Balyani’s Know Yourself: An Explanation of the Oneness of Being: A Summary Of His Propositions

Balyani (possibly but not likely Ibn ‘Arabi), Know Yourself: An Explanation of the Oneness of Being, trans. Cecilia Twinch, Beshara Publications, 2011.

Below, I provide a summary, in my own words, of what I take to be the ‘philosophical system’ of Balyani.


Balyani’s treatise is a treatment of the hadith: “Whoever knows their self, knows their Lord” (p. 17). I take this as the point of departure for the following Dialogical Meditation:

Proposition 1: The Unity of Being

God is the One and All–hence, the One-All.

Proposition 2: No Duality Possible

In this ontology, there is nothing other than God.

Hence, in this ontology, there is no becoming–that is, no thing can come into existence or go out of existence.

Proposition 3: No Separate Entities

Of course, what I term ‘Proposition 3’ is actually needless, given P1 (and P2). Yet it bears stating anyway:

There are no separate entities (per P1 and, especially, P2).

So, you are not a separate entity. That is, the ego does not exist.

Proposition 4: Illusionist Theory

If you think you are a separate entity, then you have fallen into ignorance.

Remark: This (standard Vedanta of the Sankarian sort!) is that clarifying distinction between ontology (existence) and epistemology (ignorance). If you see a snake (epistemic error) and then you realize that it’s a rope (ontological basic truth), you have thereby ‘seen through’ your ignorance. It’s not that you’ve actually discovered anything new. It’s always been a rope–you just didn’t know it! Similarly, it’s always been God–you just didn’t know Him!

Proposition 5: Ignorance Must Be Removed

Because the ego does not exist, there’s no ego to be ‘gotten rid of’ in order to realize God.

Remark: In the text, Balyani rightly rejects the need for ‘ego death’–“the passing away and the passing away of passing away”–in order to realize God. In the spirit of the direct path, Balyani goes straight to the point. If P1-P3 are true, then how could there be the death, or extinction, of what never existed in the first place? Sometimes I can really feel Balyani’s sense of humor!

Proposition 6: God as the Veil (Too)

Because God is All (P1), God is also the veil (of God).

Remark #1: Every particular ‘thing’ must, essentially, be a modulation of God. But that modulation is also, for those who are ignorant (P4), be ‘a veil.’

Remark #2: Rightly and too cursorily, Balyani must realize that he needs to account for the veil of ignorance as well. Since it can’t come from somewhere else (for that would, dualistically, be in violation of P2), he has to ‘bite the bullet’ and argue that God (also) veils God-self. Unfortunately, he doesn’t give a long enough account of how this happens and how it can be philosophically justified. Yet he is arguing along the right lines.

Proposition 7: Self-knowledge = Knowledge of God

If you see everything as God, then you know yourself. And if you know yourself, you immediately and necessarily know God.

Remark: Balyani’s logic is a bit loose. The original hadith states, “IF I know myself, then I know my Lord.” But what Balyani really means is: “IF AND ONLY IF I know myself do I know my Lord.” After all, he’s arguing for a strict identity thesis such that self-knowledge = knowledge of God. Once we grant him this thesis, P7 looks good.

Proposition 8: Living the Truth

Through the realization of self-knowledge = God-knowledge, henceforth ‘I’ become a vessel for, and as, the divine.

Remark #1: This is broadly correct–but too quick. He’s confusing kensho (sudden awakening) with great awakening.

Remark #2: If this realization is full and final, then, yes, this apparently particular being is nothing but a vessel for the expression and action of the divine. In Daoism, this is equivalent to perfected wu wei. And it is very much the truth of karma yoga: the full realization of “I am not the doer” is the full embrace of “everything divine is simply flowing ‘through me.'”