How about some Persian mysticism. Anyone?
I find it to be very different than the other brands. A subtle teasing of the intellect outward, or inward, gently coaxing it beyond itself, towards a more sublime illumination than the kind or type which we're accustomed to in the 'Western mind.'
There are two major hurdles, it seems to me. The first I'm calling 'conceptual triggers.' Not trauma triggers. These conceptual triggers are words that we've formed opinions about previously. For example, when Corbin uses the word 'Theosophy,' he isn't making any reference to the Theosophy of the Blavatsky variety. Especially conceptually triggering are words like 'Shi'ite Islam,' 'the hidden Imams,' and of course 'the prophet.' Important to remember that Corbin is using these terms purely symbolically, absolutely
divorced from their literal meanings.
Another one is 'gnostic.' Corbin doesn't mean 'A believer of the gnostic worldview,' but anyone who considers themselves a 'stranger,' a 'traveler,' a genuine seeker of gnosis.
If you can make it over the first hurdle, I congratulate you. Not many can, nowadays. But don't get cocky, the second hurdle is even more difficult. It requires a 'leap of understanding.'
If one assumes this is a sneaky way of saying a 'leap of faith,' the entire text will appear nothing more than a curiosity. I leave you with the advice given by Paracelsus, warning against any confusion of the Imaginatio vera
, as the alchemists said, with fantasy, "that cornerstone of the mad."
Mundus Imaginalis or the Imaginary and the Imaginal
In offering the two Latin words mundus imaginalis as the title of this discussion, I intend to treat a precise order of reality corresponding to a precise mode of perception, because Latin terminology gives the advantage of providing us with a technical and fixed point of reference, to which we can compare the various more-or-less irresolute equivalents that our modern Western languages suggest to us.
I will make an immediate admission. The choice of these two words was imposed upon me some time ago, because it was impossible for me, in what I had to translate or say, to be satisfied with the word imaginary. This is by no means a criticism addressed to those of us for whom the use of the language constrains recourse to this word, since we are trying together to reevaluate it in a positive sense. Regardless of our efforts, though, we cannot prevent the term imaginary, in current usage that is not deliberate, from being equivalent to signifying unreal, something that is and remains outside of being and existence-in brief, something utopian. I was absolutely obliged to find another term because, for many years, I have been by vocation and profession an interpreter of Arabic and Persian texts, the purposes of which I would certainly have betrayed if I had been entirely and simply content-even with every possible precaution-with the term imaginary. I was absolutely obliged to find another term if I did not want to mislead the Western reader that it is a matter of uprooting long-established habits of thought, in order to awaken him to an order of things, the sense of which it is the mission of our colloquia at the "Society of Symbolism" to rouse.
In other words, if we usually speak of the imaginary as the unreal, the utopian, this must contain the symptom of something. In contrast to this something, we may examine briefly together the order of reality that I designate as mundus imaginalis, and what our theosophers in Islam designate as the "eighth climate"; we will then examine the organ that perceives this reality, namely, the imaginative consciousness, the cognitive Imagination; and finally, we will present several examples, among many others, of course, that suggest to us the topography of these interworlds, as they have been seen by those who actually have been there.
1. "NA-KOJA-ABAD" OR THE "EIGHTH CLIMATE"
I have just mentioned the word utopian. It is a strange thing, or a decisive example, that our authors use a term in Persian that seems to be its linguistic calque: Na-koja-Abad, the "land of No-where." This, however, is something entirely different from a utopia.
Let us take the very beautiful tales - simultaneously visionary tales and tales of spiritual initiation - composed in Persian by Sohravardi, the young shaykh who, in the twelfth century, was the "reviver of the theosophy of ancient Persia" in Islamic Iran. Each time, the visionary finds himself, at the beginning of the tale, in the presence of a supernatural figure of great beauty, whom the visionary asks who he is and from where he comes. These tales essentially illustrate the experience of the gnostic, lived as the personal history of the Stranger, the captive who aspires to return home.
At the beginning of the tale that Sohravardi entitles "The Crimson Archangel," the captive, who has just escaped the surveillance of his jailers, that is, has temporarily left the world of sensory experience, finds himself in the desert in the presence of a being whom he asks, since he sees in him all the charms of adolescence, "O Youth! where do you come from?" He receives this reply: "What? I am the first-born of the children of the Creator [in gnostic terms, the Protoktistos, the First-Created] and you call me a youth?" There, in this origin, is the mystery of the crimson color that clothes his appearance: that of a being of pure Light whose splendor the sensory world reduces to the crimson of twilight. "I come from beyond the mountain of Qaf... It is there that you were yourself at the beginning, and it is there that you will return when you are finally rid of your bonds."
The mountain of Qaf is the cosmic mountain constituted from summit to summit, valley to valley, by the celestial Spheres that are enclosed one inside the other. What, then, is the road that leads out of it? How long is it? "No matter how long you walk," he is told, "it is at the point of departure that you arrive there again," like the point of the compass returning to the same place. Does this involve simply leaving oneself in order to attain oneself? Not exactly. Between the two, a great event will have changed everything; the self that is found there is the one that is beyond the mountain of Qaf, a superior self, a self "in the second person." It will have been necessary, like Khezr (or Khadir, the mysterious prophet, the eternal wanderer, Elijah or one like him) to bathe in the Spring of Life. "He who has found the meaning of True Reality has arrived at that Spring. When he emerges from the Spring, he has achieved the Aptitude that makes him like a balm, a drop of which you distill in the hollow of your hand by holding it facing the sun, and which then passes through to the back of your hand. If you are Khezr, you also may pass without difficulty through the mountain of Qaf.
Both his words and manner of speech seemed at first totally unfamiliar to me, and yet somehow they stirred memories - as an actor might be stirred by the forgotten lines of some role he had played far away and long ago.