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Henry Corbin - Dramatic Element

Henry Corbin - Dramatic Element

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198
STUDIESINCOMPARATIVERELIGION
andtheirrelations.'Hereagain,ofcourse,geometryshouldbeconsideredinaverydifferentwaytothatoftheprofanemathematiciansandthisway'sprioritytothelattermostcompletelygivesthelietothosewhowouldattributetothissciencean"empirical"andutilitarianorigin;ontheotherhand,wehavehereanexampleofthemanner,aswehavesaidabove,inwhichthesciencesarelinkedamongstthemselvesfromthetraditionalstandpoint,tosuchanextentthatattimestheymaybeconsideredasinsomewayexpressionsofthesametruthsindifferentlanguages;thisismoreoverbutanaturalconsequenceofthe"lawofcorrespondences"whichistheveryfoundationofallsymbolism.Thesefewnotions,summaryandincompleteastheyare,willsufficeatleasttomakeoneunderstandwhatismostessentialinthetraditionalconceptionoftheartsandwhatdifferentiatesitmostprofoundlyfromtheprofaneconception,atoncewithregardtotheirbasis,asapplicationsofcertainsciences,totheirsignificance,asdiversemodalitiesofsymboliclanguage,andtotheirdestination,asameansforhelpingmantoapproachtrueknowledge.
TheDramaticElementCommontotheGnosticCosmogoniesoftheReligionsoftheBook
byHenryCorbin
PRELUDE
T
hesecondBookofKings(2Kingsvi:14-17)relatesthatinthattimethekingofSyriawantedtocaptureElisha.Hesenthorses,chariotsandastrongarmythatcamebynightandencircledthecitywheretheprophetwasstaying.Risingearly,theprophet'sservantwasdismayedtoseethethreateningpresenceofthearmyandthechariotssurroundingthecity.HequicklyinformedthemanofGod;andhereceivedthisreply:'Fearnot;fortheythatarewithusaremorethantheythatarewiththem.'AndElishaprayedtotheLordtoopentheyoungman'seyes.Hiseyeswereopenedand'hesawthemountainfullofhorsemenandchariotsoffireroundaboutElisha'.ThisincidentrecallsofcoursetheascentofElijahinachariotoffire,thechariotofhissubtlebodysurroundinghistemporaryfleshybody(c.f.2Kingsii:II).ThethingsElisha'sservantsaw-thehorsemenandthechariotsoffire-wereinvisibletotheeyesoftheflesh.Sincelikecanonlybeknownbylike,theeyeswhichtheLordhadtoopenforhimwereeyesoffire.Ourthemeaffirmsandpresupposesthatgnosisseesthingswitheyesoffire,thatistosaythatitperceiveswhatisinvisibletoscientificscrutiny,somethingwhoseperceptionusuallyseemsoutrageoustotheeyesoftheflesh.Thisisalreadyenoughtoprotectusfromthemisuseoftheword'gnosis'onthepartofsomemodernscholars,scholarsevenwhoarereputedtobeserious.Onehasnoscientificormoralrighttoapplythiswordtowhatispreciselyitsopposite,anymorethanonehastherighttoconfusea'theosophy'thatexploresthemysteryoforiginsrootedinthehiddenGodwithan'ideology'whenthiswouldbethelastthingwithwhichwhatnowadaysiscalledan'ideology'wouldconcernitself.'Gnosis':thiswordsignifiesaknowledgewhich,whilerevealingtomantheirreducibilityofevil,isredemptiveorsalvatory.Thegnosticisa'stranger'whorejectswhatisacceptedasevidenceinthisworld.Gnosisisaknowledgewhose
modusoperandi
isnotbymeansofdiscursivethoughtbutthroughrevelationdisclosinghiddenthings,asavinglightthatinitselfconferslifeandjoy,adivinegracethatbringsaboutandensuressalvation.Toknowwhatoneis,whooneis,toknowahigherworldfromwhichonehascome,whereouroriginsare-thisalreadyistobe'saved',andthisisgnosis.
It
isneveratheoreticalknowledge,but199
ThisistheHindunotionof"pratika",whichisnomorean"idol"thanitisaworkofimaginationandindividualphantasy.EachofthesetwoWesterninterpretations,opposedtoacertainextent,isaswrongastheother.Thedegenerationofcertainsymbolswhosemeaninghasceasedtobeunderstood,intoornamental"motifs",isoneofthecharacteristicfeaturesofprofanedeviation.See'LanguageoftheGods'"StudiesinComparitiveReligion"Spring1969.
It
iscuriousenoughtonotethatmodern"scholarship"hasarrivedatanindiscriminateapplicationoftheword"literature"toeverything,eventothesacredScriptureswhichithasthepretensiontostudyunderthesameheadingasanythingelseandbythesamemethods,and,whenitsrepresentativesspeakof"biblicalpoems"orof"Vedicpoems",altogethermisunderstandingwhatpoetrymeanttotheancients,itisoncemoretheirpurposetoreduceeverythingtosomethingpurelyhuman.Inthisconnection,itshouldbenotedherethatPlato's"geometerGod"isproperlyidentifiedwithApollo,whopresidesoverallthearts;this,directlyderivedasitisfromPythagorism,hasaparticularimportanceconcerningthefiliationofcertaintraditionalHellenicdoctrinesandtheirconnectionwitha"Hyperborean"firstorigin.
SomeonecomplainedtoMeisterEckhartthatnoonecouldunderstandhissermons.Hesaid.Tounderstandmysermonsamanrequiresthreethings.HemusthaveconqueredstrifeandbeincontemplationofhishighestgoodandbesatisfiedtodoGod'sbiddingandbeabeginnerwithbeginnersandnaughthimselfandbesomasterofhimselfastobeincapableofanger.Foryoumustknowthattothesoulinherperfectiongoodnesswouldcomequitenatural;shewouldnotmerelypracticevirtues,butvirtueasawholewouldbeherlifeandshewouldradiateitnaturally.Weseemtobeviciousorvirtuousfrombeingnowtheoneandnowtheother.Thisshouldnotbe:weoughttobealwaysinastateofperfection.Thatisonethingtonote.
ECKHART.
 
200
STUDIESINCOMPARATIVERELIGIONTHEDRAMATICELEMENT
201aneffectiveknowledge;thatistosayitbringsaboutthetransfigurationandrebirthofacreatedbeing.Ihavespokenaboutour'origins'.Whatscience(especiallypaleontology)doesistoconsidertheproblemwiththeeyesoftheflesh.Considerableresearchhasbeencarriedout,impressiveresultshavebeenachieved.Onereckonsyearsbydozensofmillions.Yes,butwithwhatsortofManaretheseresultsconcerned?HavetheyanythingincommonwiththegnosticviewpointandwiththeproblemofMan'soriginasperceivedwhengnosisexploresthemysterywiththeeyesoffire?Iwillillustratemyquestionbyreferring'toatextbythegreattheosophistFranzvonBaader,whowellunderstoodthatthebookofGenesisbeginsonlywiththecreationofthevisibleuniverse,andthatthisbeginningisnotanabsolutebeginning.
1
Evildidnotbegineitherwithorthroughman,butindependentlyofhim.FranzvonBaaderspeaksofcosmiccatastrophes,'greatcataclysmswhichwerebroughtaboutbeforethecomingofman.Ourancestorshadcommittedgreatcrimes,crimeswhichbroughtaboutdisturbancesintheuniverse,crimessuchaswecannolongercommittodayandofwhichwecanhavenoidea.Theseprimitivecrimescannotbedenied.InNaturewecanfindtracesofcrimesthatdonotstemfromusandthatconsequentlycouldonlyarisefrombeingsdifferentfromus,whowereinpossessionofNaturebefore
US.'2
ThattheGenesisnarrativereferstoeventswhichfollowedaninitialcatastropheissomethingthatJewishandChristiantheosophistshavealwaysknown,andsohaveIslamictheosophists,notablytheIsmailians,onthebasisoftheirmeditationsonthosepartsoftheQoranthatcorrespondtotheGenesistext.Butwhendidthiscatastrophetakeplaceandwhatwasitsnature?Thisispreciselyoneofthequestionstowhichgnosis,initsvariousformstriestogiveananswer,forthereisaJewishgnosis,aChristiangnosis,anIslamicgnosis,aBuddhistgnosis,andsoon.Therearetwowaysofconceivingtheanswer.ThecosmiccatastrophecanbeseenasanattackontheworldofLightmadebytheopposingpowerofDarknessthatistotallyexternalandalientotheworldofLight.InIraniancosmogony,thisattackismadebyAhrimanoncreationofOhrmazd,theWiseLord.Creation
(bundahishn)
isthencorruptedbyanappallingintermixture
(gumechishn)
whichcanonlyberesolvedwhen,atthefinalseparation,thehostileAhrimanicpoweriscastoutintoitsnothingness.Broadlyspeaking,thisisthe'dramainHeaven'asenvisagedbyZoroastriancosmogonyandManicheangnosis.Ontheotherhand,thecosmiccatastropheasa'dramainHeaven'canbeseenasprovokednotbyacausethatisexternaltotheworldofLightbutbyalapsetakingplacewithintheworldofLightitself.Thevisionofthe'dramainHeaven'astakingplacewithintheprimordialworldofLightitselfisoneoftheelementsthatiscommontothegnosticcosmogoniesofthethree'religionsoftheBook'.
It
iscommon,thatistosay,tothegnosisaffirmedrespectivelybyJudaism,ChristianityandIslam.Now,ourinitialpurpose,hereattheUniversityofStJohnofJerusalem,hasbeen,ifnottocreate,atleasttoprepareacentrefortheesotericismofthethreegreatreligionsoftheBook,acentrethathasneverbeforeexistedbutwithoutwhichatrue'Abraharnicoecumenicalism'wouldappeartobeimpossible.Suchanoecumenicalismisindeedinconceivableunlesswetrytomakethatascenttowhichthisesotericismsummonsus,anascentthatgoesbacktotheoriginsofthings.Inspiteofthedifficultiesimposedbytheneedforbrevity,theprimaryobjectofthispaperwillbetoexaminewhatconstitutesthemainfeaturesofthe'dramainHeaven'ofthethreecosmogoniesconcerned.IneachwewillencountertheideaofanimpassableLimit.Butadementeddesiretriestogobeyondit.OrthereistheideaofatorrenteruptingfrombeyondthisLimitthatproducesthecatastrophe.ThefirstisthedramaofWisdomorSophiainValentiniangnosis,orthatofthethirdAngeloftheworldofLight,theangelAdam,intheIsmailiangnosisofIslamicesoterism.Thesecondisthedramaticvisionofthe'breakingofthevessels'intheKabbalisticgnosisofIsaacLuria.Inbothcasesthereiscompletedisruption:nothingisinitsplace,everythingisinexile.Fromthisdisruptionourworldisborn,thepresentworldofearthlyman,whoshouldatthesametimebetheagentthroughwhomeverythingisrestored.Inbothcasesasimilarresolutionissoughtforinordertobringthedramatoanend.
It
presupposesinterventionsandmeasureswhoserealityandeffectivenesscanonlybeunderstoodonconditionthatoneseesthingswiththeeyesoffire,thoseeyesthatwereopenedfortheservantoftheprophetElisha.Valentiniangnosis,theKabbalaofIsaacLuria,andtheIsmailiangnosisallinviteonetosuchanopeningoftheeyes.
I.
VALENTINIANGNOSISValentinianGnosisowesitsnametoValentine,aChristianpriestofthesecondcentury,originallyfromEgypt,thegreatestteacherandmasteroftheSchoolofwhathascometobecalledgnosticism.AnaccountofValentiniangnosisleadsonethroughthethreephasesofhisdramaturgy:thedramaofWisdomorSophiawithinthePleroma;thedramaoutsidethePleroma;thefinalresolution.Unfortunatelywecanonlysummarizethesephasesbriefly.'
I.
ThedramaofSophiawithinthePleroma.
IwouldremindyoufirstofallthattheGreekword
pleroma
signifiesaworldthatisfull,complete,perfect,entireintheplentitudeofitsbeing.ThisprimordialworldispeopledwithbeingsdescribedasAeons(fromtheGreek
aioni,
awordthatindicatesboththeAgeofaworldandthisworlditself.
4
TheseAeonsarethehypostasesofthetranscendent-andunknowable-Principle,andtheyappearassyzygies,thatistosayascouples,eachmaleAeonbeingunitedwithafemaleAeon.Attheoriginoforigins,Valentiniangnosis'sees'aperfectAeon,priortoBeingandtowhatcanbeknownandsoinaccessible,unknowable,withoutnameorattribute.
It
isdescribedinmanyways,ofwhichthemostusualis
Bythos,
theAbyss.Hisfemininepartner,whoishisThought
(Ennoia)
isdescribedasSilence
(Sige).
Fromthisfirstcoupleproceedsasecondcouple:Intelligence(the
Nous,
theonly-begottenSon)andtruth
(Aletheia).
Onlythe
Nous
knowssomethingofthefathomless
 
202
STUDIESINCOMPARATIVERELIGIONTHEDRAMATICELEMENT
203Principle,andallknowledgethattheotherAeonsmayhaveofitismediatedbythe
Nous,
theonly-begottenSon.FromthisprimordialTetradtwoothercouplesorsyzygiesemanate.Inoneofthemthepartnersarecalled
Logos
andLife
(Zoe),
whileintheothertheyarecalled
Anthropos
(idealMan)and
Ecclesia
(typifyingtheChurchonhigh,thatoftheElectinitiatedintognosis).Thecouple
Logos-and-Life
givebirthtotenotherAeons.Thecouple
Anthropos-and-Ecclesia
givebirthtotwelveotherAeons.Thissequenceof8plus10plus12AeonsconstitutesthethirtyAeonsoftheValentinianPleroma,whatmightbecalledthegalaxiesofthismetaphysicaluniverse.EachhasitsownName,thesignificanceofwhichseemstohavebeensomewhatneglected.ThehypostasesofthePleromaareneitherlogicaluniversesnorsimpleabstractionspersonified;theyareEssencesofapersonalkindthathasnomeasurecommonwithourown.TheyoungestoftheseAeons(ifonemayputitlikethiswhenreferringtoBeingsthatenjoyeternalyouth)isthethirtieth.
It
iscalledWisdomorSophia,andsheistheheroineofthedramawithinthePleroma.Shecannotaccepttheunknowability,theinaccessibility,oftheoriginaltranscendentPrinciple.Shewantstoattainitdirectly,withoutanyintermediary.Shemakesanincredible'leap',aliteral'journeyintotheabyss'.Whetherthisleapwasanactofloveormadness,itwasboundtofail.Sheattemptsitattheriskofherbeing,becausethroughitherbeingisstretched,isextendedimmeasurablyinordertopassbeyondthewholehierarchyofAeonsthatprecedeher.Butthisleapisbrokenbyanentitythat,significantly,emergesfromtheAbyssandfromthe
Nous
thatalonehassomeknowledgeoftheAbyss.Thisentityisnamed'Limit',
Horos.
'Limit'notonlybreaksSophia'sinsaneleap,shealsosavesher,becauseinimposingalimitonherbeing,indelimitingit,shepreventsherfromdissolvingintolimitlessness;andsherestorestoSophiaherformandrank.ThusSophiawillremainwithinthepleromaofLight,buther
Enthymesis,
herthought,herplan,or,rather,herinsaneDesire",isseparatedfromherandbanishedfromthePleromaintoregionsofdarknessandemptiness.Thereintheworldofexile,thisDesire,thisThought,daughterofSophia-Wisdom,thehigherWisdom,grows,andbecomesthelowerWisdom,
Akhamoth,
anotherHebraicwordthatdesignates'Wisdom'.However,Sophia'splanbroughtaboutadisturbanceinthewholePleroma.AsaconsequencetherethenemanatedfromIntelligenceandTruthanewcouple:the
Christos
(IusetheGreekformtodifferentiateitfromthehistoricalChristofexoterism)andtheHolySpirit(itmustberememberedthatinthiscontexttheHolySpiritisoffemaleAeonandthattheSemiticwordforthespirit,
ruah,is
offemininegender).Thispair,thethirty-firstandthirty-secondAeons,willhaveaninitiaticroleinrelationtothePleroma,safeguardingitfromcommittingSophia'smistakeoveragain.
It
disclosesthemysteryoftheirbeingtoalltheAeons:thecauseoftheeternalpermanenceoftheirbeingistheunknowabletranscendenceofthePrincipleofwhichtheyarethehypostases,whilethecauseofthedelimitationthateternallygivestheirbeingbirthandformisthatwhichisknowableinandbythe
Nous,
theonly-begottenSon.TheirknowledgeoftheiridentityashypostasisandconsequentlyastheophanyofthePrincipleistherefo~e.theonlyknowledgethattheycanhaveofit.AtasinglestrokeValentimangnosispositsthepresuppositionsbothofnegative~rapophati~theologyandoftheonlytypeofaffirmativetheology~hatISpo~slbl~.ThewholePleromaoftheAeonsoflightnowfindsItselfstrengthenedinitsbeingandfunction,andforeachofthemtheirbeingb~comesanimmensedelight.Eachofthem'bringsforthandsharesWithalltheotherswhatisfinestinitandis,sotospeak,theflowerofitssubstance',andtogethertheyradiateaperfectbeauty,astheStarofthePleroma.Thisisthe'perfectFruit',whichinthePlerom~hasthename_Jesus,or
Soter
thesaviouroreventheParaclete.HeISboththethirty-thirdAeon'andtheAll,'sinceHeproceedsfromtheAll.Heisthe
ChristosAngelos,
forthe'Angelsofthesameraceashe'arecreatedatexactl~thesametime,thoseangelsofwhomitissaidthatt~eyareallth~SaviourhimselfsincetheyaccomplishwhatevertheSaviouraccomplishes.
2.
ThedramaofSophiaoutsidethePleroma.
WecannowfollowthedramaoutsidethePleroma.Sophia'smadDesirehas.beenc~st<;mt,banished,butsincethisDesireisessentiallyanabortiveDesire,It~ssomethingthatstillhasneitherformnorfigure,eventhoughthisabortive
Enthymesis
isactuallythedaughter.ofthehigherSophia.BecauseofthisthepairChristosandHolySpirit(hereafemaleAeo'!)aresentbythePleromatogivea.formtoitssubsta.nceandtoprepareI.nthisexiledSophiatheawakeningofherconscience.ThenthepairreturnstothePleroma.Sophiaawakensand,becomingawareofherself,shebecomesawareoftheabsenceofthecompanionwhohashelpedherandlefther.
7
ShesetsoutinsearchofthisLight,butonceagainLimitholdsherbackandshesinksintothedesolationofheragony.
It
isatthisp~intthatthe'perfectFruit'of~hePleroma,the
C:hristosAngelos,
issenttoher.HecomesaccompaniedbyAngels,hispages
(doryphoroi),
whoare'ofthesamenatureandage~she'(ofthesameplerornaticage,thatistosay).T~emer.e.conte~platlOnoft~~seAngelsisenoughtobringabout
10
Sophiaaspiritualbirthofthesplr.ltuals~edsthathavebeenpresentwithinherfromthemomentshecameinto~emg.Thesespiritualseedsareallthegnosticstocome,ofwhomsheIStheever-presentmother.ThentheSaviour,theAngelofthePleroma,provokesinher,asheiniti~tesherintog.n<;>sis,amovementofconversionareturnamutation.Thenhedividesfromherallthepassionsofherexile,Hecannotdestroythem,~ohecombinesthemintoasolidmassthatisstillincorporealbutwhichheendowsWiththeaptitudetobecomecorporeal,tofor~compoundsa.ndbodies.Sadness,stupor,anguish,despairarechangedinto.thematenalsubstanceofourworld.Gnosis,likealchemy,doesnotIsolatethepsychicfr,?~.thephysical:physicalmatterisasitwerepsychicmattersolidified,congealed.Wenowhavethreeelementsessentialtocosmogonyandanthropo-logy:1)Atthesummit,thereis.a.spiritualsubs.tance,asubstance~~atis'pneumatic'(from
pneuma,
spirit),ThishasIssuedfromthesplfltualbirthprovokedinSophiabyhervisionoftheAngelsaccompanyingthe
ChristosAngelos.
2)Atthebase,thereisamaterialsubstance,a

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