"...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, May 20, 2010

George Steiner on the Secular Age

As a follow-up to my last post on David Bentley Hart's response to the "New Atheism" I can't forgo mentioning the work of George Steiner. As readers of my books will know, I have drawn on his writing repeatedly. A good introduction to his work, and a short 2002 lecture by Steiner can be read here (pdf). He is quoted in Elliott's introduction there as saying that central to his thinking "is my astonishment, naïve as it seems to people, that you can use human speech both to love, to build, to forgive, and also to torture, to hate, to destroy and to annihilate."  His books always amaze, challenge, entertain and provoke - I invariably learn from them. Of most significance to me in the last few years are Real Presences and Grammars of Creation.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the link to the lecture - as someone obsessed by concepts, Steiner's encouragement of a return to music, architecture, and mathematics was a timely reminder!

    But also a wonderful meditation on art. I particularly liked, "the desire to last is, at a central level, that of a very natural and often vulnerable artistic vanity. It is that of a link with a transcendent belief now no longer available. In this light, it is both uncertain and blinding. It is in the light of these changes that we must together try and redefine the word literacy, even though in only the most provisional, tentative way. Anything else would be arrogance."