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Henry Corbin & Suhrawardi: ‘The Epistle Of The High Towers’ – Chapters I and II

Remember, even though you are mortal, that you rose by the contemplation  of nature up to the infinity of space and time‘. Artwork by Aurélien Lepage. “L’infinité de l’espace et du temps” (série “Les luminaires”), 2019-2020, peinture, broderie et collage sur toile et bois, 26,5 x 32cm, collection particulière.


Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA is the remaining chapters-I and II-of Suhrawardi’s treatise, ‘The Epistle of the High Towers’, following the publication of chapters III and IV earlier in the week. From pages 349 to 352  in the 1976 Fayard French edition by Henry Corbin. English translation by Via-HYGEIA from the Professor’s original French of the original Arabic.


Chapter I

1.The following words are of a mystical taste and are strikes of ardent desire. We have written them down at the request of some of our brothers, the spiritual anchorites (note: ascetic dervishes, melami or malamatiyya).

2. Know that, O my spiritual anchorites brothers-may God come to your help with the light of tawid-the benefit of anchoresis (Ikhwan al-tajrid) is the speed of return to the original homeland and the con-junction with the superior world. The meaning of the words of the Prophet saying that: “Love for the Homeland is part of the faith“, which is an allusion to it, as the meaning of this word of God in His Book: “O soul, in complete rest and satisfaction! Return to your Lord, agreeing and agreed.” (Kur’an, 89, 27-28). As returns implies  the anteriority of presence. One does not say to someone who never saw Egypt: ‘Return to Egypt‘. Do not mistake the Homeland with Damas or Bagdad or any other cities, because they are cities of this world (the terrestrial realm). Further more, the Prophet once declared: “The love for this world is the principle of all sins.”

3. So, when you have understood what ‘your Homeland’ means, get out of “the city whose people are oppressors” (Kur’an, 4,75). Because, to what avail being an anchorite and discriminate from this world, if it is not to ‘re-unite’? The person who would separate his spiritual form with the attachments of physical nature, without being able to con-join with the world of True Reality, would be alike someone who would prepare a potion to heal and get the balance of his humor’s complexion back-without actually drinking it!

4. Yes, the mean used (note: the term used is ‘monture’, which is either a horse but can be also be the ‘buraq’ of the islamic ‘miraj’) is spiritual anchoresis. If after we starts to blaze a trail out of the Six, if we relinquish the Ten and cut short of the Four, if we orientate ourselves towards the world of the Unique and Only ONE, we become worthy of ‘con-joining’-success which is the ultimate aim for the brothers of the spiritual anchoresis, because their anchoresis’ aim is to con-join with the light of tawhid. (note: The six directions of space are: up, down, forward, backward, left and right), the tens senses (external and internal) and the four elements).

5.  Behold, the irradiation of the sun of the deity (lahut) has risen upon the terraces of the being-that has no being by itself. How long will you stay in the dark recesses of material bodies? Until when will you be serving the corporeal temples as if you were serving idols? Blessed is the person who got out of the miseries of his body, who stepped in the Temple (the Ka’ba) of faith and has departed the darkness of blindness and despair. It is up to you to stand at the threshold and to attach yourself to its surrounding. Because, the person who seeks it never gets lost; because the person who made it his aim never gets frustrated.

6. Hail to the soul that has left its nest and has turned towards its Lord; it left behind the gravity of bodies, and it rejoices having the lightness of Spirits. It she has traveled the paths of the human condition (nasut) and has reached the dwelling of divine condition (lahut). It has freed itself of the shackles of the Ten (inner and external senses), and it draws its joy in the company of the Ten (Archangels). It has risen from the perigee up to the sacrosanct apogee. Then, it is granted what no human eye has ever seen, what no human ear has ever heard, what is never shown to any human heart.

7. Blessed are those who have as a station the human condition, and for the location of their flight the free space of eternity. O dear God! Put us among those who resemble their ‘father’, who cut off the ancestry of their earthly parents, who do not trust their being in the world of the elements, who do not get accustomed to the company of the inhabitants of the realm of space and time, so that they are not held captive in the hell of becoming!

8. And know that ‘the love for the Homeland (point of origin) is part of the faith‘. If you are counted among the real men, do not satisfy yourself with hear-say; do not waste the precious breathes of your life in the search for inferior enjoyments. Until when will you mingle in the dust of the grave, without the lights of the rays of the sun reaching you?

9. Now, the Lights have out-poured upon the receptacles and that they have restored the complexion of the ‘temples’ (note: the heavenly bodies of those who have incarnated on earth, the Hayakil al-nur, the abodes/temples of light of the beings of light incarnated into our world). That the born-blind denies it and see no light, that does not invalidate the out-pouring of the lights. It belongs to the condition of perfumed amber to exhale its perfume, so that it gives a pleasant fragrance to the intimate gatherings and the watchtowers where the aspirant to the sacrosanct world watches. That the person with a cold is denied to perceive the exquisite smell because of his ailment, that also does no harm at all to the amber’s sweet perfume.

10. If the fog of sadness from the bottomless pits would dissipate, if the lethal leaden cloud of the desert would drift away, then you would see what you haven’t seen yet. Place a ladder with sixteen rungs. (note: without any given explicit explanation from the author, all equivalences are arbitrary. But, the sixteen rungs could mean here the four Elements, the nine spheres, then the realms of Malakut, Jabarut & Lahut.). Climb up until the terrace  of the heaven of hieratic realities (qodsiyat), so to reach, through the reality of spiritual beings (ruhaniyat), the reality of pure intelligences (‘aqliyat).

11. Then enter the Temple (the Ka’aba) of the vestibule of Eternity, and say: ‘I have set my gaze towards the One who created the heavens and earth.” (Kur’an, 6. 79). And say also: ‘The finer the wine, the finer the cup-all two are alike until pure homogeneity-It looks like wine and not a cup-It looks like a cup and not wine.”

12. And be certain that the person who solves this riddle, will seize the treasure: Intimate taste, then burning desire, then passionate love, then annihilation, then true existence. There are no more cities after ʿAbbādān and ʿAbbādān is limitless. (note: ʿAbbādān was also distinguished in medieval times as the site of the first Sufi monastery (ṣawmaʿa), founded there in 150/767 by followers of ʿAbd-al-Vaḥīd b. Zayd, a disciple of Ḥasan Baṣrī. Here is is used, transposed, in the context of an archetypal ‘City of True Believers’).


Chapter II

13. Know that-May God come to your help with an inner vision coming from Him!-that the Moon is the sincere lover of the Queen (see note below) of the stars, sovereign of the migrating luminaries in its journey through the celestial plains, blazing victress upon the darkness, keeper of time & centuries, fountain of blessings upon the earth, the source of the conception & birth of everything, keeper of the marvels of the all loving Lord.

14. It is essential for the unfortunate lover to set gaze towards the majesty of his beloved, and to succeed in reaching Her. This is why the Moon is hasting; he does not stay more than two days in a house; he travels at great speed until he rises from the perigee of its noumenia (Νουμηνία, new Moon) until its apogee as a full Moon. (Note for paragraph 13 – 14 and 15: In Arabic, Moon is masculine and Sun is Feminine. So it explains here the attribution of Moon to the lover (l’amant) longing after his beloved Queen (la Reine bien aimée), also the types of Majnun and Layla ).

15. When the opposition (the face to face) of the two stars is close, the rays of the Sun are reflected upon his being. And then, his whole being shines the lights of the Sun, after having being darkened; his being shines by the radiating waves of light of the Sun, after having been overwhelmed with obscurity. Then the Moon contemplates itself. There is nothing in him that would be devoid of the rays of the Sun. He then shouts: “I am the Sun!” (note: here the symbolism of the Moon typifies the unitive experience of the mystic.)

16. Abu Yazid al-Bisṭāmī, Hallaj, and some others among the masters of the spiritual anchorites, were the Moons in the Heaven of Tawid. When the earth of their heart were illuminated by the light of their Lord, they revealed the secret that is ‘concealed & revealed’ at the same time. God makes them utter, “God that makes everything utter.” (Kur’an, 42-21). It is the Divine Being that speaks through the tongue of His Friends.

Artwork by Aurélien Lepage. “Citrinitas”, 2023, Broderie, peinture et collage sur tissu, environ 54 x 40 cm.




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Henry Corbin & Suhrawardi: ‘The Epistle Of The High Towers’ – Chapters I and II

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