Affirmation of Unity

Initiation into a “path” (Tariqa) towards spiritual realization which coincides with the annihilation of the ego (Fana) has an ultimate goal, namely, the realization that “before duality there was unity” and that “existence is one.” Thus, the goal of the seeker of truth is realization of the “ultimate reality and ultimate truth” (al-Haqq) as well as the realization of a “primordial state” and “ultimate principle” (Tawhid) based on the “affirmation of unity.”

As René Guénon argued:

“Indeed, wherever there is Unity, all diversity disappears, and it is only in descending toward multiplicity that differences of form appear, the modes of expression themselves then being as multiple as that to which they refer, and susceptible of indefinite variation in adapting themselves to the circumstances of time and place.”

Getting caught up in the “pluralism” or “multiplicity” of existence means not being able to look beyond mere appearances and mere manifestations of an underlying cause or principle of existence, which in turn amounts to ignorance and narrowmindedness. As Guénon wrote:

“This ‘pluralism’ is possible only as a deviation resulting from the ignorance and incomprehension of the masses, from their tendency to attach themselves exclusively to the multiplicity of the manifested.”

Thus, in traditional thought, prioritizing duality or multiplicity resulting from the manifestation of existence rather than the underlying principle of existence which is premised upon concepts such as oneness and unity amounts to the most profound form of blasphemy (Shirk). Beyond the underlying principle of oneness and unity of existence is contingency and dependency. Thus, human beings, as well as all other creatures, are contingent beings dependent upon a necessary being or primary cause. Beyond the necessary being and primary cause upon which contingent beings depend on, “only nothingness remains,” and nothingness is an impossibility given the fact that we exist. As Descartes famously said: “I think, therefore I am” (Cogito, ergo sum).

But it has long been the case that the “One Principle” of existence has always been difficult for Westerners to comprehend, thus their intransigence and inability to come to a mutual understanding with the Eastern world. As Guénon wrote:

“It is noteworthy that Western peoples, and more particularly Nordic peoples, seem to experience the greatest difficulty in understanding the doctrine of Unity, while at the same time they are more engaged than all others in change and multiplicity.”

Guénon notes that the Sun is a metaphor or a symbol of the “One Principle” or “Doctrine of Unity” in the material and physical world, given that physiologically, all living creatures are literally dependent on the Sun for their existence. Without the Sun, all living creatures would cease to exist. Thus, Guénon argues in a somewhat playful and teasing manner that a lack of sunlight in Europe and Scandinavia contributes greatly to the West’s inability to comprehend the “One Principle,” whereas in regions such as the Middle East and Asia where sunlight is much more manifest, this principle is comprehended more easily. As Guénon wrote:

“Indeed, in the countries of the North, where the sunlight is feeble and often dim, one might say that all things appear to be of equal value, so to speak, and in a way which affirms their individual existence pure and simple, without giving any glimpse of something beyond; thus, one sees in everyday experience nothing but multiplicity.”

It follows that “the ‘rich’ who, from the standpoint of manifestation, are really the ‘poor’ with respect to the Principle.” As a result, amidst the diversity and range of traditional cultures, the “ultimate reality or ultimate truth” (al-Haqq) of all these different cultures is one and the same.

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