Himma, says Henri Corbin, “is an extremely complicated notion which cannot perhaps be translated by any one word.” Indeed, after poring over many descriptions of it, the most condensed way I can express it in English is: Spiritual aspiration and the creative energy it generates.
Corbin writes: “Many equivalents have been suggested: mediation, project, intention, desire, force of will; here we shall concentrate on the aspect that encompasses all the others, the “creative power of the heart.” […] This power of the heart is what is specifically designated by the word himma, a word whose content is perhaps suggested by the Greek word enthymesis, which signifies the act of meditating, conceiving, imagining, projecting, ardently desiring—in other words of having (something) present in the θύμος, which is vital force, soul, heart, intention, thought, desire….. The force of an intention so powerful as to project and realize (“essentiate”) a being external to the being who conceives the intention, corresponds perfectly to the character of the mysterious power that Ibn Arabi designates as himma. […]
Accordingly, himma is creative, but in the specifically “epiphanic” sense attaching to every idea of creation in the theosophy of Ibn Arabi […] In other words, the heart creates by “causing to appear, ” by “preserving” something which already exists….”
Corbin himself defines himma successively as “creativity of the heart”, “the Creator’s theophanic Imagination at work in the heart of the gnostic”, the heart’s “concentration of energy”, “Spiritual Energy, which is the objectively Creative Imagination”.
Chittick explains that himma, “Aspiration”, formerly translated as Resolve, is “the power of concentration through which the seeker focuses on the Real.”
Other translations used are “the heart’s intention” or “high ambition”.
In other words, himma, in the Sufi context, begins in the heart as a desire for God, and as it grows in intensity and concentration, it becomes a creative force capable of manifesting what is usually not visible on this plane. In its extreme fullness, himma is the source of the miraculous powers of great teachers and saints. It is differentiated from wahm, human imagination, by the fact himma “has no other object than God”.
As for the form taken by this piece: somehow my research of this deep concept was interwoven with dreams of intensely blue kingfisher birds. This dream image guided the design (which evokes rows of overlapping feathers) and set the colour scheme. In strong light, the kingfisher blue achieves full intensity and sparkle, but in lower light that becomes dark and shadowy while the lighter blue shimmers gently as if with an inner light.