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The following quotes are from Samer Akkach, Cosmology and Architecture in Premodern Islam  click here

Ibn Arabi, the great Sufi mystic, has said that in order to create, God manifested the Divine Breath.  The primordial "Cloud" was the first form the Breath took on externally and within which God then differentiated the forms of the world.  

Thus Ibn Arabi presents divine breathing as an act of imagining.  

The Cloud is identified with the divine imagination because it is viewed not only as a passive substance capable of receiving all forms but also as an active agent that gives beings their forms.  It is thus the means by which God projected forth* the essences of potential beings as cosmic, imaginable forms, and the instrument whose function is to actualize the transcendental patterns of divine realities in the harmonized form of the cosmos.

The first thing God created was the Intellect, that is, the Pen.  Then God unfolded within the primordial Cloud the forms of the entire world, highest and lowest, subtle and dense, spatial and nonspatial.  

It is the fourth state of Being, the world of spirits that comprises the simple, cosmic models, in the likeness of which things are fashioned.  It is the highest level in the hierarchy of cosmic manifestation, the level where God revealed his design of the world through the luminous traces the Pen inscribed upon the Tablet.

In the center of Ibn Arabi's diagram of such, it shows the Cloud in the form of a an encompassing circle . . . Inside the circle is a quadrature of the Pen, the Presered Tablet, Nature, and Matter.  The Pen is identified as the First Intellect, and the Preserved Tablet as the Universal Soul.  Next to the Preserved Tablet, the state of Nature is shown as a rectangle divided diametrically into four parts.  In these four parts are inscribed the four principles of Nature arranged in anti-nomical pairs: heat/cold and dryness/moistness.  Next to the state of Nature, the Universal Matter appears in the form of a circle analogous to the encompassing circle of the Cloud.

Iben Arabi says: "Nature is the most deserving relation to be identified with the Real because everything else was manifested by it.  It is the breath, God's creative medium, that pervades the world, ruling over all forms including the Intellect."  

Nature has no inherent knowledge of its own, nor has the instrument of acquiring knowledge.  As an active force, it acts under the directives of the Soul.  The Soul provides Nature with knowledge and Nature acts.  

The above quotes are from Samer Akkach, Cosmology and Architecture in Premodern Islam  click here

*Seeing the Grand Canyon: Perception as Projection- essay by Steven D. Foster 


The following quotes are from Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Knowledge and the Sacred  click here

Nature is the supreme work of sacred art; in traditions based upon such a perspective, like Islam or the American Indian tradition, virgin nature as created by God is the sanctuary par excellence.  The mosque of the Muslim is the earth itself as long as it has not been defiled by man, and the building called the mosque only extends the ambience of this primordial mosque which is virgin nature into the artificial urban environment created by man.  Likewise, for the American Indian, that wilderness of enchanting beauty which was the American continent before the advent of the white man was the cathedral in which he worshiped and wherein he observed the greatest works of art of the Supreme Artisian.  This sensitivity of the barakah (grace) of nature and the contemplation of the cosmos as theophany (sacred knowledge) cannot but be present wherever pontifical man lives and breaths, for nature is a reflection of that paradisal state that man still carries within the depth of his own being.  

Excluding revealed truth, nothing in the orbit of human experience unveils the real nature of the modern world and the premises upon which it is based more than the cosmos, ranging from the starry heavens to the plants at the bottom of the seas.

The spiritual man is always on Nature's side for he sees in her the grand theophany which externalizes all that he is inwardly.  He sees in the forms of nature the signatures of the celestial archetypes and in her movements and rhythms the exposition of a metaphysics of the highest order.  To such a person nature is at once an aid to spiritual union, for man needs the world in order to transcend it, and a support for the presence of that very reality which lies at once beyond and within her forms created by the hands of the Supreme Artisan.  To contemplate the cosmos as theophany is to realize that all manifestation from the One is return to the One, that all separation is union, that all otherness is sameness, that all plenitude is the Void.  It is to see God everywhere.

The above quotes are from Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Knowledge and the Sacred  click here


The following quotes are from Man and Natureby Seyyed Hossein Nasr

That the harmony between man and nature has been destroyed is a fact which most people admit.  But not everyone realizes that this disequilibrium is due to the destruction of the harmony between man and God. . . . We must re-discover the spiritual meaning of nature.  This discovery is itself dependent upon the remembrance of the most intellectual and metaphysical aspects of the Christian tradition which have been forgotten in so many circles today. . . The Hermetical and alchemical perspective, which in an articulate form entered into the Christian world through Islamic sources, extended the sacramental conception present in the Christian mass to the whole of nature. 

Regarding the Chinese perspective: Chuang-Tzu says "What is of nature is internal.  What is of man is external." That is why the aim of the spiritual man is to contemplate nature and become one with it, to become "natural" in a metaphysical sense, so that to become natural means to abode fully by the Tao which is at once both transcendent and the principle of nature.  The aim of the sage is to be in harmony with nature for through this harmony comes harmony with men and this harmony is itself the reflection of harmony with heaven. 

Regarding the Islamic perspective:  the inseparable link between man and nature is to be found in the Quran itself, the Divine Book which is the Logos or the Word of God.  The Quran contains the "ideas" or archetypes of all things.  The intimate knowledge of nature depends upon the knowledge of the inner meaning of the sacred text.  

The purpose and aim of creation is in fact for God to come"to know" Himself through His perfect instrument of knowledge that is the Universal man.  In fact man is the channel of grace for nature; through his active participation in the spiritual world he cast light into the world of nature.  He is the mouth through which nature breaths and lives.  Because of the intimate connection between man and nature, the inner state of man is reflected in the external order. 

Man sees in nature what he is himself and penetrates into the inner meaning of nature only on the condition of being able to delve into the inner depths of his own being and to cease to lie merely on the periphery of his being.  Men who live only on the surface of their being can study nature as something to be manipulated and dominated.  But only he who has turned toward the inward dimension of his being can see nature as a symbol, as a transparent reality and come to know and understand it in the real sense.

The American Indians saw in virgin nature, in forests, trees, streams and the sky, in birds and buffalos, direct symbols of the spiritual world.  With the strong symbolist spirit with which he was endowed he saw everywhere images of celestial realities.  For him, nature was sacred.  Virgin nature was the cathedral in which he lived and worshipped.  His desperate struggle against the white man was not only for a living space but also for a sanctuary. 

Modern man,  faced with the unprecedented crisis of his own making which now threatens the life of the whole planet, still refuses to see where the causes of the problem lie.  The scientific revolution, according to Francis Bacon, was to gain power over nature, dominate her and force her to reveal her secrets not for the glory of God but for the sake of gaining worldly power and wealth.  

Knowledge that is concerned solely with the material world is dealing truly with the indefinite, or at least its quantitative aspect, with what the Hindus call the cosmic labyrinth or maya and the Buddhists samsara.   

"It is essential to remember that the outside world is a reflection of the soul of man.  The state of the outer world does not merely correspond to the general state of men's souls; it also in a sense depends on that state, since man himself is the pontiff of the outer world.  Thus the corruption of man must necessarily affect the whole. . ."  The Book of Certainty

In the old days man had to be saved from nature.  Today nature has to be saved from man in both peace and war.  In the end what we can say with all certainty is that there is no peace possible among men unless there is peach and harmony with nature.  And in order to have peace and harmony with nature one must be in harmony and equilibrium with Heaven, and ultimately with the Source and Origin of all things.  He who is at peace with God is also at peace with His creation, both with nature and with man.

The whole of nature speaks of God.  To destroy the natural environment is therefore to fail in one's humanity.  It is to commit a veritable crime against creation.

The above quotes are from Man and Nature, by Seyyed Hossein Nasr

The following quotes are by Martin Lings, [Martin Lings:  Symbol & Archetype] taken from my webpage Tree of Life:

It is the function of sacred art in general to be a vehicle for the Divine Presence; and it follows from what has already been said that the Islamic artist will conceive this function not as a "capturing" of the Presence but rather as a "liberation" of its mysterious Totality from the deceptive prison of appearances.

The first sacred art of all - in as much as it was for man the first earthly vehicle of Divine Presence, was nature itself; and it is, moreover, the Qur'an which draws the artist's attention to this primordial "solution".   There are few things that evoke more immediately the idea of perfection than a tree which has had time and space to achieve fullness of growth; and in virtue of the outward and upward pointing of its branches, it is not a closed perfection but an open one.  The Qur'an uses this very symbol itself:

A good word is as a good tree, its root firm, its branches in heaven, giving its fruits at every due season by the leave of its Lord.  And God coineth similitudes for men that they may remember. (XIV:24-25)


Sacred Art, Sacred Knowledge which is a work in progress consisting primarily of a collection of quotes by Islamic Scholars on the traditions of the sacred in art and all aspects of Islamic culture. 

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.