Form and Substance in the Religions

For a religion to be considered as intrinsically orthodox it must be founded upon a fully adequate doctrine of the Absolute (extrinsic orthodoxy depending upon particular formal elements which cannot be applied literally outside the perspective to which they refer);1 it must also advocate and realize a spirituality that is adequate to this doctrine, which means that it must comprise both the notion and the fact of sanctity. The religion must therefore be of Divine, and not philosophical, origin, and in virtue of this origin it must be the vehicle of a sacramental or theurgic presence which manifests itself especially in miracles and also — though this may seem surprising to some — in sacred art. Particular formal elements, such as apostolic personages and sacred events, are — as forms — subordinate to the above mentioned principial elements; they may thus differ in meaning and value from one religion to another — human diversity making such fluctuations inevitable — without there being for this reason any contradiction as regards the essential criteria, which concern both metaphysical truth and saving efficacy, and secondarily — on this basis — human stability. This last criterion may have requirements which at first sight seem paradoxical, given that it necessarily implies a certain compromise between earth and Heaven. From the Christian point of view Islam may seem to be most questionable, but it undeniably answers to the overall description given above. It is intrinsically orthodox, while differing outwardly from other forms of monotheistic orthodoxy;and it is called upon to differ quite specifically from Christianity by what appears to be a kind of regress into an Abrahamic and as it were timeless equilibrium. Every religion has a form and a substance. Islam spread through the world like lightning by virtue of its substance, and its expansion came to a halt on account of its form. The substance has all the rights, for it springs from the Absolute; the form is relative, and its rights are therefore limited.2 Knowing this, one cannot close one's eyes to these two facts: firstly, there is no absolute credibility on the level of mere phenomena and secondly, the literalist and exclusivist interpretation of the religious messages is belied by their relative inefficacy, not of course within their own areas of providential expansion, but insofar as believers in other
Whether this be envisaged a priori in a mode that is personal or impersonal, theistic or nirvanic. Heresy is a form cut off from its substance, whence its illegitimacy, whereas wisdom on the contrary is substance envisaged independently of forms, whence its universality and its imprescriptibility. The success of heresy derives, not from some inner value (largely absent in fact), but from more or less negative extrinsic causes, unless its determining factor, in a particular environment, be some traditional element that has remained intact.
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religions are concerned: "If God truly wished to save the world", replied an Emperor of China to some missionaries, "why did He leave China in darkness for so many centuries?" The irrefutable logic of this argument in no wise proves that a given religious message is false, but it does prove that it is extrinsically limited by its form, exactly as some particular geometrical figure cannot, on its own, take into account all the possibilities of space. Obviously this basic argument has other aspects or applications: for example, had God really wished to save the world by means of the Christian religion and by no other, one could not explain why, a few centuries later, when Christianity had not even yet established itself firmly in Europe, He permitted another religion — one that came like astroke of lightning and remained like a monolith — to install itself in those very regions into which Christian light was supposed to penetrate, thus closing and bolting the door once and for all to any spread of Christianity towards the East.3 Inversely, if the coming of Islam had signified that the whole world was to embrace this religion, there would be no explanation as to why God should have clothed it in a human imagery which collides head-on with Christian sensibility and makes the West irremediably refractory to the message of Muhammad. If it be objected that man is free, and that consequently God allows him the liberty to create a false religion anywhere and any time, then words become meaningless: Every Divine Intervention, in order to be efficacious, must foresee this freedom of man to oppose it; however, such opposition could never threaten what is essential in a Divine Message, which remains universally intelligible, and thus can be understood, in principle, by all men of good will. It will no doubt be said that the Divine will is unfathomable; but if it be so in such a case and to such a degree, then religious argumentation itself loses much of its strength. It is true that the relative failure of religious expansion has never troubled the minds of the faithful, but the question could obviously not arise in times when man's image of the world was circumscribed and when, for that reason, a check to expansion was not yet experienced; and if the attitude of the faithful did not change later on, when this
In speaking of the Moslems, St. Bernard says that God "will scatter the princes of darkness" and that "the sword of the brave will soon complete the extermination of the last of their satellites" (Praise of the New Militia V). He was compelled finally to admit that "the children of the Church and all who shelter under the name of Christians lie in the desert, victims of battles and famine", and that "the leaders of the expedition quarrel among themselves"; that "the judgement God has pronounced upon us is such an abyss of mystery that to find no occasion for scandal in it is in our eyes already sanctity and beatitude . . . (Consideration, II, I). Beyond such oppositions, the Sufis sometimes recall that the diverse Revelations are rays of one and the same Divine Sun: "The man of God", singsRumi in his Dīwān, "is beyond infidelity and religion . . . I have looked into my own heart; it is there that I have seen Him (Allāh); He was nowhere else . . . I am neither Christian nor Jew nor Fireworshipper nor Moslem; I am neither of the East nor of the West, neither of the earth nor of the sea . . . I have put aside duality, I have seen that the two worlds are but one; One alone do I seek, One alone do I know, One alone do I see, upon One alone do I call".

check became perceptible, that proves, positively, that the religions offer intrinsic values which cannot be invalidated by any terrestrial contingency and, negatively, that prejudice and lack of imagination are part of human nature and that these two characteristics may even be said to constitute the protective screen without which most men would be unable to live. To be converted from one religion to another is not only to change concepts and spiritual means, it is also to replace one sentimentality by another. To say sentimentality is to say limitation; the margin of sentimentality surrounding each of the historical religions makes evident in its fashion the limits of all exoterism and, in consequence, the limits of exoteric claims. Inwardly or substantially, the claims that a religion makes are absolute, but outwardly or formally, thus on the level of human contingency, they are necessarily relative; if metaphysics were not sufficient proof of this, the facts themselves would prove it. Let us now, by way of example, place ourselves at the point of view of exoteric, and therefore totalitarian, Islam. In the earliest stages of Moslem expansion, the circumstances were such that the doctrinal claim made by Islam imposed itself in an absolute fashion; but later the relativity characteristic of every formal expression had necessarily to show itself. If Islam's exoteric — not its esoteric — claim were absolute and not relative, no man of good will could resist this claim, this "categorical imperative". Everyone who did resist it would be fundamentally evil as was the case in the early days of Islam when no one could, without perversion, prefer the magical idols to the pure God of Abraham. St. John Damascene held ahigh position at the court of the caliph in Damascus:4 yet he was not converted to Islam, any more than were St. Francis of Assisi in Tunisia, St. Louis in Egypt or St. Gregory Palamas in Turkey.5 Now this leads to only two possible conclusions: either these saints were fundamentally evil men — an absurd supposition, since they were saints — or else the claim which Islam makes includes, in common with the claims made by every religion, an aspect of relativity, a fact which is self-evident in the light of metaphysics since every form has limits and since every religion is outwardly a form, the quality of absoluteness belonging to religions only in their intrinsic and supraformal essence. Tradition tells that the Sufi Ibrahim ibn Adham had as his occasional master a Christian hermit, without either being converted to the other's religion.
It was there that the saint wrote and published, with the approval of the caliph, his famous treatise in defense of images, which had been prohibited by the iconoclast Emperor Leo III.
4 5 While a prisoner of the Turks for a year, he had friendly discussions with the Emir's son, but was not converted, nor did the Turkish prince become a Christian.

In the same way, tradition tells that Sayyid Ali Hamadani, who played a decisive role in the conversion of Kashmir to Islam, knew Lalla Yogishwari, the naked yōginī of the valley, and that the two saints respected each other profoundly, to the extent that one can speak of reciprocal influences,6 and in spite of the difference in religion. All this shows that the absolute quality of Islam, like that of any religion, lies in the inward dimension, and that the relativity of the outward dimension must necessarily become apparent on contact with the other great religions or their saints. * * * Christianity superimposes upon man's post-Edenic wretchedness the saving person of Christ. Islam is founded upon the incorruptible nature of man — in virtue of which man cannot cease to be what he is — and saves him, not by conferring a new nature upon him, but by restoring to him his original perfection by means of the normal contents of his immutable nature. In Islam, the Message — pure and absolute Truth — is reflected back upon the Messenger: the latter is perfect insofar as the Message is perfect or because the Message is so. The Christian is sharply aware in a negative sense of the extra-divine and socially human appearance under which the Prophet of Islam shows himself, and finds this characteristic unpardonable in a founder of religion who had come after Christ. The Moslem, in his turn, readily perceives a certain one-sided quality in the doctrine of the Gospels, and moreover he shares this feeling with Hindus and Buddhists. A simple question of form, obviously, since every religion is by definition a totality, but it is precisely formal particularities, and not their implicit limitlessness, which separate the religions. "Judge not that ye be not judged . . .", "He who draws the sword will perish by the sword . . .", "Whichsoever of you is without sin, let him cast the first stone. . . ." None of these sayings is explicable unless we take account of the characteristic intention which lies behind them, namely that they are addressed, not to man as such, but to the passional man, or else to the passional side of man: for it is all too evident that it can and must happen that oneman should pass a legitimate judgement upon another, but for which there would be neither "discernment of spirits" nor justice; or that men should draw the sword rightly without therefore perishing by the
6 In our day the Moslems of Kashmir still venerate Lalla, the dancing Shaivite, as they would a Moslem saint, side by side with Sayyid Ali. The Hindus share in this dual cult. The doctrine of this woman saint is condensed in one of her songs: "My guru gave me but a single precept. He told me: `From without, enter into the most inward place.' For me this has become a rule; and this is why, naked, I dance" (Lallā Vākyāni, 94).

sword, or again that men should cast stones if need be without being compelled to ask themselves whether or not they are sinners, for it goes without saying that neither judges nor executioners have to ask themselves this question in the course of exercising their respective functions. To confront the Laws of Sinai or those of the Koran and the Sunna with those of Christ is not to establish a contradiction, but simply to speak of different things. The same remark applies to the divergence regarding sexual morality or conceptions of sexuality. Whereas the Semites, in common with most other Orientals, define marriage in terms of physical union and its religious conditioning, Christian theologians define it in terms of what is "before" or "after" this union or of what exists "beside" it. "Before": in terms of the pact which makes of the betrothed a married couple. "After": in terms of the children, who make of the married couple parents and religious educators. "Beside": in terms of the fidelity of the couple, which enables them to face life together while at the same time guaranteeing the social order. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, marriage becomes "more holy sine carnali commixtione" which is true from a certain ascetic-mystical point of view, but not if one understands it in an absolute fashion. In any case, this opinion leaves no doubt as to the fundamental tendency of Christianity in this matter. And sincethis tendency is founded upon an aspect of the very nature of things, it goes without saying that one meets it to one degree or another in every religious climate, including that of Islam, just as, inversely, sexual alchemy could not be totally absent from the Christian esoterism of the Middle Ages, nor from Christianity as such. Christianity distinguishes between the carnal as such and the spiritual as such, and is logical in maintaining this alternative in the hereafter: Paradise is by definition spiritual, therefore it excludes the carnal. Islam, which distinguishes between the carnal as such and the carnal sanctified, is just as logical in admitting the latter into its Paradise. To reproach the Garden of the Houris for being too sensual, according to the usual and earthly meaning of the word,7 is as unjust as to reproach the Christian Paradise for being too abstract. Christian symbolism takes account here of the opposition between cosmic degrees, whereas Islamic symbolism has the essential analogy in view; but the issue is the same.8 It would be a mistake to
Traditional polygamy depersonalizes woman in view of Femininity in itself, the divine Rahmah (Mercy). But this polygamy, with its contemplative foundation, can also, as in the case of a David, be combined with the monogamous perspective: Bathsheba wasthe one and only Wife because, precisely, she "personified" this "impersonal" Femininity.

There is opposition between body and soul, or between earth and Heaven; but not in the cases of Enoch, Elias, of Jesus and of Mary, who ascended bodily into the celestial world. In the same way, the resurrection of the

think that authentic Christianity is hostile to the body as such;9 the concept of "the Word made flesh" and the glory of the virginal body of Mary stand in immediate opposition to every form of Manicheism. A consideration which calls for mention here, since we are speaking of parallels and of oppositions, is the following: the Koran has been reproached for bringing the Virgin Mary into the Christian Trinity; we will answer this objection here, not only to explain the intention of the Koran, but also, at the same time, to clarify the problem of the Trinity by means of a particular metaphysical accentuation. According to an interpretation which is not theological in fact, but is so by right and finds support in the Scriptures, the "Father" is God in Himself, that is, as Metacosm; the "Son" is God insofar as He is manifested in the world, that is, in the Macrocosm; and the "Holy Ghost" is God insofar as He is manifested in the soul, that is, in the Microcosm. From another point of view, the Macrocosm itself is the "Son", and the Microcosm itself — in its primordial perfection — is identified with the "Holy Ghost"; Jesus is equal to the Macrocosm, to the entire Creation as divine manifestation, and Mary is equal to the "pneumatic" Microcosm; and let us note in this connection the equation that has sometimes been made between the Holy Ghost and the divine Virgin, an equation which is linked to the feminization, in certain ancient texts, of the divine Pneuma.10 * * * There is no bridge leading from Christian theology towards Islam, just as there is no bridge leading from Jewish theology towards Christianity. In order to be legitimate Christianity has to place itself on a different level; and this precisely is an unprecedented possibility which does not belong to any of the ordinary categories of Judaism. The great novelty of the Christ,
flesh manifests or actualizes a reality which abolishes the said opposition. Meister Eckhart states with good reason that in ascending to the Heavens these holy bodies were reduced to their essence, which in no way contradicts the idea of bodily ascension. St. John Climacus relates that St. Nonnos, when baptizing St. Pelagia, who had entered naked into the piscina, "having perceived a person of great beauty began greatly to praise the Creator, and was so carried away in the love of God through this contemplation that he wept"; and he adds: "Is it not extraordinary to see that which causes the fall of so many become for this man a reward beyond the bounds of nature? He who by his efforts comes to the same sentiments under comparable circumstances is already restored in incorruptibility before the general resurrection. The same may be said of melodies, whether sacred or profane: those who love God are led by them to divine joy and to divine love and are moved even to tears" (Scale of Paradise XV).
9 10 The Hebrew word Rūah, "Spirit", is feminine. Let us likewise note that one finds in the Epistle to the Hebrews the expression "My Mother the Holy Ghost" (Matēr mou to hagion pneuma).

within the framework of the Jewish world, was therefore the possibility of an inward and thus supraformal dimension: to adore God "in spirit and in truth", and to do so even to the point ofoccasionally abolishing forms. The passage from Judaism to Christianity is brought about, in consequence, not on the level of theology as the Christian controversialists paradoxically imagine, but by a return to a mystery of inwardness, sanctity, and divine Life, from which a new theology will gush forth. From the Christian point of view the weakness of Judaism lies in the assertion that one must descend from Jacob in order to be able to belong to God and that the accomplishment of prescribed acts is all that God demands of us. Whether this interpretation is exaggerated or not, Christ shattered the frontiers of ethnic Israel in order to replace it with a purely spiritual Israel, and he gave precedence to the love of God over the prescribed act, and in a certain fashion replaced the one with the other, even while introducing in his turn, and of necessity, new forms. Now this passage, outside the domain of theology, from the "old Law" to the "new", logically prevents Christians from using with regard to Islam the narrowly theological argumentation which they refuse to accept from the Jews, and it obliges them in principle to admit at least the possibility — in favor of Islam — of a legitimacy founded upon a new dimension that could not be grasped in the terms of their own theology. We have seen that, from the Islamic point of view, the limitation of Christianity lies in its assertion that man is totally corrupted by sin and secondly that Christ alone can deliver him from this state; and, as we have also pointed out, Islam is founded upon the axiom of the unalterable deiformity of man. There is in mansomething which, participating as it does in the Absolute — but for which he would not be man — makes salvation possible provided he possess the necessary knowledge; and this, precisely, is furnished by Revelation. What man stands in absolute need of is not such and such a Revealer, but rather Revelation as such, that is, viewed in terms of its essential and unalterable content. And let us also bear in mind this crucial point: what Islam blames Christianity (not the Gospels) for is not that it should admit of a Trinity within God, but that it should place this Trinity on the same level as the divine Unity; not that it should attribute to God a ternary aspect, but that it should define God as triune, which amounts to saying either that the Absolute is triple or else that God is not the Absolute.11 A point which we raised earlier and upon which we should like to insist further before

11 It is true that God as Creator, Revealer and Savior is not to be identified with the Absolute as such; it is equally true that God as such, in the full depth of His Reality, is not to be reduced to the creative Function.

continuing is the following: in terms of the ordinary Christian perspective12 the whole of nature has been corrupted and more or less cursed as a result of the fall — and consequent corruption — of man; it follows from this that the pleasures of the senses are justified only insofar as they are necessary for the conservation of the bodily individual, that is, the terrestrial species. In the Islamic perspective, pleasure, if it remains within the limits allowed by nature and in the framework of religion, includes in addition a contemplative quality, a barakah or a blessing which is related to the celestial archetypes13 and which therefore can benefit both virtue and contemplation.14 The question asked by Islam is not what is the worth or significance of some particularpleasure for some particular individual, but what is the significance of pleasures which are normal and, within the limits of their possibilities, noble, for man made noble by faith and by the practices and virtues which faith requires. Christians are ever ready to see the distinction between the "flesh" and the "spirit" as an irreducible alternative, softened only on the aesthetic level by the superficial and expeditious notion of the "consolation of the senses". The Islamic perspective adds to this alternative, the relative legitimacy of which it could not deny, two compensatory aspects: the spirit manifesting itself in the flesh, and the flesh manifesting itself in the spirit; an intertwined complementarity which makes one think, once again, of the Taoist Yin- Yang. To sum up: the Christian insists upon renunciation and sacrifice, the Moslem on nobility and blessing; one could also say that the Christian places the accent on the accidental container or on the level of manifestation, and the Moslem on the substantial content and on the operative symbolism. Gnosis at one and the same time comprises and transcends both attitudes.15 From the point of view of the literal interpretation of Christian theology, Islam appears as a painful scandal;16 the situation of Christianity is analogous from the point of view of the
A traditional perspective is never equivalent to a total limitation — a fact which is evident a priori and proved by many examples.

In Paradise: ". . . Each time that they receive a fruit they will say: This is what we received previously (= on earth) . . . And they will have wives who are purified (= free from earthly blemishes) . . ." (Sura "The Cow", 25). The hedonism of the Vishnuite school of Vallabha appears to be a deviation from this perspective. As for Greek hedonism, that of Aristippus or of Epicurus, it is based on a philosophy of man and not on the metaphysical nature of sensations; at the beginning, nonetheless, it was a measured and serene hedonism, not gross as it was with the materialists of the 18th century.
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In fact, both are to be found in all traditional spirituality.

There is, however, this argument (which Massignon made much of) in favor of Islam: "I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you and I will make great your name. You will be a blessing . . . and all the

most impeccable Rabbinical logic.17 One has to understand each of these Messages from its own standpoint and in its most profound intention. Reasonings derived from axioms which are foreign to the Message will never reach its intrinsic truth. And this brings us to the following point: the phenomena which characterize a particular religion are not criteria proving that it alone is legitimate to the exclusion of all other religions; they result from a divine intention to create a spiritual perspective and a way of salvation. In the Christian "system of salvation" — in the sense of the Buddhist term upāya — Christ "must" be born of a Virgin, otherwise he cannot appear as God manifested; and being a divine Manifestation — this expression being the very definition of Christianity as a "divine means" or upāya — Christ "must" be unique, and salvation can therefore only be through him. The universal and, therefore, timeless role of the Logos here coincides for obvious reasons with the historical personality of Jesus. In the case of Islam, the upaya is founded upon the idea that there is only the unique Reality, whether one understands it exoterically and in separative mode, or esoterically and in unitive mode, in terms of transcendence or in term of immanence. Consequently, the Prophet "has no need" to be more than a man, and there is no reason why he should be unique, other Prophets having preceded him. In the case of Judaism, the upāya bears witness to the possibility of a Pact between God and a consecrated, and therefore basically sacerdotal, society, other examples of which are to be found in Brahmanism and Shintoism. Israel "must" therefore fulfill the role of the only "chosen people" — since it embodies this fundamental possibility of a celestial Pact — even if the need for monotheism to radiate can find its solution only thanks to the subsequent forms of Monotheism.18 Since Muhammad was not supposed — any more than were Abraham or Moses — to present himself as the Manifestation of the Absolute, he could, like them, remain wholly Semitic in style, a style which is meticulously attached to human things without disdaining even the smallest; whereas there is in Christ — paradoxically and providentially — an element which
families of the earth will be blessed in you" (Genesis XII, 2 and 3). This divine promise includes all the descendants of Abraham, including the Arabs, and thus including Islam, inasmuch as it is Islam and Christianity (not Judaism)which extend to "all the families of earth"; in other words, a false religion could not be covered by the promises made by God to Abraham. 17 The Witness which God bore on Sinai concerning His own Nature was not a half-truth: it was an affirmation — of unsurpassable gravity — of the Unicity and the indivisibility of the Absolute. Assuredly, this Witness does not mean that there is in God no mystery such as the Trinity; but it does mean that, at the level at which Unity is affirmed, there is Unity alone, and therefore that there will be nothing that could be added to it.
18 It is for an analogous reason, or in a certain sense for the same reason, that Buddhism had to emerge from the closed world of Brahmanism.

brings him closer to the Aryan world, that is, a tendency towards the idealistic simplification of terrestrial contingencies.19 The fact that Christ is Manifestation of the Absolute has suggested to Westerners, with the help of Greco-Roman cosmolatry, that the Absolute is of this world — a suggestion which Islam expressly denies by clothing the terrestrial in a maximum of relativity (fire does not burn, "God alone" causes burning, and so on) but which has played its part in provoking, through many a detour, and latterly in combination with a Jewish messianism become irreligious, the pursuit of a mass of terrestrial pseudo-absolutes which can never be realized and which are of an increasingly explosive character. The fact that Islam is accused of naivety, sterility and inertia serves to make evident an optical illusion on the part of the Westerners which can be explained by their faith in the absolute quality of terrestrial values and human undertakings; For objectively and positively, the characteristics which provoke these reproaches indicate the intention to maintain a Biblical equilibrium in the face of the true and only Absolute. For Moslems, time is a rotation round a motionless center; it would even be reversible "if God willed it so". History is of interest only insofar as it refers back to the Origin or, on the other hand,insofar as it flows on towards the "Last Day". For God is "the First and the Last". It is the aim of Islam to combine the sense of the Absolute with the quality of Equilibrium: idea of the Absolute determining this Equilibrium, and realization of Equilibrium in view of the Absolute. Equilibrium includes all that we are, and thus man in his collective as well as in his individual aspect; and being men we have a right, in relation to the Absolute, to all that is normally human, without this right excluding particular vocations of withdrawal. Christianity, for its part, has a dramatic quality about it: it has the sense of the Sublime rather than that of the Absolute, and the sense of Sacrifice rather than that of Equilibrium. In this second aspect it extends to society as a whole a vocation that is properly speaking ascetic — above all in the Latin Chruch — something which, as a particular upāya, it certainly has a right to do, but which has nonetheless provoked historical disequilibriums that are both disastrous and providential.20
We hope that the expressions we use adequately convey our intentions, which we are obliged to condense into a few key-words at the risk of seeming somewhat "ill-sounding". On the basis of this warning, let us say that Christ, destined to become an "Aryan god" had himself, in anticipation, a certain Aryan quality which showed itself in his independence — seemingly "Greek" or "Hindu" — with regard to forms; just as the Buddha, destined to be a "Mongol god", had a certain Mongol quality apparent in the horizontal monotony and static depth of his manifestation. As far as the "independence" of the Aryan spirit is concerned it must be clearly understood that like Semitic formalism it can be an asset or a fault as the case may be;in any case, the whole question is relative, and each thing must be put in its proper place. 20 European humanity has about it something Promethean and tragic. It therefore required a religion

According to the Moslem point of view, Christians have "Christified" God: since the time of Christ, God can neither be conceived nor worshipped apart from the Man-God, and whoever still conceives God in the pre-Christian manner is accused of not knowing God. To worship God apart from Jesus — or not to admit that Jesus is God — is to be the enemy of Jesus, and so the enemy of God, even if one combines the worship of the One God with the love of Jesus and of Mary, as do, precisely, the Moslems. In short as Moslems see it,Christians have so to speak "confiscated" the worship of God by the exclusive and absolute worship of a particular divine Manifestation, to the point of denying all previous religions; whereas Islam on the contrary recognizes the validity of the pre-Christian monotheistic cults, while adopting in its turn an exclusive attitude in matters concerning the final cycle of humanity, to which it belongs. And this is important: it would seem that the dazzling self-evidence of the "rights" of the Absolute — and thus of God as Unity — necessitates in the Muhammadan manifestation a very human quality, in the sense that this self-evidence suffices unto itself and must be understood as self-sufficient, so that a superhuman messenger would add nothing to it. Starting from the idea that every religion is founded upon a Revelation emanating from one and the same infinite Consciousness, or from the same celestial Will of attraction and equilibrium, one can specify — as we have done more than once — that Christianity is founded upon the saving Miracle of God, and Islam on the saving Truth. In other words, speaking very summarily, the virgin birth of Jesus proves from the Christian point of view that the Christian religion is the only true one,21 whereas from the Moslem point of view this same miracle proves simply that the divine Power had a sufficient reason for bringing it about, but not that it is — or ever could be — the sole criterion of divine Authority or the sole guarantee of absolute Truth, and thus that it could take precedence over some aspect of metaphysical Evidence. In a word, Islam seeks to avoid the impression that this Truth or this Evidence could be dependent uponthe superhuman character of the messenger.22 It is as though God were "jealous" — in the Biblical and metaphorical sense of the word — of His earthly representatives and anxious to demonstrate or to recall His absolute pre-eminence and His indivisible essentiality; a "jealousy" that is strictly logical or ontological, for it is based on the nature of things — from which nothing ever escapes
which could surpass and sublimate the dramatism of the Greek and Germanic gods and heroes. Furthermore, the European creative genius implies a need to "burn what one has worshipped", and from this comes a prodigious propensity for denial and for change. The Renaissance offers us the clearest proof and the most stupefying example of this, not to speak of what is going on in our own time on an incomparably more dangerous level; it is still "Man" that is at issue, but with totally different emphases.

in the final analysis — and based also on Mercy, since the divine Truth possesses essentially a saving quality which in a sense compensates for Its lofty or majestic character. This saving quality of the pure Truth is the great thesis of Islam, on a level with that of the Unity of God. Moslems raise a priori the question of knowing, not whether Jesus is God, but whether God can make Himself man in the sense in which the Christians understand this. If one envisages God as Moslems do, that is in terms of Absoluteness, God in Himself cannot become man because the Absolute in Itself cannot become contingent. In the trinitarian doctrine, God can become man because manifestation is already anticipated in the Principle which is itself considered in an aspect that is already relative. The same applies to the Hindu doctrine of the Avatāras, but not to that of Ātmā insofar as It transcends and excludes Māyā. When manifestation is prefigured in the Principle, this means, precisely, that the Principle is not being considered in terms of Absoluteness; now the very point of Islam's existence is that it should place the dogmatic stress on the Absolute and be, in consequence, the message of the essential and of thetimeless. This truth necessarily had to take shape in the monotheistic cycle, whatever might be the legitimacy and the merit of other equally possible perspectives. Dogmatically the divergence between Christianity and Islam is irreducible; metaphysically and mystically it is no more than relative, just as two opposed points become complementary in virtue of the circle upon which both are situated and which coordinates or unites them once it is perceived. It should never be lost sight of that dogmas are key-coagulations of supraformal Light. Now coagulation amounts to form, and therefore to limitation and exclusion. The Spirit can be manifested, but it cannot be enclosed; Spiritus autem ubi vult spirat. * * * Certain clarifications with regard to Sufism would seem to be opportune at this point. It has been claimed, with a somewhat surprising assurance, that original Sufism knew only fear; that the Sufism of love came later, and later still that of gnosis; and this succession has been presented, without hesitation, as an evolution, the different phases of which have been attributed to alien influences. In reality, this unfolding in three phases is a normal cyclical projection of the spiritual potentialities of Islam; that which is, in principle, of the highest order must be manifested — from the point of view of general accentuation — last of all, which can obviously present the illusion of a kind of progress so long asone is unaware of the profound reasons for

the phenomenon and unaware also that the three elements — fear, love, knowledge — necessarily existed from the beginning, and above all in the very person of the Prophet, as the Koran and the Sunna attest and but for which they could not have flowered at a later stage in specific forms of doctrine and of method. There are two parallel movements which balance each other: on the one hand, the collectivity degenerates in proportion to its movement away from the origin; but, on the other hand, without there being — needless to say — any general increase in spirituality, there are successive stages of blossoming in the ascending order we have described, in the sense that values which were implicit from the beginning are unfolded in the doctrinal order and become explicit, so that one could say there is a progressive and compensatory unfolding in the very framework of general decadence. This is a phenomenon which may be observed in all religious cycles, notably also in that of Buddhism,23 and this is why, in the midst of each religion, there arise "renewers" (mujaddidūn) who are "prophets" in a derivative and secondary sense.24 In Islam, Rabiah Adawiyyah, Dhun-Nun al-Misri, Niffari, Ghazali, Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, Ibn Arabi, Abu 'l-Hasan ash-Shadhili and Rumi are of their number. A paradoxical reason for this phenomenon is that the full blossoming of the perspective of love presupposes a human environment forged by the perspective of fear,25 and that the blossoming of theperspective of gnosis presupposes an environment molded by that of love. That is to say that a religion must have time to shape its humanity in order to be able to project upon it, with the help of this environment, this or that spiritual accentuation. Exactly the same holds true for sacred art or for liturgy in general. The Sufi ternary, "fear" (makhāfah), "love" (mahabbah) and "knowledge" ma‘rifah), is manifested, on the scale of integral Monotheism, in the forms of the three Semitic religions respectively, each comprising in its turn and after its own fashion, with greater or lesser accentuation, the three modes in question. Christianity begins with the austere desert fathers; it flowers again more gently, under the sign of the Virgin-Mother, in the Middle Ages, to give rise, although in a somewhat precarious fashion since the whole accentuation is upon charity, to manifestations of gnosis, particularly discernible — in varying degrees — among the Rhineland mystics and in Scholasticism, without overlooking the German theosophists — in a kind of traditional exile — and other more or less isolated groups. Nor, in Judaism, could the time of the Psalms and of the Song of Songs be that of the Pentateuch, and the Kabbalists could not emerge or unfold their doctrine before the Middle

Ages.26 And let us remember in this context that Judaism, which accentuates the pact between God and Israel, is on the whole a perspective of faith and of fear; the fear of God is the framework for the perspectives of love and of knowledge, which could not be missing,27 love being in this case closely linked with hope. Christianity, for its part, accentuates, not a priori the divine Nature, but the divine and redemptive Manifestation; it is the perspective of love which in its own fashion provides the framework for the perspective of fear and that of knowledge. Islam, finally, accentuates the divine Unity and its human consequences, it represents a perspective of faith and of knowledge, fear and love being here a consequence of faith.28 We recall these things here not in order to define yet again the religions' perspectives but in order to stress that they contain each other mutually.
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. The implicit reasoning amounts to the following: the Vedantic doctrine is false since Christ, who was born of a virgin, did not teach it, and since Badarayana, who taught it, was not born of a virgin. Let us in any case add, on the one hand, that the Vedantic postulates are met with sporadically also in Christian metaphysics and mysticism and, on the other, that the truth of such and such an Aristotelian or Platonic thesis has led the Christians who understood it to Christianize it, which comes to the same thing as saying that every truth derives from the eternal Word. 22. It goes without saying that it is here a question, not of contesting the well-foundedness of the Christian upāya as such, but of taking account of an aspect, or of an underlying argument, ofthe Islamic phenomenon, which appears in its context as a corrective establishing a certain degree of equilibrium with regard to voluntarist Christocentrism. 23. Five hundred years after the Buddha the tradition was in danger, if not of extinction, at least of being more and more reduced to a monastic community without any possible world-wide radiation: all efforts converged upon the Pratyēka-Buddha, the silent and isolated contemplative. It was then that the Mahāyāna intervened with its ideal of the Boddhisattva, the personification not only of heroic detachment but also of active compassion. Let us point out here that Buddhist "pity" signifies that total Knowledge essentially implies, not some particular outward activity, of course, but participative consciousness of a dimension of Being, namely Beauty or Goodness; which is precisely an aspect of the divine Essence, according to Ibn Arabi. 24. It would be a poor joke to confuse them with "reformers", whose function is exactly the opposite. We have heard it said that if St. Francis of Assisi had not come, Christ would have had to return; a symbolic formulation which suggests very well the function in question. 25. For reasons to which we have already alluded, one could not object here that many of the ahādīth treat of Love and that it could not be absent at the beginning of Islam. Love does not enter explicitly into the postulates of early Sufism which is founded — as we have said — upon effective "conversion" (tawbah) and uponjourneying through the "stations" (maqāmāt). "Islam is the religion of Love", said Ibn Arabi; as to its outcome, yes, but not as to its general premises; yes, as to its essence; no, as to its methodic postulates. "Wine" (khamr) and "Night" (Laylā), or contemplative drunkenness and inward quasi-divine feminity, enter only into esoterism. 26. Philo of Alexandria was a Platonist, not a Kabbalist. 27. Such quasi-definitions are at one and the same time exact and approximative, for it is hardly possible to do justice to all shades of meaning in a few words. 28. Indeed, many ahādīth see in the love of God and in the fear of sin or of the world, criteria of sincere

Notes to

Form and Substance in the Religions

faith which, as such, is always stressed. Let us note the following saying of Hasan Al-Basri, eminent spokesman of nascent Sufism: "He who knows God, loves Him, and he who knows the world, turns away from it".

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