The Angels Part IV - Text Excerpts: Corbin and Cheetham

The Angels Part IV   
Text Excerpts 
From the Writings of Henry Corbin and Tom Cheetham

   Fig. 1  The Angels Part IV  Text Excerpts  Henry Corbin and Tom Cheetham        


Text Excerpts
from the writings of 
Tom Cheetham 

The World Turned Inside Out:
Henry Corbin and Islamic Mysticism
Tom Cheetham  2003

1. This Limitless Cosmos is Full of Presences, Persons, Angels
     This limitless cosmos is full of Presences, full of Persons--full of angels.  We have to discard all our trivialized and anthropocentric conceptions of the nature of such beings.  They are personified metaphysical presences, the movers of the worlds, and they provide the connection between ourselves and divinity.   There is no question of anthropomorphism.  The personality of these beings is not derived from ours; ours is only a dim reflection of theirs.  

     The hermeneutic ability of the creative Imagination to transmute all things into symbols destroys the distinction between psychology and cosmology and unites them in a psycho-cosmology in which Creator and creature participate not as opposing terms with an unbridgeable gulf separating them, but as complementary poles of a divine drama.

2. The Eye Angel of the Face
     Henry Corbin cites again and again the hadith central to the spirituality of sufism:  "He who knows himself know his Lord."  [Corbin writes:]  "Through the redemptive path of pure love, the consciousness of the [love's faithful] becomes that of the mystic who knows that he is the eye with which God contemplates himself; that he himself, in his being, is the witness by which God witnesses himself, the revelation by which the Hidden Treasure reveals itself to itself."
     This then is the Angel of the Face, the only God that we can ever know.  Not the deus abscondita beyond all Being, but the God who knows himself in and through us.
     [Corbin writes:]  "The Angel is the Face that our God takes for us, and each of us finds his God only when he recognizes that Face."

3. Nearness and Distance
     In order to prevent God and creation both from closing off, solidifying into idols, in order to keep the sympathy alive and ensure the perpetual angelic function of beings, tashbih must be balanced by tanzih.  Nearness and distance both are essential attributes of God: together they make up tawhid, the declaration of Unity.  We can now understand the full import of the Hidden things and just what it is of God that lies within. . .  The Outward and Manifest is the Nearness of God; the Inward and the Hidden is the Oneness, the incomparability, the no-thing-ness of the Divinity.  The manifest tends to to descend into idolatry; the hidden opens onto the Infinite.  God's Nearness is external.  It is His Distance that lies within.  It is through the no-thing-ness of the divinity that the essential infinitude of a person, or a presence, is determined.  And so, by turning the world inside out, by giving birth in the world to that interiority which is characteristic of the things of the soul, by winning each Battle for the Anima Mundi, we return the hidden dimension to the manifest and uncover the depths that lie just under the surface of the world.  

4. The Fall Upwards
     "The personal God [Corbin writes] is . . . encountered at the end of a Quest (as of that for the Holy Grail)."  The endpoint of this search is not an idol, not a thing at all, and therefore not an end but a beginning. . . . the Emptiness, the Unknown, and the Unknowable into which one falls upward in an unending series of theophanies

5. Transfiguration by Beauty 
     The ability to be carried away, through the forms of this world, to the infinite expanses of the other worlds is mystical, imaginative, symbolic perception.  Not a flight from Reality, but a Journey towards it.
     Corbin's fully charged "gnosiology," wholly unlike any rational "theory of knowledge," is based upon Love and its transfiguration by Beauty as the supreme theophany.  The ecstasy which is inherent in the Angel, in the Hidden Imam of Shi'ism, can "shatter the rock of doubt," and "paralyze the 'agnostic reflex'" by breaking "through the mutual isolation of consciousness and its object, of thought and being. . ."  
     The infinite succession of Heavens and the unending openings they accomplish communicate with one another by means of correspondences of "forms," of isomorphisms, between one level and the next, in a kind of Gestalt cosmology.  It is the perception of these that makes possible the Journey beyond.  The correspondences are not in the head, but of the heart.

6. Theosophy of Art ~ the Mandala ~ Transfiguration 
     Corbin speaks also  . . . of the iconography, the theosophy of art, as it were, which accompanies this vision of the world.  . . . What is required of such art is not that it be representational, but symbolic. 
     In the spaces of iconographic, symbolic art, [Corbin writes] "All the elements are represented in their real dimensions, in each case perpendicularly to the axis of the viewer's vision. . .  Contemplation of the image becomes a mental itinerary, an inner accomplishment; the image fulfills the function of a mandala.  . . . to contemplate them is to enter into a multidimensional world, to effect the passage of the ta'wil through the symbols.  And the whole forms a unity of qualitative time, in which past and future are simultaneously in the present." 
     The function of such an art is not representation, however beautiful, but transformation and transfiguration of the soul and of the world "by that Light of Glory which the soul projects onto it" [writes Corbin].  The purpose of this sacred symbolic art is to enact the psych-cosmic transformation that it symbolizes.    

Green Man, Earth Angel
The Prophetic Tradition and the
 Battle  for the Soul of the World 
Tom Cheetham  2005 

7. The Turn Inward & the Guide ~ the Angel of Revelation
     Corbin refers to "the secret of the secret."  And the secret consists in this: "your autonomy is a fiction.  In reality you are the subject of a verb in the passive (you are the ego of a cogitor)."  This is what prevents the inward turn from collapsing into narcissism.  At the heart of the innermost consciousness is the Anthropos, Hermes, guide of souls, who for Islam is Gabriel the Angel of Revelation appearing to each individual in a form which is secret, absolutely unique, and Objective in the true sense.
     Corbin's account of the turn inward toward the Darkness within reveals a dual challenge which can only be met if we are oriented initially in such a way that we cannot confuse the blackness of the abyss of evil . . . with the terrors of annihilation stemming from the encounter with the Hidden God.  Without such orientation, without guidance, without an adequate psycho-cosmology and the help of a Guide, the individual seeker faces long odds indeed.

8. The Battle for the Return & the Angelic Heavenly Twin
     In the cosmology of the Avesta [an ancient Iranian religion] the supreme being Ohrmazd is surrounded by six celestial Persons of Light whose holiness takes the form of "an activating Energy that communicates being, establishes it, and causes it to superabound in all beings." [Corbin]  These seven Presences provide for the existence and the salvation of the world of creatures, and by cooperating with them all creatures can participate in the ascent toward the heaven from which they originally descended.  There is reason to struggle for this return because the world of creation is a world of mixture and conflict, where the powers of Darkness, ruled by Ahriman, battle with the powers of Light.  
     But in this battle the creatures are not abandoned.  Between them and the Archangels of Light there are arrayed countless intermediary celestial beings.  Among them is the feminine Angel of the Earth whose image is Sophia, the feminine figure of Wisdom.  And there are the Fravartis, whose name means "those who have chosen," chosen, that is, to fight against the powers of the Darkness.  
     Every being belonging to the world of Light has a Fravarti, a celestial counterpart, in the world of Light.  And so every being has a dual structure that defines its orientation in the struggle toward the Light.  The quest to unveil this heavenly twin defines the moral and spiritual destiny of the soul of every human being, and of the soul of the world itself.

9. The Alchemical Task & Imagination   
     The task is to actualize, on this earth, the "Energy of sacral Light" that transforms, transfigures, and glorifies the soul of all beings.  This transformation is an alchemical process: . . . the goal is the transmutation of each being into a more subtle, more definite, more real state.
     Corbin discovered this ancient cosmology imagined anew in a context fundamentally in harmony with it, in the work of the twelfth-century Persian mystic . . .  al-Suhrawardi.  Suhrawardi's project was to fuse Zoroastrian angeology with Platonic and Neoplatonic  cosmology and the prophetic revelation of Islam.  It was Suhrawardi who first articulated a clear grasp of the world of the Imagination, the world intermediary between sensation and intellect that Corbin was to call the Imaginal world.  
     It is by means of imaginal perception that the Zoroastrian Light of Glory can be perceived.  It is in the imaginal world that the alchemical transformation takes place.  It is the place of the visions of the prophets.  The Presence of God in the Burning Bush, the apparitions of Gabriel to Mary and to Mohammad, all the events of sacred history are perceived by means of organs of perception that open onto this world and its myriad beings of light. 
     In order to experience the Earth as an Angel, to hear the voices of beings calling to us in the twilight, to encounter another person in any sense at all, we have to be able to perceive at least the vestiges of the light of Glory, of the Presence at the summit from which they all descend.  All of us, however dimly, perceive events in the imaginal world, and the task of transformation requires the development of the senses that open into that world.

10. You Art They ~ They Exist In You
     The soul can only know what it is.  Nam Razi [Sufi master, b. 1256] tells us:  "Know that the soul, the devil, the angel are not realities outside you: you are they.  Likewise Heaven, Earth and the Throne are not outside you, nor paradise nor hell, nor death nor life.  They exist in you; when you have accomplished the mystical journey and have become pure you will become conscious of that."
     The gnostic journey is a process of becoming conscious.  It accomplishes the interiorization of the world.  This does not mean swallowing it, taking it into the ego.  That is what modern culture is trying to do.  It is instead a "coming toward oneself," an exodus out of the narrow and constricting world of literal public materiality and a resurrection of the psycho-cosmic  unity that is the soul and its world.

11. The Angel Guide & Becoming an Individual, a Person
     The gnostic journey is not without risk: it is easy to get lost in an infinite world. . .  The closer to divinity, the more real and more individual the soul becomes. . . The ascent through the modes of being is the ascent of the self toward the Angel that defines its individuality.  The status of personhood is not given: it must be won.  We are born with the freedom to become demons or angels or anything in between.   Our task is to travel toward the Light that emanates from our celestial counterpart, our Fravarti, our Angel, through whom the Light of the Divine is transmitted to us.     
     The stakes are very high and the opportunities for losing one's way are great.  That is why a guide is required.  You cannot raise yourself: that is the reason for Revelation.  That is why there are prophets [or Sadhgurus in the Hindu tradition].  Islam is not a religion of salvation as is Christianity.  It is a religion of guidance. . .  For everyone there is the Primordial Revelation of Nature, though we forget, and lose sight of the signs placed there.  

12. The Seven Stages of the Quest
     The pilgrim [of the gnostic journey] must trust in the Guide . . . For an account of the stages of the quest we turn to the doctrines of Semnani [great 13th century Iranian Sufi].  For Semnani the stages correspond to the modes of being of the majour prophets in the lineage of Abraham as it is known in Islamic tradition.  To each prophet, each stage, there corresponds a light of a characteristic color that appears to the mystic. . . 

     First there is Adam.  The color that dominates this stage is a smoky grey-black.
     The second is Noah.  Its color is blue.
     The third level is Abraham.  The organ is the heart.  The color is red.
     Fourth is Moses.  The organ is mystery . . . The color is white.
     Fifth is the noble spirit.  Yellow is the color . . .
     The sixth level marks the stage of Jesus.  Its color is black.
     The [seventh] final level is of course that of Mohammad . . . the reality of the your 
     being, the true Self.  The color of the final state is emerald green.  

13. The Angel of the Face
     For Corbin [the final stage of the spiritual quest] marks the meeting with the Heavenly Guide, the perfectly individuated and individual Angel of Humanity and Angel of Knowledge that is the biblical Angel of the Face.  This is the Figure of whom Mohammad could say: "I have seen my Lord in the most beautiful of forms."  It announces the truth that beauty is the supreme theophany.  The Qur'anic source for the Person is Sutra XVIII.  The figure that came to be interpreted as Khidr in Islamic tradition appears here in an enigmatic episode.

14. Khidr ~ Angel of the Earth ~ The Green Man
     Khidr is the "Verdant One." He is the Green Man.  He is the Angel of the Face and the Angel of the Earth as hermeneut [interpreter of divine wisdom]: the Verus Propheta revealed to each soul in the form in which each is able to receive it. . .  
   In Islam Nature itself is the primordial Revelation.  Thus, as Corbin often repeats, God can say, "I was a Hidden Treasure and I longed to be known, so I created the world."  The world itself is the original manifestation of the Face of Beauty.  The Qur'an says, "Wherever you turn the face of God is everywhere."  
     In Corbin's vision, the soul and the world are not divisible, and hermeneutics is their simultaneous development.

15. The Language of the Angels ~ Images, of Imagination
The language of poetry is as close as we can get to the language of the angels.  It is a language of images, of imagination.  And the imagination is central to the psycho-cosmology that Corbin describes in the Sufism of Ibn' Arabi [b. 1165 Andalusian Sufi mystic] and in Shi'ism.  Nature itself speaks, and it takes a special kind of attention to hear it.    

16. The Battle for the Soul of the World & Angelic Light
     Corbin warns us that the history of the West has been the the theater for the battle for the soul of the world.  He calls us to struggle in that long combat by turning toward the inner recesses where the Angel of the Earth and the Angel of Humanity dwell.  His emphasis is on the light that illuminates the path of the mystic out of this world in which we are in exile.  

After Prophecy:
Imagination, Incarnation, and the Unity
of the Prophetic Tradition
Tom Cheetham  2007

17. Eyes of Fire ~ Seeing the Earth as an Angel, God in the Face of the Lover
    In an address delivered five month before his death Henry Corbin reminded us that in the Old Testament, the angels are recognized by their eyes of fire.  In almost the last public words that he spoke, his challenge to us was that we open our eyes of fire.  It is through their gaze that we perceive the angelic function of beings.  
     In one of the most vital passages in his great book on Ibn' Arabi [Alone With the Alone] Corbin wrote that the angelic function of beings is to prevent us from misunderstanding transcendence by separating it from the beauty of the world and of those we love.  For it is through these alone that transcendence is manifested.  
     Paul Evodokimov laments our misunderstanding of the nature of creation:  ". . . We have lost the flame of things and the secret content of simple reality."  [and as St. Mazimus says] "the unspeakable and prodigious fire hidden in the essence of things, as in the bush, is the fire of divine love and the dazzling brilliance of his beauty inside every thing."
     To recover the flame of things, to see the earth as an angel, and God in the face of the lover, we have to release ourselves from the passions and find the freedom that this confers.  Then we are the dark sky and the open ocean.  Then we are open to the light and to the images that are the language of the angels.  We perceive the world as an icon to the degree that we ourselves have become transparent.  Then we may see face to face. 

18. The Angels Theophany ~ The Difficult Work
     Corbin in his maturity always presented himself as a Protestant Christian.  But his account of the nature of Christ, his Christology, is unorthodox, to say the least.  Revelation of the divine light at the heart of things, which Corbin calls theophany, always comes through the mediation of angelic figures.    
     The psychological and spiritual struggle of alchemy is work.  . . .  It demands an intensity of attention required only by the forms of life in which the creative imaginatiion dominates.  . . .  It is a journey into the underworld, and for the trip one must have a certain faith in darkness.  The nigredo is intolerable, and from it there seems no escape.  Bur there is another darkness.  It is what Corbin's spiritual masters call the Black light, and to learn to feel it in the underworld is a primary task of alchemy.  This blackness orients, and it will open, but only in response to our movement.  

19. Persons ~ Personas
     The upper world in which we are accustomed to living is marked by well-worn paths, and inhabited by figures wearing masks, who are more persona than person.  In this ready made world it is possible to live almost entirely as a spectator, even in the midst of acive and seemingly engaged lives. But ready-made existence is impersonal . . .

20. The Act ~ We Are Responsible for the Existence of These Realities
     If we attempt to become oriented by the Angel, all this changes.  The search for the Holy Spirit, the search for our eternal Face, is wholly unlike the search for any ready-made being, for what is sought does not lie somewhere out there, waiting passively to be found.  It does not yet exist in the sense in which we habitually use this word . . . spiritual realities are not like that. . . the fact is, we are responsible for the existence of these realities.  That is the burden and the glory of the Creative Imagination.  The Angel of our Face, our Lord, exists potentially, and our work is to bring about the act.

21. Grace Is Necessary ~ Dialogical Life  
     The process of creation is slow, halting, unpredictable, and full of doubts and uncertainties.  Grace is necessary . . .  The work of alchemy is an intercoursing with the entire world.  It can be imagined as a kind of dialogue with a partner who is reticent, difficult, often absent, almost always obscure.
     This form of dialogical life is profoundly physical.  Our bodies are the world lived from the inside, and through them we experience all the elements of Creation.  At the heart of existence, there is a dark unfathomable union of our own innermost substance with the elemental forces of nature.  Earth, air, fire, and water are powerful symbols of our deepest being.  

22. Revealing the Face of the Angel ~ Personification of Feeling  
     The processes of alchemy are steps in the process of becoming the unique Person whose face we were born to bear.  The slow dawning of consciousness and the transformation of the natural soul begin to reveal the Face of the Angel.  
     Even a glimpse of the Angel can light the whole world so that other people can be perceived as the impenetrable and mysterious creatures that they are.  If the prison of the lower soul is never opened to the influx of the divine, the faces of others will never be more than mirrors of the ego.  
     The Angel whose Face we hope to see, and by seeing, also to be, is less an object than a relation, more a process than a thing.  In truth the Angel is the personification of feeling--concentrated manifestation of the attention the soul pays to the world.  Corbin tells us that feelings induce knowledge of entities proper to them.  The Angel is the active subject of such creative knowledge. 

23. The Angelic Function of Beings
     The angelic function of beings is to make possible the individuation and the incarnation of each of us.  To be able to perceive the iconic face of all creatures, to see their angelic countenance, requires an opening that simultaneously brings us closer to the Angel, to other people, and to ourselves.  [Corbin challenges us] to see with eyes of fire, to exercise the lumen, the gaze of love, in an act of perception at once human and angelic that reveals iconic flesh as the the threshold between the human and the divine.

24. The Need for Guides
     We need guides in addition to Corbin to help us learn to make the Active Imagination a living reality.   If we do not have a veritable Master from one of the great religious traditions to whom we can turn, then we can learn from certain kinds of psychologists, and from the poets, to whom, Corbin has said, the Active Imagination has for so long been relegated.  And it may happen that we will be graced with a vision of that unique personal Guide, the only real Master, who is the Angel Holy Spirit, around whom our lives individually revolve.  

25. The Opening of Angelic Encounter ~ Transcendence Personified
     Corbin finds the necessity of a rupture--a rupture caused by an encounter with . . . the face of the Angel.  [Corbin writes] "The lofty constructions of conscious thought become blurred in the rays not of a twilight but rather of a dawn, from which figures always foreboded, awaited, and loved rise into view."
     The figures of which he speaks are the figures of the Angels--the Heavenly Twin who is the Angel Holy Spirit.  This encounter is here described as the end result of long philosophical contemplation.  There are, to be sure, other ways of becoming conscious, but as the Sufis say, "To know yourself is to know your Lord."  To meet the Angel of the Face is to encounter transcendence personified and to be transformed by the experience.
     The meeting with the Angel is a release, an opening towards a life in sympathy with the world and its inhabitants.  It is an initiation into a form of life dedicated to the transmutation of idols into icons.
     The meeting with the Angel points the way towards an emptying and opening out of the habitual self-centered human life to one of compassion and active love.  . . .  The Angel summons us to our true self, which is not an object, not an ego, not any kind of thing, but an opening and a process of continual undoing.

26. Never-Ending Angelic Revelations & Transformation
     [Corbin tells us] there is no end to the path--the soul is caught up in a never-ending process of transformation and unveiling of spiritual realities.  The Angel is the Guide and the archetypal hermeneut, whose function is to reveal the inner meaning of the revealed word and the spiritual face of every being.  The path the Angel opens is a process of what Corbin calls perpetual hermeneutics.  There is no limit to theophanies.  The soul finds its paradoxical tranquility in a state of motion towards the Divine. . . . It is a process of individuation by means of the transformation of the possessive, "imperialist" soul as we turn toward the Face of the Angel.  

27. Wonder~Beauty~Mystery: The Cosmic Function of Angelophanies     
     The Angel cannot be understood in anthropomorphic terms alone.  The Heavenly Twin is the personification of a process of perception and a way of feeling.  The cosmic function of angelophanies is to open our senses to the fullness of being beyond the confines of the material world of secular history.  
     Whenever we feel wonder at the beauty and mystery of the world, it is due to this aspect of the Angel.  The most creative scientists are awake to the world this way.  Many poets and artists live in the constant presence of the Angel. 
     Living in the tension between the human and the transcendent can be an agony.  This cosmic aspect of the Angelic presence is its transhuman Face.

28. The Transhuman Face of the Sublime
     There is something powerfully transhuman in this cosmic Face of the divine.  It is the Face of the sublime--the mysterium tremendum--and it is not without danger.  In the Islamic tradition, the Names of God fall into two grand categories, the Names of Majesty and the Names of Beauty.  The cosmic Face of the Angel is the Face of Majesty.  It is not inhuman, as is the demonic, but it is trans-human, and far beyond the scope of our understanding.   
     The other Face of the Angel is more anthropomorphic: the Face of Beauty.  But it is not the figure of the Angel that is the object of anthropomorphosis--it is us. 
     The Angel as a Person is a face of beauty, and makes possible an encounter with another person so powerful as to rupture the fabric of social life. 

29. Whose Face Are We Seeing?
     When we encounter the mystery and depth of another person, whose Angel are we seeing?  In Manichean legend, when, after death, on the Bridge to the other world, the soul meets its Angel [Celtestial Twin, Heavenly Counterpart] in the figure of a beautiful woman, she says, "I am thyself."  . . . The Angel Holy Spirit is, as we know, in each case unique.  Corbin's mystic "knows that he is the eye with which God contemplates himself; that he himself, in his being, is the witness by which God witnesses himself, the revelation by which the Hidden Treasure reveals itself to itself." 
     The person of the Angel is infinite and iconic--that is, the succession of transcendences never stops. . .  The true self opens upwards, and forever.  
     The power of the creative imagination, the gift of Gabriel, the Angel Holy Spirit, enables each of us, if we consent, to give birth to the Angel, whose grace allows us to see all the world as an icon.  For we give birth not only to God, but the world itself, transfigured in the light of a personal vision.

30. The Angelic Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke 
     There is, Corbin tells us, a remarkable concordance between certain mystical Islamic accounts of the Angel and the late poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke.  Rilke himself believed that his vision of the Angel had more in common with the Angels of Islam than with those of the Christianity he knew.  Rilke's mystic vision implies a cosmology that denies any gulf between Heaven and Earth--the two are, rather, continuous.
     Corbin . . . believed that Rilke's Elegies "formulate exactly, literally" the central themes of the Islamic mystic vision, which he so passionately defended.  Corbin quotes from a well know letter Rilke wrote a year before his death:  ". . . Our task is to stamp this provisional, perishing earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that its being may rise again, 'invisibly,' in us."  We must perform a transfiguration of the visible into the invisible.  

31. The Terrible, Invisible, Higher Angelic Order of Reality
     Rilke wrote: "The Angel of the Elegies is the being who vouches for the recognition in the invisible of a higher order of reality.--Hence 'terrible' to us, because we, its lovers and transformers, do still cling to the visible.--All the worlds of the universe are plunging into the invisible as into their next deepest reality . . .We are these transformers of the earth; our entire existence, the flights and plunges of our love, everything qualifies us for this task (besides which there is, essentially, no other)."

32. Perceiving All Things As Suspended Between Heaven and Earth
     The imagination in us provides the necessary meeting place between this world and the Divine. . . . The Angel allows us to perceive all things as suspended between Heaven and Earth in the mundus imaginalis.  
     Rilke perceived all this with startling clarity and sensitivity. . .  We are here [as humans, on this earth] in order to be fully present and so, in Corbin's words, able to live "a life in sympathy with beings, capable of giving a transcendent dimension to their being, to their beauty . . ."  
     The angelic function of beings is to liberate us for transcendence. 

33. Bridge Between the Worlds: Praise & The Language of Imagination
     The language of imagination is the bridge between the worlds.  The divine and the ordinary are fused into one reality in which the immanent and the transcendent are part of a continuous whole.  . . . It is imagination, actualized by a person in any imaginal act of personification, that can stand against the imageless act that threatens the existence of Things.  The essence of speech, and the witness that exalts the imagination and reveals the angelic function of the things of the world, is praise:  [Rilke writes:]  "Praise this world to the angel . . . / . . . Tell him of Things.  He will stand astonished . . ."

34. The Face We Had Before the World Was Made
     Suhrawardi says that the Spirit is a being of Light that shines in the mind.  When this light wavers, we are consumed with melancholy and the energies of life wane.  Yet even such despair is a form of presence, transformable, redeemable by the imagination.  All of life can be transformed in the presence of the figure of the unknowable Guide, who offers the possibility of seeing the true self, the Face we had before the world was made.
     The supreme paradox is this: you cannot know who you are without opening to the darkness of the unknown.  You cannot be present in the fullest sense until you are able to follow the fearsome Angel leading you on into the dark

[Cheetham ends his book with the poem that follows:] 

I have see the cross hanging in the cool church vaults.
At times it resembles a split-second snapshot of something 
moving at tremendous speed.

                                                            -- Tomas Transtromer


All The World An Icon
Henry Corbin and the 
Angelic Function of Beings  
Tom Cheetham  2012

35. The Angel ~  Eternal Archetypal Partner In Heaven
     One way in to [Corbin's] angelic world is to think of Rilke's angels.  Rilke thought that the angels of the Elegies had more in common with the angels of Islam than with the angels of Christian theology in part because their terrifying appearance in mystic visions affirmed the continuity between Heaven and Earth.  Corbin . . . believed that the Elegies "formulated exactly, literally" the central themes of the mystic vision that he defended.  But let me suggest another way to see what he means.  For Corbin, the Person is the first and final reality.  This is not idealism, nor realism, nor materialism, and certainly not historicism, but rather "personalism."  The person "can neither be deduced nor explained."   . . .  The individual can only be amplified, not reduced, and the locus of the amplification toward which the person is to be raised is the celestial, eternal counterpart, the partner in heaven, the archetype of each of us that guarantees the possibility of our eternal individuality--the locus, the telos of that spiritual motion is the Angel. 
     Each of us has a counterpart in Heaven, and if our access to this essential component of our being is severed, we are crippled and incomplete.  Corbin says of the great Sufi mystic Ibn' Arabi that he was "and never ceased to be, the disciple of an invisible master, a mysterious prophet figure to whom a number of traditions . . . lend features which relate him or tend to identify him, with Elijah, with Saint George, and still others.  Ibn 'Arabi was above all the disciple of Khidr."

36. The Function of Khidr ~ Angel of Humanity
     The function of Khidr is "to reveal each disciple to himself. . . .  He leads each disciple to his own theophany . . . because that theophany corresponds to his own "inner heaven," to the form of his own being, to his eternal individuality. . . .  Khidr's mission consists in enabling you to attain to the "Khidr of your being," for it is in this inner depth, in this "prophet of your being," that springs the Water of Life at the foot of the mystic Sinai, pole of the microcosm, center of the world."

37. Corbin's Paradox of Monotheism ~ God the Unique
     For Corbin . . . the Angel of humanity, often appearing as the Angel Gabriel, can only appear uniquely to each human soul and never as a literal king ruling over a collective. . . .  He calls [this central theme in all his work] the paradox of monotheism.  Put simply: the single, unique Supreme God can only appear by means of a multitude of theophanic forms.  You can never have the God beyond God, only the form of God that is revealed to you. . . . God is the Unique because God singularizes each thing He touches--He is unique in the sense that He makes each thing and each person unique.  To do this He must infinitely pluralize and scatter Himself in the manifold individuals of creation.  

38. Action and Imagination are Coincident In the World of Angels
     The archetypal Figures in whose image our finite personalities are created are the guarantor of our individuality and of our eternal reality.  The fullness of their Personhood is the template for our existence. . .  The state of the soul, the intensity and the character of its being, is both expressed and determined by its actions. . .  In the world of Angels, action and Imagination are coincident.  Here there are no chasms separating thought, being, and acting.  They are aspects of a single, Creative Imagination.  It is only in our world, distant from these archetypes, that the soul is fragmented and that thought, act, and being appear disjunct.  Far from being discrete "events" that one performs and then disavows or forgets, the actions of a Person are creative acts of being.

39. The Battle for Light, the Angel, the World, the Unity of Being
     Just as Eternal Time provides the archetype for limited time, so do the Persons of Light provide archetypes for all the beings of Light who live in the world invaded by Ahriman, the world of combat.  Every creature of Light has an Angel--a being who is its "double" and eternal Twin and to who it is battling to return.  We live in a time of "mixture," struggling to separate the Light and the Dark, and we are involved in a battle for the Angel, for our own individual Heavenly Twin as well as for the salvation of the world.  Success in this battle will mean redemption for the soul and a return of the material creation to its luminous, paradisal state.  It is a battle for the Angel in a double sense.  We are battling to unite with the Figure who completes our being, without whom we are not even human; and we are battling along with the Angels who are engaged in combat with the demonic forces of Ahriman.  

40. Every Angel has a Fravarti ~ an Angel "Out Ahead"
All the celestial archetypes themselves have a Fravarti.  The Archangels, every angel--even Ohrmazd Himself--has a Fravarti.   It is not only the incarnate soul who is drawn to hew heights when finding itself Face to Face with its Angel on the Cinvat Bride.  Every Angel has an Angel.  The Supreme Being has an Angel.  These are Angels "who go out ahead" and eternally manifest new horizons, open up new distances within Eternity itself. It is, says Corbin, a "Gothic style of cosmology" where there are no fixed Beings but where every being of Light always has another Angel out ahead of itself.

41. The Linked, Mutually Reinforcing  Soul-Angel Relationship
     Each soul must struggle to defeat the forces of darkness within in order to bring about the successful face-to-face encounter between the earthly "I" and its celestial counterpart, its Angel Daena.  Each soul, as it increases its portion of Light, thus exemplifies the Angel's own being in increasing degree, and this has an effect on the Angel itself, who finds its being exemplified in the earthly soul.  Thus the two are linked in a mutually reinforcing relationship that can take the form of a dialogue. . .  This meeting signals the completion of the cycle of Return, and of the combat for the Angel.

42. Longing & Orientation Toward the Angel
     The memory of the Origin, however dimmed by descent, gives rise to the energies of longing, and the reality of the homology between the soul and its heavenly archetype provides the orientation toward the Angel.

 43. Reuniting with Our Angel  
     This Angel is our "other half."  If we lose contact with it we lose our humanity and are lost in confusion . . . Only by reuniting with this celestial component of our being do we find our Self.  And to do this we must shed the shadows, the confusions, and the evils of the lower soul, not integrate them.

44. The Fall ~ The Necessity of Original Separation
     It seems we cannot turn away from the Angel, for to do so invites only inevitable madness and death.  But here we find a great paradox.  We cannot turn away, and yet me must, for to come into being at all as creatures distinct from the Creator, we must exist at some remove from the source of our being.  Otherwise we would have no independent being whatever, and there would be no creatures, no Creation. . .  For us to be at all, there must be an original separation, a fall or a rupture giving birth to our independence as persons.  It is this original otherness that makes possible both our independent being and our perpetual longing.  It is the necessary curtain separating God from his creatures and it gives rise to what the Sufis call the Test of the Veil.

 45. The Test of the Veil ~ Seeing the Face of God in Everything
     To paraphrase Corbin, the Test of the Veil is this: at each stage in the hierarchy of creation, when the creatures contemplate the Light that gives them life, they are both different from and identical with that glory.  In order to see God, they must be other than God, and yet it is from God that they have their very being--for they are nothing in themselves.  This is their radical poverty.  
     In so far as any being is contemplated in its difference from God, it will appear to be self-subsistent.  That is when we are most at risk of idolatry.  For an idol is any being understood as a totality unto itself, self-suffecient, independent.  Any being understood as an end it itself is an idol. . .  But God, the ineffable Divinity, is open-ended, unpredictable, uncontrollable and awe-ful.
     Insofar as anything is perceived as determinate and comprehensible, to that degree it is a Veil of the divinity.  And yet in truth all things are masks of the infinite, and their being is the gift of God.  All things are organs by which God contemplates Himself and are not other than He.  To overcome the Test of the Veil requires that we not become trapped in the literal face of any being, that we not idolize it but rather see in it a Face of God.
     The Test of the Veil is a necessary condition of the act of being a creature.  The paradox of monotheism is equally the paradox of individualism, for the Angel as a Face of God is linked to the soul of whom it is the Twin in a bond of love that is essential for the being of each.
     [To avoid] a fall into nihilism . . . the-will-to-power . . . requires a profound humility and the ability to open to the influence of the Angel who alone can provide the balance that keeps the world in harmony. . .  The image of the Angel Holy Spirit completes and perfects the human soul with the form of the Celestial Twin and keeps the world from being thrown out of balance.  It is knowledge of the heart that holds the worlds together.  

46. Signs of the Presence Who Has Withdrawn
     Our longing and our nostalgia are profound signs of the Presence who has withdrawn.  If we refuse to accept them as sources of knowledge, equal to--in fact, more inclusive than--the knowledge of the mind, then we risk permanent blindness to any vision of the Angel. 
     If we loose even the Image of the Angel, then the Imagination that opens the mediating world between abstract intellect and material reality looses its profundity and becomes merely fantasy and entertainment.  It no longer has the power to transform the soul.  That is the catastrophe of the Fall.  

47. Sophia~The Beauty of Things ~ The Feminine Face of God     
     One way to speak of the passage to the Imaginal world that is the "center of reality" is to recognize the figure who leads us there. . .  Beauty is the supreme theophany and manifests the face of the Divine Sophia--the feminine face of God.  Sophia functions as the Guide who leads the soul toward the Beyond and so preserves us from idolatry. 
     It is Sophia, the Beauty of things, that makes possible the vision of the transparency of the world.  She is the figure that the ancient Zoroastrians called the Angel out ahead.  She manifests beauty and so reveals the infinite at he heart of reality, so that everything is "bulging and blazing and big in itself." . . . Sophia, as the Angel out ahead, continually undoes the certainties of idolatry and fundamentalisms of all sorts.  She keeps us fluid, and she makes love possible by refusing dominion and possession, by being always just out of reach, unattainable. 

48. Belief vs Imagination 
     My inner demon laughs and asks me with a condescending smile how I can possibly believe any of this absurd nonsense.  But I don't believe it, not for a minute; I imagine  it.  Belief is a phenomenon of the critical intellect--you believe something to be true, or not, based on reasons.  There is nothing wrong with this, in its place, but it is a temporary state of suspension of the faculty of "knowing."  You believe until the situation is clarified--then you know.  Imagination is something else entirely.  Imagination changes your mode of being and your ability to perceive.  
     I now imagine that Imagination is the central feature of Reality, and knowing is important, but peripheral.  This has made my world incalculably larger, more inclusive, and more interesting, and my life fuller, more meaningful, freer, and more beautiful. . . It has also made me less afraid--of life and of death.

49. Silence ~ The Symbol ~ Sophia, the Angel of Revelation
     Poetry is language that always stays near the source and hears the coursing of the primal Silence.  Poetry is born on the edge of Silence and listens into and speaks out of that Void.  
     Corbin shared Jung's conviction that a true symbol is an expression of something essentially unknown.  He wrote:  "The symbol announces a plane of consciousness distinct from rational evidence; it is a "cipher" of a mystery, the only means of saying something that cannot be apprehended in any other way; a symbol is never explained once and for all, but must be deciphered over and over again."
     The symbol mediates between our world and the immensity of the worlds beyond.  We cannot know of that beyond in any other way--we are speechless in the presence of that darkness.  Corbin says, "the symbol is mediator because it is silence, it speak and does not speak; and precisely thus, it states what it alone can speak."  
     The function of the symbol is the function of the Angel of Revelation, and it is to be the "hermeneut of the divine silence--that is, the annunciation and epiphany of the impenetrable and incommunicable divine transcendence."
     The figure of Sophia is also exactly this mediating figure, standing on the boundary between the known and the unknowable.  She is the guardian of the Fountain of Life, the Spring from which poetry and symbols flow.  Corbin says: "Because she is a guide who always leads the mystic toward the beyond, preserving him from metaphysical idolatry, Sophia appears to him sometimes as compassionate and comforting, sometimes as sever and silent, because only Silence can "speak," can indicate transcendences."
     Sophia is the manifestation of the Angel out ahead--she turns idols into icons and preserves us from idolatry.  But only at a cost.  The cost is that we must be forever unsettled and in exile.  Any home we make is temporary.  Corbin speaks of the necessity of a "perpetual hermeneutics" to combat the forces that would trap us in idolatry and the bondage of certainties. 

49.1  The Icon
     An icon is . . . not a "picture," and the "space" is not behind the plane of the panel.  It is a dialogical reality, and the lines of perspective converge on the person engaged in dialogue with the reality of the symbol displayed.
     The icon is a sacred window onto the invisible world.  The religious art of the West was about meaning.  The icon is about being.  Corbin was deeply attached to the iconic interpretation of the Imagination.
     It is up to us to see the world with the eyes of prayer, the eyes that regard the icon.  All things are images, and an image can be viewed as an icon only if we ourselves are transformed into imaginal persons--persons who can see imaginal realities.

*          *          *

Text Excerpts
from the writings of 
Henry Corbin 

The Man of Light
In Iranian Sufism
Henry Corbin   1971/78/94

50. The Midnight Sun ~ Luminous Night ~ Black Light ~ The Angel-Logos 
     Let us pause to consider what a light can signify which is neither eastern nor western, the northern light: midnight sun, blaze of the aurora borealis. . .  a Night of light.  
     The "midnight sun" appears in many rituals of mystery . . . just as it suddenly bursts forth in Sohravardi's work, in the midst of an ecstasy of which Hermes is the hero.  Later Iranian Sufi masters refer to the Night of light, the dark Noontide, the black Light.  
    To see beings and things "in the northern light" is to see them "in the Earth of Hurqalya," that is, to see them in the light of the Angel; it is described as reaching the Emerald rock, the heavenly pole, coming upon the world of the Angel.  
    There is one Darkness which is only Darkness; it can intercept light, conceal it, and hold it captive.  When the light escapes from it this Darkness is left to itself, falls back upon itself; it does not become light.  But there is another Darkness, called by our mystics the Night of light, luminous Blackness, black Light.
     The passing from the "black Light," from the "luminous Night": to the brilliance of the emerald vision [the splendor of a visio smaragdina, the outburst of green light] will be a sign, according to Semnani, of the completed growth of the subtle organism, the "resurrected body" hidden in the visible physical body. 

     The angel, Perfect Nature, begins in the darkness of night. . . The midnight sun bursts into flame at the approach to the summit--the primordial Image of inner light that figured so prominently in the ritual of the mystery religions (the light carried by Hermes into the heart of the underground chamber).
     The midnight sun is the illuminatio matutina, the brilliance of dawn rising in the Orient-origin of the soul . . .
     In the Sabean texts . . . we also read a description of the Perfect Nature as the philosopher's Sun; and Najm Kobra will refer to the "witness in Heaven" as the suprasensory Sun, the Sun of the heart, the Sun of the spirit.
     The "midnight sun" typifies the inner light, that which is secreted by the abode itself in its own secret way.
     The totality symbolized by the "midnight sun" is the Deus absconditus and Angel Logos . . . which brings light into the night of the inner world.
     The word esoterism, so often misused, refers to the unavoidable necessity of expressing the reintegration of the human being in symbols: luminous night and midnight sun; the man of light and his guide; the reunion of Adam and the celestial Sophia . . .
     Here one will recall certain visionary apperceptions of Najm Kobra: now the red sun standing out on a black background, now the constellations turning red agains the background of an emerald Sky, dazzling to human vision.  We have learned from him that this red sun and these reddening orbs announce the presence of the Angel-Logos or of one of the angelic Intelligences.  As in Hermes' vision, angelophany is associated with the symbol of the "midnight sun," of luminous Night, because the first Intelligence, the Angel-Logos, is the initial and primordial theophany of the Deus absconditus.
     By passing to the "Gabriel of your being," the recognition of the Guide is authenticated, by the "witness in Heaven," the reddening sun against the background of divine Darkness.  For this recognition implies recognition of the Unknowable, which is to say metaphysical renunciation and mystical poverty.
     [It is] . . . black light . . . luminous night . . . the theophany of the absconditum . . . suprasensory light which the mystic perceives through his organ of light, his inner eye, as theophanies of the divine Names . . .
51. The Eyes of the Heart ~ Divine Seeing 
     After his dream Ruzbehan continues to meditate upon it, but it took him some time to understand, he confesses, that there had been in it an allusion to the seven poles in the heavenly pleroma, and that God had dispensed to him the pure substance of their mystical station. . .  Then he writes "I concentrated my attention on the constellation of the Bear and I observed that it formed seven apertures through which God was showing himself to me.  My God!  I cried, what is this.  He said to me: these are the seven apertures of the Throne."
     Just as the constellation of the Bear dominates and "sees" the totality of the cosmos, they are themselves the eyes through which the Beyond looks at the world.
     God cannot look at an other than himself, nor be seen by an other than himself.  The "initiates," graduated in the different spiritual degrees, are precisely the eyes by which God looks, because they are the eyes through which He looks.  Through them our world remains a world at which God "looks," and this is the meaning of the mysterious affirmation that if they were not, if there ceased to be the pole (the hidden Imam) who is the keystone of the invisible Heavens which they all combine to form, our world would collapse in final catastrophe.  

52. Man of Light - Nothing but Light
     "God is the light of the Heavens and of the Earth" (Qur'an 24:35).  . . . what sees and what is seen are the divine Being himself.
     Semnani perceives in another verse (41:53) the very principle of the inward movement whereby every outer datum becomes an event pertaining to the soul, bringing historical, physical time back to inner, psychic time.  This is the final end toward which all mystic ways converge; it is the spiritual abode where the gaze of the one who contemplates the beauty of the Witness of contemplation in the mirror of the inner eye, the eye of the heart, is none other than the gaze of the Witness: "I am the mirror of thy face; through thine own eyes I look upon they countenance."  The Contemplated is the Contemplator and vice versa. 
     Najm Razi writes:  "If the light rises in the Sky of the heart taking the form of one or of several light-giving moons, the two eyes are closed to this world and to the other.  If this light rises and, in the utterly pure inner man attains the brightness of the sun or of many suns, the mystic is no longer aware of this world nor of the other, he sees only his own Lord under the veil of the Spirit; then his heart is nothing but light, his subtle body is light, his material covering is light, his hearing, his sight, his hand, his exterior, his interior are nothing but light . . ."

53. The Color Green
     The last of the seven stations, the stage of the divine center (the Mohammad of his being) is brilliant green, (the splendor of the Emerald Rock) for "the color green is the most appropriate to the secret of the mystery of Mysteries (or the suprasensory uniting of the suprasensories)." 
     The inspired mystic's relationship with his latifa [subtle organ known as the "Mohammad of your being"] is the same as Mohammad's relationship with the Holy Ghost which was his inseparable companion, just as it was for Jesus.  This is why the supreme latifa is related to the "lotus of the Limit," the place where the Prophet saw the angel Gabriel standing in Paradise (Qur'an 53: 14)' and also why the pre-eminence of the color green, heralding the highest mystical station, is supported by an allusion to the rafraf, the green drapery seen by the Prophet covering the horizon of the Heavens, at the moment of his first vision of the Angel.

Cyclic Time and Ismaili Gnosis
Three Collected Essays
Henry Corbin   1983

54. The Angel In Terrestrial Human Form
     Gabriel, the Angel of the Annunciation and the Revelations, is the Angel of the theophanies that were given to the prophet Mohammed.  The Koran verses (53:3-4; 81:18-29) preserve the memory of the first grandiose visions when the Prophet, emerging from his tent, contemplated the majesty of the Angel whose outspread wings covered the whole horizon.  In certain traditions these sumptuous angelophanies even recalled by contrast the memory of the refusal suffered by Moses on Mount Sinai when he asked to be favored with an direct vision and the Lord answered: "Thou shalt not see me."  Mohammed also expresses the fervent desire to see the Angel in his real form.  Although warned, he insists.  The vision is not refused him, but he is thrown into a swoon by the beauty and majesty of the Angel in his superhuman form of Glory; henceforth a terrestrial human Form will be the epiphanic figure of the Angel.  And marking the contrast experienced by Moses, a tradition establishes the angelic "numinosum" in a sense that is perhaps paradoxical if we compare it with the current acceptation of the term.  Here it is far from being a tremendum, for it  is in his form of Majesty, which nevertheless causes the Prophet to swoon, that the Angel reveals to him the imperatives and prohibitions of the Law.

55. Each Person's Vision Unique
     . . . what constitutes the epiphanic Form is an event that takes place in the soul, which is its scene and organ, and whose mode of perception is entirely different from that of sensible or logical evidences that may be apprehended by everyone indifferently; otherwise, its perception would belong to every man alike. 

     And here, no doubt, is one of the characteristic implications of Gnostic anthropology.  by arousing the human being to the vocation of a potential angel, it cause him to move in this world as a Stranger, a "prince of the other world" on his way back to his native home. . . . The Gnostic lessons of the apocryphal Gospel texts which recur in the writings of our Ismailians have given us the teaching: The form of your vision and of your worship bear witness to what you are, you answer for the vision you have of your God.  And what God becomes is revealed in the mode of relation attested in man's mode of understanding Him.

Avicenna and the Visionary Recital
Henry Corbin   1954/1960/79/80

56. Fallen Angel
     The idea of the integration of the ego with its Self becomes the recital of an Event that, in the meditations of Gnosticism, is real to the highest degree.  To speak of the "Angels of which we are a part," or of their combat as of a combat that they wage for a part of themselves, is to refer to a fundamental aspect of the dramaturgy shared by all gnostics, by all who are strangers  to this world.  The Self is neither a metaphor nor an ideogram.  It is, "in person" the heavenly counterpart of a pair or a syzygy made up of a fallen angel, or an angel appointed to govern a body, and of an angel retaining his abode in heaven.

57. Mental Ascent into the "Nonwhere"
     It is Gabriel the Archangel who is the Guide on the Mi'raj; but the Prophet's celestial ascent is only the prototype of the mental ascent to which every mystic is invited.  The relation of each mystical pilgrim to the Angel of Revelation is then so fully individuated that his union with the Active Intelligence whose other name is the Archangel Gabriel makes him, in every instance, a seal of prophecy.  The event of the vision thus occurs in synchronism with a degree of individuation that declares itself under a twofold aspect: the awakening of consciousness to the soul's condition as a stranger, and, in this emergence to itself, its meeting with him who shows it the way, its Guide, its Nous.
     What is now the itinerary?  Through what worlds and what interworlds must the Guide show the way, so that the Stranger may return to his original country?  In any case the travelers must pass beyond the cosmos, must reach the archangelic pleroma, the "Nonwhere" as Suhrawardi calls it, the pure spiritual space beyond the Ninth Sphere. . .     

Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth
From Mazdean Iran to Shit'ite Iran
Henry Corbin  1960/77

58. The Earth Is An Angel
     [Corbin begins his book like this:] In a book entitled On the Question of the Soul, G. T. Fechner tells how on a spring morning, while a transfiguring light cast a halo over the face of the earth, he was struck not merely by the esthetic idea, but by the vision and concrete evidence that "the Earth is an Angel, such a gorgeously real Angel, so like a flower!"  But, he added with melancholy, nowadays an experience like this is dismissed as imaginary.   
     To come face to face with the Earth not as a conglomeration of physical facts but in the person of its Angel is an essentially psychic event which can "take place" neither in the world of impersonal abstract concepts nor on the plane of mere sensor data.  The Earth has  to be perceived not by the senses, but through a primordial Image and, inasmuch as this Image carries the features of a personal figure, it will prove to "symbolize with" the very Image of itself which the soul carries in its innermost depths.  
     The perception of the Earth Angel will come about in an intermediate universe which is neither that of the Essences of philosophy nor that of the sensory data on which the work of positive science is based, but which is a universe of archetype-Images, experienced as so many personal presences.  

59. To Make Visible ~ To Manifest the Hidden
     The Active Imagination will not produce some arbitrary, even lyrical construction standing between us and "reality," but will, on the contrary, function directly as a faculty and organ of knowledge just as real as--if not more real than--the sense organs.  However it will perceive in the manner of the proper to it: The organ is not a sensory faculty but an archetype-Image that it possessed from the beginning; it is not something derived from any outer perception.  And the property of this Image will be precisely that of effecting the transmutation of sensory data, their resolution into the purity of the subtle world, in order to restore them as symbols to be deciphered, the "key" being imprinted in the soul itself.  Such perception through the Imagination is therefore equivalent to a "dematerialization"; it changes the physical datum impressed upon the senses in a pure mirror, a spiritual transparency; thus it is that the Earth, and the things and beings of the Earth, raised to incandescence, allow the apparition of their Angels to penetrate to the visionary intuition.
     Thus is constituted this intermediary world, a world of archetypal celestial Figures which the active Imagination alone is able to apprehend.  This Imagination does not construct something unreal but unveils the hidden reality; its action is, in short, that of the ta'wil, the spiritual exegesis practiced by all the Spirituals of Islam, whose special quality is that of alchemical meditation: to occultate the apparent, to manifest the hidden.  It is in this intermediary world that those known as the mystical gnostics, have meditated 
tirelessly, gnosis here being taken to mean that perception which grasps the object not in its objectivity, but as a sign, an intimation, an announcement that is finally the soul's annunciation to itself. 

60. The Earth as Symbol & The Soul Raised to Incandescence
     The Earth perceived as the original Iranian Earth . . . is an Earth which the Mazdean active Imagination has transmuted into the symbol and center of the soul, and which is integrated into the spiritual events of which the soul itself is the scene.  
     The dawn . . . the heavenly waters . . . the plants . . .  are perceived  in their Angel, because beneath the appearance the apparition becomes visible to the Imagination.  And this is the phenomenon of the Angel, the figure which the active Imagination reveals itself to be, which it reveals to itself beneath the appearances perceived, is the figure of the Angels of the earth.  That is why terrestrial  phenomena are more than phenomena: they are the hierophanies proper to Mazdeism which, in beings and things, reveal who these beings and these things are, that is, who their heavenly person, the source of their  Xvarnah, [their Light of Glory] is.
     The beings and the things, having been transmuted by the Imagination into their subtle state, are revealed as the actions of a personal thought, of which they are the hierurgy.
     The active Imagination perceives and shows to itself an Earth which is other than that Earth which is seen in ordinary sensory experience.  That other Earth is the Earth irradiated and transfigured by Xvarnah.  But the Light of Glory is most certainly not a material quality inherent in sensory substances . . .; phenomenologically, we should understand it as being . . . the Light which constitutes, haloes, and enlightens the soul, and the primordial Image of itself which the soul projects.  Thus it is the organ by which the soul shows to itself earthly things transfigured, or awaiting the final Transfiguration.  
     The soul must, indeed, have an Image of itself of such a kind that, by projecting it, it can discover in its vision the figures of the Light of Glory.  In the soul raised to incandescence by this Light of Glory, with which it is finally identified, it becomes possible, like Fechner, to see that the "Earth is an Angel," or rather for the Earth to be seen  in its heavenly person . . .
     The Image of the Earth is revealed here in the form of an Angel, because it is imagined in the Image of the soul; their homology is revealed in the very kinship of their Angels.  
     None of this can be expressed by representative painting, but only a preeminently symbolical art.  As the earthly splendor of the divinity, the Xvarnah Imagined by the soul transfigures the Earth into a heavenly Earth, a glorious landscape symbolizing with the paradisal landscape of the beyond.  

61. Angels Visible to Nonsensory Perception
     . . .  what we call physical is but the reflection of the world of the Soul; there is no pure physics, but always the physics of some definite psychic activity.  So, to become aware of it is to see the world of the Soul, to see all things as they are in the Earth of Hurqalya, the Earth of the emerald cities, it is the visio smaragdina, which is the surrection and the resurrection of the world of the Soul.  Then this reality that ordinary consciousness confers on physical things and events as if they were autonomous realities, proves in fact to be the visionary reality of the soul.
     This Earth of Hurqalya is the place of visionary recitals, of prayer in dialogue; . . . the place of of divine epiphanies . . . which help the soul to be at last with itself and in itself.  Every form in which these epiphanies are clothed, as well as every form in which man sees himself in dreams or in the intermediates state between waking and sleeping, or in that state of active meditation which is a state of waking which the senses are asleep--all this belongs to the body of this Earth of Truth. . .  The adept must know that if he happens to see there with his eyes some spiritual entity, it is because he has become qualified to cloth himself in one of those Forms assumed by Angels when they make themselves visible to nonsensory perception.  

62. The Intermediate World and Active Imagination
     The Earth of Hurqalya . . . the world of archetype-Images:  "This intermediate world" [says the great theologian-philosopher, Mushin-Fayz, 17th century Iranian] ". . . is the world through which the spirits are embodied, and bodies spiritualized."
     The intermediate world is accessible only to the active Imagination, which is at the same time the founder of its own universe and the transmuter of sensory data into symbols.  By this very transmutation a resurrection of material bodies into subtle or spiritual bodies takes place. 
     The organ of sight is the active Imagination, which alone enters into the intermediate realm, makes the invisible within the visible visible to itself. 

63. Two Closing Quotes 
[Corbin ends Part I of his book with these quotes regarding visionary encounters:]

     "The garment suddenly appeared when I saw it altogether in me and I was altogether in it, for we were two, separate one from the other and yet but one of like form."  

     "When you see your likeness, you rejoice, but when you see your Images which came into existence before you, which neither die nor are manifested, how much will you bear!"


Alone with the Alone
Creative Imagination 
in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
Henry Corbin  1958/69/98

64. The Power of the Heart & The World of Angels
     In Ibn 'Arabi as in Sufism in general, the heart is the organ which produces true knowledge, comprehensive intuition, the gnosis of god and the divine mysteries, in short the organ of everything connoted by the terms "esoteric science."
     The power of the heart is a secret force or energy which perceives divine realities by a pure hierophanic knowledge . . .  In its unveiled state, the heart of the gnostic is like a mirror in which the microcosm from of the Divine Being is reflected. 
     The world [of Angels] is the world of symbols and of symbolic knowledge, the world to which Ibn 'Arabi penetrated with ease from his earliest years. . .

[Note: This book is considered by many to be Corbin's most important single book.  It is of course wonderful in many ways, but since it does not focus directly on angelology I will end--here--my long series of quotations by Cheethem and Corbin. SF]

Note:  For more text excerpts visit 


This Part IV of my Angels project was first posted ithe
 "Latest Addition" section of my Photography website's 
"Welcome Page" on September 15, 2014 
 along with Part I.