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Vanishing Art: Water Element

Consecrating the Pond at the Abode of the Message

Each day during Seven Pillars’ Vanishing Art event in late August 2011 a “poetic action” was planned related to one of the elements, Earth, Water, Fire and Air. Nature, in the form of Hurricane Irene, as well as other unforeseen factors, intervened, leaving the poetic action for Water undone.

On the morning of Sunday, November 20th, at 8 a.m., we finally completed the process by sinking a 200 pound marble stone, carved with symbols representing the element of water, to consecrate the pond at the Abode of the Message.

Approximately 20 of us processed from the Abode courtyard to the pond, stopping and gathering to hear Pir Zia share the meaning of the stone’s carvings. Then Richard Zoeller, Patrick Scanlon and other friends rolled the stone out to the end of the pond’s dock.

Liquid amber oil was poured upon the stone in absolute stillness and quiet as we all stood together on the dock, connected through right hands placed on the shoulder of another.

Sunlight rays bathed us, so beautiful and bright that it was difficult to see. A small group, using the floating dock, drifted the stone out to the middle of the pond, and let it sink into the depths for all eternity.

Pir Zia describes the stone’s symbolism below, followed by a slide show of images from that sacred morning.

Pir Zia on the Stone’s Symbolism
Morning of Sunday, November 20, 2011


This stone is dedicated to Khwaja Khidr, peace be upon him, who was a great figure in sacred history and a very active force in our own silsila. It was Khwaja Khidr who on many occasions forged links in the chain of transmission by bringing a seeker to a Murshid, whom the seeker would eventually succeed.

Khwaja Khidr’s story is told in brief in the Qur’an. He was the figure that Moses met at the place where the two seas meet, the majma’ al-baḥrayn.

The two calligraphic fish on the stone, each containing the name Allah, represent the meeting of the two oceans, the majma’ al-baḥrayn, a meeting that has many symbolic implications. For the Mughal prince Dara Shikuh, it symbolized the encounter between the Vedic tradition and Semitic tradition, which Sufism brings together.

The prophet Moses, peace be upon him, met Khwaja Khidr at the place where the two seas meet. Some say that is the Strait of Gibraltar, where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic, and some say it is Suez, where the Mediterranean meets the Red Sea.

Although Moses was a great prophet, he saw in Khidr a wisdom that he needed, and so he asked him to be his guide. Khwaja Khidr answered that he would accept to guide him on the condition that he would not ask questions. Moses readily agreed and they set out together. At a quay they boarded a boat that had a friendly crew. But what did Khidr do? He drilled a hole in the side of the boat. Moses was distressed, and though he knew he wasn’t supposed to ask questions, he had to ask. Khwaja Khidr refused to explain himself.

As they traveled further they met a boy and—now this will shock you—Khidr killed him. Moses again demanded an explanation and Khidr again refused. Moses held his peace.

In time they came to a village. The people of the village were very inhospitable and turned them out. On the outskirts of the village there was a broken-down wall. Khidr began to rebuild it. Moses said, “After being so poorly treated you might at least take a wage for this service.”

Khawja Khidr said, “I will answer your questions but this is the parting of ways between us.”

“The boat that I damaged was going to be commandeered by the navy.  The poor people who owned it would have lost their boat and it would have been used for unjust purposes. By scuttling it I saved it from this fate, knowing that its owners could afterward patch it up and keep it.”

“The boy, I saw, was destined to become a violent criminal who would break his parents’ heart and take many lives, leaving terrible suffering in his wake all throughout his life. Therefore, while he was still innocent, I chose to send him back to God, as sad as that was, praying that God would grant his parents a worthier son.”

“As for the wall, hidden in the wall was a treasure, the inheritance of two orphan boys who lived in the village. The people of that village are so cruel that if the wall had continued to crumble and the treasure had been exposed, they would have taken it for themselves. So you see, it was necessary to repair it so that the orphans could claim their rightful inheritance in due time.”

This story illustrates Khwaja Khidr’s ability to see the good in the bad the bad in the good. The man or woman of wisdom doesn’t just see, and react to, what is on the surface. He or she sees into the depths of things, perceiving the long-term consequences, even down many generations. That is the perspective of wisdom.

Spiritual wisdom comes from maturation of the soul, a process of aging by which one becomes not merely old, but eternal. Khwaja Khidr was eternal in the sense of living in the timelessness of the essence of each moment.

He was the green man. He was akin to all green things. He guided lost travelers in the desert to oases. In India he is associated with the rivers. Offerings are made to him in little handmade vessels filled with flowers.

So it is fitting that this stone, dedicated to Khwaja Khidr, and symbolizing the element of water, is to vanish now into our pond. We recognize Khwaja Khidr’s presence among us and consecrate this pond to his immortal spirit.

Photography: Jill Zoeller, 2011

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5 February 2012

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sacred, revelation, wisdom, prophetology, community, elementals, water, Vanishing Art,
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