Bismillaah ir Rahmaan ir Rahiim
In the name of Allah, The Merciful, The Compassionate
Second Part of Excerpts from the book
Man of Light in Iranian Sufism by Henry Corbin
Continuing with further excerpts from Man of Light in Iranian Sufism, below Henry Corbin discusses the work of Najm Kobra a 13th Century Sufi from Persia (Iran).
He refers to Najm Kobra’s Spiritual Diary to teach us about the recognition and proper understanding of the relationship between the nature of the soul and the work of its purification and transformation. The theme of the escape from the dark ‘well’ toward the light continues from the previous article.
… this veil is not outside themselves; it is a part of them, and is the darkness of their creatural nature.
My friend, shut your eyelids and look at what you see. If you tell me: I see nothing - you are mistaken. You can see very well, but unfortunately the darkness of your nature is so close to you that it obstructs your inner sight, to the point that you do not discern what is to be seen. If you want to discern it and to see it in front of you even with your eyes closed, begin by diminishing or by putting away from you something of your nature. But the path leading to that end is spiritual warfare. And the meaning of spiritual warfare is putting everything to work so as to repel the enemies … The enemies in this case are nature, Shaytan and the lower soul. (Najm Kobra) (p.63)
There is a correlation between the escape of the man of light, the colored photisms, and the manifestation of the heavenly guide. This correlation itself intimates the condition which must precede all such experience: men must separate themselves from the veil that blinds them. (p.63)
According to Corbin:
To reach the goal, one must first orient oneself: discern the shadow and where the shadow is. This shadow is composed of the three antagonists that have just been named. Spiritual warfare trains one to recognize the enemies, to know them by name, to distinguish the forms in which they appear, and to effect their transmutation. … separation from the shadow and the fall of the shadow brings about the manifestation of the lights and of the Guide of light. (p.63-64)
Highlighting the moment-to-moment reality of spiritual warfare, Corbin takes us further into what the Prophet (s.a.w.) called the Greater Jihad. This ‘warfare’ gradually leads to the transformation of the soul, from lower natural or creatural states to higher spiritual states.
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 is where creatural nature, natural existence (wojud), "is at first sight complete darkness; you will see it take on before your eyes the appearance of a black
When it begins to be purified … and annihilated, and legitimate aspirations are implanted in their stead, you will see that its appearance (and its color gradually changes step by step and color by color). (p.64-65)
The colors that are revealed in the inner world have meaningful correspondences to higher spiritual realities within man’s being. It is exactly this correspondence which reveals the degree of transcendence.
The three adversaries can only be destroyed at the price of an effort that attacks the discordant trilogy of the soul. The motive power to fuel this effort is the light itself, that is, the particle of light, the "man of light," effecting the conversion of like to like. (p.64)
There are lights which ascend and lights which descend. The ascending lights are the lights of the heart; the descending lights are those of the Throne. Creatural being is the veil between the Throne and the heart. When this veil is rent and a door to the Throne opens in the heart, like springs toward like. Light rises toward light and light comes down upon light, "and it is light upon light" (Qur’an 24:35). (Najm Kobra) (p.72)
Everything that we are analyzing may well be condensed in those few lines: a totality which is "light upon light,” (Quran 24:35), not light and shadow, in the perspective of the threefold psychic dimension as we have again to emphasize in conclusion. (p.72-73)
Thus far spiritual warfare has been described as consisting of recognition, naming of the ‘three adversaries’ in each of their seemingly infinite guises and clothing and in the effort to separate from these veils. Recognising the various vessels of help in this journey is needed, which we cannot go through them all here, but just mentioning one.
Corbin proposes the question:
… but how does the Sufi reach this aim? The most effective means of realization offered to him is the dhikr (= zekr), continuous prayer (remembrance). This is what can bring about the opening and then the growth of this substance of light which is in you, to such a degree that by attracting it to its suprasensory Guide, the reunion will take place. The stages of growth of this organism of light will then be marked by the colored photisms, until the particle of divine light, the man of light within you, suddenly bursts forth. (p.73)
The spiritual energy given off by the dhikr makes possible the emergence and ascent from the well; this theme recurs with an emphasis we have already pointed out. The stages of ascent are accompanied by the colored photisms that herald the growth of the subtle organs or centers of the man of light, … that shines at the mouth of the well. At the end of this ascent, the phenomena of light multiply, heralding the rejoining with the heavenly Witness, at the pole. (p.64)
In the light of the above writings for those of you who are interested in the journey of spiritual discovery and unfoldment, I like to explain and expand on the power of Zekr.
Zekr is remembrance, that is remembrance of God through his various names. Zekr has various levels. The first level which is most common is either alone or getting together with some people either in a Sufi gathering or another place, and recite outwardly one or two of Allah’s names or phrase. That is the first level of Zekr. The second level is doing the repetition of the name with concentration within oneself and one’s heart. The third level is silent Zekr, with concentration again on reality of the name and one’s heart without expectation of anything for oneself to receive. The highest level is not just sitting down doing the Zekr but occurs when everything that you see and do would be in remembrance of God and takes you back to Him. Of course as Corbin said these steps need to be taken level to level and one cannot jump from the first step wanting to reach what the higher level can provide. The reason is that with every step if one is dedicated and is sincere, something shifts inside which changes the inner cosmology of the person and accordingly the connection with the appropriate light in the higher level of the unseen.
This is a brief explanation for the practice of Zekr. So somewhere along the line of moving into the steps of the spiritual journey in general, and the steps of Zekr in particular, the changes take place within the person if it is followed properly and sincerely.
May Allah reward your efforts on the path and open your heart to that light.
Fleur Nassery Bonnin
Corbin, H. and Pearson, N., 1971. The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism. 1st ed. New York: Omega Publications Inc.