"...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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Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Cult of the Seven Archangels

In Avicenna and the Visionary Recital, Henry Corbin writes:

"The struggle against the Avicennan theory of the Intelligences and the Active Intelligence is a chapter or an episode in angelology in the West during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It is something confined to scholars; whether the two sides were equally or unequally conscious of the "motivations" that necessitated or, on the contrary, challenged the intervention of the world of the Angel remains to be studied. But there is another episode in angelology, and, this time, it is by no means confined to scholars; we refer to the extraordinary "revival" of a cult of the Seven Archangels that began in Italy in the sixteenth century, then spread as far as Flanders and Orthodox Russia.[1] Finally, to come down to our own day, there is a little book by Eugenio d'Ors that, though not a scientific book, is written with much science, but above all with the heart; it constitutes a contemporary testimony of extreme importance for anyone concerned with discovering the secret needs of the soul to which angelology answers. Its very first pages contain a short sentence that an Avicennan concerned for his philosophical system could well have used in answer to William of Auvergne, and that a devotee of the Seven Archangels could also have made his own. Indeed, it required a clairvoyant and courageous penetration of a secret that, as we have just seen, may be common to philosophers and simple souls—to write, as if in rejoinder to a famous dictum of St. Teresa's, this short sentence: "No, no es cierto que solo Dios basta" (No, it is not certain that God alone suffices) [2]. (Avicenna, 122)

[1]. Emile Male, L'Art religieux apres le Concile de Trente, pp. 298 ff.
[2]. Eugenio d'Ors, Introduction a la vida angelica, p. 9.

The illustrations here are from Between Renaissance and Baroque: Jesuit Art in Rome, 1565-1610, by Gauvin Alexander Bailey, University of Toronto Press , 2003, which has a discussion of the topic on pp. 68ff.

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