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 Najmuddin Kubra.
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 Sun Door 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.)
(Left) The point between the eyebrows is also known as the “Third Eye,” the “Eye of Wisdom,” or the “Mind’s Eye.”
(Right) 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”.