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Investigation of the Dome of the Rock

Dr. Yitzhak Hayut-Ma'n, cyber-architect

The Dome of the Rock is a shrine dedicated to a ceremonial circumambulation1 and other "spiritual movements". While there are movements in physical space, there are also movements of comprehension, which can be seen as movements of ascent and/or of entering into higher meanings. The Dome of the Rock, whatever else it is set to symbolize, stands as a testimony to El-Mi'araj, the Heavenly Ascent of the prophet Mohamad via this Rock in Jerusalem. (Other meanings associated with this Rock in Jerusalem, namely as the place of Adam's Formation and of Isaac's sacrifice should be noted as likely to enter the designers' intentions).

So the symbolism of the Prophet's Ascent must be reflected in the proportions, features and decorations of this shrine, and further - they should aid the pilgrim to recreate in him/her at least some of the spiritual motions engendered by the Prophet on his ascent. In fact, this heavenly ascent must have been a reproduction of the ecstatic2 meditations of the early Jewish Mekubalim-mystics known then as Yorde haMerkavah "Descenders of the Heavenly Chariot". In this connection, the prophet Ezeki'el's descriptions of the divine chariot-Merkavah (ref. Yehezkel - Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10) becomes very pertinent, especially when this "chariot" flies into the future temple to bring in the human-like deity and His throne to reside in the Temple (Ezekiel ch. 10 and 43, verses 1-6). The literature left us by these mystics is known as the Heikhalot literature, meaning "celestial mansions". The ecstatic contemplations of these mystics entails their entering a great variety of imaginary shrines, often associated with very specific sensations and emotional states.

The real art of architecture is to provide pregnant spaces. Everything else is secondary, mere decorations which should amplify the intended sensation associated with the space. The ways those spaces open and contract and flow into each other should carry the spirit of those entering and sensing them.

I would like to suggest that the form of the 32 Demuyot3  depicted on the ceiling of the Dome of the Rock (and the 32 homologous Tselems3, symbolizing "The 32 Paths of Wisdom") give us the key for comprehending the spiritual movements intended to be experienced within, and around, this shrine. In other words, that the "instruction book" for the optimal, most profound, spiritual use of this shrine is provided by its decorations, especially those upon the Dome itself. So while the vulgar may perceive only its declamatory values, "those who have eyes will see" the ways to contemplate in and about this shrine so as to gain a divine, e.g. prophetic, experience.


    Many of the images are found in the Dome Art Gallery.

  1. "Circumambulation", meaning a walk around and metaphorically meaning an approach of the subject indirectly.

  2. "Ecstasy" means originally "standing outside of one's self". The forms upon the Dome of the Rock, we thus claim, are a graphic study of ecstasy which can act as a guide for achieving these ecstatic movements of the Ru'ah and Neshamah of the participant.

  3. Tselem and Demut(Genesis ch.1 verses 26 and 27) often translated as "Image and Likeness" are the divine templates with which Adam was fashioned, presumably right on that spot.

Updated: 21.5.98

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