Vol. VII No.2
THINGS AND ANGELS
DEATH AND IMMORTALITY IN HEIDEGGER AND IN ISLAMIC GNOSIS
The over-all aim of these reflections is to contribute to the development of a conception of human reality that radically departs from the Aristotelian notion of man as rational animal (zoon logon echon), that is, as a substantive union of soul and body. On the Aristotelian premise, which has dominated the official Western thought up to the emergence of existentialism in post-war Europe, soul cannot subsist without a body and their separation means that both suffer death. Aristotle's soul is a mortal soul. Paradoxically, however, it became, in a manner of speaking, even more so when it was identified during the Middle Ages by Christian Aristotelians with mind or spirit, which they conceived as a power enabling man to transcend his own mechanically conditioned organism altogether. For by superimposing upon the naturalistic psyche of Aristotle the notion of an otherworldly and spiritual soul, the medieval theologians succeeded only in preparing the way for the Cartesians worldless consciousness (res cogttans}. An otherworldly soul is a soul without a world, a lonely traveller adrift in a. cosmos that knows it not. What I am saying is that a purely spiritual (immaterial) soul, even though it may have all the appurtenances of an abstractly conceived immortality, is bound to be as dead as the Cartesian matter (res extensa): it is mortal from a surfeit of spirituality, as it were, from lack of breath, which was formerly supplied to it by the Soul of the World (anima mundi, Active Intelligence). It is for this reason that, as the French philosopher Gilbert Durand has observed, classical spirituality from Aristotle to Descartes, is "a pseudo-spirituality, a ghost of spirituality." In effect, this unsubstantial revenant is simply the obverse side of an equally vulgar, puffed up materialism .
• he fatal flaw in the traditional Western metaphysics, in DUJ.. nd's words, is that it has considered mind according to the modalities of objective (empirical) experience: "The res cogitans conceives of itself in terms of res extensa, "1 The unforeseen result of
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this depletion exercise is that man himself has become an alienated being, a world-less soul in a soul-less world - a "naked ape" or a Giant Rat whose behavior from the womb to the tomb can be measured by quantitative methods and controlled by manipulation of stimuli (behaviorism).
The great French Islamic scholar and mystic Henry Corbin has traced man's alienation from cosmos to Latin Averroism and Aristotelian Thomism, i.e. to the moment at which Western Philosophy, under the aegis of the Roman Church, repudiated Plato's and Avicenna's concept of "active intelligence". According to the Schoolmen anterior to Aquinas, the active intelligence (nous poeitikos; active, poetic intellect) is a quasi cosmic reality constituting what is highest, most powerful and most worthy both in the essence of man and nature. 2 In Averroes, however, this power is severed from the individual soul; the latter receives its individuality and uniqueness not from the active intellect (the Angel) but only through the fact of its union with body. Accordingly, says Corbin, "the individual is identifed with the perishable; what can become eternal in the individual pertains exclusively to the separate and unique active Intelligence"," In other words, Averroes denies the human individual as such any possibility of becoming eternal. It is important to note that this denial is already implied in the rejection by the Aristotelian Thomism of the Plotinian idea of eternal and necessary emanation.
In most general terms, the doctrine of emanation teaches that creation is not the result of a deliberate decision on the part of a divine being, but is comparable to the effortless and unpremeditated radiation of light by the sun. The underlying premise of emanationism is that "good diffuses itself". Entities (i.e., the Plotinian hypostases of the One, the Intelligence and the Soul) that have achieved perfection of their own being do not keep that perfection to themselves, but spread it abroad by generating an external image of their internal acticity. In this sense the Plotinian One is refreshingly unlike the Jehovah of Genesis who creates a perfect world and, having realized that he didn't quite succeed became ill-tempered. An important corrolary of the theory of emanation is that all things are alive and sentient, down to the very dust in which the emanative principle is exhausted. For Plotinus, every active force in nature is a soul or is attached to a soul. There is no inanimate being in the universe: "We say that a thing is not alive because we are unable to perceive that it receives movement from the universe. Its life escapes us. Every being has a creative power ... it has a share of soul, which comes to it from the
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universe"." In the Platonic tradition human psyche is the center of the universe; it has an infinite capacity for change and sensitization to the life processes as an ever moving stream of becomings and extinctions. The soul is a wanderer among the worlds. Curiously, a similar thought is adumbrated in the Buddhist Pali canon: "Within this very body, mortal as it is, and only six feet long, I do declare to you, are the world and the origin of the world, and the cessation of the world".
Heidegger's Concept of Death
In contemporary philosophy it is Martin Heidegger who has been most effective in demolishing the pseudo-spirituality of the West by showing that human reality (Dasein). unlike any other living thing, is irremediably infected with finitude and death. In this sense his emphasis on mortality as an actual constituent of human existence may be seen as an explicitation of what is already implied in the Aristotelian definition of man (rational animal). However, whereas for Aristotle mortality of the soul is due to its substantive union with the body, i.e., with the animal component, in Heidegger death is not something that happens to us because we are also animals, but rather because we are men. Only men are capable of dying, animals simply perish. Naturally, then, Heidegger will have nothing (or almost nothing) to say about the possibility of survival beyond the grave even though, as I shall later argue, his conception of man by no means excludes such a possibility. In particular, I shall contend that "immortality" makes sense only when Heidegger's speculations about man are supplemented by the acceptance of what. Corbin and the Persian sufis call the intermediate realm of the soul (mundus imaginalis) in combination with Avicenna's doctrine of angelology, In the end, it will also appear that Heidegger's later thought is not only compatible in many respects with Sufi gnosis,' but that it positively demands a leap into a circle which is more subtle than the famous "hermeneutical circle" and more truly phenomenological than the phenomenology of quotidien and ordinary modes- of human existence (Edmund Husserl ).
To understand Heidegger's view of death more fully, we must first contrast it with the conventional notion of mortality and the associated speculations about post mortem state. To most people and philosophers ip the Western tradition death means either total cessation ending in putrefaction or a transition to an otherworldly state of deathlessness. What seems to have been overlooked is that
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in both instances death, instead of being an essential part of life, is conceived as simply additive to life. What is added to life in the first case is simply more of the same, assuming of course that life ending in the destruction of our most precious hopes and aspirations can be nothing more than a cruel charade, a series of isolated, mechanical happenings during which we manage to stay more or less alive. Thus what "happens" in death is that only a "more" is added to what we are already in life. It's like in the old French saying: plus ca change plus c'est la meme chose. When we "pass away," only more "deadness" accrues to the previous state of deadness, ataraxia, boredom, isolation. In this sense death is an event to be dreaded because it is the most uneventful event of our lives, the ultimate bore. Death cancels all eventing; as the ultimate non-event it is utterly meaningless. In our bewilderment we occasionally pronounce it "absurd", especially when "one dies" young or "by accident".
What is added to "life after death," i.e. to life in the supraterrestrial realms, is also more of the same - only in the reverse sense. Now there is so much life that one is bound to wonder what a normal person can possibly do with it. If, on the other hand, one is not supposed to be altogether normal in these rarefied environs, then the continuity between "here" and "there" breaks down and, somebody else is doing "out there" whatever he or she is doing "out there". The crucial point in this connection is that to envision after-life in terms of unalloyed bliss seems to be as distortive of the real nature of death as to accept death in the equanimous style of a Stoic or a latter-day humanist.
Before presenting Heidegger's analysis of death we must preface it by an outline of his conception of man, technically called Dasezn. As it was observed a while ago, the main obstacle to an adequate grasp of the human condition is the tendency to understand man on the model of things or beings encountered within the world Instead of recognizing our essential belongingness to the world (being-in-the-world), we think of it as a sort of commercium between one entity (world) and another (self or soul), that is, as a subjectobject relation. According to Heidegger, the epistemological and psychological problem of how a subject can reach out to the object is a false problem for the simple reason that knowing is itself a mode of man's being in the world and thus presupposes the latter. We are not shut up within an inner sphere of our subjectivity to begin with, but are ever "outside", in the midst of things within a world which from the beginning stands disclosed to us. Paraphrasing Heidegger, J.L. Metha, a reputed scholar of the German philoso-
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pher, says: "Perception of an object does not mean that Dosein, so to speak goes out of its lair hunting for the object and afterwards returns to the cabinet of its consciousness with its knowledge as a kind of booty ... ,,6 In Heidegger's own words, "knowing is not a kind of bridge that happens to connect the two banks of a river, already existing as objective entities, but is itself the river which, through its flow, brings into existence the banks and brings them together more intimately than any bridge can ever do.,,7 Let's retain this analogy of the river for later reference to a similar thought in Heraclitus.
Dasein (usually translated rather awkwardly as "being-there") is man in his aspect of being open to Being (later replaced by "World" or "Event"). The assumption underlying the choice of the German word Dasein is that man is never closed or finished, but inherently ahead-of-himself. In the classical phrase of Heidegger, "the essence of man lies in his existence."8 This means that man, unlike let's say a stone lying on the ground in its full weight, exists ex-centrically in the openness of being; he is essentially a possibility, an ex-static tending towards what exceeds him. As Hblderl!n, the beloved poet of Heidegger, said, "we are nothing; what we seek is all." To be a human being is to be a creature of distance; it is to be oriented towards possibilities which must be maintained as possibilities without ever being fully actualized.
Now the last and the most radical possibility of Dasein is death, which remains outstanding as long as we exist. As the Roman Stoic philosopher Epicurus says, "so long as we are existent, death is not present and whenever it is present, we are nonexistent."? In a similar vein Ludwig Wittgenstein states: "Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death." 10 The crucial question we seem to be facing at this juncture is: how can death conceived as an event, which prima facie is not part of life, be included in an analysis of man? According to Heidegger, however, the question itself betrays a superficial view of human death, implying that death is an objective event which has not yet happened but will one day occur to put an end to life. In Heidegger's language, death is considered here in its purely ontic (or existential) dimension, as the terminal point of life line, a factitious event breaking into man's life-history. This view of the matter lures Dasein into accepting the evasive and pacifying general attitude that death is quite irrelevant to the all-important business of living and is better not mentioned in polite conversation. If occasionally one becomes aware that he too must confront death, one avoids the embarrassment with the conforting cliche: "Of course everybody must die some
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day but ... not just yet." Death - mostly visualized as the death of others - is flattened into a normal happening and becomes inconspicuous; it is reduced to an exogenous event, a fact that befalls us. We fear death as an imminent or distant accident that, technically. speaking, can be averted. Fundamentally "one dies" always by accident, be it a plane crash, illness or derepitude. Last but not least, we are regularly bombarded with new scientific discoveries enabling man to postpone death more and more and to entertain the dream of doing away with it completely.
Heidegger distinguishes the ontic view of death from the ontological (or existential) perspective which deals with the internal structures underlying and constituting death as an actual concrete occurrence. Ontologically speaking, death, far from being merely an event which puts an end to life or a biological condition of decomposition, is a mode of being, indeed the mode of being characteristic of man. As a German proverb says, "as soon as man is born, he is old enough to die." Death belongs to the very constitution of man and .s such is part of life, an ever present element in the ontological structure of Dosein. In Heidegger's words, "death is a way to be, which Dasein takes over as soon as it is," or again, "Dasetn is dying as long as it exists." Death is the possibility of all possibilities because it stands ahead of Dasein in a unique way, forming th~ most ultimate possibility of its being. In one of the deliberately provocative turns of phrase that has become the hallmark of his inclination to gnomic utterance, Heidegger calls death "the possibility of complete impossibility of Dasein." 1 1 What is meant here is ':hat even though man can exercise power over many things in many ways, death is the one "thing" that overpowers all his power and renders every perfection imperfect.
In view of the above analysis of the ontological structure of death, Heidegger finds it superfluous and misleading to dwell on the perennial question of "after-life." In his opinion, this is a merely ontic question since it deals only with a particular state of a particular being; it asks merely: will Dasein continue to be after the occurence of its ontic-existential death? By contrast, Heidegger's analysis "remains purely 'this-worldly' insofar as it interprets this phenomenon merely in terms of the way it enters into a particular Dasein as a possibility of its being." 12
From this and similar statements made by Heidegger, some of his critics have concluded that he denies any possibility of afterlife and that death is "total nullification" of Dosetn. Together with J .-P. Sartre, Heidegger is called a "nihilist" and "philosopher of the absurd" for whom death is a "plunge into nothingness." 13
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Among those who disagree with this assessment is James Demske whose work has provided one of the clearest and most illuminating accounts of Heidegger's conception of death. By way of clarification, let us first note that Heidegger's refusal to engage in speculations about after-life is methodologically motivated and does not entail either affirmation or negation of the continuance of Dosetn:
"If death is defined as the 'end' of Dasein ... , this does not imply any ontic decision as to whether 'after death' still another being is possible, either higher or lower, or whether Dasetn 'lives on' or 'survives' and is 'immortal'." Within Heidegger's framework, the question of after-life does not arise or at best it can be meaningfully and rightfully posed only when one has determined the full ontological import of death. A this-worldly ontological interpretation of death is prior to any ontic and other-worldly speculation about the subject. "Only when death is grasped in its full ontological essence can we meaningfully and properly and with methodological assurance ever ask what may be after death." 14
Having said this, we must also make clear that the fundamental meaning of the word "nullification," used by Heidegger in the expression "total nullification" (die schlechttnnige Ntchtigheit ) is not "nullity" or "nothingness" (not a nihil absolutum or total emptiness) but the condition of being affected by a "not" (nich.t), by a negation of some sort. Most importantly, this negation takes effect not only at the temporal end-point of life, but is at work from the moment we are born. The negation is nothing more nor less than the all-pervading presence of death in the very structures of life itself. It is the fatal flaw of finitude, a fundamental "lack" at the core of our being. This, however, according to Demske, says nothing at all about the question of survival "after" death or about "Dasein's possible being-in -death." For "in spite of this negativity, Dasein lS. One could say perhaps paradoxically, that while Dasein is totally negativized by its being-on to-death, it is, on the other hand, totally being because of the power of its existence ... Negativity and posituie betng. .. do not exclude, but rather demand, each other. " (Italics added).
Accordingly, if Dasetn IS in spite of its essential negativity and finitude or, to put it differently, if death as an ontological determination of Dasein is perfectly compatible with life, then there is no reason to reject out of hand the possibility of being or life after the occurrence of ontic death. In point of fact, says Demske, Heidegger's argument would demand or at least indicate "not only the impossibility, but rather the plausibility of Daeein's continued being-in-death." IS A similar interpretation may be given
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to Heidegger's designation of death as "the possibility of the impossibility of existence." What is "impossible" after death is existence in the sense of Dasein as being always ahead-of-itself or as project. But, according to Demske, the impossibility of this kind of existence caused by death could also mean that Dasein in post mortem states exists in another mode of being, that it has reached "the stage of definitiveness, in which it is completely Identical wzth its possibilities and with its fully realized being. Thus death renders existence impossible not because Daseia is completely annihilated, but rather because after death, Dasein no longer has to be, but simply is its own being." 16 (Italics added). Demske admits however that his reasoning is based not upon any phenomenological evidence, but upon "a postulated parallelism between Dasein's being before and after ontic death." 17 Hence, once again Heidegger seems justififed in asserting that his analysis requires neither the affirmation nor the negation of the continuance of Dosein.
The River and the Flame
In the following I shall take Heidegger at his word and assume that he has succeeded in providing a satisfactory ontological interpretation of death. Nothing, therefore, should prevent us from asking the ontic question about "what may be after death" even though, as it will tum out, the ontic question is not essentially different from the ontological question of what constitutes the being of man in his ante mortem states. I would like to begin this questioning by going back to the brilliantly obscure pre-Socratic thinker Heraclitus who was the first in the Western philosophical tradition to enunciate the principle of correlativity of life and death.
Death for Heraclitus, like for Heidegger, is not a "fact" that can be absolved from life or being. Neither life nor death are absolutes: "We live their [the souls 'J death, they live our death" (DK, fro 77). Or: "Immortal mortals, mortal immortals, the one living the death and dying the life of the other" (DK, fro 62). In these proverbs Heraclitus relativizes the notion of death insofar as birth and neath are both interpreted as a change of states for the soul rather than as coming-to-be and passing-away. Neither our bodies nor our souls are, in the strict sense, ever one and the same from the moment to the next; they are continually undergoing
. radical transformation; we are dying and being reborn at every instant.
There is also the well-known dictum of Heraclitus that "you
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cannot step twice into the same river" (Wheelwright, fro 21), a thought which we find in Plato as well:
Mortal nature seeks ... to be forever and to be immortal. But it can .only do so by... leaving something else new behind in place of the old ... as when a man is called the same from childhood to old age. He is called the same despite the fact he does not have the same hair and flesh and bones and blood and all the body, but he loses them and is always becoming new. And similarly for the soul: his dispositions and habits, opinions, desires, plesures, pains, fears, none of these remains the same, but some are coming-to-be, others are lost (Symposium 207D).
It is crucial to emphasize that both Heraclitus and Plato are pointing not only to change or lack of identity between successive moments of our experience, but also to a kind of permanence wi thin the flux. The river preserves its form while all the individual matter (the flowing water) has been replaced. The identity of the river remains fixed not in spite of the fact that its waters are constantly changing, but precisely because they are changing. The difference between ''in spite" and "because" is decisive. In the first case we would be faced with a situation in which change is posited as something illusory and hence - not affecting in any essential way the "substance" of the river. In the second case, change is seen as constituting the very essence of the river. The change itself makes the river what it is. The river is because it changes.
According to Heraclitus, the identity of pattern, symbolized by the river, holds generally for nature as a whole mcluding man. The pattern is nothing less than the expression of a universal law of polar tension exemplified also by the endless recurrence of "everlasting fire" in the same forms. A recent commentator of Heraclitus, has suggested that this law, this "regular pendulum swing back and forth between opposites" provides the only consolation for human ageing and death, Thus "perhaps the greatest surprise that awaits us at our death is that things will not be very different, since we are and always have been familiar with the experience of continually dying and continually being reborn." 18
We find an important refinement of the Heraclitean doctrine of change in the Sufi theory of creation called the "Renewing of Creation at each instant" or "at each breath." Man (as a relative being in contrast to God) is subject to continual annihilation and continual renewal. As Ibn 'Arabi wirtes "man does not spontan-
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eously arrive at a clear idea of the fact that at each 'breath' he is not and then again is. And, if I say 'then', I am not supporting any temporal interval but only a purely logical succession. In the 'Renewing of Creation at each breath' the instant of annihilation coincides with the instant of the manifestation of its like (mathal)." 19 A similar thought is conveyed in the famous Buddhist parable comparing existence to the flame of an oil lamp; the flame, though it seems the same, never ceases to be renewed at each instant, so that in reality it is neither the same nor yet different.
What does it mean to say that something is "neither the same nor yet different"? Clearly, a state of affairs such as this must remain inaccessible to the laws of formal logic operating in terms of opposition between the conventional categories of content and form, being and becoming, spirit and matter. We are confronted here with an entirely new phenomenon requiring a more subtle reading. There must be a phenomeno logy that functions in a different key and on a different level from that which was assigned to it by Edmund Husserl and his followers. What I am saying is that Heidegger is certainly right in maintaining that death as an ontic event, i.e., as an "end" of Dasein cannot be a phenomenon because it escapes the grasp of the philosopher. But this is a rather' banal observation, for death is considered here literalistically as the opposite of life. It is a banal observation based on banal logic. If, however, on Heidegger's own showing, death must be seen as constitutive of life, which, translated into Heraclitean and Sufi language, means that we die and are reborn at every instant, then the whole - and the new - phenomenon is neither life nor death taken separately, but the continuum of life-in-death and deathin-life. The real phenomenon is the river or the flame which remains the same because it is continuously changing. The Heraclitean river (not the empirically observable river) is a subtle phenomenon, because it is a product of imagination, not of sensation combined with reasoning. To anticipate some of our conclusions, the real river and the real flame are "celestial" phenomena or, as Corbin would say, they are real apparitions (real imaginal beings).
The Phenomenology of Pendulum-Swing
The well-known slogan of Husserl's phenomenology has always been "To the things themselves" expressing the desire to overcome tl.e subjectivism of modem thought and to gain access to the prereflective givenness of things. In contrast to Husserl, who bracketed the ontological status of phenomena and finally reduced their
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being to consciousness, Heidegger's so-called "hermeneutic phenomenology" is more ambitious. His aim is to discover, through the analysis of Dasein, meanings which are prior to any cognitive or theoretical reflection. Dasein, according to Heidegger, has a preconceptual understanding of being through which he already apprehends himself as fundamentally related to the world."? The primary datum is not the Cartesian cogito ("I think") but sum ("I am") or the act of existing with the world and having a world. Understanding is not simply a property of consciousness over against an already given world, but takes place in the context of the world; it is a way of being of man himself. Consequently hermeneutics is not defined as a general help discipline for humanities or for the . biblical exegesis but as a philosophical effort to account for understanding as an ontological process in man. To Heidegger, understanding is itself ontological: to understand something is to be in the mode of that which is understood. Our modi intelligendi coincide with our modi essendi.
Our next question, then, must be: what is a phenomenon in Heidegger's hermeneutical phenomenology? From the very outset it must be emphasized that Heidegger does not understand ''phenomen on " in the Kantian sense of appearance as contrasted with the thing itself (noumenon), but rather in the origianl Greek sense of phatnomenon, derived from the verb phainesthoi - "show itself," "come to light"; thus "phenomenon" signifies "what shows itself," what makes itself manifest as it is in itself. In Heidegger's view, the becoming-manifest of the phenomena does not take place through the agency of some other being (through a particular farm hiding a content or matter hiding spirit as, for example, human face may hide its "true" feelings), but through the being of the phenomenon itself; it shows itself and through itself. Or: the phenomenon makes itself understood, so to speakjthrough it own being, its sheer is-ness. What we call "truth" (in the Greek sense of aletheia) resides basically not in judgment but in aesthesis, the pure sensible taking in or perception of something, a straightforward perceptual awareness of the simple sense qualities. Such awareness, however, does not happen automatically. For various and psychologically complicated reasons (force of habit, lack of attention, or lack of what Buddhists call "right mind fullness"), ordinarily we do not see things as they are. For example, we look at a river and do not see the flow and permanence together; it's either the flowing waters or the banks "of" the river or the waters "in" the river. Hence a phenomenon is something that remains uncognized, because it does not show itself at the first glance. The real imaginal river escapes
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us. According to Heidegger, the hidden "component" in phenomena is the Being of things that are. The Being of (particular) beings is the most universally implicit or hidden feature of all experience. It is in this way that, in Heidegger's thinking, phenomenology evolves into ontology and conversely, ontology has only one approach to reality; the method of phenomenology. "Ontology is possible only as phenomenology." 2 1 In the words of Metha, "phenomenology is the proper way of approach to the problem which ontology claims as its own. In fact ontology is possible only in the form of phenomenology, for the phenomenological notion of phenomenon (what shows itself) refers to the Being of beings (essents)." But we must insist that there is nothing behind the phenomenon as it is understood by Heidegger. "The opposite of phenomenori is not 'noumenon' ... but hiddenness or covertness."! 2 What is hidden is not the "essence" of a phenomenon as opposed to its appearance, but the phenomenon itself in the plenitude of its simple being.
To return to our previous discussion, we may now suggest that what Heidegger calls "Being" is probably best illustrated by the Heraclitean "river" or the Buddhist "flame" or, in Sufi terms, by "renewing of creation at each instant." The "being" of a phenomenon - of any phenomenon - is eristic in that it reveals itself in the polar tension between opposites (not to the either/ or style of ratiocination). The truth (aletheia) of being is primordial strife (Heraclitean polemos, "war") between light and darkness, revelation and concealment. But, contrary to the common sense view of formal logic, this conflict, though "negativizing," does not lead to the extinction of one or the other of the opposites. Opposites in nature as well as in psychic realm (as C.G. Jung has shown) are not contradictory but polar; instead of destroying each other, they live by virtue of each other and at each other's expense. The same is true of the so-called opposite of life and death; they too feed on each other.
Thus we may readily agree with Heidegger that it is superfluous to dwell on the question of "after-life". This question does not arise for the paramount reason that nothing radically different can possibly occur "after death": the pendulum swing bark and forth between opposites, being an universal occurrence or the "essence" of Being itself, is bound to continue. There will be no surprises in "the Beyond" because every instant in the here and now of our existence, consisting as it does, of simultaneous annihilation and manifestation (Ibn 'Arabi), is, fundamenally speaking, a Surprise. Every instant is a subtle dying and being born again.
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The greatest of miracles, the uncanniest of all things uncanny, to use Sophocles' line from the first chorus of Antigone, is that we are and are not. The enigma of human existence is that time and finitude (negativity) is constitutive of transcendence; that we must entrap ourselves in the perishable in order to be capable of "immortality"; that, in the final analysis, "immortality" is something we must create out of time, evanescence and mortality. In Heidegger's language, we must be capable of death in order to transcend death. The British Romantic poet and visionary William Blake has expressed the same (Platonic) idea - in reverse order - by saying that Eternity is in love with the productions of time.
Sophocles' dictum that man is the uncanniest of all things uncanny means, philosophically speaking, that human beings, unlike other individual organisms, are essentially independent of their species. In contrast to animals whose self-realization is limited to what is biologically possible within the species to which they belong, man is not given any such definite pattern. The contemporary Spanish philosopher Jose F. Mora has described the peculiar character of human condition as follows:
Each one of us, whether he knows it or not, or even cares for it or not, is on the lookout for his own pattern... All realities, except man, can be, or can become, in the sense of 'being something' or 'becoming something'. Man can, besides, cease to be, in the sense of 'ceasing to be himself:
Here is why the concepts of 'being' and 'becoming' have proved inadequate to describe ontologically human reality. In that sense Sartre was correct when he contended that human lifeor 'consciousness', the 'being for itself' - is not what it is, and is what it is not. In view of this, we could now assert that man is not even doomed to be free. Man is not, probably speaking, doomed to anything, not even to be man.23
Taken at its face value, the statement that "man is not even doomed to be man" is liable to be misconstrued in some nihilistic or anti-humanistic sense. But there is another way of interpreting this radical openness which is today increasingly seen as the most distinctive feature' of man. I am referring to the interpretation which has been made available to the West through Corbin's investigations in the field of Persian Sufism and Sufi gnosis centering around the figures of Avicenna (d. 1037) Ibn 'Arabi (d. 1240),
Mullll ~adra of Shiraz (d. 1640), Suhrawardi (d. 1191), Nasir al-
oin TiisI (d. 1273) and others. In offering the views of some of
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these thinkers I shall follow throughout Corbin's way of "hermeneutisizin g".
Transform a tive Knowledge
Mullii Sadra whose work has dominated Iranian philosophy for the past four centuries, is best known for having effected a revolution in the Aristotelian mataphysics of essences. According to the latter, the essences or quiddities of things are prior and immutable; existence changes nothing in the constitution of these essences, $adra reverses the order by giving the priority to existence: it is the act and mode of existing that determines what an essence is. As a result we are invited to conceive the status of man not as a constant, but as subject to many degrees of intensification or degradation. In Sadra's existential metaphysics, man is malleable. In Corbin's words, "being a man involves a multitude of degrees, from that of human-faced demons to the sublime state of the Perfect Man. What one calls the body passes through a multitude of states, from that of the corruptible body of this world to the state of the subtle body, and even the divine body (jism llahT). "24
If the Western pseudo-spirituality we mentioned at the beginning of this paper is to give way to a more authentic image of man, a step in the right direction should be to attempt to combine Sadrii's "existentialism" with Avicenna's angelology which posits a homogeneity between angels (animae coelestes) and human souls (animae humanae) or "terrestrial angels" moving and governing earthly bodies). The angels (emanations of Archangels or Pure Intelligences) are heavenly counterparts of human beings, variously called "guardian angels", "guides and companions","helpers", "celestial archetypes." The "Angelic World" is the realm of Acti·, Intelligence which in tum is homologized to the Archangel Michael, The Holy Spirit and Pis tis Sophia. The basic insight of Avicenna is that the human soul is individuated not through its union with the body (as in Aristotle) but by becoming a perfectly polished mirror of its angel in a strictly one-to-one relatzon. This is to say that the human soul realizes its virtual angelicity through a progressive illumination attained on earth. But, unlike the celestial archetypes, the human soul may tum away from its prototype, it can be false to its being and develop the demonic virtuality in itself.? 5
Thus what we are witnessing in Avicenna (as well as in Ismailian gnosis as a whole) is an exaltation of humanity in the sense that human nature ceases to be a"nature" as such and becomes a wholly transient state: man is called, by right of his origin andifheconsents,
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to an angelomorphosis.? 6 Indeed it is as Holderlin said, "we are nothing; what we seek is all." In the same spirit, Heidegger in his Letter on Humanism argues that the classical definition of man
as the "rational animal" places man wi thin animality, specified only by a ditferentia ("rational") which falls within the genus "animal" as a particular quality. This, Heidegger contends, is placing! man too low. But as Hans Jonas, an authority on gnosticism and ((. a student of Heidegger, has pertinently observed, "in reality, the 'lowering' to Heidegger consists in placing 'man' in any scale, that
is, in a context of na tu re as such." 2 7
Avicenna, instead of speaking about human nature, raises the problem of "specific individuality," i.e., of an individuality that is "no longer subordinated to a species but is itself its species, its archetype." Individuation of a human soul which refuses to be pictured as anima rationalis, postulates not only numerical individuation within the same species, but "an individuality specific in itself.,,2 8 This is achieved by the natural desire that exists between the human soul and the angelic Active Intelligence. For just as the human soul cannot subsist without its angelic archetype, so the latter needs the human soul, as a receptacle and pre-eminent intermediary in order to transmit into this world the influx of its energies. In Corbin's phrase, individuation of the soul means that it is "to hear and obey a werde was du bist 29 ("become what thou art"). Conceivably the same principle is embodied in the famous Dephic oracle: gno thi seau ton ("know thyself") which was not so much an exhortation to introspection as an invitation to make the unconscious conscious, i.e., to realize one's potential for transcending the ego-personality and becoming - to use the Jungian term, the Self. In Avicenna's terms "know thyself" would mean "know thy angel."
We must emphasize, however, that this realization or angelization is not a "natural" process but must be the result of a leap. Individuation is not something that happens to man volens nolens: it must be created; the leap constitutes a creative solution peculiar to each individual soul. Corbin has expressed the same idea by stressing that individuation is "an event of the soul, taking place in the soul and for the soul. As such its reality is essentially indunduated for and with each soul: what the soul really sees, it is in each case alone in seeing. The field of its vision, its horizon is in every case defined by the capacity, the dimension of its own being."!" Or again: "What the soul really sees is visible only to it; and the souls are distinguished from one another precisely by their mode of perception and their ability to perceive."? 1 A corrolary to
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this kind of individuation is that the soul 's being and destiny after death, its "specific individuality" depends upon the degree of illumination which it has attained on earth. The soul's vision in the hereafter will be proportionate to its being. Put in a lapidary form: we will get what we love, which is the same as saying that the modes of our understanding are contingent upon the modes of our being. Psychologically and epistemologically speaking, what we see is determined by the way in which we see. In the last resort it is as William Blake said: "As a man is so he sees."
The correlation between seeing and being (subject and object, man and nature, microcosm and macrocosm) is commonly known as the problem of the "hermeneutical circle." In general terms, the "circle" means that the method of our inquiry cannot be separated from the object of inquiry for all method, i.e., the selection of relevant tools is already an interpretation. According to Heidegger, the circle of understanding is not a vicious circle, but an aspect of the structure of meaning rooted in Dosein's existential constitution; it is "the expression of the existential prestructure of Dasein itself'."! 2 We cannot possibly step outside this structure, any more than man can step outside his own skin. What is decisive, therefore, is not to get out of the circle, but to enter it in proper way, "to leap into the 'circle', primordially and wholly.f" 3 In effect, the circularity we find in Dasein's being is nothing more unusual than an acknowledgment of the reciprocal relationship of various factors frequently found in human activity. As Demske puts it, "there is in man's actions such thing as mutual causality, or ... there is in Dasezn an ontological circle-structure.t" 4 To give just one example, love is born and grows in direct proportion to the strength of one's dedication and one's dedication grows in direct proportion to the strength of one's love.
Now the only difference between the Heideggerian leap into the circle and the creative solution we have suggested above, is that we have extended the circumference of the circle so as to include not only the correlation between ordinary seeing and being, but also the correspondence which obtains between visionary or illumined apperception and the suprasensible or imaginal reality. In other words, we have leaped into the ancient circle of Trismegistus - a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. In this magical circle there is no limit to the soul's capacity of seeing and, correlatively, of being what it sees. In Avicenna's esoteric philosophy, just like in ~adri's metaphysics of gradation, knowledge is transfonnative or soteriological (ontological in Heidegger's terms): it creates the kind of reality
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which coincides with the soul's desire.
Thus the real "phenomenon" is none other than this creative circulation itself, a phenomenon that can be apprehended only by the soul who "knows" its angel, who is more or less at one with it in a one-to-one relationship. In the Iranian Sufism, such apprehension takes place in Malakut or 'alam mithali - the intermediary world of visionary imagination, the Angelic World or the Corbinian mundus imaginalts, situated between the sensible world and the realm of Pure Intelligences. The organ which produces vision in this world is hzmma, the "creative power of the heart" and these visions are "in themselves pene tratzons into the world they see.,,3 5 In the words of James Hillman whose Archetypal Psychology owes much to Corbin, "himma is that mode by which images, which we believe we make up, are actually presented to us as not of our making, as genuinelly created, as authentic creatures." The heart is that subtle organ which offers a third possibility between mind and matter. "Each image corrdinates within itself qualities of consciousness and qualities of world, speaking in one and the same image of the interpenetration of consciousness and world .":' 6 What Hillman calls "imaginational intelligence", posits, according to Corbin "real being."? 7
In our view, therefore, phenomenology begins not on the level of ordinary consciousness or ordinary (rational) philosophical discourse, but on the intermediary level of "imaginational intelligence"; it begins in the Malakut where spirit is materialized and matter spiritualized. The place of visions and visionary events is not located anywhere in sensory space; its "where" or, in Corbin's locution, "its ubi is an ubique'" 8 - an ubiquitous place, a cricle whose center is everwhere ...
Corbin has shown that the official theology of the West, by replacing the angel as the archetype of man with the notion of human nature, has broken off immediate contact with the angelic world - a move which was consequent upon the rejection of the Plotinian and Avicennian doctrine of eternal and necessary emanation. As a result, the multiplication of celestial beings and their hierarchies no longer had any justification: there are no mediators or degrees in creation. God alone is the immediate cause of the totality of beings. We cannot go here into the question of Western monotheism and its unmitigated hostility towards all forms of polytheism. Suffice it to say that for a strictly monotheistic
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faith, the idea that the human soul should be produced by an angel and should find its end and its glory in the angel, is inadmissible because it presumably endangers personal survival. 3 9 The question here is, of course, what is meant by "personal" and "personality."
In the Avicennian and Suhrawardian eschatology "immortality" of the soul is not a "given" or a natural status. As Corbin puts it, "it may befall a soul to 'die' as a soul Can die, by falling below itself, below its condition of a human soul: by actualizing in itself its bestial and demonic virtuality. This is the hell, the hell that it carries in itself - just as its bliss is elevation above itself, flowering of its angelic virtuality." What awaits man in the post mortem states is not prolongation of what we call "personality" but the realization of the "essential person," of the archetypal image which "in its postumous becoming ... perhaps immeasurably transcends the "personality' of so-and-so son of so-and-so.':" 0 And yet in these supraindividual states we remain "whole" - identifiable wholes in which all the minutiae of the earthly existence are preserved in transformed condition. For to transcend our "personality" is not to disappear in some undifferentiated, vaguely blissful sea of divinity, but, on the contrary, to fulfill one's "specific individuality." Figuratively speaking, it is not the case of a drop of water merging with the ocean and getting lost therein, but rather that of the ocean entering the drop of water.
Strange as it may sound, Heidegger's view of man is, in my opinion, fully congruous with that of Avicenna and Suhrawarcti. The only proviso to be made is that we situate Dasein within that larger circle which sets no boundaries to what a man can be. We must start with the observation that the ontological structure of Dasein is best understood as a field of relationships (Heidegger's being-in-the-world). As such, Dasein is not man at all in the accepted sense of ego-personality or an immortal soul-substance. Rather it is from the very outset totally involved in the world. As the Heideggerian scholar William Barrett points out, "my Being is not something that takes place inside my skin (or inside an immaterial substance inside that skin); my Being rather is spread over a field or region which is the world of its care and concern." 4 1
According to Barrett, Heidegger's theory of man (and of Being) might be called the Field Theory of Man (or the Field Theory of Being) somewhat analogous to Einstein's Field Theory of Matter. Furthermore, there is nothing remote or abstract about this idea of man as a field, for it checks with our everyday observation in the case of a child who has just learned to respond to his own name. When the child is called by name, he is likely to point not
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only to himself but to Mummy or Daddy as well. What happens here is that the child hears name "as naming a field or region of Being with which he is concerned and to which he responds, whether the call is to come to food, to mother, or whatever ... He secretly hears his own name called whenever he hears any region of Being named with which he is vitally involved."
The notion of "field" alters our whole way of looking at human person. Heidegger does not deny that my existence is always mine; it is not an impersonal fact, yet "the mine-ness of my existence does not consist in the fact that there is an J-Substance at the center of my field, but rather that this mine-ness permeates the whole field of my Being.,,4 2 Clearly, this is an unusual thought. What Heidegger has done is not to deny "personality" or personhood to man but to expand it in such a way that virtually everything becomes endowed with personality. Curiously enough, it is precisely this kind of personification that distinguishes the primitive mind from the modem mind. Whereas the modem man is able to objectify what is "out there", i.e. to depersonalize, to the primitive, in the words of a contemporary anthropologist, "physical forces are thought of as interwoven with the lives of persons. Things are not completely distinguished from persons and persons are not completely distinguished from their external environment. The Universe responds to speech and time ":" 3
We must skip the question whether or to what extent Heidegger's thought represents an attempt to return to the ancient myth and mythical ways of being-in-the-world. What seems to be obvious is that there are striking parallels between Heidegger's way on the one hand and the ancient gnosis (Iranian Sufism, Ismaili anthropology and its Western counterparts E. Swedenborg and W. Blake), on the other. Besides Heidegger, the only major contemporary thinker who is engaged in a subtle yet not less devastating attack upon the de-personalizing forces of Western culture, is James Hillman. Since, as I mentioned, he regards Corbin as one of the main sources (besides Jung) of Archetypal Psychology , we might just as well use some of his insights (retroactively, as it were) for a better grasp of Corbin's and Sufi ideas on this subject.
In sharp contrast to psychologists who deprecate personifying as regression to delusional or hallucinatory modes of adaptation, Hillman takes the term to signify a basic psychological activity: "the spontaneous experiencing, erunsiorung and speaking of the configurations of existence as psychic presences." Personifying must be distinguished from personification which is a psychologism, implying (as the nineteenth century British anthropological school
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of Tylor, Frazer and Lang did) that we create mythical person (gods, goddesses, demons) in our likeness or that they are our projection. The idea of projection or animation of dead matter (the Cartesian res extensa) is based on a theological presumption that the human person is the only carrier of soul or that my subjectivity and my interiority is lzterally mine, a possession of my egopersonality. In reality, personifying is a spontaneous activity of the soul, "a way of being in the world and experiencing the world as a psychological field; " it is "a way of knowing what is invisible and hidden," an "epistemology of the heart." Ultimately, says Hillman, "we do not personify at all... Where imagination reigns, personifying happens ... The persons [of the myth] present themselves as existing prior to any effort of ours to personify. To mythic consciousness the persons 0 f the imagination are real. "44
Hillman's idea of "personifying" implies that Husserl's call to the things themselves, having been deepened by Heidegger's invitation to explore the pre-conceptual togetherness of man and world, must be carried even further: we must go back to the "beginnings" of this togetherness in the imaginal psyche. The phenomenological slogan now reads: back to persons (images) themselves! Hillman shares the phenomenological imperative that we must tum to the things and events themselves in order to "let them tell us what they are." He also goes along with the phenomenologist's "search for the essence of what is going on." However, he distinguishes the "psychological what" from the essentialist tradition (the quiddities of Aristotle) as well as from the phenomenological search for essences. The difficulty with the traditional phenomenological standpoint is that it "stops short in its examination of consciousness, failing to realize that the essence of consciousness is fantasy images. ,,4 5
Now the emphasis on the priority of imagination has the unexpected consequence that phenomenological reduction becomes imaginal reduction or an archetypal reversion a return to mythical patterns and persons of the psyche. The "psychological what" is transformed into "who?" Another word; used by Hillman, for archetypal reversi~n is the Greek epistrophe which is the same as the Arabic ta 'wil, meaning to "reconduct something to its source, to its archetypal image." In Hillman's terms, it is a return of phenomena (things) to their archai in the imaginal psyche which - be it noted - immeasurably transcends the so-called "human personality." In sum, Hillman reduces things of the pre-Heideggerian phenomenology as well as the early Heidegger's pre-reflective understanding of the world, to the level of imagination. As we observed
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above, it is on this level that phenomenology must begin. In Hillman's words, phenomenology begins "in a world of ensouled phenomena." 4 6
But then, in concert with Avicenna and Islamic gnosis as a whole, we may just as well state that phenomenology begins on the angelic level. Speaking of the tutelary angels in Iranian cosmology of the Zarvanitic tradition Corbin says that "every creature is composed of his earthly part and of his celestial counterpart, his archetype or angel. Hence through every reality it is possible to discern a person - that is, to grasp reality as or in its celestial person." The celestial aspect is called menok and the terrestrial aspect - getih, There is a visible sky (getic) and a menok sky, which is invisible. Our earth corresponds to a celestial earth. This correspondence is applicable to the whole sphere of Being: whatever is manife-ted in the ge tik , is at the same time men ok. Note that a phenomenological duplication such as this eliminates at one stroke the Heideggerian distinction between the ontic and the ontological and by the same token validates the Heraclitean correlation between the dead and the living. We must not, however, equate the contrast between menok and getik with a Platonic scheme based on the opposition between idea and matter or between the universal and the perceptible. For menok, although it is celestial, invisible and spiritual. is also a "perfectly concrete state." Getik, on the other hand, designates "an earthly visible, material state, but of a matter which is itself luminous, a matter immaterial in relation to the matter that we actually know. 1147
Consequently we may speak with Corbin of a reductio ad modum angelicum, of an angelomorphosis in that in the gnostic anthropology, "the perception of all reality becomes the perception, or visualization of a concrete person." "Everything takes place as though the question 'Who is it?' were substituted for the question 'What is it?' - as though to name the person were to define its essence." 4 II In other words, the question that is consistently asked by the gnostics is not about the essences of things, but about their personality as, for example, who is the Earth? who are the waters, the plants, the mountains? Reduction to the angelic mode means that ta 'wil leads back not to an abstract, universal concept, but to the angel.
According to the Iranian theosopher Nasir al-din TUsi, "Paradise is a person (or a human being)." "Every thought, ev~ry true word, every good action has an Angel." 4 9 Around these and similar propositions fusf develops an analysis which Corbin calls phenomenological. "To be in Paradise" or "to come into this world"
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are different modes of being and understanding. The expression "To come into this world" designates a merely metaphorical existence for it has meaning only with a view to leading the empirical man to his true being, the external and exoteric (zahir) back to the internal and esoteric (biitin ). Again what we witness here, is a mode of understanding (modus tntelligen di) expressing a mode of being Jmodus essendt), Even while one is materially present in this world, there is a mode of being in Paradise. But the paradisiac mode of being can be realized "only in a person who precisely IS this Paradise - that is to say, who personifies this mode of being. " Fundamentally we may say, therefore, that "the reality of an act, of the event, is ... reduced to the person who enacts it."" 0 This, in tum, means that every action, thought or word have their term in the angel. The ego-personality is an agent only in a superficial and metaphorical sense: more active than "I" is the thought that is thought through me, the word that is spoken through me. In the words of TUs"i: "In thinking this thought the person who thinks it is thought by the Angel, or, on the contrary, by the demon, for the alternative can only be the person without an Angel." 5 1 In Corbin's interpretation, to lose one's angelic dimension is "to die as a soul can die: to cease to answer to one's celestial partner, which can then no longer answer for its earthly soul." 5 2
Heidegger and Mundus Imaginalis
Before I proceed, a word of caution might be in order. In these reflections I am not trying to insinuate that Heidegger is "unconsciously" a Sufi gnostic ... Neither am I interested in "reducing" Heidegger to the Avicennian angelology or to any other brand of "mysticism." My intention is merely to show that his phenomenology of death must remain incomplete without positing the necessity of the imaginal realm as the mediating third between the traditional and largely artificial realms of matter and spirit. So far I have concentrated on what is known as the early Heidegger struggling to overcome the essentialist and dualistic presuppositions of Western metaphysics by using terms and conceptual constructs which, because of their own emotional momentum, cannot adequately serve the intentions associated with a radically new beginning in philosophy. The late Heidegger has abandoned these constrictions and initiated a meditative or rather imaginative kind of discourse that takes place in the neighbourhood of poetry and poetic vision. Our task is now to try to see in what ways this new "epistemology of heart" affects Heidegger's thought on the phenomenon of death
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and to what extent it can help us to understand death within the context of the Corbinian mundus tmaguuilis.
It is in Heidegger's treatise on George Trakl's poetry, entitled "Language in the Poem," that we find a most remarkable use of the concept of death. Death appears here as the "down-fall," "destruction" (Uniergang} to which the soul - "a stranger on the earth" - is summoned." 3 On the face of it, the idea of the soul as stranger and its downfall would seem to be pointing to the Platonic view that the soul is destined to escape from the shackles of physical existence (its pilgrimage on earth) and to rejoin its t!lle home in eternity. Heidegger, however, interprets Trakl's passage in such a way that the traditional Platonism is turned upside down. The "soul," which for Heidegger stands for man himself, is a stranger on earth not because its true home is elsewhere, but because it has not yet found its true home, its proper place on earth. The soul seeks first the earth and in this seeking fulfills its own essence. Consequently, the downfall to which the soul is called is "not here conceived... as the termination of earthly life," "not decay, but the abandonment of the decayed form of man," i.e., the taking leave of the human form which is not "translucent with blueness" (durchscnienen von der Bldue) or which "does not stand in the holy." 5 4 The downfall is the perishing of the inauthentic form of man, an escape from the tyranny of the commonplace, habit and the sin of literalness.
But why does Heidegger use the word "blue"? What has "blueness" to do with the authentic form of man? Among the writers on the symbolism of colors, the blue stands, for imagination; blue is the color of imaginal psyche. In this capacity it denotes "a state of mind no longer concerned with distinction between things
and thought, appearance and reality.t" 5 Cezanne made blue "the
foundation of his world of objects 'existing together' ... It expressed the essence of things and their abidin g, inherent permanence and placed them in a position of unattainable remoteness" 5 6 We may also note that" 'blue-clothed' is a current Persian way of naming Sufis, referring to their custom of wearing blue clothing.' 7 Finally, Hillman, as if inadvertently referring to late Heidegger, says that "the blue firmament is an image of cosmological reason; it is a mythical place that gives metaphorical support to metaphysical thinking. It is the presentation of metaphysics in image form." 5 8 Heidegger's "stranger," if he is to discover the earth and dwell on it poetically, must "lose himself in the spiritual twilight of the blue." The one who "goes under" is not someone who has passed away in the sense of dying," but rather one who now "looks ahead
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into the blue of the spiritual night." The downfall of the soul is not merely "a falling into emptiness and annihilation"! it is also the arrival "at a quieter sojourn in the early morning"! The departed one has passed "into the 'golden showers' of early morning."! 9
It should not be difficult to surmise that in these evokative sentences Heidegger is pointing to the intermediate realm of imagination - the proper dwelling place of the soul, that alchemical vessel in which the crude ingredients of matter and spirit are transformed into a subtle stuff eluding the grasp of alienated reason. Indeed the earth to which the stranger must return is none other than the "Celestial Earth" ("world of Hurqalya") of Sufism. It is a world in which "it is possible to emerge from the measurable space without emerging from extent," and in which "spirit, taking on a body, becomes caro spiritualts, 'spiritual corporeity'''. Hiirqalyii; says Corbin, is the Earth of the soul, because it is the soul's VISIOn. "60 The soul belongs to the Earth, "translucent with blueness" and personified as an- angel who, in tum, corresponds to the soul's virtual angelicity , Put differently, the substance of the soul is engendered and formed from the Celestial Earth and the Celestial Earth is a projection of the illumined soul. The angelic man and the Angel Earth are correlative realities. Or again, it may be said that man is the creature of the earth just as much as the earth is a creature of man, provided that both are envisioned in their imaginal "blueness." According to Corbin, such is also the profound meaning of the Mazdean prayer: "May we be among those who are to bring about the Transfiguration of the Earth" (Yasna xxx, 9).
It should be of some interest that Gustav Theodore Fechner, the nineteenth century German scientist turned visionary and author of a philosophical work, entitled Zend-Avesta, reports a vision of his in which the earth is revealed as an Angel.
On a certain spring morning I went out to walk. The fields were green, the birds sang, the dew glistened, the smoke was rising, here and there a man appeared; a light as of transfiguration lay on all things. It Was only a little bit of the earth; it was only one moment of her existence; and yet as my look embraced her more and more it seemed to me not only so beautiful an idea, but so true and clear a fact, that she is an angel, an angel so rich and fresh and flower-like, and yet going her round in the skies so firmly and so at one with herself, turning her whole living face to Heaven, and carrying me along with her into that Heaven that I asked myself how the
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opinions of men could ever have so spun themselves away from life so far as to deem the earth only a dry cold, and to seek for angels above it or about it in the emptiness of the sky, - only to find them nowhere ... But such an experience as this passes for fantasy. 61
Another theme situating Heidegger in proximity to the mundus imaginalis of Corbin and Sufism, has to do with his meditation on "things". Throughout his writing produced within the period of the 1950-s we witness the emergence of Being in the essence of things. The question that preoccupies him is: what is the thingness of a thing? The inquiry is not about the abstract essence of things in general but about the thingness of a definite, concrete individual thing. In the essay "Das Ding" ("The Thing") Heidegger considers a jug. The essence of a jug shows itself in containing, i.e., in the unity of taking and holding - a unity which exists not for its own sake, but is oriented towards pouring. Moreover, there are four elements gathered in the pouring of a drink: the earth, insofar the drink comes from earth (for example, from the well or wine from a vine); heavens, which send rain and thaw, sun and warmth to help produce the drink; the mortals, whose thirst is quenched, leisure enlivened by the drink; and finally the immortals in whose honour a drink is often poured as a libation. These four elements- "the foursome" or the tetrad - make up the essence of the jug.
Thus a thing in its full thingness is much more than a mere fact (something "at hand"); it evokes in a unique way the tetrad - the "regions" of Being as a whole. The thing gathers within itself the totality of the world. Phenomenologically speaking, the world becomes present in the full revelation of each and every thing; in Heidegger's words, "a world worlds in the thinging of a thing." 62
The idea that our senses are able to discover "the infinite" (Heidegger's Being) in every thing, has inspired W. Blake to produce the famous quatrain: "To see a world in a grain of sand/And a heaven in a wild-flowerj/Hold infinity in the palm of your hand/ And eternity in an hour." The unspoken assumption behind this visionary approach to reality is that the distinction between natural (material) and spiritual is invalid. Like in Sufi visions, the sensual and perceptual elements of the world that "worlds" and of things that "thing", are not abandoned; the world of sense is not forsaken, but becomes sensate, transfigured, subtle.
We must be on our guard, however, not to explain the Heideggerian tetrad in a causal way. The moments of the tetrad
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are not parts with respect to the whole; they are the tetrad and vice versa; the tetrad is the thing and the thing is the tetrad. This is to say that a thing must be understood as a field of relationships including the natural (heaven and earth), human (the mortals) and the divine (the immortals). "Instead of a categorical relation of causality there is the circular movement of structural moments which mutually refer to each other and mutually constitute each other." We are thus once again confronted with the Heideggerian hermeneutical circle which he now defines more imaginatively as "mirror-game" (Spiegel-Spiel). "Each of the four moments mirrors the other and thereby also itself, so that the essence of each moment consists in the mirroring of the other three within the unity of the four.?? 3 The mirror-game is also called by Heidegger the Ereigniss: "the event (Ereigniss) is ... richer than any possible metaphysical determination of being;... being with regard to its essential origin can be thought from the standpoint of event." 6 4
The most important conclusion we may derive from these pronouncements is that the circular movement of the four elements needs no single external explanatory principle. If, however, the theologian in us would insist on using the word "God" in this connection, the reply must be that "the totality of Theotes (Divinity; the deitas abscondita] is in each theophanic form.,,6 5 The ocean enters the drop and each drop mirrors the ocean. In Hillman's words, "the one [deity] is not something apart and opposed to the many, leaving them as inchoate fra gm en ted bits, but it appears as the unity of each thing, ... with a name and a face." 6 6 Heidegger calls the reciprocal causality holding together the four moments of the tetrad the "sublimest game" which we "have scarcely experienced and have not yet thought through in its essence. The game is sublime because it has no "why." "It plays because it plays. It remains only a game: the highest and deepest. But this 'only' is all, the one, unique ... Being as grounding has no ground. As the groundless it plays that game, which as destiny plays being and ground to US.,,6 7
What Heidegger is trying to articulate in these enigmatic dzcta seems to confirm the Heraclitean insight that mortals (gods) live - playfully - at each other's expense. In the "mirror-game" of the world, the mortals play (imagine) the immortals and the immortals play (imagine) the mortals. The royal power, however, to use Heraclitus' expression, belongs neither to the immortals nor to the mortals exclusively, but to the game itself. And in the very midst of this game stands man - the uncanniest of all things uncanny - moving now towards "immortality" now towards mortality, for
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he too, like the other three elements of the tetrad, "things." Man is a thing that things, that is to say, an image that reflects the world just as the world reflects man. The world is not something external to the human body: what he perceives "out there" - on the condition that his senses are cleansed and refined - are images, an infinite proliferation of images which are subtle bodies like his own. All are men in Eternity," says Blake, "rivers, mountains, cities, villages, all are human." Man "looks out in tree and herbs and fish and bird and beast." The whole cosmos is potentially human and all men are p otentially angelic.
Edward Casey, the foremost American phenomenologist of imagination, has voiced dissatisfaction with Heidegger's tetradic scheme, in which all the gods are lumped together under the one generic heading of "gods." Casey questions whether the gods will "allow themselves to be classed together in such indiscriminate indifference. Are there not intrinsic differences between individual gods?" 6 5 It would seem that Corbin has given an answer to this question in the form of "specific individuality." Contrary to Heidegger who even in his later thought seems to be wedded to some sort of unifying instinct (fantasy), Corbin, in the wake of Avicenna, has no compunction in positing multiplicity and .immeasurable diversity within the imaginal realm of gods. For these gods are in reality the Avicennian angels engaged in a game that
is possibly even more sublime than the Heideggerian mirror-game of the world. What I am trying to say here is that each individual soul (the angel in us) plays the game of life-in-death and death-inlife in his own specific way, i.e., as "specific individuality." Each angel "things" in a way that is unrepeatable, unique, groundless. In effect, the game can be unrepeatable and specific to each individual precisely because it is groundless, that is to say, because it is played out of its own ground and without asking "why." One could also say that the game is itself the message, for, as David Miller, one of the avangardists of Archetypal Psychology, has admirably put it, "Angels are messengers. But since they have no biographies, they bring no messages. They are the message.':" 9
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NOTES and REFERENCES
1. Gilbert Durand, "Exploration of the Imaginal," Temenos I, pp. 8---9.
2. See Aristotle, Nic. Ethics, 117a 14-20.
3. Henry Corbin, Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi (Princeton University Press,1969),P.12.
4. Plotinus, Ennead iv. 4. 37; cf. v. 1,6; 5.7; iv, 4. 37; 3; 9.
5. Gnosis must be distinguished from Gnosticism, a radically dualistic move. ment which flourished before, during and after the rise of Christianity in the West. Gnosis, as used by Corbin and in Iranian Sufism, stands for a fundamental spiritual attitude which aims at liberation of the soul, obtained through direct and inward knowledge involving union of heart and intellect, i.e., imagination. In this sense gnosis is concerned not with elimination or denial of human body and the material substratum in general, but with its transformation and renovation.
6. J.L. Metha, Martin Heidegger: The Way and the Vision (Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii, 1967), p. 117.
7. Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche I (Pfullingen: Neske, 1961), p. 569.
8. Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), p. 67.
9. Letter to Monoeceus, L26, cited in George K. Strodach, The Philosophy of Epicurus (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1963), p.180.
10. Ludwid Wittgenstein, Tractatus 6. 4311.
11. Heidegger, Being and Time, pp. 289, 295,294.
12. Ibid., p. 292.
13. See Adolf Sternberger, Der verstandene Tod (Leipzig, 1934), p. 145; R:gis Jolivet, Le probleme de la mort chez M. Heidegger et J.·P. Sartre (Abbaye S. Wandrille, 1950), pp. 11, 12, 17.
14. Heidegger, Being and Time, p. 292.
15. James M. Demske, Being, Man, and Death (The University Press of
Kentucky, 1970), pp. 68-69.
16. Ibid., p. 70.
17. Ibid., p. 69.
18. Charles H. Kahn, The Art and Thought of Heraclitus. An edition of the fragments with translation and commentary (Cambridge University Press, 1979), p. 227; cf. pp, 214,226.
19. Fusus al-Hikmat, cited by Titus Burckhardt, An Introduction to Sufi Doctrine (Wellingborough, Northamptonshire: Thorsons Publishers Limited, 1976, p. 66.
20. See Heidegger, Being and Time, pp. 25, 241, cf. Richard E. Palmer, Hermeneutics (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1969), pp.13.,
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136 ff, 163.
21. Heidegger, Being and Time, p. 60.
22. Metha, Martin Heidegger, p, 102.
23. Jose F. Mora, Being and Death (Berkley: University of California Press, 1965),p -, 164.
24. Corbin, The Concept of Comparative Philosophy (Glogonooza Press, 1981), p. 19.
25. See Corbin, Avicenna and the Visionary Recital (Spring Publications, Inc., 1980), p. 46; cf. p. 60.
26. Corbin, "Divine 'Epiphany and Spiritual Birth in Ismailian Gnosis," Eranos 5, pp. 70-71.
27. Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion (Boston: Beacon Press, 1958), p. 333,
note 11; cf. Heidegger Uber den Humanismus (Frankfurt,1949), p. 13.
28. Corbin, Avicenna,pp.71-72.
29. Ibid., p. 77.
30. Corbin, "Divine Epiphany," pp. 70-71.
31. Corbin, Avicenna, p. 92.
32. Heidegger, Being and Time, p. 195.
33. Ibid., p. 363,
:34. Demske, Being,Man and Death, p. 34,
35. Corbin, Creative Imagination, p. 180.
36. James Hillman, "The Thought of the Heart," Eranos 1970, Vol. 48, pp. 135, 136.
37. Corbin, Creative Imagination, p. 180.
38. Corbin, ''Mundus Imaginalis or The Imaginary and the Imaginal," Spring
1972, p. 5.
39. See Corbin, Avicenna, pp. 107-109.
40. Ibid., p. 116.
41. William Barrett, Irrational Man (Garden City, B.Y. Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1958), p. 215.
42. Ibid., p. 219.
43. Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution ,and Taboo (New York: Prager, 1960), p.88
44. Hillman, Re- Visioning Psychology (New York: Harper & Row, 1975),
pp. 12, 13, 15.
45. Ibid., p. 138.
46. Hillman, "The Thought of the Heart," p. 164.
47. Corbin, "Cyclical Time in Mazdaism and Ismailism," Man and Time, Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks 3, p. 118. The idea of an extraterrestrial archetype is also found in India, ancient Babylonian cosmology and in the Old Testament ("Celestial Jerusalem "). See Mircea Eliade, Cosmos and History (New York: Harper & Row, 1959), pp. 6-11.
48. Corbin, "Cyclical Time," p. 164.
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49. Nasir al-D~ rusT, Tasaunouriit, pp. 36-60, cited by Corbin, "Cyclical
Time," p. 165.
50. Corbin, "Cyclical Time," pp. 165-66.
51. ~si, T~awwurot, 60, cited, ibid., p. 166.
52. Corbin, "Cyclical Time," p. 13l.
53. Heidegger, Unterwegs zur Sprache (Pfullingen: Neske, 1959), p. 42.
54. Ibid., p. 46.
55. Hillman, "Alchemical Blue and Unio Mentalis," Sulphur 1, 1981, p. 43.
56. Kurt Badt, The Art of Cezanne (University of California Press, 1965), p.40.
57. Corbin, The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism (Boulder: Shambala, 1978),
p. 157, note 121.
58. Hillman, "The Alchemical Blue," p. 44.
59. Heidegger, Unteruiegs zur Sprache, pp. 51,69, 7l.
60. Corbin, Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth; from Mazdean Iran to Shi'ite Iran (Princeton University Press, 1977), pp, xii, 88.
61. G.T. Fechner, Uber die Seelenfrage, 1891, p. 170, cited by William James, A Pluralistic Universe (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1932), p.164.
62. See Heidegger, Vortrage und Aufsdize (Pfullingen: Neske, 1954),
63. Demske, Being, Man and Death, pp. 152,153.
64. Heidegger, Unterwegs zur Sprache, p. 26, note 1.
65. Corbin, "A Letter by Henry Corbin," in D.L. Miller, The New Polytheism (Spring Publications, Inc., 1981), p. 3.
66. Hillman, "Psychology: Monotheistic or Polytheistic," in D.L. Miller, The New Polytheism, p. 131.
67. Heidegger, Der Satz vom Grund, (Pfullingen: Neske, 1957), pp. 186, 188.
68. Edward S. Casey, "Toward an Archetypal Imagination," Spring, 1974, p. II.
69. D.L. Miller, "Images, Angels, Bacon," Corona, Vol. II, p. 8.