September 9, 2021

Music to my ears

by Interfaith

I grabbed this from a comment I read in an Amazon review. I think English is not the first language (apologies if wrong) I have edited slightly, but not changed the substance:

“I perceive some troubles in his (the author’s) understanding of Tantric concepts … inevitably clouded by its own paradigmatic and patriarchal religious comprehensions of reality: the idea that ‘images’ and ‘imagination’ (and the alam al mithal), are illusions that ought to be transcended, echoes the same sick and unbalanced concepts that forget that, after all, we are here and we are alive – concepts that are a consequence of a patriarchal view of reality and nature, a view that has dominated most of the religions both in east and west … ”

And here we go:

“… the feminine and matriarchal perceptions did not view matter and images as impediments, only as one of the infinite facets of existence … to accept that we are alive and that the realm of forms and matter (that resemble directly the world of similitudes) is a part of, and inseparable from, reality; it is precisely the idea of separation from the whole that leads us to believe that our narrow perceptions of reality to be the absolute truth.

This led me to a look at alam al mithal

The doctrine of a “Realm of Images” (‘Alam al-Mithal‘) is a specific product of Medieval Muslim mysticism.

It must be said at the outset that the word mithal (pl. muthul), “a likeness”, is also sometimes applied to Platonic Ideas but the two uses are quite different.

Muslim philosophers, especially Ibn Sina (d. 1037, in the West Avicenna), emphasised the imaging function of imagination in the Prophetic Revelation.

The human soul, provided it is pure and strong enough, can contact the unseen world in waking life as well as in dreams, all that is required is a withdrawal of the soul from the tumult of sensory life. A Greek doctrine clearly stated by Plutarch.

In dreams, spiritual truth is conveyed by the imagination is its role as translator, in this case into sensible images and symbols, so in waking life when the Prophet receives spiritual Revelation, it becomes clothed in the form of images and figures.

According to Ibn Sina, just as dreams require interpretation (ta’bir: “carrying across to the other side of a river”), so Revelation requires, in varying degrees, a symbolic interpretation (ta’wil: “carrying back to the source or the initial point”).

More to follow … this from Dream, imagination and ‘alam al-mithal, by Fazlur Rahman, on jstor.

(Thomas 6/09/2021)

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