Wednesday, April 29, 2009
From the Introduction: "Eda is the alien other. What is this alien ghost, the way of moving and perceiving which must enter and possess English? It is Sufism, the Asiatic mode of perception which contains an intense subjectivity at its center. The pre-Islamic origin of Sufism is in Central Asian Shamanism. Turkish was the language of that area; its grammar is the quintessential Sufi language."
Page of Calligraphy 16th century Ottoman period
S1986.335 Freer & Sackler Galleries
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
15th Annual Fez Festival of Sacred Music
May 29 to June 6, 2009
The Tree of Life
A Dervish Dance, Isfahan, Iran. Savafid, 1613. Freer & Sackler Galleries. Also see this fine podcast of Sufi Music from Iran with links to various artworks in the collection.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
The Dream of the Poem:
Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain 950-1492. Translated, Edited & Introduced by Peter Cole
From the Publisher:Hebrew culture experienced a renewal in medieval Spain that produced what is arguably the most powerful body of Jewish poetry written since the Bible. Fusing elements of East and West, Arabic and Hebrew, and the particular and the universal, this verse embodies an extraordinary sensuality and intense faith that transcend the limits of language, place, and time.
Peter Cole's translations reveal this remarkable poetic world to English readers in all of its richness, humor, grace, gravity, and wisdom. The Dream of the Poem traces the arc of the entire period, presenting some four hundred poems by fifty-four poets, and including a panoramic historical introduction, short biographies of each poet, and extensive notes. (The original Hebrew texts are available on the Princeton University Press Web site.) By far the most potent and comprehensive gathering of medieval Hebrew poems ever assembled in English, Cole's anthology builds on what poet and translator Richard Howard has described as "the finest labor of poetic translation that I have seen in many years" and "an entire revelation: a body of lyric and didactic verse so intense, so intelligent, and so vivid that it appears to identify a whole dimension of historical consciousness previously unavailable to us." The Dream of the Poem is, Howard says, "a crowning achievement."
A lengthy review by Harold Bloom, "The Lost Jewish Culture", appearing in the New York Review of Books can be read here.
"it is impossible to avoid wondering whether the mundus imaginalis, in the proper meaning of the term, would of necessity be lost and leave room only for the imaginary if something like a secularization of the imaginal into the imaginary were not required for the fantastic, the horrible, the monstrous, the macabre, the miserable and the absurd to triumph. On the other hand, the art and imagination of Islamic culture in its traditional form are characterized by the hieratic and the serious, by gravity, stylization and meaning."
Now Corbin was a passionate defender of the most heterodox elements of the Abrahamic traditions. He was a generous and eclectic champion of the imagination whose sympathies cover an enormous range of sentiment, and a partisan of the individual in the face of every form of institutional dogma. His long-time friend Denis de Rougemont remembered and celebrated his youthful cry, “Heretics of the world unite!” But recalling this same incident some years later, Corbin demurred and commented that what he had said was probably rather “esotericists unite.” And in his remarks emphasizing the gravity and stylization of traditional Islamic imagination he revealed again a rather conservative interpretation of the imagination. This raises an issue of enormous importance: What are the criteria that allow us to tell the difference between the imaginary and the imaginal, between imaginatio vera and Phantasy? Must we appeal only to categories such as gravity, seriousness and stylization? Or are we hearing in these words the voice of an old man, somewhat irritated at the extravagances of his youth and fearing misinterpretation of his life’s work? I tend to think that there may be some truth in the latter. And I think it is in the spirit of Corbin’s life and work to doubt the existence of absolute criteria for distinguishing true imagination from fantasy. But even if there are no public and objective laws governing the Imagination, it is nonetheless important to attempt to fill in the chart of the Imaginal that Corbin has provided, and in doing so begin to orient ourselves at least provisionally in the landscape he has opened for us.
[I am not unaware of the dangers of vague and careless appropriations of the term “imaginal.” William Chittick and Christian Jambet have both often echoed Corbin in emphasizing the necessity of understanding the precise genealogy and context which gives the term its meaning in Islamic thought. It is important indeed to recognize that the mundus imaginalis requires a docetic cosmology quite different from the Incarnationism which forms the context for modern Western theology, philosophy and science. And Jambet cautions that the imaginal is profoundly serious. He writes, “The agent imagination has a prophetological function, a moral use, and an eschatological role.” (The Act of Being, 285. Reviewed here). Keeping these cautions in mind, it is I think consistent with Corbin’s ecumenism that we make the attempt to discover what meaning the Agent Imagination can have for us in the modern world.]
Corbin warns that access to the imaginal world is not easy – “One does not penetrate into the Angelic World by housebreaking” he says. But what are the alternatives? The question arises for those of us who are not given the gift of mystic vision as to precisely how one “learns the imagination.” The initiation can be demanding and prolonged. Corbin lays great stress on the trials of alchemy and speaks of the descent into the underworld which is the unconscious. He says that we
"must pass through the Darkness; this is a terrifying and painful experience, for it ruins and destroys all the patencies and norms on which the natural man lived and depended - a true ‘descent into hell,’ the hell of the unconscious."
But his work provides little practical guidance for our struggles to find the Angel, and he seems to move with ease in realms that often seem remote from the mundane concerns of our fragile and painful daily lives. We need guides in addition to Corbin to help us learn to make the Active Imagination a living reality. If we do not have a veritable Master from one of the great religious traditions to whom we can turn, then we can learn from certain kinds of psychologists, and from the poets and artists to whom Corbin has said the Active Imagination has for so long been relegated. And it may happen that we will be graced with a vision of that unique personal Guide, the only real Master, who is the Angel Holy Spirit around whom our lives individually revolve.
[Adapted from After Prophecy by the author.]
Two Demons Attacked by Four Flying Angels, ca. 1580-1590. Possibly Qazvin, Iran. Freer & Sackler Galleries. S1986.250a-b
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
[Photo from Amir-Moezzi, M., Christian Jambet et Pierre Lory, (Editors). Henry Corbin: Philosophies et Sagesses des Religions du Livre. Brepols, 2005. Proceedings of this Colloquium.]
Thursday, April 9, 2009
This fairly rare volume will be of interest to students of Corbin. The table of contents provided here does not include the several articles in Persian.
(I apologize for the lack of diacritical marks.)
Table of Contents
Preface. S.H. Nasr.
Premiere Partie: Etudes Biographiques
S.H. Nasr. Henry Corbin, "l'exil occidentale" : une vie et une oeuvre en quete de l'Orient des Lumieres.
D. Shayegan. L'homme a la lampe magique.
Deuxieme Partie: Religion et philosophie comparee
G. Durand. Science de l'homme et islam spirituel.
M. Eliade. Mythes cosmogoniques indiens.
T. Izutsu. The Concept of Perpetual Creation in Islamic Mysticism and Zen Buddhism.
G. Valin. Elements pour une theorie de la philosophie comparee.
Troisieme Partie: La philosophie et theologie islamiques
P. Antes. The First Asharites Conception of Evil and the Devil.
M. Arkoun. Pour une remembrement de la conscience islamique,
Quatrieme Partie: le Soufisme et le Shi'ism
R Arnaldez. Le moi divin dans la pensee d'Ibn 'Arabi.
J. P. Ducasse. Un poeme Khalwati sur les Noms de Dieu
M.S. Khan. The Early History of Zaydi Shi'ism in Daylaman and Ghan.
H. Landolt. Deux opuscules de Semnani sur le moi theophanique.
F. Meier. Ein briefwechsel zwischen Saraf un-Din-i Balhi und Magd ud-din-i Bagdadi.
A.S. Melikian-Chirvani. Les themes esoteriques et les themes mystiques dans l'art du bronze iranien.
P. Nwyia. Un cas d'exigese soufie: l'Histoire de Joseph.
A. Schimmel. Zur Verwendung des Halladj-Motivs in der indo-persischen Poesie.
Cinquieme Partie: Philosophie, theologie et mystique en Occident
E. Benz. Uber die Leiblichkeit des Geistigen zyr Theologie der Leiblicheit bei Jacob Boehme.
F. Brunner. Signification de Kierkegaard.
D. de Rougemont. "Heretiques de toutes les religions, unissez-vous!"
M. de Dieguez. Intelligence humaine et critique de causalite.
A. Faivre. Le Ternaire alchemique et l'Axe Feu Central dans la tradition martinesiste
P. Gallais. La "maison" du Roi-Pecheur.
H.D. Lewis. Theology and Ideology.
G. Scholem. A Note on a Kabbalistic Treatise on Contemplation.
Sixieme Partie: L'influence de la pensee islamique en Occident
J. Ferrari. La pensee musulmane et l'Orient dans l'oeuvre de Hamann.
J. Jolivet. Intellect et Intelligence: Note sur la tradition arabo-latine des 12e et 13e siecles.
[Septieme Partie: Articles en Persan]
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Both of these prolific and important scholars were colleagues of Henry Corbin at the University of Teheran, and both have commented on his life and work.
The Seyyed Nasr Foundation
William Chittick's Life and Work