Friday, August 2, 2013

Through the Veils

Work by Ala Ebtekar

In Mishkât Al-Anwar ("The Niche for Lights") by Al-Ghazzali there is mention of Seventy Thousand Veils of Light and Darkness which together veil the pristine Godhead from the imperfect human soul.
"Allâh hath Seventy Thousand Veils of Light and Darkness: were He to withdraw their curtain, then would the splendours of His Aspect surely consume everyone who apprehended Him with his sight."
   Al-Ghazzali  uses a wonderful method of symbolism were these veils are applicable depending on five classes of Spirit, or the fivefold Niche, Glass, Lamp, Tree, and Oil . Here are short extracts from  "The Niche for Lights":

1. Consider the sensory spirit. Its lights, you observe, come through several apertures, the eyes, ears, nostrils, etc. Now the aptest symbol for this, in our world of experience, is the Niche for a lamp in a wall.

2. Take next the imaginative spirit.[...] The images supplied by the imagination hold together the knowledge supplied by the intellect. Now, in the world of everyday experience the sole object in which you will find these three peculiarities, in relation to physical lights, is Glass.[...] 

3. The intelligential spirit, which gives cognizance of the divine ideas. The point of the symbolism must be obvious to you. You know it already from our preceding explanation of the doctrine that the prophets are a "Light-giving lamp."

4. The ratiocinative spirit. Its peculiarity is to begin from one proposition, then to branch out into two, which two become four and so on, until by this process of logical division they become very numerous.[...]The symbol which our world yields for this is a Tree. And when further we consider that the fruit of the discursive reason is material for this multiplying, establishing, and fixing of all knowledge, it will naturally not be typified by trees like quince, apple, pomegranate, nor, in brief, by any other tree whatever, except the Olive. For the quintessence of the fruit of the olive is its oil, which is the material which feeds the lamps, and has this peculiarity, as against all other oils, that it increases radiance.[...]

5. The transcendental prophetic spirit, which is possessed by saints as well as prophets if it is absolutely luminous and clear. For the thought-spirit is divided into that which needs be instructed, advised, and supplied from without, if the acquisition of knowledge is to be continuous; while a portion of it is absolutely, clear, as though it were self-luminous, and had no external source of supply.

According to this esoteric symbolism, the soul, in its upward way, is stripped at every stage of ten thousand of these veils. But the veils may not fall away in the same manner for different souls, which are classed in terms of the darkness or the lightness of the veils that enclose them, thus suggesting both thickness and opacity as well as a necessary mode of understanding degrees of light. The veiled sun is light to the struggling soul but the unveiled sun remains in Absolute Darkness until the soul finally succeeds in piercing through the last veil of separative consciousness.

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