Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

The Imagination: Distance and Relation in Maurice Blanchot and Ibn'arabi

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

The Imagination: Distance and Relation in Maurice Blanchot and Ibn'arabi

Article excerpt

Introduction

Maurice Blanchot, the important figure in deconstructive thinking, perhaps more than anyone else has renewed the critical debate concerning the ontological - or non-ontological - status of literature and art in general. Regardless of his concern about literature, he thinks of ontology as non-metaphysical. He locates the question of being in the void before the advent of the human logos or reason. Blanchot brings us back to this more primary question than that which Heidegger claims the West has forgotten. His debate on the nature of the imagination basically involves the question of being. Outside theological considerations and whether he thinks of the death of God, in his reading of Holderlin's hymn on the nature of the divine ipseity or the sacred, the subject transforms into the void space being unable to think of the opposition of essence/existence. According to him, elements constituting an entity's individuality are gathered not in reciprocal or isomorphic relationship homogenizing for the sake of appropriation and unification. The relationship grounds a 'discontinuity' which challenges the dialectics on which ontology is formed. It becomes: "a relation that challenges the notion of being as continuity or as a unity or gathering of beings; a relation that would except itself from the problematics of being and would pose a question that is not of being. Thus in this questioning we would not only leave dialectics, but also ontology."1 Blanchot takes us to the space of imagination where ontology is not a question of being but of relation and distanciation.

While thinking of Blanchot's idea of relation, I argue that the mutual influence of spirits implies a relation. This relation occurs in the world of imagination, a rich intermediary space which is neither physical nor metaphysical in which the human is able to catch a glance of what occurs in reality. Secondly, the relation is the very possibility of their creation which occurs within God Himself. In this space, any engendered thing does not acquire individuality; it remains always in the state of the possibility of coming to be. In other words, the relation would be the possibility of creation. Thinking about traditional ontological privileges would be impossible.

Austin regards Ibn 'Arabi2 as representing a culmination not only of Sufi exposition but also, in a very significant way, of Islamic intellectual expression.3 Through his writings and teachings, Ibn 'Arabi presents an elaborate and cohesive view of the world based on a very intricate ontological structure. His ontology brings together harmoniously a wealth of philosophical, theological, scientific, linguistic, meta-physical and mystical knowledge, developing it into a cohesive and intrinsic multi- dimensional whole. The difficult and complex nature of his texts, however, has kept many of his works, and particularly Al-Futuhat, largely waiting for new readings. Some profound studies of Ibn 'Arabi's philosophy and mystical experiences are available, however, in European languages, among which H. Corbin's Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi, and W. Chittick's The Sufi Path of Knowledge are the most pertinent to this study. Imagination plays an essential role in Ibn 'Arabi's ontology. It is seen as the creative source of manifestation, the very status of our existence, and the powerful intermediary that enables us to remain in constant contact with the Infinite and the Absolute. For Ibn 'Arabi, imagination is such an essential instrument that one who does not know the status of imagination is totally devoid of knowledge.

In his theogony, Ibn 'Arabi believes that everything exiting outside God was pure and exalted spirits, which He did create. These spirits differed from each other concerning their location. This means their existence in heaven or on earth, and also with regard to their influence i.e. the fact that they either influence something or are influenced by something. …

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