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Henry Corbin & Suhrawardi: From ‘The Incantation of the Simurgh’ – About the Sakina & the state of Fana

‘Zal Rescued by the Simurgh’-Attributed to Sadiqi Beg (1533–1610)-Part of the ‘Shahnameh’ of Shah Abbas.

In the collections of the Chester Beatty Library, in Dublin.

Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA, are chapter III of Part I & Chapter I of Part II from Suhrawardi’s treatise, ‘The incantation of the Simurgh‘ (Safir-e Simorgh)-from pages 454 to 458 in the 1976 Fayard French edition by Henry Corbin. English translation by Via-HYGEIA from the Professor’s original French of the original Persian.’ From note 19, page 466: ‘Suhrawardi elsewhere spoke about the Sakina, here, he repeats its precise definition. There is a standing analogy with the Hebrew ‘Shekhina‘, which is the mysterious presence of God in the Holy of the Holy in the Temple, and for Suhrawardi Sakina is the presence hereunder of the divine Lights in our soul-temple. Being of the light realm, the Sakina/Shekhina is associated by Suhrawardi to the Xvarnah, the Mazdean Light of Glory, and this association is so much at the heart of his idea of the Ishraq that, for him, the Ishraqiyun are the ‘community of the Sakina‘ (ahl al-Sakina). When possible, we will translate the rest of this treatise, soon.


Part I – Upon the Beginnings – Chapter III –  About the Sakina

When the lights from the world of the Mystery reach their maximum, and that they do not tend to vanish in a hasty manner, but remain a certain amount of time, this is what we call the ‘Sakina’.The softness it makes us feel is more perfect than the one of the other lightnings. When Man falls back from the Sakina to the normal human condition, he feels an immense regret originating from this separation. It is in this meaning that one of the Just spoke this distich: ‘O breeze of proximity, how soft your are! Who has lived in you has felt the taste of intimacy! O sustenance for those who came close to you! Those who were watered by the cup drawn from your source!’ And in the holy Qur’an it is often made mentioned of the Sakina, for example: ‘It is God who made the Sakina descend into the hearts of the believers.’ (Qur’an, 9-26) Elsewhere He says: ‘It is God who made the Sakina descend into the hearts of the believers, so that they grow in faith with more faith.’ (48-4).

The person for whom this Sakina is happening-in act-reaches the knowledge of the secret thoughts of men and of the divination of hidden things; his physio-gnomonic science is perfect. The Prophet warns us in saying: ‘Fear the physio-gnomonic science of the Believer, because it is to God’s light that he is gazing upon‘. The Prophet was also saying about ‘Omar: ‘The Sakina speaks through the tongue of ‘Omar.’ and also: ‘There are in my community men to whom beings of the spiritual reals talk and who are the interlocutors; ‘Omar is among them.’ (Henry Corbin note: Those who talk with the Angels are called ‘Mohaddathun’ and should not be confused with those who transmit the ‘sayings’ (logia) or ‘hadith’, who are called ‘Mohaddithun‘.).

In fact, the person who is invested with the Sakina hears from the superior Paradise calls that are extremely subtle. Instructions from spiritual beings (ruhaniyat) reach him and he feels a confident re-assurance. It is this that the divine Revelation mentions when it says: ‘Is it not through the inner remembrance of God (dhikr Allah) that the hearts are appeased?’ (Qur’an 13-28) He contemplates extremely delicate and subtle forms. In striving to ressemble them, he operates his junction (connection, in French: jonction) with the superior Dwellings. This station is still an intermediary station among the mystical stations of the faithful of Love (ahl-mahabbat). In the intermediary state between wake and sleep, the mystic hears terrifying voices and also extraordinary calls. At the moment when the Sakina shrouds him, he contemplates amazing lights. It may happen that he collapses under the excess of pleasure felt.

Such are the events that lay upon the path of those who have a real experience (the Mohaqqiqun), and not upon the path of those who close their eyes in places of retreat and play a game of shadow. If those people would only discover a trace of the Lights that the True Ones (Via-Hygeia note: in French: ‘les Véridiques’) experience, they would be tormented with such bitter regrets! ‘And perished, there and then, all those who reduced everything into trifles!’. (Qur’an 40-78).


Part II – Upon the Aims-Chapter I- About the state of ‘fana’

This Sakina becomes so omnipresent that, even though a man would want to part with it, he could not. That man becomes such a host to the Sakina, that at any time at will, he can free himself from his body (qalib, the mold); he then aims towards the world of Magnificence and continues his ascension (mi’raj) until the supreme horizons. At any time he wants and when it is convenient; this ability is easy to him. When he considers himself, he is filled with joy, because he is contemplates the divine Lights that are rising and spread all around him. But, this is still imperfection. (Henry Corbin note:  Because he still considers himself in his joy. What was still ‘object‘ will need to become ‘subject‘; meaning that in the action of the subject knowing, it is the object that actually knows itself. The initial subject becomes a ‘mirror‘ (speculum). Such is the position of any the ‘speculative’ theosophy-in the etymological sense of the word-in connection with any abstract philosophy or theology fathoming this subject. Hence the degrees of Tawid, recalled further on).

When he penetrates further on, he goes past this station. He become such that he does not consider his own proper self, and the feeling of his own ipseity (Via-Hygeia note: selfhood; individual identity-in French: ipséité) is abolished. This is what is called ‘the major annihilation’ (fana-ye kobra). When he not only has forgotten his own self, but also has forgotten even the forgetting of his own self, this is what is called ‘annihilation within the annihilation’ (fana dar fana). As long as this person finds satisfaction in the act of knowing, he is still dragging behind his aim, and it is still considered as still being part of the ‘disguised shirk‘. (Wikipedia note: a sin often roughly translated as ‘idolatry’ or ‘polytheism’, but more accurately meaning ‘association [with God]’.It refers to accepting other divinities or powers alongside God as associates. In contrast, Islam teaches God does not share divine attributes with anyone, as it is disallowed according to the Islamic doctrine of tawhid. The Quran, the central religious text of Islam, states in 4:48 that God will not forgive shirk if one dies without repenting from it. The one who commits shirk is called a mushrik. The opposite of shirk is tawhid and the opposite of mushrik is muwahhid.)

No, Man reaches perfection only at the moment when his action of knowing is absorbed, hidden, in the action of the object that he knows, because anyone finds satisfaction at the same time in the action of knowing and in the object he knows, is in the same situation that of the person whose attention is dual. He is only truly separated of this duality (becoming a mojarrad, a spiritual anchorite) when, resurrected out of his action of knowing, he rises in what is the object of his knowing. And when he emerges out of the ruins of the human condition, this state is called ‘erasing‘ and this is the mystical station that this verse of the holy Qur’an typifies as such: ‘Everything upon the earth is of a fleeting nature, while the face of your Lord abides in his glory and in his majesty‘. (Qur’an 55, 26-27).

Some of them who do have this real experience (the Mohaqqiqun) said that the affirmation: ‘There is no God but God‘, is the creed of Unity (tawid) of the common believers, while affirming: ‘There is only him but Him (howa)’ is the creed of the spiritual elite (the khawass, the initiates). It is a bit of a simplification. In reality, there are five degrees of tawid:

1. The first degree, is to say: ‘There is no God but this God‘. This is the tawid of the common believers. consisting in denying any other divinity. These people are the most common to be found.

2. Beyond that group, there is another that stands in contrast to the first group and they are called initiates; but when compared with the following groups whose spiritual rank is higher, they are still considered as common people. Their tawid consists in saying: ‘There is only him but Him‘. This affirmation is superior to the first one; their spiritual rank is also higher, because the first group excludes the divinity of any other god than this God, while those of the second group are not only content to refuse the divinity of any other god than this God, but at a level where the divine Ipseity is manifest (in arabic: howiyat al-Haqq), they deny any other ipseities. They say that all the other ipseities (the act of being one-self, from the latin ipse) belong only to Him. We cannot say from any other person ‘him’, because all the other ipseities (u i-e u) and consequently to Him only belongs the absolute Ipseity (the act of being one-self).

3. After them, there is a third group whose tawid (the affirmation of the Unique) consists in saying: ‘There is only you, but You’. This tawid is superior to the affirmation of those who call God ‘him’, and in speaking in the third person, speak of as someone who is absent. Those of the third group deny any other you, to whom a witness would speak to. Further more, they refer (not to the third person, who is absent) but to the effective presence (in putting God in the second person, You).

4. Beyond this group, there is a fourth one, further more elevated and they say: ‘Anyone who adresses somebody in the second person (in saying You), keeps him separated from one-self and therefore gives a positive reality to duality. But, duality is remote from the world of Unity.’ So, they hide and erase themselves in the divine epiphany and their tawid consists in saying: ‘There is only me, but Me‘.

5. As for the most advanced among them in inner experiences (the Mohaqqiq-tarin), they say: ‘ Ego-icity, you-icity, ipseity (me, you, him), all are but opinions that add to the eternal essence of the Unique. These three words, me, you, him, they are submerged by them in the ocean of erasure. Then, the explanations get lost, and the landmarks vanish themselves. ‘Every things that exists will perish  except His own Face‘. (Qur’an 28-88). To those belong the highest rank. As long as someone keeps an attachement to the human condition, he cannot reach a higher spiritual level than this one, because this mystical station has no limit, nor end. Once, someone was asking an eminent master of the mystical sciences: ‘What is Sufism?‘ his answer was this one: ‘Its point of departure is God, its point of arrival is the boundless.’




About Suhrawardi:🌿About Henry Corbin:
Henry Corbin & Suhrawardi: From ‘The Incantation of the Simurgh’ – About the Sakina & the state of Fana

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