Light and Spiritual Warfare

The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism

~Henry Corbin

To recognize the three adversaries means actually to catch sight of them, to experience the forms in which they appear. Far from merely constructing a theory, Najm Kobra describes real events which take place in the inner world, on the "plane of visionary apperception" (maqam al-moshahada), in an order of reality corresponding specifically to the organ of perception which is the imaginative faculty (Imaginatrix). This exactly i s where creatural nature , natural existence (wujud), "is at first sight complete darkness ; when it begins to be purified , you will see it take on before your eyes the appearance of a black cloud. So long as it is the seat of the Devil (shaytan) it has a reddish appearance. When its excrescences are corrected and an nihilated and legitimate aspirations are implanted in their stead, you will see that its appearance gradually whitens and it becomes a white cloud (a cumulus ).  

As for the lower soul at its first appearance, its color is deep blue; it seems to be an upsurge, like that of water from a spring. I f the soul is the seat of the Devil, it looks like a twofold upsurge of darkness  and of fire , without the power to show anything else , for there is no good in devilry. Now, what pours forth from the soul overflows and spreads over the whole of a man's nature ; this is why all spiritual teaching depends on the soul. When the soul is healthy and pure, what flows from it is Good, and Goodness germinates from natural existence ; if what flows from it is Evil, Evil will germinate . The Devil is an impure fire mixed with the darkness of impiety in monstrous form. Sometimes he takes the shape before your eyes of a gigantic Negro, terrible to look upon. He makes every effort to enter into you. If you want to make him give up, recite in your heart : 'Thou , the help of those who ask, help me (§7).' "For, as another great Sufi says: "Satan laughs at all your threats. What frightens him is to see a light in your heart, " that is to say, when you become aware of what he is. Now as we have read (supra §67 quoted in fine III , p. 100-101), he, like any other spiritual reality, is not outside of you; his attempts to "enter into you" are but one phase of the fight which is being waged within you. 

What this means precisely is that the shadow is in you : to separate yourself from the shadow is to bring about your own metamorphosis, and by this metamorphosis to make possible the conjunction of the two currents of fire rising and falling to meet one another. 

Natural existence is made up of four elements superimposed on one another, all of which are darkness: Earth, Water, Fire, Air; and you yourself are buried beneath them all. The only way to separate yourself from them is to act in such a way that every rightful part in you comes together with that to which it rightfully belongs, that is, by acting i n such a way that each part comes together with its counter-part: Earth receives the earthy part, Water the watery part, Air the etheric part, Fire the fiery part. When each has received its share, you will finally be delivered of these burdens. The three adversaries disturb the in nate knowledge o f the divine ; they form a n obstacle bet ween t h e heart a n d t h e divine Throne ; they prevent the conjunction of t he two rays of light . Because of them, a man finds himself at first in a state of total spiritual blindness (§ 11).

What is at stake in metamorphosis is therefore wholly this : either, the soul having succeeded in separating itself, the man of light effects conjunction with his guide of light, his "witness in Heaven" (shahid fi'l-sama) ; or else the soul succumbs to its darkness, re mains in the embrace of its Iblis, its demonic shadow. "To convert one's own Iblis to Islam," as Abii'l-Ma'ari and 'Attar expresses it, means to effect the destruction of the lower soul. The individual has no power to destroy Iblis in the world, but he can separate his soul from lblis by destroying the shadow in his soul, for Iblis can weld himself to the soul only in shadow . Everything depends therefore on the effort directed to the central adversary: the soul, with its Iblis on one side , and natural existence on the other. The stages of metamorphosis are detected by means of the three different words used in the Qoran to qualify the soul; when the third of these qualities flowers, it can be taken that the heart (qalb) exists in actuality; the heart is the subtle center of light, the Throne in the microcosm, and by that very fact the organ and place of conjunction with the light of the Throne.