Saturday, August 20, 2011

Kernel of the Kernel

Kernel of the Kernel is but one of the many illumed writings of the Sufi, Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi, born in Andalusia Spain in 1165 AD. As with so many of the writings I discuss on my blog, the following postings are presented not so much as a detailed summary of the writings, but as an offering of, a glimpse, a taste, of what is there. The translation I am working from is by Ismail Hakki Bursevi (1625 – 1728 AD). It is available from Beshara Publications at:

As mentioned, Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi was a Sufi. The word literally means ‘wool’. The significance is that ‘wool’, in Arabic, also means knowledge — knowledge as in gnosis, i.e. knowledge of the higher states of consciousness and knowledge of God and the path to God. Therefore, by extension, a Sufi is the bearer, and protector, and transmitter of esoteric and divine knowledge.

In his introduction to the book, Hakki Bursevi refers to Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi as Qutub-l Aqtab which is translated as Pole of all Poles. Another designation for this status is Qutub-e-Irshad. A Qutub is a Perfect Master. Meher Baba tells us that there are always present on the planet five Perfect Masters. They are all equally Perfect, all enjoy the same Divine State, but each has different roles to play in relationship to each other and the Creation. Meher Baba states in God Speaks:

“According to divine law, these five Qutubs or Sadgurus or Perfect Masters, at the end of every cycle, precipitate the advent of the direct descent of God on earth in human male form. Hence, at the end of every cycle, when God manifests in the form of man and reveals His divinity to mankind, He is recognized as the Avatar — the Messiah — the Prophet.

The direct descent of God on earth as Avatar is that independent status of God when God directly becomes man without undergoing or passing through the processes of evolution, reincarnation and involution of consciousness. Consequently, God directly becomes God-Man, and lives the life of man amongst mankind, realizing His divine status of the Highest of the High, or the Ancient One, through these Qutubs or Sadgurus or Perfect Masters of the time.”

When the age is not Avataric, one amongst the five Perfect Masters plays the Avatar’s role as the head of the Spiritual Hierarchy and that Perfect Master is called the Qutub-e-Irshad. That role is then turned over to the Avatar when He is in human form; hence, the significance of Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi as the Pole of all Poles.

“The knower of God (arif bi ‘llah), whatever his origin is, remains like that. He accepts all kinds of beliefs, but does not remain tied to any figurative belief. Whatever his place is in the Divine Knowledge, which is his essential knowledge, he remains in that place; knowing the kernel of all belief he sees the interior and not the exterior. He recognizes the thing, whose kernel he knows, whatever apparel it puts on, and in this matter his circle is large. Without looking at whatever clothing they appear under in the exterior, he reaches into the origin of those beliefs and witnesses them from every possible place.” – Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi – Kernel of the Kernel

I remember that the writer Maurice Nicoll once suggested that the New Testament revealed truth on three levels — truth on the level of stone; truth on the level of water; and truth on the level of wine. As stone, truth is carved into an external shape — like an idol. To change the shape is to change the truth. This is truth expressed at the lowest level.

Above stone is water. Water can be poured into any form, take any shape, and still remain water — externally it appears to change, but internally it remains the same — internally the kernel remains the kernel. This is the state of the knower of God — the state of the Sufi.

And what of wine? Wine, like water, can be poured into any shape, take any form, but unlike water, wine has the capacity to intoxicate — to transform one’s state. In the New Testament this change of state is called metanoia — from the Greek—meta — to change to another level (like metamorphosis — the caterpillar becomes the butterfly), and noia — from the Greek — meaning mind. Hence, metanoia means change of mind to another level of functioning — another level of consciousness. I know I digress here, but I find it very interesting that the word metanoia was translated into the English as the word repentance. And what is this wine? It is Divine Wine; it is Divine Love.

“Saki, the dawn is breaking; fill of my glass with wine!” – Hafez

“I drank glass after glass of love; neither did the wine finish, nor my thirst.” – Bayazid

So the Sufis are trained to recognize the essence in the stone of the idol, the water in the vessel, the wine in the wine glass, the truth in all religions, the light of the soul shining within the exterior of all things and people — and never mistake the one for the other.

“I follow the religion of Love.
Now I am sometimes called
A Shepherd of gazelles [divine wisdom]
And now a Christian Monk,
And now a Persian sage.

My Beloved is Three —
Three yet only one;
Many things appear as three,
Which are no more than one.

Give her no name,
As if to limit one at the sight of whom
All limitation is confounded.”
Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi

If Upasani Maharaj’s booklet, The Secret of God Realization, (see previous posts) was about the way one arrives at the state of Perfection, then Kernel of the Kernel is a description of the internal states — the gnosis — the ipseity — of the wayfarer’s journey to and experience of this Perfection.
In Kernel of the Kernel, (read by me in English, from the Turkish translation of the original Arabic) two words, ipseity and gnosis, are encountered. They are both interesting words not commonly used in everyday discourse.

The word ipseity is often used by Sufi writers as a substitute for the Sufi term dhat, which means self, identity, nature, and Essence all at once.

“In the experience of ipseity, the absolute truth of Being, duality ends as we perceive that the identity and nature of everything, including ourselves, is inseparable from everything else. Everything is the radiance of absolute ipseity, just as light is the radiance of the sun. (The Point of Existence).” A.H. Almaas –

Gnosis, the other word that is used frequently, means the knowledge of the soul — the knowledge of the experience, because for the Sufi, the experience and the knowledge of the experience are subtly different. Again, a very subtle point here, the term the knowledge of the experience is not the knowledge derived from the experience but the knowledge of the experience — in other words, the consciousness or awareness of the experience.

If you recall, in The Secret of God Realization, Upasani Maharaj said that there were two types of people, the worldly absorbed and those who were actively seeking God. So, in the use of these terms, the Sufi is always applying them to Divine states and Divine experiences. Having said this, allow me to attempt to first apply them to the mundane in order to get a grasp of their distinctions.

So there is a man, he is forty years old; he lives in Chicago and is married with children. He is wealthy, educated, has some health issues, likes sports, music, and good food. I could go on and on, but all this, all that is this man, is his ipseity — his identity, his nature, and his Essence. Remember, ipseity makes no distinction between the inner and outer of the man — because the distinction of inner and outer does not really exist — since all is in and of illusion in the first place.

Now we encounter this man while he in the state of deep dreamless sleep. In this state he is experiencing nothing, he is conscious of nothing, neither the world nor the body he inhabits nor the state of dreams, nor the state of dreamless sleep. We can say that the man has ipseity but no gnosis. Gnosis, the knowledge of, the consciousness of his ipseity, only dawns on him when he passes into the waking state. And so it is with Divine states (ipseity) and the experience of Divine states (gnosis); they are connected, they are dependent on each other with regard to cause and effect, yet they are separate and do not necessarily manifest simultaneously for the individual.

The Sufis also have words for the mechanics of this distinction; the words fana and baqa — the passing away into and the abiding in states of the soul.

Between day and night there is dusk.
Between night and day there is dawn.
Between two positions there is a movement.
Between the deep sleep state and the awake state there is a dream state.
Between the awake state and the deep sleep state there is also a dream state.
Between the in and the out of every breath there is a state of turning.
Between the out and the in of every breath there is a state of turning. This third state, this turning, holds tremendous significance for the yogi.
Between any two adjacent yugas there is a transitional state. We are now in that transitional state, that bardo, that joint, between Kali Yuga and Krita Yuga.

As the spiritual wayfarer passes from one state to another and one experience to another, there is always that third state in-between. So the wayfarer experiences the state of passing away (fana) before fully abiding (baqa) in the new state. Meher Baba describes the state between reincarnation and involution, between gross consciousness and subtle consciousness, as the state of Hawa. The wayfarer in the state of Hawa is permanently connected to the higher planes of consciousness though not yet on them.

The bardo between gross consciousness and subtle consciousness is commonly referred to as the Astral World — Meher Baba calls it the sub-subtle state.
Is it not interesting that the knowledge here spoken of was known to the Greeks — approximately 2,700 years ago, and that this knowledge was learned from the Egyptians whose culture predates the Greek’s by thousands of years more? Modern man likes to fancy himself and his culture as being the highest in every way, the most advanced in every way, but have we forgotten way more than we have ever learned — have we all but forgotten the Way?

“Age after age, when the wick of Righteousness burns low, the Avatar comes yet once again to re-kindle the torch of Love and Truth. Age after age, amidst the clamor of disruptions, wars, fear and chaos, rings the Avatar’s call:
From Meher Baba’s Call – Ahmednagar, India, Sept. 12th 1954
Knowledge is indispensable to the Sufi’s journey.

“The gnostic, so that he knows himself better and knows his kernel, is in need of listening with respect and humility to five more things he needs. It is an absolute necessity for the gnostic to know these in order to reach his aim. For this reason, we list these things below which are called the five presences.” - Kernel of the Kernel by Muhyiddin Ibin ’Arabi

These Five Presences can be considered to be a description of the same ten states of God that Meher Baba describes in God Speaks and that I, in my blog, The Divine Theme, condense into three states of God — God in the Deep Sleep State, God in the Dream State, and God in the Fully Awake State. It is important, however, to realize that no matter how many different ways the states of God are described, the common factor is that God is One and nothing exists beyond or beside Him.

“…there is no end to the Ipseity of God or to His qualification; consequently the Universes have no end or number, because the Universes are the places of Manifestation for the Names and Qualities. As that which manifests are endless, so the places of manifestation must be endless.” – Kernel of the Kernel

“He is at every moment in a different configuration.” – Quran

For many readers, the relationship between the Five Presences and consciousness is clarifying. From the First to the Fifth Presence, there is an ascending arch of consciousness, and, it will be seen, that only in the Fifth Presence is consciousness perfected and released from its burden of impressions, i.e. God in the state of the Fifth Presence is awake and knows Himself to be God.

“First Presence — Ghaybi – mutlaq — Absolute Unknowableness

This Presence is also called Universe of the Divine Nature. It is also known as the Universe of Non-manifestation which does not come under any measure or form of comprehensibility. It is also called the Universe of Absoluteness. It is also called the Absolute Blindness, Sheer Being, Absolute Being, Pure Ipseity, Mother of the Book, Absolute Expression, the Ocean-Deep Point, and the Unknown of the Unknown.”
– Kernel of the Kernel

This is the State of God that Meher Baba calls the Beyond the Beyond State of God. In this state, God is in His Deep Dreamless Sleep State and is so asleep that He is not aware of anything, not even His not-awareness, and in this state there is not even the slightest possibility of Awakening, or knowing Himself, or knowing His Creation. There is neither consciousness nor unconsciousness, everything or nothing, Reality or Illusion, in this State of God. And, Meher Baba says that this state is absolutely indescribable, in other words, all that is written here or anywhere about this state is, in essence, false.

Words like ‘beginning’, ‘end’, ‘before’, ‘after’ etc., have absolutely no meaning in a discussion of the Five Presences. The First Presence always was, is, and will be; likewise, the Second Presence always was, is, and will be; and so it is with all of the Presences. Therefore, the First is not before the Second, beside the Second, and does not proceed, or supersede the Second. All were, are, and will be in the Eternal Now.

“Second Presence —‘Alemi-l jabarut (Universe of Omnipotence)
This is also known as the Presence of the First Unveiling, First Revelation, the First Jewel, the Reality of Mohammed, the Qualified Spirit, the Total Spirit, the Qualified Unknowable, and the Evident Book. In the Mother of the Book everything is seen collected together and in the Evident Book one begins to enter into chapters. The Mother of the Book is Essence. This station is also called the Universe of Names, Fixed Potentialities, Universe of Quiddities (Essential Natures), and the Great Isthmus.
All these are names of the first Degree, but they are used each with a special reference and it is not considered a secret by those who know.”
– Kernel of the Kernel

The First Presence is so Beyond, Beyond, that for It, even the possibility of Awakening is eternally impossible and inconceivable; yet Awaken it must and without Its Presence this Awakening would be impossible. The Second Presence is about this Awakening, yet in the Second Presence not even the state of dreams is realized. The First Presence is the Mother of the Book; in the Second Presence the Book is born and that Book is called the Evident Book and that Book is entered into — it is entered into but it is not yet read.

Meher Baba explains it in this way: He says that creation is manifested out of the Beyond State of God. This manifestation occurs in three steps — three stages — the mental, the subtle, and the gross. The Mental World is like the “seed body” of creation. The seeds are the seeds of all the forms and paraphernalia that the ordinary gross conscious man and his gross conscious science experiences as The Creation.

From the Mental World proceeds the Subtle World. The Subtle World is the world of energy, and it is this energy that energizes the mental seeds which sprout as the Gross World — Gross Universe.

The Names referred to by Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi in the Book of Names are the seeds of creation, but in the Second Presence these Names are not yet read because this reading is consciousness of the soul, and this consciousness has not yet manifested for the individualized soul in creation.

“When Hazreti ‘Ali heard the hadith: ‘At the time God was in a state such that there was nothing with Him,’ Ali added, ‘Even at this moment He is still so.” – Kernel of the Kernel

“Fifteen: Hama-Ayafeh
Attainer of All
Before the beginning,
Your Whim to attain Yourself
disturbed Your Deep Sleep
and you embarked upon
Your Journey to Awakening.

You began to dream
and in that dream You created me,
and took me to be Yourself.

Now, as me, You wish to awaken.

Oh Unattainable Attainer of All,
You alone exist
and only You can attain Yourself.”
– Meditation and Prayers on 101 Names of God (Second Edition) – by Michael Kovitz

For the soul, the Journey to Awakening begins with its descent through the Mental and Subtle Worlds spoken of as the Second Presence, but for the typical soul there is no consciousness of the journey until the Gross World is reached.

The exception to this rule is that for a few souls consciousness dawns in the Mental and Subtle Worlds and these souls are called Archangels and Angels. Archangels become conscious in the Mental World and Angels become conscious in the Subtle World.

“Third Presence — Alemi-l malakut (Angelic Universe)
This is sometimes also described as the degree of the Angels, the Universe of Examples, Universe of Illusions, Firstness, Second Unveiling, the Second Revelation, the Extreme Limit, Universe of Orders, the small Isthumus and the Universe of Chapters.”
– Kernel of the Kernel

“Fourth Presence — Shuhudi-l mutlaq (Absolute Observation, Vision, Witnessing)
This is called the Universe of Witnessing, Universe of Possession, Universe of Mortality, Universe of Creation, Universe of the Senses, Universe of Species, Universe of Galaxies, Stars and Birth."
– Kernel of the Kernel

Science uses powerful telescopes to look at distant stars and galaxies knowing that for light to travel those immense distances takes time — a very long time by human standards — and therefore the galaxies and stars that are seen are long dead. Through complex calculations of the data, science believes that it can construct a picture of the Universe that corresponds to the period of time when the Universe was born. They call this birth the Big Bang and though they may approach the “state” of the Universe at that time, it is only the Gross World of which they speak, and the Subtle Word, the Mental World, the Beyond and the Beyond the Beyond states — Presences — of God remain hidden and unknowable.

“Allah said: ‘I was a Hidden Treasure, so I loved to be known.’” Attributed to the Prophet Mohamed — according to Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi

In Kernel of the Kernel, Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi describes the act of creation witnessed in the Fourth Presence as the Ipseity of God — that Hidden Treasure — as being like the overflowing Itself into a goblet which then fills to overflowing and fills another goblet within Itself and then another and then another. And then he says:

“All that has been mentioned up to now happened within the space of time necessary for the blinking of an eye and perhaps even a shorter time.
‘He said Be, and in that instant everything happened.’ – Koran”

“All the universes that have been explained is an ocean of light constantly in movement and consequently always further new revelations appear. ‘Every instant He is in a different configuration.’ According to this the Divine Wave comes from the Ipseity and returns to the Ipseity. ‘Everything came from Him and will return to Him.’ ‘All the affairs return to Him.’ ‘God is the light of the earth and the heavens.’ The meaning of these Quranic quotations is enough to explain what is meant…

“All the universe was the Ipseity: was the Ocean of Wisdom, was in Union with God. No other Divinity exists other than God. Absolute Existence is what sort of a sea that constantly creates. The mystery of ‘ana-l haqq’ (I am God) He repeats hidden and openly, at all instances.”
- Kernel of the Kernel

“Everything came from Him and will return to Him.”

The Divine Wave flowing — overflowing — creating the Four Presences — sweeps the soul into creation where it begins slowly to awaken. But this awakening is first through dreams — the dream of being stone and metals, plants and animals. This is the process that Meher Baba calls evolution. This is not Darwinian evolution; this is the evolution of consciousness.

Upon achievement of the human form, consciousness is fully evolved but remains covered by the dust of its journey. The process Meher Baba calls reincarnation is designed to cleanse the dust from consciousness’s face with the tears of longing.

When the dust is sufficiently removed and consciousness sufficiently established in longing, the journey of return to Him begins. Meher Baba calls this journey involution and involution ends in ‘ana-l haqq’ (I am God.)

“Fifth Presence — Insan-l kamil (Perfect Man)
Here the Perfect Man is going to be explained. The Presences that have been explained and the totality of the universes is encompassed and englobed in totality in this Man. The Perfect Man is the possessor of the degree of unification; he is at the station of the Greatest Name. Just as the ismi-l ‘asam collects and contains all the Names, in the same way the Perfect Man collects and contains within Himself the universes of mulk, malakut, jabarut, and lahut. Whether it be in manifestation or interior there is no station which the Perfect Man does not circumscribe.”
– Kernel of the Kernel

“You thought yourself a part, small; whereas in you there is a universe, the greatest.” – Hazreti Ali


“He returns to the door from which he first came out, although in his journey he went from door to door.” – Maulana Shabistari

It is the Goal of all of creation; you and me and everything we see and everything that remains unseen. It is the Goal of the Soul associating with the form of your cat and dog, every tree, every blade of grass, every microbe, every atom; and it is the Goal of the Soul of every saint and every sinner — even the worst of sinners cannot escape the Goal — and it is the irony that until one achieves this goal it is impossible to experience this truth. To experience this truth is unconditional love and, as Kabir says, “Until it is experienced, it is not true.”

I once met a great yogi and was offered the gift of discipleship. I was following another path at the time and because of that could not accept his offer explaining to him that there was a conflict.

He looked at me and simply said, “There is no conflict; if you are thirsty, drink.” I responded to the yogi saying that I in no way doubted the truth of his words, but that truth was not my experience and I had to remain true to my experience. But, I said, although I cannot accept discipleship, please help me to attain that experience where all is one and no conflict exists — that state where I recognize the oneness of the wine and not the difference in the wine glasses — that state that realizes that the purpose of the glass is only to deliver the wine to my lips.

“If all the trees were pens and the seas were ink, and if all the people and those whom we do not see with these eyes, the angels, jinn, etc., were scribes, they could not finish explaining the states of the Perfect Man. If the time allotted to them was from the beginning to the end of this world, still they would not have scratched the surface of the fine membrane which covers the face of this proposition. As an indication to this matter, we shall quote the Quranic verse: ‘Tell them: if the seas were ink and the trees were pens, they would be exhausted before the words of my Lord. If there were to be as much again, that also would be exhausted.’” – Kernel of the Kernel

And then the author, Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi, offers this practical advice — is it not the same advice we have been hearing from Upasani Maharaj and Avatar Meher Baba?

“It is not easy to become a Perfect Man. It is only possible to find a Perfect Man and hold on to his hand and serve him.”

And how is it possible to find a Perfect Man? And how is it possible to hold on to his hand and serve him? Again the answer is clear and totally consistent with the teachings of Upasani Maharaj and Avatar Meher Baba. And that answer is love. It is love that attracts the lover to the Beloved and love that binds the Beloved to the lover. And it is love that allows us to hold on to His hand and serve Him till the very end when we are worthy of union with Him.

“He shows us in every wink a caprice, and in every caprice a scent, and in every scent a beauty, and in every beauty a love, and in every love a wink, and in every wink a caprice, and in every caprice a scent, and in every scent a kind of re-commencement…” – Kernel of the Kernel

When the great yogi said to me, “there is no conflict; if you are thirsty, drink,” it took me a long while to realize that he was saying that there is a difference between the wine and the wine glass. What is the purpose of the wine glass? It is to bring the wine to my lips. There may be many different wine glasses, but the wine — the real wine — the divine wine is one. In the Tavern of Love, who cares who has the best wine glass? When you are intoxicated by love, no distinctions exist.

“Your Beauty is single but devotions are different.” – Kernel of the Kernel

And what Beauty, what Reality, is being referred to here? Muhyiddin Ibn ’ Arabi says that this Reality, this Existence, is transcendent beyond all it names.

“…that to explain this they use the terms being, love, light, self, clemence, but that which is meant by all of these is the name of One Being which is Reality.”

For one who is in this state of Recognition, what is his experience?

“In this station neither name nor picture nor poem of praise nor adjective exists. He is considered free and transcendent from all. The one who journeys through all degrees and reveals Himself is Him.” – Kernel of the Kernel

Meher Baba puts this so beautifully when He simply says, “You and I are not we — but One.”

“Since He is the same as each degree, and in qualification which makes Him collector of all, He is the One who is called by all names, drawn in every picture, called with different names and qualities and qualifications. He descends to every degree, and in this descent is also a sign of His ripeness. His descent is explained by this hadith: ‘I was ill, and you did not visit me. I was hungry and you fed Me not from your own food.’” – Kernel of the Kernel

Fellow wayfarers, journeymen, holy ghosts, and drunkards in the Tavern of Love, these words are not meant merely to explain — for explanation leads to distinction and distinctions lead to separation and separation leads to suffering. So be clear, these words are meant to intoxicate, for in divine intoxication there is no distinction and hence no separation and hence no suffering except for the suffering of the lover for the Beloved — and even this suffering is extinguished in the state where “You and I are not we — but One.”

“Oh saki girl, fill up our cups for mercy’s sake!
Inebriate our skulls before the fleeting hour has made it dull,
Before the hands of fate have flagons made from our remaining dust.

Fellows of the tavern have no mood for holiness,
And for repentance care but less,
Our time is short for such remorse,
And abstinence is worse.

In this Tavern of Love prayer mats are stained with Wine.”
– An excerpt from the poem by Hafez, Oh Haste the World is Whirling On, as interpreted by Michael Kovitz

“The movement which is the existence of the universe is the movement of love.
The movement which is the existence of the universe is the movement of love.
The movement which is the existence of the universe is the movement of love.
The movement which is the existence of the universe is the movement of love.
The movement which is the existence of the universe is the movement of love.
The movement which is the existence of the universe is the movement of love.
The movement which is the existence of the universe is the movement of love.”
– Muhyiddin Ibn ’ Arabi

Who is happy? Examine your thoughts. What is in your thoughts is in your heart. We are not speaking now of the face on the other side of the coin of pain — we are speaking about wine — we are speaking about bliss.

“I believe in the religion of love; my heart accepts every form.” - Muhyiddin Ibn ’ Arabi

Who sees unconditionally? Examine your thoughts. What is in your thoughts is in your heart. Do you really want to engage your opportunity in endless wranglings and disputes?

“My God, please make me into Light.” – The Prophet Mohammed

“Make me into light,” for who can do this for themselves? Examine your thoughts. What is in your thoughts is in your heart. Gurdjieff used to call it “the terror of the situation” — knowing, yet being unable to do.

Who can do? Examine your thoughts. What is in your thoughts is in your heart. Can you stop your thoughts? Can you change them? Try, and then when you are done trying, when you have realized the terror of the situation, think the one thought, pray the one prayer, “Oh God, carry me to the door of a Perfect One and help me to hold on to Him until the very end — when I am worthy of union with Him.”

“Those who want to find out let them hang on to the hem of a Perfect person and ask of him, because: ‘The one who has not tasted cannot know;’ this knowing is a necessary condition. The rest cannot be explained by writing. So there it is: and peace. God is the only helper. With the help of God this is now completed.” – And so ends Kernel of the Kernel.

“The movement which is the existence of the universe is the movement of love.
The movement which is the existence of the universe is the movement of love.
The movement which is the existence of the universe is the movement of love.
The movement which is the existence of the universe is the movement of love.
The movement which is the existence of the universe is the movement of love.
The movement which is the existence of the universe is the movement of love.
The movement which is the existence of the universe is the movement of love.”
– Muhyiddin Ibn ’ Arabi

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