"...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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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Henry Corbin & American Poetry - Part 5

In earlier posts on Charles Olson & Corbin (here & here) I noted that Olson makes significant use of Corbin's Avicenna and the Visionary Recital, which he apparently read in March of 1966. Richard Reeve has kindly supplied me with scans of the marginal notes in Olson's copy of the book which I have embedded below and which I hope will be of interest to Olson readers and scholars.

Olson's personal library is housed at the Charles Olson Research Collection at the University of Connecticut where Reeve obtained these copies some years ago. Though less than perfect, these are for the most part legible. (Better copies can be had by printing the pdf files).

It seems likely that the footnote Olson refers to (mentioned in the earlier post) is the very long one on pp. 357-60 in Section 21 of The Persian Commentary on the Recital of Hayy Ibn Yaqzan: The Terrestrial Angels.

Olson explicitly links "topology" and "etymology" in his glosses on page 29. On page 32 where Corbin says that "visionary recitals are situative of their cosmos" Olson stresses "fit" and the "aspect pf place." Pages 32-35 on ta'wil as situative, and a cause of homecoming from the exile of the soul are heavily marked.

On page 119 we find the following, with Olson's underlines marked here in bold and his marginal exclamations in brackets: "Furthermore, the Zoroastrian angelology puts a decisive end to all ambivalence of the numinous, that confusion between the divine and the demonic whereby the manifestations of the divine can elsewhere assume a terrific character. To judge by the oscillations that make consciousness waver elsewhere, and that are perceptible in the confusion perpetrated throughout history [wow! wow], and more than ever in our day, between angelology and demonology, we can appreciate the historical significance of the ancient Iranian faith: yes is not no, the beings of light wage a battle that is not a dialectical game, and it is to be guilty of a contradiction in terms, and a blasphemous contradiction for the Zoroastrian consciousness, to talk of an "angel of Darkness."

I hope to make a visit in the fall to the Olson Research Collection to try to obtain scans of Olson's copy of "Cyclical Time in Mazdaism and Ismailism."As always I am interested in hearing from anyone with an interest in Corbin's influence on Olson and his friends.

I also draw your attention to the upcoming Charles Olson Centenary Conference June 4-6, 2010 at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, British Columbia. A paper on Olson & Corbin is needed.

Olson's Marginalia- Pages 14-15, 28-26 in Henry Corbin's Avicenna

Olson's Marginalia - Pages 118-19, 161-2, 281-3, 357-60 in Corbin's Avicenna

1 comment:

  1. This is a terrific post. Thank you. I was planning, and am still, to propose a paper on Olson and Corbin for the conference. It will be deeply indebted to your work here. I am also curious how Norman O. Brown fits into this turn in American poetics. Brown, Corbin, Duncan, Olson, Blaser, an extraordinary moment.