Corbin & Suhrawardi – Chapter X Of The ‘Book Of The Ray Of Light’
‘Path of light’, picture by Dimitris Vetsikas.
Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is another excerpt from ‘L’ Ange Pourpre, quinze traités de Sohrawardi’, Fayard, 1976. We continue with Henry Corbin and his French translation of Sohrawardi’s major treatises, here the second chapter translated by him of the ‘Book of the Ray of Light’ (Partaw-Nameh), chapter X, from page 143 to 147. English translation by Via-HYGEIA.
Chapter X introduction
‘Chapter X accumulates the themes by which any global exposition of the Ishraqi doctrine is completed: He treats of prophecy, of thaumaturges, of charisms, of dreams. In brief, it is a concise exposition of the role of the ‘sensorium‘ in the visionary perceptions, and it ends by a reminder of the ‘Xvarnah’, the Light of Glory.’
Chapter X- Of the ‘sensorium’, the visionary perceptions and the Light of Glory (Xvarnah)
The great prophets like Idris, Abraham, and our own Prophet-may the divine benedictions be upon them-and other persons, had knowledge of the high spiritual realities without the help of a human teacher. Nothing astonishing in that. Everybody acknowledges that men differ between themselves according to the speed of their thoughts. Some would reap no benefit from prolongated meditation; they understand nothing, being completely inept. Some others, who by the swiftness of their conceptual mind, deduct a wealth of things from certain questions, without the help of any human teacher. We can then admit that there are some who, due to an outstanding swiftness of their conceptual mind, reach in a short time a great wealth of knowledge.
It isn’t astonishing also that prophets display extraordinary actions, such as earthquakes, eclipses, healing the sick, tame animal predators and birds, because you very well know that the body obeys to the soul, and that the cosmic matter (maddat-e ‘alam) obeys to the immaterial Essences (the Animae caelestes). Do you not notice how the body heats, when it is bears the effect of the anger of the soul? The Imaginations, themselves, also have their influence because it happens that, following what their imagination portrays some men jump from a great height. Because it is so, there is nothing astonishing in the case of someone whose soul is illuminated by the Light of the divine Being and of the supreme Pleroma-this light which is the elixir of wisdom and power-nothing astonishing, I say, then if the cosmic matter is submitted to such a men, and if, due to the light of his soul, he is heard within the supreme pleroma, and if his plea is granted, within the range of the possible.
As for the cause of the premonitions concerning things to come, we must, if you want to understand, dig deeper certain fundamental notions (qa’ida): Know that the Animae caelestes (The soul moving the heavens, Nofus-e aflak) are conscious and have knowledge of their movements and of the effects their movements make in this world. * There is with them knowledge and a general regulatory function of what, in this very world, is the effect produced from the different aspects presented successively by the celestial Spheres that they respectively animate. When they arrive, (by the movement of their dedicated Sphere) to such or such particular position, they know the event that will produced by their reaching the very position in question; they know what will be the effect in this world. In brief, their understanding encompasses the causes of events, the past and future moments, as well as what is currently happening. But, our human souls are not severed from the Animae caelestes. The only obstacle that prevent us to join with them are our bonds with the organic faculties of the body.
Note by Henry Corbin: * Our author has already reminded us in the ‘fifth temple’, chapter II, of the ‘Book of the Temples of Light’ that the events that are consequential in our terrestrial world are not the finality of their movements. Let’s ponder in passing, what would be the consequences for a science of an Ishraqi type that probably hasn’t been achieved in its completeness since Iamblichus. As the Animae caelestes, as well as the angels or rulers of species (Arbab al-anwa) have knowledge and are conscious of the events that are happening in the species that are under their proper theurgies, an Ishraqi science should be established upon something like a phenomenology of the angelic consciousness.
What would result, for example, is an astrology rooted not upon the theory of irradiated impersonal energies or geometrical positions within a group, but, upon the actions of the consciousness of the Animae caelestes, all the more when, in the same chapter, the author ponders the case of what is permeated by the consciousness of the Animae caelestes is being reflected in the sensorium of man like a mirror. Likewise, mineralogy, botany and zoology would have to take in account that the species that are under their scope are the theurgies of their respective angels.
The text continues:
Even though, during sleep, the external senses do not interfere anymore, the internal senses, especially active Imagination, still keep the soul busy. When these occupations are loosening, like it happens to some during sleep, or to some epileptic and some hypochondriacs, or even better when the soul is strong enough to not passively bear the passions of the senses, like in the case of the prophets and some friends of God (Awliya), who trail-blaze the way with spiritual exercises, by the reform of morals, etc., so that their soul is in perfect correspondence with the Animae caelestes, or also because of some weakness of the physical constitution, like with certain priest-prophets, or, finally, when we rely on the help of some things that induce the loosening of the external and internal senses-in the same manner one would get some young children to contemplate certain things that fascinate the eyes, such as the surface of water, a black shining object, etc., anyway, in all these cases, for the souls of all of them, either during sleep or during the waking state, a liberation from the bonds of the organism of the physical body happens. In that state, they receive in them the imprint of the Animae caelestes, in the manner of an imageless mirror receiving the images of a mirror placed opposite.
Then, know that if the visionary perception (moshahadat) of the immaterial forms is possible for them, it is because, as you already know, whatever form manifests in the sensorium, it will be seen and contemplated as a direct and immediate object of perception, (whatever was the origin in the sensorium, let it be the senses or the intellective Imagination) and the representative Imagination receives the image of it, like a mirror receives the image from a mirror placed opposite. Two things can prevent the active Imagination to project its images in the sensorium. In one case, it will be because the intellect keeps active Imagination busy by the flow of its cogitations. In another case, it will be the contrary, because the external senses keep the sensorium all busy with the objects of sensible perception, preventing it from receiving the images sent by the intellective Imagination.
When one of these two obstacles eases off, as it happens to the external senses during sleep, or again in the case of some handicap that weakens the vital organs, when the soul is attracted on the sick side and its energies are in competition one with another-attracted by one of these energies, the soul renounces another: when it inclines towards desire, she renounces anger and vice-versa; when it is lead by the external senses, it renounces the internal senses, and vice-versa. Anyway, what we want to say here is that in the two states, active Imagination dominates the senses and it freely projects varied imprints and images in the sensorium. Epileptics and hypochondriacs, for example, see the forms in such a manner that if they close their eyes, they will continue to see them without change. Sight is therefore due to an internal cause. Djinns and demons are also included in the forms that are actualized by active Imagination.
Active imagination is perpetually commuting from one form to another; it is not stable. So much that if it wouldn’t be the case, we would not be able to maintain the flow of our cogitations. Active Imagination imitates (in corresponding images) the modalities of each man’s constitution and the perceptions of the soul. To whom has a sanguine temperament, it imitates with things of red color. To whom phlegm predominates, it imitates with snow, rain, etc. When the soul receives the representation of a reality whose knowledge is beyond the reach of the senses, it happens that this representation folds itself and disappears swiftly and there is soon no trace left. But it happens also that this reality whose knowledge is beyond the reach of the senses illuminates like a light rising in the east (Orient, Ishraq) upon the active Imagination and that the image of it is communicated to the sensorium, which then has of it the direct visionary perception. It may happen that the soul perceives a form of a great beauty, that also holds a discourse of a great beauty too. It may happen that it hears a voice or that it reads a written text. All of these happen within the scope of the sensorium. It may also happen that the active Imagination releases all this and transposes it into something analog, and in some cases opposite. If this happens in a dream, an interpretation will be needed (ta’bir). If this happens during the waking state, an hermeneutic of symbols will be needed (ta’wil).
The word ‘sleep’ (khwab) designate a state during which the spirit (ruh) retreats from the external (zahir, the exoteric) towards the internal (batin, the esoteric). To the person whose active Imagination assiduously pursues the meditation of the Malakut, abstains of the pleasures of the senses and of food-taking only what is needed, duly performs his nightly prayers, endures to stay awake during the night watch, frequently chants the text of the divine Revelation, works to spiritualize his soul through subtle meditations, helps his soul during certain times with songs and music, holds confidential conferences and courteous dealing with the supreme Pleroma, upon this person is projected lights similar to the lightning that brings extasy (katif, ek-stasie); they follow each other and at other times they withdraw. It happens also that one sees beautiful forms. It also happens that an extraordinary rapture seizes the soul up to the world of Mystery (alam-e ghayb).
In the sensorium falls a light more shining than the sun, and a great sweetness comes along. This shining light becomes progressively for the souls an ‘habitus’ (note by Henry Corbin: The ‘habitus’ which is embodied presence of the immaterial Light in the sensorium, itself a purely spiritual organ, it is what Suhrawardi calls ‘Sakina‘, which is the primordial Image through which he perceives the ‘Xvarnah’, the Light of Glory. The combination of the notion of Xvarnah and Sakina typify a sort of spirituality that unifies (blends) the tradition of Semitic prophetism with the tradition of Iranian prophetism and finally with the tradition of the ‘Greek prophets’ in a common spirituality that of the elite of the ‘communities of the Book’, which Suhrawardi calls ‘the communities of the Sakina.), and they meet with it any time they desire, rising through it to the world of Light.
These fulgurations and these lights are neither knowledge nor intellective form; they are an irradiation of sacrosanct light. The immaterial Lights originate from the sacrosanct world and the beings with pure souls receive their share of this splendor of light. There is no limit regarding intensity to the lights of the necessary Being nor to those of the archangelic Intelligences. The being with souls of light contemplate them, in the other world, as more manifest and obvious than the objects perceived by the sensible vision in this world, and more resplendent than all the splendors together.
The light of the immaterial beings is not something that is added to their quiddity (mahiyat, their essence), No, they are themselves, in their very own being, Lights separated from matter, as reported by the theosophists of the Light (hakiman-e nurani-ye ilahi), bringin as testimony their visionary experience.
To the one who knows divine knowledge (hikmat, theosophia), perseveres in gratitude and in the divine service of the Light of Lights, as we said already, to this person is given the Light of regal glory (Khorrah-ye kayani, the Xvarnah) and is conferred the splendor of Light (Farr-e nurani). A divine fulguration dresses him up with the robe of majesty and beauty. He becomes the natural leader of the world. From the supreme world comes help that brings victory. His speech is heard in the worlds above. His dreams and his inspiration reach perfection. Here ends the ‘Book of the Ray of Light’.
Note: Read Chapter IX of the ‘Book of the Ray of Light’ (Partaw-Nameh),
the other chapter translated from the Persian by Henry Corbin 🙂