"...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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Friday, April 9, 2010

Castoriadis on the Imaginary

I've just had a chance to read a really excellent piece by Todd Lawson which should be published soon. I'll post a note (I hope) when this volume is released: "Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsā’ī and the World of Images" by Todd Lawson in Shi'ite Trends and Dynamics in Modern Times (1750-1911) / Courants et dynamiques shi‘ites à l’époque moderne (1750-1911). Orient-Institut of Beirut & IFRI [Beiruter Text und Studien, 115], Beirut. Denis Hermann & Sabrina Mervin (eds.) Forthcoming.

Among the gems in Lawson's essay is a marvelous reference to Cornelius Castoriadis (also here) (1922-1997) the Greek philosopher and psychoanalyist, who I've heard of but never read. Lawson writes that "we occasionally find a validation of the imaginal in contemporary intellectual discourse" and quotes Castoriadis as follows:

[P]hilosophers almost always start by saying: “I want to see what being is, what reality is. Now, here is a table; what does this table show to me as characteristic of a real being?” No philosopher ever started by saying: “I want to see what being is, what reality is. Now, here is my memory of my dream of last night; what does this show me as characteristic of a real being?” No philosopher ever starts by saying “Let the Requiem of Mozart be a paradigm of being”, and seeing in the physical world a deficient mode of being, instead of looking at things the other way around, instead of seeing in the imaginary, i.e., human mode of existence, a deficient or secondary mode of being.[1]

[1] Cornelius Castoriadis, “The Imaginary Creation in the Social Historical Domain”, in: Disorder and Order: Proceedings of the Stanford International Symposium (Sept. 14-16, 1981), Edward P. Livingston, ed., Saratoga: Anma Libri, 1984, 146-161, this is from p. 148. See also Castoriadis, World in fragments: writings on politics, society, psychoanalysis, and the imagination, David Ames Curtis, ed. and trans., Stanford, California: Stanford University Press 1997 [originally published as Monde morcelé: Les Carrefours du labyrinthe Paris: Seuil 1990].

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