Names of God
This is the Sufi term for the principles or archetypes of which creation is composed. Every attribute of anything actual or possible, whether general or specific, spiritual or material, beautiful or ugly is a name of God. Since God is at the source of creation, there is nothing in creation that does not reflect some aspect of God. Man is a sort of empty container of potentialities which may navigate the universe of the names of God and come to embody and manifest diverse names, according to his capacity for discernment and free will.
The names are not arbitrary and have a certain hierarchy and precedence, they cannot be picked at random and not all names can be manifested together. The names of God are not beings; They are more like possible relationships and attributes of beings. Each name, from light to darkness, mercy to wrath, spirit to matter, truth to falsehood denotes a potentiality. All names ultimately refer to the One but each name sees the One through a different relationship or angle.
Man is the ultimate intermediate form, poised between matter and spirit and offered the choice of embodying either those names of God that bring one closer to spirit or those that bring one closer to matter.
In a sense, all is one and there is nothing that does not derive from God but from the human standpoint the divine names can be radically different.
We may compare the idea of names of God to the idea of thought center in the Cassiopaea material. Also the Platonic idea of ideal form or archetype comes close. Following are quotes on the subject from William Chittick's Sufi Path of Knowledge:
The question arises as to which divine attributes are revealed by the divine acts. The answer is that, generally speaking, every name of God has loci of manifestation (mazdhir; sing.: mazhar) in the cosmos, some obvious and some hidden. The universe as a whole manifests all the names of God. Within the existent things is found every attribute of Being in some mode or another. Even such attributes as incomparability and unknowability that apply in a strict sense only to the Essence can be found in a relative sense among the possible things. Or again, one could say that every divine attribute is found in an absolute sense in God alone, but in a relative sense in the creatures. The cosmos considered as a single whole is the locus of manifestation for all the divine names, or what comes down to the same thing, for the name Allah, which is the name that brings together all the other names. Hence, says Ibn al-'Arabi, God created the cosmos in His own image, [ ] it can be said that human beings embrace a hierarchy of all things within existence, from the most luminous to the darkest. They were created from God's Spirit breathed into the clay of this world , so they combine the most intense light of existence and awareness with the dullest and most inanimate dust of the universe. [ ] In the cosmos the divine names are relatively differentiated, while in man they are relatively undifferentiated (mujmal). The growth of the human soul, the process whereby it moves from darkness to light, is also a growth from death to life, ignorance to knowledge ('ilm), listlessness to desire (inida), weakness to power (qudra), dumbness to speech (kaldm), meanness to generosity (uad), and wrongdoing to justice (qist). In each case the goal is the actualization of a divine attribute in the form of which man was created, but which remains a relative potentiality as long as man does not achieve it fully. All the "states" and "stations" mentioned earlier can be seen as stages in the process of actualizing one or more of the divine names. ] The "precedent attributes" of God display their properties ever more clearly as one moves toward the Center, while the secondary and subsidiary attributes become stronger as one moves toward the periphery. Where is mercy? With Being, Light, Knowledge, Unity. Where is wrath? With nonexistence, darkness, ignorance, multiplicity, dispersion. The dispersive movement toward the periphery is a positive creative force. Without it, Light would not shine and the cosmos would not come into existence. The divine attributes manifest themselves in an undifferentiated mode (mujtnal) at the level of the intense light of the angels and in a boundlessly differentiated mode at the level of the sensory cosmos in its full spatial and temporal extension. But once this full outward manifestation is achieved, it is time for the unitive movement to take over, and an active and conscious participation in this movement is the exclusive prerogative of human beings.
Man enters into the corporeal world where the differentiated attributes of Being begin their reintegration into an all comprehensive unity, since he is created upon the divine form even as an infant. [ ] How can an apparition on an infinitely distant wall get up and walk back to the sun? How can darkness, which has no real taste or understanding of light, become light? How do we, blind and ignorant shadows of existence, discern the difference between Being and nothingness? Can ignorance become knowledge, listlessness desire, weakness power, dumbness speech, greed generosity, wrongdoing justice? How can a bare specter woven of ambiguities be transformed into clarity, discernment, wisdom, certainty? How can we distinguish the properties of mercy from the properties of wrath within the created universe, where all things appear confused? [ ] According to Ibn al-'Arabi, the Law is the scale (al-mizdn) in which must be weighed everything having to do with God, knowledge, love, spiritual realization, and the human state in general. Without the Scale of the Law, we will remain forever swimming in a shoreless ocean of ambiguity. Only the Scale can provide a point of reference in terms of which knowledge and all human endeavors may be judged. The Law makes it possible to move toward the Center and avoid wallowing in indefinite dispersion, overcome by ignorance, multiplicity, and misguidance. [ ] As an existent thing who lives at once on every level of the cosmos, perfect man embraces in himself every hierarchy. But as a human individual who has come into existence and then returned to his Creator, he has tied together the Origin and the Return. He lives fully and consciously on all the levels of the descent through which light becomes separate from Light and on all the levels of the ascent through which light retraces its steps and human intelligence rejoins divine knowledge. He is the part and the Whole, the many and the One, the small and the Great, everything and All. [End quote]