"I have divided the prayer between Myself and My servant." - The Hadith Qudsi (Reported by Muslim, Malik, at-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, an-Nasa'i and Ibn Majah)
Long before the term of a mystic or a Sufi came to be, the "Sufi among ancients", as Ibn Khaldun refers to him, Plato spoke of love in his "Phaedrus". In this contemplation on love, he spoke of the deity humans are drawn to, based on our own inner disposition. For he says: "Every one chooses his love from the ranks of beauty according to his character, and this he makes his god, and fashions and adorns as a sort of image which he is to fall down and worship. The followers of Zeus desire that their beloved should have a soul like him; and therefore they seek out some one of a philosophical and imperial nature, and when they have found him and loved him, they do all they can to confirm such a nature in him, and if they have no experience of such a disposition hitherto, they learn of any one who can teach them, and themselves follow in the same way. And they have the less difficulty in finding the nature of their own god in themselves, because they have been compelled to gaze intensely on him; their recollection clings to him, and they become possessed of him, and receive from him their character and disposition, so far as man can participate in God. (...) But those who are the followers of Here seek a royal love, and when they have found him they do just the same with him; and in like manner the followers of Apollo, and of every other god walking in the ways of their god, seek a love who is to be made like him whom they serve, and when they have found him, they themselves imitate their god, and persuade their love to do the same, and educate him into the manner and nature of the god as far as they each can; for no feelings of envy or jealousy are entertained by them towards their beloved, but they do their utmost to create in him the greatest likeness of themselves and of the god whom they honour. Thus the desire of true lovers, and the initiation into the Mysteries of Love, which they teach, if they accomplish what they desire in the way I describe, is beautiful and brings happiness from the inspired lover and the loved one".
In the same dialogue, he uses the word "Pterothoiton" - which means "The Movement of the Wings" and says of Eros: "The immortals call him winged one, because the growing of wings."
It is narrated in hadith by Al Bukhari and Muslim that Adam was made in God's image. The same hadith says that Adam was very tall but that humanity continued to grow shorter. However, anyone who enters Paradise, according to the hadith, will be the form of Adam. It is not literal height that is spoken of here. The "growing shorter" alludes to humanity's movement down towards the earth and embodied existence. In moving down, humans forget the Adam's true form, which is his heavenly form. Likewise, the soul initiated in the Mysteries of Love, grows wings, allowing her to move vertically. It is this vertical movement that is the human's truest nature, whereas horizontal movement corresponds to animals and downward movement to plants. That which Plato expressed, and which many other Initiates on the Path of Love have expressed as well, is the formation of cosmological anthropology. For it, human and divine are not separate from one another. Human and divine come to know one another, through one another. A historian who only thinks in terms of horizontal movement, will say that these philosophers and mystics have simply influenced one another, that it is a matter of cultural and not cosmological transmission. But The Initiates of Love, know that it is because they all drank from the same Source. They also know that the Source is the Cause of all phenomena. In that context, being drawn to the work of Plato or Hafiz or any other initiate on the path of love, is the sign that you and them are the part of the same soul legion, part of the same corner of the Great Cosmic Human - Al Insan Al Kabir.
The Great Human
"As for the Angels (of whom there is some mention in the Koran’s account of Adam’s creation), they represent certain faculties of this ‘form’ of the world which the Sufis call the Great Man (al-insân al-kabir) so that the angels are to it just as the spiritual and physical faculties are to the human organism. Each of these (cosmic) faculties finds itself as if veiled by its own nature; it conceives nothing which is superior to its own (relative) essence; for there is in it something which considers itself to be worthy of high rank and in the state nearest to God. It is thus because it participates (in a certain manner) in the Divine Synthesis (al-jam’iyat al-ilâhiyah) which governs that which appertains, be it to the Divine side (al-janâb al-ilâhî), be it to the side of the Reality of Realities (haqîqat al-haqâiq), be it again – and by this organism, support of all the faculties, — to the Universal Nature (tabî’at al-kull); this encompasses all the receptacles (qawabil) of the world, from its peak to its foundation." - "Fusus al-Hikam", Ibn Arabi
The Great Man is creation of God's desire to be manifest, Ibn Arabi says "God wanted to see His own Essence (‘ayn) in one global object (kawn) which having been blessed with existence (al-wujûd) summarized the Divine Order (al-amr) so that there He could manifest His mystery (sirr) to Himself."
God in Essence was alone. In this aloneness, and with no knowledge of His own Essence, God desired and yearned to be known. Therefore, desire to come from non -manifestation into manifestation, is at the beginning of creation. Similar sentiment echoes in Sri Vidya path, in which the Mahavidya Lalita Sundari, as a personification of divine Desire, is the central divinity. She is seen as the most complete manifestation of Parashakti, the non-manifest Essence. Consumed by this great yearning to be known, God let out a sorrowful Sigh. From the breath of this Sigh came the Great Man (Arabic word "insan" is "human" in universality; "adam" is more often used to denote a human male, since in English these are interchangeable, you will find both translations). In the Great Man, God was manifest in the non-matter, then finally, the Great Universal Man came to be in individual consciousnesses, allowing God to experience the Essence of own being in Multiplicity. As cosmic human is directly connected with manifest human, each earthy individuality, has its cosmic individuality represented by the Angels or Lords. The interaction between the Universal and Particular is two-fold, they breathe into one another. The existence of Great Man suggests that despite being embodied in flesh, human beings are not defined by a physical body alone. Human beings also have a subtle body. In the Western esoteric traditions this may be known as planes of existences or as astrological correspondences with each body part. Dharmic traditions know it as chakras, Chinese as meridians, and in Sufi practices it is known as "Lataif-e-Sitta". The physical body is a mirror of the cosmic, subtle body.
When it is spoken of "heart" in the context of subtle body, it does not mean that it is identical as the physical heart or biological heart, rather that the substance which we associate with the heart bears this form. Why, so many of us, even children, when asked where is the soul, point towards chest and heart? Because our physical heart is that which we associate with the qualities or substances of the Great Heart - the love, the yearning, the desire, the soul which yearns to know its Lord. This desire is the same desire that God felt in the very beginning of spiritual history of the cosmos.
God in Essence can't truly be known - God there is unnamable and incomprehensible. But, through the Great Man, that is through Names, it is possible to know the Essence. The Names are not identical as the Essence and not its fullness, yet at the same time, are so fundamental to the Essence that they allow knowledge into the nature of the Essence. Once a soul knows her Lord, she grow and takes form of the Great Man. In this state, human becomes both eternal and ephemeral, both perpetual and immortal. It is not annihilation of one or the other, but rather harmonious coexistence, in which one exists because of the other. Human being, then, becomes the synthesis of every level and every plane of existence, as human being was the one who was taught "all the Names".
What will you do, God, when I die?
So sings the first line of the Rilke's poem, and it then continues: "When I, your pitcher, broken, lie? When I, your drink, go stale or dry? I am your garb, the trade you ply, you lose your meaning, losing me. Homeless without me, you will be robbed of your welcome, warm and sweet." The poem very vividly reflects the Divine Compassion. A human, in this case Rilke, feels the God's sorrow in being alone and non-manifest. He feels the sorrow of God left without a mirror, a pen left without its tablet. For what can a pen do if there is nothing to write on? The pen's purpose loses its purpose without a tablet. How can God be Lord through His names without an object to lord over? From this position, "Know Your Lord to Know Yourself", gets a meaning, rather than being a phrase that many repeat without any substantial content. To know yourself here means to know your Lord, that is, to know which Divine attributes and Names have want to be manifest through you. This is not narcissistic preoccupation with one's self, it is quite the opposite - it demands surrender, a lack of rigidity, a lack of attachment to philosophies and concepts, so that the Lord may be heard. In order to borrow the Great Man's ear, one must cease to be preoccupied with news and tomorrow's dinner. Inner dialogue demands inner presence, not preoccupation with outer forms. The Lord once identified, is allowed to create and act through us. We allow the space for individualised Great Man to manifest, giving him our own aura and light. Just because there are angels, sages or mystics who are of the same attribute, it does not mean that they are exactly the same, for each being in the lineage, leaves his or her own colour on the mosaic. On this topic, Henry Corbin, in his "Alone with Alone", while referencing Ibn Arabi says: "There is this line of Ibn Arabi's poem: "By knowing Him, I give Him being". This does not mean that man existentiates divine Essence, which transcends all naming and all knowledge: it relates to the God created in faiths (al-illah al mukhalaq fi'l-mu'taqadat), that is to say, the God who in every soul takes a form determined by that soul's belief, knowledge, and aptitude, becoming a symbol that reflects the very law of that soul's being. The line means roughly this: I know God in proportion to the Names and attributes which are epiphanized in me and through me in the forms of beings, for God epiphanizes Himself to each of us in the forms of what we love; the form of your love is the form of the faith you profess. Out of all this "I create" the God in whom I believe and whom I worship."
The creation that happens through Active Imagination does not translate into meaning that our Lord is simply a matter of fantasy or a psychological construction. It is something that transcends the psyche, but it appears to us in the form in which our consciousness and our psyche can recognise it. At the time Plato wrote his dialogues, a Greek person could only recognise the attribute in the form that was close to him - as Zeus, Apollo, Hera, Aphrodite or another personification. Each of Greek divinities had not only names, but also, attributes. Zeus was known was "Basileus", which means "King/Ruler", he was also known as "Meilikhios" which means "Gracious, Merciful" or as "Amboulios" which means "The Counsellor". Aphrodite had epithet of "Urania", which means "Heavenly" and in this aspect she represents divine, universal love, she also had epithet of "Apostrophia" which means "Averter of Unlawful Desires". The epithets or attributes or names, are not foreign to dharmic religions either - there are 108 names of Vishnu which include names like "Krishna", which means "Black/Dark" or "Govinda" which means "The Herder of Cows". There are also 1008 names of Kali and among the names are those like "Cidanandasvarupini", which means "She Who is the Intrinsic Nature of the Bliss of Consciousness" or "Svayambhukusumaprana" which means "She Who is the Life Force of the Flower Which is Born itself".
Epithets or attributes are how seekers are looking for a way to recognise the Divine in the manifestation. Meditating on the Names or Attributes is a path towards knowing one's Lord and allowing that Lord to become manifest.
The Lord of Faiths
"To deny this individualization is that takes place in the world of Mystery is to deny the archetypal theophanic dimension specific to each earthly being, to deny one's Angel. No longer able to appeal to his Lord, each man is at mercy of single undifferentiated Omnipotence, from which all men are lost in the religious or social collectivity. When this happens, each man tends to confound his Lord, whom he does not know as He is, with the Divine Being as such, and to wish to impose Him upon all. As we have seen, this is what happens in the unilateral monotheism characteristic of the "God created in faiths." Having lost his bond with his specific Lord-archetype (that is having lost knowledge of himself), each ego is exposed to a hypertrophy that can easily degenerate into spiritual imperialism; this kind of religion no longer aims to unite each man with his own Lord, but solely to impose the "same Lord" upon all." - "Alone with Alone", Henry Corbin
The spiritual imperialism mentioned here and the complete syncretism which wants to eradicate every individual faith and merge them in a single "universal faith" both share a similar disposition. They both cannot bear the existence of an individualised faith, therefore, they cannot recognise the Lord of these other faiths. Without individual faiths, that is, faiths that correspond and meet the spiritual needs of different human beings, there would be no faith at all in the world, as none of us can find our own Lord, in something so undifferentiated that it bears no colour or smell. The dogmatists argue cannot recognise the Lord in the other, mystics struggle to define their collective or social religion, even though they will be sure of the Lord they serve. Defining a collective, dogmatic religion for lovers is harder because they see a certain Lord manifest in every faith. Both spiritual imperialism and absolute syncretism threaten to remove the real, lived faith from the world.
On my own journey, I have read scriptures of many faiths, and learned from sages and scholars of almost every faith. In each of the faiths, I have also found something beautiful and profound. I also could find parts in which I could see they speak of same things but in different languages, made for different cultural contexts. I have often wondered, why so many faiths exist, but then I came to known that the hearts of humans are different, and that one single faith, cannot speak to every heart. I came to conclusion that existence of many faiths, is part of Divine wisdom and of Divine desire and that it is not my place to question it. Even when my rational mind desires to enter theological, philosophical or metaphysical debates, the innermost of my being knows that it is just because we cannot see one another's Lord that we enter the debate in the first place.
Ibn Arabi says, that on the day of Resurrection, to each of us, will be shown the Name or Attribute we did not recognise or that was not our Lord. Then finally, our Lord will show Himself or Herself to us, showing us that the others are also parts of the same Essence. This is the core of Divine Compassion, which is at the very core of Divine.
To God They Shall Return
The Way and the Truth has been shown to humanity many times. The whole spiritual history of humanity is them losing it and it being shown to them again. For Muslims, Sufis included, this cycle in spiritual history of humanity, ended with Muhammad. Why would guides be needed then?
In the times that we live in, not many people will be so invested in their spiritual journey as to take time to look inside and identify one's Lord. We are witnessing even profaning of the spiritual practices - meditation has become about relaxing before work, not about realising the mind's Buddha nature, Rumi's poetry is found on Valentine's cards and Jesus has become a political tool for both right and left side of the political spectrum. This is not to lament about the state of the world, for perhaps, this era too is part of the Divine Wisdom ,this is simply to acknowledge that the path in this era is a lonely one, and that there will be very few companions on the path that you will encounter. For this reason, there is a need for individual water carriers, because individual water carriers are the ones who make sure that the Truth is not forgotten. In profane times, even spiritual authority can be polluted and corrupted, but we can always appeal and look towards our Lord, towards that part of the Great Man in which the friends of our soul still live. There are angels, bodhisattvas, imams, saints, sages, mystics, who are still very much alive. Once we come to know that we are the way for God to know Himself through Himself, we come to live the Divine Compassion. We realise the very Essence. If you have read until the end, I am grateful to you and I will finish it with Awḥad Al-dīn Balyānī's "Teatrise on Unity": "He is the one without oneness and the single without singleness. He is not composed of name and named, for His name is Him and His named is Him and there is no name or named other than Him. He is the first without firstness and the last without lastness. He is the apparent without apparentness and the hidden without hiddenness. He is the very existence of the letters of the names the first and the last, the apparent and the hidden. There is no first or last, apparent or hidden except Him, without the letters which form these divine names becoming Him and without Him becoming these letters. (...) No one sees Him except Himself, no one reaches Him except Himself and no one knows Him except Himself. He knows Himself through Himself and He sees Himself by means of Himself. No one but He sees Him. His veil is His oneness since nothing veils Him other than Him. His own being veils Him. His being is concealed by His oneness without any condition. No one other than He sees Him. No sent prophet, perfect saint or angel brought close knows Him. His prophet is He, His messenger is He, His message is He and His word is He. He sent Himself from Himself, through Himself to Himself. There is no intermediary or means other than Him. There is no difference between the sender, that which is sent and the one to whom it is sent. The very existence of the prophetic message is His existence. There is no existence to any other who could pass away, or have a name or be named."