Logos and Revelation

Logos and Revelation: Ibn 'Arabi, Meister Eckhart, and Mystical Hermeneutics

Robert J. Dobie
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Logos and Revelation
    Book Description:

    Logos and Revelation looks closely at the writings of two of the most prominent medieval mystical writers: the Muslim, Ibn 'Arabi (1165-1240) and the Christian Meister Eckhart (1260-1328).

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1754-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations and Note on Translations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    If one looks closely at the works and thought of at least two very prominent and influential mystical writers in Islam and Christianity, Muhyaddin Ibn ‘Arabi and Meister Eckhart, one does not find “mysticism” understood as a noun, i.e., a system of thought or practice separate from or parallel to the religious traditions to which it belongs, but instead one finds a “mystical” way or mode of appropriating these traditions. From its root meaning in the Greek, the “mystical” is the hidden or inner sense of Scripture. Thus, for both Ibn ‘Arabi and Meister Eckhart, the inner or “mystical” sense...

  6. PART I: Revelation
    • [PART I: Introduction]
      (pp. 19-24)

      For medieval mystical writers, Christian or Muslim, the authority of the sacred text was unquestioned. Meister Eckhart and Ibn ‘Arabi were no exception. But if we read the writings of these two with care, we find that their obedience to the authority of a revealed text did not at all stifle free inquiry. Both Ibn ‘Arabi and Meister Eckhart held that finite human reason could not be its own ultimate authority. Human reason is indeed powerful and capax veritatis (sive Dei), but, left to its own devices, it is liable to error and, most important, to confusing its own limited,...

    • 1 “His Character Was the Qu’ran”: Ibn ‘Arabi, Analogical Imagination, and Revelation
      (pp. 25-56)

      The thought of Ibn ‘Arabi is inseparable from the Qur’an. Indeed, we can view his thought, no matter how speculative it might appear, as nothing but an extended commentary on the letter and spirit of that holy book (as well as on the āḥādīth [sing., ḥadīth] of the Prophet—sayings of Muhammad gathered in the first two or so centuries after his death into several large authoritative collections and having an importance second only to the Qur’an among the founding texts of the Muslim tradition). Thus, many of the subsequent opponents of Ibn ‘Arabi were, according to one of his...

    • 2 “Revelatio proprie est apud intellectum”: Meister Eckhart and the Birth of the Word in the Soul
      (pp. 57-92)

      All of Meister Eckhart’s works, including his famous vernacular sermons, are commentaries of some type on the text of Scripture. For Eckhart, genuine thought cannot be otherwise, seeing that all real human thought is nothing but a response to the primal Word or Logos that speaks to us, to be sure, in all creation, but most directly in the revealed text of Scripture. According to Eckhart, therefore, in Scripture we find the ultimate truths not only of God but of all the sciences, which are all clearly subordinate to theology in that their ultimate truth comes to light only in...

  7. PART II: Existence
    • [PART II: Introduction]
      (pp. 93-96)

      We have all had experience of what the Hungarian chemist and philosopher of science Michael Polanyi called “tacit knowledge”: a practical knowledge of “how to go about things” that we, however, cannot describe or explain in words. Saint Augustine gives an example of this sort of knowledge when he talks, in book 11 of his Confessions, about time. He notices the great paradox that as long as we do not talk about time, we know what it is, but as soon as we start trying to talk about it, we do not know what it is at all. This is...

    • 3 “You Are He and You Are Not He”: The Dialectic of Transcendence and Immanence in Ibn ‘Arabi
      (pp. 97-122)

      In his Futūḥāt al-makkīyya, Ibn ‘Arabi asserts the following about the power of human reasoning and its relation to prophetic revelation:

      Know that, before his prophecy, no prophet ever knew God through rational consideration, and it is not proper for any prophet to do so. In the same way, the chosen friend of God has no prior knowledge of God through rational consideration. Any friend of God who has prior knowledge of God in respect of reflective consideration is not “chosen,” even though he is a friend of God, nor is he one of those to whom God has given...

    • 4 “Unum est indistinctum”: Meister Eckhart’s Dialectical Theology
      (pp. 123-158)

      Eckhart combined seamlessly in himself two roles which we have come to think of as entirely antithetical: on the one hand, he was a spiritual master or “mystic”; on the other, he was an academic theologian, teaching at the best universities of his day. It is often the case, therefore, that his existential insights rest on a very elaborate and subtle scholastic scaffolding. The current theme of our chapter is no exception: the realization of the primal identity of subject and object, of the coincidence of the divine transcendence of the universe and the divine immanence in the soul, is...

  8. PART III: Intellect
    • [PART III: Introduction]
      (pp. 159-160)

      The Sufi saint, according to Ibn ‘Arabi, is someone who understands how his own limited created nature shapes and, in fact, distorts his reception of God’s gift of existence and his gift of intellectual illumination. But because he has this realization, the Sufi saint is also able to rise above this limitation. Through the exercise of the analogical imagination, he is able to see God in all things and in all thoughts. The saint becomes a pure mirror in and through which God is reflected. As a pure, polished mirror, the Sufi saint sees the Real with the “heart,” in...

    • 5 Ibn ‘Arabi and the Mirror of the Intellect
      (pp. 161-186)

      While I shall be pointing out the philosophical implications of Ibn ‘Arabi’s thought, it bears repeating that Ibn ‘Arabi never saw himself as a philosopher or what he was doing as philosophy, falsafa, as understood by the Arabs. His aim was not a rational understanding of the world or even of God. Rather, he sought the unveiling of the divine Reality (al-ḥaqq) in and through a unitative intellection that he sometimes calls gnosis (ma’rifa). In other words, Ibn ‘Arabi saw himself as doing what he called wisdom (ḥikma) or what we might call “meta-philosophy”: thinking that leads back into the...

    • 6 “Deus est intelligere”: Detachment, Intellect, and the Emanation of the Word in Meister Eckhart
      (pp. 187-220)

      In one of his sermons, Meister Eckhart makes the remarkable claim that “the same knowledge in which God knows himself is the knowledge of every detached spirit and nothing else. The soul receives its being immediately from God. For this reason God is nearer to the soul than it is to itself, and God is in the ground of the soul with all of his divinity.”¹ What does Eckhart here mean by a “detached spirit”? What is so special about it that “God is the ground” of such a soul “with all of his divinity”? The answer to these questions...

  9. PART IV: The Noble or Universal Man
    • [PART IV: Introduction]
      (pp. 221-224)

      The ideals of the Universal or Perfect Man in Ibn ‘Arabi and of the Nobleman in Eckhart represent the culmination of the “mystical” thought of both men. In each, these terms signify a believer who has realized the divinity in such a way that God is no longer the object of his or her knowledge, but rather the ground of his or her knowing, loving, and working. For such men, the divine Logos becomes the inner logos of their being, hearing and living the divine Word not as commands from without but as organizing principle (logos) of their inner life...

    • 7 The Universal Man in Ibn ‘Arabi
      (pp. 225-254)

      As Ibn ‘Arabi asserts in his Futuhat, all knowledge of God, the Reality (al-ḥaqq), is rooted in knowledge of the self:

      The root of existence of knowledge of God is knowledge of self. So knowledge of God has the property of knowledge of self, which is the root. In the view of those who know the self, the self is an ocean without a shore, so knowledge of it has no end. Such is the property of knowledge of the self. Hence, knowledge of God, which is a branch of this root, joins with it in property, so there is...

    • 8 The Nobleman in Meister Eckhart
      (pp. 255-282)

      There is no need to dwell on the centrality of the notion of the Logos to Christian thought. From the very beginning of the Gospel of John, Jesus is understood as the Logos or Ratio of all creation made flesh among humanity. This central assertion of the Christian tradition is also the linchpin of Meister Eckhart’s mystical thought. For Eckhart, by becoming flesh, the Logos, Christ, who is also God, ennobled humanity, becoming what we are, as the Patristic formula claims, so that we might become what he is. We can no longer think of God as the Lord of...

  10. Conclusion: The Unity and Diversity of the Mystical Path
    (pp. 283-294)

    Throughout all four parts of this book, I have tried to show that the mystical thought and practice of Ibn ‘Arabi and Meister Eckhart cannot be understood without reference to a revelation and a hermeneutics of that revelation that seeks the inner meaning of all revealed texts: the inner union of the soul with God. This mystical hermeneutic is what allows the soul to see creatures as embodied signs of spiritual realities. Just as, for Eckhart, the circle outside the tavern is the sign of the wine within, so are creatures signs of the “wine” of divine existence and truth...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 295-304)
  12. Index
    (pp. 305-313)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 314-315)