BEWILDERMENT. “So rational speculation leads to bewilderment [hayra] and theophany leads to bewilderment. There is nothing but a bewildered one. There is nothing exercising properties but bewilderment. There is nothing but Allah.”[i] Bewilderment means perplexity as a not-knowing-where-one-is-
going/not-knowing-where-to-go that never stops moving, in any direction, or without direction, or in a direction that cannot be decided, a direction that might be either, but is absolutely neither, right or wrong: a direction that is pure direction and not direction at all.[ii] Beyond from and to,[iii] bewilderment relocates movement, making it “the omnipresent term of equation between anywhere and everywhere.”[iv] “The term hayra (perplexity) often renders aporia in Arabic translations from Greek. Aporia means that no passage (poros) has been found to the solution of a puzzle or impasse.”[v] Bewilderment is the unfinishably perfect perpetuation of aporia’s stalling, the pure anti-freezing of impasse into a plenitude of beautiful procession and flow. “Water. Millions of decaliters. A treasure. Greater than treasure, Usul. We have thousands of such caches, and only a few of us know them all. And when we have enough, we shall change the face of Arrakis.”[vi] Bewilderment is the mood of ultimate architecture: totalitarian porosity. All is passage, every way is the way because “the way after all—it does not exist!”[vii] All is process, the perpetual flashing of unending interstitial interchange between problem and solution, branch and intersection. “This conjunction [and] carries enough force to shake and uproot the verb ‘to be.’ Where are you going? Where are you coming from? What are you heading for? These are totally useless questions.”[viii] Follow me![ix] This is the only way of staying with the center: constantly succeed to the furthest boundary of its infinite outside.[x] The motional essence of bewilderment—on this point the English etymology is ideally confused[xi]--is captured in the unspelled difference between hayra and hira (whirlpool).[xii] This image likewise locates you at the fountal threshold between spectatorship and existence. Not his drawable face, but something like this is what Narcissus really sees, an object of supreme confusion between image and self, line and substance. Only by standing over here, on this side beneath impassible overhanging barriers, does the eight-sided star convexly dip to kiss my crown.[xiii] Simultaneously, these marbly horizontals are absolutely steps that I am walking down, into the drowning death of living.[xiv] Image, dESIRE, is the guide: “guidance means being guided to bewilderment, that he might know the whole affair is perplexity, which means perturbation and flux, and flux is life.”[xv]
[i] Ibn al ‘Arabi, The Meccan Revelations, ed. Michel Chodkiewicz, trans. William C. Chittick & James W. Morris (New York: Pir Press, 2005), 198.2. Chittick explicates the concept: “To find God is to fall into bewilderment (hayra), not the bewilderment of being lost an unable to find one’s way, but the bewilderment of finding and knowing God and of not-finding and not-knowing Him at the same time. Every existent thing other than God dwells in a never-never land of affirmation and negation, finding and losing, knowing and not-knowing. The difference between the Finders and the rest of us is that they are fully aware of their own ambiguous situation. They know the significance of the saying of the first calip Abū Bakr: ‘Incapacity to attain comprehension is itself comprehension’” (William C. Chittick, The Sufi Path of Knowledge: Ibn al-‘Arabi’s Metaphysics of Imagination [Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989], 3-4).
[ii] Counterpoint: Dante’s Belacqua, who stays still precisely by knowing where he must go: “O frate, andar in sù che porta? . . . Prima convien che tanto il ciel m’aggiri / di fuor da essa, quanto fece in vita, / per ch’io ‘ndugiai al fine I buon sospiri” (Purgatorio 4.127-32) [O brother, what’s the use of going up? . . . First must the heavens revolve around me outside it, so long as they did during my life, because I delayed good sighs until the end]. Sloth’s contrapasso is the self-imprisonment of being a profane qutub.
[iii] “For the bewildered one has a round [dawr] / and a circular motion around the qutb / which he never leaves / But the master of the long path / tends away from what he aims for / seeking what he is already in / A master of fantasies which are his goal / He has a ‘from’ and a ‘to’ / and what is between them / But the master of the circular movement / has no starting point / that ‘from’ should take him over / and no goal / that he should be ruled by ‘to’ / He has the more complete existence / And is given the totality of the words and wisdoms” (Ibn Arabi, Fusus al-hikam [Bezels of Wisdom], chapter 3, cited from Michael Sells, Mystical Languages of Unsaying, 101-2).
[iv] Nicola Masciandaro, “Becoming Spice: Commentary as Geophilosophy,” Collapse VI: Geo/Philosophy (2010): 31.
[v] Joel L. Kraemer, “Maimondes, The Great Healer,” Maimonidean Studies 5 (2008): 10.
[vi] David Lynch, Dune (Universal Pictures, 1984).
[vii] Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, trans. Adrian del Caro (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 156.
[viii] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 25.
[ix] “. . . Swaying drunkenly to and fro like the branches, fresh as raw silk, which the winds have bent. Gloss: ‘Swaying drunkenly,’ in reference to the station of bewilderment (حيرة)” (Ibn Arabi, Tarjuman al-Ashwaq [Interpreter of Desires], trans. Reynold A. Nicholson [London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1911], 22.13).
[x] “That bewilderment is achieved in the continual transformation from form to form and in the circular motion beyond the dualism of origin and goal” (Sells, Mystical Languages of Unsaying, 102).
[xi] According to the OED: from wilder, meaning “to cause to lose one's way, as in a wild or unknown place,” “of uncertain origin: prob. (by an unusual process) extracted from wilderness on the analogy of the form of wander).” I.e. wilder turned wilderness into a verb on the motional model of wander.
[xii] “‘The [Universal] Order is perplexity, and perplexity is agitation and movement, and movement is life’ [al-‘amr ḥīra wa-l-ḥīra qalaq wa ḥaraka wa-l-ḥaraka ḥayāt]. I read the Arabic word حيرة here as ḥīra not ḥayra following Ibn ‘Arabī’s intention to identify ‘perplexity’ and ‘whirlpool’. حيرة ‘perplexity’ can be read as ḥīra not ḥayra, Arabic dictionaries tell us, and ‘whirlpool’ (ḥīra) is one of the favourite images of universal life and order in Ibn ‘Arabī’s texts. The ḥā’ir ‘perplexed’ human being finds himself in constant movement. He cannot gain a foothold at any point, he is not established anywhere. This is why Ibn ‘Arabī says that he is ‘perplexed in the multiplication of the One’: this ‘multiplication’ is not just epistemological, it is ontological as well, and the perplexed human being is moving in the whirlpool of life and cosmic Order and at the same time realises that he is at that movement” (Andrey Smirnov, “Sufi Hayra and Islamic Art: Contemplating Ornament through Fusus al-Hikam,” paper presented at Sufism, Gnosis, Art: The Thought of Ibn Arabi and Shah Nimatullah [Seville, 22-23 November 2004]).
[xiii] “The Cosmos is like a net which takes all its life, as far as ever it stretches, from being wet in the water; it is at the mercy of the sea which spreads out, taking the net with it just so far as it will go, for no mesh of it can strain beyond its set place: the Soul is of so far-reaching a nature—a thing unbounded—as to embrace the entire body of the All in the one extension; so far as the universe extends, there soul is” (Plotinus, Enneads, 4.3.9).
[xiv] “For if anyone follow what is like a beautiful shape playing over water—is there not a myth telling in symbol of such a dupe, how he sank into the depths of the current and was swept away to nothingness? So too, one that is held by material beauty and will not break free shall be precipitated, not in body but in Soul, down to the dark depths loathed of the Intellective-Being, where, blind even in the Lower-World, he shall have commerce only with shadows, there as here” (Plotinus, Enneads, 1.6.7).
[xv] Ibn Arabi, Bezels of Wisdom [Fusus al-Hikam], trans. R.W.J. Austin (New York: Paulist Press, 1980), 254.