11/26/10

Texts for Infinite Beauty Project


Text Page   
                              
                                       for the project:
                                      Infinite Beauty  Images of never-ending continuity . . .                  
                                   
                                      
   Infinite Beauty repetition field photograph   20x25"  
Garden View - The Alhambra, Spain
 from the project:  Crystalline Paradise
 Click on image once, twice to enlarge


"Islamic art is based in the theory of transcendence.  
What would be a suitable aesthetic vehicle for this 
ideology?  The creation of patterns which carry 
the implication of never-ending continuity . . . 
patterns that suggest infiniteness as a  
quality of transcendence."
Lois Ibsen Al Faruqui


Introduction  
This webpage is dedicated to the texts for the Infinite Beauty project, which is chapter 6 of "An Imaginary Book."  To see the photographs visit The Infinite Beauty Photographs.  The texts below are organized according to following thematic headings:

Text Page Thematic Headings:
Islamic Arabesque 
Symbolic Considerations
     The Half Roundels
     The Marginal Spaces
     The Palmettes
     Weaving and Symbolism of the Cross
     The Square and Calligraphy
     The Marginal Black Space
     Black Space, Silence & Symbol
     The Triadically Repeating Palmettes
     The "Black Light"
Ritual Prayer 
Creative Imagination
On Beauty & The Infinite  

The Photographs           
The Infinite Beauty Photographs are fields of repeating image patterns which were constructed by seamlessly conjoining and repeating Four-fold symmetrical photographs from earlier projects in "An Imaginary Book."  The field patterns, which run both vertically and horizontally within a square format, are  suspended within a horizontal black space.  The symbolism of the repetition fields, the square format, the black margin space, and much more is discussed in the texts below.

  



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The
Texts

Islamic Arabesque 
& 
The Infinite Beauty Photographs 

The changing processes of nature are viewed as permanent patterns 
which through repetition integrates time and process 
into the image of eternity.
Seyyed Hossein Nasr


Only through rhythm is one able to escape the prison of time.
Nature is continual repetition, inspiring man to imitate her 
"in her mode of operation" through an open-ended,
continuous movement system.
Laleh Baktaiar  


Islamic Arabesque
The Four-fold symmetrical photograph is a visual symbol of Islam's primary doctrine: Unity of Being.  (I have discussed this in detail in my Preface.)  Therefore it follows that an Infinite Beauty photograph, which is an image field pattern constructed from a single, repeated and seamlessly conjoined Four-fold symmetrical photograph, is a symbol of "unity in multiplicity."  As such the Infinite Beauty photographs are related to the great Islamic tradition of the arabesque of which there are two basic types: 1) intertwined stylized vineal and aboral imagery; and 2) abstract geometrical imagery.  The excerpts below by Islamic scholars elaborate on the arabesque: 

Titus Burkhardt: Art of Islam - Language and Meaning  
Both types of arabesque are an extremely direct expression of the idea of the Divine Unity underlying the inexhaustible variety of the world.  True, Divine Unity as such is beyond all representation because its nature, which is total, lets nothing remain outside itself.  Nevertheless, it is through harmony that it is reflected in the world, harmony being nothing other than "unity in multiplicity."  But it is in yet another respect that arabesque recalls the unity underlying things, namely that it is generally constituted from a single element, a single rope or a single line, which comes endlessly back upon itself. 

Seyyed Hossein Nasr: Islamic Art and Spirituality  
Regarding the arabesque in relation to the void:   Together, the void and the "positive" material form, color and so forth, depict the full reality of an object, chiselling away its unreality and illuminating its essential reality as a positive symbol and harmonious whole.  The combining of these two aspects is seen clearly in the arabesque, so characteristic of Islamic art, where both the negative space and the positive "form" play an equally central role.  The arabesque enables the void to enter into the very heart of matter, to remove its opacity and to make it transparent before the Divine Light.  Through its extension and repetition of forms interlaced with the void, the arabesque removes from the eye the possibility of fixing itself in one place, and from the mind the possibility of becoming imprisoned in any particular solidification and crystallization of matter.  This refusal to identify, even symbolically, any concrete form with the Divinity stems as much from the Islamic insistence upon Divine Unity as it does upon the absence of an icon which would symbolize the God-man or the incarnation found in other traditions.

Keith Critchlow: Islamic Patterns: An Analytical and Cosmological Approach   
Islamic art is predominantly a balance between pure geometric form and what can be called fundamental biomorphic form . . .  The one aspect reflects the facets of a jewel, the purity of the snowflake and the frozen flowers of radial symmetry; the other the glistening flank of a perspiring horse, the silent motion of fish winding their way through the water, the unfolding and unfurling of the leaves of the vine and rose.  The Islamic art of geometric form can be considered the crystallization stage both of the intelligence inherent in manifest form and as a moment of suspended animation of the effusion of content through form. 


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Symbolic Considerations
I have outlined below several aspects of the Infinite Beauty photographs that I believe carry important symbolic value.  For me, any true creative process is aligned with the Creative Imaginationand, as such, my photographs are in varying degrees aligned with the sacred to the extent that they function for the viewer as living symbols.  And to some extent this depends on the viewer's active contemplative engagement with the image.

My best photographs come through an intuitive picture-making process; then later I discover the ideas that seem to correspond to the images through a process of contemplating the work.  My study of the great Islamic scholars listed in Sacred Art, Sacred Knowledge has deepened my understanding of the photographs I have been making for "An Imaginary Book."  I often find passages in their writings that correspond  inexplicably to my experiences of certain particular images I have made.  The material I am presenting below, indeed is part of my contemplation process, an important and necessary part of my creative process.  Note: I highly recommend the scholarly texts included in my Tree of Life project for they are quite relevant to the Infinite Beauty project and will serve as valuable compliments to the texts I have provided here.


The Half Roundels 
These "little suns" which are found regularly in illuminated Qur'ans serve in my photographs as a visual indication of the central, vertical axis of the photograph.  The imaginary line that run's through the picture's vertical center also is suggestive of the place where two facing pages of "An Imaginary Book" meet and are bound to each other.  As such the half roundels also serve as a reference to, and remembrance of, the beautiful traditions associated with the double-page illuminations found in many Qur'ans, and more personally my extraordinary experiences which initiated the making of "An Imaginary Book."  It is said the "little suns" shine divine light on to the book's page "from the next world."  To learn more visit:  Preface  :  The World As A Book  :  Imagination  :  The Green Light of Sufi Travel


The Marginal Space & the Roundels
The image fields in my Infinite Beauty photographs are square, and my marginal space is rectangular with a horizontal emphasis.  The horizontal symbolizes time; the vertical axis defined by the half-roundels symbolizes Divine transcendence.  Martin Lings, the great Islamic scholar, says in his book Symbol and Archetype that the marginal spaces surrounding the images and text in illuminated Qur'ans are associated with eternity.      


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About the Palmettes
In the left and right margins of my Infinite Beauty photographs there are triadically repeating palmettes which point outward from the center of the image field toward "infinity."   The palmette image used in my photographs was appropriated from the right side of the above double-page Qur'an illumination.  [click on the image to enlarge]   Palmettes are, in themselves, symbols of infinity because they are filled with vineal arabesques, repeating interwoven images of stylized vine forms.  Mr. Lings writes of the arabesque: As a portrayal of rhythm, by its constant repetition of the same motives at regular intervals, it suggests rhythmic Qur'an recitations, which take place, we are told, not only on earth but throughout all the degrees of the universe.  The palmettes achieve for the eye the effect of a liberation of incalculable scope.  


Weaving and Symbolism of the Cross 
The repetition image fields in the Infinite Beauty photographs share the warp and weft structure of Islamic prayer carpets, and thus participate in a similar kind of symbolism regarding the Cross.  Rene Guenon, in his book The Symbolism of the Cross, has some interesting things to say about the symbolic nature of weaving in relation to the cross.  Click here to read excerpts from his book.  



The Square and Calligraphy
The square format of the image field in the Infinite Beauty photographs is symbolic of unity and is related to the symbolism of the cross, the mandala, and the traditional structures of Islamic architecture -- especially the cube form (c.f. the Ka'ba) and basic mosque design which includes a circular/spherical (heavenly) dome that sits on top of an (earthly) square/cube base.  [See the image above.]  

The transitional space between the dome and the base of the mosque also holds great significance, as Islamic scholar Lelae Bakhtiar explains below in relation to the use of calligraphy in Islamic architectural space.  

I want to take this opportunity to call your attention to the calligraphic nature of many of the Infinite Beauty photographs.  At the very beginning of the project I make a visual comparison between one of my photographs and a 9th-10th century Qu'ran page.  Click here

Lelae Bakhtiar: Sufi Expressions of the Mystic Quest
Calligraphy, the most sacred of art forms, recalls the Word by which God calls Himelf.  In architecture this is most often found on the band between the base of a mosque and its dome.  This transitional space is the way of the return [ta'wil] through the Word of God, the Qur'an as revealed to Muhammad.

Calligraphy is thus the visual body of the Divine revelation, sacred in both form and content.  Corresponding to the iconographic image of Christ in Christianity, the calligraphic form symbolizes the world Itself, and its very presence obviates the use of any imagery.

The Structure of calligraphy, composed of horizontal and vertical strokes woven into a rich fabric, is potent with symbolism.  The verticals, like the warp of a carpet, provide an ontological relationship and a structure for the design, while the horizontals, like the weft, correspond to the creation that develops the balance and flow of the basic conception.  It is through the harmonious weavings of the horizontal and the vertical that unity is achieved.   



   Infinite Beauty Photograph   20x25"  
The Dome above the mirhab in the
 Great Mosque of Cordoba, Spain  
from the project: Crystalline Paradise
 Click on image once, twice to enlarge


The Marginal Black Space
The square repetition field images are centered and suspended within a horizontal black space.  The rectangular format, the blackness and the repeating palmettes which point outward from the image field, are intended to imply a never-ending infinite vastness of "empty" space, silence, the void.  In this respect it's possible and I think interesting to consider the black space as a symbolic reference to the Ka'ba for there is a concept of "emptiness" associated with it, as discussed below by Titus Burckhardt:   

Titus Burckhardt:  Sacred Art in East and West
The Ka'ba itself does not represent a sacramental center comparable to the Christian altar, nor does it contain any symbol which could be an immediate support to worship, for it is empty.  Its emptiness reveals an essential feature of the spiritual attitude of Islam: awareness of the Divine Presence is based on a feeling of limitlessness . . . limitless space.


Black Space, Silence, Suspension, Symbol
In several of my earlier photography projects which were inspired by my experience of music, I have often used black space to symbolize silence, that mystery from which musical sounds emerge, in which the sounds are temporarily suspended, and into which the decaying sounds eventually return.  

The experience of music as sound suspended in space fascinates me very much.  I have personally experienced music as "suspended in time and space" in very dynamic ways.  I have had equivalent experiences while viewing visual art as well.  That is to say, time seems to stop, or at least becomes suspended, which to a large extent is for me a spatial experience.  I believe the experience of sound suspended in space/time is nothing less than an aesthetic-transcendent experience of the eternal, of the infinite.

A powerful aesthetic experience -- of music, of visual art, of architectural space -- often quiets or stills or "silences" the mind.  In all religious traditions it's quite clear that a stilled or silenced mind allows one to get in touch with "the next world" as Martin Lings puts it, or the "Divine Infinitude" referred to by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, or the "Heart" referred to by the Sufis.  Experiences of transcendence are possible for everyone, and especially for those who engage the symbolicor the sacred dimension of silence with deeply concentrated one-pointed attention.   Tom Cheetham writes quite eloquently about this:

Tom Cheetham:  All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings
The fountain of human creativity is the poetic basis of mind--from it comes all that we are.  From that source, there flows both Sound and Silence.  Poetry is language that always stays near the source and hears the coursing of that primal Silence.  Poetry is born on the edge of silence and listens into and speaks out of that Void.

Henry Corbin shared Jung's conviction that a true symbol is an expression of something essentially unknown.  Corbin wrote:  "The symbol announces a plane of consciousness distinct from rational evidence; it is a "cipher" of a mystery, the only means of saying something that cannot be apprehended in any other way; a symbol is never explained once and for all, but must be deciphered over and over again."

The symbol mediates between our world and the immensity of the worlds beyond.  We cannot know of that beyond in any other way--we are speechless in the presence of that darkness.  Corbin says, "the symbol is mediator because it is silence, it speaks and does not speak; and precisely thus, it states what it alone can speak."   

The function of the symbol is the function of the Angel of Revelation, and that is to be the "hermeneut of the divine silence--that is, the annunciation and epiphany of the impenetrable and incommunicable divine transcendence."

The figure of Sophia is also exactly this mediating figure, standing on the boundary between the known and the unknowable.  She is the guardian of the Fountain of Life, the Spring from which poetry and symbols flow.  Corbin says:  "Because she is a guide who always leads the mystic toward the beyond, preserving him from metaphysical idolatry, Sophia appears to him sometimes as compassionate and comforting, sometimes as sever and silent, because only Silence can "speak," can indicate transcendences."


The Ellipsis-like Palmettes 
The triadically repeating palmettes in the right and left black space margins bear a likeness to the triple dot punctuation mark used in writing  .  .  .  commonly known as an ellipsis.  According to Wikipedia, the ellipsis is also, sometimes, called "a suspension point" and is used in writing to indicate "an unfinished thought trailing off into silence."  Also, the ellipsis, when used at the beginning or end of a sentence, "can also inspire a feeling of longing."


The "Black Light" of Sufism 
The following reference to black space was part of a rather extensive discussion about fana, the Sufi's word for the annihilation of the ego, a kind of "death" in which the mystic no longer perceives himself separate from God.  The Black Light becomes an important concept in my two final projects, The Light of Creation and The Green Light of Sufi Travel.  For now, this quote from Annemarie Schimmel's wonderful book will adequately satisfy our needs for a brief definition:

Annemarie Schimmel:  Mystical Dimensions of Islam
The Sufis have spoken of the experience of the Black Light--the light of bewilderment: when the divine light fully appears in the mystic's consciousness, all things disappear instead of remaining visible.  Such is the experience of fana--a blackout of everything until the mystic perceives that this blackness is "in reality the very light of the Absolute-as-such," for existence in its purity is invisible and appears as nothing.  To discover the clarity of this black light is to find the green water of life, which, according to the legends, is hidden in the deepest darkness.  Baqa, [eternal] persistence in God, is concealed in the very center of fana.   


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Ritual Prayer and the Infinite Beauty photographs
For me there has been a strong sense of ritual in the making of the Four-fold photographs (visit my Preface & Ritual and Art).   Associated with the ritual of making, I have also experienced in a palpable way the transformation of "ordinary" photographic pictorial space into sacred spaceor you could say "visual space with divine presence."   Samer Akkach writes about Islamic ritual prayer in his book Cosmology and Architecture in Premodern Islam, and I find much of his material relevant to the Infinite Beauty Photographs.  The text excerpts are quite extensive so I encourage you to visit this link Islamic Ritual Prayer which I created especially for this Infinite Beauty Text page.  Also, the idea of the Three-dimensional Cross relates in fascinating ways to ritual prayer and the Infinite Beauty photographs.

   
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Creative Imagination
Samer Akkach: Cosmology and Architecture in Premodern Islam  An Architectural Reading of Mystical Ideas  
The world of imagination is the level of existence where this duality is resolved: where the pure is embodied and the body is purified.  Imagination is the world where meaning and form marry, generating a new world that is at once uniting and separating its parental domains, just like the twilight zone, which unites and separates light and darkness.

"Know that you are an imagination," Ibn 'Arabi says, "and everything that you perceive, and of which you would say "this is not me," is also an imagination.  So the whole being is an imagination within an imagination."   

Henry Corbin: Alone with the Alone
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).  In its ultimate degree, the Image will be a vision of the "Form of God" corresponding to the innermost being of the contemplant, who experiences himself as the microcosm of the Divine Being; a limited Form, like every form, but a Form which as such . . . emanates an aura, a "field" which is always open to "recurrent creations."  This presupposes of course a basic visionary Imagination, a "presence of the heart" in the intermediate world . . . an intermediate world which is the encounter (the "conspiration") of the spiritual and the physical . . .

[Visit:  Creative Imagination]  


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   Infinite Beauty Photograph   20x25"   
"Eating the Sun" from the project: 
  Symmetrical River Songs
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"God is beautiful and He loves beauty"


On

Beauty 
& 
The Infinite

A Collection of Text Excerpts


Excerpts from: Lois Ibsen Al Faruqui  "An Islamic Perspective on Symbolism in the Arts: New Thoughts on Figural Representation" from Art Creativity, and the Sacred, edited by Diane Apostolos-Cappadona
Islamic art is based in the theory of transcendence, that is, reality is not conceived as based in human existence or in nature.  Instead, transcendence theories regard finite motifs and subject matter as subtly disclosing a view of a reality that reaches beyond the natural world. 

According to Muslims, every aspect of culture must be seen as somehow determined by the uniquely Qur'anic and Islamic monotheistic doctrine of tawhid.  This doctrine regards Allah, or God, as a being of utterly transcendent nature, as the Creator Who has a hand in nature but Who is completely distinguishable from His creation.

It would seem likely then that a similar influence of tawhid is to be found in the Islamic arts.  For the Muslim, the aesthetic realm, the beautiful, is that which directs attention to Alla.  

If the Muslim artist could not convey an intuition of tawhid through naturalistic representations [of man and nature], what would be a suitable aesthetic vehicle for his ideology?  He found this vehicle in the creation of patterns that suggest infiniteness as a quality of transcendence.  Islamic art has commonly been represented as an art of the "infinite pattern."

The Muslim artist holds a preference for small "building blocks" or "modules" from which to build his beautiful patterns which carry the implication of never-ending continuity.  The implicit symbolic message is realized through repetition and continuing variation of internal units with their intricacy and complication of treatment.  These internal units may be identically repeated to make up the total composition, or they may reappear in varied form. . .  In both cases, the internal divisions of the work are essential to the sense of continuing and never-ending pattern.  The viewer, through his visual experience of this aesthetic process, gains an intuition of the infinity which characterizes transcendence.





   Infinite Beauty Photograph   20x25"   
"Security Wall, Alhambra, Spain" 
from the project: Crystalline Paradise
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Keith Critchlow:  Islamic Patterns An Analytical and Cosmological Approach  
Islam’s concentration on geometric patterns [which are based upon mathematical laws of repetition] draws attention away from the representational world to one of pure forms, poised tensions and dynamic equilibrium, giving structural insight into the workings of the inner self and their reflection in the universe.  

The circle is the archetypal governing basis for all the geometric shapes that unfold within it . . . reflecting the unity of its original source, the point, the simple, self-evident origin of geometry and a subject grounded in mystery.  

The circle has always been regarded as a symbol of eternity, without beginning and without end,  just being. . . In the effort to trace origins in creation, the direction is not backwards but inwards.


Tom Cheetham  All the World an Icon   
The paradox of monotheism is this, put simply: the single, unique Supreme God can only appear by means of a multitude of theophanic forms.  You can never have the God beyond God, only the form of God that is revealed to you.  We are to conceive of the Uniqueness of God as a verbal description.  God is the Unique because God singularizes each thing He touches--He is unique in the sense that He makes each thing and each person unique.  To do this He must infinitely pluralize and scatter Himself in the manifold individuals of creation. 


Titus Burckhardt:  Art of Islam: Language and Meaning
Regarding Art and Contemplation: the object of art is beauty of form, whereas the object of contemplation is beauty beyond form, which unfolds the formal order qualitatively whilst infinitely surpassing it.  To the extent that art is akin to contemplation, it is knowledge since beauty is an aspect of Reality in the absolute meaning of the world.  Nor is it the least of its aspects, for it reveals the unity and infinity that are immanent in things.  It is finally beauty--subtly linked to the very source of things--that will pass judgment on the worth or futility of a world.  As the Prophet said  "God is beautiful and He loves beauty".


Titus Burckhardt:   Sacred Art in East and West
The arabesque is a direct means for dissolving images or what corresponds to them in the mental order, in the same way as the rhythmical repetition of certain Qur'anic formulae dissolves the fixation of the mind on an object of desire.  In the arabesque all suggestion of an individual form is eliminated by the indefinity of a continuous weave . . . [just as] at the sight of glittering waves or of leafage trembling in the breeze, the soul detaches itself from its internal objects, from the "idols" of passion, and plunges, vibrant within itself, into a pure state of being.


Frithjof Schuon: Art from the Sacred to the Profane-East and West
Every beauty is both a closed door and an open door, or in other words, an obstacle or a vehicle: either beauty separates us from God because it is entirely identified in our mind with its earthly support which then assumes the role of idol, or beauty brings us close to God because we perceive in it the vibrations of Beatitude and Infinity which emanate from divine Beauty.  


Frithjof Schuon: Language of the Self
Esoterism is concerned with the nature of things and not merely with our human eschatology; it views the Universe not from the human standpoint but from the "standpoint" of God.  As a doctrine it communicates the very essence of our universal position, our situation between nothingness and Infinity.  The truth for the esoterist is that only the divine manifestation is the Self. 


Samer Akkach:  Cosmology and Architecture in Premodern Islam
The Sufi viewed imagination as the creative cause of our existence and the powerful agency that enables us to remain in contact with the Infinite and the Absolute.


Martin Lings:  A sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century - Shaikh Ahamad Al-Alawi
'The Infinite or the World of the Absolute which we conceive of as being outside us is on the contrary universal and exists within us as well as without.  There is only One World, and this is It.  What we look on as the sensible world, the finite world of time and space, is nothing but a conglomeration of veils which hide the Real World.  These veils are our own senses: our eyes are the veils over the True Sight, our ears the veils over True Hearing, and so it is with the other senses.  For us to become aware of the existence of the Real World, the veils of the senses must be drawn aside . . . What remains then of man?  There remains a faint gleam which appears to him as the lucidity of his consciousness . . . There is a perfect continuity between this gleam and the Great Light of the Infinite World, and once this continuity has been grasped our consciousness can (by means of prayer) flow forth and spread out as it were into the Infinite and become One with It, so that man comes to realized that the Infinite Alone is, and that he, the humanly conscious, exists only as a veil.  Once this state has been realized, all the Lights of Infinite Life may penetrate the soul of the Sufi, and make him participate in the Divine Life, so that he has a right to exclaim: "I am Allah".  The invocation of the name Allah is as an intermediary which goes backwards and forwards between the glimmerings of consciousness and the dazzling splendours of the Infinite, affirming the continuity between them and knitting them ever closer and closer together in communication until they are "merged in identity."'


Martin Lings: Symbol and Archetype
The Qur'an uses the symbol of the tree to point a way for the illuminator, telling him how to set free from the finite it's Infinite Presence.  Visit my project The Tree of Life.


  From the project: The Tree of Life


Samer Akkach:  Cosmology and Architecture in Premodern Islam
The Quran uses many tangible examples from the seen to explain or describe matters of the unseen:

"If all trees in the earth were pens, and if the sea eked out 
by seven seas more were ink, the words of God could not be 
written out to the end." (31:27)  

"Do you not see how God cites a symbol: 
a good word is as a good tree, its root set firm  
and its branches in heaven." (14:24)

In the first example the incomprehensible infinity of God’s words is brought closer to human understanding by using the analogy of trees and seas as pens and ink.  In the second, the verse relates “a good word” to “a good tree,” so that we may understand the nature of the divine word by means of the given description of the tree.   Religious understanding of spiritual realities hinges on the efficacy of such analogies, and symbolic reasoning relies on and promotes similar modes of thinking.  In constructing ties between the divine and human modes of existence, analogical reasoning operates in the paradoxical space that lies in between the contrasting dimensions of analogy: tashbih and tanzih, “likeness” and “transcendence.”


Seyyed Hossein Nasr:  Knowledge and the Sacred   
Traditional art is concerned with beauty which is inseparable from reality and is related to the inner dimension of the Real as such, Ultimate Reality being the Absolute, the Infinite, and Perfection or Goodness.  Beauty reflects the Absolute in its regularity and order; infinity in its sense of inwardness and mystery, and in its demands of perfection.  A masterpiece of traditional art is at once perfect, orderly, and mysterious.  It reflects the perfection and goodness of the Source, the harmony and order which are also reflected in the cosmos and which are the imprint of the absoluteness of the Principle in manifestation and the mystery and inwardness which open unto the Divine Infinitude itself.


Tom Cheetham:  All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings
Henry Corbin writes:  "Idolatry consists in immobilizing oneself before an idol because one sees it as opaque, because one is incapable of discerning in it the hidden invitation that it offers to go beyond it.  Hence, the opposite of Idolatry would not consist in breaking idols, in practicing a fierce iconoclasm aimed against every inner or external Image; it would rather consist in rendering the idol transparent to the light invested in it.  In short, it means transmuting the idol into an icon."

It is Sophia, the Beauty of things, that makes possible the vision of the transparency of the world.  She is the figure that the ancient Zoroastrians called the "Angel out ahead."  She manifests beauty and so reveals the infinite as the heart of reality, so that everything is "bulging and blazing and big in itself."  In this cosmology, all earthly beings have a Heavenly Twin, an archetypal figure who completes them and makes them whole.  But it is a dynamic wholeness.  And not only earthly beings have a heavenly twin.  All the celestial archetypes themselves have an Angel.  Even God has an Angel.  These are the Angels "who go out ahead" and eternally create new horizons, opening up distances within Eternity.  In this vision of the cosmos there are no fixed Beings, and every being of Light always has another Angel out ahead of itself.


I use the word poet in the broadest possible sense, to include everyone who taps into the Creative Imagination that lies at the heart of reality.  [Poetry] happens anywhere love erupts and beauty shines.  A primary characteristic of the visionary and Creative Imagination is that it is fluid,  flashing, and ever-changing. . .  If we imagine that the world was produced by a cosmic Imagination, and if Imagination is the central faculty of human beings, and if imaginal reality is fluid and changeable, then no literal interpretation we can ever give the world will do it justice.  There is no complete Truth that is viable to everyone.  The cosmos cries out for interpretation because it is infinite everywhere and always, from the tiniest grain of sand to the greatest cluster of galaxies, from the tiniest living cell to the infant sleeping in its mother's arms. . .  There can be no master narrative.  We want instead a Theory of Nothing, a poetics of the dark.  Only that releases us and the world toward an infinite series of meanings. . . Henry Corbin writes of the Darkness at the approach to the pole that threatens the mystical journey with catastrophe.  The Unknown God is the fountain of all being--His Light so overpowering it seems like the Blackest Night.  I imagine that these ranks of Angels rise toward that Night, surrendering more and more of their knowledge and their substance until they abandon everything at the threshold of the Throne.  I envy the ignorance of those tremendous, final Angels.  




"God is beautiful and He loves beauty"





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A Related Project 
The Infinite Beauty photographs are related to an earlier body of my work entitled Chromatic Fields which I had made for a larger collection of projects entitled Triadic Memories (2003-2007).  Triadic Memories is the title of a composition for solo piano written in 1981 by contemporary American composer Morton Feldman.  Feldman's music was influenced by the Turkish carpets he loved and collected, and his music was an important influence on my creative process.  One of the reasons I had decided to travel to Turkey in the Spring of 2011 was to try to understand better how Feldman's music was influenced by the the art of Islam.  


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To revisit the photographs for this project click here:


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I invite you to visit the next chapter of "An Imaginary Book" (project #7) entitled Ta'wil: Unveiling the Hidden Treasure.   The word Ta'wil, in the context of the spiritual journey of the Sufi mystic, means something like "the return to one's primordial origin."  


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    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.















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