The Land of Nowhere

The Land of Nowhere

Nicholas Roerich, “Maitreya the Conqueror.

For those of you who are not familiar with the term, mundus imaginalis, please see my article, Henry Corbin and the Archetypal Realm.

According to French philosopher and theologian, Henry Corbin, one of the best descriptions in Western thinking of what he calls the mundus imaginalis is given by the Swedish mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg. Corbin says, “One cannot but be struck by the concordance or convergence of the statements by the great Swedish visionary with those of Sohravardi, Ibn ‘Arabi, or Sadra Shirazi.”.

Swedenborg explains that “all things in heaven appear, just as in the world, to be in place and in space, and yet the angels have no notion or idea of place or space.” This is because “all changes of place in the spiritual world are effected by changes of state in the interiors, which means that change of place is nothing else than change of state. … Those are near each other who are in like states, and those are at a distance who are in unlike states; and spaces in heaven are simply the external conditions corresponding to the internal states. For the same reason the heavens are distinct from each other. … When anyone goes from one place to another … he arrives more quickly when he eagerly desires it, and less quickly when he does not, the way itself being lengthened and shortened in accordance with the desire. … This I have often seen to my surprise. All this again makes clear how distances, and consequently spaces, are wholly in accord with states of the interiors of angels; and this being so, no notion or idea of space can enter their thought, although there are spaces with them equally as in the world.

The mundus imaginalis transcends place and space. When you have a cosmos within you, there is no need to change place or space. Merely change your state from one of minding the things of the outer world to minding things of the inner world. We all have a doorway within us to that magical land.

Corbin is careful to distinguish the realm of the imaginal from one of mere fantasy. The imaginal realm is a real world on the subtle planes. Fantasy, or the imaginary, as he calls it, is synonymous with the unreal, and merely imaginary:

This is so, because the current attitude is to oppose the real to the imaginary as though to the unreal, the utopian, as it is to confuse symbol with allegory, to confuse the exegesis of the spiritual sense with an allegorical interpretation.

Symbol (imaginal) brings one to a spiritual exegesis, something we do not yet know, whereas allegory (imaginary) refers to something we already have knowledge of. Corbin refers to an image presented as a true symbol as Urphanomen, a primary, unconditional, and irreducible phenomenon. This sort of image cannot accurately manifest itself to the outer world we live in. It can only be understood, albeit partially, as a symbol. These images originate in what Persian mystic, Suhrawardi, called Na-Koja-Abad, the Land of No-where. It is also known as the Eighth Climate.

For henceforth it is the where, the place, that resides in the soul; it is the corporeal substance that resides in the spiritual substance; it is the soul that encloses and bears the body.

In the Eighth Climate, all things  occur “inversely to the evident facts of ordinary consciousness.” Corporeal substances, our bodies, for instance, are not the temples of the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul taught. No, this in error. Our souls are the temples of our bodies. This is why we can’t provide a certain location for the Na-Koja-Abad, nor any of its cities. Corbin says, “it is not situated, it is, rather, that which situates, it is situative.” In other words, it is everywhere. It is everywhere within us and and within all corporeal substances.

Corbin claims there can be topographical correspondences between our world and the mundus imaginalis, but not direct passage from  one to the other “without a breach.”

Many accounts show us this. One sets out; at a given moment, there is a break with the geographical coordinates that can be located on our maps. But the “traveler” is not conscious of the precise moment; he does not realize it, with disquiet or wonder, until later. If he were aware of it, he could change his path at will, or he could indicate it to others. But he can only describe where he was; he cannot show the way to anyone.

 Is this what occurred when many explorers and adventurers claimed to have visited the mythical city of Shambhala, or other similar paradisial “locales?” Are these adventurers really traversing the inner planes when they arrive in paradise, perhaps even while they search for them in our world? One small change in our state of consciousness can transport us there. Usually, one is engaging in some sort of meditation, but this is not always the case.

Works Cited

Corbin, Henry. “Mundus Imaginalis or the Imaginary and the Imaginal,” in Swedenborg and Esoteric Islam, trans. Leonard Fox (West Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 1995).

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