Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Polar Orient.

I was re-reading an old book I had " Arktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism, and Nazi Survival" by Joscelyn Godwin and I came across a fascinating topic to discuss. That is the symbolism of the Pole and the North Star in Islamic (specifically Shiite, Ishraqi, and Sufi) teaching.

"Esoterically, however , the Persian Theosophers situated their 'Orient' neither to the East nor to the South, whither they faced in prayer towards the Ka'aba. The Orient sought by the mystic, the Orient that cannot be located on our maps, is in the direction of the north, beyond the north. “About this Pole reigns a perpetual Darkness", says the Recital of Hayy ibn Yaqzan , one of the visionary recitals of Avicenna. " Each year the rising sun shines upon it at a fixed time. He who confronts that darkness and does not hesitate to plunge into it for fear of difficulties will come to a vast space, boundless and filled with light." This Darkness, says Corbin is the ignorance of the natural man. "To pass through it is a terrifying and painful experience , for it ruins and destroy all the patencies and norms on which the natural man lived and depended..."

This book explains how the Sufi Ruzbehan of Shiraz had a series of visions referring to the heavenly Pole; and by meditating on these that he was able to understand how he was personally connected with the masters of initiation symbolized by the stars in the immediate vicinity of the Pole Star.

"This again underlines the essential individual, not social nature of theosophy. Yet it is far from being useless to the community, Just as the Platonic world of Forms gives being to the material world, so the influence of the esoteric masters and the access to them, one by one , of their destined pupils is the magnetic influence that keeps humanity from falling into complete abandonment and self destruction”

Ruzbehan, in his vision , was "given oil from the constellation of the Bear," which he seems to have recognized as an anointing, admitting him to the rank of the seven masters of initiation. On turning his attention to the Great Bear, Ruzbehan saw its seven stars as seven apertures through which God was showing himself.

The Taoist tradition also refers to seven spiritual rulers "localized" in the constellation of the Bear. The "Classic of the Pivot of Jade" gives a spiritual doctrine told in its very title, which refers to the North Star, "the pivot of Heaven revolving on itself and carrying all the heavenly bodies along with it in its round dance." It's interesting to see the unanimity among Traditions regarding the spiritual reality of the Northern Orient and the Pole. It's also telling that the Taoist called it the "Jade Pivot" as Jade is green and thats also the color of the light experienced beyond the pole in Islamic tradition*. At the summit of mount Qaf (which is also the Pole ) is the Emerald stone that is inscribed with the eternal Koran. This is also what in Hermeticism is called the "Emerald Tablet of Hermes".

The Ishraqi Theosopher and martyr Suhrawardi elaborated on the spiritual significance of the Pole in his works as well. Nai’mah Iman speaking on this aspect of the works of Suhrawardi states the following:

"The individual who is perfected in philosophy and has attained illumination is Hakim Mutaallih, literally, a theosopher, and is counted as one of that exceptional circle of sages which includes Pythagorean and Plato. Beyond this, one passes out of the human realm into that of the celestial hierarchy of invisible beings whose chief is the Qutb, the Pole, that its spiritual center for whom the spiritual hosts are representatives as they are also the means to human illumination. The Qutb can be geographically symbolized as the north celestial pole around which the vault of heaven turns. In his imaginary accounts of the soul's sojourn, the distinction between the shadowy occident and the luminous orient is turned on end, so to speak. The orient of light is the North Pole and the occident is the World of the Senses. Illumination, Ishraq, is the soul's return to its home through reason and intuition, where it will find peace and the earth through the empyrean to intimate what is beyond and covers the whole of manifest existence. Reality is Light. That Light varies in intensity from plane to plane, giving rise to the relativities of light and darkness. Light is indefinable because all degrees and things are defined in terms of it, whilst it is supremely evident."

* As expressed by the Great Sufi Najm Kobra among others.

here is the book by Ruzbehan in which he explains his various visions:

The Unveiling of Secrets: Diary of a Sufi Master


No comments:

Post a Comment