"...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, June 15, 2009
Henry Corbin on the Soul of Iran
Henry Corbin writing of the Avicennan ta'wil:
...everything takes place as if the vision of the high mountains of Iran had ceaselessly prepared the "contemplative intellect" of the Iranian soul once more to receive from the Angel Active Intelligence an illumination that again puts the memory of their hierophanies "in the present." It was upon these lofty peaks that, according to tradition, Zarathustra, the Iranian prophet, was repeatedly granted theophanies and angelophanies. What we call "angelology" in the true sense is perhaps the peculiar charism, the gift, of the Iranian soul to the religious history of humanity. The Lord Wisdom (Ahura Mazda) does not reveal himself as solitary, but as always surrounded by the six with whom he forms the archangelic heptad of light. And with them each of the "Adorable Ones" (Yazatas) of the celestial multitude appears not as a vague and unstable entity but as a perfectly individuated and distinct existence, recognizable by his personal name and his emblem (a flower). 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, 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." - Henry Corbin, Avicenna & the Visionary Recital, 118-119.