Why must we see only through a glass darkly? We can understand this as a natural result of all cognition being semiotic – but Rumi explains it in different terms: it would not serve the divine purpose for us to see ourselves as God sees us.
Is there any place our King is not? But his sorcery has blindfolded the viewer.
He blindfolds your eyes such that you see a dustmote at midday, but not the Greatest Sun,
A ship at sea, but not the ocean’s waves.
The ship’s bobbing tells you about the sea, just as the movement of people tells the blind man that it is daytime.
Have you not read the verse, God has set a seal … ? It is God who sets the seal, and it is He who removes it and lifts up the coverings.— Rumi, Diwan-i Shams-i Tabrizi 2633-37 (Chittick 1983, 59)
In the last of these verses, Rumi alludes to two passages from the Qur’án. The first refers to unbelievers being rendered blind and deaf by God/Allah:
Allah hath sealed their hearing and their hearts, and on their eyes there is a covering.— Qur’án 2.7 (Pickthall)
The second refers to the apocalyptic vision in Surah 50 (Qaf):
15So were We incapable of the first creation? No indeed! Yet they doubt a second creation. 16We created man— We know what his soul whispers to him: We are closer to him than his jugular vein— 17with two receptors set to record, one on his right side and one on his left: 18he does not utter a single word without an ever-present watcher. 19The trance of death will bring the Truth with it: ‘This is what you tried to escape.’ 20The Trumpet will be sounded: ‘This is the Day [you were] warned of.’ 21Each person will arrive attended by an [angel] to drive him on and another to bear witness: 22‘You paid no attention to this [Day]; but today We have removed your veil and your sight is sharp.’— Haleem, M. A. S. Abdel. The Qur’an (Oxford World’s Classics) (pp. 340-341). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.
The point here is that only God can remove the veils which He has placed over the eyes, hearts and minds He has created – and the resulting dis-covery would mean the end of the old habitual world and creation of a whole new one. In the meantime – that is, in historical time – God’s creatures must remain veiled from their own true nature. It is necessary for them to sleepwalk through their roles in the divine play, just as one must first be asleep in order to wake up (see Chittick 1983, 58-60). How would the play ever get performed if every role-player recognized herself as the whole show?
The ‘driving’ angel in Verse 21 of Qaf might recall the saying of Heraclitus that ‘Every beast is driven to pasture by a blow’ (Wheelwright 1959, 37). The ancient writer who quoted that fragment apparently understood it as referring to a divine blow (Wheelwright 1959, 57). In Peircean terms, the ‘driver’ might be identified with the Secondness which motivates inquiry and learning: no one learns unless his expectations are contradicted, more or less violently, by the reality beyond them. The ‘witness’ then is the voice of Experience itself.