The Ocean of the Soul: Man, the World, and God in the Stories of Farid Al-Din 'Attar

By Hellmut Ritter; John O'Kane | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THIRTY
TRAVELLING WITHIN ONESELF. METAPHYSICAL SELF-
IMPORTANCE. FINAL EXTINCTION.

The universal soul is joined with the individual soul by a channel, "a vein". Through this channel the mystic reaches the primordial ground of being (above p. 634). The channel is also described as a secret passageway.

When the traveller returns from Man, the pīr instructs him: "The soul of man
is the all of all… Whoever travels the path into the soul reaches the (divine)
Beloved on the soul's path. To travel the path to the soul means travelling the
path to the Beloved, but first it's called travelling to the soul. The Beloved has a
covert path to the soul but this is hidden from the world. If the soul (man) finds
this path to Him again, it sees His face covertly for all eternity. The King has a
secret passageway to every heart. (MN 28/0).—There follows the symbolic
story about the secret passageway through which Mahmud reaches Ayāz. (Above
pp. 344 f.).

The philosophy of Neo-Platonism is already familiar with the idea "that the path to God is the path into our interior, and that turning to the Highest and the Absolute is attained through the state of a higher turning to oneself. (Otfried Becker, Plotin und das Problem der geistigen Aneignung, Berlin 1940, p. 24). In Islamic literature this idea is readily dressed in the form of a pseudo-ḥadīh: "Whoever knows himself (his soul), he knows His God." (Manʿarafa nafsahū faqadʿarafa rabbah).

The saying is attributed to Muhammad by "the Pure Brethren" but is supposed to have
been introduced by the mystic Yaḥyā ibn Muʿādh (d. 258/871). (Massignon, Recueil 27; Es-
sai
239). See Suyūṭí's writing on the subject in GAL2 2/187, no. 72; and the commentary by
Kamāl Paşazāde in Ms. Aşir II 441, 21b-22. Regarding Ibn Sīnā: Traités Mystiques d'Abou
Alî al-Hosain b. Abdallâh b. Sînâ ou Avicenne
, éd. par A. F. Mehren, IIIe fasc,. Leyden
1895, p. 46; Louis Gardet, La Pensée Religieuse d'Avicenne, Paris 1951, pp. 147–48; in Abū
Saʿīd: Nicholson, Studies 50. See also Sharḥ al-Ḥikam 1/110; Ibn al-Daybaʿ 209.

The idea also appears among the Syrian mystics, such as Isaac of Niniveh, and is like-
wise well known to later Christian mysticism. (Arberry, The Mawáqif and Mufk̲hfáṭabát of
Muhammad ibnʿAbdi-l-Jabbár al-Niffarí
, p. 210). In some Arabic works sayings of a similar
kind are attributed to Plato and Aristotle. (Franz Rosenthal, "On the Knowledge of Plato's

-637-

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