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The gnostic descries the element of reality in positive religion, but his gnosis is not derived from religion or from any sort of human knowledge: it is properly concerned with the divine attributes, and God Himself reveals the knowledge of these to His saints who contemplate Him. Dhu ’l-Nun of Egypt, whose mystical speculations mark him out as the father of Moslem theosophy, said that gnostics are not themselves, and do not subsist through themselves, but so far as they subsist, they subsist through God.

"They move as God causes them to move, and their words are the words of God which roll upon their tongues, and their sight is the sight of God which has entered their eyes."

The gnostic contemplates the attributes of God, not His essence, for even in gnosis a small trace of duality remains: this disappears only in fana al-fana, the total passing-away in the undifferentiated Godhead. The cardinal attribute of God is unity, and the divine unity is the first and last principle of gnosis. {According to some mystics, the gnosis of unity constitutes a higher stage which is called 'the Truth' (haqiqat).

Both Moslem and Sufi declare that God is One, but the statement bears a different meaning in each instance. The Moslem means that God is unique in His essence, qualities, and acts; that He is absolutely unlike all other beings. The Sufi means that God is the One Real Being which underlies all phenomena. This principle is carried to its extreme consequences, as we shall see. If nothing except God exists, then the whole universe, including man, is essentially one with God, whether it is regarded as an emanation which proceeds from Him, without impairing His unity, like sunbeams from the sun, or whether it is conceived as a mirror in which the divine attributes are reflected. But surely a God who is all in all can have no reason for thus revealing Himself: why should the One pass over into the Many? The Sufis answer--a philosopher would say that they evade the difficulty--by quoting the famous Tradition: "I was a hidden treasure and I desired to be known; therefore I created the creation in order that I might be known." In other words, God is the eternal Beauty, and it lies in the nature of beauty to desire love. The mystic poets have described the self-manifestation of the One with a profusion of splendid imagery. Jami says, for example:

"From all eternity the Beloved unveiled His beauty in the solitude of the unseen;

He held up the mirror to His own face, He displayed His loveliness to Himself.

He was both the spectator and the spectacle; no eye but His had surveyed the Universe.

All was One, there was no duality, no pretence of 'mine' or 'thine.'

The vast orb of Heaven, with its myriad incomings and outgoings, was concealed in a single point.
The Creation lay cradled in the sleep of non-existence, like a child ere it has breathed.

The eye of the Beloved, seeing what was not, regarded nonentity as existent.

Although He beheld His attributes and qualities as a perfect whole in His own essence, Yet He desired that they should be displayed to Him in another mirror, And that each one of His eternal attributes should become manifest accordingly in a diverse form, Therefore He created the verdant fields of Time and Space and the life-giving garden of the world, That every branch and leaf and fruit might show forth His various perfections, The cypress gave a hint of His comely stature, the rose gave tidings of His beauteous countenance.

Wherever Beauty peeped out, Love appeared beside it; wherever Beauty shone in a rosy cheek, Love lit his torch from that flame. Wherever Beauty dwelt in dark tresses, Love came and found a heart entangled in their coils.

Beauty and Love are as body and soul; Beauty is the mine and Love the precious stone.
They have always been together from the very first; never have they travelled but in each other's company."

In another work Jami sets forth the relation of God to the world more philosophically, as follows:
"The unique Substance, viewed as absolute and void of all phenomena, all limitations and all multiplicity, is the Real (al-Haqq). On the other hand, viewed in His aspect of multiplicity and plurality, under which He displays Himself when clothed with phenomena, He is the whole created universe. Therefore the universe is the outward visible expression of the Real, and the Real is the inner unseen reality of the universe. The universe before it was evolved to outward view was identical with the Real; and the Real after this evolution is identical with the universe."
Phenomena, as such, are not-being and only derive a contingent existence from the qualities of Absolute Being by which they are irradiated. The sensible world resembles the fiery circle made by a single spark whirling round rapidly.

Man is the crown and final cause of the universe. Though last in the order of creation he is first in the process of divine thought, for the essential part of him is the primal Intelligence or universal Reason which emanates immediately from the Godhead. This corresponds to the Logos--the animating principle of all things--and is identified with the Prophet Mohammed. An interesting parallel might be drawn here between the Christian and Sufi doctrines. The same expressions are applied to the founder of Islam which are used by St. John, St. Paul, and later mystical theologians concerning Christ. Thus, Mohammed is called the Light of God, he is said to have existed before the creation of the world, he is adored as the source of all life, actual and possible, he is the Perfect Man in whom all the divine attributes are manifested, and a Sufi tradition ascribes to him the saying, "He that hath seen me hath seen Allah." In the Moslem scheme, however, the Logos doctrine occupies a subordinate place, as it obviously must when the whole duty of man is believed to consist in realising the unity of God. The most distinctive feature of Oriental as opposed to European mysticism is its profound consciousness of an omnipresent, all-pervading unity in which every vestige of individuality is swallowed up. Not to become like God or personally to participate in the divine nature is the Sufi's aim, but to escape from the bondage of his unreal selfhood and thereby to be reunited with the One infinite Being.

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