Peace, one and all…
The Cosmos envelops you
with respect to your corporeal nature,
but it does not do so
with respect to the immutability of your spiritual nature.
So long as the domains of the Invisible Worlds
have not been revealed to him,
the creature in the Cosmos is imprisoned by his surroundings
and confined in the temple of his nature.
Ibn Ata’illah, Hikam 246
As I read this particular aphorism I am struck by the space and openness of the opening lines. Although our corporeal selves are enveloped by the Cosmos (which is not a negative thing), our spiritual selves dwell beyond this visible, sensible world. Our spiritual selves are ultimately free of these restrictions. If that is so, then we have the God-given power to shape our own lives. We don’t have to live in ways we find unhealthy, unhelpful and destructive: we can change the course of our lives. We can surpass our limitations. We can transform them. I am reminded of a powerful Quranic verse here:
‘Indeed, God will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves’ (Quran 13:11)
The second half of Ibn Ata’illah’s powerful aphorism explore the other dimension of action. We have been given free will and the ability to choose. As we strive to harmonise ourselves with the Divine, we are more fully able to actualise those parts of ourselves that have hitherto remained dormant. The more we let the Divine move within us, the more fully ourselves we become. As we have seen in earlier aphorisms, real humility is what opens this door. It is sincere humility that allows us access to ourselves. As we begin to do this, the Realms Invisible begin to open before us, and we can leave our earthbound limitations behind. The more we let go of ourselves, the more fully human we become it seems. Otherwise, we experience creation as a prison, and our time here as a kind of imprisonment. I know I have certainly felt this way at times.
The last line holds another clue, I feel. If we can make real our humility we can see ourselves for what we truly are, a temple. If we can approach the Divine within this temple of ourselves, we can move beyond it, out into the wide open space of All That Is. Our created natures are God-given gifts, and so not therefore evil, the trick it seems is not to identify what we are most essentially with the temple we find ourselves praying in.
May the Beloved help us and heal us all. May we all find true humility, true human being. May all who pass by be blessed.