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Ontology speer, the sense of tabi a is not much different from "sign" (<iya); to say that everything in existence

displays the "signs" of God is to say that all "Nature" is receptive toward God's creative command. Though Nature is viewed primarily as receptivity, both activity (fo'i/iyya) and receptivity (qiibiliyya)-or the quality of being acted upon (illfi'aliyya)-are rnanifest through it, since the higher prmciplc that acts upon Nature posst:sscs both active and receptive dimensions. In other words, though Nature is receptive to that which instills form into it, the forms that are instilled may be active or receptive, male or female, yang or yin. Moreover, Ibn a1-' Arabi sometimes shifts the point of view fr0111 which he considers Nature and sees it as an active instead of a receptive principle. ~2 From one point of view Nature is darkness, since that which acts upon it is either God-through His command (lim,.) or Word (kaiima)-or the spirit, and these are light. Yet, the Shayk h insists that Nature at root is also ;1 kind of light, or else it GOuld not begin to display its properties in the spiritual world between the Universal Soul and the Dust (Hylc or Prime Matter; II 647.34). He says that true darkness is the Unseen, since it is neither perceived, nor docs perception take place through it. But in common experience we perceive darkness around us. which shows that "darkness is a kind of light" (U 64H.4); if it were not light, it could not be perceived: Hence Nature also, though it may be called darkness in relation to the Spirit which infuses it with life, is light in relation to absolute nothingness. When Nature is envisaged as that which is receptive toward the effects of the divine names, it is synonymous with the Cloud . just as the Breath of the AI1merciful becomes manifest through the letters and words which take shape within it, so Nature appears only through its effects on various levels of the cosmos. In itself it remains forever unseen. Nature is the "highest and greatest mother" (al-uml1T al-' ciiiyClt ai-

kubra; IV 150.15), who gives birth

to all things, though she herself is never seen. She is the receptivity that allows the existent things to become manifest. When Nature is envisaged as that which is receptive to the First Intellect working within the cosmos, then she is the "second mother;" the "daughter of the Greatest Nature" (al-tabi'at al'H~mii, 1Il 420.34), and she makes her presence felt between the Universal Soul and the Dust. Her children are all the forms which become manifest from the Dust to the lowest level of existence.

Nature is absent in entity from existence, since it has no entity within existence, and from irnmutabiliry, since it has no entity there. Hence it is the Verified World of the Unseen ('dlam al-shayl! almuhaqqaq). Hut Nature is known, just as the impossible (al. mU/Jal) is known, except that, though Nature is like the impossible in having neither existence nor immutability, it has an effect and brings about the manifestation of forms. But the impossible is not like that. (III 397.5) There is nothing in existence but the One/Many (al-LI'ii~lid al-kathrr). Within it become manifest the <.:nrapturcd angels, the Intellect, the Soul, and Nature." Na-

ture is more worthy to be attributed to the Real than anything else, since everything else. becomes manifest only in that which becomes manifest from Nature, that is, the Breath, which permeates the cosmos. So look at the all-inclusivcncss of Nature', property! And look at the inadequJcy of the propnty of the [Firsr] Intellect, for in reality it is one of the forms of Nature. Or rather, it is One of the forms of the Cloud, and the Cloud is one of the forms of Nature. As for those who have placed Nature in a level below the Soul and above the Byte, this is because they have no witness ing. If a person is a possessor of witnessing and holds this view, he wants to refer to the Nature which becomes manifest. through its property in the translucent corporeal bodies, that is, in the Throne, and what it surrounds. This second Nature is to the first as the daughter is to the woman who is the mother; like


her mother, she gives birth, even if she is a daughter born from her. (II! 420.15)