"...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 19, 2008

Progressio Harmonica

"One does not penetrate into the Angelic World by housebreaking, one does not move around mentally in the world of Hurqalya by the assistance of a formal logic or of a dialectic which leads from one concept to the next by deduction." - Spiritual Body & Celestial Earth, xix

How one does move in such a world is perhaps best suggested by the dynamics of music and dance. Events in time are exemplars of eternal Events in the time of the Soul, and these can only be evaluated by a measure that varies with their intensity. The harmonies and rhythms of music provide such a measure.

"And this intensity measures a time in which the past remains present to the future, in which the future is already present to the past, just as the notes of a musical phrase, though played successively, nevertheless all persist together in the present and thus form a phrase." - Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi, 35-36

"The homologation of forms in time with forms in space offers a particularly subtle case of isomorphism. It is this, in reality, which leads us to conceive of many modes of spatiality, among which the visual mode, corresponding to sensible perception, is not perhaps even the privileged case. Speech, the Divine Word...is the sonorous incantation which evokes beings and which remains the profound and secret nature of each being. Stabilized in this being, this nature does not reveal itself, however, to the empirical point of view, but to another visual sense, to an interior vision perceiving other spaces. But precisely these spaces, and this psycho-spiritual spatiality, which has other properties than sensible space, require in their turn a homologation of sonorous space to supersensible spaces where the vibrations of the Word propagate as 'arpeggios charged by distant lights.'" - En Islam Iranien, vol.1, 141.

The "theophanic method of discourse" recommended by Ibn 'Arabi is perhaps itself "nothing other than a form or an appeal of the progressio harmonica." "Something in the nature of harmonic perception is needed in order to perceive a world of many dimensions." - En Islam Iranien, Vol. 1, xxviii.

Page from the Topkapi Scroll - Topkapi Museum, Istanbul. Diagrams of metric circles representing rhythmic patterns of sound. Muslih al-Din Mustafa Sururi. From his "Bahr el-maarif" (Sea of knowledge), written for the Ottoman prince Mustafa in 1549, copied in 1585, red and black ink on paper. MS H. 659, Fols. 17v-18r.

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