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Observations placeholder

Ahmad Ahsai, Shaykh - Kitab Sharh al-Ziyara - An allegory of glass



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Shaikh Ahmad Ahsa’i – Kitab Sharh al-Ziyara [translated by  Henry Corbin and Nancy Pearson]

Glass is produced from silica and potash, both of these, dense and opaque are homologous to the elemental material body, the body of perishable flesh with which we are familiar….. when  subjected to fusion we are left with clear glass, the interior is visible through the exterior, the exterior is visible through the interior….

Consider how, from silica and potash, dense and opaque, there issued a body in a transparent subtle state.  The latter is unquestionably the same mineral substance, and yet it is not.  It is something other.

Now supposing the glass in its turn is subjected to fusion; let a certain appropriate chemical be projected onto it and thoroughly penetrate the whole mass; the glass becomes very fine and brilliant glass.  If the Elixir of whiteness, the philosopher’s chemical be projected onto this fine glass, it then becomes a crystal which flames in sunlight, because it causes the sun’s rays on striking the surface to converge.  It is certainly still glass and yet it is something other than glass; while remaining glass, it is, however, glass to which something has happened, something which has so completely purified it that now it ranks much higher than the first glass.  This incandescent glass is homologous to … the spirit at the time of the exitus, when the latter departs from its ….. material body.

Well then! If this sparkling crystal is melted once again and the white Elixir is again projected onto it, lo and behold! It becomes diamond.  It is still glass, and yet no – it is something other – but not so, it is certainly itself but itself after undergoing all these trials…………..

Place it on the anvil, strike it with a hammer, it will dent  the anvil and the hammer but it will not break.  Strike it with a piece of lead and it will break into cubiform fragments and if each cube in turn is struck with the lead it will in its turn break into cubiform fragments.  That is the true sign that it is really diamond, but if it has become diamond it is also a sign that the diamond was hidden in the essential depths of the mineral substance..

The source of the experience

Ahmad Ahsai, Shaykh

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items


Activities and commonsteps



Contemplation and detachment