Sunday, December 07, 2008

Falling into Grace

Many people appear to believe something was lost when human beings succumbed to a dimension of themselves which was vulnerable to being incited to not heed the command of God about refraining from interacting with a certain aspect of the Garden of Eden. In other words, when both Adam and Eve (may Allah be pleased with them both) rebelled against God's command (and they were equally at fault for listening to that which they should not have), they were cast out of the Garden and sent down to Earth.

As a result, some people maintain that human history is, in part, a story about human beings seeking to regain Paradise. According to such a perspective, life is about retrieving that from which we were removed so long ago.

As such, the focus of this approach to things is on how our lower carnal soul is the enemy within which must be purified and transformed. Consequently, much of the emphasis of this way of looking at things is toward redeeming the lower soul through good works of one kind or another.

Unfortunately, this perspective tends to gloss over a very essential, but not readily obvious, aspect of the story of Adam and Eve (may Allah be pleased with them both). Although, on the one hand, the disobedience was due to human weakness - something with which God has created human kind - nonetheless, on the other hand, the aspiration for knowledge is not a function of our capacity to rebel but, rather, is a dimension of the human being which transcends that capacity and gives expression to an entirely different facet of human spiritual potential.

Adam and Eve (may Allah be pleased with them both) did not rebel for the sake of rebellion. They rebelled because: (a) they had a carnal soul which was vulnerable to pursuing things in an unauthorized fashion, and (b) they had an innate himma or aspiration within them which was not satisfied with the Garden of Eden ... whch sought something - namely, knowledge - that transcended this garden a kind of knowledge which was unlike anything else in the Garden of Eden and to which both Adam and Eve (may Allah be pleased with them both) were inexorably drawn.

This wellspring of aspiration was also created by God. God had foreknowledge of the choice which human beings would make - that is, to disobey God's command, but human beings freeely chose that of which God had foreknowledge.

The way through which human beings pursued this inner, inarticulate, ineffable thirst and desire for knowledge did not meet with God's approval. Nonetheless, God did approve of the other aspect of the niyat or intention which sought out that (i.e., knowledge) which was beyond the Garden of Eden, and, in effect, it is a choice that God wished for human beings to make for, through that choice, human beings would, God willing, begin their journey toward the secrets of the Hidden Treasure which concerned humankind and for which Creation was brought forth to know (each creature in accordance with its capacity), but this time they would have to do so through a way or path, as well as in accordance with a law, which was authorized by God.

In a sense, both the very best and the very worst of human potential was on display in the choice which led to Adam and Eve (may Allah be pleased with both) being expelled from the Garden of Eden. Being expelled was the opportunity to seek the knowledge which was off-limits while they were in that garden ... in other words, human beings, via our ancestors Adam and Eve (may Allah be pleased with them both), fell into Grace.

People who wish to restrict the purpose of life to just matters of heaven and hell (or the regaining of Paradise) are failing to understand something of essential importance about the alleged Fall. There is an innate dimension within us that craves the knowledge about which God commanded Adam and Eve (may Allah be pleased with them both) not to approach. There is something within us which is willing to risk much in order to seek out such knowledge.

Human beings didn't create this potential. God did.

One of the lessons of the Fall is that there are right ways to do do things and wrong ways, as well. Another lesson of the Fall is that God is forgiving and merciful. Still another lesson of the Fall is that we have not been exciled from the Garden of Eden as a punishement but in order to set in motion an opportunity ... an opportunity which God wished human beings to grab hold of during their life on Earth.

Some individuals seem to be of the opinion that what God forbade under certain circumstances and conditions was an absolute prohibition in which human beings should never seek that for which they had a God-given aspiration. As such, life for these individuals is often all about self-denial and never wishing to do anything which would risk the return to Paradise. For such individuals, the himma for knowledge is something which we should shy away from even now because they appear to believe that the prohibition is still in effect.

There are others who believe the Fall was merely one act in the Divine Passion Play - an act which was staged by a God Who knew that which we did not. Such individuals believe the Fall was arranged by God to serve a higher purpose. Human beings were set up by Divinity so that our spiritual Phoenix might, God willing, rise from the ashes of disobedience.

Adam and Eve may have been wrong for how they went about things ... but, then, what did they know. However, they were not wrong for aspiring to that which God wished to invite them through the very presence of that aspiration.

The law, God willing, creates the space necessary for the way to have an opportunity to be pursued. And, in turn, the way, if God wishes, creates the space through which the truth of reality, or haqiqa, is, God willing, realized.

The Fall is not an indellible stain on the soul of humanity. The Fall is how we, with God's assistance, "pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again" on the real purpose of existence.

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