"...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 7, 2008

Templum & Mirror

Speaking of the Friday Mosque at Isfahan, Corbin writes,

"At the geometrical center of the enclosure we find a basin whose fresh water is perpetually renewed. This is a water-mirror, reflecting at the same time the dome of heaven, which is the real dome of the templum, and the many-colored ceramic tiles which cover the surfaces. It is by means of this mirror that the templum brings about the meeting of heaven and earth. The mirror of the water here polarizes the symbol of the center. Now this phenomenon of the mirror at the center of the structure of the Templum is also central to the metaphysics professed by a whole lineage of Iranian philosophers, among whom the most famous lived at one time or another in Isphahan. Thus there must certainly have been a link between the different forms of the same Iranian conception of the world, perhaps a link so essential that it will explain how the painters and miniaturists of Islamic Iran felt in no way that their art was subject to the traditional anti-iconic interdict. They had produced neither sculptures in space nor easel-paintings."

From "Emblematic Cities: A Response to the Images of Henri Steirlin," trans. Kathleen Raine, in Temenos Journal 10: 16. Originally in Steirlin, Henri, Ispahan: Image du Paradis, Geneva: Editions SIGMA, 1976. Image from wikimedia