Theophany

But if the idea of happiness were to be reduced from its various descriptions and explanations to a basic concept or notion which could not be reduced any further as in the case of the essence, what would this concept or notion be? In short, happiness amounts to the attainment of “inner peace” or “peace of mind.” As the Dalai Lama said:

“I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment. In my own limited experience I have found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life. Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. The key is to develop inner peace.”

For some, inner peace results from “unending dialogues of thought” with “colleagues” who are either alive or are “ancient” while for others, inner peace results “entirely in a vision, the vision of God, for which the presence of no friends was required” as Arendt highlighted. The latter method towards the attainment of inner peace is perhaps what concerns us the most, given that the former method is one by which the latter method can only be dreamt or theorized. 

In Sufi discourse, the latter attainment or realization of inner peace through a “vision of God” is known as Tajalli, which translates roughly into “theophany” in the English language. All of one’s efforts, therefore, culminate into a struggle to attain Tajalli or ‘theophany.’ Without the attainment of Tajalli, all of one’s lifelong efforts and struggles would be considered vain and worthless. 

In turn, it is the annihilation of the ego and egocentricity – Fana – which facilitates Tajalli, and in Tajalli one then ‘subsists’ for the remainder of life (Baqa). Tajalli is essentially a manifestation and a reminder of what is absolute in the midst of transience. As one poem states: “The absolute overflows, Infinite possibilities, concatenate into finite, travelling configurations, yearning a return, to absoluteness.” It was this absoluteness and certainty amidst confusion and transience which Moses sought and ultimately attained on Mount Sinai. Yet Moses had to first overcome the rejection of his demand for absoluteness and certainty, as his demand was initially met with the response of “Lan Tarani” or “You Shall Not See Me.”

Why the ‘vision of God’ could not be attained even on the part of Moses is because God could never be attained or comprehended. As Rumi wrote: “Study me as much as you like, you will not know me, for I differ in a hundred ways from what you see me to be. Put yourself behind my eyes and see me as I see myself, for I have chosen to dwell in a place you cannot see.” In turn, Rumi wrote about this rejection as well as the will on the part of Moses to overcome the rejection in a poem titled “You Shall Not See Me”:

You are rest for my soul,
a surprising joy for my bitterness.

Imagination has never imagined
what you give to me.

The sound of someone whistling in the street,
or asking questions. If that person
is bringing word from you,
those sounds are worth more
than all the world’s poetry.

There is nothing I want but your presence.
In friendship, time dissolves.

Life is a cup. This connection
is pure wine. What else are cups for?

I used to have twenty thousand
different desires.

The unseen king once said on Sinai
You shall not see me.

But even though he said that he was not,
I have filled the essence
of that he with my soul.

The Christian trinity, the Zoroastrian
light-dark, I absorb them all.

Though my body has not noticed,
union has begun to see a new way to be.

Grown old with grief and longing,
when someone says Tabriz,
I am young again.

And as mentioned before, ultimately, when all was said and done, Moses had his demand for Tajalli met because of his psychical state resulting from Fana. As one medieval Islamic scholar wrote: “Moses came like one of those who are consumed by desire and lost in love. Moses came without Moses. He came when nothing of Moses remained in Moses.” It was because Moses was “under the sway of this amorous drunkenness that he had the audacity to ask for vision” even though it was refused to him initially, but because of his psychical state, Moses “was not punished for his boldness.” Hence, and as Ibn Arabi wrote: “Demand vision and do not be afraid of being struck down!”

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