Spiritual Knighthood

This is from a brief article by Mircea Eliade on the importance of Ananda Coomaraswamy and Henry Corbin. I don’t know if this article is available elsewhere, but in case not, I have translated the French portions of it.

Ananda Coomaraswamy did not try to prove any doctrine, but rather to shows its consistency and intelligibility. Those properties provide the ground for faith, in the sense of “confidence” rather than belief. AKC writes:

Philosophy is neither a system nor a philosophy, it cannot be argued for or against.

However, the story does not end there. Tradition cannot be proved because it is a fact, and there is no disputing facts. But to become a “fact”, it must be realized, i.e., made real. When this happens, it is no longer faith, but rather gnosis.

What AKC did for the comparative study of the religions of India with those of the West, including ancient paganism and the spiritual system of the Medieval period, Henry Corbin did for what are referred to as the three “Abrahamic faiths”. He probes them in their depths, thereby rescuing them from the superficial critiques of both contemporary neo-atheism and neo-paganism. Besides his lifelong devotion to the study of Persian and Sufi esoterism, Corbin was also interested in Heidegger’s philosophy and, curiously, the immense works of Emmanuel Swedenborg.

Recognizing that the crisis of the West is in its foundations a spiritual crisis, Corbin founded the International Center of Comparative Spiritual Research in 1974. His goal was to encourage a new kind of university, where Traditional sciences could be studied free from the rationalistic prejudices of academia. He describes it:

The specific character of this Association is marked in its very name: it makes the concept of “spiritual knighthood” the norm of its researches and activities, and it makes Jerusalem the mystical “symbol” of the encounters and gatherings whose place it hopes to be. The self-criticism of the West, as well as the accusations brought against it, never, in general, take into account the spiritual traditions of our western world, because they don’t know them. The first cause of it is that unlike the great theological systems maintained by the religious Orders, or unlike the philosophical systems professed in the Universities, the treasure of the spiritual sciences, that can be grouped under the more or less suitable and adequate term of “esoterism” is found abandoned in a state of neglect. One could just as well speak of suffocation by the canonic and legal spirit. The result is that this treasure remained buried in libraries, an object sometimes of the curiosity of well-intentioned scholars, but most often the prey of improvisers lacking discernment. Whence the proliferation of pseudo-esoterisms. It is therefore important to finally form a home for these high sciences whose neglect and oblivion are at once the cause and the symptom of the crisis of our civilization. To this purpose we cannot separate the history of philosophy, the history of the sciences, the history of spirituality. But it is possible to not separate them only by a “rebirth” presupposing a plan of transhistoric permanency. Such is the meaning that we give to a restoration of traditional sciences and studies in the West. This restoration presupposed the necessary conjunction of the needs of the spiritual life and the rigors of scientific investigation, such that academics are accustomed to conduct.

There are three stipulations: first, it is limited to the three “religions of the book”. Second, the spiritual meaning, i.e., the esoteric meaning of the Sacred Word is common to those religions. In his own words, this is the third:

The Man, Adam, the Anthropos, was created in some other parts, let us say in the Pleroma, and “descended” down to this world. With him, the Word [Logos] descended to this world. With that descent, History begins. Man and the Word were made captive in or under a terrestrial envelop. Otherwise, they would not have been manifested in this world and History would never have begun. They would have remained in the state of flashing of non-perceptible light. However, under the terrestrial envelop, thanks to which we can see and hear, thanks to which we can give form to something like History, lives that flash of light which belongs to another world. At that point the a history is truly understood only if man perceives the trace of that flash and recognizes it … When he recognizes it, when it is remembered (anamnesis) that flash, man experiences the state of “those who know”, the gnosis of the gnostic, in the strict meaning of the word “gnosis”… we therefor say that the flash of light, exiled under the terrestrial envelop, is at this point, saved. And such is the deep meaning of the word gnosis: a salvific knowledge because it is not a theoretic knowledge, but that it effects a transmutation of the inner man. It is the birth of the true man, the Verus homo.

Corbin identified three sources of knowledge for “traditional science”:

  1. Philosophy. Intellectual activity, in the metaphysical sense of nous or intelectus.
  2. Theology. The body of traditional teachings.
  3. Theosophy. Inner revelation, or active imagination.

For AKC, the philosophia perennis consists of the first principles behind the appearances of the several traditions. For Corbin, it is the visionary perception of the intermediary world that “is designated in Arabic as “alam al-mithal”, that I need to translate by mundus imaginalis, the imaginal world, to differentiate it from the imagination.

Corbin concluded his presentation:

Henceforth, the relationship between man and his God is that of knightly service. At its limit, this relationship produces the metamorphosis of the warrior knight to the spiritual knight.

I just tried to find the type of scholar who, in the measure where he corresponds to the idea of the legitimate heritage [the esoteric Abrahamic tradition], can assume the vocation of spiritual knight. Because he is at the same time the man of knowledge and the man of desire [yearning for the Absolute; see Louis Claude de St-Martin], because for him the intellectual life and researches could never be isolated from the spiritual life and researches, he offers a power contrast with the type of man in whom intellectuality is developed in the ignorance of all spirituality.

4 thoughts on “Spiritual Knighthood

  1. The first part of this sentence in my above reply is incomplete. It should read as follows: Both Rudolf Steiner, who made the distinction between Knights of the Sword and Knights of the Word, and Valentin Tomberg have called for the renewal of knighthood in a modern form,

  2. Today, May 28, 2017 it is 1205, some say 1203 years, that the patron saint of Christian knights William of Orange (Gellone) , paladin of Charlemagne, one of the last protectors of Celtic Christianity and founder of the original house of Orange in the South of France died in Saint-Guilhelm-le-Désert in the South of France. This Guillaume d’Orange as he is known and still revered in France is the main character of the epos by the same name of Wolfram von Eschenbach. Three years ago I submitted a petition to the present Dutch king William-Alexander in the Hague under the (mistaken) notion, that he was the only one in our kingdom with the constitutional right to establish a new knighthood: the Willehalm Order of Knights of the Word of King Arthur and knights of the Word such as Parzival.

    Both Rudolf Steiner, who made the distinction between Knights of the Sword and Valentin Tomberg have called vor the renewal of knighthood in a modern form, something which I am trying to live up to with others and in the course of which I have translated and published a number of books in my Willehalm Institute in Amsterdam, such as “How the Grail Sites Were found – Wolfram von Eschenbach as a Historian” by Werner Greub in which it is developed that Willehalm was none other than Master Kyot, the informant of Wolfram’s Parzival. Further a number of books by Herbert Witzenmann such as “The Virtues – Seasons of the Soul” in which the masculine chivalric virtues Courage, Loyalty and Justice are intertwined with the feminine oaths of the monks Obedience, Chastity and Poverty, Also his book “The Charter of Humanity – Rudolf Steiner’s Social Organics/ A New Principle of Civilisation” that includes the transformation of the world economy based on greed to one based on love for mankind, the earth and the cosmos, and “The Just Price – World Economy as Social organics” that can be seen in the light that Rudolf Steiner has purportedly said to Walter Joannes Stein, author of “The Ninth Century – World History in the Light of the Holy Grail” that the modern-day Grail impuls lies in that transformation of the world economy that is doing so much damage to our mother Earth and its inhabitants. Then in 2014 and 2015, I translated and recited in public the Anthroposophical Meditation on the Bible by Valentin Tomberg as part of an attempt to rechristianize the Low Countries on the basis of the New Christianity that Rudolf Steiner (the term stems fro him) brought down to earth.and for which he refounded the Anthroposophical Society as a vessel, which alas has not been properly understood let alone put into practice. .

    Now today I continued my translation of .the social-aesthetic study for the spiritualization of the principle of civilization entitled “To Create or to Administrate” (already available in Dutch as “Vormgeven of Beheren”) that is an extraordinary account of the new attitude of consciousness that those aspiring to spiritual knighthood can knight themselves with, for that is I think the new spiritual knighthood of the modern age entails that grail knights forge their own transition from intellect to intuition as has done the prototype of humanity Parzival when he, as is described in Wolfram’s Parzival, he enforced the Holy Trinity to grant him the realization of his wish to become King of the Grail. This happened in the Grail castle Munsalvaesche, which Werner Greub in the afore-mentioned book, has located in the Ermitage, an ancient Celtic holy site in Arlesheim within a stone throw as it were from where Rudolf Steiner built the Goetheanum. The first thing he (Parzival) did afterwards was to vist the hermit Trevrizent nearby with a troupe of his Grail knights, who when he heard what had happened exclaimed that never a greater miracle had occurred that anyone had conquered the Grail. Now be humble was his stern advice.

    Now, all these books and remarks are only mentioned as practice material leading to the spiritual formation of the soul in order to attain spiritual of Grail knighthood, Most of the titles are online and can be google. See also http://Willehalm-order-of-knights.blogspot.nl . I hope next year on May 28 to be able, God willing, to report that the Willehalm Order has made further progress even to the extent that a foundational meeting has occurred with the acceptance of a written charter. Interested persons or parties are more than welcome to make suggestions on how to proceed.

  3. The mechanicalness of the Earth cannot be combatted with self-actulization only. Others must be brought along as well.

  4. Indeed.. I had a brief moment of wondering ‘why’ I do what I do.. and then it occurred to me that it largely is about boundaries. Without constant work, mechanicalness will win. Hence, I understood the notion of working with others.

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