Skeletons, Cosmic Cycles, Stars and Saints

Welcome to our monthly newsletter!

Our first selection is a famous Zen classic by 15th century master Ikkyu, “The Skeletons”, a poignant and lyrical memento mori, with echoes of the imagery of the European danse macabre and even of the Mexican Day of the Dead.

When are we not in a dream, when are we not skeletons, after all? Under the flesh which you now care for and enjoy, this skeleton is wrapped up and set in motion; you should acquiesce to this idea—in this there is no difference between high and low, old and young. Only when you awaken to the condition of the one great matter will you know the imperishable truth.

Ikkyu drawing
Drawing attributed to Ikkyu himself, from a 1692 edition.

• Next, we are glad to present a chapter from the masterful and concise exposition of the principles of traditional astrology and cosmology by Titus Burckhardt.

The first reason of all cycles of manifestation is the deployment of the principial possibilities of manifestation, symbolised by the series of Divine Names. On the other hand, the science of the Names or the Divine Qualities constitutes the supreme conclusion of all sacred science.

• We complete our selection with a scholarly article by Noah Gardiner, “Stars and Saints”, showing how the medieval world view of Sufi cosmology “cut across the borders modern scholarship has sought to erect between the histories of theology, mysticism, philosophy, and science.”

Rather than merely reading the Quranic and celestial “texts,” the Sufis’ souls and bodies are the channels through which God’s world-making speech is most purely manifested and disposed.