Imago Templi,the Imagination and Templar Spirituality

Ignaz von Dollinger wrote:”If I were asked to name the _dies nefastus_ in the history of the world, the day that would come to my mind would be none other than October 13th, 1307.”

(the day when Philip the Fair ordered the arrest of the French Templars). (cited in

Pierre Mariel:Guide…des Templiers. Table Ronde, Paris, 1973.

A few pages further on, the same work makes mention of “a legend whose setting is the amphitheatre of

Gavarnie in the Pyrenees, where six knights of the Temple lie at rest in a chapel.

Every year, on March 18 – the birthday of the last Grand Master of the Order (Jacques de Molay) –

a Knight of the Temple is seen to appear, whose shroud is replaced by the famous white cloak with the four triangled red cross. He is in battle apparel and holds his lance in rest. He walks slowly towards the centre of the Chapel and utters a piercing call, which re-echoes

around the ampitheatre of the mountains:”Who will defend the Holy Temple? Who will deliver the tomb of Christ?” At his call the six entomed Templars come alive and stand up, to answer three times:

“No one! No one! No one! The Temple is destroyed!

…echoing the lamentations of the Talmudic Sages, each of them sets the same catastrophe at the centre

of world history: The destruction of the Temple, the same Temple.

Occuring and recurring – opposing this dispair with the tenacity of permanent defiance: the image of the rebuilding of the Temple, the coming of the New Temple, which assumes the dimensions of Cosmic Restoration.(pp263).

Henri Corbin,The Imago Templi in Confrontation with Secular Norms

Paris, July 25th 1974.

Published in Henry Corbin:Temple and Contemplation.Islamic Publications Ltd. Routledge&Kegan,London,1986.


Unlike modern philosophers of History, Visionary theosophers always have someone – a personal messenger – who comes to give them instructions and to be their guide. Where does he come from? In the famous recital of Hayy Ibn Yaqzan, composed by Avicenna, the Angel – on being asked by the visionary whence he comes, replies:”I come from the Temple“, or to be precise, from the Baut al-Maqdis. This latter term, which is the literal

Arabic equivalent of the Hebrew Beth ha-Miqdash, means, to be sure, the “Sacredotal House”

but as we know, the symbol of the dwelling-place commonly used to denote the temple.

The Arabic term designates Jerusalem, but the answer given to Avicenna refers not to the Jerusalem of this

world, but to the Celestial Temple of which the earthly Jerusalem is the image.

pp265

We hear the same answer given in Suhravardi‘s Visionary recitals. Often, indeed, for the sake of precision,

we get the expression Na-kuja-Abad, the “Country of non-where”, or, Ruh-Abad, the “Country of the Spirit”.

Thus the question arises: at what boundary or limit does the meeting place between the visionary and the

Angel “who comes from the Temple”? Hence, too, at what boundary or limit is the image of the Temple disclosed to the visionary, so that he receives the revelation of the Angel who belongs to the Temple?

Our mystical theosophers have explained themselves with extreme clarity on this point, and in doing so show themselves to be in profound agreement with all visionaries of the New Temple.

What is in question is a world which conditions a fundamental spiritual experience, the secret of which initially escapes us occidentals because for us this world has for centuries been a lost continent.

It is the world situated midway between the world of purely intelligible realities and the world of sense

perception; the world that I have called the _Imaginal world_ (alam-al-mithal), _mundus imaginalis_,

in order to avoid any confusion with what is commonly designated imaginary.

Let us be quite clear about this. Our visionary theosophers – Suhravardi‘s Ishraqiyun – are no less aware than we are of the perils of the imaginary. I will recall briefly the metaphysics of the Imaginary, in say, Suhravardi. The Imagination possesses a twofold aspect and fulfills a twofold function. On the one hand there is the passive imagination, the Imagination that “re-presents” or “re-produces” (khayal). As such the Imagination is, quite simply, the storehouse that garners all the images perceived in the _sensorium_, this latter being the mirror in which all the perceptions of the external senses converge.

On the other hand there is the active Imagination (mutakhayyilah). The active Imagination is caught between

two fires. It can submit docilely to the injunctions of the estimatory faculty (wahmiyah), in which case the

_rational animal_ that accesses things in a way related to that of animals. The rational animal can and in fact does fall preyt to all the deliriums and monstrous inventions of the imaginary obstinately rejecting the judgement of the Intellect. Yet the active Imagination can, on the contrary, put itself exclusively at the

service of the Intellect – of, that is to say, the _Intellectus Sanctus_, as this is called cogitative or

meditative.It should be noted that this is another name for the active Imagination, the _productive_ Imagination.

The whole task consists in purifying and liberating one’s inner being so that the intelligible realities perceived on the _Imaginal_ level may be reflected in the mirror of the _sensorium_ and be

_translated_ into _visionary perception_.

pp266

The vision of the Angel, thus _the Imago Templi_ does not emerge from the negativity of an _unconscious_, but descend from a level of a positively differentiated _supra-consciousness_.

This order of Imaginative perception is destribed by Haydar Amuli, the great Shiite interpreter of

Ibn al-Arabi, as being that of “intellective images”, metaphysical Images.

Ibn Arabi sees it (Imagination) as the place where the world of pure ideas in their intelligible

substantiality meets with the world of objects of sense perception. It is the world where everything

that appeared inanimate in the world of sense perception, comes alive, the world to which

Moses came before meeting his initiator (Khezr, Khadir). In short, it is at “the meeting-place

of the two seas” that the _Imago Templi_ reveals itself to the visionary.

The _Imago Templi_ at “the meeting-place of the two seas” implies a situation above all speculative,

in the etymological sense of thw word: two mirrors (_specula_) facing each other and reflecting, one

within the other, the image that they hold. The image foes not derive from empirical sources, and is

thus, the criteria by which they are verified and their meaning is put to the test.

It is.. “not to be understood as allegorical; concealing that Other whose form it is, but _tautegorical_ – it is to be

understood in its identity with that Other, and as being _itself_ the thing which it expresses”.

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