"...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 2, 2009

Items of Interest

An interview with Robert Bosnak on dreams, the imaginal world and Henry Corbin, on Australian Broadcasting's All In The Mind for February 28, 2009. Audio file and transcript available here. "Jungian psychoanalyst and psychotherapist Robert Bosnak is a dream worker. To him dreams are an ecosystem of imaginings - powerful bodily experiences populated by characters with their own intelligences. When you encounter the images of your dreaming mind - do you find one Self, or many?"

From the Transcript:

Natasha Mitchell: Let's climb inside this idea of embodied imagination that you've been working with for some 30 years now. Before we unpack how you use it with clients, where did the idea stem from?

Robert Bosnak: The idea has been around for a long, long time, I would say thousands of years. In my life it comes from a scholar of the visionary tradition in Islam and his name was Henry Corbin. And Corbin said that these entities that we encounter are intelligent, they carry their own intelligence, and that creative imagination is inherently intelligent. And this was a way of looking at the imagination that was particularly strong up until about 800 years ago, and then slowly imagination became the opposite of reality. And that's where I started. ...

Natasha Mitchell: Let's just go back to your inspiration from the French philosopher and professor of Islamic studies, of all things, Henry Corbin. You met him and he had a sense that the west had come to misconstrue the imagination.

Robert Bosnak: Yes, he always was talking about the great cataclysm that happened about 700, 800 years ago when we moved from a philosophy that was based on the fact that there were three realms of reality: the physical reality and the spiritual reality which now we would call the mental reality or the mathematical reality. There was a third reality in between and that was the reality of imagination. Then in about 700, 800 years ago that realm of the imagination as reality dropped out and it became just mind and matter. It moved from imagination being one form of reality into imagination being the opposite of reality—and that he found very tragic.

And From Farshid Kazemi I have the following additions to the bibliography:

Vahid Brown, "A Counter-History of Islam: Ibn 'Arabi within the Spiritual Topography of Henry Corbin," Journal of Ibn Arabi Society,Volume XXXII, Autumn 2002. (Brown adopts Wassertrom's methods and is critical of Corbin's approach to Ibn 'Arabi).

Ismael Velasco, "A Prolegomenon to the Study of Babi and Baha’i Scriptures: The Importance of Henry Corbin to Babi and Baha’i Studies," Baha'i Studies Review, Vol. 12, 2004. (Kazemi comments: "The Babi movement from which the Baha'i Faith emerged, is directly related to the Shyakhi movement (Shaykh Ahmad Ahsa'i), which occupied the last years of Corbin's life.")

Also worth noting is the 11 volume Routledge Library Mini Series on Islam & Sufism (all with hardcover library bindings) which contains a reprint of Corbin's Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi. Details here.

Folio of calligraphy; 1541-1542 Kamal al-Din , (Iranian, died 974 A.H.)
Safavid period Iran or Afghanistan Purchase, F1929.63 Freer & Sackler Galleries

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