"...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, February 18, 2010
Chrétien de Troyes and Al-Andalus - Islam & the Grail
This is a book that Henry Corbin would have delighted to see.
Publisher's description: "Chrétien de Troyes uses repeated references to Spain throughout his romances; despite past suggestions that they contain Mozarabic and Islamic themes and motifs, these references have never been commented upon. The book will demonstrate that these allusions to Spain occur at key moments in the romances, and are often coupled with linguistic "riddles" which serve as roadmaps to the manner in which the romances are to be read. These references and riddles seem to support the idea that some of their themes and motifs in Chrétien's romances are of Andalusi origin. The book also analyzes Chrétien's notion of "conjointure" and shows it to be the intentional elaboration of a sort of Mischliteratur, which integrates Islamic and Jewish themes and motifs, as well as mystical alchemical symbolism, into the standard religious and literary canons of his time. The contrast afforded by Chrétien's use of irony, and his subtle integration of this matière d'Orient into the standard canon, constitutes a carefully veiled criticism of the social and moral conduct, as well as spiritual beliefs, of twelfth-century Christian society, the crusading mentality, chivalric mores, and even the notion of courtly love. The primary interest of the book lies in the fact that it will be the first to comment upon and analyze Chrétien's references to Spain and the rich matière d'Orient in his romances, while suggesting channels for its transmission, through scholars, merchants, and religious houses, from northern Spain to Champagne."
From the Introduction: "Pierre Gallais has suggested, based on the work of Henry Corbin, the master of French orientalists, that the symbolism of the Conte du Graal not only contains oriental motifs but also reflects the mystical theosophy of Isma’ilite Shiite circles. I shall attempt to demonstrate, over and beyond this theory, that the matiere d’Orient in Chretien’s romances is specifically derived from syncretic forms of Sufi theosophy and mystical alchemy, such as they were disseminated in twelfth-century Andalusi circles, whence, I suggest in the book, they were transmitted to northern Europe through twelfth-century Benedictine clerics and translators who had some association with Cluny."
For a bit of short commentary on Gallais and his monumental work see Lacy, Norris J. A History of Arthurian Scholarship. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2006. Google Book search