Thursday, February 19, 2015
The Jinn: A Spectrum Versus A Taxonomy
William C Chittick’s analysis of Ibn Al Arabi’s Futūhāt al-Makkiyya has interesting conceptual kernel of an alternative perspective of the Jinn. When I wrote the brief essay on the Jinn previously, the following key characteristics of Jinn were noted; 1. Their appearance is based on where the manifestation occurs in the environment. Whether it is atmospheric, earthbound etc. 2. The Jinn are a singularity behind the differentiation that the environment entangles them within. 3. A parallelism within more specific variations of appearances is the further differentiation of the Jinn depends on the anticipation by association within memory by association..like, resembles.. A central theme that binds together most of the posts I have written is the exploration of the potential that all variegated from that which is inexplicable share a common root whereas most writers on the subject separate them by appearance alone. The earliest representation of this suspicion as formulated in a formalised architecture is the Arabic characterisation of the Jinn which is surprisingly sophisticated beyond it’s context of the Koran. Ibn Al Arabi surprisingly makes a connection between the manifest of the environment and the unmanifested nature of thought…. as “manifest” denotes the visible. We know the arc of consciousness by way of thought but we cannot see thought itself and yet the effects of thought as behaviorisms can be seen whether it is the double slit experiment or deciding to run an errand. To put it simply, the Jinn are in the human mind within an energetic information field. From his perspective what lies within the somatic portion of ourselves are a unmanifested Jinn that manifests in thought that projects Jinn onto the environment as representations that are differentiated but are bound together in what he terms “knowledge” which I take as an information field and an energetic one at that. We are the Jinn from his perspective. One has to have a knowledge of alchemy in the correct interpretation to understand the full text but...I think the essential concept is clearly expressed. This excerpt from an essay by Chittick is from The Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi Society’s website which is entitled “On the Inner Knowledge of Spirits Made of an Igneous Mixture: Chapter 9 of the Futūhāt al-Makkiyya” I have highlighted the relevant portions of the essay…. “In its most immediate meaning, the jinn refers to what we commonly understand by genie in Islamic culture: another created being which has the peculiarity of being placed ontologically between human being and angel. This first meaning is the subject of Chapter 9 of the Futūhāt. Because of its intermediary nature, the genie is closely related to the doctrine of the barzakh and the world of imagery, something which manifests itself in its diet and sexuality, and above all, in the different ways in which it manifests itself. In other parts of the Futūhāt. it is stated that its angelic dimension brings it closer to the sphere of the Divine and makes it more suitable to receive and understand the Revelation. Genies "not only have knowledge which is their own, but also the knowledge of the terms in which they are to be found; they reflect the one and the other like a mirror". However, their nature of fire and air makes them proud, disobedient and intellectually unstable in the face of the strength, humility and intelligence of the human being's nature, which consists of water and earth. Perhaps the question of whether the genie is superior or inferior to man is less relevant than the principle that all created beings represent a form of manifestation which must be internalized by man on his path to spiritual realization. In contrast to the vision of the genie set out in Chapter 9, Ibn 'Arabī offers in the Futūhāt other reflections, which take as a starting point a different reading of the term jinn. As is common in the master's multi-dimensional universe, the terms are not univocal and correspond to a specific reinterpretation of the semantics of the Arabic language. According to classical Arabic lexicography, the root J-N-N means "to cover, veil, conceal..." and is synonymous with the root S-T-R. Based on the synonymy of janana/satara, Ibn 'Arabī states that genies are "all that which is concealed (mustatir): angels and other beings" The shaykh takes up an idea that was already present in some Quranic exegeses, that the term "genie" does not apply to one single category of beings, but rather to all those invisible to the human eye. What is interesting in this perspective is that it does not state that genies are angels, a question which was a source of controversy among classical theologians, but rather that angels are genies. It implies a reformulation of the question, which exegetes had been asking, about the nature of genies. The difference between one species and another is established by Ibn 'Arabī in the following way: "[when I refer to] jinn in the absolute sense of the term, [I include] those which are made of light and those which are made of fire." The polysemy of the term jinn in Ibn 'Arabī's work does not end here. The genie can also denote the interior of the human being: "According to thehaqīqa (transcendent Reality) man's interior is jinn." This reading sheds new light on the exegesis of the Quranic verse "I did not create men and genies except to worship Me" (51:56). Ibn 'Arabī states: "With regard to the verse: 'I did not create men (ins) and genies (jinn) except to worship Me', it is as if God intended to say: 'I did not create genies', i.e. the concealed part of human beings, 'and man', i.e. the apparent part of human beings, 'except to worship Me' externally (in deeds) and internally (by purifying their intentions)." That is to say, God must be worshipped from azāhir or ritual perspective, following the prescriptions, and from a bātin perspective, with sincerity and spiritual intent. Would it be possible to draw a parallel between the antithetical pair ins/jinn and the classical zāhir/bātin, which appears so frequently in Sufi thought? It is interesting to consider the lexical root of the term ins, from which Ibn 'Arabī infers this interpretation. Ins referred, according to some exegetes, to "that which can be seen", based on the verb from which it derives, ānasa (Form IV, to perceive). Ibn 'Arabī concurs with this appreciation and identifies ins with the exterior of the human being, as opposed to jinn, which as we have seen, would correspond to his internal dimension, elaborating on the idea of man as microcosmos, which is characteristic of Ibn 'Arabī's cosmovision. Based on this same verse, Ibn 'Arabī sets out a new approach to what the jinn represents. If up to this point the genie had been approached from an ontological perspective, the Akbarian discourse brings it fully into the field of epistemology, by stating that jinn is esoteric knowledge, revealed only to the initiated, known only by God: This verse ("I did not create men and genies except to worship Me") shows the wisdom that He has placed in all (created) things. This wisdom remains and is unknown to anyone except God and those to whom He has shown it. Thus He has used the term jinn, designating that which is concealed and is known only by Him. Ins refers, on the other hand, to that which is manifest and known directly. It must be taken into account that whenever Ibn 'Arabī and other Sufis use the term jinn, they are consciously alluding to its fundamental meaning of "concealed". This set of interpretations, which is not intended to be comprehensive given the magnitude of the work, is an example of Ibn 'Arabī's subtle use of language, and the richness and complexity contained in each of the themes which are the object of reflection in his Futūhāt al-Makkiyya.