by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, February 2016

First published in Sutra Journal.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out like shining from shook foil.[i] – Gerard Manley Hopkins

One of the central teachings of Sufism is that God is both transcendent and immanent. Our Beloved is “beyond even our idea of the beyond,” and also “nearer to you than yourself to yourself.” In our practice we remember the Divine that transcends all that is or will be, and we witness divine presence manifest throughout the created world – the smallest cricket, the wildest ocean, the most beautiful sunset. This is the primal duality of the Absolute – Creator and creation, transcendent and immanent, masculine and feminine.

In the past many spiritual teachings have focused on the transcendent aspect of the Divine, on spirit separate from matter, heaven rather than earth. But as our present culture spins out ofbalance, destroying the fragile web of life in a ever accelerating ecological crisis, there is a pressing need to remember the sacred nature of creation and thus deepen our understanding ofits spiritual and transformative qualities.

The Creator is alive within creation.
The Absolute lives in every atom, every cell.

And just as human beings contain a sacred substance within our soul, there is a substance in the core of life that is real. It is like a seed of Truth, a spark of the light of the Absolute.

This substance of creation can be interacted with. Human beings can engage in a unique dialogue between the substance in our souls and the substance in creation – a dialogue of light upon light. Through this dialogue, the kaleidoscope of life reveals the one essence of the Absolute, and the Absolute celebrates itself.

This is not the same dialogue as the soul’s light interacting with the light of the inner planes, a disembodied divinity, which is how most of us understand spirituality. It is the light of the soul interacting with the light hidden within the material dimension – with God incarnate. Through this dialogue we come to know the Divine in the world around us. In Sufism, these different forms of witnessing are acknowledged:

There are two kinds of witnessing: One is to behold the singularity of the Sacred Essence, stripped from the veil of manifestations. The other is to contemplate within the curtain ofmanifestations. This is what the Sufis call “the vision of Oneness in multiplicity.” [ii]

Through this dialogue the Creator uses the mirror of humanity to reveal Itself to Itself, as expressed in the hadith,  “I was a hidden treasure and I wanted to be known, so I created the world.”

The more awake the human consciousness, the clearer is the real nature of creation. As the “eye of the heart” opens, the practices of the path enable the clarity of real perception, the perception of the soul, through which the mystic no longer sees “through a glass darkly.” She becomes the eyes of God in this world, echoing Ibn ‘Arabi’s words that the mystic is “the pupil in the eye of humanity.”[iii]

Historically we have forgotten this aspect – this feminine, embodied side of God. And we have forgotten the language of how our souls speak to what is real within life, this conversation with creation. Instead, we are entrapped in our individual and collective ego, seeing life only through a consciousness clouded by our desires and our fears, reducing the dynamic divinity of life to “a collection of objects.”[iv]

But this hidden mystical substance in creation is waiting to be interacted with, and it holds the essence of the work of co-creation, through which humanity can creatively participate in the moment-by-moment revelation of the divine within the world, the moment-by-moment re-creation of the world.

In the past, various traditions have guided this type of work. In the West, the alchemists held the secret of the light hidden within matter, working symbolically to transmute lead into gold. In their retorts and crucibles they were working not just with chemicals and minerals but with the spiritual energies within matter. Carl Jung talked about uncovering the mystery of the lumen dei and the lumen naturae. He identified the  lumen dei as the disembodied light of the divine, which we normally associate with a transcendent God. And he described the lumen naturae as the hidden light within creation, referring to it as “the universal and scintillating fire in the light of nature which carries the heavenly spirit within it.

The practice of alchemy rested on the understanding that “as above, so below.” The light in creation is the manifestation of the one light, as expressed in the core alchemical text Hermes’ Emerald Tablet:

The father of all perfection in the whole world is here.
Its force of power is entire if it be converted into earth.

The “conversion to earth” is the great work of the human being to know, reveal, and honor the Creator in creation, thereby releasing the “force of power” that belongs to the Absolute.

A similar tradition belongs to Sufism. The early Sufi Dhu’l-Nun was “famous for his involvement with alchemy,”  [vi] and there is a whole hidden alchemical tradition within Sufism that honors this transformative element within creation. This is reflected in the mystical importance of the secret of the word Kun! [Be!], which expresses the mystery of the creative aspect of God that brings life into being. It has been said that between the K and the N of Kun, there is an entire universe.

The relationship of the light of human consciousness with the light within creation – the human soul with the soul of the world – is at the foundation of our shared evolution. This mystery used to be understood in our collective consciousness; our daily lives were a reflection of this dialogue. In the past, when women ground corn as they chanted sacred songs, they were developing and honoring a profound relationship of inner and outer, of women and corn and the whole mystery of fertility. The earth that is planted with the sacred seed, the man who harvests the corn with reverence, the woman who grinds the corn, the family or tribe sustained by corn, the corn who is known as a goddess – all are nourished within a sacred communion.

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