Ibn ‘Arabi, Schuon, and Universalism
Rethinking Ibn 'Arabi Gregory Lipton
For over a century, Euro-American scholars and esotericists alike have heralded the thirteenth-century Spanish mystic Ibn ‘Arabi (d. 1240) as the premodern Sufi theorist of inclusive religious universalism who claimed all contemporaneous religions as equally valid beyond the religio-political divide of medieval exclusivism.
Rethinking Ibn ‘Arabi calls into question this Western image of Ibn ‘Arabi and throws into relief how his discourse is inseparably intertwined with the absolutist vision of his own religious milieu—that is, the triumphant claim that Islam fulfilled, superseded, and therefore abrogated all previously revealed religions.
By exploring how Ibn ‘Arabi’s ideas have been read, appropriated, and universalized within the regnant interpretative field of Perennial Philosophy in the study of Sufism, Rethinking Ibn ‘Arabi theorizes Ibn ‘Arabi’s own absolutist conception of universalism in juxtaposition to his contemporary universalist reception. The contours that surface through this comparative analysis trace the discursive practices that inform Ibn ‘Arabi’s Western reception back to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century conceptions of “authentic” religion where European ethnoracial superiority is wielded against a Semitic Other—both Jewish and Muslim.
Rethinking Ibn ‘Arabi thus argues that in ironically similar ways to Ibn ‘Arabi’s medieval absolutism, contemporary Western universalist constructions of religious authenticity contain buried orders of politics concealing supersessionist models of exclusivism.
Corboy note: (Replacement theology (also known as supersessionism) essentially teaches that the church has replaced Israel in God's plan.)
Keywords: Key Words, Ibn ‘Arabi, Sufism, abrogation, religious pluralism, universalism, esotericism, Perennialism, religio perennis, Frithjof Schuon, Aryanism