Don’t miss John B. Thompson’s beautiful “Breath of Heaven,” at Guernica Magazine today. Here’s a little clip:
The French, suspicious of this massive communion among subjects they did not trust seeking a God they did not know, exiled Bamba to Gabon and then Mauritania. House arrest had been a kind of reprieve. But to monitor Bamba’s movements, the French sought to fix his image, so they dispatched a man with a camera into the hinterland to catch the sage on film.
Sufi epistemology rests on the fundamental unity of zahir (the manifest) and batin (the hidden). The first is the world known to the senses. The second is the essential nature of creation known to God and revealed to his prophets and saints. Whatever the camera captured with the soft flutter of its aperture, it belonged only to the apparent world of things. The French tried to capture the Amadu Bamba they thought they wanted: the image and body of a subject. But Bamba had seen the secret universe of heaven, had articulated its mysteries in verse and channeled its power in miracles, and part of him was unseen and unknowable. The photograph was proof. You don’t see a man, but a void and a shadow, the invisible and its indication.