"...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

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Corbin & Guénon

Les Amis de Stella et Henry Corbin have posted (in French) a synopsis of a 2002 essay by Xavier Accart which reviews significant contrasts between Corbin and René Guénon. Access the synopsis here. They preface it as follows:

Ce texte est la synthèse d’une étude dans lequel le lecteur trouvera toutes les références bibliographiques (Xavier Accart, « Identité et théophanies. René Guénon (1886-1951) et Henry Corbin (1903-1978) », dans « René Guénon, lectures et enjeux », Politica Hermetica, Lausanne, n° 16, 2002, p. 181-200). Elle fait suite à une étude consacrée aux rapports de Guénon et Louis Massignon qui fut le maître de Corbin (Xavier Accart, « Feu et diamant – Louis Massignon et René Guénon », Xavier Accart (dir.) (avec la collaboration de Daniel Lançon et Thierry Zarcone), L’Ermite de Duqqi, Milan, Archè, 2001, p. 287-325). Le lecteur trouvera des éléments complémentaires dans : ACCART, Xavier, Guénon ou le renversement des clartés – Influence d’un métaphysicien sur la vie littéraire et intellectuelle française (1920-1970), Paris, Edidit, 2005, 1222 p.

Accart points out that Corbin and Guénon really operate in very different universes of discourse, that their interpretations of Islam are quite distinct, and that their proposed "cures" for the spiritual problems of Western society are essentially different, Corbin for example proposing a renewal within the "occidental" tradition. Corbin hardly shared Guénon's apparent disdain for anything in Western culture after Dante.

See also this Wikipedia article on Traditionalism. In this context I should note that in my own reading of Corbin I minimize his elitist tendencies, which seem to me in conflict with much else in his work including his protestantism (which was anathema to Guénon) and his (I think) fundamentally "democratic" vision. In any case, as Nasr says, Corbin was no Traditionalist.

1 comment:

  1. I think that there are some significant differences between Guénon and Corbin, but also many similarities. We should also note that there are differences between the traditionalists themselves, and even between various academics in Islamic Studies. A number of traditionalists after Guénon have written about and defended western esoterism, such as Frithjof Schuon, Huston Smith and James Custinger. Also worth noting is Corbin's collaboration with one of the leading traditionalist scholars Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Corbin may not have been a traditionalist, but he comes closer to that perspective than any scholar in his field that I have read who does not identify himself as such.

    Guénon also states, which could have easily been written by Corbin or Suhrawardi:

    "...for it is all too clear that to the extent that a man "Westernizes" himself, whatever may be his race or country, to that extent he ceases to be an Easterner spiritually and intellectually, that is to say from the one point of view that really holds any interest. This is not a simple question of geography, unless that word be understood in a sense other than its modern one, for there is also a symbolic geography..."
    (R. Guénon, The Reign of Quantity & the Signs of the Times, p. 7)

    See also the forthcoming text by Patrick Laude "An Inner Islam: Insights in Massignon, Corbin, Guénon, and Schuon":