Titus Burckhardt’s “Mystical Astrology according to Ibn ‘Arabi” gives a brief but concentrated overview of a complex cosmology. In this article I would like to explore a little one of the central ideas in Ibn ‘Arabi’s thought. The pole between the Absolute and the Perfect Man. I think an exploration of this can provide help in understanding Bruckhardt’s exposition and also clarify how Ibn ‘Arabi viewed the planetary spheres. It also expands an understanding of the hermetic maxim, “As above, so below” that is considered one of the basic cosmological cornerstones of astrology.
Who is the Perfect Man? He is the one who embodies, fully realized, all of the attributes of God, the Divine Names. He is in effect the macrocosm, not the microcosm as one might first be tempted to believe. We are the microcosm, embodying in ourselves the potential of full realization and partial realization, just as the sensible world that is not man (also) embodies the Divine Names. And the Absolute? The Absolute is unknowable and therefore beyond the bounds of the macrocosm. It could be called metacosm (see our discussion in “Microcosm, Macrocosm and Metacosm”). It is transcendant Reality just as the microcosm is immanent Reality. Between the poles of the Absolute and the Perfect Man or shall we say transcendant and immanent Reality is the microcosm. The microcosm surprisingly forms the center. This means that the planetary spheres are both within us, as potential, and without us as actuality. And so no matter how trivial, each event and object is contained within the spheres and can thus be described and explored using astrological imagery and insight.
Here is a provocative thought. Could it be that the pole between the Absolute and the Perfect Man also defines the limits of astrology? The astrologer is only capable in those areas where one of the Divine Names has grown in him. In all other areas he is blind, his vision cannot adequately grasp the chart before him. Hence the admonition not to trivialize astrology and the proclamation found at the beginning of any astrological text in the Christian-Judaic-Islamic traditions, “For the Glory of God”. To trivialize or to forget the source of insight means to risk becoming blind. The chart loses depth and becomes flat.
to be continued…