Virtually every author introducing Ibn ‘Arabi has highlighted his characteristic under- standing of manifest creation as a kind of divine Imagining (khiyal) or cosmic shadow- theater. But what does that vast metaphysical vision mean for us, for our experience of life and its dramas and transformations? Drawing on a few key passages from the key penultimate section (559) of his “Meccan Illuminations”, which summarizes the central teachings of each preceding chapter in that immense work, we shall explore the ways his accounts there of spiritual realization and awakening revealingly parallel more famil- iar dimensions of cinema and related arts in our own experience and cultural setting.
The framework for this discussion is beautifully summarized in the early Qur’anic sura of the “Morning Light” (Duha, 93:1-11). How do we overcome the natural dualistic impression of life as an arbitrary series of “good” and “bad” events? And how can we communicate to others our dawning recognition of the larger context or direction of that process? Finally, what are the distinctive conditions for effective spiritual communication of this realization? The exploration of these foundational questions highlights and helps to illuminate the central role of stories and storytelling throughout the Sufi tradition (and its many spiritual counterparts).
Based on indications in Ibn ‘Arabi’s Fusūs al-Hikam, this introduction to the divine-human relationship of “closeness” (walāya) begins with a few of the most familiar signs through which we begin to become aware of the actual reality of that relationship, moves on to the processes of “realization” by which we can deepen those initial discoveries, and focuses on the recur- rent ways that this intimate relationship—ultimately encompassing every dimension of our experience—becomes more present and consciously interactive in our spiritual life.