"...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 6, 2010

Islam & Psychoanalysis (& Henry Corbin)

Umbr(a): Islam, Edited and Introduced by Joan Copjec. Buffalo, NY: The Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis & Culture (SUNY, Buffalo), 2009.

This volume discusses Corbin's work in several places and contains two essays by Christian Jambet, "The Death of Epiphany" and "The Paradoxical One." (chapters from La Grande Resurrection d'Alamut and Le Cache et l'Apparent, translated by Dr. Copjec).The entire Table of Contents can be found in the amazon.com listing.

From the publisher's description: Regarding the questions raised by the current conflicts troubling our relations with various parts of the Islamic world, the premise of this special issue is that psychoanalysis offers a unique, powerful and even necessary approach. We anticipate that certain historicists and culturalists will protests that the discourse of psychoanalysis is entirely inappropriate to this task, that its categories for analyzing or rendering transparent the Arab mind cannot be transported to foreign soil and that the bid of do so is just another example of the West's ambition to Occidentalize the world, to market its franchise worldwide.... To contest these charges which, aimed at a straw science, miss their mark we will propose for psychoanalysis a different adjective, one that will help less to qualify than to de-qualify our de-regionalize it; psychoanalysis is, we suggest, an exotic science. In physics the existence of an exotic force accounts for the phenomenon in which objects that are close are pushed slightly away from each other. Psychoanalysis is that science devoted to studying the exotic force that operates in the subject to push her from herself, opening a margin of separation between her and parts of herself she will never be able to assimilate. The existence of this force is an unsimple fact with ramifying consequences for the conception of the subject and her relations with others....

I am also delighted to find that Umbr(a): Semblances (2006) contains Roland Vegso's translation of Corbin's important "Apophatic Theology as Antidote to Nihilism." (This is available in a different English version at Les Amis de Stella et Henry Corbin).

Dr. Copjec is interested in the relation of Corbin's work, particularly the concept of the imaginal world, to the thought  of Jacques Lacan. She has taught Corbin in some of her courses. I look forward to the publication of her thoughts on this.

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