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The Nature of Man - Universal Man by William C. Chittick [6 Pp.]

The Nature of Man - Universal Man by William C. Chittick [6 Pp.]

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Published by Tahir Ali

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Published by: Tahir Ali on Jul 27, 2010
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12/22/2011

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Te ature of an
 
 III. e Nature of Man
1. Universal Man
 A 
lthough the universe is one when seen from thepoint of view of the Divine Essence, from thepoint of view of relativity there is a fundamentalpolarization into microcosm and macrocosm. Te macrocosmis the universe in all its indefinite multiplicity, reflecting theDivine Names and Qualities as so many individual particular-izations and determined modes. Te microcosm is man, whoreflects these same qualities but as a totality. Te macrocosmand the microcosm are like two mirrors facing each other;each contains all of the other’s qualities, but the one in a moreoutward and objective manner and in detail (
mufassal 
)
 
and theother in a more inward and subjective manner and in sum-mary form (
mujmal 
)
.
 Tus man’s total knowledge of himself in principle includes the knowledge of the whole universe. Forthis reason the Quran says, “And He [God] taught Adam theNames [i.e., the essences of all beings and things]” (II, 31).
Te father of mankind, who is the lord of “He taught the  ames,” hath hundreds of thousands of sciences in everyvein.o his soul accrued (knowledge of) the name of everything, even as that thing exists (in its real nature) unto the end (of the world).…With us [ordinary men], the name of every thing is itsoutward (appearance); with the Creator, the name of everything is its inward (reality).… nasmuch as the eye of Adam saw by means of the Pure Light, the soul and inmost sense of the names became evident to him (, 1234-35, 1239, 1246).
 Te prototype of both the microcosm and the macrocosmis the Universal or Perfect Man (
al-insān al-kāmil 
)
,
1
 
 who is
1
On the macrocosm and the microcosm and Universal Man see Burckhardt,
 ntro-duction to ufi octrine 
, pp. 89 ff.; Izutsu,
Comparative tudy
, chapters 14-17; and R.Guénon,
ymbolism of the Cross
, London, 1958. Te title of Guénon’s work is explained
49
 
the sum total of all levels of reality in a permanent synthe-sis. All the Divine Qualities are contained within him andintegrated together in such a way that they are neither con-fused nor separated, and yet he transcends all particular anddetermined modes of existence. Moreover, in terms of revela-tion, Universal Man is the Spirit, of which the prophets areso many aspects, and of which from the Islamic point of view Muhammad is the perfect synthesis.Universal Man has another aspect when seen from thepoint of view of the spiritual path: he is the perfect humanmodel who has attained all of the possibilities inherent in thehuman state. In him the “Names” or essences which man con-tains in potentiality (
bi’l-quwwah
)
 
are actualized so that they become the very states of his being (
bi’l-fi’l 
)
.
For him the hu-man ego with which most men identify themselves is no morethan his outer shell, while all other states of existence belongto him internally; his inward reality is identified with the in- ward reality of the whole universe.
2
Universal Man is the principle of all manifestation andthus the prototype of the microcosm and the macrocosm. In-dividual man, or man as we usually understand the term, is themost complete and central reflection of the reality of Univer-sal Man in the manifested universe, and thus he appears as thefinal being to enter the arena of creation, for what is first inthe principial order is last in the manifested order.
3
 Te term “Universal Man” was given prominence by Ibn‘Arabī, though the doctrine was well known before him, andnecessarily so, for from the point of view of Sufism
 
the Prophetof Islam is the most perfect manifestation of Universal Man.
by him as follows: “Most traditional doctrines symbolize the realization of ‘UniversalMan’ by the sign of the cross, which clearly represents the manner of achievementof this realization by the perfect communion of all the states of the being, harmoni-ously and conformably ranked, in integral expansion, in the double sense of ‘amplitude’and ‘exaltation.’” p. 10.
2
Burckhardt,
 ntroduction to ufi octrine 
, p. 93; see also Guénon,
ymbolism of the Cross
, chapters 2 and 3.
3
Te Arabic dictum is
awwal al-fikr ākhir al-‘amal 
, “Te first in thought is the lastin actualization.” Te metaphysical principle is explained by Guénon in
ymbolism of  the Cros
s, p. 7. See also S.M. Stern, “‘Te First in Tought is the Last in Action’: theHistory of a Saying Attributed to Aristotle,”
 Journal of emitic tudies
, vol. 7, 1962, pp.234-52.
Te ufi octrine of ūmī 
50 
 
It is essentially to this state that the Prophet was referring when he said, “Te first thing created by God was my light(
nūrī 
)
” 
or “my spirit (
rūhī 
)”
a
hadīth
 which has been citedby Sufis over and over again throughout the centuries. More-over, because numerous saints from the time of the Prophetonward reached this state, they knew the meaning of the doc-trine of Universal Man in a concrete manner, even if they didnot speak of it in exactly the same terms as did Ibn ‘Arabī.Before Ibn ‘Arabī Universal Man was usually spoken of in slightly different terms from those employed by him: the“microcosm” in this earlier perspective is man’s external form, while the “macrocosm” is his inward reality. In other words,the term “macrocosmrefers essentially to the inward reality of the Universe and not to its outward form, as is usually the case
 
in Ibn ‘Arabī’s doctrine. But this inward reality is precisely Universal Man and is therefore identical with the inward real-ity of the microcosm.
4
4
Sufis of later centuries have always looked at these two ways of viewing the reality of man as essentially the same. Te following is a quotation from Jāmī, the well-known
Te ature of an
51

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