The Sky without Stars (4)

Exploring Titus Burckhardt’s “Mystical Astrology According to Ibn ‘Arabi” continued:

There are many other aspects of the Sky without Stars that could be explored. They can only be gone into sketchily here. What I would like to point your attention to is what Henri Corbin describes as the mundus imaginalis. In his book “Alone with the Alone – Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi” he says the following:

“For them the world is ‘objectively’ and actually threefold: between the universe that can be apprehended by pure intellectual perception (the universe of the Cherubic Intelligences) and the universe perceptible to the senses, there is an intermediate world, the world of the Idea-Images, of archetypal figures, of subtile substances, of ‘immaterial matter’. This world is as real and objective, as consistent and subsistent as the intelligible and sensible worlds; it is an intermediate universe ‘where the spiritual takes body and the the body becomes spiritual,’ a world consisting of real matter and extension, though by comparison to sensible, corruptible matter these are subtile and immaterial. The organ of this universe is the active Imagination…”

Quoted in the same book is a passage out of his “The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism”,

“Between the world of pure spiritual Lights (luces victoriales, the world of the ‘Mothers’ in the terminology of Ishraq) and the sensory universe, at the boundary of the ninth Sphere [the Sky without Stars – th.] … there opens a mundus imaginalis which is a concrete spiritual world of archetype-Figures, apparitional Forms … vision of it in actuality is vouchsafed to the visionary apperception of the Active Imagination.”

The signs of the zodiac as archetype-figures belong in this realm. They are concrete forms only accessible to Active Imagination. So the mode of perception of the ancient astrologer is at this level and not in the rationalist mode of our times! The rationalist mode is bound to the sensible world. That is why it is so difficult for most modern astrologers, and that goes also for those with a traditional bent, to transcend a conceptual view of the universe where one considers the planetary bodies alone – without any consideration of the Spheres. Of course once the Active Imagination has perceived this realm and expressed this perception in language it is also available to ratio. Most of the astrology you have learned, dear reader, has been through the ratio (this also applies to me). If we really want to understand astrology we are challenged to activate our Active Imagination. Even the briefest of glimpses is enough to change how we “see” astrology and practice it.

PS Here is a link to an essay by Henri Corbin on the mundus imaginalis

2 thoughts on “The Sky without Stars (4)

  1. Dear Andrew..
    Thanks for your articles..

    I am a muslim and have tried to read Ibn Al arabi books…
    But quite frankly, like you say, all you can do is read and re-read..Is very hard to understand..Your explanations are much appreciated..
    I have not read Ibn Al Arabi’s book on Astrology..I did not know it existed…BUt I have read IBN AL ARABI’s -Metaphysics of Imagination…is very hard to understand it..if you do not have it, please get a copy…

    I’ve been reading mainstream astrology for over 10 years now..But i’ve always known that western theories on astrology are just the tip of the surface..

    I knew there was deeper knowledge on the subject, but could never find it…Thanks for bringing my attention to the higher level of astrology, your explanations and introduction to Ibn Al arabi’s work on Astrology…

    If you have any more work on this subject which is not posted on your site, i would appreciate if you emailed me it..

    Adil Fareed

  2. Dear Adil Fareed,

    I think you meant to address your comment to me, although Andrew, one of the regular readers of this weblog is also interested in this theme.

    I very much appreciate your comment and your recommendation for Ibn ‘Arabi’s “Metaphysics of the Imagination”. It is always good to know that there is some resonance when dealing with such a difficult subject.

    The texts are indeed very hard work and very challenging, but the return is well worth it! One thing that has helped me, is to take Ibn ‘Arabi’s imagery seriously. So if he speaks of a tower than it is a good idea to experience a tower. At the time I was writing the first essay on the Towers (The Sky without Stars (1)) I had the opportunity to wander to a tower that could only be reached by foot. It was quite an experience and deepened my understanding considerably. In a sense the outward form and the idea that is pointed to coalesce.

    I try to share what I can formulate understandably here and depending on how the articles are received – that is why your comment is so important – I may revise them and publish them in another form.

    Thank you for your comment,

    PS As far as I know Ibn ‘Arabi did not write a book directly about astrology, but there are references throughout his work (for example the chapter on Idris in the fusus al-hikam). That is why Titus Burckhardt’s compilation and commentary is so helpful.

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