Artheism: Discourse of Silence

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My Artheism is ever linked to mystical writers.  What after all can it mean to go beyond the text when even rejection is textual?  How can I say, for example, “I cannot speak,” without uttering a word?  And how can a statement such as, “Nothing makes sense,” make sense in itself?  Mystics approach these questions.

     Judeo-Islamic mysticism sought closure by identifying its own chains.  A tradition built upon a text, freedom in its context meant a way out from the text.  The Judeo-Islamic mystic’s tragedy was not to try but to attain, and not to seek but to find. Unlike some Christian mystics, who introduced the word as god, the Arab mystic Niffari[1] introduced the word or “the expression as a veil.”[2]  Once this veil is lifted, “The lord of Glory spoke; the attainments of every word would have returned to nothingness.”[3]  Master Eckhart[4] dared to hold the same views from a Christian perspective. He identified God as a “super essential nothingness” and explained this by reporting, “If I had a God whom I could understand, I would never hold Him to be God.” The solution seen through his lens was to “be silent and prattle not about God.”

Mystics were conscious that finding meant dying, a search where over the word meant over the self. It was as if they embodied the naked word and while forcing the word toward crisis, they forced themselves toward annihilation. The carrier or the word, limited and limiting, functioned only for the shortsighted; deeper understanding implied a glorious spiritual suicide.            

‘The passing away in divine essence’ or ‘Al Fana’ as well as the ‘substantial unity’ or ‘Al Hulul’ are two forms that Islamic mysticism developed in order to justify such suicide. In both cases, the apex of attainment would prove to be the annihilation of the seeker. The seeker either passes away in the divine essence or is substantially united with it. Seekers live as long as they accept the limits of the text but once free from these limits, enlightenment in the form of attainment means death. Their word becomes an utterance on behalf of the other. The phrase “I am God,” still resonates loud and clear since Al Hallaj[5] first uttered it. “Glory to Me,” a phrase strictly reserved for God, was pronounced by Al Bistami to glorify himself as the other. 

In contrast, Artheism seeks the beyond but retains the self. Artheism would try to find a non-textual expression capable of uttering silence, an “I” that can talk about me on behalf of my distinct and distant self without holding a religious discourse.  The veil I find true, but the Artheist lifts it to look inward. To be empowered and hence enlightened is to be human. The text to read is the self, though the alphabet could be divine. Rabbi Rav Kuk commented on the reasons behind the absence of vowels in the Torah, “The scroll of the Torah is written without vowels in order to enable man to interpret it however he wishes.” In fact, man is not interpreting; he is creating it endlessly, but won’t know this until he rejects the external beyond.

Though neither a mystic nor Judeo-Muslim, Rimbaud also inspires my Artheism with a mystical thought; he infirmed externality while giving Artheism a perennial identity. “I am another,” he indicated in his letter …, but I will only seek that other inside me. There are no holy texts; there are only holy humans.


[1] Muhammad ibn 'Abdi 'l-Jabbar ibn al-Hasan al-Niffari1 is an obscure Iraqi figure in the history of Islamic Mysticism. He probably died in the early 10th century. The only work attributed to him is “The Book of Spiritual Stayings and Addresses”

[2] Station of what are you doing with petitioning

[3] Station of glory

[4] Master eckhart (1260-1328), A Dominican theologian known to the world as Meister Eckhar. He was also a poet, philosopher and mystic. His teachings were considered heretical       by    Pope John XXII

[5] Mansur Al-Hallaj (858-922) was an iranian muslim mystic. He was turtured and publicly crucified for what was deemed to be a theological error. His most well known written work is the “Kitab al Tawasin.”

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