Henry Corbin On The Shadow

Henry Corbin On The Shadow

As you know, I’ve been discussing the idea of the Celestial Twin, the perfected and thoroughly individuated celestial personage of each and every human being on Earth. This is a very old idea, possibly having its origins in ancient Egypt with the Ba and Ka souls (The Egyptians believed the soul has five parts). The Celestial Twin, as I understand it, is an angelic entity who is a paredros for all humans. The term paredros literally means “one who sits by the side of” and is a legal term from ancient Greek. It is similar to a judges’ assistant in the Athenian court system. This term denotes the relationship of the Celestial Twin to an individual as a “guardian angel, guide and companion, helper and savior” (Henry Corbin, Avicenna).

Corbin saw the unity of the human Soul and its Twin as a living unity of wholeness, but only if we choose to seek the Light. There are dark powers, as well, and these will also fill the role of companions and guides, if we wish. The Darkness is very real.

The totality represented by their bi-unity is therefore “light upon light”; it can never be a composite of Ohrmazdian light and Ahrimanian darkness, or in psychological terms, of consciousness and its shadow (Corbin, The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism).

In other words, Corbin is radically departing from Jung’s idea of integration with the Shadow archetype. Corbin is more concerned with defeating the powers of Darkness than integrating the human psyche.

Of the Shadow, Jung said,

It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism. The individual seldom knows anything of this; to him, as an individual, it is incredible that he should ever in any circumstances go beyond himself. But let these harmless creatures form a mass, and there emerges a raging monster; and each individual is only one tiny cell in the monster’s body, so that for better or worse he must accompany it on its bloody rampages and even assist it to the utmost. Having a dark suspicion of these grim possibilities, man turns a blind eye to the shadow-side of human nature. Blindly he strives against the salutary dogma of original sin, which is yet so prodigiously true. Yes, he even hesitates to admit the conflict of which he is so painfully aware (On the Psychology of the Unconscious” (1912). In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. P.35).

 If one were to give oneself over to this kind of Shadow, in Corbin’s mind there would be no place for the Celestial Twin. Rather, there would be an Infernal Twin alongside one. This would mean the destruction of a human life; we see it everyday on the news.

So, Corbin did not see that an integration with such a dark force was possible or necessary. Jung, on the other hand, believed it was most necessary for the wholeness of the psyche. I am aware that Jung’s idea of evil was that it is most certainly a real force and not simply the privatio boni (the absence of good), as many theologians have taught over the centuries, originating with St. Augustine. Sometimes, I wonder, too, how someone like Hitler could have possibly integrated his shadow.

Corbin, the theologian, looks at the situation differently than Jung, the psychologist. That’s understandable. Each man had their insights. They are not required to agree on every point.

In essence, the sum of the matter is that we live our lives in such a way that we allow the power of Light, our celestial counterpart, to guide us through this vale of tears. God knows, we need all the help we can get.

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