Mohaveh’s Cosmology

I’m weird about cosmologies. I constantly make use of them in the middle of things, as a way toward structuring a specific spiritual working, but I am suspicious of them and, to be honest, generally think of them as a bit twee and precious. When it comes down to it, though, in the grand scheme that is the shape of human endeavor. Our ideas make so much possible, but it is their fate to be dissolved in the labors of daily life, to be undone and remade.

And, if I am going to talk about Mohaveh, I have to accept that it comes wrapped in its own cosmology, even if it is the cosmology of a sea anemone, all ragged and hungry. So, let me get to that. The aim here is to provide a cosmology that is both complex and clear, instructive and useful.

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[NB] Hard-hearted Pharaohs and Plagues

Talking about the sefirah and the sippur yetzihas Mitzrayim reminds me that I have a little notebook post that I have wanted to make for a while about Pharaoh as a spiritual power. His redemption at the last moment forms part of Ibn al’Arabi’s account of Moses in the Bezels of Wisdom, making him something like a mediating power between the necromantic absorption of Mitzrayim’s wisdom. He also shows up in the Justin’s Baruch as the tenth angel of Mother Eden.

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What do I mean by Geomancy?

[Decommissioning another page and rolling it into a post.]

And God has not assigned to any man two hearts within his breast [Qur’an 33:4],
but He has assigned to each heart two faces, because He has created of everything two, a couple [11:40].
Hence He built bringing together on the even,
for His oddness is none save the oddness of the many.”
—Ibn al-‘Arabi, translated and quoted in The Self-Disclosure of God: Principles of Ibn Al-‘Arabi’s Cosmology by William Chittick (175)

Geomantic work is freighted with significance for me—practically, as a form of divination; spiritually, as a means of communicating with subtle presences; and mystically, as a means of aligning myself with the holy and the sacred. I regularly make use of several forms of geomancy and there are many, many more forms that out there. Where to start then?

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[NB] The Figure of Moses

I have been a bit under the weather for a few days, so please pardon me if this post meanders more so than usual. Between some illness-inflected dreams and what little headway I have made in Word and Image in Medieval Kabbalah over the last few days, I have Moses on my mind and I thought it might make sense to talk a little about why.

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[NB] Exploded Cosmologies

“Fragments of a vessel which are to be glued together must match one another in the smallest details, although they need not be like another. In the same way a translation, instead of resembling the meaning of the original, must lovingly and in detail incorporate the original’s mode of signification, thus making both the original and the translation recognizable as fragments of a greater language, just as fragments are part of a vessel.”—Walter Benjamin, “The Task of the Translator” in Illuminations (78)

I fondly recall discovering Milorad Pavić’s Dictionary of the Khazars in an airport bookshop in Atlanta, probably not long before or after I was accused by a classmate of being a “closet Jewish mystic” for the way I read Benjamin’s work. The text was a marvel of weaving together the discontinuous threads of Eastern European religious experience, juxtaposing Christian, Islamic, and Jewish conceptions of the sacred through an ablative rather than conjunctive methodology.

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[NB] Shifting Crowns: Geomantic figures (2, 4, 8, 16) and the Saadia Diagram (3, 7, 12)

In the Meccan Revelations, Ibn al’Arabi distinguishes between two equal orders of numbers, the odd and the even, in answer to a debate as to whether two or three is the proper successor to one. Two is the successor to one among the even and three is the successor to one among the odd.

This sort of thinking can be applied to compare and contrast the (1) relationship between the rule of three and its relationship to four (2+2 and 2×2) that yields both the rule of seven and twelve in the Saadia diagram and (2) the relationship between the rule of two in geomantic operations and the relationship to three that produces the sixteen signs of the shield.

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Binah, Chokmah, Command, Ascription, and a Correction to Geomantic Attributions

I am a bit unorthodox about moving in and out of the Kabbalistic sphere proper and amplifying it through reference to other practices. For the moment, I’m sticking pretty close to home and working with the practices that shared the the same terrain, literally, with Judaism (i.e., from Islam, Christianity, and the various ‘idolatrous’ contemporaries), that passed through the same Baghdad and Babylon, that spilled over into the same Andalusia and Morocco. That probably won’t be where this stops, but it’s where I am right now.

That seems useful in part because there was some mutual recognition of this shared spiritual world, so even as different traditions were developing their practices internally, they were doing so in a polyglot world where they were exposed to others undertaking similar efforts.

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[NB]: Reading Frisvold’s Obeah

I won’t bother overmuch with a review of the book here (it is good, it is short, it is worth the read for the interested)–this is, though one of his briefest, very much in the mold of books like Frisvold’s Exu and Palo Mayombe. He provides the reader with an outline of the history behind Obeah, the broad strokes of the scholarly ideas about it, and then dives wholely into the practice as he encountered it, amplifying that with his understanding of other, related, spiritual traditions. It’s good stuff and I appreciate how he uses comparisons with other practices–lightly so as not to drown out the distinctiveness of Obeah itself.

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A Question of Levels

In his advice to fellow gnostics, Ibn al’Arabi warns that one of the most common mistakes made on the path entails confusing the truth of one level for the truth of another. That is good advice, but as always the devil lies in the details. How, after all, do we distinguish one level from another?

I propose that at least part of the answer may lie with reversing the formula–i.e,, when you cross from one level to another, the truths of the previous level cease to hold. That pushes us back to what defines gnostic work in the first place, knowledge. Knowledge is a matter of determinations, of limits, and we find those limits more often than not by crossing them, by making mistakes and discovering ourselves as having made mistakes.

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Imagination & Creation

When Ibn al’Arabi talks about the imagination, he places it in the category of things that makes us a proper image of the divine. When we engage our imagination fully, we imitate the creative act through which God created the world. This mirroring is one of the reasons that we can even begin to make sense of what would otherwise be the utter ineffability of God, though it is also the source of a lot of our misunderstandings, too. Our imagination is concrete and specific, motivated by, and concerned with, other concrete and specific things. God’s creative power is total, which is something we don’t have the chops to grasp.

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