Universal Man by ‘Abd al-Karim al-Jili 1365-1424/
‘Abd al-Karim al-Jili was born near Baghdad, a descendent of the great saint and founder of the Qadiri dervish order, ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani. Little has been discovered about his life, save a few glimpses of spiritual autobiography revealed in his writings, but it is known that he travelled in India, and then lived for a time in the Yemen. He produced more than twenty books, of which Universal Man (al-Insan al-Kamil) is the most celebrated. His teaching follows that of Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi, of which it can be regarded as a systematic exposition, though expressed in a manner which is uniquely his own.
Universal man is Man the Macrocosm, the complete image and manifested consciousness of God, exemplified and expressed in the lives of saintly individuals.
Jili’s account therefore takes the form of a series of chapters on the appearances of Absolute Reality such as Essence, Names, Qualities, and Divinity. These appearances correspond to contemplative states encountered by the mystic on the path of Union, which are discussed more particularly in the later chapters.
Jili’s exposition is incisive and illuminating, his intention entirely practical. He writes: “I will mention of tall that only that which happened to me on my own journey to God; moreover, I recount nothing in this book, neither of myself nor of another, without my having tested it at the time when I traveled in God by the path of intuition and direct vision.”
Titus Burckhardt has provided an extensive and helpful introduction to Jili’s work, and commentary on the text. Extracts, translated with commentary by Titus Burckhardt