Every Sufi master is, in a sense, a Freudian psychotherapist


EXCERPT: . . . Arabs recognised in Freud’s body of thought ideas from classical Islamic thinkers. In the 1940s and ’50s, when intellectuals translated Freud’s work into Arabic, they reached out to Ibn Arabi, the great 12th-13th-century Sufi mystic philosopher. The Egyptian playwright and novelist Tawfiq al-Hakim dates the impulse to blend traditions as far back as Alexander’s conquest of Syria and the eventual translation of philosophical works from Greek to Syriac. [...] It is not at all surprising, then, given this tendency to draw on shared traditions, that Arab intellectuals turned to a mystical Islamic vocabulary when translating Freud in the middle of the 20th century.

[...] Later Arab interpreters of Freud drew upon this idea of an ‘unknowing’ as indicating the presence of an unconscious in man.[...] as the Islamic studies scholar Henry Corbin has pointed out, Ibn Arabi proposes [...] the prophetic tradition: ‘Humans are asleep; at their death they awaken.’ Earthly existence, Ibn Arabi states, is a ‘dream within a dream’. As the Japanese scholar Toshihiko Izutsu noted in *Sufism and Taoism* (1983), this reveals ‘the very starting-point of Ibn Arabi’s ontological thinking, namely, that so-called “reality” is but a dream … an unreality’. But this does not mean that it is a subjective fantasy, rather we can view it, Izutsu argues, as ‘an “objective” illusion’.

This conception of reality as being at once an unreality, while at the same time not an illusion at all, brings to light another concept intimately connected to psychoanalysis, the concept of the Imaginary. The Imaginary is greatly elaborated in the later psychoanalytic tradition, most notably by Jacques Lacan – Lacan had read about Ibn Arabi by way of Corbin. As the religious studies scholar William Chittick elaborates, Ibn Arabi perceived the Imaginal world as an intermediate realm, a world in between the spiritual and the corporeal. As Lacan would later do, Ibn Arabi theorised the example of one’s own reflection in the mirror. Is my image in the mirror real or unreal? In one sense it is, and in another sense it is not. This clarifies the nature of the Imaginary as both existent and non-existent.

The affinities between mystical Islam and Freudian thought are clear, and deep. But did Islamic thinkers make these connections between psychoanalysis and Islam? They did, often pointing to the shared traditions of dream interpretation, as well as the shared technique of understanding texts and dreams through the relationship between the latent and manifest meaning of religious knowledge. Islamic thinkers also recognised the uncanny resemblance between the analyst-analysis and the shaykh (or spiritual master)-disciple relation in Sufism....

MORE: https://aeon.co/ideas/every-sufi-master-...otherapist

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