Still reading Hodgson (see this post), I came across a discussion of “the ‘âlam al mithâl, the ‘realm of images’, defined by Suhravardî…. it was placed, metaphysically, between the ordinary material realm of sense perception and the realm of intellectual abstractions found in Aristotelianism…. (Some said the objects in this realm were like reflections in a mirror — extended, like matter, but not material in the ordinary sense.)” This intrigued me, and I was more intrigued a few pages later when he brought in “the transmaterial symbolic land of Hûrqalyâ.” I wondered what the relations between the two were, and some googling quickly told me that a lot of people consider them two names for the same thing; furthermore, they are both identified with barzakh, an Arabic word meaning ‘interval, gap, partition; isthmus’ that is used in Islamic thought for the interval between death and the Day of Resurrection and in a more mystical sense for various liminal states—Julian Baldick, in Mystical Islam: An Introduction to Sufism, talks about the “Perfect Man” who “unites God with the world, not as a bridge but as an interface (barzakh), the imperceptible border between the shadow and the light,” and the blurb for Ibn al-‘Arabi’s Barzakh: The Concept of the Limit and the Relationship between God and the World calls it “the activity or actor that differentiates between things and that, paradoxically, then provides the context of their unity,” and there’s further discussion here. Well, Denis MacEoin, in The Messiah of Shiraz: Studies in Early and Middle Babism, writes:
The barzakh between the spiritual and physical realms is generally referred to in Shaikhī literature as hūrqalyā. The term played an important role in the works of Ahsā’ī, who claimed to have borrowed it from a Syriac word used by the Sabeans (Mandeans) of Iraq…. Mohammad Mo’in, however, has suggested … that it was derived from the Hebrew phrase habal qarnaīm (doppelgänger) and that its correct pronunciation is hawarqalyā.
I don’t have anything useful to say about all of this except that it interests me; rationalist though I am, I can’t help being fascinated by the elaborate structures of thought people have developed to explain the world. And as Hodgson so well says, “We have learned to be very cautious before labelling as absurd any great body of work which intelligent and sensitive human beings have agreed in finding supremely important.”
Needless to say, if anyone has any information or speculation about this stuff, I’ll be glad to hear it, but I realize it’s both esoteric and pretty far removed from standard LH material.