Saturday, 21 November 2015

Ibn 'Arabi's Four Tender Fire


Ibn ‘Arabi is not just prolific, many writers are, but he is well into the land of graphomania. Stephen Hirtenstein in his book The Unlimited Mercifier quotes from an introduction to one of his multitudinous works:

I what I have written, I have never had a set purpose, as other writers. Flashes of divine inspiration used to come upon me and almost overwhelm me, so that I could only put them from my mind by committing to paper what they revealed to me. If my works evince any kind of composition, that form was unintentional. Some works I wrote at the command of God, sent to me in sleep or through a mystical revelation.

How many works exactly? Hirtenstein tells us ‘over 350‘ of assured provenance and perhaps 700 altogether if one includes works that have not been fully authenticated. Did I read that one of these books runs to 3,000 pages? This is more than automatic writing, it’s automatic shorthand. There doesn’t seem to be a team of amanuenses involved. When you take account of the constant travelling I can only suppose that he wrote from morning till night every day. Naturally you do not revise divine inspiration but there were proof readings in his presence to establish the text and his accompanying disquisitions had an audience of up to 30 people.

He married twice or perhaps four times or more. If it is better to marry than to burn, his was a four tender fire. That is the aspect of Islam that definitively causes me to doubt its moral sense combined as it is with a concern for modesty and propriety in women. There is only a small percentage of polygamous marriages or should I say polygyny as Wikipedia does. One to three percent of all Muslim marriages are multiple even given the fact that it is not legal in every muslim majority country. cf: wikipedia polygyny
Ibn 'Arabi had a late onset of interest in sex. This was in his 30‘s even though in his spiritual tours up till then he had encountered many sufis who value celibacy. To clarify, Hirtenstein is not sure whether these marriages were successive or simultaneous.

I put this together with Arabi’s repeated assertions of spiritual prowess and considering that the philosophy that he wrote might have been the compound of Sufi theosophy with some simples of his own, I suspend judgment on him as a great master.

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