"...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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Monday, July 26, 2010

Becoming Animal

Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology, by David Abram

Abram's new book is due out at the end of August. While it might seem out of place to be noting this in a blog about Henry Corbin, those who have read some of my writing will know that I think, despite profound differences between Corbin's thought and Abram's, that there are some surprising connections, and that the complementarities and the tensions between their views of language (and much else) can be extremely fertile. Abram has thought as deeply as anyone I know about the relation between literacy and orality and the nature and function of poetic language. I will read this book as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.

From the publisher:

David Abram’s first book, The Spell of the Sensuous—hailed as “revolutionary” by the Los Angeles Times, as “daring and truly original” by Science—has become a classic of environmental literature. Now Abram returns with a startling exploration of our human entanglement with the rest of nature.

As the climate veers toward catastrophe, the innumerable losses cascading through the biosphere make vividly evident the need for a metamorphosis in our relation to the living land. For too long we’ve inured ourselves to the wild intelligence of our muscled flesh, taking our primary truths from technologies that hold the living world at a distance. This book subverts that distance, drawing readers ever deeper into their animal senses in order to explore, from within, the elemental kinship between the body and the breathing Earth.

The shapeshifting of ravens, the erotic nature of gravity, the eloquence of thunder, the pleasures of being edible: all have their place in Abram’s investigation. He shows that from the awakened perspective of the human animal, awareness (or mind) is not an exclusive possession of our species but a lucid quality of the biosphere itself—a quality in which we, along with the oaks and the spiders, steadily participate.

With the audacity of its vision and the luminosity of its prose, Becoming Animal sets a new benchmark for the human appraisal of our place in the whole.


“This brave and magical book summons wild wonder to re-mind us who we are.”
—Amory B. Lovins, Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute

“David Abram’s new book is so invigorating, its teachings leap off the page and translate immediately into lived experience. Shaking us free from the prisons of our mental constructions, Becoming Animal brings us home to ourselves as living organs of this wild planet.”
—Joanna Macy, buddhist scholar and activist

“As with many deeply original—and radical—books, this work may startle, even provoke the reader in its electric reversal of conventional thought. Worth any provocation for the profundity of its insights, this is a portrait of the artist as a young raven, arguing, with all the subtlety of his mind, for the mindedness of the body. An exercise of uncanny imagination by a writer who has a sixth sense for the intelligence of the first five.”
—Jay Griffiths, author of Wild: An Elemental Journey

“If we are to survive—indeed, if we are to stop the dominant culture from killing the planet—it will be in great measure because of brave and brilliant beings like David Abram. This is a beautifully written, deeply moving, and important book.”
—Derrick Jensen, author of Endgame and A Language Older Than Words

“This startling, sparkling book challenges the technological temper of our times by returning us to the animal body in ourselves. Abram shows brilliantly how this body brings us back to Earth in a series of acutely moving descriptions of its polysensory genius. An original work of primary philosophy, it is written with verve, passion, and poetry.”
—Edward S. Casey, author of The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History

"David Abram is among the most important interpreters of the wild voice within us. At no other time in Western history have we needed to listen to that voice, and David's, as much as we do today."
—Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
A provocative, boldly recalibrating blend of stories, reflections, and discoveries… prodigious, transfixing, and rectifying.” –Booklist
“Abram brings the magician’s sense of mystery and playful surprise to these experimental and improvisational forays into…his celebratory embrace of all that surrounds him is refreshing in the extreme. The author is an inspired force who invites the neglected yet ever-present serendipities of the natural world to show themselves.” –Kirkus

"This book is like a prehistoric cave. If you have the nerve to enter it and you get used to the dark, you'll discover things about storytelling which are startling, urgent and deeply true. Things each of us once knew, but forgot when we were born into the 19th and 20th centuries. Extraordinary rediscoveries!" -John Berger

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