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Concerning the Kernel of the Kernel

Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi is known as the Shaykh al-Akbar, the greatest of all Shaykhs, not only for the quantity of his writings, but also for the quality of his exposition as a teacher of the ways and means by which the student of metaphysics may arrive at a higher level of gnosticism. In all Sufi tradition, the aim is the development of man, step by step, until he reaches a point of ma'rifa (Divine Knowledge) where he is known as the 'ârif (the knower). Being an 'ârif is not an aim in itself since the real Sufi aim is union, and through the way that the 'ârif will take in his further ascension and development he will approach his aim. This he does through a process of ripening, not only through introspection, but also by a study of the origin of his self: he is likened to the fruit which must search in its own kernel for the cause and the possibility of its ripening. Ibn 'Arabi's Kernel of the Kernel is an invaluable clarification of stages of progress, not for just anyone, but more for the 'ârif who is in search of the structure of this kernel.

Ibn 'Arabi's works are innumerable - well over three hundred. He often wrote what we might call pamphlets dealing with one or the other of the important questions which needed elucidation or confirmation in detail. This short work of Ibn 'Arabi's is not one of those, nor is it a discussion of any lay interest or curiosity; in fact, it is a dialogue with a mystic/gnostic ('ârif) who is ready to look further into the depth of his own interior, to the kernel of the kernel which is his essence. It is not a lightly conversational discussion where weighty matters are implied or hinted at, but a definite assertion and directive as to how this kernel, once found within one, is to be understood and tasted if one wishes to arrive at a higher level of mystical intuition. Since all aim of gnosticism is the perfection of man, in this book Ibn 'Arabi gives a qualitative, recognisable delineation of what it takes to perfect oneself, to become fully matured and emerge in the man-God image.

However, for the final stages of union, the applicant must possess different levels of understanding, of which Ibn 'Arabi speaks but cannot explain 'in words or writing, because it is not permitted'. This short work of Ibn 'Arabi's, one of his most important writings, is a book addressed to the gnostic wherein is described authoritatively and very directly what Philo of Alexandria refers to as: 'the Perfect Man is God, but not The God'.

Ibn 'Arabi's 'metaphysics' are entirely based on the simple factor of the Unity of Existence, which means not that a plurality is unified in Oneness, but that there is nothing else or other than that Only One and Unique Existent, wherein the plurality is a relativisation of the Absolute Oneness - looked at from the uniqueness towards multiplicity - corroborating in the twelfth century AD, though in reverse, the theory of the twentieth century Einstein, where everything is relative, one to another, but curiously, ad infinitum.

Only if the reader keeps in mind the essential premise of Ibn 'Arabi's metaphysics, the Unity of Existence (wahdat al-wujûd) which he discusses more fully in his Risâlat al-Wujûdiya (Treatise on Being) can one fully appreciate the intricacies and depth of the ma'rifa necessary for the complete and clear vision of the devolution of the absolute uniqueness of the Ipseity to the multiplicity of immanence. In short, it is like a grand staircase thrown down from above at man's feet, and where the man stands ready to ascend towards his origin and his essence armed with nothing more than veracity and resolution. In this translation, which keeps to the original text as best it can, several passages may seem inadequate, leaving suggestions without satisfactory elaboration. Most of this is due to Ibn 'Arabi's way of expression in writing, since his ideal is the jawâmi' al-kalim (a few words collected together to explain a lot of things). In other words, even in Ibn 'Arabi's Arabic writings, certain passages are intentionally made to seem obscure, so that the reader may learn to read the proper meaning according to his own aptitude into the collection of words which form these sentences. It is not the intention of this translation to guide or in any way colour the private and personal understanding of the reader. Consequently, this translation conforms as much as possible, not only to the literal meaning of Ibn 'Arabi's exposition, but also to the spirit of his writing. It scrupulously avoids any interference in the personal understanding of the reader. Any explanation and explanatory footnotes are therefore meticulously avoided. It is towards the assurance of this purpose that the translation was submitted to a number of collaborators for correction and elimination of any influences derivable from the construction of a sentence or the usage of a word. In short, the translation presents itself to the reader as the kernel of Ibn 'Arabi's Kernel of the Kernel.

All that remains, then, is to re-affirm the gratitude the translator has to Ibn 'Arabi (may God preserve his secret) himself, and also to the great saint and qutb of his time, Ismail Hakki Bursevi (may God preserve his secret), the head of the Jelveti order of Sufis, for the Turkish annotations and translation of the original text. May God lead us all.

From Addresses II

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