"...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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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Alchemy is the Sister of Prophecy

"...The mundus imaginalis is the place, and consequently the world, where not only the visions of the prophets, the visions of the mystics, the visionary events which each human soul traverses at the time of his exitus from the world, the events of the lesser Resurrection and the Greater Resurrection "take place" and have their "place," but also the gestes of the mystical epics the symbolic acts of all the rituals of initiation, litrugies in general with their symbols, the "composition of the ground" in various methods of prayer..., the spiritual filiations whose authenticity is not within the competence of documents and archives, and equally the esoteric processus of the Alchemical Work, in connection with which the First Imam of the Shi'ites was able to say 'Alchemy is the Sister of Prophecy.'" Henry Corbin, Spiritual Body & Celestial Earth, xi.

"We have here a mineralogy, a crystallography, a botany, a zoology whose 'objects' are used and studied as mirrors. The beings of the three Kingdoms are mirrors that render visible the constellations of the superior world..." "The alchemist operates - meditates - on all the metals as the hermeneut practices the symbolic exegesis... of a text." "...[I]t is the true imagination that makes the link between the alchemical operation and the interior transmutation." Henry Corbin, Lectures, 1973 - Quoted by Pierre Lory, Introduction to Corbin, l'Alchimie comme Art Hieratique, Paris: l'Herne, 1986, 11-13.

Image: Alchemists at work, 15th century. British Library, London. From artresource.

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