Henry Corbin & Suhrawardi: From The ’Book Of The Symbols of Faith of the Philosophers’- The Procession of the ten Intelligences-

Detail from the entrance

of the St. Petersburg Mosque, Russia.


Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA is an excerpt from one of Suhravardi’s treatises, the ‘Book of the Symbols of Faith of the Philosophers’, chapter 4, pages 16 to 17 in the 1976 Fayard French edition by Henri Corbin. English translation by Via-HYGEIA from the Professor’s original French. It does echo the Hasidic description of the Baal Shem Tov  of the sephiroth tree in action (80-2) or resonate with Moses ben Jacob Cordovero‘s process of the ‘Ascent of the Tree’. As a complement, you may discover, in the ‘Book of Hours‘ (prayer & hymnal book), the liturgies Suhrawardi composed in honor of each Intelligence.


IV. ‘Because it is in reality as we just said, the First to whom All-Mighty God gave an origin, is an intellective entity, living, knowing, consistent with what the Prophet said in this hadith: “The First that God created is Intelligence” (11). Moreover, this Intelligence (12) has three intellective dimensions: 1. from its contemplation and its intellection of its Creator; 2. From its contemplation and intellection of its own being, ‘which-may-also-not-exist’ (note: ‘pouvant-ne-pas-être’ in French). 3. From its contemplation and its intellection of its own essence. From the act of contemplation and intellection of its Creator-which is its superior dimension-proceeds a second Intelligence. From the act of contemplation and intellection of its own being, ‘which-may-also -not-exist’-which is its inferior dimension-proceeds a heaven (the supreme heaven, Sphere of all Spheres or IXth Sphere).From its act of intellection of its own essence, proceeds the moving Soul (Anima caelestis)(13)

In the same manner, from the second Intelligence proceed a third Intelligence, a second heaven (the VIII th Sphere, heaven of the fixed stars, of the zodiac). (14) and the Soul of this heaven. From the third Intelligence proceeds a fourth Intelligence, a third heaven (the VII th Sphere, heaven of Saturn) and the Soul of this heaven. From the fourth Intelligence proceeds a fifth Intelligence, a fourth heaven (the VI th Sphere, heaven of Jupiter) and the Soul of this heaven. From the fifth Intelligence proceeds a sixth Intelligence, a fifth heaven (the Vth Sphere, heaven of Mars). From the sixth Intelligence proceeds a seventh Intelligence, a sixth heaven (the IV th Sphere, heaven of the Sun) and the Soul of this heaven. (15) From the seventh Intelligence proceeds an eighth Intelligence, a seventh heaven (the III rd Sphere, heaven of Venus) and the Soul of this heaven. From the eighth Intelligence proceeds a ninth Intelligence, an eighth heaven (the II cd Sphere, heaven of Mercury, ‘Otared’) and the Soul of this heaven. From the ninth Intelligence proceeds a tenth Intelligence, a ninth heaven, (the I st Sphere, heaven of the Moon) and the Soul of this heaven.

From the tenth Intelligence proceeds the world of the Elements and the human souls. They are those which are called ‘Giver of Shapes’ (16). The prophets call it the HOLY GHOST (Ruh al-Qods) and GABRIEL. It is him that declares to Maryam: “I am the Messenger of your Lord to give you a pure son’. (Qur’an, 19.19). (note: Professor Corbin writes ‘pure’ and not ‘holy’ as it is usually translated).


Henry Corbin’s notes for this chapter

11. About this hadith of the Prophet, see ‘In Iranian Islam’-Vol. IV index at ‘hadith’. The philosophers easily identified this Intelligence with the ‘Nous‘ (νους) of the Neoplatonists (= Aql; do not translate by ‘reason’). It is this primordial Intelligence that Suhrawardi will come to call under the name of ‘Bahman‘, who in the Zoroastrian cosmogony is the name of the first Archangel proceeding from Ohrmazd.

(Via-HYGEIA note: For this hadith, Henry Corbin uses ‘Intelligence’, where in other traditions usage is ‘pen’ : “The first thing Allah created was the Pen. He commanded it to write. It said: My Lord, what shall I write? He said: Write down what has been ordained for all things until the establishment of the Hour.”)

12. About the 3 intellective action of contemplation of each Intelligence, see our study, ‘Avicenna and the visionary narrative’, vol. 1 , index at ‘Intelligences, cherubs’, and ‘In Iranian Islam’, vol. IV, the index at ‘Intelligence’. In the Latin translations, the Intelligences (Karubbiyun, Cherubs) are the ‘Angeli intellectuales‘. The moving Souls of the Spheres are the ‘Angeli Caelestes‘. The most subtle matter of the celestial Spheres marks the border with shadow, the distance between the desire of the Soul and the Intelligence it proceeds from. It is the movement of its desire that it communicates to the emanated heaven of this very Intelligence. See further in treatises II, VII and IX in ‘The Book of the Oriental Theosophy'(hikmat al-Ishraq), where the procession of the Intelligences happens upon another rhythm.

13. That is by the intellection of its own essence as urged by its principle.

14. In a decreasing order, whereas in the ascending order, the heaven of the Fixed Stars is not the second but the eighth, and so on. See,  in the ‘Book of hours’ (prayer & hymnal book) the liturgies Suhrawardi composed in honor of each Intelligence.

15. It is the heaven of the Sun, theurgy of the Zoroastrian Archangel Shahrivar, and whose Soul is Huraksh. See above mentioned ‘Book of Hours’ & ‘In Iranian Islam’, vol. IV. the index at ‘Huraksh’.

16.Wahib al sowar‘, the ‘Dator Formatum‘ of the Latin translations. In Persian, Ravanbakhsh, ‘He from whom our souls emanate‘. The figure of this Angel is essential to the Suhrawardian philosophy and spirituality.

17. From now on, the identity between the acting Intelligence, as X th hierarchical Intelligence and the Holy Ghost is clearly delineated. As we have pointed out elsewhere, it is not at all a rationalization of the Spirit (Aql is the Nous, and not ‘Reason’). This identification will let our thinkers and spirituals to affirm a common vocation between the philosopher and the prophet; the Angel of Knowledge is no other than the Angel of Revelation. (See ‘Anthology, vol 1 and 2). Elsewhere, Suhrawardi will name it under the name of ‘Sraosha‘, which is the name of an angel in the ‘Zend Avesta‘. It is this figure that polarises his philosopher’s meditation and his mystical theosopher’s devotion. See ‘The Recital of the Occidental Exile’. The ‘Perfect Nature‘, ( ‘The philosopher’s Angel) is its individuating manifestation for each spiritual. See ‘In Iranian Islam’, vol. IV the index at ‘Perfect Nature‘.


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