"...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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Friday, August 8, 2008

Christus iuvenis

In Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi Corbin writes:

There is indeed a remarkable conformity between the Image in the "hadith of the vision" and the Image of the youthful Christ, Christus iuvenis, in which the Christianity of the first centuries represented Christ. It is quite possible that the spiritual circles in which the hadith made its appearance knew of the Christian iconography which, precisely, illustrates a theophanic conception according perfectly with that of our Spirituals, but like theirs entirely different from the official dogma of the Incarnation, which was to triumph. Of this "Form of God" as Christus iuvenis there are still many exquisite illustrations, notably the mosaics of Ravenna, which, it will be recalled, present a complex problem because they represent iconographically the transition from a theophanic to an incarnationist Christology.

Very briefly we may say this: The theophanic conception…is that of an Apparition which is a shining of the Godhead through the mirror of humanity, after the manner of the light which becomes visible only as it takes form and shines through the figure of a stained-glass window. This union is perceived not on the plane of sensory data, but on the plane of the Light which transfigures them, that is to say, in "Imaginative Presence."

Creative Imagination, 275

Fig. 1: Cupola of the choir : Christ offers the martyr crown to San Vitale, while an angel offers a model of the church to bishop Ecclesius; Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy. From wikimedia.
Fig. 2: Baptism and apostles, c. 500-25. Dome mosaic, Baptistery of the Arians (now Sta Maria in Cosmedin). From wikipedia.