The Celestial Earth – “subtle bodies of Light”

CORBIN DESCRIBES SOPHIA, the divine presence of wisdom for our world in an intermediate imaginal world – the Celestial Earth, as follows:

“Between the intellectual and the sensible… [is] a ‘spiritual corporeity’ which represents the Dwelling, the Divine Presence, for our world. This Dwelling is Wisdom itself, Sophia.”[i]

Sophia is “the imaginal place of the Divine Presence in our world”. Sophia as the Celestial Earth is typified in the Shi’ite gnosis by Fatima, “the Sophia of the Shi’ite theosophy and cosmology”.[ii] Thus Sophianity is for the human being to accede here and now to the Celestial Earth, to the world of Hurqalya, world of ‘celestial corporeity’, which is that of the subtle bodies of Light.[iii]

“the Soul of the Perceiver”

THE QUANTUM WORLD of nonmaterial symmetries and archetypes also requires new ways of envisioning the world, description and language.

The importance of the imagination and an inner non-physical reality behind our physical external world is understood by quantum physicists; in particular Wolfgang Pauli, F. David Peat and David Bohm.

Pauli argued that the psychologist and the physicist are engaged in a complimentary quest. Hence he advocated that the:

“[I]nvestigation of scientific knowledge directed outwards should be supplemented by an investigation of this knowledge directed inwards. The former process is directed to adjusting our knowledge to external objects; the latter should bring to light the archetypal images used in the creation of our scientific theories. Only by combining both these directions of research may complete understanding be obtained.”[iv]

Psychiatrist Anthony Stevens states: “The relationship between the physical world we perceive and our cognitive formulations concerning that world is predicated upon the fact that the soul of the perceiver and that which is recognised by perception are subject to an order thought to be objective.”[v]

Stevens notes that, for Pauli, “…the archetypes which order our perceptions and ideas are themselves the product of an objective order which transcends both the human mind and the external world.”[vi]


FOLLOWING ON from Pauli, quantum physicist F. David Peat has also called for changes in our language which apply to both ‘inscape’ and ‘landscape’. This postmodern language draws upon metaphor, allusion, ambiguity and values:

“[T]here can be no single explanation, theory or level within nature. We must seek complementary descriptions rather than the single, all-embracing, complete and logically consistent rational accounts which attempt to answer all questions and close all doors. We must seek to engage nature using all the richness that is possible within human language, by drawing upon metaphor, allusion and ambiguity in order to create coherent yet complementary accounts… the science of inscape and landscape requires a degree of creativity within its language, including the ability to deal with metaphor and ambiguity and to accommodate the qualities and values of our experience.”[vii]

By ‘inscape’ Peat is referring to the authentic voice, or inner-dwellingness of things and our experience of them; hence he argues … “By inscape I wish to suggest the inexhaustible nature of each human being, tree, rock, star and atom, and that there is no most fundamental level, no all embracing account or law of a perception or encounter. Rather one attempts to engage in the inner authenticity of the world”.[viii]

This is the ‘I-Thou’ poesis of the artist and Sophianic Wisdom. As in the Sophia Wisdom Archetype, where there is no dualism, Peat questions the fragmentation within our current (modernist) worldview between inner and outer and “the desire for an objective science which has no room for values, qualities and the nature of subjective experience”.[ix]

Implicate Order

DAVID BOHM has argued similarly that there is “no fundamental distinction between the processes of the imagination and perception”.[x] Bohm distinguishes between primary imagination, creative imagination and reflexive imagination. Thus, “the reality which you perceive is affected by your thought. Thought is working as a kind of imagination being infused into your perception. It becomes part of what you see. And that imagination is necessary”.[xi] According to Talbot, Bohm uses the idea of implicate order to echo the idea that:

“Every action starts from an intention in the implicate order. The imagination is already the creation of the form; it already has the intention and the germs of all the movements needed to carry it out. And it affects the body and so on, so that as creation takes place in that way from the subtler levels of the implicate order, it goes through them until it manifests in the explicate.”[xii]

In other words, in the implicate order, imagination and reality are ultimately indistinguishable.

[i] Henry Corbin, ‘Towards a Chart of the Imaginal’, Temenos 1 (1981), 30.
[ii] Ibid, 31.
[iii] Ibid, 32-33.
[iv] Wolfgang Pauli, ‘The influence of archetypal ideas on the scientific theories of Kepler’ in: C.G. Jung and W. Pauli, The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1955), 208.
[v] See Anthony Stevens, Archetype – A Natural History of the Self (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982), 74.
[vi] Anthony Stevens, ‘Thoughts on the Psychobiology of Religion and the Neurobiology of Archetypal Experience’, Zygon, v.21, no.1 (1986), 19.
[vii] F. David Peat, Synchronicity – The Bridge Between Matter and Mind (New York & London: Bantam Books, 1988), 6-7.
[viii] Ibid, 6.
[ix] Ibid.
[x] David Bohm, Thought as a System (London: Routledge, 1994), 151.
[xi] Ibid, 152.
[xii] Michael Talbot, The Holographic Universe (London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1996), 84.

Inner Spirituality

WHILE TWENTIETH CENTURY behavioural psychology denies the existence of spirituality, soul and even consciousness, in line with scientific positivism,[i] there is a long historical tradition of locating spirituality or ‘God’ within the individual, in both psychology and religion – hence Jungian depth and archetypal psychology, world mythology, Gnosticism, Buddhism, Western and Eastern mysticism and the ancient primal and polytheistic religions of the world.

Depth and archetypal psychology maintain the idea of spirituality as being inner, inherent in the mind, or intrinsic to the psyche or soul. The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961), one of the greatest explorers of the human mind and a life-long student of world religions, both historical and cultural – is more than any other Western thinker in recent times associated with the search for inner spirituality. His thinking spans both modernism and postmodernism. English writer and broadcaster J.B Priestly (1894-1984), wrote of Jung in the Sunday Telegraph:

“He was on a giant scale…he was a master physician of the soul in his insights, a profound sage in his conclusions. He is also one of Western Man’s great liberators.”[ii]

Perceiving ‘spirituality as intrinsic to the psyche’ is both a recent phenomenon as well as having its roots in antiquity. However it has never been a mainstream focus of religion in the monotheistic West – and it is outside the orthodox religious establishments that it is again being seriously considered. Donald Broadribb argues that ‘God’ is increasingly being seen in terms of inner experience and process.

“In line with the more introverted religious philosophies of the East to which many Westerners are turning, “God” has come to be understood more and more as an inner experience and less and less as an identifiable “object” existing apart from the individual.”[iii]

Both Jung and the Gnostics of the early Christian period saw spirituality as an intrinsic property of the psyche. Self-exploration at the deepest levels, both believed, leads to spiritual wakening. In fact, “a true spiritual experience may be one of the most basic drives in the psyche, and may even be an essential psychological need.”[iv] Curtis Smith summarises Jung’s view that “the human position is supreme, with the psyche and its realization serving as the basis of religious meaning.”[v] To realise the psyche is to realise one’s interconnectedness with all things:

“At the farthest reaches of the self-realization process the boundary between psyche and world blurs to the point of extinction, so that rather than an impenetrable wall separating psyche and world, psyche and world appear as points on a continuum, forming an indivisible whole. For Jung, therefore human existence is simultaneously universal and particular… to realize the self is to realize one’s interconnectedness with all things.”[vi]

For Jung all religious experience is psychic in origin. While he is arguably the twentieth century’s greatest thinker on religion and spirituality as grounded in the psyche, and hence of depth or imaginative psychology, he is not the only thinker to link spirituality with the psyche. Even Freud (1856-1939), who made a devastating critique of religion on the “manifest” level as illusion, was on the “latent” level preoccupied with religion as mystery deep within the psyche.[vii]

THE INTERIOR JOURNEY into the depths of the psyche in search for the ground of all being, is inherent to both mysticism and depth psychology. Even within the Western monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which were not originally mystical, there are schools of thought and prominent individuals who have emphasised the subjective experience. ‘God’ and the Pleroma (representing a map of the soul) were not external realities ‘out there’ but were to be found within. Karen Armstrong, for example, points out that the Gnostics “showed that many of the new converts to Christianity were not satisfied with the traditional idea of God which they had inherited from Judaism.”[viii] Hippolytus in the Heresies admonishes:

“Abandon the search for God and the creation and other matters of a similar sort. Look for him by taking yourself as the starting point. Learn who it is within you makes everything his own and says, My God, my mind, my thought, my soul, my body. Learn the sources of sorrow, joy, love, hate. Learn how it happens that one watches without willing, loves without willing. If you carefully investigate these matters, you will find him in yourself.”[ix]

By concentrating on the divine energy within, rather than the nature of an external God outside, the mystic was better able to ‘untie the knots’ within the psyche and take ownership of personal ‘evil’, or the unrealised shadowside which conflicts with the ego, as Jung defined it. This was rather similar to the psychoanalytic attempt to unlock complexes which impede mental health and fulfilled living. Karen Armstrong, theologian and a former nun, argues:

“One of the problems of ethical monotheism is that it isolates evil. Because we cannot accept the idea that there is evil in our God, there is a danger that we will not be able to endure it within ourselves. It can then be pushed away and made monstrous and inhuman. The terrifying image of Satan in Western Christendom was such a distorted projection.”[x]

It is not hard to see that the mystic was often at odds with the certainties of mainstream and more dogmatic forms of religion. Since each individual had “had a unique experience of God, it followed that no one religion could express the whole of the divine mystery”.[xi] Donald Broadribb makes the point that:

“Judaism, Christianity and Islam in their main streams have at times during their history persecuted union mystics as heretics who deny the essential division between humanity and God, reserving the possible full union of human and divine for only one person (Jesus, in Christianity) or denying it altogether (as in Judaism and Islam).”[xii]

MYTHOLOGY which is a feature of primal religions, the pagan and the early matriarchal religions, has often been an attempt to explain the inner world of the psyche. However as Armstrong points out, the Gods and Goddesses of the myths were regarded as heathen, inferior and a challenge to the supremacy of the monotheistic God of the prophets of Israel:

“The prophets had declared war on mythology: their God was active in history and in current political events rather than in the primordial sacred time of myth.”[xiii]

Mythology was reasserted however when some monotheists turned to mysticism. Inadvertantly or not, the mystics reissued the challenge to the supremacy of a monotheistic God idealised in dogmatic and politically orientated religious traditions. The mystical experience of “God” has characteristics common to all faiths and hence it tends to pull down the barriers separating religions. Armstrong further describes the mystical experience as being subjective, involving an interior journey.

“[It is] not a perception of an objective fact outside the self: it is undertaken through the image-making part of the mind – often called the imagination – rather than through the more cerebral, logical faculty. Finally, it is something that the mystic creates in himself or herself deliberately: certain physical or mental exercises yield the final vision; it does not always come upon them unawares.”[xiv]

Both Freud and Jung turned to the myths of the ancients to explain the inner world of the psyche and the unconscious.

The American Joseph Campbell’s (1904-1987) work in the study of world comparative mythology and comparative religion, also has strong affinities with Jung and depth psychology. As Armstrong points out, the current enthusiasm for psychoanalysis in the West can be seen as a desire for some kind of mysticism because there are arresting similarities between the two disciplines.[xv]

[i] Behaviourism is a school of psychology that regards objective observable aspects of the behaviour of organisms as the only valid subject of study; cf. Collins English Dictionary, eds., Hanks, P., Long, T.H., Urdang, L. (London: Collins, 1977),132. See also; A Dictionary of Philosophy, eds., Speake, J., Isaacs, A. (London: Pan Books, 1979), 37; The Oxford Companion to the Mind, ed., Richard L. Gregory (Oxford University Press, 1987), 71-74 ; The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, ed., Ted Honderich (Oxford University Press, 1995), 81-2.

[ii] J.B. Priestly, Sunday Telegraph. See review C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Great Britain: Fount Paperbacks, 1977. First published, 1961)

[iii] Donald Broadribb, The Mystical Chorus – Jung and the Religious Dimension (Australia: Millenium Books, 1995), 127.

[iv] John Pennachio, ‘Gnostic Illumination and Carl Jung’s Individuation’, Journal of Religion and Health v.31, no.3, Fall (1992), 245.

[v] Curtis D. Smith, ‘Psychological Ultimacy: Jung and the Human Basis of Religious Meaning’, Religious Humanism v.25, no.4 (1991), 174.

[vi] Ibid, 178.

[vii] R. Melvin Keiser, ‘Postcritical Religion and the Latent Freud’, Zygon v.25. no.4 (1990), 433.

[viii] Karen Armstrong, A History of God (London: Mandarin Paperbacks, 1994), 115.

[ix] Hippolytus, Heresies 8.15. 1-2 as cited in Armstrong, Ibid, 114.

[x] Karen Armstrong (1994) A History of God, 287.

[xi] Ibid, 275.

[xii] Donald Broadribb (1995) The Mystical Chorus,122.

[xiii] Karen Armstrong (1994) A History of God, 244.

[xiv] Ibid, 253.

[xv] Ibid, 245.

The Celestial Earth – “subtle bodies of Light”

CORBIN DESCRIBES SOPHIA, the divine presence of wisdom for our world in an intermediate imaginal world – the Celestial Earth, as follows:

“Between the intellectual and the sensible… [is] a ‘spiritual corporeity’ which represents the Dwelling, the Divine Presence, for our world. This Dwelling is Wisdom itself, Sophia.”[i]

Sophia is “the imaginal place of the Divine Presence in our world”. Sophia as the Celestial Earth is typified in the Shi’ite gnosis by Fatima, “the Sophia of the Shi’ite theosophy and cosmology”.[ii] Thus Sophianity is for the human being to accede here and now to the Celestial Earth, to the world of Hurqalya, world of ‘celestial corporeity’, which is that of the subtle bodies of Light.[iii]

[i] Henry Corbin, ‘Towards a Chart of the Imaginal’, Temenos 1 (1981), 30.

[ii] Ibid, 31.

[iii] Ibid, 32-33.

“How do people imagine the landscapes?”

IMAGINATION IN THE Postmodern Ecological Landscape is the key to the relations and interactions between the natural world and human beings. Barry Lopez asks:

“How do people imagine the landscapes they find themselves in? How does the land shape the imaginations of the people who dwell in it? How does desire itself, the desire to comprehend, shape knowledge? These questions seemed to me to go deeper than the topical issues, to underlie any consideration of them.”[i]

These are Sophianic epistemological questions. They predominate in the Postmodern Ecological Landscape and the I-Thou relation with the land and the landscape. Descriptors of this relationship are mystical, emotional, lyrical and reverential. These are also descriptors inherent to Sophianic Wisdom, morality, perception and spirituality. For example, Lynn Ross-Bryant maintains that Lopez is an exemplar of postmodern ecological writers who offer a holistic view of humans, nature and spirit.

The mysterious otherness of nature is allowed to present itself and in the process the sacred is revealed. Thus,

“Lopez joins postmodern thought in general and neopragmatism in particular in discounting the Cartesian project of knowing the world objectively, in itself. Humans have no privileged position from which they can observe the world”.[ii]

[i] Lopez (1988) Arctic Dreams, xxvii.

[ii] Ross-Bryant (1991) ‘Of Nature and Texts’, 40.

Sophia’s Return

“…the Sophianic form of Mazdean devotion to the Angel of the Earth ultimately tends to cause the opening up in consciousness of that archetypal Image which depth psychology calls Anima, and which is the secret presence of the Eternal feminine in men.”

– Henri Corbin

“The Goddess is now returning. Denied and suppressed for thousands of years of masculine domination, she comes at a time of dire need… Mother Earth herself has been pressed to the limits of her endurance.”

– Edward C. Whitmont

AS IF IN PRECOGNITION of his life’s work, Henry Corbin wrote this haunting meditation in 1932, at the edge of Lake Siljan in Sweden, when he was 29 years old. Corbin called it Theology by the Lakeside.

“Everything is but revelation; there can only be re-velation. But revelation comes from the Spirit, and there is no knowledge of the Spirit. It will soon be dusk, but for now the clouds are still clear, the pines are not yet darkened, for the lake brightens them into transparency. And everything is green with a green that would be richer than if pulling all the organ stops in recital. It must be heard seated, very close to the Earth, arms crossed, eyes closed, pretending to sleep. For it is not necessary to strut about like a conqueror and want to give a name to things, to everything; it is they who will tell you who they are, if you listen, yielding like a lover; for suddenly for you, in the untroubled peace of this forest of the North, the Earth has come to Thou, visible as an Angel that would perhaps be a woman, and in this apparition, this greatly green and thronging solitude, yes, the Angel too is robed in green, the green of the dusk, of silence and of truth. Then there is in you all the sweetness that is present in the surrender to an embrace that triumphs over you. Earth, Angel, Woman, all of this in a single thing that I adore and that is in this forest. Dusk on the lake, my Annunciation.”[i]

[i] Henry Corbin, ‘Theologie au bord du lac’, in Christian Jambet, ed. Henry Corbin. Paris: Cahier del, Herne no. 39 (1981), 62.