Astrology and the Perfect Man (2)

Looked at more closely Titus Burkhardt’s, “Mystical Astrology according to Ibn ‘Arabi” jumps immediately into the subject. For an unprepared reader this can be bewildering.

Titus Burckhardt assumes that the reader already knows something about Ibn ‘Arabi and his role as a carrier of wisdom. It also assumes that the reader has at least a basic familiarity with the Islamic tradition. And most importantly it is not directed toward the astrologer! Instead it is directed toward readers who would like to understand how astrology fits into ‘Ibn Arabi’s cosmology. This doesn’t mean that it is not of interest to the astrologer. In fact it engenders questions which normally are not asked in the astrological literature. Questions that should be asked. Questions that can be highly individual.

William Chittick in his “Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul: The Pertinence of Islamic Cosmology to the Modern World”, gives a succinct and easily understandable description of the Islamic intellectual tradition, ‘In speaking of traditional Islamic thought I mean intellectual, not transmitted, learning.… four main areas of inquiry dominated the concerns of the Muslim intellectuals… metaphysics, cosmology, spiritual psychology and ethics…The basic characteristic…was its unitary vision. The various sciences were not understood as separate and independent realms of inquiry, but as complementary domains. The more one investigated the external world – the domain of cosmology – the more one gained insight into the internal world, the domain of spiritual psychology…In short, the purpose of intellectual studies was to prepare the ground for achieving human perfection. Perfection can only be reached by “returning” to God, that is, by bringing oneself back into harmony with the true nature of things. Both philosophers and Sufis were striving to become what it is possible for human beings to become. To use the expression that was made famous by Ibn ‘Arabi, the goal of human life was the achievement of the status of insān kāmil, “A perfect human being.” ‘ (pp. 44-45)

When Ibn ‘Arabi speaks of astrology, his main interest is not in astrology as it is practiced. We could best describe what he shares as how astrology can be understood in respect to the Real, that is God. If you read his work you will not learn anything about astrology in the sense of transmitted knowledge, technique and such, instead you will be called to think about astrology and its goal. This means you will have to actualize your intellect and that, dear reader, is where it becomes tedious. Our intellect belongs to our inner core of being and an act of will is required to call upon it. This is not something we learn at school!

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