Center of Being pt3 Epilogue : Turning things Inside out

Turning Things Round & Inside-Out
The Center of Being : Epilogue part 3: 
Thing-Centered Symmetrical Photographs

Click on the image for best viewing
The Center of Being : Thing-Centered Symmetrical Photographs
Part 1   :  The Internal Dimensions of An Object
Part 2  :  Commentaries On Selected Photographs
Part 3  :  Epilogue : The Circle  &  The Wheel of Consciousness
Addendum : The Blue Pearl

Textual Prelude

By turning the world inside out, by giving birth in the world to that  
interiority which is characteristic of the things of the soul . . .  
we return the hidden dimension to the manifest  
and uncover the depths that lie just under 
the surface of the world.     

For Henry Corbin the bridge between creature and Creator is ta'wil, 
the transformation of the sensory world into symbols, into open- 
ended mysteries that shatter, engage, and transform 
the entire being of the creature.    

Ta'wil transmutes the world into symbols which by their
 very nature transcend the distinction between the outer and the inner, the 
subject and the object, and by interiorizing the cosmos, by revealing the Imago mundi 
[the Imaginal world], transform and lead the soul beyond the literal understanding of the world
  to its truth . . . its origin.
Tom Cheetham 
The World Turned Inside Out:
Henry Corbin and Islamic Mysticism
When you receive shaktipat initiation from the Guru . . .
your eyes are opened to an inner world that you
never knew existed.  ~  You see familiar
things in a new way. . the miraculous
begins to envelope your existence;
you cannot tell if all this beauty
is coming from the inside out,
or  the outside  in.
Gurumayi Chidvilasananda
Inner Treasures

Henry Corbin, in his fascinating book Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth, explores the universe of the ancient Persian sages and mystics, the angelic Mazdean universe in which the Earth is transmuted through archetypal-imaginative vision into a symbol of the Heavenly Paradise, the center of the soul.  He writes: "the dawns, waters, and plants are perceived in their Angel, because beneath the appearance the apparition becomes visible to the Imagination.  And this is the phenomenon of the Angel, the figure which the active Imagination reveals itself to be, which it reveals to itself beneath the appearances . . . "

Corbin explains in his insightful scholarly-poetic way how the Mazdean Earth is irradiated with its own internal light, a mystical energy known to the ancient Persians as Xvarnah, light which "constitutes, haloes, and enlightens the soul, and the primordial Image of itself which the soul projects.  Thus it is the organ by which the soul shows to itself earthly things transfigured. . ."  Corbin then continues: "In the soul raised to incandescence by this Light of Glory [Xvarnah] with which it is finally identified, it becomes possible to see that the Earth is an Angel, or rather for the Earth to be seen in its heavenly person . . ."

This primordial, luminous, transfigured vision of the world is precisely what I strive to achieve in my symmetrical photographs.  Since 2011 I have been exploring the notion of the sacred in art, the possibility of a Sacred Art in today's contemporary world which is fraught with terrorism, governmental corruption, and environmental crisis.  I want the Images I create to transmute outward appearance into incandescent symbols, Images imbued with the grace, the sacred, archetypal power through which I can return to the center of the Created world, the Unitary Reality of the divine Origin, the Soul, or in terms of the yoga I practice, the divine Self.

My symmetrical thing-centered photographs are, like the Earth, essentially round or circular in form.  They are visual manifestations of an unfolding creative process in which the hidden interior archetypal world manifests from its center-point and opens outward into visual appearance.  These images which "turn the world inside out" move internally according to their own mysterious circular orbits, but they also lead the viewer toward the center-point of the image, the origin of all creation.  In this regard, the images have the character of a mandala, an instrument of meditation, a contemplative process of turning within.  Henry Corbin wrote of the Persian archetypal representations of the Earth as mandalas, images which "guide a movement of thought that travels, not on a syllogistic or dialectical track, but as in the way of the ta'wil, the exegesis [interpretation, exposition] of symbols . . .  leading back to the origin, which is the center . . . where the apparent can be occulted and the hidden manifested. . ."

The symmetrical photographs can also be thought of (perceived) as "whirling wheels" of consciousness, energy centers known in yogic traditions as cakras, power places of concentrated, radiating creative energy known as chiti shakti.  The most powerful cakra, the cakra of all cakaras, is the Heart.

The Circle & The Wheel 
of Consciousness
"The Heart is the Hub of All Sacred Places.  Go There and Roam"  click here
In the yoga tradition that I practice, the Siddha Yoga Paththe center of all things, of all space, of all being--both interior and exterior--is the Heart of Supreme Consciousness.  The yogic sages and scriptures teach that an infinite number of universes exist within the Heart, thus when we experience the center of any thing, place or space in this world we are experiencing the center of our own divine Heart, that place of Origin from which everything flashes forth into earthly existence.  The essence or presence of all things is said to be the Heart of the Supreme Lord, which is symbolized by the point or bindu at the very center of the Wheel of Consciousness.  The practice of yoga, then, is the act of turning within and becoming centered and identified with the Heart, the internal primordial center of being where we come face to face with the hidden and yet palpable presence of the truth of our own divine Self, the Origin of Unitary Reality, the place where heaven and earth are inseparably bound as One thing. 

In the quote above (The Heart is the Hub) by the great yogic saint of modern South India, Bhagwan Nityananda (the spiritual guide of Swami Muktananda, and who commanded Muktananda to initiate the Siddha Yoga Path), the word "Heart" is clearly identified with the word "hub" which connotes the center of a transcendent, cosmic wheel, a wheel of infinitely immense proportions which turns in a circular movement of unfathomable sacred power which envelopes all that is.  The saint's command to "go there and roam" invokes the idea of a mandala and one's movement through the mandala's internal landscape to its center, its hub, the Heart of the Supreme Creator.  The modern poet, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote of this in a very personal way:

I live my life in growing orbits,

which move out over the things of the world. . .
I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,
and I have been circling for a thousand years,
and I still don't know if I am a falcon,
Or a storm, or a great song.  
                                                      Rainer Maria Rilke  /  trans: Robert Bly 

Our own personal lives consist of recurring cyclic moments around a sacred center like the way the planets circle the sun, and the way constellations of atoms, each with its own system of protons and neutrons, are held in their orbits by an all-powerful nucleus.  At all levels of existence, in all cultures, we will discover circles, movement round a central point of ineffable transcendental energy.  For example, the Lakota Indians of North America have a saying:  Everything the power does, it does in a circle. 

The turning of the Wheel of Consciousness around its hub, the Heart, is an archetypal movement; and equally so is the movement of "turning within" and entering the Heart.  Interestingly, Swami Shantananda describes the wheel of consciousness diagrammatically as four concentric circles around a central circle which is the Self, the heart.  I personally find this of particular interest because of the diagram's direct association with the four-fold symmetrical photographs I have been making over the past five years, images in which four repeated mirroring images conjoin at the very center-point of the image, the point from which the image appears to have unfolded from a hidden, internal, archetypal-Imaginal dimension into outward visual manifestation. 

When the symmetrical photographs function for me at their most meaningful, as true, living archetypal symbols, they seem to be aligned with and in correspondence with the yogic conception of the Wheel of Consciousness.  The center-point of the symmetrical photograph, then, becomes identified with the hub of the wheel, the Heart, the Supreme Self

Swami Shantanda says that for him personally the Wheel has as its nucleus the awareness "I am" with all the powers of the universe whirling round at its command; and he says every human being and every thing in the universe is an embodiment of this vibrant wheel of powers, a microcosm of the divine order.  He briefly explains that in the yogic tradition there is a rich tradition of study and meditation on these circles of power or cakras which are said to be constellated throughout the human body in an orderly way; it is understood, he says, that these cakras are also intertwining throughout our lives.  Swamiji writes: "The events of our personal lives, and, no less, the movements of human history, take form from the continuous interactions among the forces of these conscious circles."  

The goal of yoga is achieved, explains Swamiji, when one has entered the vast Heart of Consciousness and become united with its perfect stillness.  As I have written many times, the practice of photography is, for me, a meditative yogic practice, and the creation of four-fold symmetrical photographs is nothing less than the ritual-creation of Images which have the archetypal character of the mandala, images which still my mind, and, through the grace of the image gives me the very experience of the unity of being.  The symmetrical photographs, at their most articulate best, celebrate the center of being, the soul of the world, the Heart of my very own divine Self.  

My Creative Process places all the things of the world in the Great Circle of Power, the most sacred place in which everything in this world is experienced in its Angel, in its Center of Being, the Heart.


I will conclude this Epilogue and the Center of Being project with one last commentary on an image which I presented in part 1, an image of two flames reflecting upon themselves and in the process of merging into One another.  This is an image which symbolizes for me Corbin's Angel of the Earth, the soul raised to incandescence, and correspondingly, in terms of the yogic teachings, the Fire of Consciousness, the Light of the Self shinning within the Heart.  

In Swami Shantananda's commentary on the final sutra, #20, of the Pratyabhijna-hrdayam he writes:

In the entire universe there is one knower, one knowledge, and one known.  Pratyabhijna, then, is the knowledge of the knower turning back to know itself.  The light of the Self reflects on itself, always turning to its own rapturous presence as the only knowledge that exists.  In the impeccable space of our own heart, love adores love, bliss revels in bliss, light shines on light, every action is an act of worship, and all perceptions are forms of meditation.  Splendor of Recognition, Swami Shantananda

*          *          *

This project, "Epilogue" to the Thing-Centered Symmetrical Photographs
project was announced in the Latest Additions section
at the top of my websites Welcome Page
on March 1, 2016

Click on the image for best viewing
The Center of Being : Thing-Centered Symmetrical Photographs
Part 1   :  The Internal Dimensions of An Object
Part 2  :  Commentaries On Selected Photographs
Part 3  :  Epilogue : The Circle  &  The Wheel of Consciousness

Addendum : The Blue Pearl

Other Related Links

Siddha Yoga Path
Thing-Centered Photographs  1980s / 2003-ongoing
Pratyabhijna-hydayam / Splendor of Recognition by Swami Shantananda

On the Construction of Symmetrical Photographs

Celestial Gardens
Preface to "An Imaginary Book"
Part 5 : Acadia / Arcadia 

OnThe Sacred in Art : An Ongoing Series of Photography Projects

"An Imaginary Book"  2013
The Angels  2014
The Photograph as Icon  2014-15
Snow : Photographs from the Silver World  2015
Photography and Yoga  2015
As Above, So Below : Mirror In the Temple  2015
Field of Vision  2015
Thing-Centered Symmetrical Photographs  2016

Welcome Page  to The Departing Landscape website which includes the complete hyperlinked listing of my online photography projects dating back to the 1960's, my resume, contact information, and more.