This presentation will explore Ibn al-‘Arabi’s theory about one of the most fundamental questions of humanity: how did the world begin? For some mystics, the letters of the alphabet take on a cosmogonic role as the building blocks of the universe. Ibn al-‘Arabi (d. 1240 CE) in particular emphasizes the physical nature of these letters, which form both the material for and motion of the manifested universe. My research puts Ibn al-‘Arabi’s mystical lettrism in conversation with contemporaneous scientific-philosophical theories about the origins of the universe. This presentation will focus on what I term “mystical linguistics”: the manifestation of the kun! (Be!) command, the physical correspondence of breath and the element of air, and the association of vocal articulation with the motion of the cosmos. This presentation explores how these physical, philosophical elements take on linguistic and mystical meaning, and transform the immaterial letters of the alphabet into the material origins of the universe.
Presentations in the Cultures and Knowledge Workshop Series range across historical and disciplinary boundaries, and provide a major component of SIFK's inquiry into the process of knowledge formation and transmittal from antiquity to present day. Research-in-progress is welcomed and will receive constructive feedback.
This workshop will take the format of a presentation followed by a discussion. Lunch will be provided to those who RSVP.