"...the Imagination (or love, or sympathy, or any other sentiment) induces knowledge, and knowledge of an 'object' which is proper to it..."
Henry Corbin (1903-1978) was a scholar, philosopher and theologian. He was a champion of the transformative power of the Imagination and of the transcendent reality of the individual in a world threatened by totalitarianisms of all kinds. One of the 20th century’s most prolific scholars of Islamic mysticism, Corbin was Professor of Islam & Islamic Philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris and at the University of Teheran. He was a major figure at the Eranos Conferences in Switzerland. He introduced the concept of the mundus imaginalis into contemporary thought. His work has provided a foundation for archetypal psychology as developed by James Hillman and influenced countless poets and artists worldwide. But Corbin’s central project was to provide a framework for understanding the unity of the religions of the Book: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. His great work Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi is a classic initiatory text of visionary spirituality that transcends the tragic divisions among the three great monotheisms. Corbin’s life was devoted to the struggle to free the religious imagination from fundamentalisms of every kind. His work marks a watershed in our understanding of the religions of the West and makes a profound contribution to the study of the place of the imagination in human life.
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Wednesday, July 30, 2008
In Tracks in the Wilderness of Dreaming Robert Bosnak relates the following story concerning a particularly powerful lucid dream:
I discussed my dream with a man I greatly admired, Henry Corbin, the great scholar of Sufism. In the dream I found myself walking along a river. On the other side of the river I saw a Middle Eastern City of white stucco cupolas. Without hesitation I jumped into the river and swam across. When I walked through the white city I was almost overwhelmed by the reality of the place. It felt more real than anything I’d ever seen before. I told Corbin this dream because, within weeks of having it, I heard him speak about the City of Light at Eranos… His description of the City sounded so much like the one in my dream that I decided to ask him about it. I was at the beginning of my life, in my mid-twenties, and he was at the end of his, in his mid-seventies. For some reason he was fond of me and turned his hearing aid on while listening to me. Hearing tired him. He lived in a world in which, he used to say with irony, most of his contemporaries had been dead for a thousand years. I loved him. After hearing the dream, he smiled. “You were there,” he said. “You were actually there. You were in that City. That’s why it felt so real. You were there because the City exists.”
From Robert Bosnak, Tracks in the Wilderness of Dreaming, New York: Delacorte Press, 1996, 48-49.