Mystical description of the “Archetypal world” in the philosophy of illumination

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In his numerous treatises and in particular The Chant of Gabriel’s Wing, Suhrawardi alludes to the archetypal realities which illumination human faculty can witness. The nature of the archetypal world is such that human consciousness can have a vision of these abstract and incorporeal beings. Imaginal beings are realities that transcend place and time but are real, if not more real, than the corporeal world.

A. Mystical signs on the introduction of “Archetypal world”
Suhrawardi, speaking as a salik, asks Gabriel to discuss his original abode. Their conversation goes as follows: I asked from which direction have you, the exalted ones come. The old man who was at the corner replied that they are a group of incorporeals who have come from “the nowhere but prosperous land” (nakuja abad). I did not understand that, so I asked to which region that city belongs? He said “It belongs to the domain where the index finger cannot point to.” So I came to know that the old master knows [the secrets].

Describing the archetypal worlds, Suhrawardi uses several terms that are uniquely his own such as “nowhere but prosperous land” (nakuja abad), “ruinous but prosperous land” (kharab abad), and “the city of the soul” ( shahristan- i jan), all of which he identifies as he eighth domain (iglim- i hashtum). Henry Corbin refers to this domain as mundus imaginalis and considers it to be a level of reality that has no external existence and yet is real, in fact, more real than the external world, the seemingly real. This real world therefore is the “imaginal” as opposed to “imaginary” which implies both non- real non- existence.

R. The nature of “imaginal world”
First, let us what the nature of imaginal domain is which Suhrawardi, considers to be ontological origin of the corporeal world. Suhrawardi considers the existential cause of the archetypal world to be “accidental intellects” which have come to be in a variety of forms. Although these intetllectual entities are subject, quality, quantity and many other accidental attributes, they are independent of matter. It is imperative to know that for Suhrawardi these “suspending archetypes” (muthuul mu’allaqah) are different than Plato’s forms or archetypes which he regards to be in the fixed world of archetypes. The suspending archetypes which are between the corporeal world (alam-i barzakh) and the angelic world (alam-i qahriah) are not only numerous but also independent of place and time which explains why the external senses are unable to see them except in rare and small glimpses.

The imaginal world in the spiritual topography of a domain that can only be seen by those who have turned away from the sensus communis and rely on spiritual hermeneutics (ta’wil), a profound issue which he discusses both in the al- Talwihat and Alwah- i imadi. Seeing the archetypes requires transcending all obstacles in order to go beyond what Suhrawardi symbolically refers to as the Qaf mountain. The one reaches the mysterious cities of the world of suspending archetypes where such spiritual entities reside.

F. Cities of “imaginal world”
In the Hikmat al-ishraqi, Suhrawardi mentions several cities of the imaginal world, all which belong to the eighth domain. They are Jabilqa, Jabirsa and Hurqalya, the cities which are “nowhere”. According to Suhrawardi, in the last one, wonders exist. As he states: “And there are eight domains therein, Jabilqa, Jabirsa and Hurqalya, the substance of wonder.

For Suhrawardi, Hurqalya represents the archetypes of the heavenly bodies whose harmonious functioning produces a sublime music that only those who are discoverers and seekers of truth can hear. In fact, the beauty of the wonder of Hurqalya which those who have purified themselves can only experience through the inner senses, represents the sacred world of the Sufis whose journey has reached its climax. Suhrawardi analogizes statue of this perfect man with God since both the Sufis master and God can create archetypes, a state of being Suhrawardi calls “Be (kun), referring to the Quranic verse in which God creates the world by saying, “Be” and it was.

And the brothers in purity have a special status in that they are able to create archetypes that are self dependent, and that state is named “Be”.

Suhrawardi concludes by saying that the outward beauties, shapes and forms of this world their ontological roots in the mundus imaginalis, a world which is real but accessible only to few. Nowhere land, therefore, is the place which transcends the world of forms,, time and apace. It is a land only reached by the seeker of truth who has suffered on the path and whose psyche has been opened to be unseen worlds.


suhrawardi and illumination school


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