"...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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Monday, March 9, 2009

Henry Corbin in the 1930's - The German Translations

In the 1930s Corbin produced translations of Suhrawardi from the Persian, essays for Hic et Nunc on Kierkegaard, Luther and other topics, and a large number of critical reviews of works including ones by Brentano, Bultmann and Dilthey. He also translated a number of key essays in theology and philosophy from German. Maria Soster has written an excellent piece on Corbin's early work: Henry Corbin in the 1930's: Questions and Perspectives, (Translated by Christine Rhone). She writes:

A short text entitled “Annexe II: Nature des travaux à poursuivre en Allemagne” [Annex II: Nature of the works to pursue in Germany] dates from the end of 1934 or the beginning of 1935 and describes the prospects of the research that Henry Corbin intended to develop in Berlin (he was in Germany from October 1935 to June 1936). In this paper, we find the following: “Pursuit of an inquiry on the genesis of the grounds determining the orientation of Existenzphilosophie in all contemporary German philosophy. We can understand the ground of ‘existence’, in Heidegger as in Jaspers, as the result of an inevitable confrontation between that which is called the ‘crisis of historicism’ and the exigency of a self-understanding having true ontological significance. This problem of man at grips with ‘his’ history determines ‘the idea of anthropology in the philosophy of existence.’” Thus, the problem of existence and that of its historicity become the question of the concept of man for the philosophy of existence. Man is called into question, and with him, his history, because, as we shall see in the texts, man is not in history. On the contrary, history as potentiality-of-being is in man and simultaneously determines his past, present and future. (This similarly concerns the tradition that appears in Corbin’s reading of Suhrawardī. There, in discussing ‘existential time’, Corbin points out that “A philosopher can only be his own time, and in that alone consists his true ‘historicity’”, and furthermore that “there is a living tradition, that is, a transmission into acts, only by constantly renewed acts of decision”).

I have gathered together the list below from the Complete Bibiography at amiscorbin.com

Henry Corbin: Translations from the German - 1932-1939

Karl Barth, « Misère et grandeur de l’église évangélique » (titre français donné par le directeur de la revue). – Trad. de l’allemand par H. Corbin, Foi et Vie 39, juin, 1932. Barth was known in the 1930s primarily for his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. [I would appreciate hearing from anyone who knows the title of the original German text which Corbin translated. - T.C.]

Martin Heidegger, « Hölderlin et l’essence de la poésie », trad. de l’allemand par H. Corbin, Mesures 3, 15 juill. 1937, pp. 120-143. ["Holderlin and the Essence of Poetry"]
_____. Qu’est-ce que la métaphysique ? Suivi d’extraits sur l’être et le temps et d’une conférence sur Hölderlin. – Trad. de l’allemand par H. Corbin avec un avant-propos et des notes. Paris, Gallimard (coll. « Les Essais », VIII), 1938, In-8°, 250 p. [What Is Metaphysics? Being Extracts on Being and Time and a conference on Holderlin]
_____. « Phénoménologie de la mort », fin § 52 et § 53 in : Sein und Zeit (L’être et le temps). Halle am Saale, M. Niemeyer, 1927. - Trad. de l’allemand par H. Corbin, Hermès 3e série (1), Bruxelles, janv. 1938, pp. 37-51. ["Phenomenology of Death" - from Being and Time]

Karl Jaspers, « La Norme du jour et la passion pour la nuit », chap. 3 ; pp. 102-106, in : Philosophie, t. 3, Metaphysik. Berlin, J. Springer, 1932.- Trad. de l’allemand par H. Corbin, Hermès 3e série (1), Bruxelles, janv. 1938, pp. 51-68. ["The Norm of Day and the Passion for the Night," from Philosophy, Vol. 3]

Johann Georg Hamann, « Aesthetica in nuce. Rhapsodie en prose kabbalistique », trad. de l’allemand par H. Corbin, Mesures, janv. 1939, 27 p. ["Aesthetics in a Nutshell: A Rhapsody in Kabbalistic Prose," English text of this fascinating essay available here (pdf)] Corbin's translation appears in Henry Corbin, ed. by Christian Jambet.

Abraham Heschel, « La Prophétie », traduction de l’allemand (Die Prophetie) par H. Corbin, Hermès 3e série (3). Bruxelles, nov. 1939, pp. 78-110. [Prophecy]

And for a brief but interesting mention of Corbin at the Bibliotheque Nationale, see "Arnaud Dandieu and the Epistemology of Documents," (2007) by Christian Roy at Papers of Surrealism, 7, 2007.

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