Doctrine of Light and Images of Winged Spiritual Beings in Islamic Art

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Date(s) - 13/06/2019
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Seminar Hall


Title: “Doctrine of Light and Images of Winged Spiritual Beings in Islamic Art”

Dr. Irina R. Katkova


The present research project deals with philosophy of light and its iconography in various religious traditions like Hellenestic Egypt, Manihean, Islamic and Sufi traditions in different regions of Muslim world, precisely with the esoteric meaning and evolution of the image of winged spiritual being. A special part of this work is dedicated to the problems of light nur Muhammad in Islamic art & science for reconstruction of the medieval aesthetics of vibrant colors in Islamic art and the phenomenon of individual perception of light that brings to the fore questions regarding the understanding of optics during the medieval period.

Partly this work is based on my studying the manuscripts’ sources adhered to different religious traditions which, however, have very much in common. They belong mainly to the Sufi cultural heritage, precisely of Shattariyah tariqah in the literary corpus of which the Central Asian philosophy of light and the doctrine of perception of inner light by subtle organs of human being, or the phenomenon of’ photism’ (the term introduced by H. Corbin) was developed by such famous Sufi scholars as Najm al-Din Kubra and his disciples , then as-Simnani, Muhammad Ghaws al-Gwalior and later on by Shah Wali Allah of Delhi . So the doctrine of lata’if was much developed on Indian soil , having absorbed Tantric Hindu-Buddhist elements, in particular, vaishnava-sahaja teaching. Thus, the project deals with some data touching on the doctrine of lata’if, the mystical anthropology of the man of light and special spiritual practices in some Sufi tariqahs like Shattariyah, Naqshbandiyyah and Javanese Aqmaliyyah.

One of part of this project touches on studying of Islamic traditional science and spiritual dimension is carrying out the methodology. In this aspect the methodology of studying the doctrine of colors elaborated by German scholars of the past century deserves serious attention. Exactly I mean the approach to the Islamic doctrine of colors proposed by H. Gatje, the translator of Arabic medieval treatise on optics , he proposed that Islamic doctrine of colors is mostly focused on human individual perception of light and contradicts much from the doctrine of physics and Philosophers (Avicenna, Averroes) .