by Cecilia Twinch
Delivered at the MIAS Symposium on Retreat
Berkeley, October 1997
[This is an overview by quoting from original text at:
(C. Twinch intends) İto explore the varying physical and metaphysical dimensions
of retreat (al-khalwa )
In Ibn 'Arabi's Kernel of the Kernel (1), Hazreti Ali' is quoted as saying, "You thought you were a part, small, but in you there is a universe, the greatest." Similarly, retreat (al-khalwa ) is like going into the self in order to discover that what is hidden there is displayed outwardly in the universe.
Fleeing to God, in the context of Ibn 'Arabi's doctrine on the unity of existence, is not a flight away from one thing towards another, since [in reality] there is nothing in existence but God; fleeing to God is ... a way of expressing the flight from ignorance to knowledge (2) - a theme which runs through all of Ibn 'Arabi's writings.
Ascetic elements of the retreat ... loosen the grip that the animal self exercises by curbing the natural appetites and they help in the cutting of worldly ties in order to bring the realisation of one's dependence on God Alone: that in silence and solitude conversation may take place with the Real One, for His is the Company, and through hunger and wakefulness it is known that God is the Nourisher and God is the One who gives repose.
However, Ibn 'Arabi seems to indicate that the means should not be taken as important in themselves, lest the seekers familiarize themselves with a method instead of finding closeness to God, and limit Him by trying to approach Him through something other than Himself.
... purpose of helping others to withdraw from their belief in the existence of anything besides the One and Unique existence.
Ibn 'Arabi says, "...do not enter your cell until you are aware of your station and of the extent to which you are able to oppose the power of the imagination. If your imagination has power over you, you must go into retreat only under the guidance of a teacher who is trained in discerning spirits and familiar with the Way. If, on the other hand, your imagination is under your control, do not fear to go into retreat." (8)
So long as a person does not see the reality of things, his state is such, Ibn 'Arabi says that "he must withdraw and flee from those affairs which divert him from (the real) situation, so that God may unveil his insight and his sight"(15).
Gazing upon God within oneself is deemed to be a necessary preliminary to recognizing Him in the exterior, within the secondary causes.
Ibn 'Arabi writes, "Every seeker of his Lord must be alone with himself with his Lord in his inmost consciousness, since God gave man an outward dimension (zâhir) and an inward dimension (bâtin) only so that he might be alone with God in his inward dimension, and witness Him in his outward dimension within the secondary causes, after having gazed upon Him in his inward dimension, so that he may discern Him within the midst of the secondary causes. Otherwise, he will never recognize Him. He who enters the spiritual retreat (khalwa) with God does so only for this reason, since man's inward dimension is the cell of his retreat."(17)
:~ 8658 always present with us.
Some people find themselves highly distracted by their own thoughts and imaginings whilst alone, hence the prayer, given in Ibn 'Arabi's Wird, O Lord "I take refuge in You from myself" (18).
... Meister Eckhart talks of a similar idea ... (19)
The place in which retreat really takes place is in God:
"there is no place of retreat nor safety save in You"
(lâ malja' wa lâ manja' illa ilayka ) (20)
Ibn 'Arabi [then] asks, "From whom dost thou flee and there is nought in
existence but He?"
He warns that it is necessary to be wary of separating God from the world and fleeing to a divinity of one's own imagining. The cause of this imaginary flight ...
8888 withdrawal from creation to God =:
withdrawal from illusion to the Real
from the belief that we have acquired existence, not from acquired existence itself since, Ibn 'Arabi affirms, 'there is none' (28).
8656 the meaning of the command "[Be!] And it is" (Q.36:82)
is not that things acquire existence but that
that which hears the command acquires the property of being a place of manifestation.
Ibn 'Arabi: "Those people of Wayfaring (ahl al-sulûk) without knowledge of this ..." they are not able to withdraw from the forms of things ... if they really understood the speech of things they would recognise the gift that God gives in imparting knowledge through it.
8656 "For him whom God has given understanding, retreat and society (khalwa and jalwa ) are the same.
8656 it may be that society is more complete for a person and greater in benefit, since through it at every instant he increases in sciences about God that he did not possess."
- on retreat and the abandonment of retreat
A person is veiled so long as 'otherness' is perceived to exist.
Bulent Rauf ... asked (c- Ibn 'Arabi's denial of creation ex nihilo ):
"Can it be that what we call 'creation' or 'creature' is just another dimension of the 'uncreated'? Can it be that the 'uncreated' looked at from another relative point of view, 'appears' only appears, to be 'created' due to a relative vision?" (31).
8658 withdrawal from the created things is a withdrawal from what we ourselves have created through our illusory idea of self.
For Ibn 'Arabi, there is no visible thing which is not a manifestation of
God capable of imparting knowledge (32). 7028
all so-called things = places of theophany rather than distractions which hide God from sight.
IA: "Know that for the Tribe withdrawal is to choose the retreat and to turn away from everything that distracts from God. But for us withdrawal takes place in relation to acquired existence (since the creed holds this to be so;) and in reality, there is none but True Being" (33).
One of the purposes of retreat, then, 7021 8594 witnessing the Beauty of
Oneness without as well as within, so that there is not seen to be this separation,
this differentiation, between within and without.
7028 Wherever you turn, there is the Beauty of His face, whether in the interior or whether in manifestation, so that one is not preferred over the other but Reality is accepted however It shows Itself.