Field of Vision : Epilogue : Prayer, Nature

Prayer and the Nature of Things 

The beautiful Broad Brook flows sometimes very gently, sometimes very aggressively along the road in front of Jim and Phyllis's house in the Vermont woods where I made all the symmetrical leaf photographs for the Field of Vision project.  It is a living, moving force of nature, large enough in places to qualify as one of the four Paradisal Rivers.  Though I had intended to photograph only the Fall-colored leaves during my late October visit in Vermont, I could not resist photographing--once again--the brook and its stones.  The seven symmetrical images of stone and water in this Epilogue (two of which were added to the collection in November, 2017) are truly speaking not so different from the leaf images.  

In the texts to follow I will first move from the internal space of the woods to the internal, spiritual dimensions of a stone; then I will explore the nature of prayer and the prayer of nature from the perspectives of Henry Corbin and the teachings os Siddha Yoga Mediation. I will then conclude the Epilogue and the entire project by blessing it with excerpts from an ancient Vedic Prayer.  

*               *

The Stillness and Interior Vastness of Dark Stones In Flowing Waters 
There are places in the Broad Brook where the water's surface appears perfectly still, like a reflecting pool . . .  but of course it must be moving in its depths for there is to be heard at most every point along the brook a constant humming sound whose origin bust be its moving waters (in varying degrees) up against, over and around the stones in the brook.  Its haunting sound was what drew me away from the leaves and temporarily back once again to the brook where this time I saw a particularly large, dark stone sitting quite still in the middle of the brook's churning, rapidly moving waters.  Seeing this I then felt a strong inner urge to make a photograph.   

Sometimes I take pictures as a way of acknowledging a presence I feel within a place or thing, even if the situation does not seem particularly photographable; the act of making an exposure connects me in a subtle way to that presence, that feeling, even if an earthly form is not quite perceptible.  When I photographed the dark stone in the brook, I had no idea that the symmetrical transformation of that source image would yield the powerful symmetrical photograph (#1) presented below (also above).  

Some of the stones in Broad Brook are surprisingly large.  Jim and Phyllis have told me that when the rains become quite heavy in the area, the water rushing down off the surrounding mountains cause the brook to swell and deepen, and its water-flow gains in power and speed.  When this happens, they say, some of the largest stones in the brook can get tossed around a bit.  When two large stones rub up against each other, a deep internal rumbling sound--some primordial sound, like thunder--can be heard.

Somehow the stone I photographed had become split open in the transforming process of making the symmetrical image.  The image seems to open to me; it is expanding from within its center, as if to embrace or absorb me.  I am drawn to the large egg-shaped dark space in the center of the photograph.  I want to take refuge from the intensity of the rushing waters in that quiet, dark space inside the stone. 

When I click on the image for a closer detailed view, however, I discover there is light inside the dark stone!  Pulsating patterns of bursting sparks are suspended in the center of the black space.  It's as if I am peering into a vast universe filled with constellations of points of starlight. 

What I have seen inside the symmetrical image of the stone reminds me of Corbin's statement which I first cited in my project As Above, So Below: Mirror In the Temple

The phenomenon of the mirror enables us to understand the internal dimensions of an object . . . situated in the space of this world, because it leads us to grasp its spiritual dimension, the metaphysical image which precedes and shapes all empirical perception. 

If you were to hear a deep, thunder-like sound as you contemplate the symmetrical photographs below, would it be the sound of the brook's water?  Perhaps it's the voice of the stone, trying to speak out--to whoever will listen--of its hidden secrets, its unknown beauty.  Perhaps the sounds are memories contained deep inside the stone.  The poet William Stafford has written: the centers of stones need your prayers . . .  so, perhaps the sounds are our own prayers which the stone has absorbed and integrated into its own being; or perhaps we are hearing the stone's prayers for us.  

In my studies of the yogic teachings of saints, and in my studies of Corbin's writings on Sufism, there has been much said and revealed about the power of true prayer.  I have often said that I consider my photography a form of meditation; but now I would add that it is a form of prayer as well.  (I will have much to share with you about prayer later on, below.) 

Photography can be a form of praising the beauty of the world, and even its transcendental counterpart.  Photography can also be a form of alchemy--the medieval practice of purifying and transforming base metals into gold--the Philosopher's Stone.  The (#1) image is a good example of how photography can unveil the light inside a dark stone; how it can unveil the internal dimension, the metaphysical image of a stone.

All this talk about prayer and light and stone reminds me of Charles Simic's insightful, luminous poem entitled Stone.  It is prayer-like in the way that it quietly praises the internal dimension of a stone:   

I have seen sparks fly out 
When two stones are rubbed,
So perhaps it is not dark inside after all;
Perhaps there is a moon shining
From somewhere, as though behind a hill--
Just enough light to make out
The strange writings, the star-charts
On the inner walls.

Field of Vision    Epilogue    symmetrical photograph,   Image #1   Dark Stones in Broad Brook  

When He shows Himself to me,
my whole being is vision:
when He speaks to me in secret,
my whole being is hearing.

Sufi poem

Prayer and Creative Imagination 
Perhaps Henry Corbin's most important and most accessible publication is Alone with the Alone : Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi.  He devotes the entire Part Two of the book to prayer, and he writes: "Prayer is creative; it is the conjunction of the Worshiper and the Worshiped, of the Lover and the Beloved . . ."  

The following text excerpts are from Corbin's Alone with the Alone: 

Prayer is not a request for something: it is the expression of a mode of being, a means of existing and of causing to exist, that is, a means of causing the God who reveals Himself to appear . . . in the form which precisely He reveals by revealing Himself by and to that form.

Prayer is a "creator" of vision . . .  it is simultaneously Prayer of God and Prayer of man.

Prayer is the the highest form, the supreme act of the Creative Imagination.  [The prayer of God] issues forth from [His] unknownness and [His] aspiring to be known, whereas the prayer of Man accomplishes this theophany because in it and through it the "Form of God" becomes visible to the heart, to the Active Imagination which projects before it the image whose receptacle is the worshiper's being in the measure of its capacity.  

The organ of prayer is the heart, the psychospiritual organ, with its concentration of energy, its himma.  The role of prayer is shared between God and man, because Creation like theophany is shared between Him who shows Himself and him to whom it is shown.

Imaginative vision becomes vision of the heart . . . the heart being the organ, the "eye" by which God sees Himself: the contemplant is the contemplated (my vision of Him is His vision of me).

For Corbin a true, living Icon is a visual form of prayer, an image of the Heart, a co-creation of Man and God.  Tom Cheetham, in his book All the world an Icon, a contemplation on the writings of Henry Corbin's, states:  Every creative act is a prayer born of love and longing . . .  Prayer is the highest form, the supreme act of the Creative Imagination."  See my two projects:  The Photograph as ICON  &  Prayer Stones

Broad Brook

Field of view   Epilogue  Symmetrical Image #2  Water

Field of view   Epilogue  Symmetrical Image #3  Stones

Field of view   Epilogue  Symmetrical Image #4  Stone and Waters

Field of view Epilogue  Symmetrical Image #5    Scattered Pine Needles On Broad Brook Stones 

Field of view Epilogue  Symmetrical Image #6    "Butterfly"  Broad Brook Stones  (Note: this image was added November 14, 2017) 

Field of view Epilogue  Symmetrical Image #7     Broad Brook Stones  (Note: this image was added November 14, 2017) 

Prayer & Nature : The Teachings of two Meditation Masters  
I have been practicing Siddha Yoga Meditation since 1987 with  Gurumayi Chidvilasananda a great Meditation Master.  (see my project: Photography and Yoga)   I thought, since all the photographs in this project are of leaves, stones, water--things of the natural world,  I would share with you here the yogic teachings on Nature which were published in the Siddha Yoga magazine, Darshan, issue #36  We will begin with the teachings of Swami Muktananda, who was Gurumayi's teacher.  Then, after Gurumayi's words, I will conclude this yoga section, and the Epilogue, with excerpts from the ancient Vedic Prayer, Shri Rudrum.

Swami Muktananda ~ Nature is in a constant meditative state
God's peace pervades the entire universe.  ~  The Upanishads say that the earth is constantly in meditation, and it is because of this that the earth is able to stay in place.  Similarly, the sky is constantly in meditation, and it s for this reason that the sky has been able to remain it its place from time immemorial.  Water too is constantly in meditation, and it is only because of this that it retains its characteristic flowing.  If water were to stop meditating, it would all merge back into the void.  The mountains, the oceans--all these things exist because they are all in a constant meditative state.

It is wrong to consider the world as either matter or void or something which is made of stone and clay or minerals.  This you will realize when you have a direct experience of the Truth.  The world is nothing but an expansion of what you call God or Chiti or Consciousness.  God Himself has become whatever you see in the world.  God has become trees.  God has become rocks.  God has become birds and animals.  God has become water. The one Being manifests Himself in all these countless forms and shapes.  So, therefore, it's not difficult for feelings of the heart to permeate the atmosphere.  Whether you understand it or not, the fact is that outer space is one with inner space.  Their nature is the same.  The echoes produced in outer space resound in inner space as well.  

Swami Chidvilasananda ~ This Entire Universe Emerges from Prayer
The same Supreme consciousness [chiti shakti] has become an ant and also an elephant, a pebble as well as a mountain, a fool and also a scholar . . .  Having experienced the splendor in all things and all beings, all times and all places, the sages burst forth into songs of praise, attempting to capture the experience of Light in syllables, which are themselves forms of the light of God.

This entire universe emerges from prayer, the resounding of Om.  So, prayer existed at the birth of the universe.  The culmination of all prayer is meditation. ~ If you look at nature, you see that it is always turning within.  Whether it is the ocean or trees, birds or animals, whether it is the soil or the wind, flames of fire or just the ether, nature is always in the process of going inside, of returning to itself.   As much as nature is constantly expanding, creating, it is constantly in the process of turning within, also.

When you look at all the birds, all the animals, all the trees and all the plants, if you go deep in their hearts, you can actually hear their story.  Their story is a prayer to God: "Free us from this; give us a body in which we can know our own Self and come to You." 

A seed is hidden under the earth.  There it does its contemplation.  One day, it sprouts.  It becomes a plant, a tree, flowers, and fruit.  Due to its contemplation, it grows and grows and grows.  And then it gives happiness to many people, it becomes a beneficial gift.  The life of a saint is like this, and so is the life of a devotee.  It is for the happiness of many and for the benefit of many, also.  

Everything in nature follows its own discipline.  You know, in the spring, all the flowers are going to blossom.  In winter, all the leaves fall from the trees.  We can learn this discipline from nature--that everything ripens in its own time and has its own role to play.

Whether people understand it or not, nature holds the teaching.  Then, whenever you are ready, nature becomes your teacher.  In this way, over the centuries nature has been containing all these teachings, all this knowledge.

We must learn to turn within and see nature inside us.  We should never close our eyes to our own inner nature.  Nature is beautiful.

Within yourself, a bird is always singing, your own breath is always blowing like the wind and your own awareness is as still as a mountain.  There is a whole universe within you.  When you get in touch with your own nature, you see all the stars and all the planets, you see all the light.  And then you are happy with yourself, you are ecstatic with your Self.  

The Vedic Prayer ~  Shri Rudrum  
I will now conclude this Epilogue with excerpts from a very long ancient Vedic prayer known as Shri Rudrum.  The Vedic Lord Rudra is the source of all: Creator, Sustainer, and Destroyer.  Shri Rudrum is a celebration of the divine power by which the world was made and the material from which it was fashioned.  The prayer praises the universe as the body of God, and as such describes everything as divine.   

Excerpts from Shri Rudrum:

Salutations to You, who have taken the form of sand and flowing water . . . 

Salutations to You, who exist in flowing brooks and in great floods . . . 

Salutations to You, who are present in roaring waves as well as in still waters . . . 

Salutations to You, who are present in the tender grasses on the banks of the river and also in the foam of the river . . . 

Salutations to You, who are present in green fields and farm yards . . . 

Salutations to You, who are present in rocky terrain and also in meadows . . . 

Salutations to You, who becomes both fresh leaves and also dry leaves . . . 

Salutations to You, who are present in sound and also in its echo . . .

Salutations to You, who are in the form of the earth and also of light. . .  

Salutations to You, who are present in atoms and dust . . .

Let there be salutations to that Lord Rudra . . . who pervades the entire cosmos.

*          *          *

This Epilogue to the project "Field of Vision" 
was announced in the Latest Additions  section 
at the top of my website's Welcome Page on Winter Solstice
December 21, 2015

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.