"...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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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Spiritual Chivalry

"Every physical or moral entity, every complete being or group of beings belonging to the world of Light ... has its Fravarti. What they announce to earthly beings is ... an essentially dual structure that gives to each one a heavenly archetype or Angel, whose earthly counterpart he is." - Spiritual Body & Celestial Earth, 9

The Darkness of evil is not a mere absence of Light; it is its contrary, and would exist even in the absence of Light. We ally ourselves with one side or the other. While we cannot destroy the Angel, we can turn away from it, from our responsibility to ourselves and to what is best in us:

"It is not in the power of a human being to destroy his celestial Idea; but it is in his power to betray it, to separate himself from it, to have, at the entrance to the Chinvat Bridge, nothing face to face with him but the abominable and demonic caricature of his 'I' delivered over to himself without a heavenly sponsor.“ - Le Paradoxe du Monotheisme, 246.

In a theme which stretches from Mazdean Iran to contemporary Shi'ism, "the God of Light has need of the aide of all [of his fravartis]" because the "menace of active nihilism" is terrifying. As in pre-Eternity the Fravartis chose to give up their purely celestial existence and incarnate as Angel-Souls, so we must choose to help combat the horrors of Darkness. There is a mystical solidarity between the paired beings who comprise the cosmic hierarchy: between God and His Fravartis, in the ranks of the Archangels with their bonds of love and devotion, and between the human soul and its Angel. This bond is what the Shi'ites call "spiritual chivalry." It was Corbin's hope that this shared responsibility will ultimately unite the followers of the three Abrahamic religions in a single diversely determined purpose.

Figure 1: Sikandar and the Dragon. Princeton Islamic MSS., Third Series, no. 310. FOLIO: 296:2. From the Princeton Shahnama Project. Figure 2: St. George and the Dragon. Late XVthe Century. From the Russian State Museum. Wikipedia.

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