"...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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Friday, December 31, 2010

Ivan Illich

Readers of my work will know that I think Ivan Illich was, like Henry Corbin, one of the great religious thinkers of the 20th century. And also like Corbin, Illich's work is relatively little known. I have tried in some of my writing to suggest some common themes the two shared - in spite of profound differences in their personalities and their theologies. Illich's thought is provocative and deeply important. Perhaps the best introductions to his work are the two books of interviews with David Cayley: Ivan Illich in Conversation (1992) and The Rivers North of the Future (2005). A superb collection of essays is The Challenges of Ivan Illich (2002), edited by Hoinacki & Mitcham. Also essential is the Thinking After Illich website. And I have just discovered the new Journal devoted to Illich's life and work (providing free online access) which is a treasure trove of information and cogent thinking:

"The International Journal of Illich Studies is an open access, interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed publication dedicated to engaging the thought and writing of Ivan Illich and his circle.  Articles/Reviews/Reflections are invited on any subject that intersects with the wide range of IIlich’s ideas, or that represent a version of the social critique for which he became famous on matters such as modern developmentalism, industrialized "progress," institutional bureaucratization, the heuristic role played by historical consciousness, the moral life, and/or the privatization/publicization of the lay commons."


  1. Thanks for this. Another useful resource is the online collection of Illich's writings maintained by the artist David Tinapple:


    This includes many of his later texts which have yet to appear in print.

    Corbin is new to me, but I shall look out for him.

  2. As a devoted reader of Illich, I would be glad to learn more about Corbin and how he relates to Illich.