Khidr: angel of the mystics

Sufi Saint Khidr (the Green One) - c.18 Century. US Public Domain.
Sufi Saint Khidr (the Green One) – c.18 Century. US Public Domain.

Khidr is known as the “green prophet” or the ‘green one.” Khiḍr is said to appear to individuals and initiate them into the mystical path. Most people seek to learn religious truths from another human being– a master, guru, or teacher. Khidr comes in the form of illumination and initiates individuals directly into deep truth. Cobb (1992) tells us “One’s Khidr is, for the Sufis, the angel of one’s being, the person-archetype who initiates into archetypal awareness, by instilling ‘an aptitude for theophanic vision’. Khidr frees the individual from literal religion and literal psychology.”

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The wheel of life, Trongsa dzong,Buddhist art of Bhutan. photo by Stephen Shephard, 2006, Creative Commons
The wheel of life, Trongsa dzong, showing the realms of Samsara. Buddhist art of Bhutan. photo by S. Shephard via Creative Commons

In Hinduism and Buddhism one speaks of Saṃsāra. Saṃsāra is a Sanskrit word, the literal meaning of which is “a wandering through” [1]. Samsara consists of continuous cycles of birth, life, death, and rebirth.

In Sanskrit, enlightenment is called moksha, as liberation or freedom from Samsara. In psychological terms, freedom from samsara expresses liberation from the object attachments and object identifications that are superimposed upon the true nature of the Self.

Western psychology locates the ego within a world of object representation and object identifications. The ego knows the world according to the senses: sound, smell, sight, touch, taste. The senses point outward toward the object world. To make sense of the object world the mind creates object representations: color, weight, size, shape, form, name, location, etc. We know objects by the names we give the objects and by the predicates we use to describe them.  

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Sacred Visions of the Ordinary

Coffin of Imam 'Ali, Folio from a Falnama (The Book of Omens) of Ja'far al-Sadiq, mid-1550s–early 1560s. US Public Domain wikimedia
Coffin of Imam ‘Ali, Folio from a Falnama (The Book of Omens) of Ja’far al-Sadiq, mid-1550s–early 1560s. US Public Domain wikimedia

The Sufi poets say that there is a sacred organ of perception. With this sacred organ one can see the world of angels. We can develop such an organ, and with it we might just see angels all around us: the humming birds that feed off the bright red flowers in summertime, the little beetles that go about doing their busy work all day, even our neighbors who do similar busy work. All beings are angels when perceived through the sacred organ of perception, and they are little devils as well.

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The Heart and the Archetypal Unconscious

 Mohammed presented to the monk Abd al Muttalib and the inhabitants of Mecca. 18th century Ottoman copy of a supposedly 8th century original. Now located in the Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul. 18th century
Mohammed presented to the monk Abd al Muttalib. 18th century copy of a 8th century original. US public domain via wikimedia

Henry Corbin speaks of the heart as a sacred organ of perception in Sufi thought. The heart is an organ of theophanic perception.” That is, “of the perception through which the encounter between Heaven and Earth” [takes place]; A “mid-zone.”

The heart is the sacred organ of perception which allows us to perceive the middle world between heaven and earth. This mid-zone is the liminal, the borderlands, where the eternal meets the temporal, the finite meets the infinite, freedom meets necessity.

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