"...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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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Secret of the Black Chrysanthemum (Corbin & Poetry Part 14)

I want to call  attention to an indispensable book by Charles Stein: The Secret of the Black Chrysanthemum: The Poetic Cosmology of Charles Olson and His Use of the Writings of C.G. Jung. Barrytown NY: Station Hill Press, 1987.

From the publisher: "This text explores Charles Olson’s visionary poetics and the extensive use he made of the writings of Jung. Offering numerous readings of poems from the “Maximus” series, Stein provides a useful and clearly written introduction to the major themes, cosmological speculations, and poetic inventions of Olson’s work. Using the poet’s notes and marginalia, Stein reveals complex interrelationships of language, geography, and the human body, leading to The Maximus Poems as an archetypal vision of the self."

As an Appendix, Stein has included a facsimile and transcription, along with extensive annotations, of Olson's final piece of writing, which is a “death-bed summation of his concerns and beliefs” dated December 16, 1969, and draws in no small measure on themes from Corbin's “Cyclical Time in Mazdaism and Ismailism” and Avicenna and the Visionary Recital. I here included a scan of the transcribed version which contains references to ta'wil, Ismaili Angelology and the Cinvat Bridge.

The Secret of the Black Chrysanthemum

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