Snow Angels, Rilke's Angel of the Elegies & Khidr, Angel of the Earth

Snow Angels   
Ten Photographs

Rilke's Angel 
of the Elegies  

Invisible Guide - Angel of the Earth  

Click on all images once, twice, to enlarge

The Snow Angel photographs were made on November 21, 2016 during our first snow storm of the season here in Canandaigua, NY.  I had just completed my project Meditation on Death and was taking a break from my photography projects by reading Rachel Corbett's enjoyable book You Must Change Your Life : The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and August Rodin.  

From time to time I would refresh my eyes by looking out at the snow-covered meadow behind our house.  The storm's high winds were making whistling-murmuring otherworldly howling sounds as they rattled the house and wildly tossed about the falling snow.  Intense gusts of wind would pick up snow in the meadow and throw it into the air giving spontaneous birth to figure-like forms that would dance and dart about in the air briefly before dissolving into the invisible.  

As I was witnessing all this outer drama from inside my house, I soon would be experiencing an interior imaginal storm as I continued my reading . . .  I had come to the part in the book in which Rilke, during his visit to Dunio Castle, experienced a storm with high winds.  He heard a voice in the wind--the voice of an Angel--that graced him with the first words of a poem, an elegy that would become his first in a cycle of poems known famously as the Duino Elegies.   

Corbett writes:  "On a gusty January day, in 1912, at Dunio Castle, the cold northern wind from the Hungarian lowlands could collide with warm gales coming up from the Sahara Deseret and cause storms as apocalyptic as an El Greco painting.  On one such afternoon, Rilke stepped out for some air just as the sky was darkening.  He was too preoccupied with an important letter he had to write to notice the weather.  From the castle, the princess [Rilke's patron, Marie von Thurn und Taxis] watched him pacing the cliff, hands jammed in his pockets, head bowed in thought.

"Then he heard a voice in the wind: Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels' hierarchies?  Rilke stopped in his tracks and listened.  He wrote the sentence down in his notebook, and with it, the first line of his Duino Elegies.  When he went back inside the castle, the rest of the poem poured out of him.  In describing this surge of inspiration to [his close friend and muse] Andrea-Salome, he admitted that he hardly felt like its author at all.  He felt like he had been inhabited by a higher power.  "The voice which is using me is greater than I" he later told the princess."

I immediately went to Stephen Mitchell's translation of the Elegies and read the first two poems, both of which were written at Dunio Castle, in 1912, immediately after Rilke had experienced the Angel.  It would take him ten more years to complete the entire cycle of ten poems.  Below are selections I have made from the first two Elegies.  

Excerpts from the first Elegy

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels'

hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me
suddenly agains his heart: I would be consumed
in that overwhelming existence.  For beauty is nothing 
but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains
to annihilate us.  Every angel is terrifying. 

                           . . . Fling the emptiness out of your arms

into the spaces we breath; perhaps the birds
will feel the expanded air with more passionate flying.

Yes--the springtimes needed you.  Often a star

was waiting for you to notice it.  A wave rolled toward you
out of the distant past, or as you walked 
under an open window, a violin 
yielded itself to your hearing.  All this was mission.

Begin again and again the never-attainable praising;

remember: the hero lives on; even his downfall was
merely a pretext for achieving his final birth.

Voices. Voices.  Listen, my heart, as only

saints have listened: until the gigantic call lifted them 
off the ground; yet they kept on, impossibly,
kneeling and didn't notice at all:
so complete was their listening.  Not that you could endure
God's voice--far from it.  But listen to the voice of the wind
and the ceaseless message that forms itself out of silence.
It is murmuring toward you now from those who died young.

Of course, it is strange to inhabit the earth no longer,

to give up customs one barely had time to learn,
not to see roses and other promising Things
in terms of a human future; no longer to be
what one was in infinitely anxious hands; to leave
even one's own first name behind, forgetting it
as easily as a child abandons a broken toy.

Angels (they say) don't know whether it is the living 

they are moving among, or the dead.  The eternal torrent
whirls all ages along in it, through both realms
forever, and their voices are drowned out in its thunderous roar.

In the end, those who were carried off early no longer need us;

they are weaned from the earth's sorrows and joys, as gently as children
outgrow the soft breasts of their mothers.  But we, who do need
such great mysteries, we for whom grief is so often 
the source of our spirit's growth--: could we exist without them?
Is the legend meaningless that tells how, in the lament for Linus,
the daring first notes of song pierced through the barren numbness;
and then in the startled space which a youth as lovely as a god
had suddenly left forever, the Void felt for the first time
that harmony which now enraptures and comforts and helps us.  

Excerpts from the second Elegy

Every angel is terrifying.  And yet, alas,

I invoke you, almost deadly birds of the soul,
knowing about you . . .

But if the archangel now, perilous, from behind the stars

took even one step down toward us: our own heart, beating
higher and higher, would beat us to death.  Who are you?

Early successes, Creation's pampered favorites,

mountain-ranges, peaks growing red in the dawn
of all Beginning,--pollen of the flowering godhead,
joints of pure light, corridors, stairways, thrones,
space formed from essence, shields made of ecstasy, storms
of emotion whirled into rapture, and suddenly, alone,
mirrors: which scoop up the beauty that has streamed from their face
and gather it back, into themselves, entire.   (trans. Stephen Mitchell)   

View of meadow, Wind-Gust of snow, Snow Drift and birds -- as seen from my 
 picture window, Nov. 21, 2016  ~  Click on the image to enlarge

I must go out - into the storm 
After reading about Rilke's encounter with the Angel, and then reading the first two Elegies, I got up from my chair and stood restlessly in front of our large picture window and looked out at the meadow.  In the fading light of the darkening sky I could see a huge snow drift along the back side of our house.  The storm's powerful winds had created a beautiful, long snow mound; through the pulsating veil of blowing snow it appeared to me as a living thing, an apparition with a sacred presence--perhaps it was the wing of an ancient bird . . . or some projected-imaginal form of Rilke's Angel.  One part of the mound seemed to have the shape of an eye which was looking up at me.  I tried looking down from the window to get a closer view of the mound, its textures and lines and shapes faintly etched in the snow.  What I saw reminded me of feathers. 

Clearly I was under the spell of Rilke's encounter with the Angel, and after seeing this large wing-like form in my own back yard a surge of inspiration welled up within me.  With intense urgency I felt I must go out - into the storm and make some photographs.  I had already begun imagining the images I could make in visual homage to Rilke, his Angel, and the Elegies.  

I hesitated, briefly, for it occurred to me that the blowing snow could damage my camera. Nonetheless the urge to photograph had become undeniable; I needed to immerse myself in the storm, experience it directly, be inside it.  

Photographing in a snow storm with high winds is a purely instinctual-imaginal experience.  I had experienced this before, two years ago, when I began working on the Snow: Silver World project.  It is close to dream-walking: time becomes suspended as a flapping light-gray veil intervenes between one's vision and the outer world.  What is "seen" is more imaginal than physical.  What one photographs is what is being imagined, what one wants or needs the photographs to look like.  It's impossible to be in control; the photographs that come out of such an experience are gifts of inspiration, gifts of grace.  

I photographed quickly along the length of the snow mound.  In no-time I had made all the Snow Angel photographs I needed for this project, plus several others.  I decided to present only ten photographs here--one for each of the ten poems in the Dunio Elegies; and I have divided them into two sets: the first consisting of four straight photographs; the second set consisting of six symmetrical photographs.  

Following the presentation of the photographs, an Afterword contains various related textual materials, including a letter Rilke wrote about the Elegies and the Angel, and several brief deliberations on various themes including the angel Khidr.  The project concludes with an Epilogue.   ~   Welcome to the Snow Angels project.

The Snow Angel's Wing
~ Four Straight Photographs ~

Image #1    Snow Angels project     Straight Photograph     "The Wing of a Snow Angel'"

Image #2    Snow Angels project      Straight Photograph     "The Wing of a Snow Angel'"

Image #3    Snow Angels project      Straight Photograph     "The Snow Angel's Wing"

Image #4    Snow Angels project      Straight Photograph     "A Wave Created by the flight of a Snow Angel'"


Snow Angels 
~ Six Symmetrical Photographs ~

Image #5    Snow Angels project      Symmetrical Photograph     "Face-to-Face with the Snow Angel Khidr"

Image #6    Snow Angels project      Symmetrical Photograph     "The Infinite Space of a Snow Angel"

Image #7    Snow Angels project      Symmetrical Photograph     "The Still-Timeless-Vastness of a Snow Angel"

Image #8    Snow Angels project      Symmetrical Photograph     "The Flapping Wings of a Snow Angel"

Image #9    Snow Angels project      Symmetrical Photograph     "The Heart and Wind-Flower of a Snow Angel'"

Image #10    Snow Angels project      Symmetrical Photograph     "The Open Heart of a Snow Angel'"



Henry Corbin - Theophanic Imagination
The two storms I experienced simultaneously--the outer snow storm and the interior-imaginal storm I had been reading about in Corbett's book--both mirrored each other in a way that I perceived to be personally meaningful.  This meaningful coincidence--plus my reading of the first two Elegies--inspired me to go outside and make the set of ten Snow Angel photographs in homage to Rilke and his Dunio Elegies.  This simultaneous experience of corresponding outer-physical and psycho-imaginal images is a good example of what C G Jung had termed synchronicity.  The Snow Angel photographs, images which conjoin in a visual Unitary reality the mirroring inner and outer realities would most probably be termed by Jung symbols.  Certainly the set of ten images I created for this project function for me as symbols. 

Henry Corbin knew Jung and was in agreement with many of his ideas.  Here is what Corbin wrote about the symbol:  The symbol is not an artificially constructed sign: it flowers in the soul spontaneously to announce something that cannot be expressed otherwise.  It is the unique expression of the thing symbolized, as of a reality that thus becomes transparent to the soul, but which itself transcends all expression.   from Henry Corbin's book Avicenna and the Visionary Recital 

The meaning of a symbol is essentially ineffable because what it's about is beyond language and thus unsayable.  A symbol unveils for its contemplator an invisible, timeless transcendent Unitary reality; symbols are mysteriously and radiantly alive with grace.  Rilke was graced by the voice he heard in the wind; and correspondingly, I was graced by the transcendent energy carried radiantly in Rilke's first two poems of the Elegies.  Even the story of his experience which inspired the poems carried the grace of his encounter with the Angel, and I believe affected the way I experienced the snowstorm, its winds, sounds and the angelic forms I saw in the snow.  

According to Henry Corbin, Angels--"celestial Souls"--commonly understood to be messengers of grace, are manifestations of what he terms the Creative or theophanic Imagination.  In his remarkable book Alone With the Alone - Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi Corbin writes about the Sufi mystic-scholar of 12th century Spain, Ibn 'Arabi.  This great mystic wrote profusely about his relationship with what he claimed to be his personal, invisible guide and Master named Khidr.  I will explore this Angelic being in a separate section below.  Here, however, I want to briefly address Corbin's concept of "theophanic" or Creative Imagination.  

Corbin says events associated with Creative-theophanic Imagination take place in a world between the physical and the spiritual worlds.  This Interworld, or barzakh is what Corbin terms the mundus imaginalis, the Imaginal World.  This is the "Middle Orient," the subtle realm of irrational, mystical, symbolic manifestations; the "place" of psychic time, invisible guides, celestial Souls and synchronisms.  Corbin writes:

Whatever name we may give to [Ibn 'Arabi's] relationship with his personal invisible guide, the events it determines do not fall within quantitative physical time; they cannot be measured according to homogeneous, uniform unites of time and chronology regulated by the movements of the stars; they find no place in the continuous chain of irreversible events.  These events, to be sure, are enacted in time, but in a time that is peculiar to them, a discontinuous, qualitative, pure, psychic time, whose moments can be evaluated only according to their own measure, a measure which in every instance varies with their intensity.  And this intensity measures a time in which the past remains present to the future, in which the future is already present to the past, just as the notes of a musical phrase, though played successively, nevertheless persist all together in the present and thus form a phrase.  Hence the recurrences, the possible inversions, the synchronisms, incomprehensible in rational terms, beyond the reach of historical realism, but accessible to another "realism," that of the subtle world which Suhrawardi called the "Middle Orient" of celestial Souls and whose organ is the "theophanic Imagination."  Henry Corbin, from his book Alone With the Alone--Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi

Rilke's Letter on the Elegies and their Angel 
On November 12, 1925 (three years after he completed the Dunio Elegies and just one year before his death) Rilke wrote a long and well known letter to his translator, Witold von Hulewicz in which he tried to explain something of the Elegies and their Angel.  I have selected excerpts from the letter which I feel pertain particularly to this project, such as what Rilke has to say about the angel, the earth, and "the invisible."  Rilke wrote:

. . . And am the one to give the Elegies their proper explanation?  They reach out infinitely beyond me. . .  Affirmation of life-AND-death appears as one in the "Elegies."  To grant one without the other is, so it is here learned and celebrated, a limitation which in the end shuts out all that is infinite.

Death is the side of life averted from us, unshone upon by us: we must try to achieve the greatest consciousness of our existence which is at home in both unbounded realms, inexhaustibly nourished from both . . .   The true figure of life extends through both spheres, the blood of the mightiest circulation tends through both: there is neither a here nor a beyond, but the great unity in which the beings that surpass us, the "angels", are at home.

We of the here and now are not for a moment hedged in the time-world, nor confined within it; we are incessantly flowing over and over to those who preceded us, to our origins and to those who seemingly come after us.  In that greatest "open" world all are, one cannot say "simultaneous", for the very falling away of time determines that they all are.  Transiency everywhere plunges into a deep being.  And so all the configurations of the here and now are to be used not in a time-bound way only, but as far as we are able, to be placed in those superior significances in which we have a share.  

. . . in a purely earthly, deeply earthly, blissfully earthly consciousness, we must introduce what is here seen and touched into the wider, into the widest orbit.  Not into a beyond whose shadow darkens the earth, but into a whole, into the whole. . . . these [Nature] phenomena and things should be understood and transformed by us in a most fervent sense. . . for it is our task to imprint this provisional, perishable earth so deeply, so patiently and passionately in ourselves that its reality shall arise in us again "invisibly."   

We are the bees of the invisible.  The Elegies show us at this work, at the work of these continual conversions of the beloved visible and tangible into the invisible vibrations and excitation of our own nature, which introduces new vibration-frequencies into the vibration-spheres of the universe.  

Live things, things lived and conscious of us, are running out and can no longer be replaced.  We are perhaps the last still to have known such things. . .  The earth has no way out other than to become invisible: in us who with a part of our natures partake of the invisible, have (at least) stock in it, and can increase our holdings in the invisible during our sojourn here,--in us alone can be consummated this intimate and lasting conversion of the visible into an invisible no longer dependent upon being visible and tangible, as our own destiny continually grows at the same time MORE  PRESENT  AND  INVISIBLE in us.  The Elegies set up this norm of existence: they assure, they celebrate this consciousness.  

The "angel" of the elegies has nothing to do with the angel of the Christian heaven (rather with the angel figures of Islam) . . . The angel of the Elegies is that creature in whom the transformation of the visible into the invisible, which we are accomplishing, appears already consummated.  For the angel of the Elegies all past towers and palaces are existent, because long invisible, and the still standing towers and bridges of our existence already invisible, although (for us) still persisting physically.  

The angel of the Elegies is that being who vouches for the recognition in the invisible of a higher order of reality.--Hence "terrible" to us, because we, its lovers and transformers, do still cling to the visible.--All the worlds of the universe are plunging into the invisible as into their next deepest reality; a few stars immediately intensify and pass away in the infinite consciousness of the angels--, others are dependent upon beings who slowly and laboriously transform them, in whose terrors and ecstasies they attain their next invisible realization.  We are, let it be emphasized once more, in the sense of the Elegies, we are these transformers of the earth; our entire existence, the flights and plunges of our love, everything qualities us for this task (besides which there exists, essentially, no other).  From the book Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke 1910-1926  trans. Green and Norton

Tom Cheetham on Rilke's Angel, Corbin Imagination
In his book After Prophecy Tom Cheetham writes the following about Rilke:  Rilke's mystic vision implies a cosmology that denies any gulf between Heaven and Earth--the two are, rather, continuous . . .   

Corbin believed that Rilke's Elegies "formulate exactly, literally" the central themes of the Islamic mystic vision, which he so passionately defended.  Corbin quotes from a well known letter Rilke wrote [to Witold von Hulewicz] a year before his death:  ". . . Our task is to stamp this provisional, perishing earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that its being may rise again, 'invisibly,' in us."  We must perform a transfiguration of the visible into the invisible.  

Cheetham continues: The imagination in us provides the necessary meeting place between this world and the Divine . . .  The Angel allows us to perceive all things as suspended between Heaven and Earth in the mundus imaginalis.  ~  Rilke perceived all this with startling clarity and sensitivity . . .   We are here [as humans, on this earth] in order to be fully  present and so, in Corbin's words, able to live "a life in sympathy with beings, capable of giving a transcendent dimension to their being, to their beauty . . ."  ~  The angelic function of beings is to liberate us for transcendence.  Tom Cheetham, After Prophecy

Henry Corbin on the Earth in the Person of its Angel
In Rilke's letter above, I too was struck by what he wrote about the Earth:  . . . in a purely earthly, deeply earthly, blissfully earthly consciousness, we must introduce what is here seen and touched into the wider, into the widest orbit.  Not into a beyond whose shadow darkens the earth, but into a whole, into the whole. . . . It is our task to imprint this provisional, perishable earth so deeply, so patiently and passionately in ourselves that its reality shall arise in us again "invisibly." / The earth has no way out other than to become invisible . . .

In Henry Corbin's fascinating book Spiritual Body, Celestial Earth he writes about the Earth in terms of "the person of its Angel":

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.  

Now we are prepared, I think, to meet Khidr.  

Who is Khidr?

"Khidr"   Snow Angle   symmetrical photograph          

The intimidating image above places me face-to face with what I believe to be--in the terms Corbin has set out for us--a primordial Image, a symbol of the Earth in the person of its Angel.  I was at first startled when the image emerged spontaneously within my creative process as I was making the Snow Angel photographs.  I immediately wondered:  What or Who is this?  . . . a Greek God? . . . the head of some ancient stone sculpture?  . . . the terrifying Angel Rilke wrote about in his Elegies?  

Then I remembered another symmetrical photograph I had made more than a year earlier, the one reproduced below entitled "Green Man, Earth Angel."  Tom Cheetham had briefly written about Khidr in his book Green Man, Earth Angel, and I had made the "Green Man, Earth Angel" photograph at the time I was reading the book.  I had contemplated the image several times over the past year wondering how I might perhaps create an entire project about the Earth Angel--Khidr. 

  Khidr as "The Green Man, Earth Angel"     symmetrical photograph 2015     

Henry Corbin wrote rather extensively about Khidr in his book Alone With the Alone : Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi.  Certainly Ibn 'Arabi, the 12th century Sufi mystic, wrote profusely about Khidr as his invisible guide, teacher or Master.  Though I had never expected Khidr to announce himself to me as a "Snow Angel," since indeed he has I will honor his presence here with the following introduction.

Khidr is a divine-archetypal presence associated with many traditions including ancient folklore and alchemy.  He is often referred to as "the Verdant One," the "Green Man," the source of the "Water of Life" thus he is associated with the color green, nature and the Earth.  Corbin warns however that green must be understood, here, as the spiritual, liturgical color of Islam; and that green symbolizes the completion of the Sufic journey.  Green, most importantly, is the color of the supreme center, the 'mystery of mysteries," the "Muhammad of thy being."  In this regard Khidr is said to have been the Hidden Master, the invisible guide of Moses.  As Tom Cheetham writes in his book All the World An Icon, "Having Khidr as a master gives the disciple a transcendent dimension.  It confers a 'personal, direct, and immediate bond with the Godhead' . . .  Each disciple becomes what Khidr is, the center of the world."  

Henry Corbin cites how, in many of the religious-spiritual traditions of the world, every creature and every soul is said to have an Eternal heavenly-archetypal counterpart, a Celestial Twin, a Personal Companion or Guardian Angel.  Corbin associates Khidr with ". . .  the voice of every Spiritual [seeker] who hears  the inspiration of his own Holy Spirit, just as every prophet perceives the spirit of his own prophecy in the form of an Angel Gabriel."  In this regard, then, one could say the voice Rilke heard in the wind at Dunio Castle was the voice of his own Holy Spirit; the guidance Ibn 'Arabi received from his invisible Master, Khidr was the guidance of his own Holy Spirit.  

 In Alone With the Alone : Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi, Corbin explains that archetypes in the "person of an Angel" such as Khidr "shows his disciples how to be what he himself is: . . . the esoteric truth which . . .  frees us from the literal religion."  Much like the role of the Archangle Gabriel, Khidr's role is "to reveal each disciple to himself . . .   He leads each disciple to his own theophany, the theophany of which he personally is the witness, because that theophany corresponds to his 'inner heaven,' to the form of his own being, to his eternal individuality . . .  which, in Ibn 'Arabi's words, is that one of the divine Names which is invested in him, the name by which he knows his God and by which his God knows him."  

"To become Khidr" writes Corbin, "is to have attained an aptitude for theophanic vision, for the encounter with the divine Alter Ego, for the 'ineffable dialogue' which the genius of Ibn 'Arabi [nevertheless succeeds in recounting.]"  Indeed, Corbin cites and examines in fascinating detail many of Ibn 'Arabi's theophanic visions and "ineffable dialogues" associated with Khidr in his book Alone With the Alone.

Finally, in an effort to place Khidr in the context of the common historical notions of Angels, Corbin tries to clarify: "This Angel [Khidr] is not a simple messenger transmitting orders, nor the usual 'guardian angel,' nor the angel evoked by the Sunnites in their discussions of which is superior, the man or his angel.  This Angel is bound up with the idea that the Form under which each of the Spirituals knows God is also the form under which God knows him, because it is the form under which God reveals Himself to Himself in that man."  

I invite you to visit my 2014 multi-chaptered project The Angels for more textual information and images regarding angels.

~ Epilogue ~

An Elegiac Aspect of the Snow Angels Project
Of course, it is strange to inhabit the earth no longer,
to give up customs one barely had time to learn,
not to see roses and other promising Things,
in terms of a human future . . . (Rilke's First Elegy)

Though this project is essentially an act of praising (Rilke writes in his First Elegy Begin again and again the never-attainable praising), there is something happening in this country (Nov. 2016) that is both beautiful and heart-breaking.  I am speaking of the situation at Standing Rock, North Dakota, where protectors of the water and sacred lands (both indigenous people and people from around the world) are peacefully protesting the corporate-political-financial powers that are trying to run over that sacred land and its peoples at all costs . . . including the destruction of our beautiful planet Earth.  

http://www.ecowatch.com  (google: EcoWatch, Standing Rock)

Scientists are quite clear about the fact that the Earth is in crisis.  It has become so polluted that it now is in an unstoppable mode of deterioration.  (350.org)  The Earth is not only very unhealthy, it is perishing; it is leaving us.  (See my project The Departing Landscape)    

Rilke saw this happening many years ago.  In the letter already cited above he wrote:   

Live things, things lived and conscious of us, are running out and can no longer be replaced.  The provisional, perishing earth . . . has no way out other than to become invisible . . .    

Our country's president-elect and his cabinet are deniers of global-climate change; I am grieving for this country and the entire Earth; I am morning what my grandchildren and their children will have to face in the near future.  We, the people of this beautiful planet named Earth have something to learn from what is happening at Standing Rock.  Taking refuge in the Truth of the Unity of Being is no longer an option . . . if indeed it ever was.     

A Benediction     
Rilke, in his first Elegy wrote: Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.  Every angel is terrifying.  

Clearly, we have lost our fear, our awe of the beauty of the Earth.  The Sufis understand: "God is beautiful, and God loves Beauty."  The goal of spiritual practice in most traditions is the annihilation of the ego, for it brings the greatest blessings: it liberates the seeker, enabling him or her to experience their own beautiful divine nature, their own inner Self.  

From the perspective of the true saints--those who live in the unbroken, fully conscious state of awareness of their union with God--everything is a form of the divine Self, including the Earth.  

The terrifying nature of God is a highly regarded aspect of a saint's spiritual practice.  Swami Muktananda, a modern day saint from India, wrote about the value of fear in his relationship to his beloved Master, Bhagawan Nityananda.  In the book Bhagawan Nityananda of Ganeshpuri Muktananda says he feared his Guru even after Nityananda left his body, for death did not terminate the ineffable dialogue that existed between them.  Muktananda also mentions the teachings from the Upanishads in which fear is regarded as an essential aspect of the functioning of the natural world. 

I offer the following words of Swami Muktananda in the spirit of a blessing--for the Snow Angel project, for all those who look at the project and all those who do not, and for the Earth, all its protectors and of us who are contributing to its deterioration--for I know that the words of a true saint carry the shakti, the grace of his or her extraordinary, Unitary state of being.  Muktananda wrote:

Even though I have so much love for my Guru [Bhawawan Nityananda], still I am afraid of him. When I look at my Guru's picture, I am afraid of him.  

It is fear that keeps you pure and keeps you away from bad actions, that makes you perfect in your sadhana [yogic spiritual practices].  It is only because I had a lot of fear of my Guru--more than my devotion--that I could achieve so much in my life.

The Upanishads say the fire burns only because it is afraid of God; the wind blows only because it is afraid of God.  The fear that you have of your Guru or of God--that is great devotion.

Even now [after Nityananda's physical departure] I have fear of my Guru.  The more of that kind of fear I have, the more I am fearless.  The fear I have of my Guru makes me fearless and brings me happiness.  Swami Muktananda, from the book Bhagawan Nityananda of Ganeshpuri

This Sacred Art Photography Project was published on December 7, 2016 
and announced on the Welcome Page of my Departing Landscape website December 9, 2016.

Related Projects & Other Links:

The Angels 2014
Swami Muktananda & the Siddha Yoga Path
The Complete List of Sacred Art Photography Projects

Welcome Page to my Departing Landscape website which includes the complete listing of my online hyperlinked photography projects, my resume, contact information, and more.