Friday, January 27, 2017

What part of you is the dreamer?

Edgar Cayce suggested distinguishing dreams that reflect the needs or wishes of the body, the mind and the spirit. 
     The great medieval Persian mystic Shahabuddin Suhrawardi was one of those who knew about this through direct experience.  From his visionary journeys in the alam al-mithal, or Imaginal Realm, he brought us geographies of many cities invisible to ordinary eyes and to dreamers operating only from lower centers of the self. Suhrawardi wrote, for example, of an "earth of visions" named Hurqalya. It is an interworld, located between the sensory world and an angelic realm beyond terrestrial forms.
     Hurqalya is roofed with shining convexities, plane within plane, like crystals that interpenetrate and turn into each other. It contains the Hall of the Masters, where beings who transcend human geometries consent to project themselves into shimmering stability of form to communicate with those who succeed in ascending to their level.
     Dreaming will get you on your way to such places of initiation, rapture and transformation. But you need to start by paying attention to who is at the controls when you embark on your dream flights.
 distinguished three distinct levels of dreaming. The importance and reliability of what is experienced in dreaming depends on what part of you gets you there..
    In clear dreams or “free revelation” [kashf] your soul [ruh] goes traveling beyond the body, or you receive a visitation. Your soul travels make take you to other realities, or into the future, “With the eye of the free soul, by the imagination, a person contemplates in dreams the state of things which is yet in the hidden.” In this condition, the dreamer can have accurate foreknowledge of future events, and true clairvoyance.
    “After separation from the body, the soul knows even of the small things heard and seen of this world.” In clear dreams, the dreamer becomes a time traveler or remote viewer. This is a practice that can be developed in waking states of altered consciousness, or mukashafa. Suhrawardi calls in evidence episodes from the early history of Islam to support this discussion. Thus the Prophet scouted out the progress of a caravan en route to Mecca through mukashafa. The Caliph Umar, from afar, scouted an ambush that had been laid for his general Sariya and sent his general a telepathic warning that was received.
      Suhrawardi's second category of dreams includes "symbolic dreams" and “fancied revelations” . Now its is the lower self, nafs, rather than the soul, ruh, that is in charge of what is seen and experienced. vision is cloaked by the “fancy garments” of appetite and desire. Landscapes traveled in such dreams are “the stages of lust.” Interpretation is required to separate a message from the fancy dress.
     The third and lowest category of dream experience in Suhrawardi's hierarchy is "pure fancy”. You have fallen so deep into appetency that “sensual thoughts” rule your dream body and you have zero chance of getting out of the slums and fleshpots of the lower astral. You are “veiled from considering the hidden world.”

Suhrawardi's master work was his immense Philosophy of Illumination. It's a difficult read in translation (I have tried both English and French versions) and is still most accessible through the books of Henry Corbin, the great French scholar of mystical Islam. Suhrawardi is known as Shaikh al-Ishraq, the Master of Illumination. He melded ancient Persian, Hermetic and Platonic traditions together with mystical Islam and encouraged his students to follow a path of direct experience of the sacred. He is also known as Shaikh al-Maqtul "the Murdered Master", because in 1191 he was executed on charges of heresy by the judicial killers of Sharia Islam, who feared this wise and peaceful man over the youthful heir to the Caliphate.

Source: I have based this simplified account on Suhrawardi's teachings about dreams on a useful early translation of some of his writings: H. Wilberforce Clarke (trans) Shahabuddin Suhrawardi, A Dervish Textbook ('Awariful-Ma'arif).

Image: The Mi'rāj (ascent of the Prophet) ascribed to Sultan Muhammad, c.1540. Watercolor and ink. In British Library.

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