THE MAN OF LIGHT
Take a look at the painting below. It’s The Pleasure
Principle, by René Magritte (1937).
If we were able to perceive the essential reality of a
Perfect Human Being (insan al-kaamil), this is
probably what we would see. We could call it a “spiritual
snapshot.” The Perfect Human Being is called the Person of
Light (shakhs min nur or shakhs nurani) by
Now this term is the same as the Greek term photeinos
anthropos, which occurs in the Hermetic writings
transmitted to us by the renowned alchemist Zosimos. This
means that Sufism is the living incarnation of Hermeticism
and Alchemy, both of which are now dead and lost. Indeed, as
Najmaddin Kubra says, “Our method is that of alchemy.” (As
for Hermeticism, see "From Hermeticism to Sufism" in The
Secret of Islam, p. 215ff or in
Science,Knowledge, and Sufism.) In other words, Sufism
involves the metamorphosis of a leaden human being into gold,
or light. That light is the light of God: “God is the Light
of the heavens and the earth…Light upon light!” (Koran,
24:35). Without that light, the universe is no more
significant than a piece of dead matter, as pictured by the
inert lump near the hand in the painting.
When the time comes for the light to “bloom,” it starts to
shine between the eyebrows. This is the location of the
famous qaaba qawsayn (“distance of two bows,” Kor.
53:9) of the Sufis, called the
by the ancient
Egyptians. “Finally,” says Najm Kubra, “it spreads to cover
the whole face.”
The transmutation of a person from lead to gold, from
darkness into light, is the true calling of humankind. The
Enlightenment of the West, which led to material progress,
needs to be supplemented by the Enlightenment of the East,
that is, spiritual illumination. God Himself says that He has
revealed His Verses to the Prophet in order to “take you out
of darkness into light” (Kor. 57:9).
(Source for some details: Henry Corbin, The
Man of Light.)
point between the eyebrows is also known as
"Third Eye," the "Eye of Wisdom," or
The “Eye (or Hand) of Fatima” (also known as Hamsa, “Five”), used to ward off
the evil eye.
Note that the eye-in-hand is in fact an
open-eye-in-open-hand. The first stands for wide-awakeness
(and hence, Awakening), the second for generosity. The
meaning of the combination is a lovingkind gaze that
protects, just like the benevolence of the Perfect Human or
the "Hand of God".