The Veil

"The Veil"  from the project Infinite Beauty

Tom Cheetham:  All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings
To come into being at all as creatures distinct from the Creator, we must  exist at some remove from the source of our being.  Otherwise we would have no independent being whatever. . . For us to be at all, there must be an original separation, a fall or a rupture giving birth to our independence as persons.  It is this original otherness that makes possible both our independent being and our perpetual longing.  It is the necessary curtain separating God from his creatures, and it gives rise to what the Sufis call the "Test of the Veil."  

Insofar as anything is perceived as determinate and comprehensible, to that degree it is a Veil of the divinity.  And yet in truth all things are masks of the infinite, and their being is the gift of God.  All things are organs by which God contemplates Himself and are not other than He.  To overcome the Test of the Veil requires that we not become trapped in the literal face of any being, that we not idolize it but rather see in it a Face of God.

Seyyed Hossein NasrIslamic Art and Spirituality, from the Introduction to Crystalline Paradise
The void symbolizes the sacred and the gate through which the Divine Presence enters into the material order which encompasses man in his terrestrial journey.  The void is the symbol of both the transcendence of God and His presence in all things. . . Whenever and wherever the veil of matter is removed, the Divine Light of Unity shines through. . .  Hence "Whithersoever ye turn, there is the Face of God" (Qur'an, 11:115).    

Emma Clark, The Art of the Islamic Garden
Nature and beauty are outward symbols of an inward grace.  Throughout the Quran the faithful are exhorted to meditate upon these signs or symbols, since everything in the created world is a sign or symbol of God. . . The world should be seen for what it is -- an illusion (maya in Hinduism) that both veils and reveals the archetypal heavenly world.  When a civilization is centered on the sacred, whether it be Islamic, North American Indian or medieval Christian, the practical is always an inextricable link to the spiritual.  This is the language of symbolism -- linking the everyday activities back to their heavenly archetype. . . The Islamic garden can be seen as an open air sacred art, the content, form and symbolic language all combining to remind the visitor of the eternal, invisible realities that lie beneath outward appearances.

Titus Burckhardt:  Sacred Art in East and West (1958/1967/2001)
According to a saying of the Prophet, God hides Himself behind seventy thousand curtains of light and of darkness; "if they were taken away, all that His sight reaches would be consumed by the lightnings of His Countenance."  The curtains are made of light in that they hide the Divine "obscurity," and of darkness in that they veil the Divine Light.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr: The Garden of Truth: The Vision and Promise of Sufism, Islam’s Mystical Tradition
A veil not only veils but also reveals something through the very act of veiling. . .  A colored glass limits the light of the sun but also allows enough to go through to constitute the next order of luminosity.  While every level of being is veiled from the one above, it also symbolizes what is above it . . .  The goal of the spiritual life is to be able to lift up the veil of outwardness so as to behold the inward and subsequently come to know the outward in light of the inward.  It makes possible the journey from outward form to inner meaning, what in Islam is called ta’wil in such a manner that the veil itself becomes transparent, revealing the reality within and beyond it.  But that is only possible if we are able to penetrate into our own center and to lift the veils within, to become interiorized, to gain inner vision.  

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 it is with the other senses.  Four 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."'

The veil is the isthmus between the two seas which is not to be overpassed, the two seas being Heaven and earth or, microcosmically, Spirit and soul.  Without the isthmus, the earth would be overwhelmed by Heaven, as would the soul by the Spirit.  Thus the maintenance of the veil is courtesy to creation, as well as to the Creator.  Yet the seas all but meet; the veil must not be too untransparent, for perfection of courtesy lies in holding the right balance.

Related Links:

This link includes one selected image and a brief introduction to each of the projects listed above

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.