The Angels: Part VII Epilogue: Rock Flowers

The Angels  Part VII    Epilogue    
Photographs Inspired by the Art of Paul Klee  
The Writings of Henry Corbin and Tom Cheetham

                                The Angels Part VII  Epilogue: "Rock Flowers"   

Textual Preludes

          The ability to be carried away, through the forms of this world, to the infinite expanses of the other worlds is mystical, imaginative, symbolic perception.  Not a flight from Reality, but a Journey towards it.
          Corbin's fully charged "gnosiology," wholly unlike any rational "theory of knowledge," is based upon Love and its transfiguration by Beauty as the supreme theophany.  The ecstasy which is inherent in the Angel . . . can "shatter the rock of doubt," and "paralyze the 'agnostic reflex . . .'" 
          The infinite succession of Heavens and the unending openings they accomplish communicate with one another by means of correspondences of "forms," of isomorphisms, between one level and the next, in a kind of Gestalt cosmology.  It is the perception of these that makes possible the Journey beyond.  The correspondences are not in the head, but of the heart.


          Corbin speaks also  . . . of the iconography, the theosophy of art, as it were, which accompanies this vision of the world.  . . .  What is required of such art is not that it be representational, but symbolic. 
          In the spaces of iconographic, symbolic art, [Corbin writes] "All the elements are represented in their real dimensions . . .  Contemplation of the image becomes a mental itinerary, an inner accomplishment; the image fulfills the function of a mandala.  . . . to contemplate them is to enter into a multidimensional world, to effect the passage of the ta'wil through the symbols.  And the whole forms a unity of qualitative time, in which past and future are simultaneously in the present." 
          The function of such an art is not representation, however beautiful, but transformation and transfiguration of the soul and of the world "by that Light of Glory which the soul projects onto it" [writes Corbin].  The purpose of this sacred symbolic art is to enact the psycho-cosmic transformation that it symbolizes.


          The language of poetry is as close as we can get to the language of the angels.  It is a language of images, of imagination.  And the imagination is central to the psycho-cosmology that Corbin describes in the Sufism of Ibn' Arabi [b. 1165 Andalusian Sufi mystic] and in Shi'ism.  Nature itself speaks, and it takes a special kind of attention to hear it.  All excerpts above are by Tom Cheetham  Part IV


         To come face to face with the Earth not as a conglomeration of physical facts but in the person of its Angel is an essentially psychic event which can "take place" neither in the world of impersonal abstract concepts nor on the plane of mere sensory data.  The Earth has to be perceived not by the senses, but through a primordial Image and, inasmuch as this Image carries the features of a personal figure, it will prove to "symbolize with" the very Image of itself which the soul carries in its innermost depths.   Henry Corbin  Part IV

"Rock Flowers"
Five Symmetrical Photographs
Mandalas constructed from 
images made in Acadia

The Angels
Part VII 

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The text below is excerpted  from a talk by Gurumayi Chidvilasananda
 "The Eternal Witness is Present in Everything" 
May 31, 1987   ~   Darshan Magazine  #37

~  Time  ~  

          It is said the primordial pearl is in the center of time.  When the primordial pearl is still, everything is in stillness.  When the primordial pearl starts throbbing, everything comes into manifestation.  When you merge, you merge into this primordial pearl.  And when you see it, your whole being melts into it.  Then a rock can have its hardness, but is no longer hard.  Flower petals can have their softness, but they are no longer soft.  Water can have its flowing quality, but it is no longer flowing.  A mountain can have its immovable steadiness, but it is no longer that either.  

~  The Primordial Pearl  ~


The Primordial Pearl, "the center of time" in the Hindu tradition, is closely related to The Point, "the center of Reality" in the Sufi tradition, the mystical branch Islam.  Both "the pearl" and "the point" are poetic-Iconic-Symbolic Images that strive to give linguistic form to that which is not-sayable, invisible, timeless, infinite: the Uncreated Source or Origin of the Created World.  We need Images--living Icons or Symbols; we need their grace.  Images are our means of merging into the Unity of Being--That which the Images symbolize.  

Each of the five symmetrical photographs presented below has a center point from which the whole image unfolds outward.  These mandalas serve the angelic function of "messenger."  They bring us "news" from the Intermediate Imaginal World, a place beyond space and time; a place of unitary Reality where "water can have its flowing quality, but it is no longer flowing," where a "mountain can have its immovable steadiness, but it is not longer that either."

When I read Gurumayi's talk "The Eternal Witness Is Present in Everything" I had just begun working on the series of symmetrical rock photographs which are presented here in their entirety.  It was my intention to use the images for my next project, which will have to do with photographs I made in Acadia National Park in Maine during my three day visit in late September, 2014.  When I read her poetic words I was struck by the way Gurumayi united rocks with softness, and flowers with hardness.  Her grace-filled non-dualistic way of speaking invoked the images I had begun making which were like flowers made of rocks; symmetrical-mandala-iconic Images which symbolize for me an infinitely unfolding primordial universe:

The Earth has to be perceived not by the senses, but through a 
primordial Image . . . [that] will prove to "symbolize with" 
the very Image of itself which the soul carries
 in its innermost depths.    
Henry Corbin  


The Angels project brings together, once again, the revealed knowledge of both the Hindu and Sufi traditions.  I have been practicing Siddha Yoga meditation since 1987.  Gurumayi is my teacher and the head of an ancient linage of meditation masters.  click here to learn more   In 2011, when I traveled to Turkey with my wife for a two week visit, I discovered the sacred art of Islam.  Immediately after coming home I began what turned out to be a very large project "An Imaginary Book" which eventually lead me to the writings of Henry Corbin and Tom Cheetham.  I was particularly drawn to their explications on the teachings of the great Sufi mystic Ibn 'Arabi [b. 1165].   For Chapter VIII of "An Imaginary Book" I made a series of photographs inspired by two related theories of recurrent creation which I discovered existed in both the Hindu and Sufi traditions.

These two ancient and powerful traditions share much in common and each sheds light upon one the other in ways that are particularly meaningful and visually provocative for me.  For example, in her talk Gurumayi speaks of "the eternal present"  ~  "time as your own inner Self" ~ "recognizing eternity in each word, thought [and] element of this earth."   In the writings of Ibn' Arabi I found similar words and concepts which have been explored and interpreted by Corbin and Cheetham.  For example:

     The ability to be carried away, through the forms of this world, 
to the infinite expanses of the other worlds is mystical, 
 imaginative, symbolic perception.  Not a  
flight from Reality, but a 
Journey towards it.
Tom Cheetham

In the collection of text excerpts I have provided in Part IV of this project, Cheetham and Corbin speak of: "the angel's ecstasy which shatters rocks"  ~  "the image [which] fulfills the function of a mandala"  ~  "to contemplate [such images] is to enter into a multidimensional world"  ~  "the whole forms a unity of qualitative time in which past and future are simultaneously in the present.

When I recognized the correspondences between my symmetrical "Rock Flower" photographs and the ideas and images within these texts, I understood that although the "Rock Flower" images are not as anthropomorphic as the symmetrical images I had made for the earlier parts of this project, they nonetheless needed to be included in the Epilogue of my project.  

This "falling together" in time of two acausally related images is known as Synchronicity.  These corresponding images which reflect one another in ways that are personally revelatory to me and united in the form of a photographic image, has been at the very heart of my creative process since the early 1970s.   The unifying Image is what Corbin and Cheetham calls the Icon, and what depth-psycholgist Carl Jung calls the Symbol.   In the living, sacred, grace-filled transformational imagery of a symbol, we recognize the "eternity in a word, a thought, an element of the earth."  Rocks then become the dwelling places of angels.


I now want to draw attention--and pay homage--to Paul Klee, the other important influence on this project.  In Christine Hopfengart's essay "Hovering: Paul Klee's Angels as Personifications of Transition" she writes:  

          . . . in his youth, with no thought yet of angels, Klee saw himself as an artist positioned in a region far removed from the earth.  He mystified himself, as a being dwelling at "the original point of creation . . ."   from the book Paul Klee: The Angels

Klee was totally absorbed in the mysteries of creation.  His voluminous writings about the creative process, as well as the prolific number of art works he created, have been for me a true source of nourishment and inspiration going back many years.    

Klee wrote that when he was making paintings and drawings, everything vanished around him, and that the images were "born as if from out of the void."  I feel the same way about the five"Rock Flower" images presented here.  They were constructed with source images of rocks so ordinary in their initial appearance that it's still amazing to me that such magical visual transformations could have come forth from within them.  The mandala photographs have for me a mythic sense about them, as if they are ancient dwelling places, "the original point of creation" from which an infinite number of images could come forth into this realm of existence.  Indeed, I enjoy a fantasy that all the other photographs in this Angel project came from the sacred centers of these mandala images constructed from pictures of rocks I made in Acadia . . . or was it Arcadia

I am grateful to have found a way--through this project--to personally acknowledge Klee's importance to me and my creative process.  And I feel the same gratitude toward Henry Corbin and Tom Cheetham; their graceful, poetic writings about the Angels, angelic presence, and angelic function have been a wonderful source of joy, inspiration and revelation to me.  Finally, and above and beyond all other people, places, things and ideas, I offer my heartfelt loving gratitude to Gurumayi.    


Thank you for visiting The Angels project.  It has been quite a surprising and amazing adventure for me--certainly more personal and more expansive than I could have ever imagined.  Though its conclusion now feels to have come too rapidly I have already started working on the next project which will include many more new images of Acadia National Park . . . and Arcadia as well.  I invite you to watch for it--and all my new projects--in the "New Additions" section at the top of my Welcome Page.     

Steven Foster

The Photographs

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The Angels Part VII  Epilogue: "Rock Flowers"   Mandala #1

The Angels Part VII  Epilogue: "Rock Flowers"   Mandala #2

The Angels Part VII  Epilogue: "Rock Flowers"   Mandala #3

The Angels Part VII  Epilogue: "Rock Flowers"  Mandala #4

The Angels Part VII  Epilogue: "Rock Flowers"   Mandala #5

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This Epilogue, Part VII of my Angels project, was first posted ithe  
"Latest Addition" section of my photography website's 
"Welcome Page" on November 1, 2014 

To visit my next and related project click on this link:
"A Place named Acadia . . . or, is it Arcadia?"

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.