Saturday, August 20, 2011


This Western Mountain blog of writings and photographs is from Turkey, where I am exploring relationships between (Vajrayana) Buddhism and (mystical) Islam, and more specifically between the teachings of Lord Mukpo and Ibn ‘Arabi. I have always heard and felt called to a “universal voice” and trajectory in Lord Mukpo’s teachings (particularly those of Shambhala and the drala principle), and that “universality” is also part of my exploration. An exploration occurring mostly haphazardly and anecdotally, as confusions and new discoveries - whether they occur on the street, so to speak, or in bed at 3:33 AM. But there is also an element of concentration, holding the themes I’ve mentioned and mixing them with a good deal of reading and practice. - Bill Scheffel


This is the view from my hotel window, room #1501, brought closer by the zoom lens of my camera. Normally I cannot see the highrise buildings in the distance with the detail shown here. Normally I cannot see a second sun, a fugitive image of the camera’s projection. The sensor in the camera, with its correspondence to the processing in my own brain, has created a second sunset, imbedded on the endless apartment covered hillside of Western Istanbul. The camera believes the projected sun to be true, just as I believe my own projections are real. The camera and I have much to learn from each other.   

9-Aug: 2011 Istanbul


Yesterday I took a walk in the early evening. I walked out of Beyoğlu and across the Galata Bridge. I walked through the pedestrian underpass at Eminönü and into the thicket of streets that I have leaned instinctively to find my way through, the streets of Eminönü, Beyazit and Sultanahmet as they meet in the ancient center of Istanbul. The sights were my companions, as always. Random, disjointed, sudden encounters, each as distinct from the next as one book is from another. Many were bewildering, bludgeoning; incessant, commercial, covered with grime and advertising. Mosques were everywhere and this one offered a garish pink wall nearby and a courtyard of weeds. I allowed the camera to find a perspective I could not have. I let it peer like the periscope of a submarine through the iron linkage of a closed gate. The shutter opened and the camera saw. It saw my own epiphany.  

10-Aug:2011  Istanbul


This was the amber light that greeted me just before I crossed Atatürk Bridge, on my walk to Fatih Mosque and the district around it. The amber light is our relative truth expressed in a color, Caution. The amber light brings faint panic - if we are driving. Some speed up (some joke the yellow light means speed up), some brake. Each country, each city, has its own ways of driving (I would never drive in Istanbul). As a pedestrian I saw the amber light as a foil for the graying, cloudy and multi-hued blue sky, a contrasting globe too gorgeous not to stop for.

11-Aug: 2011  Istanbul


I took this photograph as I did the others, in my first week back in Istanbul - only days ago, but now it seems like weeks. All the photographs have so receded from recent memory they could as easily be from someone else’s camera. Like playing cards shuffled in a deck their linearity has been dissolved and “unreal” things appear, as this photograph shows: there is not this kind of space in Istanbul, seldom a time when only two men are seen to fish, not always this kind of clear sky, or a boat appearing like one that might have taken Joseph Conrad up a river.

15-Aug: 2011  Istanbul

gnosis |ˈnōsis|nounknowledge of spiritual mysteries.ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from Greek gnōsis ‘knowledge’ (related to gignōskein ‘know’ ).
Spirit traces to the Latin spiritus or “breath” and in this sense every moment (of breath) is a “spiritual mystery.” One day the phrase, See the you of diamond light that others see when seeing you, occurred to me as I was speaking with a friend. As I observe passengers in airports, order eggs and coffee from waiters or fleetingly meet the glance of subway riders my perceptions sometimes shift or “crossover” into seeing others as Lord Mukpo might (or is), as if this is the only way to experience real sympathy. The world is seeing us as we see the world, that is what this graffiti told me, that primordial wisdom had symbolically found its way to a side street of pimps and graffiti covered walls. 

16-Aug: 2011  Istanbul


This is the sun and crane nine days later (after the arm of the crane had been assembled). The sun was setting as I took the photograph and now, as I am writing about it (moments later), the sun in the photograph and the “real” sun have (both) set. The buildings are there, the newer ones, as well as the minaret to the left, which might have been built six-hundred years ago (depending on which Istanbul mosque it belongs to) and resides in the collision of time and events and apparent objects that play upon the optic nerve. When the nerve is gone the memories scatter. In Ibn ‘Arabi’s experience of time, the most “all embracing of the Days of God is the Day of Essence,” which he described as not the longest of days (as we would have thought), but from our standpoint the shortest. As William C. Chittick writes: “Its length being one instant, which is the present moment, which is defined precisely as the instant that cannot be divided into parts. But, this shortest of the Divine Days lasts forever.”

19-Aug: 2011  Istanbul
Quote from Ibn ‘Arabi: Heir to the Prophets
by William C. Chittick


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