"...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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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Notes on Corbin & Jewish Mysticism

Henry Corbin and the great scholar of Jewish mysticism Gershom Scholem (1897-1982) (also here) were of course colleagues at Eranos for many years and Corbin's works make frequent reference to Scholem. Their relationship has been most thoroughly examined by Wasserstrom in Religion After Religion though it must be said that his treatment of Corbin is at best controversial (and those familiar with Corbin's work - myself included - have not given the work a sympathetic reception; see my earlier post Corbin at Eranos).

Among contemporary scholars of Jewish mysticism Elliot Wolfson, Abraham Lieberman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University may be the most explicitly influenced by Corbin. His Personal Homepage is also of great interest.

Dr. Wolfson writes as follows:

"Corbin has been a major influence on my work on Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism, beginning with Through a Speculum that Shines: Vision and Imagination in Medieval Jewish Mysticism (Princeton, 1994) -- specifically, I avail myself of his notion of the imaginal. Other essays which follow the path of Corbin include:

"Iconic Visualization and the Imaginal Body of God: The Role of Intention in the Rabbinic Conception of Prayer," Modern Theology 12 (1996): 137-162;

"Sacred Space and Mental Iconography: Imago Templi and Contemplation in Rhineland Jewish Pietism," in Ki Baruch Hu: Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Judaic Studies in Honor of Baruch A. Levine, 593-634. Edited by R. Chazan, W. Hallo, and L. H. Schiffman. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1999;

"Seven Mysteries of Knowledge: Qumran E/sotericism Reconsidered,” in The Idea of Biblical Interpretation: Essays in Honor of James L. Kugel, 173-213. Edited by H. Najman. Leiden: Brill, 2003;

"Imago Templi and the Meeting of the Two Seas: Liturgical Time-Space and the Feminine Imaginary in Zoharic Kabbalah," RES (Journal of Anthropology & Aesthetics) 51 (2007): 121-135.

In the last essay, I have an extended discussion of Corbin's thought."

Dr. Wolfson has kindly given permission for me to post this last very interesting piece online, which I have done below.

Wolfson - - Imago Templi

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