"...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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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Jung Wars

This is not a blog about Jung or Jungians - but I do, rather frequently as it turns out, post things relating to Jung. He was a friend and colleague of Corbin and the two shared many interests and Corbin refers both directly and obliquely to Jung and Jung's ideas many times in his own writings; and, though I am a bit uneasy about calling myself a "Jungian," I have spent a long time reading and studying his works, and those of James Hillman, who is I suppose not unfairly sometimes labeled a renegade "jungian" with a small "j." Reading Hillman, Jung and Corbin, in that order actually, changed my life - entirely for the better. But I do tend to forget that there are plenty of people who consider Jung and his works not only irrelevant and misguided, but actually dangerous and destructive. I was reminded of this recently in discussion with a colleague who had just enthusiastically read one of Richard Noll's books. Noll has produced The Jung Cult and The Aryan Christ. I'm not going to enter into a discussion of these really astonishing books except to say that, to put it mildly, I don't recognize anything about the "Jung" that I know in them. Surely one thing we should learn from Jung is that everything has a shadow and Jung's was very large indeed - but Noll's "analysis" is so far off the mark as to be stupefying. There are plenty of (extremely) critical reviews of Noll's work available online, but I would point the interested reader to Sonu Shamdasani's works Cult Fictions , Jung Stripped Bare by his biographers, even  and Jung and the Making of Modern Psychology: The Dream of a Science. Shamdasani has his own passions (his attack on Bair's biography has been rather vitriolic) but there is no doubt that he is the foremost historian of analytical psychology in the world. He is also the editor of the Red Book and is general editor a co-founder of the Philemon Foundation. The mission statement of the Foundation reads in part as follows:

"The Philemon Foundation is preparing for publication the Complete Works of C. G. Jung. In distinction to the widely known Collected Works, it is intended that the Complete Works will comprise manuscripts, seminars, and correspondence hitherto unpublished numbering in the tens of thousands of pages. The historical, clinical, and cultural importance of this material equals and, in some instances, surpasses the importance of that which has been already published. The Philemon Foundation intends to make the completed body of C. G. Jung’s work available as volumes in the Philemon Series. As such, the Philemon Foundation is the successor to the Bollingen Foundation that originally made possible the publication of Jung’s Collected Works, the cornerstone of their Bollingen Series."


  1. Noll is a very narrow-minded Jung-hater, to be sure. But his primary argument can be broken down into two parts:
    (1) Jung was a Pagan.
    (2) Therefore Jung was a Nazi.

    The first part of Noll's "accusation" is, in fact, broadly true. But the second part of Noll's case against Jung is pure bunk. The whole "Nazi-Pagan Nexus" bogeyman is very nicely deconstructed by Richard Steigmann-Gall in his "Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity.":

    Of course the identification of Jung as a "Pagan" depends on one's definition of that word, but that is also true of any claim that he was "not a Pagan."

  2. Have just been reading the Noll book. Thanks for these links, and I look forward to your take on it.

  3. I beg to differ: Noll is precisely *not* saying that Jung was a Nazi. If you read him again, you'll see that he is actually warning against such simplifications and rejects them.

  4. It's been a long time since I wrote this. I will defer to your expertise and will likely not find the time to re-read Noll now - but he surely seemed inflammatory to me when I read him. Perhaps I was unfair. If so I regret it.