Henry Corbin on the contemporary refusal of Gnosis

In his late Paper, finished July 25th 1974, in Paris : Imago Templi in confronation with Secular Norms (published in Henry Corbin:Temple and Contemplation.) , Henry Corbin writes:

Faced with a Church which had become a historical power and a society in the time of this world, the longing for the Temple is a longing for a “place” where, during the liturgical mystery and at the

“meeting-place of the two seas”, eschatology was realized in the present, a present which is not the

limit of past and future in historical time, but the time of an eternal presence.

This “realized eschatology” was the restoration of Paradise, the restoration of the human condition to its Celestial status. The longing found and finds a response in “Christian esotericism”, because this esotericism is unable to conform to the norms of official ecclesiology, to accept that “all is finished”,and hence cannot accept the norms of Sociological religion. And it is in its broadest sense – that is to say,

as implying some link or other with the recurrence of the Imago Templi that we must grasp the recurrences

of the word “templars”.

The Community at Qumran felt itself to be the New Temple, felt itself to be involved alongside the Angelic powers that were invisibly present in its midst, in the fight of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness. This aspect of the Community makes it a perfect example of “Templar Knighthood“.

An previous example had been furnished by the companions of Zerubbabel when building the Second Temple;

they also confronted the demonic counter-powers. An affinity has rightly been shown to exist between the

ethic of Qumran and that of Zoroastrian knighthood. Ormazd could not defend the ramparts of the City

of Light without the help of the Fravartis. The ethic of battle is the same in both cases; it does not consist in waiting for an eschatological event that will take place later, on some distant day.

The battle fought by the beings of Light is eschatology itself in the process of being accomplished, and the Ezekelian Vision

of the Celestial Temple: the defenders of the Holy City are defending the Imago Templi that embraces both

the Celestial and earthly Temples, and connects heaven with earth.

In this way, we do not deviate from our initial hermeneutic, according to which the destruction of the Temple signified our entry into this world, and its rebuilding signified our departure from exile, our return to the original world whence we came.


The Imago Templi polarized the Western Esoteric Tradition, and this is also why the Image of the Temple Knighthood, of the Order of the Temple, remains indissolubly linked to the concept of Initiatic Knighthood.

…the transition, since the time of Montanist crisis, from eschatological Christianity – the Christology of

the Christos Angelos- to a Christianity and Christology within History, must surely strike us as fateful,

a sign of the process of corruption. Does not this sign coincide with the refusal of gnosis? And is it not

then the case that the secret of Israel, the secret of the “New Temple”, communicated impartially to all nations, is a siogn that the difference between the “temple” and the profane has been abolished?

Unfortunately, all too frequently one hears people say that the Christian Revelation has no secrets about it, nothing esoteric that needs interpretation. “All is finished”, as we were reminded earlier, in accordance with this attitude these same people oppose the Christian revelation to gnosis and to the hermeneutic that accompanies gnosis. In compensation, we are told that the Christian mystery is unprofanable because it requires one to be present at this mystery through the sacramental communion of faith.

Any gnostic would see this contrast both as fragile and as painfully artificial, for it starts out by forgetting that

in this same sense gnosis itself is also and par excellence unprofanable.

It is not enough to hear the esoteric meaning uttered; it is necessary to be present at it through a new birth.

Gnosis and palingenesis are inseparable, and this is also the sacramental sense of communion through Gnosis.

On the other hand, to separate the Christian revelation from gnosis is precisely what lays the former open to profanation.

The overwhelming desacralization that is occuring in our times gives us ample food for thought.


A hostile attitude towards gnosis has led to forgetfulness and ignorance of the original relationship between the

Christian community at Jersualem and Jewish Gnosis. The same hostile atitude has inspired the statement that

all Christian esotericism is doomed to defeat. Unfortunately, what we are witnessing today is the defeat to which

we are condemned by the absence or the refusal of gnosis.