In the same way that Heidegger turned to the Pre-Socratic Greeks in search of the primordial meaning of Being especially in Parmenides, Corbin turned to Islamic mystical philosophers in search of “true philosophical thinking.”100 We are justified, though, in asking why Corbin turned East towards the spiritual world of Islam when the Islamic theosophers Corbin studied presented him with many of themes he had already found in Hamann, Luther, and Heidegger as we have seen. The clue lies in the important fact that at around the 12th century in the West, and under the influence of Averroes and Aristotle, the intermediary hierarchy of angels had been lost. This intermediary hierarchy is what permitted the continual communication between Heaven and Earth, the ascent of creatures towards God through gnosis and the descent of God to his creatures through theophany. Save for a few exceptions, like the Platonist and the Western esoteric tradition, the philosophical quest in the West was destined to increasingly desacralize and demythologize the world. In the Islamic world, the story was very different. Islamic theosophers had complemented their existentialism with a Neo-Platonic hierarchy of being and an angelology as we shall now see.
Avicenna is the key figure for both Corbin and Suhrawardi.101 Corbin was attracted to the “complicity between angelology and cosmology” in Avicenna because “the angelological contemplative component ontologized nature and consciousness as a single structure, confirming both the essentially spiritual nature of humanity and the soteriological structure of the cosmos.”102 It was the visionary recitals that interested Corbin the most because in them Corbin found a vision of philosophy not as an abstract construct but “a lived, phenomenal reality.”103 Philosophy for Avicenna was a passionate encounter with Angels; the universe is a personified cosmos.
With Avicenna, as we shall see, the universe becomes a hierarchical order of being beginning with the material world moving through the various levels of Angels leading up to the realm of the Absolute. Anthropology, angelology, and cosmology, form a continuous unity metamorphosing into each other depending on the intensity of light or being in an infinite progression of souls along the “arc of ascent” back to the supernal realm. The idea of the journey into the Orient104 of our being along the vertical axis of multiple levels of being implies, according to Corbin, an “angelic pedagogy”, in which individual souls are constantly individuated by their archangel. Perhaps, as Corbin would remark, “the entire difference lies in this.”105
Suhrawardi’s point of departure was the Oriental Philosophy of Avicenna.106 The metaphysics of Avicenna is an ontology preoccupied with the question of being. Reality depends on existence or being and knowledge is possible only if it takes the form of knowledge of the ontological status of an entity in the ‘great chain of being.’ Existence takes precedence over essence and is therefore principial (asil). The essence of a thing is its “ontological limitation abstracted by the mind.”107 Avicenna’s division of being is threefold: the impossible (mumtani’), possible (mumkin) and necessary (wajib). God, unlike in Aristotle, is not a being or a substance, but rather is anterior to being itself and is what makes existence possible; he is self-subsistent and thus Necessary. The rest of existence is contingent because it is existentially dependent on the Necessary Being.
It is in the light of this fundamental distinction between God and the universe that Avicenna’s cosmology explains the emergence of the many from the One. However, whereas in his ontology Avicenna demonstrates the discontinuity between the One (Necessary Being) and the universe (contingent being), in his cosmology his preoccupation is to show the continuity between them which is tied to the significance and function of the angel as the medium of God’s creation. Thus cosmology is an angelology and vice versa, and the angel assumes a soteriological role in the process of spiritual realization and the attainment of knowledge.108
The process of God’s creation, explained in terms of the Plotinian emanation scheme, is an intellection. In Avicenna’s cosmology, the emanation from the Divine Being thinking itself produces an angelic hierarchy: the First Intelligence, the First Archangel, or Cherub; the angels who emanate from the First Archangel who govern the celestial sphere and the Ninth or highest of these spheres, the Animae coelestes; this is repeated from degree to degree to the Ninth Archangel, who produces the Tenth Intelligence and the Angel-Soul that moves the Heaven of the Moon; this Tenth Intelligence is Metatron, the Protos Anthropos, the Active Intelligence—the Angel of Humanity, the Holy Spirit, Archangel Gabriel.109 At the level of the “terrestrial souls”, the cosmic procession is at the greatest remove at which point creation shatters into multiplicity.110 Motion at the level of the “terrestrial souls” is the “result of an aspiration of love which remains forever unassuaged.”111 These souls long to return to their origins, the Archangel from which they emanate. The Angel of Humanity, Archangel Gabriel, is the guide of the human souls or “terrestrial souls” that govern human bodies, who protects them and raises them into their individuated fulfilled angelicity. The terrestrial angel-souls imitate the Animae coelestes from which they emanate in order to realize their angelicity (malaki), its archetype, which remains a virtual possibility, a potentiality, unless actualized. A “dualititude” of angel-souls and the Angel from which they emanate defines the nature of their relationship. Thus, the Active Intelligence leads the soul back to its state of pure intelligence, its angelic being. As Corbin writes: “The human being in the true sense is he who accedes to the Angel—that is, he in whom the angelic condition predominates and who steadily departs further and further from the demonic condition.”112 Thus, the ideal angelic state is “in harmony with an anthropology that is only an aspect of a fundamental anthropology.” Human souls have descended into matter, into darkness, out of which they must re-ascend into the region of Light whence they originate. The human being individuates, beginning with a potential angelicity, and guided by its angel, is led to its Angelic counter-part in heaven. This is the meaning of dualitude; it is not a duality, but a dualitude. The soul discovers itself to be the “earthly counterpart of another being with which it forms a totality that is dual in structure.”113
The importance of this “angelic pedagogy”, for Corbin, is that the Avicennan cosmology is tied to an angelology. This “angelic pedagogy” is best expressed in Avicenna’s “Oriental Philosophy” in the form of a series of “visionary recitals.” These recitals are symbolic narratives that depict the soul’s exile in the world of generation and corruption. The Orient in these recitals symbolizes the world of light, the original abode of the soul before its incarceration in the body, the world of matter or the Occident. Such ‘visionary recitals’ depict the cosmos and existential life as an experience for a traveler seeking to return to the Orient of his/her being. In this Avicennan view, the angels are the guides along this treacherous path which humans either choose to embark upon or ignore. Only the human souls are capable of transgressing, living the ‘unauthentic’ life, and developing the demonic potentiality instead.114 This angelology, as we shall see, will remain essential for the Ishraqi School also.
For reasons we shall explore further, Corbin would become the disciple of Suhrawardi115 and spend many years in philosophical and ascetic meditation in the “presence and company of the young Shaykh al-Ishraq.”116 Suhrawardi would be Corbin’s closest companion for the rest of his life. With Suhrawardi’s Hikmat al-Ishraq, “a Platonism, expressed in terms of Zoroastrian angelology of ancient Persia,” Corbin’s “spiritual destiny” “from Heidegger to Suhrawardi” was “sealed.” Corbin would learn “the discipline of the arcane” or the “virtues of Silence” (Arabic/Persian ketman), in the company of the invisible Shieyk of Ishraq, Shihab al-Din Yahya al-Suhrawardi. The latter was martyred at Aleppo in 1091 at the age of thirty-six, the age of Corbin at the time. By the end of the six years, Corbin had become an Ishraqi himself. 117
Ishraq (a verbal noun) literally means the “splendor or illumination of the sun when it rises,”118 or “the hour when the horizon is lighted by the fires of dawn.” In reference to the school of Suhrawardi, it can come to mean the wisdom or theosophy of which the “rising of the sun” (Ishraq) is the source “being both the illumination and reflection (zuhur) of being, and the act of awareness which, by unveiling it (kashf), is the cause of its appearance (makes it a phainomenon).”119 Just as the first appearance of the sun signifies the dawn of day in the sensible realm, the rise of the ‘spiritual’ sun in the intelligible realm “signifies the epiphanic moment of knowledge.”120 Oriental Philosophy, or theosophy, comes to mean a “doctrine founded on the Presence of the philosopher at the matutinal appearance of the intelligible Lights.”121 Metaphysically, it refers to gnostic knowledge (‘irfani) where the Orient is “the world of the beings of Light, from which the dawn of knowledge and ecstasy rises in the pilgrim of the spirit.”122 Oriental Philosophy postulates “inner vision and mystical experience….because it originates in the Orient of pure Intelligences….an Oriental knowledge.” The Ishraqiyun, the Oriental Philosophers, otherwise called by Corbin the “Platonists of Persia,” are those philosophers who follow the Oriental Philosophy of Suhrawardi. Their knowledge is Oriental because it is “based on inner revelation (kashf) and mystical vision (mushahadah).”123
Suhrawardi did not claim to be inventing something new with his Oriental Philosophy. He saw himself as a reviver, a resuscitator of the Wisdom of the ancient Persian Sages. As Suhrawardi writes:
Among the ancient Persians there was a community directed by God; He guided the eminent Sages, who are quite different from the Maguseans (majusi). It is their high doctrine of the Light—a doctrine to which, moreover, the experience of Plato and his predecessors bear witness—that I have revived in my book entitled Oriental Theosophy (Hikmat al-Ishraq), and no one before me has attempted such a project.124
Suhrawardi had begun as a defender of the “celestial physics” and the rational philosophy of the Peripatetics. However, in a personal “ecstatic vision,” he saw this limited spiritual universe explode and was shown “the multitude of those beings of Light whom Hermes and Plato contemplated, and the celestial beams which are the sources of the Light of Glory and of the Sovereignty of Light (ray wa khurrah) heralded by Zarathustra, towards which a spiritual rapture raised the most devout and blessed King Kay Khusraw.”125 The “eternal leaven” is precisely this Light of Glory, the Xvarnah (khurrah in Persian)126, the resplendent presence (Arabic sakina Hebrew Shekhina) of the Divine Glory, “the victorious, archangelic Light-being-presence.”127 The idea is that the Deus absconditus is known and perceived only by its manifestation Deus revelatus, as an angel. The Xvarnah is thus perceived as an angel-figure of the spiritual world of lights (Dii-angeli of Proclus).
Suhrawardi succeeded in the 12th century128 in bringing together, and uniting, the Prisca Theologia of Hermes, the priest-kings Gayomart, Fereydun, and Kay Khosraw, as well as Zoroaster, Asklepius, Empedocles, Pythagoras, Plato, the Neoplatonists, and the great masters of Islamic Sufism Abu Yazid Bastami, Hallaj, Sahl al-Tustari “the traveler from Tustar,” and Dhu’l-Nun al-Misri “the brother from Akhmim.” 129 Indeed, one finds in Suhrawardi an early exponent of a philosophia perennis.130 “Do not imagine philosophy has existed only in recent times,” Suhrawardi tells his readers, “The world has never been without philosophy or without a person possessing proofs and clear evidences to champion it.”131 All these great sages constituted for Suhrawardi an “eternal leaven,”
We have confined the knowledge of True Reality to our book entitled Oriental Theosophy, a book in which we have revived the ancient wisdom which has never ceased to be taken as a pivot by the Imams (Guides) of India, Persia, Chaldea, Egypt, as well as those of ancient Greece up to Plato, and from which they drew their own theosophy: this wisdom is the Eternal Leaven.132
It is in his magnum opus, The Theosophy of Oriental Light (Hikmat al-Ishraq), or the Oriental Philosophy, that Suhrawardi set out to expound this Eternal Leaven by combining the various traditions that had once possessed it: a revived Zoroastrian philosophy of Light and Darkness and its angelology with the prophetic tradition of the Quran and the pre-Islamic traditions of wisdom handed down from Hermes and the Greeks (Pythagoras and Plato especially). One of Suhrawardi’s main philosophical contributions is his conception of existence in terms of light. Light-being is understood as existence. In Suhrawardi’s own words:
The Essence of the First Absolute Light, God, gives constant illumination, whereby it is manifested and it brings all things into existence, giving life to them by its rays. Everything in the world is derived from the Light of His essence and all beauty and perfection are the gift of His bounty, and to attain fully to this illumination is salvation.133
Everything in existence is ranked according to the intensity of light that it possesses. God, the Light of Lights is at the apex of this hierarchy at the end of which is matter, darkness. Humans being are a combination of both matter/body and soul, the latter being the element of light in humans. Ordinary light is one manifestation of the light of lights with a particular intensity. All existents are merely various degrees and intensities of light and darkness. From the Neo-Platonists, Suhrawardi borrows the theory of “emanation” (sudur) and develops a sophisticated ontology of light. From the Light of Lights (nur al-anwar) there flows a sacred light cascading down ‘the great chain of being.’ The crucial insight of Suhrawardi, which he obtains through a mystical intuition or vision, is the flowing of sacred light from the Light of Lights. This is the fundamental principle of illumination that Suhrawardi would later develop into his doctrine of “knowledge as presence” (al-‘ilm al huduri). Every “hypostasis of Light” is constituted by means of departure from the hypostasis immediately superior to it and to which it yearns. Each inferior light (nur safil) loves the higher light (al-nur al-‘ali) by what Suhrawardi calls “intrinsic yearning” (mahabbah). The rational soul (nafs natiqah)134, like all other existents, yearns for the light above it. The similarities of Suhrawardi’s universe to that of Proclus’ “divinized” cosmos where every level of being is populated by gods, or an angel, is evident. Suhrawardi’s cosmology resembles Avicenna’s cosmology but Suhrawardi substitutes Light for existence and borrows the names of the angels directly from Zoroastrianism. In this, Suhrawardi had gone beyond the distinction between Necessary Being and Contingent Being in Avicenna and declared all of reality to be nothing other than light, which varies only in degrees of intensity. There no longer exists a discontinuity in existence as it did in Avicenna, a problem he inherits from Aristotle’s notion of “substance”, because light traverses all of existence from the Light of Glory, what the Avesta calls Xvarnah, or what Suhrawardi designates as the Light of Lights down through the cascade of being to the lowest of creatures and inanimate objects. The Light of Light (nur al-anwar) is Suhrawardi’s designation for the Divine Essence, whose luminosity and intensity are blinding.135 The Light of Light (nur al-anwar) is the source of all existence, which partakes of this same essence, though in various degrees of light and darkness. In Suhrawardi’s own words:
The Essence of the First Absolute Light, God, gives constant illumination, whereby it is manifested and it brings all things into existence, giving life to them by its rays. Everything in the world is derived from the Light of His essence and all beauty and perfection are the gift of His bounty, and to attain fully to this illumination is salvation.136
From the above quotation we can summarize a number of crucial Ishraqi doctrines. First, Ishraqi ontology is an ontology of light whereby the ontological status of a being is determined by the degree of its luminosity, its intensity of light, which amounts to saying, the degree to which it approaches the Light of Light and is illuminated by it. On this understanding, beings can be distinguished by their degree of light, or otherwise of darkness. Light may be understood here as “existence” in the sense of actus essendi, whereby light is the only single reality. This identification of Light and Being is possible when light is understood as universal matter—material prima universalis.137 Thus, all the gradations of being, whether of body or spirit, participate in this universal matter, differentiated only by “intervals of degree.” This is not a philosophical monism for “spiritual reality is not something abstract, but a concrete spirituality”138. We can say, then, that Corbin and his spirituals profess a “spiritual realism.” Suhrawardi’s metaphysics of light-being becomes a metaphysics of presences, an angelology, in which the angels carry out the ontological task at every level of being and it is through this hierarchy of angels that the seeker of truth (salik), in Suhrawardi’s visionary recitals, must traverse with the guidance of the angels back to his Oriental abode. How does this angelology tie in with his hierarchy of Lights?
We also notice in the quotation an identification of being with knowing, or the degree of luminosity with the degree of salvation. In fact, in Ishraqi philosophy, they are one and the same thing. On this understanding, we can distinguish beings by their degree of ‘comprehension’ or ‘awareness’139, which amounts to saying that to the extent that a being increases its degree of awareness of itself, it is illuminated and its ontological status, or degree of luminosity, intensity of light, increases, as it approaches the Light of Light. This identification of knowledge with light and salvation is an important soteriological element in Suhrawardi’s philosophy. Light never becomes the object of vision but it is that which makes vision possible and enables seeing. “It is the goal of vision, and at the same time the guide towards the goal.”140 The process begins with self-knowledge, which is complete at the summit of the journey and made possible by the guidance of the angels at the various levels of reality. Each angel in a higher rung of existence manifests itself in its glorious light by virtue of the seeker’s capacity to attain to its contemplation. Illumination=Contemplation=Knowledge=Existence=Presence. Here Suhrawardi’s concepts of light, self, consciousness, being, and presence become identical because of his ontology of lights. The closer one gets to the Light of Lights, the One, the greater the intensity of one’s light is, the greater one’s knowledge is, and the more intense is one’s Presence. Therefore, he who knows more is more. This angelology is also a spiritual pedagogy as with Avicenna. However, there is a fundamental difference between them and this is the doctrine of Light.141
The significance of Suhrawardi’s ontology of light for our discussion is that it forms the metaphysical basis for his mystical philosophy and gnosis. Most of his “Illuminative” terminology makes use of symbols (rumuz), metaphors, and “visionary recitals.” The language of attaining to knowledge is couched in the language of “Illumination.” As we saw earlier, the mystical method developed by Suhrawardi is a direct method of knowing and being, which he calls “knowledge as presence” (al-‘ilm al-huduri) and which he contrasted to “knowledge as acquisition” (al-‘ilm al-husuli).142 The latter is acquired through discursive means while the former is a non-discursive kind of knowledge that yields certainty because it is achieved through the Ishraqi notions of “vision” (ibsar), “tasting” (zawq), mystical vision (kashf), “inner witnessing” (mushahada).143
In Suhrawardi’s Ishraqi Philosophy, then, the moment of mystical contemplation (mushahada) by the soul of its angel, the lower hypostasis of the higher, the lower light contemplating the higher light, its presence to its angel, is the moment of reciprocal illumination of the angel of the soul, the higher light illuminating the lower light, the angel’s presence to the soul. It is this reciprocal relationship that constitutes the phenomenon of Illumination/Presence.144 Light, the essence of all existence, reveals itself once there is an immediate and direct perception of it, which is a direct Presence to it. Seeing light=being light; this is the nature of gnostic quest.
100 Hermann Landolt, “Henry Corbin, 1903-1978: Between Philosophy and Orientalism.” Journal of the American Oriental Society, July-September, 119, 1999, p. 494.
101 Corbin’s formal training began when in 1922 he received a certificate in Scholastic Philosophy from the Catholic Institute of Paris. In 1925, he completed his “license de philosophie” with a thesis titled “Latin Avicennism in the Middle Ages” under the great Thomist Étienne Gilson at the École Praticque des Hautes Études in Paris. Corbin admits, that it was through Gilson that he made his first contact with Islamic philosophy, in which he discovered a “connivance between cosmology and angelology,” a discovery that never left him. The first among the text Corbin had been exposed to is Avicenna’s Liber sextus Naturalium In Gilson, Corbin found a formidable scholar translating medieval texts (from Arabic and Latin) produced by the Toledo School in the 12th century and bringing them to life through the “sympathetic depth of his commentary.” See Corbin, Biographical Post-Scriptum, p. 1. Gilson was the kind of scholar who engaged with the thought of the past by unfolding their ever present possibilities. “Indeed, Gilson’s hermeneutic ability and metaphysical rigor was so striking that Corbin took him as his first guide.” See Bamford, Esotericism Today, p. xxvi. Avicenna had written philosophical works in the tradition of the Peripatetics, scientific works, and three “visionary recitals,” a commentary on one Corbin found in the Hagia Sophia library in Istanbul during the war. See Bamford, Esotericism Today p. XLVIII.
102 Bamford, Esotericism Today, p. xxvii.
103 Corbin, Voyage, Introduction by Christopher Bamford, p. XLVIII.
104 Explain term Orient and Oriental Philosophy.
105 Henry Corbin, Avicenna, p. 116.
106 We shall define the nature of this Oriental Philosophy when we turn to Suhrawardi. It was Corbin who designated Avicenna as an Oriental Philosopher or theosopher. This designation was new and created an avalanche of criticism and opened a debate within Islamist and Orientalist circles that still continues. For a criticism of Corbin’s position on Avicenna see: A.M. Goichon, Ahmad Amin, and Dimitri Gutas for example disagree with Corbin’s fundamental understanding of the recitals as visionary symbolic narratives. A.M. Goichon, Lexique de la Langue Philosophique d’Ibn Sina, Paris:Desclee de Brouwer, 1938. Dimitri Gutas, Avicenna and the Aristotelian Tradition, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1988.
107 Seyyid Hossein Nasr, Three Muslim Sages: Avicenna, Suhrawardi, Ibn Arabi, (Cambridge Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1964)., p. 27.
108 Ibid, p. 29.
109 Corbin, Avicenna and the Visionary Recitals, p. 67. In regards to the figure of the Metatron, Corbin explains: “Levi ben Gerson, deriving the name Metatron from the Latin mater, defines that Angel as Active Intelligence.” “Metatron as First Spirit, from whom all individual Spirits have emanated, is present in the latter and in all men as long as they remain in contact with the divine spiritual source. Metatron represents the pilgrimage of the Spirit, its descent and ascension. The identity of the Metatron with Enoch symbolizes the descent of the Spirit into earthly life—that is, into the existence of earthly man—and the ascent of this earthly man to heavenly being. In heaven he is the interpreter of man’s pilgrimage. As the etymologies of his name (Metator, Mithra, Mater-Matrona, related to Shakhina, Metathronos, etc). Corbin, Avicenna, p. 66. See also Harold Bloom, “The Ksbbslsh: Metatron, The Lesser Yahweh,” in Omens of Millenium: The Gnosis of Angels, Dreams, and Resurrection, Riverhead Books, New York, p. 202-207. where he defines the Metatron as “the Kabbalistic Angel of Divine Presence, who is the transmogrified patriarch Enoch,” p. 202. See also Gershom Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, edited by R.J. ZWI Werblowsky. Translated by. Allan Arkush, The Jewish Publication Society, Princeton University Press, 1990, where he quotes Isaac the Blind as saying that: “Metatron is only messenger, and not a specific thing bearing that name. Rather, every messenger is called in Greek metator, and perhaps the messengers received the influx of the [tenth sefirah] named ‘atarah to fulfill their mission.” Scholem continues: “Metatron is therefore not a proper name at all but a designation for the whole category of celestial powers performing a mission.” P. 298-299. There are striking parallels with the Archangel Gabriel as the Tenth Intelligence in the cosmology of Avicenna and Suhrawardi.
110 Corbin, Avicenna and the Visionary Rectials, p. 46.
111 Henry Corbin, History of Islamic Philosophy, translated by Liadain Sherrard & Philip Sherrard, (London and New York: Kegan Paul International & Islamic Publications, for Institute of Ismaili Studies, 1996), p. 171.
112 Corbin, Avicenna and the Visionary Recitals, p. 83.
113Corbin, under the influence of Jung and the Eranos group referred to this pair of the dualitude as the ego and the Self. See Corbin, Avicenna and the Visionary Recitals, p. 20. This book was one of Corbin’s early writings. Later in his writings, Corbin would generally avoid the terminology of the Eranos group. In his History of Islamic Philosophy, Corbin avoids any of this kind of technical jargon remaining as faithful as he could to the technical vocabulary of his authors.
114 Henry Corbin, Avicenna and the Visionary Recitals, p. 46.
115 In 1928, Corbin met Louis Massignon whom he described as “extraordinary.” Massignon had confirmed Corbin’s own gnostic and intuitive approach in an academic environment that had become sterile and “disinterested.” See Bamford, Esotericism Today, p. xxviii. For Corbin, there was no escaping his influence. Massignon had a “fiery soul” and an “intrepid penetration into the arcane regions of the mystical life of Islam,” which left a deep impression on the young Corbin. Indeed, not only was Corbin impressed by Massignon’s intellectual depth and mystical insights, but also by the “nobility of his indignations before the shortcomings of this world.” Corbin, Biographical Post-Scriptum, p. 3. For Corbin the Platonist, philosophy was a way of life to be practiced and lived out; a spiritual path, the conjunction of a cosmology and soteriology. It is in this spirit and mindset that Corbin attended the lectures of Jean Baruzi on the young Luther and other “Protestant Spirituals” like Sebastian Franck, Caspar Schwenkfeld, and Valentin Weigel, etc…The turning point in Corbin’s intellectual development came when Massignon turned Corbin’s attention to Shihab al-Din Yahya al-Suhrawardi the Iranian born theosopher of Illumination, “The Imam of the Persian Platonists” or the Oriental Theosopher as Corbin would call him. Massignon had handed Corbin a copy of Suhrawardi’s Hikmat al-Ishraq. ““Here,” Massignon said to Corbin, “I believe that there is something in this book for you.” Interestingly enough, Massignon had anticipated Corbin’s future critics like John Walridge when he warned Corbin not to “over Mazdeanize” Suhrawardi’s self-proclaimed goal as “resurrector of the Illuminationist Theosophy of the ancient Persian sages.” Corbin, Biographical Post-Scriptum, p. 3. In 1933, Corbin translated Suhrawardi’s On the Essence of Love (The Vade-Mecum of the Fedeli d’Amore) and had already finished an intensive reading of Suhrawardi’s Hikmat al-Ishraq (The Oriental Theosophy) that Massignon had given to him; in 1935 he translated Suhrawardi’s The Rustling of Gabriel’s Wings. The significance of these short recitals for Corbin will become apparent later. It is no wonder then that the Karl Barth of the Dogmatics dismissed Suhrawardi’s The Rustling of Gabriel’s Wings as “Natural Theology.” For Corbin, Barth’s later theology was preparing the ground for the “death of God.” On the controversy Barth’s theology had stirred among Corbin’s intellectual circle, Corbin notes: “I myself might well have been dragged into that same mess if between times there hadn’t arisen one of those decrees issued in the Invisible by the Invisible; if I had not been drawn aside, into a complete philosophical and theological solitude, which allowed an altogether different philosophy and theology to take root in me.”Corbin, Biographical Post-Scriptum, p. 8. In 1939, Corbin was sent to Istanbul to gather photocopies of manuscripts on Suhrawardi for a critical edition of his work but found himself unable to leave because of the war; and so between 1939 and 1945, Corbin would spent six years in Istanbul in philosophical and ascetic meditation and would learn “the discipline of the arcane” or the “virtues of Silence” (Arabic/Persian ketman), in the company of the invisible Shieyk of Ishraq, Shihab al-Din Yahya al-Suhrawardi. The latter was martyred at Aleppo in 1091 at the age of thirty-six, the age of Corbin at the time. By the end of the six years, Corbin had become an Ishraqi himself. Corbin, Biographical Post-Scriptum, p. 8-9.
116 Corbin, Biographical Post-Scriptum, p. 4
117 Ibid, p. 8-9.
118 Corbin, History of Islamic Philosophy, p. 209.
119 Corbin, History of Islamic Philosophy, p. 209.
120 Ibid, p. 209.
121 Ibid, p. 209.
122 Corbin, Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth, p. 110.
123 Corbin, History of Islamic Philosophy, p. 209.
124 Quoted in Bamford, Esotericim Today, p. XLV.
125 Suhrawardi, quoted in Corbin, History of Islamic Philosophy, p. 208.
126 Ibid, p. 208.
127 Bamford, Esotericism Today, p. XLVI.
128 Indeed, it was centuries later that the Byzantinne philosopher Gemistos Pletho would do the same at the court of Cosimo de Medici. See Corbin, History of Islamic Philosophy, p. 206.
129 John Walbridge, The Wisdom of the Mystic East: Suhrawardi and Platonic Orientalism, (New York: State University of New York Press, 2001).
130 Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Three Muslim Sages, p. 69.
131 Quoted in Walbridge, Wisdom of the Mystic East, p. 14
132 Bamford, Esotericism Today, p. XLVI.
133 Quoted in Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Three Muslim Sages, Three Muslim Sages, p. 69.
134 Corbin, Henry, Opera Metaphysiques et Mystica 3, Paris, 1952 Opera 3, 107.
135 Seyyid Hossein Nasr, Three Muslim Sages, p. 69.
136 Quoted in Nasr, Ibid, p. 69.
137 Corbin finds this notion of universal matter in the Cambridge Platonists (spissitudo spiritualis) and in Jacob Boehme and Immanuel Swedenborg as we shall see further
138 Robert Avens, “Henry Corbin and Suhrawardi’s Angelology,” Hamdard Islamicus XI, Number 1, Spring (1988), p. 5
139 Seyyid Hossein Nasr, Three Muslim Sages, p. 70.
140 See Corbin, En islam iranienne: aspects spirituals et philosophiques, Volume2: Suhrawardi et les platoniciens de perse, (Paris: Gallimard, 1973), p. 83 and Avens, “Henry Corbin and Suhrawardi’s Angelology,” p. 6.
141 Corbin, History of Islamic Philosophy, p. 206-207.
142 See Mehdi Ha’iri Yazdi, The Principles of Epistemology in Islamic Philosophy: Knowledge by Presence, State University of New York Press, New York, 1992.
143 Hossein Ziai “Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi: Founder of the Illumination School,” in Seyyid Hossein Nasr, and Oliver Leamen. History of Islamic Philosophy, Routledge, London, 2003, p. 434-457.
144 For a discussion of the reciprocal relation between Emanation/Illumination and Absorption/Contemplation Mehdi Ha’iri Yazdi, “Mystical Unity,” The Principles of Epistemology in Islamic Philosophy: Knowledge by Presence, State University of New York Press, New York, 1992.