"...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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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Accursed Tree

Corbin writes, "The seriousness of the role of the Imagination is stressed by our philosophers when they state that it can be 'the Tree of Blessedness' or on the contrary 'the Accursed Tree' of which the Qur'an speaks, that which means Angel or Demon in power. The imaginary can be innocuous, the imaginal can never be so." Spiritual Body & Celestial Earth, x.

The spiritual path requires that we "must pass through the Darkness; this is a terrifying and painful experience, for it ruins and destroys all the patencies and norms on which the natural man lived and depended - a true 'descent into hell,' the hell of the unconscious.: Avicenna and the Visionary Recital, 159.

Mulla Sadra has written: "Of all the realities that man sees and contemplates in the world beyond, those which delight, like houris, castles, gardens, green vegetation, and steams of running water - as well as their opposites - the horrifying kinds of which Hell is composed - none of these is extrinsic to him, to the very essence of his soul, none is distinct or separated from his own act of existing." Spiritual Body & Celestial Earth, 165

And Najm Razi tells us this: "Know that the soul, the devil, the angel are not realities outside you: you are they. Likewise Heaven, Earth and the Throne are not outside you, nor paradise nor hell, nor death nor life. They exist in you; when you have accomplished the mystical journey and have become pure you will become conscious of that." in Corbin, The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism, 60.

Engraving: The Temptation of St. Anthony, Martin Schongauer, c. 1491. from wikimedia.

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