"...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.

Search The Legacy of Henry Corbin: Over 800 Posts

Friday, May 29, 2009

Henry Corbin & American Poetry - Part 4

In my first post on Charles Olson's and Henry Corbin (here) I had not yet got my hands on Olson's Collected Prose which has two mentions of Corbin, from Avicenna and the Visionary Recital and "Cyclical Time in Mazdaism and Ismailism." These short references are quite important for understanding Olson's use of Corbin.

In ' "CLEAR, SHINING WATER," de Vries says ' (1968), Olson begins:

"Wishing, in that sense, to start at the bottom - or, in fact, to get there (that is, by the etymological part of ta'wil /_/ the other part, if I take Corbin right, in a footnote in Avicenna, or, His Visionary Recitals, is topological - and this present instance seems very much perhaps the (vertical) topological matter, of all matters which can find a basis for a physics of psyche at this revolutionary point in re-taking the cosmology of creation as fact, both in instant and in consequence, thus prevailing, hidden or no, in whatever is up anywhere for whomever the more so now_//" (364)

In this short essay Olson ponders the etymology of certain words in Northern and Greek mythologies - the title refers to the water sprinkled on Yggdrasill, the World Tree and the Tree of Life of Northern mythology. As the editors point out it is not clear which footnote Olson is referring to but his use of ta'wil is the important point. On page 29 Corbin writes,

"Ta'wil is, etymologically and inversely, to cause to return, to lead back, to restore to one's origin and to the place where one comes home, consequently to return to the true and original meaning of a text. It is "to bring something to its origin. . . . Thus he who practices the ta'wil is the one who turns his speech from the external (exoteric) form [zahir] towards the inner reality [haqiqat]. This must never be forgotten when, in current usage, ta'wil is said, and rightly, to be a spiritual exegesis that is inner, symbolic, esoteric, etc. Beneath the idea of exegesis appears that of a Guide (the exegete), and beneath the idea of exegesis we glimpse that of an exodus, of a "departure from Egypt," which is an exodus from metaphor and the slavery of the letter, from exile and the Occident of exoteric appearance to the Orient of the original and hidden Idea."

Olson's editors also point to this relevant passage from Corbin, page 160:

"...we can understand that the Spring of Life, the Aqua permanens, is divine gnosis, the philosophia prima. He who purifies himself therein and drinks of it will never taste the bitterness of death. As for the spring of running Water hard by the permanent spring, we may see in it a typification of Logic as being not a part but one of the derivatives (furu ) of the divine science. But this on an express condition that safeguards instead of degrading symbolic perception: it is Logic that must be raised to the horizon of this symbolic perception. In other words: it is not Logic that is the ta'wil of the spring of running Water; it is, conversely, the spring of running Water that is the ta'wil of Logic, that, as such, "leads it back" to its "spring," to its meaning and its truth (haqiqat)."

Corbin's appropriation of ta'wil (which is itself controversial among scholars of Islam) is also of central importance in the work of James Hillman, who regards the "reversion to the source" as a crucial move in any attempt to understand the archetypal and poetic basis of human experience.

It is worth noting too that Olson's notion of a "physics of psyche" is also derives from Corbin, though whether Olson got the phrase from him is not the issue - the structures of their thinking are clearly similar. In Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth Corbin writes:

"...ultimately what we call physis and the physical is but the reflection of the world of the Soul; there is no pure physics, but always the physics of some definite psychic activity." (81).

Olson's second reference is to "Cyclical Time in Mazdaism and Ismailism" which appears now in Cyclical Time and Ismaili Gnosis, and in this piece the relation of the mythic to scientific cosmology is explictly at issue. In a short note appended to "The Animate versus the Mechanical, and Thought" in 1969 Olson continues his discourse on the mythologies of gravity and modern cosmology. He says,

"To make absolutely sure that this discussion is on the table intended by it, I ought as well to add this note [as a further "Addition" - and as of "other" studies]: that I am here seeking to speak within, or across the 'range' of a principle of likeness which includes, and seeks to 'cover' what Henry Corbin reminds me is a constantly affirmed homology among the initiatic cosmos, the world of nature, and the celestial world." (372)

It is important for anyone reading Olson to see the full context from which these ideas have been lifted. The terms Olson uses are indeed from a short footnote to a discussion of the alchemy of Resurrection in Nasr Tusi. Corbin writes as follows:

"In a stirring vision Nasir Tusi describes the contiguity of all the series of beings, each communicating by its highest degree with the lowest degree of the series immediately above it. Thus the worlds of minerals, plants, and animals, the world of man, and the world of the Angel are graduated. And always the higher degree resembles Paradise for the degree below it. The same is true of the phases of a single being. The condition in which an infant cannot yet open his eyes in the sunlight is like his Hell in relation to the condition in which he can face the light, and the latter condition is then like his Paradise. But it is his Hell in relation to the condition in which he can walk and talk. Hell, again, is the condition in which the adult cannot yet attain to knowledge of the spiritual world through that of his own spirit and in which he is unable to experience the meaning of the adage: "He who knows himself (nafsahu, his anima), knows his Lord." When he attains to it, this state becomes his Paradise. In this vision of an incessant rising from Hells, we see an alchemy of Resurrection operating from cycle to cycle. It offers a series of unfoldings, of divestments and revestments, to which one must consent on pain of falling backward, beneath oneself. Here we may also speak of a "continual exaltation" a cosmology "in Gothic style," or of a pursuit of "retarded eternity." Just as their Fravartis sustain the gods themselves (including Ohrmazd and his Archangels) in this state of ascension, and just as the Fravartis incarnated on earth must there propagate this effort toward superexistence, so likewise, in the Ismaili schematization of the world, [Footnote 94: One should also remember the constantly affirmed homology among the mesocosmos ('alam-e Din, the initiatic cosmos), the world of nature, and the celestial world.] the sum of the degrees of the esoteric hierarchy appears to the adept as a cycle of resurrections, each one of which must be transcended, as a succession of Paradises which must be surmounted on pain of falling back into a Hell. Each rank or spiritual degree is a resurrection (qiyamat) whereby the adept becomes conjoined with new immaterial forms which appear on his horizon." (Corbin, 54).

[I note here that the idea that "always the higher degree resembles Paradise for the degree below it" is "homologous" with Samuel Alexander's notion of "Deity" in his Space, Time and Deity (1920) though for Alexander this was an evolutionary progression. not an entirely "vertical" one. In any case what Olson is up to is in part an attempt to stitch the scientific and the mythological together.]

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Importance of Henry Corbin

Henry Corbin's life work was to serve as a champion of the supreme importance of the individual and of the central place of the imagination in human experience. He was, in my opinion, one of the most important philosophers and religious thinkers of the 20th century. But the place that his work occupies with respect to the various academic disciplines is so unique that his opus is impossible to adequately classify. This is one reason that his work is so little appreciated outside of the world of Islamic scholars. His interests are eclectic and wide-ranging and deny all the traditional boundaries of academic scholarship, and some would argue, good sense. There is no doubt that his writings seem at least at first reading to "belong" to Islamic Studies, and readers with little or no knowledge of things Islamic will find them challenging for that reason alone. But his stance is less that of a scholar than that of a partisan of certain forms of mysticism which on his reading escape the bounds of Islam and are to be found as well in Judaism, Christianity and indeed Zoroastrianism. More than this, Corbin saw Iran, or more accurately, ancient Persia, as a kind of mediating realm between the religions of the East and those of the West. Thus it is significant that one of his passions was for the mystical visions of Immanuel Swedenborg, who D. T. Suzuki, the great scholar of zen Buddhism, called the "Buddha of the North."

But here we notice another characteristic of Corbin's work that some scholars may find hard to accept. Corbin followed the Imagination wherever it led him - and so the marginal figures who people the histories of the great religions were often his particular favorites: Swedenborg and Boehme, alchemists and kabbalists, Sufis and Ismailis, poets and visionaries of all stripes who take their stand against the dominant and powerful orthodoxies of their times were particularly dear to his heart. It is hardly true however that Corbin stood outside of the "traditional" scholarly world. Solidly grounded in the philosophy and theology of the West, he knew thoroughly and deeply the works of the most important modern philosophers and religious thinkers - Kierkegaard and Barth, Nietzsche and Heidegger and a host of others whose names are familiar to even casual students of modern Western thought.

One of the things that to my mind reveals his particular genius is his ability and willingness to effortlessly cross boundaries that to others mark the limits of well-defined and independent realms of knowledge. His talents as a linguist were of course crucial to this cross-cultural and polyvalent vision, but his remarkable ability to move simultaneously among the traces of disparate cultures and intellectual traditions is the mark of something more than linguistic virtuosity. I think it is his boundary-crossing ability that reveals Corbin as a truly "postmodern" thinker. He refused steadfastly to be bound by the strictures of the prevailing historicist orthodoxy, preferring to adopt what to some critics seems a dangerous and ill-conceived a-historical eclecticism. But he was early and independently embarked upon what was to become a hallmark of a kind postmodern approach to reality - the ungrounding of literal and totalitarian modes of knowing in favor of something more difficult and subtle, which was for Corbin an extension of what medieval philosophers called an apophatic stance towards to reality. This fundamental attitude towards human knowledge and human being is what is required to understand Corbin's vision of the imaginal world. And it is a radically poetic view of knowledge rather than a discursively rational one. In the modern Western tradition we can find the roots of this kind of "romantic" vision not only among the poets but also in the works of those essential figures in Corbin's pantheon: Hamann, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.

Corbin tells us that the world of the Imagination has been left to the poets in the modern Western tradition. He wanted to reclaim it for philosophy and theology and to place the Imagination at the very heart of human life because he believed, along with Ibn 'Arabi, that it lies at the very center of reality. This is so very post-modern. A turn to the Imagination, or less threateningly perhaps, towards the "literary," characterizes much of Western philosophical and theological thought from at least Kierkegaard and Nietzsche on. Most tellingly for Corbin, Heidegger placed hermeneutics and not abstract logic at the very heart of human being and knowing. But unlike Heidegger who wanted to free it from theology, Corbin turned his hermeneutic gaze back upon a theological vision that is not only Christian, but embraces the entire Prophetic Tradition from Abraham onwards. He thus perhaps anticipated by several decades the "theological turn" in contemporary philosophy and had already turned in an entirely and essentially ecumenical direction. Among modern theologians and philosophers it is perhaps only Henry Corbin, with a deep knowledge of Greek, Latin, German, Persian, Turkish and Arabic who was able to see the religions of the Book with a sufficiently passionate detachment to grasp their essential unities and to show us how we might re-imagine the heart of these traditions to bring them alive and whole into a new cosmopolitan world free from the fundamentalisms and conflicts that have nearly obliterated the prophetic message throughout its long history.

In the end, despite the difficulty of his work, the transcendent beauty of which makes the effort of reading more than worthwhile, Henry Corbin belongs not to Islamic Studies, or even to philosophy and theology, but equally to the poets, the artists and the visionaries. His work belongs to all of us and, we must hope, to the ages yet to come.

The Assembly of the Birds: Page from a manuscript of the Mantiq al-tair (The Language of the Birds) of Farid al-Din cAttar, ca. 1600; Safavid

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Henry Corbin & (North) American Poetry - Part 3

Robin Blaser (1925-2009) was a close friend of Robert Duncan (see this earlier post) and Jack Spicer. Two volumes of his important work have recently been published by the University of California Press:

The Holy Forest: Collected Poems of Robin Blaser

The Fire: Collected Essays of Robin Blaser

Photograph by Kenneth Taranta

An untitled poem from Oh! (2004) begins with an epigraph from Henry Corbin. This marvelous poem seems to me to inhabit a space near the heart of Corbin's message:

'abstract monotheism and monism, which is its secularization as social philosophy,
reveal a common totalitarian trend'
- Corbin

simplified mind
generalized human nature
freedom as aggregate
public without the private
source of witnessing
this perpetual interchange
of heavenish and hellish
oh, I ask you in my grandmother's
phrase, 'be sensible'
where is the power of the heart -
in your breast - damn you -
not up there floating
like a careless alphabet
think of a real lemon
which is very intelligent
test everything everywhere
by your own physical event
then hang on to the heart of it
we're all lemons

(in The Holy Forest, 500)

In his long essay "The Practice of Outside - For Jack Spicer," (Reprinted in The Fire, 113-63) Blaser cites Corbin twice. On page 123 he references Corbin's discussion of the cosmic crypt and the Stranger and the Guide in Avicenna and the Visionary Recital (16 ff). On p156 he writes:

"For Jack's work, as for all others in which love is a commotion of the real, love includes an anticipation of 'something that is still absent' (Corbin 155)."

The reference is to Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi. Corbin is speaking of the Dialectic of Love and the figure of the Divine Sophia in Ibn 'Arabi. He writes:

"...whether the Lover tends to contemplate the beloved being, to unite with that being, or to perpetuate its presence, his love strives always to bring into existence something which does not yet exist in the Beloved... As the Koran verse "He will love them and they will love Him" suggests to [Ibn 'Arabi] the word love never ceases to anticipate something that is still absent, something deprived of being. Just as we speak of of a Futurum resurrectionis, we must speak of a Futurm amoris. Thus the experience of mystic love, which is a conjunction of the spiritual and the physical, implies that imaginative Energy, or creative Imagination, the theory of which plays so large a part in the visionary experience of Ibn 'Arabi. As organ of the transmutation of the sensible, it has the power to manifest the 'angelic function of beings.' " (155).

Robin Blaser and the Angel. From the Toronto Globe&Mail here. See the full Obituary.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Goethe & Islam (revisited)

Jerome Rothenberg has posted some translations from and short commentary on Goethe's West-Oestlicher Diwan by Pierre Joris here. Also see my post of Jan.18 on Corbin & Goethe here. Joris writes of this late work of Goethe,

"at the core of this late creative surge lies Goethe’s avowed Ahlverwandschaft [kinship] with the Persian poet Hafiz, the addressee, instigator, dedicatee of much of the Diwan. Whatever Saidian critique of “orientalism” may apply to this work in hindsight, it is also clear that this is probably Goethe’s most powerful long sequence of poems. The gusto for life, the exuberance, the magnificent lyricism evoked by this consummate and graceful composition make it indeed into one of the great works of Romantic poetry."

Photo of the Goethe-Hafez Memorial in Weimar.

Homage to Henry Corbin

This blog devoted to Henry Corbin will be one year old on June 17. Today the site received its 10,000th visit (and 18,996th page view). This visitor from Sweden was referred to the page from Bosnak's All in the Mind interview on the Australian Broadcasting network, which underscores the wide range of Corbin's reach. The blog now averages between 50 & 60 visits a day. Although a large percentage of the visits are from a small number of regular visitors, and many more are from people who are searching images, it is still gratifying to think that the effort to make Corbin's work more widely known has been to some degree successful and continues to be worthwhile. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the site. I hope that more contributions and suggestions from all with an interest in Corbin's work will follow. - tc (tcheetham@gmail.com)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Henry Corbin & American Poetry - Part 2

In my last post on this topic (November 18, 2008 - here) I discussed Corbin and Charles Olson. In Dale Smith's excellent and useful essay Divining Word he also highlights Robert Duncan's (1919-1988) interest in the idea of the Active Intelligence as delineated by Corbin in Avicenna and the Visionary Recital (pdf). (A good short biography of Duncan can be read here.) Interested readers should search out a copy of Duncan's remarkable lectures to the Analytical Psychology Society of Western New York transcribed for Spring Journal (1996): Spring 59: Opening the Dreamway: In the Psyche of Robert Duncan (this issue is, I am sorry to say, out-of-print but worth searching for). The audio recoding of the second lecture can be found here as "Reading on "Wind and Sea, Fire and Night" at the American Psychoanalytic Society, 1980."  Duncan was, according to Kathleen Raine, "the major visionary poet writing in America." As Smith points out there are several citations from Corbin's book on Avicenna in Duncan's important unpublished volume The H.D. Book (pdf). I present the chief of these below.

Referring to a scathing and dismissive review of H.D.s "Tribute to the Angels" Duncan writes,

"But the suspicion that disturbs [Dudley] Fitts is not mistaken; Pre-Raphaelism broughtdown- to-date “and the like’’ does enter in. Back of H.D., as back of Pound or of Yeats, was the cult of romance that Rossetti and then Morris had derived from Dante and his circle, the Fedeli d’amore, and revived in the Victorian era. The Christ of H.D.’s trilogy is not the Christ of church prescription but of the imagination, related to the Christ of the mysteries, the Christos-Angelos of Gnostic myth and the Angel Amor of the Vita Nuova; and here again, the elder Rossetti and then Dante Gabriel in their revival of Dante had played their part. Beatrice in the Christian mystery cult of Amor may have been herself a presentation of the Christos-Angelos. Gabriel Rossetti tells us in his Early Italian Poets that Dante had identified the Lady with Love Himself."

Duncan continues, quoting Corbin,

“This Figure imposes itself in the imperious manner of a central symbol,” Henry Corbin writes in Avicenna and the Visionary Recital: “appearing to man’s mental vision under the complementary feminine aspect that makes his being a total being.” [Corbin, 267] The crisis in angelology came in the Western World in the thirteenth century when William of Auvergne lead the attack against the Avicennan notion of natures operating in virtue of an inner necessity and according to the law of their essences and especially against the concept of the soul’s finding its inner necessity and the law of its essence in awakening through love to the presence of its Angel, the Active Intelligence. In the Moslem world as well as in the Christian world this concept of being united with the divine reality by a love union with the Angel who is present in the person of the Beloved becomes a prime heresy. Fitts’s “angels and archangels . . . mystical etymologies, and the like” would dismiss any such vision with something like the contempt of medieval theologians—for there were critics in the middle ages who raged in Provence against the lutes and cytharists, troubadours and catharists, against musks and embroideries and the pseudo-medieval. But, as Henry Corbin proposes of Avicenna: “our whole effort was bent to another end than explaining Avicenna as a ‘man of his time.’ Avicenna’s time, his own time, has not here been put in the past tense; it has presented itself to us as an immediacy. It originates not in the chronology of a history of philosophy, but in the threefold ecstasy by which the archangelic Intelligences each give origin to a world and to consciousness of a world, which is the consciousness of a desire, and this desire is hypostatized in the Soul that is the motive energy of that world.” [Corbin, 266] Corbin would read Avicenna’s recitals not as plays with counters but as visionary experiences. “The union that joins the possible intellect of the human soul with the Active Intelligence as Dator formarum, Angel of Knowledge or Wisdom-Sophia, is visualized and experienced as a love union. It is a striking illustration of the relation of personal devotion that we have attempted to bring out here and that shows itself to proceed from an experience so fundamental that it can defy the combined efforts of science and theology against angelology.” [Corbin, 267-8] What the dogma of science with its imagination of the world in terms of use and manipulation for profit and the dogma of theology with its view of reality in the individual experience that would imagine the universe in terms of love, desire, devotion and ecstasy, emotions which men who seek practical ends find most disruptive. “In symbolic terms, let us say,” Henry Corbin comments: “that the Avicennan champion will always find himself faced by the descendants of William of Auvergne, even, and not a whit the less, when those descendants are perfectly ‘laicized.’”[Corbin, 267]

Duncan continues,

The hostile reader will find that all visions start “vaguely from somewhere Biblical” or like Dante’s from somewhere Virgilian and end up “barely more convincingly, in Bethlehem” or like Dante’s in the high fantasy of the luminous eye of God. Dante and his circle, Corbin makes clear, were deep in this matter of angels “and the like”. The whole method, William of Auvergne almost a century before Dante had shown clearly and with telling scorn, was false. But the poets followed the tradition of Provence, not the convincing arguments of the University of Paris. What Dante drew from translated Sufi texts as well as from the songs of Toulouse and Albi where such Images of the First Beloved appeared was the Spirit of Romance. Corbin admits too to an Avicennan romanticism. “Nothing could be clearer then the identity of this ‘amorosa Madonna Intelligenza’ who has her residence in the soul, and with whose celestial beauty the poet has fallen in love. Here is perhaps one of the most beautiful chapters in the very long ‘history’ of the Active Intelligence, which still remains to be written, and which is certainly not a ‘history’ in the accepted sense of the word, because it takes place entirely in the souls of poets and philosophers.” [Corbin, 267] (Duncan, 358-9).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Sketch of a Life

A Very Brief Chronology of the Life of Henry Corbin
(Being selections from the more extensive Biographical Sketch in Henry Corbin, edited by Christian Jambet, Paris: L'Herne, 1981.)

1903 - Born in Paris, April 14, 47 avenue Bosquet, son of Henri Arthur Corbin and Eugenie Fournier. His mother died 10 days later and he was raised by his aunt and uncle.

1915 - Attended Abbey College of St-Maur

1922 - Studied music theory and organ. Attended the Seminary School at lssy. Received the License in scholastic philosophy from the Catholic Institute of Paris

1925 - Studied under Etienne Gilson at 1'Ecole pratique des Hautes Etudes. His thesis was "Latin Avicennism in the Middle Ages." Began his study of Arabic and Sanskit at l'Ecole des langues orientales.

1926 - Met Joseph Hackin, Director of the Guimet Museum (the National Museum of Asiatic Art). After his meeting with Hackin, Corbin said he was filled with a joyous certainty and "saw the link between my studies of medieval philosophy and Hindu metaphysics." Beginning of his friendship with the philosopher and music critic Joseph Baruzi. In a note Corbin wrote "The rhythm of music is the rhythm of my soul."

1928 - Student Diploma at l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes for his work on "Stoicism and Augustinism in the Work of Luis de Leon." Awarded le Prix Luis de Leon by the University of Salamanca.

1929 - In April he began work at the Bibliotheque Nationale. Received his diploma in Arabic, Persian and Turkish. Traveled to Spain and spent two months at L'Escorial. Met the Swedish orientalist H. S. Nyberg. Established friendships with Hellmut Ritter, Georges Vajda, Emile Benveniste, Jean Gaulmier, Robert de Chateaubriant, Pierre Bordessoule, Igor Plemmanikov. At gatherings of "The Friends of the Orient" he met several Iranian students who he would see again in Iran some years later. On October 12 he met Louis Massignon at the Bibliotheque Nationale. On the 13th he visited Massignon and it was no doubt then that Massignon gave him the lithographed copy of Suhrawardi's Hikmat al-Ishraq.

1930 - Took courses with Louis Massignon, Etienne Gilson, E. Benveniste, Alexandre Koyre, Henri-Charles Puech and Charles Andler (on Hegel - see this bibliography on Hegel's reception in France).. In July, the first trip to Germany: Frankfurt-am-Main, Marburg. There he met Rudolf Otto, Rabindranath Tagore, Karl Loewith, Albert-Marie Schmidt and Henri Jourdan. In a note dated 6 August, Corbin wrote "Read Heidegger." On his return from Germany Georges Bataille asked him for a study on Rudolf Otto for the review « Documents ». (also here for further references and analysis). Corbin is President of the French Federation of Associations of Christian Students. From 1931 to 1934 Corbin was secretary and contributor to « Revue critique ».

1931 - In January met with Alexandre Kojeve again. At a seminar organized by Jean Baruzi, Corbin met Bernard Groethuysen who became a close friend. At the seminar Corbin gave one paper on Marcion and a second on Manichean prayer. During this period he met Lev Shestov and Andre Malraux. In April - a second trip to Germany: Stuttgart, Tubingen, and Friburg where Corbin met Heidegger. In August another trip to Germany: Bonn, Cologne, Hamburg, Lubeck. With Denis de Rougemont, Roland de Pury, A. M. Schmidt and Roger Jezequiel, Corbin founded the review «Hic et Nunc». Only six numbers were published.

1932 - In February Corbin convened a conference at the Faculty of Protestant Theology on "The Expression and the Function of the Personality in Islamic Mysticism - in particular in Hallaj and Ghazali." In April and in August more visits to Germany where he met Karl Barth and established ties with Paul L. Landsberg and Hugo Friedrich, then to Sweden to visit and Georges Dumezil and Professor Nyberg.

1933 - Collaborated on the revue « Le Semeur » (The Sower). Established ties with Daniel Bovet, Denis de Rougemont, Charles Westphal. Corbin published his first translation of Suhrawardi in « Recherches Philosophiques ». Marriage to Stella Leenhardt, daughter of Maurice Leenhardt and Jeanne Andre-Michel.

1934-36 - Member of the Asiatic Society. Visited Heidegger in April, 1934. Corbin organized an exhibition marking the millennial celebration of Ferdowsi at the Bibliotheque Nationale. Invited to Pontigny by Paul Desjardins for a conference, «Is the Will to Justice Necessary for Revolutionary Action?» with Charles du Bos, Vladimir Jankelevitch, Denis de Rougemont, and Maurice de Gandillac. From October 1935 until June 30, 1936 Corbin was sent by the Bibliotheque nationale to the 1'Institut francais in Berlin. In July he went to Friburg-en-Bresgau to submit to Heidegger translations to appear as « Qu'est-ce que la Metaphysique? » Contributed to « Hermes » and « Mesures ».

1937-39 - Substituted for Alexandre Koyre a 1'Ecole pratique des Hautes Etudes. Presented « Transcendental et Existential» at the 9th International Congress of Philosophy. Conference at the Society of Iranian Studies on Sohravardi. Organised the exposition: «Arts of Iran, Ancient Persia and Baghdad» at the Bibliotheque Nationale. Attended courses in Aramaic and Syriac at the IVe section de 1'Ecole pratique des Hautes Etudes (Andre Dupont-Sommer). Publication of « Qu'est-ce que la Metaphysique? ». Visit to Nicolas Berdiaev in April. Sent by the Bibliotheque nationale for a six-month stay at the French Institute for Archaeology in Istanbul the Corbins remain there until the end of the war.

1940-45 - As the sole member of the French Institute of Archaeology in Istanbul, Corbin collected manuscripts for a critical edition of Suhrawardi and worked as well on manuscripts of Mulla Sadra and others. Upon the arrival of his replacement in 1945, the Corbin's left for Teheran on the Taurus Express (and here) through Bagdad, arriving in Teheran on September 14. At a conference at the Museum of Archaeology plans were made to create a department of Iranology in the new Institute francais. Corbin met Mohammad Mo'in with whom he would later collaborate on many volumes in the « Bibliotheque iranienne ».

1946 - In July the Corbins returned to Paris after an absence of 6 years.

1949 - Attended his first Eranos Conference in Ascona, Switzerland. He returned nearly every year until his death in 1978. His colleagues and friends here included C. G. Jung, G. Scholem, Giuseppe Tucci, Emil Cioran, Mircea et Christinel Eliade, Christian et Marie-Louise Dehollain, Adolf Portmann, C. A. Meier, Ernst Benz.

1954 - Delivered a paper at l'Academic des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres on «The Situation of Iranian Studies in Iran». After a month in Cairo editing the papers of Paul Kraus, Corbin returned to Teheran as director of the department of Iranology at the Institut franco-iranien. Established the series « Bibliotheque iranienne ».

1954 - Avicenna's Millennial Celebration in Teheran. Corbin delivers «Avicennisme et Imamisme». Publication of Avicenne et le Recit visionnaire. Named Director of Studies in Islam and the Religions of Arabia at 1'Ecole pratique des Hautes Etudes.

1955-1973 - Corbin was in charge of publications at the department of lranology at the Institut franco-iranien in Teheran. He also taught history of theology and philosophy at the University of Teheran. From Janurary to June he taught in Paris.

1958 - Delivered a paper at the Guimet Museum on « Une grande figure du soufisme iranien : Ruzbehan Baqli Shirazi». Publication of L'imagination creatrice dans le soufisme d'lbn 'Arabi.

1960 - Publication in Iran of conversations between the master of Islamic philosophy Allama Tabataba'i and Henry Corbin.

1961 - Publication of Terre celeste et corps de resurrection.

1962 - Invited by G. E. von Grunebaum (The Near Eastern Center, Los Angeles) and Roger Caillois to a colloquium on « Le reve et les societes humaines». Delivered «Le songe visionnaire en spiritualite islamique ». Attended a conference in Teheran on «La place de Molla Sadra Shirazi dans la philosophic iranienne ». Member of Consulting Council at Eranos.

1964 - Conference at the Colloque du Symbolisme (Paris): «Mundus imaginalis ou l'imaginaire et l'imaginal». Established friendships with Gilbert Durand, Rudolf and Catherine Ritsema, James Hillman.

1968 - Publication of Histoire de la philosophic islamique.

1970 - Invited to Newnham College at Cambridge (conference : Sohravardi, de l'epopee heroique a l'epopee mystique). Trip to Mashhad to meet Professor S. J. Ashtiyani and organize publication of volumes of I'Anthologie des philosophes iraniens depuis leXVII siecle jusqu'a nos jours.

1971 - Publication of first volumes of En Islam iranien: aspects spirituels et philosophiques.

1972 - At the request of his friend General Georges Buis, Director of the Centre des Hautes-Etudes militaires, he attended a Conference and debate on Iran.

1973 - Attended a colloquium at Chambery sponsored by Gilbert Durand at the Centre de Recherche sur l'imaginaire : « Le motif du voyage et du messager en gnose irano-islamique ». Retired in 1974, Corbin continued to give lectures at 1'Ecole pratique des Hautes Etudes and he returned to the University of Teheran each autumn, invited by S. H. Nasr. With Robert de Chateaubriant, Gilbert Durand, Antoine Faivre and Richard
Stauffer, Corbin founded 1'Universite Saint-Jean-de-Jerusalem, Centre international de recherche spirituelle comparee. Shortly after, they were joined by Pierre Bordessoule, Jean Brun and J. L. Vieillard-Baron. The theme of the first session was «Sciences traditionnelles et sciences profanes ». Corbin was elected President of the Association Nicolas Berdiaev.

1975 - Invited by the University of Geneva to give two lectures, « La prophetologie shi'ite duodecimaine » and « La prophetologie ismaelienne », and attended a colloquium at the University of Tours: « Macrocosme et microcosme » where he presented « Le microcosme comme cite personnelle en theosophie islamique ». Second session of USJJ on « Jerusalem, la cite spirituelle ».

1976 - Third session of USJJ on « La foi prophetique et le sacre ».

1977 - Publication of Melanges offerts a Henry Corbin. Colloquium organized at the University of Tours on the theme «L'homme et 1'ange», presented « Necessite de 1'angelologie ». Fourth session of USJJ on « Les pelerins de 1'Orient et les vagabonds de 1'Occident». Invited to Teheran for an international colloquium « L'impact planetaire de la pensee occidentale rend-il possible un dialogue reel entre les civilisations? » he delivered his last major paper, « De la theologie apophatique comme antidote du nihilisme ».

1978 - In June the fifth session of USJJ on:« Les yeux de chair et les yeux de feu ou la science et la gnose ». In July a trip to Scotland.

From Stella Corbin's Memoir: On the 26th of September the doctor authorizes the return to Rue Odéon. Henry, overjoyed, barely sleeps, plans to finish his works, and then, slightly troubled, asks the Doctor: “But do you think I can finish this book?” Dr. Gonnot: “Oh! I know you. Even if you had 100 years ahead of you, you would ask me the same question. You would have yet another urgent book to finish… and many more besides.” Corbin replies, “That may well be! The thing is, you see, with my books, I am struggling against the same thing as you. Each in our own way, you as doctor, and I as historian of religions, are engaged in the same struggle, we are leading a campaign against Death."

Henry Corbin died on October 7, 1978

[An account of Corbin's childhood and of his final illness (and much else besides) can be found here courtesy of the Friends of Henry and Stella Corbin.]

Monday, May 4, 2009

Eye of the Heart: A Journal of Traditional Wisdom

I call your attention to this excellent journal:

The Philosophy & Religious Studies program, La Trobe University, Bendigo, is pleased to announce the release of Issue 3 of Eye of the Heart: A Journal of Traditional Wisdom.

In particular I recommend the fine essay by Angela Voss "A Methodology of the Imagination" which makes extensive use of Corbin's work.

Anatomical Man, from Les Tres Riches Heures de Jean Duc du Berry, the Limbourg Brothers, 1413-16.