"...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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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Demon and the Angel

I've been forced to think a good deal lately about daimons and demons,  gods and angels, which leads me always to Lorca and Rilke. And much to my surprise and delight, I have happened upon another little gem of a book in which Corbin and the mundus imaginalis figure prominently. Here we find Lorca, Rilke, Ibn Arabi, Yeats, Keats and a host of others in a small tour-de-force on the sources of creative imagination.

The Demon and the Angel: Searching for the Source of Artistic Inspiration, by Edward Hirsch.

Hirsch writes,

"It is helpful to think of the mundus imaginalis as a transcendence deployed in language. It is the specific place where St. John of the Cross composes his Spiritual Canticles, where Arthur Rimbaud enters a rational delirium and Hart Crane systematically deranges the senses, where Gerard de Nerval formulates visions and Robert Desnos simulates trances, where William Blake canonizes voices and Samuel Taylor Coleridge troubles dreams, where W. B. Yeats listens to unknown instructors speaking through his wife's unconscious and James Merrill contacts spirits through a Ouija board, where Wallace Stevens imagines that God the the imagination are One and Rainer Maria Rilke starts taking dictation from angels." (p. 108)

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