Week 8: Sama and Ecstatic Consciousness

For this project I wanted to portray this Sufi tradition/idea of sama.  Sama literally means audition but in the context of Islam it is the process of hearing with the ear of the heart.  One reading mentioned listening to music or the singing of mystical poetry with the intent of increasing awareness and understanding of the divine object described.  One aspect of sama that is debated back and forth on legitimacy is sama leading to ecstasy, or wajd.  Wajd means both ecstasy/ardor/passion but, even deeper than that, it also means finding and being.  It is sort of a realization ecstasy.  Other ways it was described is as a trance or possession as well as complete selflessness and a connection to the divine.

I aimed to portray this combination of listening through the heart, ecstasy, and realization in a physical form (though this is an auditory form).  I stumbled across some illusions and images that seemed to be moving and I really connected with them.  So I did more research into this.  From previous knowledge I learned about the condition synesthesia and that also brought some inspiration as I am trying to put something that is auditory and indescribable experience into a visual form.  I ended up layering a few images which is what is below.  I took a very neutral picture of a ear and hand and edited out all the background.  I then compiled images that jumped out to me to reflect that trance and realization that they were talking about but also were different from each other.  The fire one comes from the quote from Sufi Music and Dance which says, “The sufi’s described God as having placed a secret into the human heart that day, which is concealed like a spark in stone but which blazes forth when struck with the steel of sama” (185). I wanted to use a lot of color to contrast with the muted skin of the woman with her ear and how this ecstasy is so powerful and takes over your whole body.  The hand is showing that opening of the person to this music.  The rays of the different colors and patterns are this transcending realization and understanding that this ecstasy and process of sama bring.  The rays extend beyond the border to show this transcending and something that is beyond the tangible world. Though this is no where near accurate to how people may describe this feeling, I wanted to attempt to represent that in a visual way in order to understand more myself about this. ggg0001