Flash XXVI

The Shaikh* (may God be well pleased with him) says in the Faṣṣ i Shu'aibī, that the universe consists of accidents all pertaining to a single substance, which is the Reality underlying all existences. This universe is changed and renewed unceasingly at every moment and at every breath. Every instant one universe is annihilated and another resembling it takes its place, though the majority of men do not perceive this, as God most glorious has said: [“But they are in doubt regarding the new creation.”*]

Among Rationalists* no one has perceived this truth with the exception of the Asharians,* who recognize it in certain departments of the universe, to wit, “accidents,” as when they say that accidents exist not for two moments together; and also with the exception of the Idealists,* called also Sophists, who recognize it in all parts of the universe, whether substances or accidents. But both these sects are in error in one part of their theory. The Asharians are wrong in asserting the existence of numerous substances—other than the One Real Being underlying all existence—on which substances, they say, depend the accidents which continually change and are renewed. They have not grasped the fact that the universe, together with all its parts, is nothing but a number of accidents, ever changing and being renewed at every breath, and linked together in a single substance, and at each instant disappearing and being replaced by a similar set. In consequence of this rapid succession, the spectator is deceived into the belief that the universe is a permanent existence. The Asharians themselves declare this when expounding the succession of accidents in their substances as involving continuous substitution of accidents, in such wise that the substances are never left wholly void of accidents similar to those which have preceded them. In consequence of this the spectator is misled into thinking that the universe is something constant and unique.*

The ocean does not shrink or vaster grow,
Though the waves ever ebb and ever flow;
The being of the world's a wave, it lasts
One moment, and the next it has to go.

In the world, men of insight may discern
A stream whose currents swirl and surge and churn,
And from the force that works within the stream
The hidden working of the “Truth” may learn.

As regards the Sophists, though they are right in asserting the ideality of the whole universe, they are wrong in failing to recognize the Real Being underlying it, who clothes Himself with the forms and accidents of the sensible universe and appears to us under the guise of phenomena and multiplicity; likewise in denying any manifestation of Real Being in the grades of visible things under the guise of these forms and accidents, whereas in truth these accidents and forms are only manifested to outward view by the operation of that underlying Real Being.

Philosophers devoid of reason find
This world a mere idea of the mind;
'Tis an idea—but they fail to see
The great Idealist who looms behind.

But the men gifted with spiritual intuition see that the Majesty of the “Truth”, most glorious and most exalted, reveals Himself at every breath in a fresh revelation,* and that He never repeats the same revelation; that is to say, He never reveals Himself during two consecutive moments under the guise of the same phenomena and modes, but every moment presents fresh phenomena and modes.

The forms which clothe existence only stay
One moment, in the next they pass away;
This subtle point is proven by the text,
“Its fashion altereth from day to day.”*

The root of this mystery lies in the fact that the Majesty of the “Truth” most glorious possesses “names” opposed* to one another, some being beautiful and some terrible; and these names are all in continuous operation,* and no cessation of such operation is possible for any of them. Thus, when one of the contingent substances, through the concurrence of the requisite conditions, and the absence of opposing conditions, becomes capable of receiving the Very Being, the mercy of the Merciful takes possession of it, and the Very Being is infused* into it; and the Very Being thus externalized,* through being clothed with the effects and properties of such substances, presents Himself under the form of a particular phenomenon, and reveals Himself under the guise of this phenomenon. Afterwards, by the operation of the terrible Omnipotence which requires the annihilation of all phenomena and all semblance of multiplicity, this same substance is stripped of these phenomena. At the very moment that it is thus stripped this same substance is reclothed with another particular phenomenon, resembling the preceding one, through the operation of the mercy of the Merciful One. The next moment this latter phenomenon is annihilated by operation of the terrible Omnipotence, and another phenomenon is formed by the mercy of the Merciful One; and so on for as long as God wills. Thus, it never happens that the Very Being is revealed for two successive moments under the guise of the same phenomenon. At every moment one universe is annihilated and another similar to it takes its place. But he who is blinded by these veils, to wit, the constant succession of similar phenomena and like conditions, believes that the universe constantly endures in one and the same state, and never varies from time to time.

The glorious God, whose bounty, mercy, grace,
And loving-kindness all the world embrace,
At every moment brings a world to naught,
And fashions such another in its place.

All gifts soever unto God are due,
Yet special gifts from special “names” ensue;
At every breath one “name” annihilates,
And one creates all outward things anew.

The proof that the universe is nothing more than a combination of accidents united in a single essence, i.e. the “Truth” or Very Being, lies in the fact that when one comes to define the nature of existing things these definitions include nothing beyond “accidents”. For example, when one defines man as a “rational animal”; and animal as a “growing and sentient body, possessed of the faculty of voluntary movement”; and body as a “substance possessing three dimensions”; and substance as an “entity which exists per se and is not inherent in any other subject”; and entity as “an essence possessed of reality and necessary being”—all the terms used in these definitions come under the category of “accidents”, except this vague essence which is discerned behind these terms. For “rational” signifies an essence endued with reason; “that which is growing” signifies an essence endued with the faculty of growth; and so on. This vague essence is, in fact, the “Truth”, the Very Being, who is self-existent, and who causes all these accidents to exist. And when the philosophers allege that these terms do not express the differences themselves, but only the invariable marks of these differences whereby we express them, because it is impossible to express the true differences otherwise than by these invariable marks or others more recondite still, this assumption is inadmissible and undeserving of serious attention. And even if we admit it as a hypothesis, we affirm that whatever is essential in relation to special substances is accidental in relation to the Very Truth; for though this alleged essential quality is part of the essence of a particular substance, it is extraneous to the Very Truth upon whom it is dependent. And to say that there is any substantial entity other than the One Essential Being is the height of error, especially when the spiritual intuition of the men of truth, which is borrowed from the lamp of prophecy, attests the contrary,* and when their opponents cannot cite any proofs in favour of their own view. [“God saith what is true, and directeth man in the right path.”*]

Truth is not proved by terms and demonstrations,
Nor seen when hidden by concrete relations;*
The “Canon” is no “Cure” for ignorance,
Nor can “Deliv'rance” come from “Indications”.*

If at each “Stage” thy course diverted be
To different “Goals”, true goal thou'lt never see;
And till the veil is lifted from thine eyes
The sun of Truth will never “Rise” for thee.*

Strive to cast off the veil, not to augment
Book-lore: no books will further thy intent.
The germ of love to God grows not in books;
Shut up thy books, turn to God and repent.

The completest mask and the densest veils of the beauty of the One Real Being are produced by the manifold limitations which are found in the outward aspect of Being and which result from His being clothed with the properties and effects of the archetypes indwelling in the Divine Knowledge,* which is the inner side of Being. To those blinded by these veils it seems that the archetypes exist in these outward sensible objects, whereas in point of fact these outward objects never attain a particle* of those real archetypes, but are and will always continue in their original not-being. What exists and is manifested is the “Truth”, but this is only in regard to His being clothed with the properties and effects of the archetypes, and not in regard to His condition when bare of all these properties; for in this latter case inwardness and conceal­ment are amongst His inherent qualities. Consequently, in reality the Very Being never ceases to abide in His Essential Unity, wherein He was from all eternity and wherein He will endure to all eternity. But to the vulgar, who are blinded by these veils, the Very Being seems to be relative and phenomenal, and wearing the form of the multiplicity of these properties and effects, and He seems manifold to such persons.

Being's a sea in constant billows rolled,*
'Tis but these billows that we men behold;
Sped from within, they rest upon the sea,
And like a veil its actual form enfold.

Being's the essence of the Lord of all,
All things exist in Him and He in all;
This is the meaning of the Gnostic phrase,
“All things are comprehended in the All.”

* [When one thing is manifested in another, the thing manifested is different from the thing which is the theatre of the manifestation—i.e. the thing manifested is one thing and its theatre another. Moreover, that which is manifested in the theatre is the image or form of the thing manifested, not its reality or essence. But the case of the Very Being, the Absolute, is an exception, all whose manifestations are identical with the theatres wherein they are manifested, and in all such theatres He is mani­fested in His own essence.

They say, How strange! This peerless beauty's face
Within the mirror's heart now holds a place;*
The marvel's not the face, the marvel is
That it should be at once mirror and face.

All mirrors in the universe I ween
Display Thy image with its radiant sheen—
Nay, in them all, so vast Thy effluent grace,
'Tis Thyself, not Thine image, that is seen.

The “Truth”, the Very Being, along with all His modes, His attributes, connexions, and relations, which constitute the real existence of all beings, is immanent in the real existence of each being. Hence it has been said, “The All exists in all things.” The author of the Gulshan i Rāz says:

“If you cleave the heart of one drop of water
There will issue from it a hundred pure oceans.”*]

Every power and every act manifested as proceeding from the theatres of manifestation proceed in reality from the “Truth” manifested in these theatres, and not from the theatres themselves. The Shaikh (may God be well pleased with him) says in the Ḥikmat i 'Aliyya:* “Out­ward existence ('ain) can perform no act of itself; its acts are those of its Lord immanent in it; hence this outward existence is passive, and action cannot be attributed to it.” Consequently, power and action are ascribed to the creature ('abd) because of the manifestation of the “Truth” under the form of the creature, and not because such action is really effected by the creature himself. [Read the text: “God hath created thee, both thee and the works of thy hands”],* and recognize the fact that thy existence, thy power, and thine actions come from the Majesty of Him who has no equal.*

Both power and being are denied to us,
The lack of both is what's ordained for us;
But since 'tis He who lives within our forms,
Both power and action are ascribed to us.

Your “self” is non-existent, knowing one!
Deem not your actions by yourself are done;
Make no wry faces at this wholesome truth—
“Build the wall ere the fresco is begun.”

Why vaunt thy “self” before those jealous eyes?*
Why seek to deal in this false merchandise?
Why feign to be existent of thyself?
Down with these vain conceits and foolish lies!