The "Heavenly Witness"

~Henry Corbin

And so now we come to the innermost secret of the mystical experience, to the decisive event already pre-sensed in the splendors of the "emerald vision." The alternation between the first and the third person, the substitution of the one for the other, are only another way of stating the same paradox-procreated-procreator, Contemplated-Contemplator- which the theme of Perfect Nature had already allowed us to grasp as being the supreme expression of individual spiritual initiation. In this realization of reciprocity alone can the features of the August Face be fleetingly glimpsed : a face of light which is your own face because you are yourself a particle of Its light. What the mystic, by virtue of his ardent desire, pursues and experiences is not a collective relationship shared by all alike in respect to a singular object, is not a relationship identical for all to which everyone has an equal claim in respect to one and the same object. No, this relationship is unique, individual, unshareable, because it is a relationship of love. It is not a filial relationship, but rather a marital one. An individual, unshared relationship of this nature can only be manifested, represented, and expressed by a figure which attests to the real presence of one alone to one alone and for one alone, in a dialogue unus-ambo. The figure of the "Heavenly Witness," of the suprasensory personal Guide, thus guarantees with such certainty a theophany perceived by love alone, corresponding to a feeling of marital relationship, that its most characteristic manifestations -- the flaming of photisms bearing witness to the reunion of "like with like"--  come about at the moment of a state of love carried to its climax. The mystical experience described by Najm Kobra thus comes to accord with the forms and experience of celestial love in Iranian Sufism.

When the circle of the face has become pure [writes the shaykh], "it effuses lights as a spring pours forth its water, so that the mystic has a sensory perception (i.e., through the suprasensory senses) that these lights are gushing forth to irradiate his face. This outpouring takes place between the two eyes and between the eyebrows. Finally it spreads to cover the whole face. At that moment, before you, before your face, there is another Face also of light, irradiating lights; while behind its diaphanous veil a sun becomes visible, seemingly animated by a movement to and fro. In reality this Face is your own face and this sun is the sun of the Spirit (shams al-ruh) that goes to and fro in your body. Next, the whole of your person is immersed in purity, and suddenly you are gazing at a person of light (shakhmin nur) who is also irradiating lights. The mystic has the sensory perception of this irradiation of lights proceeding from the whole of his person. Often the veil falls and the total reality of the person is revealed, and then with the whole of your body you perceive the w hole . The opening of the inner sight (basira, the visual organ of light) begins in the eyes, then in the face, then in the chest, then in the entire body. This person of light (shakhs nurani) before you is called in Sufi terminology the suprasensory Guide (mooaddam al-ghayb). It is also called the suprasensory personal Master (shaykh al-ghayb), or again the suprasensory spiritual Scales (mizam al-ghayb) (§66).

It has been given many other names, all reminiscent of the "midnight sun," the witness in the vision of Hermes described by Sohravardi. Najm Kobra refers to the Guide of light as the Sun of the heart, the Sun of certainty, the Sun of faith, the Sun of knowledge, the spiritual Sun of the Spirit. And more explicitly still he says:

"Know that the mystic has a Witness (shahid). He it is who is called the personal Master in the suprasensory world. He carries the mystic up toward the Heavens; thus it is in the Heavens that he appears (§69)."

From: The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism