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Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi by Henry Corbin
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“between the universe that can be apprehended by pure intellectual P.erception (the universe of the Cherubic Intelligences) and the universe perceptible to the senses, there is an intermediate world, the world of Idea-Images, of archetypal figures, of subtile substances, of "immaterial matter." This world is as real and objective, as consistent and subsistent as the intelligible and sensible worlds; it is an intermediate universe "where the spiritual takes body and the body becomes spiritual," a world consisting of real matter and real extension, though by comparison to sensible, corruptible matter these are subtile and immaterial. \The organ of this universe is the active Imagination; it is the place oftheophanic visions, the scene on which visionary events and symbolic histories appear in their true reality.\ Here we shall have a good deal to say of this universe, but the word imaginary will never be used, because with its present ambiguity this word, by prejudging the reality attained or to be attained, betrays an inability to deal with this at once intermediate and intermediary world.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“The individual is identified with the perishable; what can become eternal in the individual pertains exclusively to the separate and unique active Intelligence.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“Ibn Arabi observes that the most perfect of mystic lovers are
those who love God simultaneously for himself and for them-
selves, because this capacity reveals in them the unification of
their twofold nature (a resolution of the torn "conscience
malheureuse" ). He who has made himself capable of such love
is able to do so because he combines mystic knowledge ( ma
rrifa ) with vision ( shuhud) .”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“my vision of Him is His vision
of me”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“Once he has recognized his invisible guide, a mystic sometimes decides to trace his own isnlld, to reveal his spiritual genealogy, that is, to disclose the "chain of transmission" culminating in his person and bear witness to the spiritual ascendancy which he invokes across the generations of mankind. He does neither more nor less than to designate by name the minds to whose family he is conscious of belonging. Read in the opposite order from their phenomenological emergence, these genealogies take on the appearance of true genealogies. Judged by the rules of _our historical criticism, the claim of these genealogies to truth seems highly precarious. Their relevance is to another "transhistoric truth," which cannot be regarded as inferior (because it is of a different order) to the material historic truth whose claim to truth, with the documentation at our disposal, is no less precarious. Suhrawardi traces the family tree of the IshrlqiyOn back to Hermes, ancestor of the Sages, (that Idris-Enoch of Islamic prophetology, whom Ibn rArabi calls the prophet of the Philosophers) ; from him are descended the Sages of Greece and Persia, who are followed by certain �ofis (Abo Yazid Bastlmi, Kharraqlni, I;Ialllj, and the choice seems particularly significant in view of what has been said above about the Uwaysis}, and all these branches converge in his own doctrine and school. This is not a history of philosophy in our sense of the term; but still less is it a mere fantasy.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“The Imagination is the scene of the
encounter whereby the supersensory-divine and the sensible
"descend" at one and the same "abode.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“The authentic mystic wisdom ( mafrifa) is that of the soul which
knows itself as a theophany, an individual form in which are
epiphanized the divine Attributes which it would be unable to
know if it did not discover and apprehend them in itself. 'When
you have entered into my Paradise, you have entered into your-
self ( into your "soul," nafs), and you know yourself with an-
other knowledge, different from that which you had when you
knew your Lord by the knowledge you had of yourself," for
now you know Him, and it is through Him that you know
yourself.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“And the ritual of Prayer embraces all these movements:
(a) There is the ascending, vertical movement which corre-
sponds to the faithful's erect stance. This is the movement of
the growth of man, whose head rises toward the heavens.
( b ) There is the horizontal movement, which corresponds to
the orant's state at the moment of the profound inclination.
This is the direction in which animals grow. (c) There is the
inverse, descending movement, corresponding to the prosternation. This is the movement of the plant , sinking its roots in depth. Thus Prayer reproduces the movements of the creatural
universe; it is itself recurrence of Creation and new Creation.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“To be acquainted with what is best and oldest in yourself,
is to know yourself as you were, before the world was
made, before you emerged into time.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“What explanation does Ibn Arabi give for these phenomena ?
A first explanation invokes the hierarchical planes of being, the
Hadarat, or "Presences." There are five of these Presences,
namely, the five Descents ( tanazzulat); these are determina-
tions or conditions of the divine Ipseity in the forms of His
Names; they act on the receptacles which undergo their influx
and manifest them. The first Hadra is the theophany ( tajalli) of
the Essence ( dhat) in the eternal latent hexeities which are
objects, the correlata of the Divine Names. This is the world of
Absolute Mystery ( alam al-ghayb al-mutlaq, Hadrat al-Dhat).
The second and the third Hadarat are respectively the angelic
world of determinations or individuations constituting the
Spirits ( taayyunatt ruhiya ) and the world of individuations
constituting the Souls ( taayyunaatt nafsiya). The fourth Hadra
is the world of Idea-Images ( alam al-mithal), typical Forms,
individuations having figure and body, but
in the immaterial
state of "subtile matter. " The fifth Hadra is the sensible and
visible world (alam al-shahada ), of dense material bodies. By
and large, with minor variations, this schema is constant in our
authors.19”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“For this reason each lower Presence is
the image and correspondence ( mithal), the reflection and
mirror of the next higher. Thus everything that exists in the
sensible world is a reflection, a typification ( mithal), of what
exists in the world of Spirits, and so on, up to the things which
are the first reflections of the Divine Essence itself.Everything that is manifested to the senses is therefore the form of an
ideal reality of the world of Mystery ( nana ghaybi), a face
( wajh ) among the faces of God, that is to say, of the divine
Names. To know this is to have the intuitive vision of mystic
meanings (kashf manawi); he to whom this knowledge is given
has received an infinite grace, says 'Abd al-Razzaq Kashani,
the commentator of the Fusus. Consequently, all the sciences of
Nature are based on the meaning of the typifications of the
world of Mystery. And this is one of the interpretations given
to the Prophetic maxim: "Men are asleep; at their death they
awaken.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“But again we must be
careful to bear in mind that for Ibn Arabi fana is never absolute annihilation ( the failure to do so has been a source of
countless misunderstandings in regard both to Sufismm and to
Buddhism ). Fana and baqa are always relative terms. Accord-
ing to Ibn Arabi, one must always state toward what there is
annihilation, and wherein there is survival, persistence. In
the state of fana, of concentration, of "Koran," in which the
essential unity of Creator and Creature is experienced, the
Divine Attributes become predicables of the mystic ( discrimi-
nation is suspended ). Then we may say not only that the mystic
"creates" in the same sense as God Himself creates ( that is to
say, causes something which already existed in the world of
Mystery to be manifested in the sensible world ), but in addi-
tion that God creates this effect through him. It is one and the
same divine operation, but through the intermediary of the
gnostic, when he is "withdrawn" (fana) from his human at-
tributes and when he persists, survives ( baqa' ) in his divine
attributes. The mystic is then the medium, the intermediary,
through whom the divine creative power is expressed and
manifested.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“Ibn Arabi was above all the disciple of Khidr ( Khidr). We shall attempt further on to indicate what it signifies and implies to be "the disciple of Khidr." In any event such a relationship with a hidden spiritual master lends the disciple an essentially "transhistorical" dimension and presupposes an ability to experience events which are enacted in a reality other than the physical reality of daily life, events which spontaneously transmute themselves into symbols.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“In Sura 18 ayahs 59-81, Khidr figures in a mysterious episode, a thorough study of which would require an exhaustive confrontation with the earliest Quran commentaries. He is represented as Moses' (PBUH) guide, who initiates Moses (PBUH) "into the science of predestination." Thus he reveals himself to be the repository of an inspired divine science, superior to the law (shari'a); thus Khidr is superior to Moses (PBUH) in so far as Moses (PBUH) is a prophet invested with the mission of revealing a shari'a. He reveals to Moses (PBUH) precisely the secret, mystic truth (haqiqa) that transcends the shari'a, and this explains why the spiritually inaugurated by Khidr is free from the servitude of the literal religion. If we consider that Khidr's mission is likewise related o the spiritual mission of the Imam through the identification of Khidr with Elijah (PBUH), it becomes evident that we have here one of the scriptural foundations on which the deepest aspiration of Shi'ism is built. And indeed Khidr's pre-eminence over Moses (PBUH) ceases to be a paradox only if we consider it in this light; otherwise, Moses (PBUH) remains one of the six pre-eminent prophets charged with revealing a shari'a, while Khidr is merely one of the hundred and eighty thousand nabis, mentioned in our traditions.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“The "field" encompassed in the
"science of the Imagination" is so vast that it is difficult to
enumerate all its sectors.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“To sum up,
the power of the heart is a secret force or energy ( quwwat
Khafiya ), which perceives divine realities by a pure hierophanic
knowledge { idrak wadih jali) without mixture of any kind,
because the heart contains even the Divine Rahma. In its un-
veiled state, the heart of the gnostic is like a mirror in which
the microcosmic form of the Divine Being is reflected.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“In this essential point Ibn rArabi declares concisely: "Those
to whom God remains veiled pray the God who in their belief
is their Lord to have compassion with them. But the intuitive
mystics [Ahl al-Kashf] ask that divine Compassion be fulfilled
[come into being, exist] through them."28 In other words, the
Gnostic's prayer does not tend to provoke a change in a being
outside him who would subsequently take pity on him. No, his
prayer tends to actualize this divine Being as He aspires to be
through and for him who is praying and who "in his very
prayer" is the organ of His passion. The Gnostic's prayer
means: Make of us, let us be, Compassionate ones, that is to
say, "become through us what thou hast eternally desired to
be. " For the mystic has come to know that the very substance of
his being is a breath (spiritus) of that infinjte Compassion; he
is himself the epiphanic form of a divine N arne. Accordingly his
prayer does not consist in a request ( the �Ofis have always stood
in horror of that kind of prayer )27 but in his actual mode of
being ( like the prayer of the heliotrope turning toward its
heavenly Lord); it has the value of clarifying the degree of
spiritual aptitude he has attained, that is, the measure in which
he has become "capable of God. " But this measure is itself
determined by his own eternal condition, his archetypal in-
dividuality. "As thou wert in pre-eternity, that is to say, in
thine eternal virtuality, so wert thou manifested in thy present
condition. Everything that is present in the manifest being is
the form of what he was in his state of eternal virtuality. "28
It would be a mistake to find here the source of a causal deter-
minism of the current variety; more appropriately we might
liken this conception to Leibniz' "pre-established harmony.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“Prayer is the highest form,
the supreme act of the Creative Imagination.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“To become a Compassionate One is to become the likeness of
the Compassionate God experiencing infinite sadness over
undisclosed virtualities; it is to embrace, in a total religious
sympathy, the theophanies of these divine Names in all faiths.
But this sympathy, precisely, does not signify acceptance of
their limits; it signifies rather that in opening ourselves to them
we open them to the expansion that the primordial divine sym-
pathesis demands of them; that we increase their divine light to
the maximum; that we "emancipate" them-as the divine
Compassion did in pre-eternity-that is, emancipate them from
the virtuality and the ignorance which still confine them in their
narrow intransigence. By thus taking them in hand, religious
sympathy enables them to escape from the impasse, that is, the
sin of metaphysical idolatry. For this sympathy alone renders a
being accessible to the light of theophanies. Mankind discloses
the refusal of the divine Names in many forms, ranging from
atheism pure and simple to fanaticism with all its variants. All
come from the same ignorance of the infinite divine Sadness,
yearning to find a compassionate servant for His divine Names.
The Gnostic's apprenticeship consists in learning to practice
fidelity to his own Lord, that is, to the divine Name with which
he, in his essential being, is invested, but at the same time to hear the precept of Ibn •Arabi: "Let thy soul be as matter for all
forms of all beliefs. " One who has risen to that capacity is an
• arif, an initiate, "one who through God sees in God with the
eye of God. "Those who accept and those who decline are
subject to the same authority: the God in function of whom you
live is He for whom you bear witness, and your testimony is
also the judgment you pronounce on yourself.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“To begin with, let us recall the /J,adltlt which all our mysticr
of Islam untiringly meditate, the �adltlt in which the Godhead
reveals the secret of His passion ( his pathos): "I was a hidden
Treasure and I yearned to be known. Then I created creatures
in order to be known by them." With still greater fidelity to Ibn
rArabi's thought, let us translate: "in order to become in them
the object of my knowledge." This divine passion, this desire to
reveal Himself and to know Himself in beings through being
known by them, is the motive underlying an entire divine
dramaturgy, an eternal cosmogony. This cosmogony is neither
an Emanation in the Neoplatonic sense of the word nor, still
less, a creatio ex niltilo. It is rather a succession of manifestations
of being, brought about by an increasing light, within the
originally undifferentiated God ; it is a succession of tajalliylit,
of theophanies.15 This is the context of one of the most charac-
teristic themes of Ibn rArabi's thinking, the doctrine of divine
Names ( which has sometimes been termed, rather inexactly, his
"mythology" of the divine Names).”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“God describes Himself to us through ourselves. Which means that the
divine Names are essentially relative to the beings who name
them, since these beings discover and experience them in their
own mode of being. Accordingly these Names are also desig-
nated as Presences (Hadarat), that is, as the states in which the
Godhead reveals Himself to his faithful in the form of one or
another of His infinite Names. Thus the divine Names have
meaning and full reality only through and for beings who are
their epiphanic forms ( mazahir) , that is to say, the forms in
which they are manifested. Likewise from all eternity, these
forms, substrate of the divine Names, have existed in the divine
Essence (A yan thabita ) . And it is these latent individualities
who from all eternity have aspired to concrete being in actu.
Their aspiration is itself nothing other than the nostalgia of the
divine Names yearning to be revealed. And this nostalgia of the
divine Names is nothing other than the sadness of the unrevealed
God, the anguish He experiences in His unknownness and
occultation.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“On both
sides we encounter the idea that the Godhead possesses the
power of Imagination, and that by imagining the universe God
created it; that He drew this universe from within Himself,
from the eternal virtualities and potencies of His own being;
that there exists between the universe of pure spirit and the
sensible world an intermediate world which is the idea of "Idea
Images" as the �afis put it, the world of "supersensory sensi-
bility," of the subtile magical body, "the world in which spirits
are materialized and bodies spiritualized" ; that this is the world
over which the Imagination holds sway; that in it the Imagina-
tion produces effects so real that they can "mold" the imagining
subject, and that the Imagination "casts" man in the form ( the
mental body ) that he has imagined. In general we note that
the degree of reality thus imputed to the Image and the crea-
tivity imputed to the Imagination correspond to a notion of
creation unrelated to the official theological doctrine, the doc-
trine of the creatio e.x nihilo, which has become so much a part
of our habits that we tend to regard it as the only authentic idea
of creation. We might even go so far as to ask whether there
is not a necessary correlation between this idea of a creatio e.x
nikilo and the degradation of the ontologically creative Imagi-
nation and whether, in consequence, the degeneration of the
Imagination into a fantasy productive only of the imaginary
and the unreal is not the hallmark of our laicized world for which
the foundations were laid by the preceding religious world,
which precisely was dominated by this characteristic idea of the
Creation.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“That is why the theopathic maxim of
the disciples of Ibn Arabi was not Ana'l Haqq "I am God "
(Hallaj) , but Ana sirr al-l Haqq, "I am the secret of God," that
is to say, the secret of love that makes His divinity dependent on
me, because the hidden Treasure "yearned to be known" and it
was necessary that beings exist in order that He might be
known and know Himself.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“By giving objective body to intentions of the heart (himma,
W6V1.111a1S), this creativity fulfils the first aspect of its function.
This aspect comprises a large number of phenomena designated
today as extrasensory perception, telepathy, visions of syn-
chronicity, etc. Here Ibn Arabi contributes his personal testi-
mony. In his autobiography ( Risiilat al-Quds), he tells how he
was able to evoke the spirit of his shaikh, Yusuf al-Kumi, when-
ever he needed his help, and how Yusuf regularly appeared to
him, to help him and answer his questions. Sadruddin Qunyawi,
the disciple whom Ibn Arabi instructed in Qunya, also speaks
of his gift: "Our shaikh Ibn Arabi had the power to meet the
spirit of any Prophet or Saint departed from this world, either
by making him descend to the level of this world and contem-
plating him in an apparitional body ( surat mithaliya ) similar to
the sensible form of his person, or by making him appear in his
dreams, or by unbinding himself from his material body to rise
to meet the spirit.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“The theosophy of Light suggests the metaphor of the mirror
and the shadow. But "shadow" must not be taken to imply a
dimension of Satanic darkness, an Ahrimanian antagonist; this
shadow is essentially a reflection, the projection of a silhouette
or face in a mirror. Our authors even speak of a "luminous
shadow" ( in the sense that color is shadow in the context of
absolute Light: Zill al-nur as opposed to Zill al-zulma, dark
shadow). And that is how we must take the following state-
ment: "Everything we call other than God, everything we call
the universe, is related to the Divine Being as the shadow ( or
his reflection in the mirror) to the person. The world is God's
shadow.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
“Others love you for their own sakes.
I love you for your own self,
And you, you flee from Me.

Dearly beloved!
You can not treat Me fairly, for if you approach Me,
It is because I have approached you.”
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi