March 21, 2013

Henry Corbin On "The Heavenly Twin"

Below is an excerpt from Henry Corbin's book, "The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism." Translated by Nancy Pearson. Shambhala Publications, Inc: Boulder, Colorado. 1978. Pg. 33-37.
"In Mandean gnosis, every being in the physical universe has its counterpart in the heavenly Earth of Mshunia Kushta, inhabited by the descendants of a mystical Adam and Eve (Adam kasia, Eva kasia). Every being has his archetypal Figure (mabda' = dmutha) there, and the latter sometimes communicates with its earthly counterpart (as for example in the episode of the girl awakened and warned by "her sister in Mshunia Kushta"). After the exitus at death, the earthly person abandons his body and takes on the subtle body of his heavenly Alter Ego, while the latter, rising to a higher plane, assumes a body of pure light. When the human soul has completed its cycle of purifications and when the scales of Abathur Muzania bear witness to its perfect purity, it enters the world of Light and is reunited with its eternal Partner: "I go towards my likeness/And my likeness goes toward me;/He embraces me and holds me close/As if I had come out of prison."

Similarly, the heavenly Partner (qarin) or Twin (taw'am) is the dominant figure in the prophetology and soteriology of Manicheism. It is the angel who appears to Mani when he is twenty-four years old and announces that it is time for him to manifest himself and bid men hear his doctrine. "Greetings to you, Mani, from myself and from the lord who sent me to you." The last words of the dying Mani alluded to this: "I contemplated my Double with my eyes of light." Later, in their psalms, his community sing: "We bless your partner-Companion of light, Christ, the source of our good." Mani, like Thomas in those same Acts which include the Song of the Pearl, has Christos Angelos as his heavenly Twin, who informs him of his vocation, just as the prophet Mohammed was to receive the revelation from the Angel Gabriel (and the identification Christos-Gabriel is by no means unknown in gnosis.) Now, Christos Angelos is the same in relation to Mani (in eastern Manicheism the Virgin of light is substituted for Christos Angelos), as is the taw'am, the "Heavenly Twin," in relation to each of the Elect respectively and individually. It is the Form of light which the Elect receive when they enter the Manichean community through the act of solemn renunciation of the powers of this world. At the passing away of one of the Elect, a psalm is sung in praise of "thy heavenly Partner who faileth not." In Catharism it is he who is called the Spiritus sanctus or angelicus of the particular soul, as carefully distinguished from the Spiritus principalis, the Holy Spirit referred to in invoking the three persons named in the Trinity.

That is why, since Manvahmed (the archangel Vohu Manah of Zoroastrianism, the Nous) is without doubt according to the Eastern texts the element of light, and as such both outside and inside the soul, the situation can be correctly defined only by preserving the four terms required by the analogy pointed out above. The great Manvahmed is to the totality of the souls of light (the Columna gloriae) what each Manvahmed (not the collectivity) is to its terrestrial "I." Here again it can be said that each Manvahmed (or Spiritus principalis) as in Sohravardi Perfect Nature is related to Gabriel, the Holy Ghost and Angel of humanity. This Form of light thus fulfills the same function as Perfect Nature. Each one of the Elect is guided by it throughout life and beyond; it is the supreme theophany. It is the "guide who initiates him by causing conversion to penetrate his heart; it is the Nous-light coming from above, the ray of the sacrosanct which comes to illuminate, purify, and guide the soul toward the Earth of light (Terra lucida) from which it came at the beginning of time, and to which it will return, reassuming its original form." This wise guide is the Form of light which is manifested in extremis to the Elect, "the image of light in the semblance of the soul," the Angel bearing the "diadem and crown"; it is, for each of the Elect, the heavenly Sophia or Virgin of light (the dominant figure also in the book of the Pistis Sophia). And Manicheism explicitly gives this figure its Zoroastrian name, thus confirming the Zoroastrian vision where the Daena of a being of light comes to meet him after death in the form of a "maiden who guides him."

All we have just tried to bring together here---too rapidly, too allusively---should be completed by reference to still other texts, more accessible no doubt than those alluded to above, as for instance the passages in the Phaedo and Timaeus of Plato and the commentary on these in the fourth chapter of the third Ennead, in which Plotinus speaks of the daimon paredros into whose care we are given, and who is the guide of the soul throughout life and beyond death. Mention should also be made of the beautiful development of the same theme in Apuleius (De Deo Socratis, 16), dealing with the higher group of daimons to each of whom the care of one human individual is entrusted and who serves as its witness (testis) and guardian (custos). No less essential for our purpose are the texts in which Philo of Alexandria calls the Nous the true man, the man within man. We experience this homo verus who dwells in the soul of each of us, now as an archon and king, now as a judge awarding the crown after life's battles; on occasion he plays the part of a witness, sometimes even of a prosecutor. Finally, mention must be made of the notion of sakshin in two Upanishads. "The man in man" is also the eyewitness, looking on at, but not involved in, not sullied by the actions and inner states of the man, whether in the waking state or the dream state, in deep sleep or ecstasy. "Two friends with beautiful wings, closely entwined, embracing one and the same tree; one eats its sweet fruits; the other does not eat, but looks on." The sakshin is the guide; the human being contemplates it and is united with it to the degree that all his defects are effaced in it; it is the homologue of Perfect Nature, of the shahid as the form of light.

The word "witness" (testis, shahid) has been mentioned several times, which already suggests what all these recurrences of the same Figure have in common---from the Zoroastrian vision of Daena to the contemplation of the shahid in Sufism. Where this witness of contemplation becomes, as in Najm Kobra, the theophanic witness of what is seen in vision, the function its name implies is made even clearer: according to whether the soul in vision sees it as light, or on the contrary "sees" only darkness, the soul itself testifies, by its vision, for or against it own spiritual realization. Thus the "witness in Heaven" is called the "scales of the suprasensory" (mizan al-ghayb); the beauty of the being who is the witness of contemplation is likewise a means of weighing, since it proves the capacity or incapacity of the soul to perceive beauty as theophany par excellence.                         

All these texts converge toward the epiphany of the same Figure whose very diverse names reveal rather than conceal its identity: the philosopher's Angel or Sun, Daena, Perfect Nature, personal master and suprasensory guide, Sun of the heart, etc. All these signs of convergence provide the indispensable context for a study of the phenomenology of the visionary experience in Iranian Sufism, where perceptions of colored lights are the manifestation of the personal spiritual guide (shaykh al-ghayb in Najm Kobra, ostad ghaybi in Semnani). It was important to show that the examples of this experience are linked with one and the same type of essentially individual, personal spiritual initiation. Further, as the reunion of the man of light and his guide, his heavenly counterpart and the transcendent "dimension" of his person, this experience has seemed to us oriented and orienting in a definite direction, toward those "Earths" whose direction can be suggested only by symbols---the symbols of the North.

In effect we have tried to show the structure and premises on which the liberation of the man of light, Prometheus-Phos, depends. The liberation as an event will now make clearer to us the orientation on which it depends. We shall need to recognize to what region the suprasensory guide forming a pair with its terrestrial "double" belongs, and in what direction it is revealed, namely the region and direction from which Phos originates and back to which his guide has to lead him. In the writings of Najm Kobra, we find again the image of the well into which the exile of the Sohravardian recital is cast. The effective emergence from the well begins when a supernatural green light shines at its mouth. Earlier we learned in Sohravardi both the hour when the event takes place and the direction indicated by this experience of radical individuation, experienced as a reunion with the personal Form of Light. Midnight Sun and heavenly pole: the symbols of the North taken together will show us the direction of the mystic Orient, that is, the Orient-origin, which has to be looked for not on the earthly planispheres, but at the summit of the cosmic mountain."