Henry Corbin-The Green Light-Part-02

An emerald cup, with Persian verse carved inscription, which belonged to the emperor Jahangir. 252 carats, Mughal Empire, 16th-17th century, now part of the al-Sabah Collection in Kuwait.


Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is an excerpt from Henri Corbin’s ‘The Man of Light, in Iranian Sufism’, Omega Publications. 1971. Pages 77,78,79 and 80.


6. The Green LightLights ascending, lights descending: the dhikr sinks down into the well of the heart and at the same time lifts the mystic up out of the darkness of the well. The simultaneity of these concentric movements foretells the birth and growth of the subtle organism of light. The descriptions become more complicated and interwoven until they are resolved, as Najm Kobra tells us, in the visio smaragdina to which these movements are the pre-lude. “Ours is the method of alchemy,” declares the shaykh. “It involves extracting the subtle organism of light from beneath the mountains under which it lies imprisoned”. “It may happen that you visualize yourself as lying at the bottom of a well and the well seemingly in lively downward movement. In reality it is you who are moving upward” (ibid.).

This ascent (reminding of the vision of Hermes in Sohravardi, his ascent to the battlements of the Throne), is the gradual emergence from the mountains which, as we have already been told (supra IV, 2), are the four elementary natures constituting the physical organism. The inner states accompanying this emergence are translated into visions of deserts, even “cities, countries, houses, which come down from above toward you and later disappear below you, as though you were seeing a dike on the shore crumble and disappear into the sea” . This correspondence is precisely what provides the mystic with a decisive method by which to verify the reality of his visions; it is a guarantee against illusions, for it demands the maintenance of a rigorous balance.


“You come to gaze with your own eyes on what you had until then only known theoretically, through the intellect. When you envision yourself as submerged in a sea, and yet making your way across it, know that this is the elimination of superfluous fetal requirements originating from the element Water. If the sea is clear and if suns or lights or flames are drowned in it, know that it is the sea of mystic gnosis. When you envision rain descending, know that it is a dew which falls from the places of Divine Mercy to vivify the earths of hearts slumbering in death. When you visualize a flame in which you are first entirely engulfed and from which you then free yourself, know that this is the destruction of the elements surrounding the fetus that originate in the element Fire. Finally, when you see before you a great wide space, an immensity opening onto the far distance, while above you there is clear pure Air and you perceive on the far horizon the colors green, red, yellow, blue, know that you are about to pass, borne aloft through this air, to the field of these colors.

The colors are those of the spiritual states experienced inwardly. The color green is the sign of the life of the heart; the color of ardent pure fire is the sign of the vitality of spiritual energy, signifying the power to actualize. If this fire is dim, it denotes in the mystic a state of fatigue and affliction following the battle with the lower ego and the Devil. Blue is the color of this lower ego. Yellow indicates a lessening of activity. All these are suprasensory realities in dialogue with the one who experiences them in the twofold language of inner feeling (dhawq) and visionary apperception. These are two complementary witnesses, for you experience inwardly in yourself what you visualize with your inner sight, and reciprocally you visualize with your inner sight precisely what you experience in yourself.”


The shaykh formulates in this way the very law of balance which makes it possible to authenticate these visions of colored lights, and is all the more necessary since it is a matter, not of optical perceptions, but of phenomena perceived by the organ of inner sight; balance makes it possible to discriminate and distinguish them from “hallucinations.” Discrimination is in fact established to the extent that the inner state experienced in reality is verified by its correspondence with the state which would be brought about by the outer perception of such and such a color.

To that extent, what is in question is certainly no illusion but a real visualization and a sign, that is to say, the coloration of real objects and events whose reality, of course, is not physical but suprasensory, psycho-spiritual. This is why these colored photisms are in the full sense of the word witnesses— witnesses of what you are, of what your vision is worth, and prefigure the vision of the personal “heavenly Witness.” The importance of the color green (the color of the pole) derives from this whole context, since it is the color of the heart and of the vitality of the heart. Now, the heart is the homologue of the Throne, of the pole which is the threshold of the beyond. And so, we recognize here more than one feature already figuring in Sohravardi’s ‘Recital of the Exile’.


“Green is the color that outlasts the others. From this color emanate flashing, sparkling rays. This green may be absolutely pure or it may become tarnished. Its purity proclaims the dominant note of the divine light; its dullness results from a return of the darkness of nature”. Just as the mountain of Qaf (the psycho-cosmic mountain, supra III, 1) wholly takes on the coloration of the Emerald Rock which is its summit (the pole, the cosmic north), so “is the heart a subtle organ which reflects suprasensory things and realities that revolve around it. The color of the thing is reproduced in the subtle organ (latifa) it faces, just as forms are reflected in mirrors or in pure water . . . the heart is a light in the depths of the well of nature, like Joseph’s light in the well into which he was thrown.

And so, from then on, in this light, the vicissitudes of the ascent out of the well begin to take shape. The first time that the well is revealed to you it shows you a depth to which no depth perceived physically can be compared. Whereas in the waking state you are on the way to becoming familiar with it, when you visualize it in a state where the outer senses are under restraint (or “missing,” that is, in the suprasensory ghayba), you are shaken by such terror that you think you are about to die. And then, suddenly at the mouth of the well the extraordinary green light begins to shine.

From then on, unforgettable marvels show themselves to you, those of the Malakiit (the world of the Animae coelestes, the esoteric aspect of the visible heavens), those of the Jabarut (the world of the Cherubim, of the divine Names). You experience the most contradictory feelings: exultation, terror, attraction. At the end of the mystic way, you will see the well below you. In the course of the ascent, the whole of the well is changed into a well of light or of green color. “Dark at the beginning, because it was the dwelling-place of devils, it is now luminous with green light, because it has become the place to which descend the Angels and the divine Compassion”.


Here Najm Kobra testifies to the angelophanies which were granted to him: the emergence from the well under the guidance of four Angels surrounding him; the descent of the sakina (the shekhina), a group of Angels who descend into the heart; or else the vision of a single Angel bearing him up as the prophet was borne up. And then all the spiritual Heavens, the inner Heavens of the soul, the seven planes of being which have their counterparts in the man of light shine multicolored in the rainbow of the visio smaragdina.


‘Know that to exist is not limited to a single act. There is no act of being such that above it one does not discover an act of being even more definite and more beautiful than the one preceding it, until finally one reaches the divine Being. On the mystic journey there is a well corresponding to each act of being. The categories of being are limited to seven; it is to this that the number of the Earths and the Heavens alludes.

Therefore, when you have risen up through the seven wells in the different categories of existence, lo and behold, the Heaven of the sovereign condition (robublya) and its power are revealed to you. Its atmosphere is a green light whose greenness is that of a vital light through which flow waves eternally in movement towards one another. This green color is so intense that human spirits are not strong enough to bear it, though it does not prevent them from falling into mystic love with it. And on the surface of this heaven are to be seen points more intensely red than fire, ruby or cornelian, which appear lined up in groups of five. On seeing them, the mystic experiences nostalgia and a burning desire; he aspires to unite with them.’

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