabi>s very identification of being ( )with finding ( )and also his interpreting the Qura>nic dichotomy of what you see and what you do not see as what exists and what does not exist. As far as the former parallelism is concerned, unlike Eriugena, the point made by Ibn Arabi> is facilitated by a linguistic fact rather than being a philosophical innovation.

As a Christian Eriugena believes in triune God but as a representative of the negative theology he declares God to be beyond unity and trinity. Ibn Arabi> in spite of holding a doctrine of radical unity as a Muslim, is still amenable to comparison with Eriugena in view of two facts. Firstly, he is one of the few Muslim thinkers who are ready to accommodate trinity as specific form of declaration of unity. Secondly, on the

215 metaphysical level, Ibn Arabi> does not assign multiplicity to the realm of illusion but considers it to be rooted in the Divine side in the multiplicity of Divine names. Instead of limiting the meaning of God just to the Divine Essence, both Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> conceive it as multi-layered term denoting in addition to the Divine Essence its manifestation as well. This is reflected in Eriugenas express statement to the effect that theophanies are also to be understood by the word God and Ibn Arabi>s definition of the Divine Presence which includes Essence, Attributes and Actions and the these latter are identified with the world. Eriugenas primordial causes and Ibn Arabi>s fixed entities, if our argument in the fourth chapter regarding their parallelism are convincing, can be interpreted as philosophical elaborations of this inclusion of theophanies within Divine nature. Since Ibn Arabi> shares with Eriugena the identification of creating with Gods manifesting himself we can reconcile Ibn Arabi>s thought with otherwise confusing Eriugenian assertion that God creates Himself. Moreover there is in Ibn Arabi> an application of the notion of Divine selfcreation in the context of explaining diversity of religious beliefs and practices in accordance with Gods manifesting Himself (creating Himself) differently to each believer. Eriugenas equally startling step from theological point of view is the application of nihil to God, however, this notion does not imply lack of being but Gods being more-than-being. Since Ibn Arabi> equates God with Being and explicitly rejects application of nihil to God it seems difficult to reconcile him with Eriugena at this point. However, this difficulty is overcome by understanding that while rejecting that application Ibn Arabi> has a different understanding of nihil in mind so there is no contradiction between him and Eriugena. It is as lack or privation that Ibn Arabi>

216 denies application of nihil to God. Besides, there is no difference between Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> as far as the understanding of creation ex nihilo as creation ex deo is concerned and the latter has pointed at one place to a perspective from which God can be said not be. Consequent upon characterizing God as nihil are questions of knowability. As for Gods being unknowable to us in as much as His Essence and being knowable from certain features of existents, Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> absolutely agree. They disagree, however, and this time the disagreement seems to be irresolvable, regarding the possibility of Divine self-knowledge. Eriugena thinks that since God is not a what i.e. thing and since knowing is equal to defining and God cannot be defined, He cannot know Himself. Although Ibn Arabi> agrees that God cannot be defined he emphasizes that Gods knowing what He is has nothing to do with definition. Unlike Eriugena, instead of taking infinity to imply impossibility of Divine self knowledge Ibn Arabi> thinks that it is only as infinite that God can know Himself the infinite and that this knowledge is without encompassing. As we said here we stumble upon an irresolvable difference between Eriugena and Ibn Arabi>. However emphasizing in nullo part of Eriugenas in nullo se cognoscit quia infinita est we offer a new interpretation according to which what Eriugena is denying is Gods knowing Himself in anything and there is nothing in which He could know himself except Himself. If this interpretation is accepted then we can resolve the difference between Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> at this point. On the plane of the theological side of metacosm, the final important arena of comparing Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> is that of religious language. Following the Greek authorities especially Pseudo Dionysius Eriugena first presents two opposite

217 perspectives and then a third one which combines both. According to affirmative theology everything can be spoken of God since everything takes its being from Him; according to negative theology none of the Divine names refer to God since they are opposed by other names and no opposition can be in Him and finally the hyperphatic theology which is affirmative in form but negative in intent since it ascribes to God things like more-than-Goodness and more-than Essence etc., without giving their precise meaning. In Ibn Arabi> we have obvious parallels of these three modes of talking about God. He inherited the concepts of tanzi>h and tashbi>h respectively corresponding to the negative and affirmative theologies but observing that separately taken these two modes are inadequate, he added the third perspective which combined both i.e. tanzi>h

ma al-tashbi>h. This perspective is epitomized by the Qura>nic words There is nothing

like unto Him and He is the Hearing, the Seeing as Ibn Arabi> understands them. However, although both Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> synthesize negative and affirmative theologies the final flavor of their syntheses is different. Whereas Eriugena tilts towards negative theology in the final analysis the emphasis in Ibn Arabi> seems to be upon the affirmative side. This is a fact that stands in need of interpretation and we shall reiterate its interpretation in the following section.

We alluded above to the fact that Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> alike consider the manifestation already included in the principle. Eriugenas positing primordial causes as the secretes folds of nature out of which things are brought into spatio temporal world and Ibn Arabi>s fixed entities as treasuries of everything with God out of which He brings the things, can be taken as a cosmological commentary on their respective definitions of God or Divine presence. Thus if Eriugena gives us primordial causes as

218 prototypes, predestinations, predefinitions and origins of things before their arising in the visible and invisible, Ibn Arabi> introduces fixed entities as determinations of objects in Divine knowledge before they are existentiated in the spatio-temporal world. Thus the fixed entities are functionally identical to the primordial causes. As far as the specific characteristics of these two notions are concerned, Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> cannot straightforwardly be reconciled on all of them. It is well known that Ibn Arabi> held that the fixed entities are non-existent and this position parallels Eriugenas third mode of being according to which things still in their primordial causes are said not be. However, Eriugena has also remarked that the causes are closest to being and this in addition to creating gap between them and fixed entities also requires being reconciled with his own former position. Our conclusion answering to both these difficulties involved synthesizing these two conflicting positions into the statement that primordial causes both are and are not just like Eriugena himself said about the things that they were always and were not always. What helps bring this synthesized position on the ontological status of primordial causes close to that of fixed entities is that it is not absolute non-existence that Ibn Arabi> claims for them but only relative one and that he identifies the realm of fixed entities with the third thing which both is and is not. Unlike Eriugena who refuses to identify primordial causes with prime matter Ibn Arabi> does allow identifying the realm of fixed entities with prime matter in one place, however, he does that only for the purpose of analogy. On the questions related to the knowability Ibn Arabi> is in complete accord with Eriugena in making it clear that like the latters primordial causes, the fixed entities do not escape Divine knowledge, rather their very nature consists in being

219 objects of Divine knowledge. However whereas Eriugena holds that primordial causes are absolutely inaccessible to human intellect Ibn Arabi> is not so strict regarding the knowability of his fixed entities and allows that they can be partially known by some human beings through Divine grace and holds that the workings of human imagination proceed through a knowledge of those entities. However, this knowledge does not include the manner of existentiation of fixed entities. Another important difference between the primordial causes and fixed entities that needs to be commented on is that the former are said to be created while the latter are not existentiated that is, not created. However, in Eriugena creation amounts to self-disclosure and not to making out of non-existence. Hence the gap between Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> is bridged once we consider that the latter only denies that fixed entities are made out of non-existence and admits that they are theophanies. The fixed entities resemble primordial causes in being hierarchically ordered within a wider hierarchy of totality consisting of God, causes and spatio temporal world in Eriugenas case and of Divinity, fixed entities and the world in case of Ibn Arabi>. Fixed entities share with the primordial causes the characteristic of being intermediary between Divinity and the world. However Ibn Arabi> believes in two levels of Divinity, its pure unity and its being subject of multiple names and attributes. This second level contributes towards making Ibn Arabi>s hierarchical picture of totality more transparent than that of Eriugena. Although Eriugena teaches that everything in the spatio-temporal world that has some specific characteristic (say, life), has it through participation in a specific primordial cause (life-in-itself) and through it in the Supreme Life, he does not make it clear how the last category is related to the Divinity. Is it its attribute, name, theophany, creation or what? In Ibn Arabi> however, one can find a

220 clear answer as to the way Divinity is related through Divine Names and Attributes to the Fixed entities which then are existentiated into spatio-temporal world. Fixed entities are the forms of the Divine Names. This also solves the issue of unity versus multiplicity of primordial causes and fixed entities. If the multiplicity of primordial causes poses a challenge for Eriugena which he solves by observing that this multiplicity is not intrinsic to the causes but arises out of their effects, Ibn Arabi> is concerned about showing that the multiplicity of fixed entities does not multiply the Absolute Being or Divinity but only its properties. An important difference here between two thinkers is that Ibn Arabi> is more welcoming to multiplicity than Eriugena since he attempts to metaphysically relate it one of the levels of Divinity. Now whereas in Eriugenas hierarchy of primordial causes it is Goodness that takes the pride of priority, Ibn Arabi> assigns this place to Mercy. However, it is worth noting that the way Eriugena understands Goodness as the highest and foremost primordial cause is the same as the one in which Ibn Arabi> explicates his notion of Mercy since both are characterized by existence-giving. Both primordial causes and the fixed entities are infinite. Similar reasons for their infinity are given by Eriugena and Ibn Arabi>. It amounts for both of them to the fact that God is infinite so they should also be so. Likewise both primordial causes and fixed entities give rise to the problem of justifying evil. Although Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> share the belief that evil is not a positive entity but pertains to non-existence, their solutions are slightly different. Eriugena admits that evil indirectly results from the primordial causes they do not thereby become evil just as the sun does not become blameworthy for the darkness that inevitably results from the shadow of its ray. For Ibn Arabi> God cannot be held responsible for evil since evil is something subjective and

221 relative to particular desires and creation consists in bestowal of existence upon fixed entities irrelevant of individual likes and dislikes. However, on one account fixed entities differ from primordial causes. Whereas according to Eriugena the latter subsist in the Word, in Ibn Arabi> fixed entities and do not relate in this manner to what might look like a parallel of the Word/Logos namely Perfect Man. This is so because there is a fixed entity in Divine Knowledge even of the Perfect Man.

Having compared the views of Eriugena on the nature of divinity and primordial causes with similar views in Ibn Arabi> we proceeded to investigate the way they relate the world to God. Both of them hold that the essential nature of the world consists in symbolizing or signifying God. Eriugena expresses this idea by saying that the world participates in the Divine and that it is a theophany or appearance of God while Ibn Arabi> expresses this very idea by saying on the one hand that whatever appears in the spatio-temporal world has a root in the Divine side and on the other that the world is a tajalli> of God. Our comparative analysis showed that Eriugenas concept of participation resembles Divine roots theory in Ibn Arabi> while his theophany is the exact parallel of

al-tajalli>. Both Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> introduced their concepts, respectively, of
participation and Divine roots in the context of division of totality. However, whereas all three members of Eriugenas totality (God, the primordial causes and the world) relate to each other in the relation of participation, in Ibn Arabi>s totality (Essence, Names and Actions/World) a participation like relation exists only between the last two members for reasons we explained. According to Eriugenas understanding of the word participation it does not mean taking of some part but derivation from some higher

222 essence or being/having after something else. Ibn Arabi>s Divine root doctrine is parallel to the concept of participation in both senses given to the word by Eriugena. When Ibn Arabi> says that a particular phenomenon is rooted in the Divine Side he means nothing but that it is ontologically derived from one of the Divine names or attributes. Once again, his notion of the levels of Divine Presence makes his Divine roots theory more clear and elaborate than that of Eriugena. Thus we discern countless instances of relating existent entities to Divine roots in Ibn Arabi>s writings. This process of relating proceeds in either of two directions, from existents to names and from names to existents. However, in addition to relating these specific existents to their Divine roots Ibn Arabi> also relates the ten categories to specific Divine qualities and attributes. It might seem that on the question of ten categories Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> are taking totally different positions since the former denies that they apply to God while the latter is trying to find Divine roots for them. In spite of providing Divine roots for the categories Ibn Arabi> expressly rules out their application to God except of action and affection since, among other things, God hears our prayers and responds to them. Thus unless one wants to accuse Ibn Arabi> of flatly contradicting himself, one has to differentiate between finding Divine roots for the categories and their direct application to Divine Essence. Saying that God is time is different from saying that God is in Time. the former implies that there is something about God which is responsible for the existence of time in the phenomenal world, not necessarily His Himself being in time which would be a direct application of the category to God. Of course Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> remain different in view of the fact that the former does not make room for any ontological connection between God and categories. The difference we alluded to above in the final orientation of apophasis-cataphasis synthesis proposed by these two philosophers explains the present difference. Thus, since

223 Eriugena remains inclined towards negative theology and Ibn Arabi> towards affirmative, the former refuses to connect the categories to Divine Reality while the latter is ready to do that. However, one must not neglect the similar non-Aristotelian way in which both Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> conceive ousia, the first category, as a substrate for all the rest.

8.1. 8.1.5
The comparison of participation with Divine roots doctrine has revealed the resonances between Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> on one side of the question about God-World relationship, that is from the side of the world. When we look at this relation from Gods side it is analyzable in terms of the concept of theophany to which Ibn Arabi>s al-tajalli > corresponds. These two concepts which are equally central to the cosmologies of both Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> also deliver same meaning, namely manifestation of the Divine. Both these notions in turn are understandable either ontologically, i.e. the world is a theophany, or epistemologically, i.e. a mode of knowing God. However, in Ibn Arabi> this distinction is more clearly discerned than it is in Eriugena, since the former sometimes gives specific terms to denote two perspectives. Theophany/tajalli> understood ontologically does not imply collapse of Creature-Creator boundary and it does not compromise Divine unknowability when understood epistemologically. Eriugenas contrasting theophany with knowledge of Divine realities as they are in themselves and Ibn Arabi>s principle that there is no tajalli> at the level of Divine Essence make this point clear. The way Eriugena understands his notion of theophany is deeply Dionysian and consequently he elaborates it as form-assuming of the formless, maintains that only the spiritual elite has access to it and there is an element of illuminationism to it according

224 to which spiritual self-discipline is not sufficient for access to theophany rather God must will and become manifest. Of these characteristics that of form-assuming has its parallel in Ibn Arabi> identification of tajalli> with Gods transmutation in forms (tah}awwul fi> al-s}uwar) and of the world as locus of manifestation (majla>) as a form in which God becomes manifest. Ibn Arabi>s explication of tajalli> as a mode of knowing God contains many indications of elitism as it is available to Prophets and saints and not to people of an exoteric bend of mind. He adds an illuminationist dimension by describing tajalli> based knowledge as a Divine light bestowed upon some of the chosen ones.

Coming to the final arena for the comparative analysis of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> we have to look at the way they envisage Mans place within the universe and in relation to his creator. Both present man as Divine image and as containing the whole of universe within himself. Eriugena relies upon Gregory of Nyssa for elaborating his doctrine of Divine image. Since Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> share the principle that an image must resemble its exemplar, they both understand human deiformity to mean that man was bestowed with the plenitude of all good, while Ibn Arabi> founds on the concept of human deiformity an ethical system as well. Emphasis upon the Divine names once again makes Ibn Arabi>s explication of human deiformity a little more elaborate than that of Eriugena. Both make it clear that image-exemplar resemblance does not alter the fact that the image belongs after all to creaturely sphere and on that account there must be ontological gap between it and its exemplar. On the question whether deiformity characterizes whole humanity or was it the privilege of primordial perfect man both Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> take ambiguous positions of saying yes to both these

225 questions but this ambiguity can be removed by explaining that the deiformity of the perfect man is actualized and perfect whereas in the rest of humanity it is imperfect and needs to be realized to its full. In addition to these similarities between Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> there are some differences between their doctrines of Divine image which must not be ignored. Being honest to the Christian tradition Eriugena ousts human body from deiformity and limits it to human soul while Ibn Arabi> is exceptionally positive to human body in line with general positive Islamic attitude to human body and a special reference to body in the h}adi>th mentioning creation upon Divine image. Unlike Eriugena who does not want to call man microcosm since that would give the impression that human dignity is based on mans containing the world in himself while the world is too low to dignify human being, Ibn Arabi> extends the Divine image to the whole world, thus in him we find a macrocosmic deiformity in addition to human deiformity. Mans relation to the created nature is explained in terms of containment theory and the final Eriugenian position on the precise meaning of this concept is, in our opinion, that everything is created in man in substance however by this he simply means that in human mind there are notions of everything and he identifies notions with substance. On the other hand in view of his concept of cosmic deiformity, Ibn Arabi> does not hesitate from calling man small world and labelling the world as the great man. He explains his version of containment doctrine by referring to his view that human configuration is the most all-encompassing of all since God taught Adam the Names all of them, which implies that microcosmic status of man as the created nature is nothing but manifestation of Divine Names according to Ibn Arabi>. In view of this all-encompassing status man is an intermediary not only between material and spiritual

226 creatures, as he is seen to be by Eriugena, but he brings together in himself creaturely qualities as well as Divine qualities. Thus, except for their divergence on human bodys participation in deiformity, Eriugena and Ibn Arabi>s view regarding the relation of man to God and to nature present remarkable similarities.

8.2 Interpretation
A number of important questions were raised in connection with interpretation or explanation of certain characteristics of the cosmological doctrines of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> or differences between them and we attempted to respond to them. Here we are recapitulating with bit more elaboration three of these.

Dermot Moran and many other Eriugena scholars see in Eriugena a precursor of German idealists. In our opinion this view oversimplifies Eriugenas complex positions and neglects certain important indications of realism in his thought. Likewise Ibn Arabi> has been classified as a firm empiricist by Mastaka Takeshita. We submit that due to an important methodological feature they share, these thinkers defy classification into pigeon holes of the isms of modern and post-modern philosophy. We do not consider the fact that Eriugena subdues ontology to epistemology enough to make possible his characterization as an Idealist in the sense attached to this word by Post-Cartesian (modern) western philosophy. First of all the very possibility of there being an idealism in pre-modern philosophy is controversial and at least, anachronistic. Secondly, ironically in Eriugena literature one finds scholars declaring Eriugena to be and not to be an idealist on account of his holding to one and the same

227 notion. Thirdly and most importantly, such characterization neglects certain important textual evidences from Eriugena where he appears to be implying realism instead of idealism, for instance, his statement that things which do not have being cannot be understood. At one place he subdues knowability to existence and at another place gives an objective explanation for starting the enumeration of primordial causes from goodness. The fact is that the thought of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi>, and for that matter of many other great pre-modern philosophers and metaphysicians, cannot be justifiably encapsulated in well defined and mutually exclusive schools that typify modern philosophy.

One further point where our reading of Eriugena differed from that of Moran was his claim that the modes of being mentioned in the prologue to DDN are not central to this work. Contrary to this claim we attempted to show that at various points in the main body of DDN applications of one or other of those modes of being. We found that Eriugenas doctrine of Divine nothingness and ontological status of the primordial causes can be seen to result from an unfolding, respectively of the first and third mode of demarcating being from not-being.

It was observed that although both Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> synthesize negative and affirmative theologies synthesis presented by the former remains negative in the final analysis while that of the latter tilts towards affirmation. Using Frithjof Schuons typology of religions we explained this difference by referring to the fact that Eriugena, following the Greek authorities, was re-acting to a tradition that belonged to Godbecome-man type while Ibn Arabi> had to counterbalance a tradition that contained an

228 emphasis upon God as such. In case of Eriugena, our interpretation implied a disagreement with Willemien Otten who suggests that Eriugenas concept of theophany counterbalances his negative theology. If one agrees with Ottens view then the difference between orientation of syntheses presented by Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> would disappear.

What are we to make of the remarkable similarities between the work of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi>, writers belonging to different times, places and religious backgrounds? Presumably, the most expected response to the results of our comparative analysis would consist in uttering that those similarities owe themselves to a shared philosophical heritage, Neo-Platonism! Though Eriugenas connection with NeoPlatonic heritage is incontestable in view of his translations of Maximus the Confessor, Pseudo Dionysius and other Greek fathers, connections between Ibn Arabi>> and Greek philosophical heritage are not that transparent and all such judgments are based simply on the the argument from similarities of terminology to borrowing without establishing historical connections and discarding a number of important differences between Ibn Arabi> and Plato/Plotinus. Thirdly, Unlike the Muslim Peripetetic philosophers who were not really interested in grounding the philosophical ideas they were transmitting into their own tradition, whatever external influences Ibn Arabi> might have accepted, he was never a passive recipient of foreign doctrines and their transmitter to the coming generations. Thus we always find him referring to some of the Qura>nic verses to ground his philosophical doctrines and notions. This point can be brought home by borrowing an image from Ibn Arabi> himself. He gave us the principle that the nature of receptacle (locus of manifestation) colors the nature of theophany. This cosmological principle can

229 be transplanted to the plane of intellectual interaction between different human societies. It provides us an excellent model for positively interacting with intellectual environment while remaining grounding in our own Scripture. However, this does not mean that every philosophical idea can be legitimized through artificially reading it into our scripture. We notice that Ibn Arabi>s interpretations in most of the cases are neither allegorical nor arbitrary but are within the genuine interpretational space allowed or in some cases even dictated by the literal meaning of the texts. This is not the case with Eriugena and this can be seen, for instance, in the way Eriugena grounds his primordial causes in the Bible and the way Ibn Arabi> grounds his notion of fixed entities in the Qura>n. Whereas the former simply identifies dogmatically and arbitrarily his primordial causes with waste and void mentioned in the Genesis, the latter puts forward his notion as development of an implication of the Qura>nic verse about the treasuries of everything with God out of which they are brought.

8.3 Implications
Why should someone living in todays world care about the teachings of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> and the common ground shared by them? Is there anything of relevance to the situation we are living that we can learn from them? Let us see if we could find a worthy answer in the conclusions that we drew from our comparative analysis.

8.3.1 Yes and No: A Cosmology of Tolerance272

Ibn Arabi> relates (See Fut. I: 153-4) his encounter with the great Muslim philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes, d. 1198) when he was just a young boy. The philosopher had

Tolerance or intolerance, to quote Nasr, are not only moral issues but have a cosmic dimension. S.

H. Nasr, Metaphysical Roots of Tolerance and Intolerance: An Islamic Interpretation, in Philosophy,

Religion and the Question of Intolerance, ed. Mahdi Amin Razavi and David Ambuel (Albany: SUNY,

230 already heard of the young mystic and showed great respect towards him. When asked by Ibn Rushd what kind of solution he had found through illumination and Divine inspiration and whether that was same as what philosophers receive through speculative thought, Ibn Arabi> replied, Yes and no! In our opinion this combination of negation and affirmation is the characteristic answer Ibn Arabi> gives to most of the important questions he treats in his writings. In addition to his combination of similarity and incomparability, unity and multiplicity, bodily senses and Divine inspiration, this characteristic of Ibn Arabi>s thought lurks behind the emphasis he attaches to the concept of barzakh (intermediary). He is always positing intermediaries between extremities: the third thing a barzakh between being and not-being, Divine Names

barzakh between Divine Essence and the World, Man as barzakh between God and the
world, imagination a barzakh between bodily senses and the intellect, so on and so forth. Eriugena also does not give straightforward yes or no answers to most of his central questions. Thus he tells us, for example, that the primordial causes both flow into their effects and do not flow into them, that things always were and always were not and that God is both found and is not found in His theophanies. This, in our opinion is the greatest methodological insight that we are afforded by Eriugena and Ibn Arabi>. In the light of latters picture of totality it is God as absolute Being that deserves an absolute yes and Absolute non-existence that being absolute evil deserves absolute no while everything in our world lies in between these two poles and consequently is combination of goodness and imperfection and the only proper response to it is nothing but yes and no. No arguments need be mustered in order to show what our world is going through due to prevalence of the logic of the sword which slices the world into black and white and makes certain people declare either with us or against us and the

231 millions of people suffer from this tabloid thinking. Hence the greatest practical lesson to be learnt from Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> is that reality does not consist of pure black and pure white. It is not only that there is a grey area between the two but something black lies at the heart of white and something white lies at the heart of the black, as the Far Eastern symbol of yin and yang marvelously represents. Hence both Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> teach us to discern a grain of goodness in every single existent, whatever be its nature. Indeed Ibn Arabi> goes to the extent of finding some value even in absolute not-being. Likewise for Eriugena Divine gifts and graces flow to all orders of reality even to the lowest of them.

8.3.2 Green Cosmologies: Restoring Harmony between God, Man and Nature
Amongst the problems our world is facing today there is one which is the most urgent. This urgency arises from the fact that this problem concerns the very existence of this world, as has been marvelously shown by former US Vice President Al-Gores documentary An Inconvenient Truth. A few decades have passed since we first realized this problem. Since that moment many voices have been raised and many attempts to analyze the causes and suggest solutions have been made. As has been argued in numerous studies the real nature of the crisis we are facing, and the worst part of which is to come is intellectual and the first step of solution is therefore intellectual. As Nasr has argued, the environmental crisis has much deeper causes than mere mishandling of technology. 273 Modernity detached the world from God and consequently made man the sole master of the universe whose mandate it was to exploit his slave to the utmost. As Nasr has put it The earth is bleeding from wounds inflicted upon it by a humanity no


Man and Nature (London: Harper Collins, 1989)

232 longer in harmony with Heaven and therefore in constant strife with the terrestrial environment.274 We will have to reassert the proper harmony between God, man and Nature. Fortunately we do not have to start from ground zero since the traditional worldview, of all great religions of the world, affords us many keys. The comparative analysis of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> gave us three keys for rediscovering a worldview based on harmony between God, man and nature: first, the world as theophany, second, man as image of God and third, man as containing the whole world within himself. These three concepts are pillars for establishing the edifice of a theo-anthropo-cosmic vision. The first key opens the door to resacralization of our desacralized world, the second relates man to God and the third harmonizes him to the rest of nature in a manner in which harming nature becomes harming oneself, a suicide! According to Deirdre Carabine Eriugenas more holistic and perspectival approach to the whole of created reality which perceives all things as bound together in an ineffable harmony can be understood to imply the sanctification of all created things.275 Dierdre Carabine has expressed her belief that Eriugenas thought could be appealing today as a further source for a sound Christian environmental ethic.276 Although we agree with Carabine on this point we would like to argue that if Eriugena can be a foundation for a sound environmental ethic in spite of the fact that he does not like to apply the title microcosm to man since the world is unworthy to become a cause of dignity for man and that he refuses to extend the imago dei status to human bodies, then an even more sound environmental ethic can be based on the thought of Ibn Arabi> who not only does not hesitate from calling man a microcosm and extends imago
274 275 276

Religion and the Order of Nature, 3.

See Dierdre Carabine, John Scottus Eriugena, 109. Ibid. 55.


dei to human body but goes to the extent of declaring that the whole cosmos is made
upon Divine image and deserves from man same respect that his parents deserve from him. In view of these practical implications we can confidently assert that the comparison of Eriugena and Ibn Arabi> we conducted is not mere exercise in dialectic but affords us the key elements of restoring the harmony of God, man and nature, a restoration that many people now see as the only way to cope with the difficult time our world is going through.

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