"...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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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Master's Thesis on Henry Corbin

Orientalism in reverse : Henry Corbin, Iranian philosophy, and the critique of the West by Mark Corrado, 2004. Simon Fraser University. PDF available here to authorized users only.

Abstract: This project examines the work of the seminal French Orientalist Henry Corbin (19031978) on Iranian philosophy and spirituality. As a member of both the European and Iranian academic elites, Corbin challenged traditional methods for the study of religion and constructed a provocative alternative methodology. Contrary to Edward Said's model of the Orientalist encounter with the "East," I maintain that Corbin's construction of the "Iranian religion" undermined traditional "Western" theology, philosophy, and science. In collaboration with Iranian scholars, Corbin contributed to an emergent discourse of reverse orientalism, in which the "West" served as the imperial, cultural, and profane "other" to a sacred and traditional Iran. From the 1950s to 1978, Corbin met and influenced leading Iranian theologians, philosophers, and politicians. Through his connection with this powerful intellectual elite, Corbin institutionalized his alternative methodology and approach to the study of religion in Iranian universities. The origins of his new ontological method of religious study were deeply rooted in both the politics of his French-Protestant revivalism and Heideggerian phenomenological philosophy. Through his major works of Iranian history, Corbin relentlessly criticized "Western" theologians as material reductionists and agnostics. At the same time, he presented Iran as an alternative model of national spirituality for the "West." This essentialized view of Iranian religion excluded more traditional Irano-Islamic modes of religion that emphasized morality, law, and the authority of the jaqih or jurist. By locating the essence of Iranian religion within a gnosticism, and then casting this as eternal, Corbin lent his authority to state-sponsored neognostic Irano-Islamic philosophers, such as Seyyed Hussein Nasr, who undermined contemporary revolutionary Islamic innovators, such as Ali Shari'ati. Corbin's work on Iran was representative of a French tradition of politically dissident philosopher/Orientalists, including Voltaire and Comte de Gobineau, who utilized their study of the "Orient" to criticize the French political establishment.

1 comment:

  1. Que dire d'un mémoire de 48 pages à double interligne!

    "Et lorsque nous disions plus haut que « le phénomène de masse est exclu ici », Shaykh Aḥmad avait lui-même conclu sa courte autobiographie spirituelle en rappelant à son fils que : « Ce ne sont point là des choses qu’il est bon de vouloir expliquer, surtout aux ignorantins et aux envieux. » C’est d’ailleurs une querelle au sujet du corps de résurrection qui traîna Shaykh Aḥmad au cœur d’une polémique dont l’origine est attribuable au fait que les docteurs de la Loi et les théologiens scolastiques de l’Islam, les motakallimûn étaient bien peu préparés à entendre parler de la ḥikmat ilâhîya, de la sagesse divine, de la théosophie. Corbin rappelle que le problème était que « ses adversaires étaient incapables de s’élever jusqu’au plan où se situait en fait pareille discussion. » Un dialogue de sourds s’élevait alors comme une barrière infranchissable suscitant crainte et incompréhension."

    PROULX, D., Le parcours philosophique de Henry Corbin : phénoménologie-herméneutique et philosophie prophétique, M.A., Faculté de théologie, de philosophie et d'éthique, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, 2009, p.14
    Cf.CORBIN, Henry, En islam iranien, T.IV, p.220-226