Alone : Blue Symmetrical Photographs


"I am absolutely alone."


After completing The Eye of Siva : White  Blue & Gold Photographs I constructed some symmetrical photographs using selected images from the project.  Though I liked the symmetrical photographs very much I was uncertain about how I could contextualize them within a new project, so I just waited for ideas to come.  I did not have to wait long for direction.  I received a poem via my email by Emily Dickinson about loneliness; then shortly thereafter I read the following words by the great modern-day yogic saint, Swami Muktananda, founder of the Siddha Yoga Path:   

If God were asked "Why did you become so many" He would say "I don't understand what you are talking about.  I never became many.  I am absolutely alone."  And that is absolutely the truth.   ~  God appears to become something else only to one with wrong understanding.  ~  He [God] is free, completely free from becoming.  He always remains what He is.  ~  He would tell you "I am ecstatically absorbed in My own being and I am not at all aware of the difference between evolution and involution, birth and death, worldliness and spirituality."

When you realize the final truth you don't see any process of becoming . . .  You only see the one Supreme Being expanding in all directions.  So wonderful is the Supreme Being, such is His power, so miraculous is His way of manifesting Himself, so marvelous is His Shakti [the Creative energy or Power of the universe] that though He appears to assume countless life forms, He does not become any of them. ~ Though He appears to undergo so many changes, He is far from change, being immutable.

Even when you are caught up in your worldly life and you lament and wail, take birth and die, even in that condition none of these can reach your pure inner nature, because your innermost Self, the core of your being is beyond all these.   

I am always repeating that man is not man, woman is not woman--the apparent differences between man and woman are merely physical.  Both are embodiments of the blue jewel which is present within them.  ~  Most people think they are surrounded by the universe and they are insignificant creatures, that they are tiny drops in this vast universe.  The truth is that the universe is a tiny drop in our heart.  [The great yogic sage] Vasuguptacharya says that just as the vast banyan tree exists in a tiny seed . . .  likewise, in the heart-seed countless universes dwell.   from:  Satsang with Baba : Questions and Answers with Swami Muktananda  Vol. Three    

The phrase "I am absolutely alone," reminded me of Dickinson's poem (which I have used in my Afterword to this project); and I remembered the title of a book by Henry Corbin: Alone with the Alone : Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi.  As I reread Corbin's book I understood how to proceed with my next project, which would include the new symmetrical photographs, and the text materials from the sources I have just cited.  

Following my presentation of the photographs, and a discussion of the texts , I have also included a rather extended series of commentaries on the photographs.  Welcome to the project.


Eleven Blue

Symmetrical Photographs

(click on any image to enlarge it)

Image #1    Alone : Blue Symmetrical Photographs

Image #2   Alone : Blue Symmetrical Photographs

Image #3   Alone : Blue Symmetrical Photographs

Image #4   Alone : Blue Symmetrical Photographs

Image #5   Alone: Blue Symmetrical Photographs


Two Variations
on a single source image

Image #6   Alone : Blue Symmetrical Photographs
Variation #1 of 2

Image #7   Alone : Blue Symmetrical Photographs
Variation #2 of 2


Four Variations 
on a single source image 

Image #8   Alone : Blue Symmetrical Photographs
Variation #1 of 4

Image #9   Alone: Blue Symmetrical Photographs
Variation #2 of 4

Image #10   Alone : Blue Symmetrical Photographs
Variation #3 of 4

Image #11   Alone: Blue Symmetrical Photographs
Variation #4 of 4


   "alone with the Alone"  

Theophanic Poem
Ibn 'Arabi was a highly respected and prolific 12th century Andalusian Sufi scholar, mystic and poet.  Henry Corbin includes one of his poems in Alone with the Alone : Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi.  The poem, which is the concluding canto to Ibn 'Arabi's Book of Theophanies, provides Corbin with an outline of the essential ideas around which he constructed his explanations and interpretations of Ibn 'Arabi's philosophical world view.  I have presented below a selection of lines from the poem which pertain directly to the themes I want to focus on in this project.

At the center of it all is the the idea of theophany and its relationship to "Active" or "Creative" Imagination."  The word theophany means "a visible manifestation, or appearance of the Divine, God, or a deity."  Theophanic visions--images--emerge from the "Intermediate Imaginal World," which is a "place" which exists between Heaven and Earth, between the realm of spiritual-archetypal images and the physical world of sense perceived appearances.  

The theophanic poem which is at the heart of Corbin's book and this project is written in the "I am" voice of God, or the Creator.  This suggests that Ibn 'Arabi had achieved the goal of Sufism, which is union with God.  Many of his students believed that Ibn 'Arabi was a saint, and his use of "God's voice" in his poetry is quite common with the remarkable lineage of poet-saints who wrote of their direct experience of God from within their own particular religious traditions.  The word "experience" is important here, for theophanic poems are not mere explications on scholarly theories; they are based in spontaneous interior Imaginal visionary experiences of the Intermediate Imaginal World.  (See my project Illuminations--photographs and poetry of the poet-saints.)  

Here, now, are some excerpts from Ibn 'Arbi's poem from his Book of Theophanies:

I am the reality of the world, 
the center of the circumference,
I am the parts and the whole.
I am the will established between Heaven and Earth.
I have created perception in you
only in order to be the object of my perception.
If you perceive me you perceive yourself.  
It is through my eyes that you see me and see yourself.
Why do you not see me?
I am beauty, I am Grace.
Love me, love me alone.
Love yourself in me, in me alone. 
No one is more inward than I.
I am nearer to you than yourself,
than your soul, than your breath.
Let us go toward Union,
Let us enter the presence of Truth.

Ibn 'Arabi, in Henry Corbin's 
Alone with the Alone p.174-5

Ibn "Arabi is telling us that God is "alone" because there is no "other" . . . for God is the center of the circumference, the parts, and the whole.  God is the will, the "reality" established between Heaven and Earth; and God is beauty, God is grace.  God is closer to us than our soul, our breath; and God longs to be known and loved by us, His creatures.  God wants us to become fully, consciously aware of the Truth: that He is our very Self.

Hidden Treasure
God is "alone" also because He is Hidden.  The famous hadith or saying of the Prophet Mohammed tells us why God created His creatures and all that exists in the apparent created world:

I was a hidden Treasure and I longed to be known.  
Then I created creatures in order to be known by them

Similar teachings exist in the Hindu tradition.  For example in one of his talks Swami Muktananda points out a verse in Arabic about the glory of the Prophet Mohammed.  The poet says, "[the Prophet] is the very Self of God."  Muktananda then relates the poet's words to a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita written by the great yogic saint Jnaneshwar Maharaja: 

"A yogi is God's God.  Just as everybody needs a deity . . . likewise God Himself needs a deity.  Everyone in the world is seeking happiness, and God too needs an object of happiness for His enjoyment.  It is a yogi who is God's object of happiness."  

Then to confirm Jnaneshwar's teaching, Muktananda quotes the Lord Himself from the Bhagavad Gita. Lord Krishna says that a yogi who achieves union with Him ". . . is the greatest bliss to Me . . . [such a yogi] is my very Self."  from:  Satsang with Baba : Questions and Answers with Swami Muktananda  Vol. Three.

Corbin writes at great length about man and God as a syzygic unity, or bi-unity.  This is Ibn 'Arabi's idea regarding a mode of being in which God and man share equally in the role of Creator.  God needs man, and man needs God in order to enter the presence of Truth, the Unitary Reality which is expressed in the term Aloneness, that is to say, "All-One-ness."  

The world of duality--life & death, inside & outside, dark & light, man & woman, heaven & earth--is the world of wrong understanding, says Swami Muktananda, a world of mere appearance, illusion, the "play of Consciousness."  Ibn 'Arabi's Intermediate Imaginal World--the world between heaven and earth, between dark & light--is the Place where theophanies originate, where man and God as a bi-unity, as the One divine Self given theophanic Imaginal form.  

Corbin explains that the word "self/Self" will be employed in his book Alone with the Alone  "solely in the sense given it by Ibn 'Arabi and numerous other Sufi theosophists when they repeated the famous [hadith]:  'He who knows himself knows his Lord.'"  

Corbin continues:  "Knowing one's self, is to know one's God; knowing one's Lord, is to know one's self.  This Lord is not the impersonal self nor is it the God of dogmatic definitions . . . He is the he who knows Himself through myself, that is, in the knowledge that I have of Him, because it is the knowledge He has of me; it is alone with Him alone, in this syzygic unity [bi-unity], that it is possible to say thou.  And such is the reciprocity in which flowers the creative Prayer which Ibn 'Arabi teaches us to experience simultaneously as the Prayer of God and the Prayer of man."  (p.95, my italics)

Creative Prayer 
Prayer is not a request for something from God; rather, for Ibn 'Arabi prayer is a "mode of being," the means by which man is graced with a direct and intimate relational experience with God; the means by which man and God engage in a silent, solitary dialogue, a bi-unity: "alone with the Alone." (p.33)

"Prayer" writes Corbin "is a means of causing the God who reveals Himself to appear, of 'seeing' Him, not to be sure in His essence, but in the [theophanic] form which precisely He reveals by revealing Himself by and to that form.  ~  It is precisely because He is a creation of the imagination that we pray to him, and that He exists.  Prayer is the highest form, the supreme act of the Creative Imagination.  By virtue of the sharing of roles, the divine Compassion, as theophany and existentiation of the universe of beings, is the Prayer of God aspiring to issue forth from His unknownness and [His longing] to be known, whereas the Prayer of man accomplishes this theophany because in it and through it the 'Form of God' becomes visible to the heart . . .  We do not pray to the Divine Essence in its hiddenness; each faithful prays to his Lord, the Lord who is in the form of his faith."  (p.248)

The Heart : Organ of Prayer, Creator of Theophanies
Corbin continues: "The organ of prayer is the heart, the psychospiritual organ, with its concentration of energy, its himma.  [note: in Siddha Yoga, this energy is known as shakti].  The role of prayer is shared between God and man, because Creation like theophany is shared between Him who shows Himself and him to whom it is shown; prayer itself is a moment in . . . Creation.   We witness and participate in an entire ceremonial of meditation, a psalmody in two alternating voices, one human the other divine . . .  Because prayer is a creator of [theophanic] vision; it is simultaneously Prayer of God and Prayer of man. . .  an "intimate dialogue" between the Lord and His personal fedele [God's faithful].(p.248-49)

Prayer & Symbolic Photographs
My experience as a photographer helps me understand the concept of prayer as an Imaginal co-creative mode of being, a mode of "causing [Images] to exist."  Indeed, I "create" (photographic) images "in the form of my faith" which is based essentially in the teachings, my practice and most importantly in my experience of Siddha Yoga. (See my project Yoga & Photography).  

The photographs that are most meaningful for me are those which accomplish the task of uniting (or "re-uniting") the archetypal images of the Intermediate Imaginal World with their corresponding images in the created, physical world.  The photographs which accomplish this union or conjunction of mirroring opposite images are what I call symbols.  Indeed, symbols are the visual and energetic embodiment of the Unity of Being.  Symbols are revelations of grace, himma, shakiti and they are radiant with himma or shakti. Symbols give sense perceptible visual form to the "hidden treasure," the divine Self.  As such, symbolic photographs are revelation of moments of theophanic vision, image-mirrors in which the face of God and the face of man become united (face-to-face) in a silent, intimate, solitary dialogue: "alone with the Alone."

When I am photographing I consciously see the things of the outer world inwardly, in a mode of being that is essentially meditation or prayer.  This "seeing inwardly outward things" is I believe a form of theophanic vision, that is to say, a way of seeing which transcends the dual mode of being and sense perceiving; it is a bi-unity mode of being; it is (in yogic and Sufic terms) a mode of being in which one is seeing through the "eye of the heart."  My Creative Process manifests symbolic images when I am able to surrender my ego-self and allow the intuitive, creative energy of the divine Self (grace, shakti, himma)--to do the necessary, essential Creative work.


Creation Story

Corbin and Ibn 'Arabi say that the hidden secret behind God's Creation of man and Earth, the heavens and infinite universes, is His longing to be known and loved.  Ibn 'Arabi tells a Creation Story which explains the hadith  "I longed to be known.  Then I created creatures in order to be known by them."  The following excerpt is Ibn 'Arabi's own words as published in Henry Corbin's important book Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth:

Know that when God created Adam who was the first human organism to be constituted, and when he had established him as the origin and archetype of all human bodies, there remained a surplus of the leaven of the clay.  From this surplus God created the palm tree, so that this plant (being feminine) is Adam's sister . . .  No other plant bears within it such extraordinary secrets as are hidden in this one.

Now, after the creation of the palm tree, there remained hidden a portion of the clay from which the plant had been made; what was left was the equivalent of a sesame seed.  And it was in this remainder that God laid out an immense Earth.  Since he arranged in it the Throne and what it contains, the Firmament, the Heavens and the Earth, the worlds underground, all the paradises and hells, this means that the whole of our universe is to be found there in that Earth in its entirety, and yet the whole of it together is like a ring lost in one of our deserts in comparison with the immensity of that Earth.  And that same Earth has hidden in it so many marvels and strange things that their number cannot be counted and our intelligence remains dazed by them.


Sesame Seed & Celestial Earth
The "immense Earth" that Ibn 'Arabi writes about has been named by other Sufis "the alternate Earth" or the Celestial Earth.  It is an Imaginal universe which exists in the space between our sensory perceived Earth and "the Intelligible universe of the spirits, or Angels."  This "immense Earth," this "Intermediate World" or Interworld, is the psycho-spiritual Place in which, as one Sufi put it, "spirits are embodied, and bodies are spiritualized."  (Corbin's Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth, p.135-143) 

When I read Ibn 'Arabi's creation story I was fascinated to see the reference made to the sesame seed: a hidden portion of clay  . . . the equivalent of a sesame seed.  It immediately reminded me of Swami Muktanand's many writings about his meditation experiences of what he called the "heart-seed," the "tiny drop," the "blue pearl," the "blue jewel," the "point of light (the "Light of Consciousness") which is "brighter than a thousand suns" and yet "the size of a sesame seed."

The truth is that the universe is a tiny drop in our heart.  Vasuguptacharya [a great yogic sage] says that just as the vast banyan tree exists in a tiny seed . . .  likewise, in the heart-seed countless universes dwell.  And this truth you will be able to experience directly only when you have a vision of your heart-seed.  At present you feel that you are tiny drops in the universe, but then you will realize that the universe is a tiny drop within you.  from:  Satsang with Baba : Questions and Answers with Swami Muktananda  Vol. Three.

In his spiritual autobiography, Play of Consciousness, Swami Muktananda wrote extensively about his merging with the Self-created light of the heart-seed, which he also called the Blue Pearl.  In this merging with the "blue light of Consciousness" he accomplished the goal of yoga: the dissolution of his separation from God and the re-union of his personal self with the "very Self of God."  I encourage you to visit my photography project entitled The Blue Pearl.  I have included within it many excerpts from Muktananda's autobiography.  The follow quote is from the project: 

Whatever you have in the outer world, 
in the cosmos which appears so vast, 
you have in the inner world too.  
The outer and the inner 
are one. 
Swami Muktananda 




  on the  

Image #1

Note: as I have already mentioned, the eleven symmetrical photographs presented here were constructed with source images originally published in my project The Eye of Siva : White  Blue & Gold Photographs.

Image #1  "Blue Pearl"
The photograph above is a "Blue Pearl" image.  The central, darker form is that of a "sesame seed" and the entire image is radiant with a soft atmospheric blue light which invokes for me the "angelic" divine presence of the Celestial Earth.  Indeed, the central "seed form" appears to be endowed with "wings of light" which expand infinitely . . .  not only beyond the frame's edge, but beyond all Imaginal horizons.  The "wings" seem to be held in a state of timeless suspension even as they appear simultaneously to be in motion.  

In its "symmetrical roundness" this image represents for me the Unity of Being.  At its very center is an invisible point which is the transcendent creative "origin" of the image, the immutable sacred space from which all images of the Active Imagination emerge into the world of sensory-perceived reality.  The space of the center-point transcends any and all polarities; it's the Place where "physical objects become spiritualized, and spirits become embodied."  

Every symmetrical photograph I have ever made has its origin in this point, this "tiny seed" which secretes its own light "brighter than a thousand suns."  Here is another quote from the Blue Pearl project: 

There was now just a mass of shining radiant light 
with no name and no form.  Then all the rays
bursting forth from the blue light 
contracted and returned 
into the Blue Pearl.  
The Blue Pearl was once again the size of a tiny seed.

Swami Muktananda The Play of Consciousness


Image #2

Image #2  Seed Forms
This photograph is also a variation on the "sesame seed" theme.   At the center of the larger, lighter, vertically suspended "seed form" there is a much smaller, horizontal, light gray seed form.  These two similar forms, larger and smaller, vertical and horizontal, cross and intersect at the center-point of the entire image, in the invisible intermediary-Imaginal space which is the "heart-seed" of the image.  

When I contemplate this image I feel as if I am looking into a mirror, face-to-face with myself in a silent, still, solitary dialogue.  Indeed, the size and orientation of the two "seed forms" suggest a corresponding relationship to the words alone with the Alone: the small, gray, horizontal seed form corresponding to the small letter in the word alone; the larger, luminous vertical seed form corresponding to the large letter in the word Alone.  


Image #3

Image #3  Celestial Earth
This is an image of the "Celestial Earth."  It's the Imaginal view of our own planet Earth turned inside-out.  (Corbin has written extensively about the "Celestial Earth" archetype and its many Sufic variations in his book Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth.)

I have imaginatively re-turned this image "inside-out" and seen our planet Earth suspended, alone, in a vast ineffable space.  When I tried to come closer to the round globe-form, the image turned "inside-out" once again, re-appearing as the blue, luminous image as shown above.

The Celestial Earth transcends place and time because it's a theophanic image, a symbol, a creation of the Active Imagination.

Two "arrows" within the image point downward and upward toward the center of the image as if to remind me of the invisible origin-point from which all images emerge from the Intermediary World.  The space within the point is radiant with its own internal light, the "light of grace," the "Light of the Supreme Self" which pervades this entire image and indeed the entire created universe.  It's a theophanic light and thus visible only to the "eye of the heart," the organ of theophanic vision.

An Aside:
I love our planet Earth, and I am deeply saddened by all the ways "she" (Mother Earth) has suffered and is suffering now from what we human beings have done to her out of greed and fear and lack of compassion and understanding.  The life of our beautiful planet is now under serious threat, and in this age of the corporate "bottom line" and political climate change "deniers," the situation appears to be growing progressively worse.

My spiritual practice of making symbolic photographs, images radiant with the theophanic light of grace, himma, shakti, provides me--and perhaps the planet as well--with some measure of protective energy.  The image of the Celestial Earth above gives visual form to my longing for a peaceful, healthy, loving way of life on this beautiful planet named Earth.  Though my impulse to protect the planet, myself and my grandchildren is quite palpable, I also know that the peace of mind I long for can only be achieved within myself.

Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, my Siddha Yoga meditation Master, has repeatedly taught in various ways that "the only protection we need is protection from our own minds."  Making photographs, and contemplating the images, have become an integral part of my yogic practice.  The grace which radiates from within the images helps to still my mind and open the doors of my heart--the abode of the Self.  


Image #4

Image #4  The Light of the Blue Jewel
This image could be considered a variation on the first three images, however, this time the two darker arrow-shapes are pointing toward a very specific visual event: a pulsating blue jewel which is radiating a brilliant light from within it's own center, which is also the center of the whole image.

This spontaneous, visionary-pictorial manifestation of an other-worldly interior light is a theophanic image of the Blue Pearl.  The light is throbbing like a"heart-beat." It is an image of the Creative spanda, the "Moment of Creation," that pre-eternal flash of divine energy when the light of the heart of the Supreme Being initiates its spontaneous expansion outward into an infinitely unfolding array of apparent forms, worlds and universes.  

I know . . .  If God were asked "Why did you become so many?" the response would be (in the words of Swami Muktananda):

"I don't understand what you are talking about.
I never became many.  I am absolutely alone."  

God appears to become something else only to one with wrong understanding.  ~  The pure Supreme Being, whom we call God, is . . . completely free from becoming.  He always remains what He is.  ~  God would say . . .  "I am ecstatically absorbed in My own being and I am not at all aware of the difference between evolution and involution, birth and death, worldliness and spirituality."


Image #5

Image #5  Two Orbs
In this image two luminous blue orbs are suspended above and below the center-point of the image within a gray-toned horizontal space the shape of a sesame seed.  The tips of two large "angel wings" point toward the center of the "seed space" from beyond the left and right edges of the frame.

The image is enveloped in a soft blue light, an atmospheric presence which is pervaded by an aura of potentiality.  Something unknown is about to be born, or perhaps what has already been created is about to be unveiled.

Perhaps the orbs are angels of the Celestial Earth about to merge into each other at the center-point of the seed; or, perhaps there was only one orb, but after it emerged from the origin-point it separated into two orbs.

Perhaps there is only one orb, but it appears as two because the one is being reflected in a mirror that horizontally bisects the image such that the lower half of the image is a reflection of the half above.

Perhaps the two orbs facing each other are engaged in a silent dialogue in the still, eternal moment which Iben 'Arabi referred to as Creative Prayer. 

The idea of a "moment" in Creation did emerge in Corbin's writing in regards to prayer.  He wrote in Alone with the Alone:

". . . prayer itself is a moment in . . . Creation.   We witness and participate in an entire ceremonial of meditation, a psalmody in two alternating voices, one human the other divine . . .  Because prayer is a creator of [theophanic] vision; it is simultaneously Prayer of God and Prayer of man . . .  an "intimate dialogue" between the Lord and His personal fedele [God's faithful]. (p. 248-49)

Sufis believe that each human soul has an angelic counterpart which is the person's innermost divine Self.  This "personal angel" or Celestial Twin oversees, protects and guides its human counterpart as he or she travels through the many modes of being it is destined to experience ("birth and death," "pain and comfort," "joy and sadness," "dark and light," "above and below," etc.).  It is said that when the body dies, the angel meets the soul at the bridge which crosses over into the world of spirit. 

A photograph that functions as a symbol is like a "bridge" which connects the spiritual and the physical reflections of each other.  As a "bridge" the symbol allows the spiritual "traveler" access to the Intermediary Imaginal World.   (See my project The Green Light of Sufi Travel.)

The above photograph could be hinting at the creation or destruction of "worlds."  But the all pervasive blue effulgence indicates a transcendence of dualities.  Blue is the color of absolute Consciousness, the divine Self, the pure, innermost core of being:

Even when you are caught up in your worldly life and you lament and wail, take birth and die, even in that condition none of these can reach your pure inner nature, because your innermost Self, the core of your being is beyond all these.   Satsang with Baba : Questions and Answers with Swami Muktananda  Vol. Three


Symmetrical Variations

Image #6 (Variation #1 of 2)

Image #7 (Variation #2 of 2)

Symmetrical Variations #6 & #7
This is the first project in which I have presented symmetrical variations constructed from the same one source image.  I am presenting here two sets of variations: in the first set, above, there are two variations; in the second set, below, there are four variations, images #8 through #11. 

I find each of the six variations compelling on their own individual terms, however when I see the images presented together, so that I easily can scrutinize their similarities and differences, something new emerges: an opportunity for me to participate in the movement and exchange of visual-creative energy between the forms within each image, and in the silent dialogue occurring between the individual images themselves.

I can offer very little in the way of commentary on the two images above.  The forms in the first image remind me of pelvis bones; in the second image, ornamental face masks or perhaps the unfolding of some other-worldly flower.  But that seems hardly worth the mentioning.  What's most important is the numinous beauty of these visionary theophanies.  They are living, breathing parts of a whole--the transcendent Celestial Earth of the Intermediate Imaginal World.  As such they are meaningful beyond associations and the realm of human language--the language of duality.

As I interact with each image and the changes they undergo from one to the next, I experience a subtle internal rhythm, of expansion and contraction, similar to a "breathing-in" and a "breathing-out."  Though it's the same one, timeless breath, the movement of energy between the images feels like an in-spiration and a con-spiration.


Image #11 (Variation #4 of 4)   

Image #8 (Variation #2 of 4)

Image #10 (Variation #3 of 4)

Image #8 (Variation #1 of 4)

Four Symmetrical "Cloud" Variations #8 ~ #11  
Ibn 'Arabi writes about the Sigh or Breath of God's Compassion, the "Effusion of being that flows through the things of the world," explains Corbin, "like the waters of a river which are unceasingly being renewed."  This is a reference to Ibn 'Arabi's rather complex idea of the recurrence of Creation, a mystical phenomena in which "Creation, or being--at every breath--ceases, and then is; we cease to be, then we come into being."  (p.201)   See my project (click here) The Light of Creation : Islamic and Hindu Theories of  Manifestation.    

The Cloud
The Divine Breath is related to another mystical idea, that of the Cloud, a "subtile mass of primordial existentiation . . . which gives beings their [archetypal] Imaginal forms."  Corbin says the Cloud explains the following hadith: "Someone asked the Prophet: Where was your Lord before creating His (visible) Creation?--He was in a Cloud; there was no space either above or below."  (p.185)  (For more about the Cloud click here) 

When I engage this series of four "cloud" variations in a contemplative state of  mind, that is to say when my mind has become stilled, silent and open, I find myself "floating" in the spaces amongst the forms within each picture . . . and in the space between the individual photographs.  I enjoy the rhythmic movements, the exchange of energy, the "breathing in" and "breathing out," which occurs within and between the images.

A Childhood remembrance 
This set of cloud images has reminded me of a magical childhood experience, which I believe may qualify as a visionary experience:  I was on my back, laying in the grass on a spring day, looking up at the sky, watching the clouds.  The clouds were unfolding their soft forms so gradually, as if in a suspended moment of time--that I eventually "lost myself" in their silent transformations.  I became the clouds; I joined them as they floated by in the infinitely blue space . . . .   I experienced within myself their majestic luminous beauty, their beneficent creative power, their deep eternal silence.

It has occurred to me that the very idea of variations on the same one source image relates to the creation story which Ibn 'Arabi tells, of Adam . . . and the palm tree . . . and then the entire universe . . . all of which were created from the same "leaven of clay," including a tiny bit of "hidden" clay "the equivalent of a sesame seed."

The word equivalent is important here for me.  One of the greatest photographers ever, Alfred Stieglitz--who was one of my early photographer-mentors--used the word equivalent to identify images which functioned for him as symbols, that is to say, images which for him had the power to invoke meanings or feelings not directly associated with the subject matter he photographed.  In the mid-1920's Stieglitz made several important series of equivalent cloud photographs.  He said they embodied and invoked the same kind of abstract beauty and meaning associated with the finest pieces of classical music.  He titled one of his series Songs of the Sky and wrote this about them:  "Songs of the Sky -- Secrets of the Skies as revealed by my camera are tiny photographs, direct revelations of a man's world in the sky -- documents of eternal relationships -- perhaps even a philosophy."

My symmetrical "cloud variations" have also made me think more about the paradox Swami Muktananda presented when he spoke about God "expanding in all directions," and yet, though He appears to assume countless forms, He is at the same time "unchangeable . . . immutable."  

When I contemplate the four symmetrical "cloud" variations, though each image is uniquely different, at the same time I sense in each of them the One source image which is at the core of their creative Imaginal being.  When I embrace and absorb the grace of their Unitary Reality, I recognize I am embracing that which is "immutable" at the core of my being.

The Phenomenal World
The reality we think we know in the phenomenal world may be merely changing Cloud formations silently floating through the sky.  Swami Muktananda, a world renowned yogic saint, never stopped his yogic spiritual practices after he achieved the goal of yoga--union with God--because, he said, one must always remain the perfect disciple.  He wrote in his autobiography, Play of Consciousness:

Even now, when I meditate, as soon as I am absorbed in meditation, I see the mass of the blue rays of the Light of Consciousness and, within that, the Blue Pearl. . . . Now I really know that my Self pervades everywhere as the universe.  I am completely convinced that there is no such entity as the phenomenal world, that indeed there never was such an entity.  What we call the universe is nothing other than the conscious play of Chiti Shakti.  

*           *           *  

The symmetrical photographs, indeed any images which function as symbols, are challenging to write about, for their essential meanings are hidden, unknown, what is potential and yet ineffable.  Symbolic images are about the Unity of Being, Imaginal  theophanic glimpses of the transcendent Self, mirrors which reflect my own longing to fully, consciously realize the absolute eternal truth of who I am. 

I am the center of the circumference,
the parts and the whole.
It is through my eyes that you see me 
and see yourself.
I am beauty, I am Grace.
No one is more inward than I.
I am nearer to you than your breath
than your soul, than your breath.
Let us go toward Union and
enter the presence of Truth.
Ibn 'Arabi   Book of Theophanies


Closing Words
Reflections on the Mirror 

The following excerpts are from
Henry Corbin's Alone with the Alone:

"Our own Imagination is Imagination in His Imagination."  (p. 191)

"Vision of the heart, that is to say, vision through the inner eye, is the vision of God by Himself, 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)."  (p. 232)

[The image which functions as a symbol is] "a visual representation of a theophany, a vision of the Active Imagination, the organ of theophany, which conjoins the corresponding mirroring worlds--the invisible and the visible, the spiritual and the sensible.  Symbols make possible the spiritual vision of the sensible, or the sensible vision of the invisible in a concrete form."  (pp. 144-5) 

"The love whose mover is Beauty has God alone as its object--since 'God is a beautiful Being who loves beauty' [hadithand who in revealing Himself to Himself has produced the world as a mirror in which to contemplate His own Image, His own beauty--and since it is written that "God will love you" (Qur'an 111:29), it is because He loves Himself in you . . ." (p.148)  

"Everything we call other than God, everything we call the universe . . . is God's reflection."  ~  "It is said 'Neither my Heaven nor my Earth contains me, but the heart of my faithful believer contains me,' this because the heart is a mirror in which the manifested 'Form of God' is at each moment reflected on the scale of the microcosm."  (p.196 Corbin, quoting Ibn 'Arabi)

________  *  ________ 


I hide myself within my flower,
That, wearing on your breast,
You, unsuspecting, wear me too--
And angels know the rest.

I hide myself within my flower,
That, fading from your vase,
You, unsuspecting, feel for me
Almost a loneliness . . . 

Emily Dickinson


This Project was announced on my
Welcome Page June 1, 2017

Siddha Yoga, Swami Muktananda & Gurumayi Chidvilasananda
The Construction of Symmetrical Photographs

Welcome Page to my photography website, TheDepartingLandscape.blogspot.com which includes the complete listing of online photography projects, my resume, contact information, and more.