"...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.

Search The Legacy of Henry Corbin: Over 800 Posts

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Notes on Vladimir Ivanow & Henry Corbin

IVANOW,Vladimir Alekseevich
(b. St. Petersburg, Russia, 3 November 1886, d. Tehran, 19 June 1970; variously spelt Ivanov and Wladimir), Russian orientalist and leading pioneer in modern Ismaili studies. See the Encyclopedia Iranica entry.

Vladimir Ivanow's edition of the Central Asian Isma'ili text the Umm'ul-Kitab (Mother of the Book) originally appearing in the journal Der Islam, no. 23 (1936), pp. 1-132 can be found HERE on Scribd.

Book Review by Todd Lawson: Correspondance Corbin-Ivanow: Lettres échangées entre Henry Corbin et Vladimir Ivanow de 1947 à 1966 by Sabine Schmidtke. Iranian Studies, Vol. 33, No. 3/4 (Summer - Autumn, 2000), pp. 444-445.

Corbin-Ivanow Review - Lawson

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Join the Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries
and travel to Iran in 2010!

October 2010


Join the Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries on an exploration of one of the world's most ancient civilizations -- Iran.  For two and a half millennia, many dynasties and two religions have left their imprint on the land.  Travel with Curator Massumeh Farhad and Director Julian Raby through a country of turquoise mosques, lush gardens, elaborate palaces and majestic ruins to discover Iran's rich and diverse culture and artistic heritage.

The Friends Tour of Iran will likely take place in early to mid October 2010.  Exact dates for this trip will be confirmed shortly.  We are pleased to partner with Distant Horizons who has helped to plan customized tours for over twenty years and led six successful groups to Iran, including Stanford University and the Archaeological Institute of America, this past fall alone.

Membership in the Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries is required to travel with the Freer and Sackler Galleries. The Friends, the museums' distinguished patrons group, provides vital funds to underwrite exhibitions and develop trend-setting educational and outreach programs. In return for their tax-deductible support, members receive special insider access to private curator-led lectures and tours, exhibition opening receptions, annual black-tie events and exclusive travel opportunities like the 2010 Tour of Iran.  To see a full listing of membership benefits, please visit the Freer and Sackler Galleries membership website HERE.

To request additional information about the Friends and the 2010 Tour of Iran, please contact Rachel Wood, Membership Coordinator, at 202-633-0448 or woodr@si.edu. 

Rachel Wood, Membership Coordinator
1050 Independence Ave. SW
METRO: Smithsonian

Friday, January 29, 2010

Quranic Arabic Corpus - University of Leeds

The Quranic Arabic Corpus is an annotated linguistic resource which shows the Arabic grammar, syntax and morphology for each word in the Holy Quran. The corpus provides two levels of analysis: morphological annotation and a syntactic treebank.

Folio from a Quran
11th century,  Iran
Purchase F1929.70 Freer & Sackler Galleries

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mircea Eliade on Henry Corbin - Part 1

Henry Corbin, by Mircea Eliade. History of Religions, Vol 18, No. 4 (May 1979): 293-5.

Photo: Corbin & Eliade at Eranos (n.d.). From Jambet, Christian. (ed.) Henry Corbin, Cahier de l'Herne, no. 39. Consacré à Henry Corbin, Paris, 1981.

Henry Corbin - Eliade, 1979

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Garden of Heaven: A unique Persian carpet in the Burrell Collection

Garden of Heaven: A unique Persian carpet in the Burrell Collection

Glasgow, UK
Start Date : Saturday 27 March 2010
End Date : Sunday 11 April 2010
The Burrell celebrates the arrival of spring and Naw Ruz – the Persian New Year festivities – by displaying its rarely seen Wagner Garden Carpet. The carpet is a prized 17th-century Persian garden carpet, one of the most important in the country.

And those who can get there should not miss the permanent exhibit of the Ardabil Carpet in the Victoria & Albert Musuem, London.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

More Notes on Henry Corbin & Charles Olson - (Corbin & Poetry #17)

Henry Corbin & Charles Olson At the Harbor [1]

(Eric Mottram's essay has made it unnecessary for me to spend any more time tracking down Olson's references to Corbin. It seems I found everything of importance anyway. At some point in the future I hope to write something about Mottram's reading of Olson's (and other's) use of Corbin. The following is what I had on Olson & Corbin prior to discovering Mottram's piece and there are some things mentioned here that Mottram does not discuss. So there is perhaps enough of interest to justify posting it, thought it is simply an annotated chronology. I refer the interested reader to Mottram. If anyone finds errors of fact or omission I'd appreciate hearing about them.)
[This is an update of Corbin & Poetry - Part 12]

Ralph Maud suggests that Olson’s move into Corbin’s work on the Ismailis and angelology was a kind of final “circumvallum” which some might find hard to follow.[2] Charles Stein writes that “Olson read Corbin with great excitement, intensity and care.”[3] By late 1960 Olson had found “Cyclical Time in Mazdaism and Ismailism” in Joseph Campbell’s 1957 collection Man and Time: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks.[4] In March of 1961 he wrote “LATER TYRIAN BUSINESS” using some material from Corbin’s text.[5]
            Of particular importance to Olson was the notion of the “middle voice” which is indeed a central theme of “Cyclical Time” but which Olson had latched onto several years earlier. The term first appears in Olson’s “Tyrian Businesses”[6] written in the spring of 1953. In May of 1961 Olson published “Grammar – a book” in Floating Bear #7, edited by Diane Di Prima and LeRoi Jones, in which he further plays with notion of the “middle voice” so it was clearly still actively engaging his attention. He got the idea from Stefan Wolpe, a pianist and composer who taught at Black Mountain from 1952 to 1956. Wolpe had told him that the middle voice is “the thing that makes music work.”[7] This is the perfect context for approaching Corbin’s use of the idea, given how profoundly Corbin thought and felt in musical terms. In late October 1961 Olson wrote “Maximus, at the Harbor” which is shot through with references to Corbin’s essay, in particular to what is perhaps the core of Corbin’s thinking on phenomenology and “angelology” – the ontological significance of the middle voice in revealing the action of the Angel in us.[8]
            A brief and cryptic page of the Maximus Poems, II.47, probably written in 1961, mentions the Cinvat Bridge with no explanatory context at all.[9] It is a central image from “Cyclical Time.” The allusion occurs again in “Maximus at the Harbor” in the image of “the Angel out ahead” who the soul will meet. In July, 1963 Olson made his thoughts more explicit:

There is that beautiful idea of the Muslims that you’re walking towards that angel – the actual occurrence is on the Cinvat Bridge in the text. There is this angel who’s coming towards you as you are coming towards him. And there’s moment when you pass through your angel and become the creature, not of the two, but of the fact that you are without any chance involved with another figure who is you, who is coming towards you in time as you proceed forward in time. And at the moment that you pass, you then are something that that angel was, and you’re no longer that thing you were.[10]

Ralph Maud comments: “Working here is Olson’s great wish to see mundane acts intersected with eternal events. This produces an adjustment to the eschatological narrative, but not out of range of what Corbin’s texts essentially propose.”[11] Maud has it exactly right – Corbin indeed shared Olson’s great wish, and all his work can be read as a elaboration of what such a vision of human life entails.
            Olson taught at the University of Buffalo from 1963 to 1965. In November 1963 not far outside the city in a conversation transcribed and published as “Under the Mushroom” Olson refers to the “Mohammedan” idea of eternity that he had found in “Cyclical Time.”[12] During his time at the University he composed “A Plan for a Curriculum of the Soul” which includes mention of “Ismaili muslimism” and “the Norse and the Arabs” – clearly derivations from Corbin. A group of his students established The Institute of Further Studies, which published a series of pamphlets detailing aspects of Olson’s plan. The “Curriculum” itself was published in 1968.[13] The individual components of the plan were expanded by various people and appeared in series from 1972 to 2002.[14] Of most interest here is Michael Bylebyl’s contribution, “Ismaeli Muslimism”[15] which develops Olson’s brief allusions to the contents of the “Cyclical Time” essay.
            In 1960 Avicenna and the Visionary Recital appeared in English. Maud reports that Olson bought a copy on May 15, 1965 while he was in Buffalo.[16] He clearly had read it by July 1965 since in his Berkeley lecture of July 20th, published as “Causal Mythology,” he quotes a story of the angels who dictate and the angels who write from the “Recital of Hayy Ibn Yaqzan.” [17] These Guardians and Scribes are mentioned again in 1966 in a transcribed conversation published as “Olson in Gloucester.”[18] In his Beloit Lectures of March 1968 he also mentions ta’wil. [19] Olson’s annotations to Avicenna are densest and most enthusiastic in the section on “Ta’wil as Exegesis of the Soul.” Corbin’s text served as a reference for the Maximus poem of 11 February 1966 which begins "the Mountain of no difference".[20] Ralph Maud writes that the Avicenna volume was listed in 1967, along with a diverse array of other books, including Jung's Psychology &  Alchemy, as an essential text for a proposed graduate seminar.[21] The July 1968 essay “‘CLEAR, SHINING WATER,’ de Vries says” also is concerned in part with the meaning of ta’wil.[22] The conversation of August 1968 published as “Interview in Gloucester[23] begins with references to ta’wil and to Avicenna as poet and storyteller. His concern is to articulate the duality of ta’wil  which he takes to be “both topological and etymological.”[24] Here he wants to compare it in some way with the Old Norse samtal, which means “dialogue” or “conversation” in an attempt to get at the roots of language as creative and dialogical. Olson returns to “Cyclical Time” in “A Plan for a Curriculum of the Soul” (1968)[25] and in a late addition to "The Animate versus the Mechanical, and Thought" of 30 April 1969.[26] Olson’s final writing, his “death-bed summation of his concerns and beliefs”[27] dated December 16, 1969, draws in some small measure on themes from both “Cyclical Time” and Avicenna.[28] Hee H died on January 10, 1970.

[1] I want to extend my thanks to Ralph Maud and Duncan McNaughton who provided invaluable information and comments.
[2] Ralph Maud, Charles Olson's Reading: A Biography, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1996, 8.
[3] Charles Stein, The Secret of the Black Chysanthemum, Barrytown, NY: Station Hill Press, 1979, 162.
[4] New York: Pantheon Books, 1957.
[5] Maximus II, 36.
[6] Maximus I.35-40.
[7] Butterick, Guide, 59.
[8] Maximus II, 70-1. See Ralph Maud, Charles Olson at the Harbor, Vancouver: Talon Books, 2008; and George F. Butterick, A Guide to the Maximus Poems, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.
[9] Butterick, Guide, 317.
[10] “On History,” Charles Olson, Muthologos: The Collected lectures and Interviews, Vol. I, Edited by George Butterick, Bolinas, CA: Four Seasons Foundation, 1978, 15-16.
[11] Maud, un-published commentary.
[12] “Under the Mushroom,” Muthologos Vol. 1, 60-61.
[13] A Plan for a Curriculum of the Soul, Buffalo: Institute of Further Studies, 1968. 22 pp.
[14] Glover, Albert, ed. A Curriculum of the Soul 1-28, Canton, NY: Institute of Further Studies, 1972-2002.
[15] Michael Bylebyl, Ismaili Muslimism, Institute of Further Studies, 1972.
[16] Maud, 1996, 160 and note p. 309.
[17] Causal Mythology, transcribed and edited by Donald Allen (San Francisco: Four Seasons Foundation, 1969), a lecture at the Berkeley Poetry Conference, 20 July 1965. Quote from Corbin on p. 13. The passage in Avicenna is on p. 148.
[18] in Muthologos, Vol 1, 192-3.
[19] Poetry & Truth: The Beloit Lectures and Poems, by Charles Olson, Transcribed & Edited by George F. Butterick, San Francisco: Four Seasons Foundation, 1971.
[20] III.124, p. 501 in the Maximus Poems . See Butterick Guide,  629-30.
[21] Maud, 1996, 201-202.
[22] Charles Olson, Collected Prose, Ed. Donald Allen and Ben Friedlander, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997, 364-6.
[23] Muthologos Vol 2, 84-104.
[24] op. cit., 84, 87.
[25] which can be found in Rothenberg & Joris, Poems for the Millennium Volume 2, 410-11.
[26] Collected Prose, 368-70.
[27] Stein, 1976, 156.
[28] Maud, 1996, 205. This text is reproduced in Stein, 1976.

Photo: June, 1963 - Charles Olson in front of the sea - Gloucester.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"Henry Corbin: Between Philosophy and Orientalism" by Hermann Landolt

Landolt, Hermann, "Henry Corbin, 1903-1978: Between Philosophy and Orientalism," Journal of the American Oriental Society, 119(3): 484-490 (1999).
Henry Corbin - Between Philosophy and Orientalism by H. Landolt

Beehive Cover - 19th-early 20th century
Stone-paste painted under glaze
H: 1.5 W: 22.1 D: 22.1 cm

Friday, January 22, 2010

Jung's Red Book in LA - April/May 2010


Red Book Exhibition

Thanks to the Philemon Foundation, Jung's Red Book will be on exhibit at the Hammer UCLA Museum in Los Angeles from April 11, 2010 for 6 weeks. Hammer Red Book dialogues will run for eight weeks. Sonu Shamdasani, the editor of the Red Book, will speak at UCLA Schoenberg Hall on April 23rd and will participate in a dialogue on April 25th. Please go to www.philemonfoundation.org for more information.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Alchimie comme art hieratique - Selections in English

Henry Corbin. Alchimie comme art hiératique, textes édités et présentés par Pierre Lory. Paris, L’Herne, 1986, reissued as Le Livre des sept statues, Paris: L'Herne, 2003. Italian translation, L’alchimia come arte ieratica. Turin, Aragno, 2001.

 Many thanks to Aaron Cheak for this English version of selections from this important work. We can hope that he will do more.


A few extracts from: Henry CORBIN, ‘Le « Livre des sept Statues » d’Apollonios de Tyane, commenté par Jaldakî,’ Alchimie comme art hiératique, ed. Pierre Lory (Paris: L’Herne, 1986).(pp. 63-4, 67, 71-3, 114-6.)

(The 'Book of Seven Statues' of Apollonius of Tyana, commented by Jaldâkî, in "Alchemy as a Hieratic Art").

(Cheak comments:  My trans., from Corbin's French. Note here that the trans. of Jaldaki is twice removed from the Arabic, and that of Apollonius thrice from the (lost) Greek.)


The Book of Seven Statues is of capital importance for many reasons. In the first case, it is a matter of the transmission of a Greek text for which we only have the Arabic version at our disposal. In the second case, this text is a major testimony of the hermetic tradition in Iran. And finally, it clarifies for us very well the conception of alchemy as a hieratic art, to employ an expression from Proclus (Arabic: sinâ‘a ilâhîya, ars divina). The statues designated by the word asnâm are in reality living and speaking statues, and each statue is the priest of the Temple that belongs to it. Together they are the seven priests of the seven Temples corresponding to the seven planetary divinities. One may think here of the seven Temples of the Sabaeans of Harran that provided a haven for hermeticism in Islam until at least the tenth century. These statues are living and speaking because they are made not just from common metal but from “philosophical metal” issued from the alchemical operation, and it is this that renders them capable of fulfilling their sacerdotal function in their temple. In sum, they are “sacerdotal living statues.” The motif of the living statue and the motif of the priest are the two aspects under which alchemy presents itself here as ars hieratica.

Not only does it contain a mine of information, it is eminently representative of a conception of alchemy that is neither a simple dramaturgy of the unconscious or psychological allegory, nor a simple manipulation of materials practiced in the manner of a mere chemist or pharmacist (droguiste). It is an operation at once material and spiritual, the juncture between the two aspects remaining the hidden secret underneath the symbols of the “Philosophers” (as the alchemists designate themselves). And because the ars hieratica integrates the two operations, its locus is in fact a mesocosm (intermonde), of which the ritual form and the cadre of a temple are the best means of imposing the integral representation.


Underlying this great historical debate is another question, which, as we discussed above, is directed at the very conception of alchemy. It is impossible to appreciate the respective positions of its adversaries and its adepts without having first verified whether both are truly speaking of the same thing. When an Avicenna refuses the very idea of transmutation (a refusal which agrees with his proper metaphysics of essences, unfamiliar to the idea of intensifications of being professed by a Mulla Sadrâ Shîrâzî), it appears that he remains completely distant from that which will be sought by an adept such as Jaldâkî in his commentary on the Book of the Seven Statues (and also in his other books). The difficulty is aggravated by the fact that the majority of western historians have treated Graeco-Islamic alchemy as if it were a precursory chapter to modern chemistry. Holmyard, Ruska, Kraus think only to situate Jâbir, for example, within a line that leads to Boyle, Lavoisier, etc. The misunderstanding is serious, if not complete. To speak of “quantitative science” in Jâbir, as P. Kraus does, is perhaps to play with words, since it is a matter for Jâbir of measuring “the desire of the Soul of the world [which is] incorporeal to the elements”; moreover, an express declaration in Jâbir invites us to read the collection called the Seventy Books as a ciphered text, a complete exposé in veiled form. All these reservations have already been formulated by the publication with a translation—it will soon be thirty years—of our study of “The Book of Glory of Jâbir ibn Hayyan.” One must ask: do the “quantitative” formulas established by Jâbir have anything in common with the meaning of the same in the laboratories of our own day?

It seems essential, as Jâbir himself invites us to do (for example in the Five Hundred Books, cf. above)—to differentiate several levels of signification. The same operation can be accomplished respectively by a chemist and by an alchemist: the respective level of hermeneutic proposed by each will in no way be the same. The first case, the chemist, can be typified in the person of the doctor Rhazes. The second case, the alchemist, can be typified in the person of Jaldâkî. This includes his forebears (a Zosimos) and his successors, whose preoccupation links them to the tradition identified in the west as "laboratory and oratory" and which leads to the liturgical idea of a Missa alchemica. The historian, or better, the phenomenologist of alchemy, does not find themselves placed before a simple dilemma calling for a decision between the “puffers,” “charcoal-makers,” or charlatans and the serious practitioners who would conduct “scientific work.” There is a third term, the only one capable of representing alchemy properly and authentically as both a science and a spiritual experience (expérimentation) of Nature and of humanity. This alchemy is eminently represented by Jaldâkî, and the tradition continues in Iran through the work of a Mîr Fendereskî, and up until our own day in the Shaykhî school. Meditation on the alchemical operation as a spiritual experience (expérimentation) of Nature tends to liberate the thought or spiritual energy (extrahere cogitationem) immanent in the metals that the alchemists treat, in order to incorporate them into the interior being (l’homme intérieur). Synchronistically, they realise the inner growth of the subtle body, the “body of resurrection.” In other words, to interiorise the true operation is to obtain the psychic reactions that resolve themselves into a mystical physiology of the “resurrection body.” In short, this is why alchemy is a hieratic art.


I am that in light by which Air is illuminated. I am that which warms and ferments (échauffe) Earth by bringing forth the wondrous plants. I am that which, by his sovereign authority, repells the obscurity of night. It is I who raise the days of the world. It is I who make the flowers grow. It is I who clothe with light all things possessing light. Every beautiful thing, every gracious and brilliant thing, is raised by my art and by my work. That which I clothe with a part of my vestment receives complete beauty and total lustre because my colour is the most beautiful, the greatest and the most lustrous of colours.

JALDÂKÎ (Commentary):

Know that God Most High has created the entire Universe and has divided it into two parts: one, active, [exercising its action] in another, passive. [literally, an agent (fâ’il) and a recipient (qâbil )] And as it is of the condition of the agent (the active) to comprehend, to utter (proférer) and to hold forth discourse, it is fitting for him to say: “I have acted, I have asserted,” just as the sovereign declares, with the plural of majesty: “We have ordained, we have prescribed”; likewise the judge [qâdî ], who declares: “I have judged, I have given a ruling, I have signed,” words which are permanent and binding. And likewise too, man affirms: “I have acted so, in such and such a manner,” and here, also, one can relate back to the sun the acts and the signatures that he asserts, which God has instituted for him. But the agent in reality and in the absolute sense is God Most High, and the ensemble of acts which proceed in beings, whatever the agent may be, these acts take place by His assistance [madad], by His power and His will.

Thus, every agent which acts upon a patient [a receptacle, qâbil] among created things, this action produces itself by the energy which God has conferred to it, and the origin of that which nourishes this energy comes from the divine power. If we suppose that God were to cut off the nourishment of this energy, this energy itself will be abolished, the action would not be able to take place, and the capacity to act will itself be removed from the agent by the agent. The agent therefore will no longer be an agent; there will no longer be for him a patient upon which he acts, and there will be a state of arrest and impotence. All strength and power therefore belong to God Most High. It is He who provides the spirit of life. It is for Him to give life, it is for Him to remove this force and the nourishment of this force, and to produce therefore death. He is the Living, such that “there is no god but Him, Lord of the Sublime Throne” (Koran XXVII, 26).

Therefore, by virtue of these precisions, when the agent of a thing declares: “Me, I have done this,” his remark is metaphorical in one respect, and true in another. On one hand, the force by which he acts is not in essence his, because if it belonged to him by essence, he would also have power in essence; it would follow that he will be the creator of his acts and that power emanates from him by his self-same essence, not from another, but this is impossible, because he is only the agent by means of a certain force, and this force by which he is active has need of the nourishment which the True and Establishing Creator sends to him. Therefore when the agent declares: “I have done, I have arranged thus,” it is in this respect a metaphor. On the other hand, the true sense of this remark is that the activity clearly emanates from him ad extra by the force which God made exist for him, and clearly this force needs the help of the Creator. The agent is therefore the agent only by a force which for him is a gift accorded by the Creator, but it always remains possible that this force will be removed from him, for it does not belong to him in reality. It is conferred to him for a determined duration, after which God takes it from him, if he so chooses—there is no divinity outside Him, He makes live and He makes die (Koran, VII, 158) and He has power over all things. Comprehend this well.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Noteworthy Articles

Modern-Day Pilgrims Find Interfaith Bond in Ancient Syrian Monastery by Robert F. Worth (from the New York Times) on the Monastery at Deir Mar Mousa.

Found in Translation by Claudia Roth Pierpont - Arabic Novels in English (from the New Yorker)

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Youthfulness and Chivalry in Iranian Islam - Part II" now in English Translation

Henry Corbin's "Youthfulness and Chivalry in Iranian Islam - Part II", translated into English by Christine Rhone, is now available in the Temenos Academy Review, Volume 12. Part 1 was  published in Volume 11. Rhone comments: "Called in at the last minute to replace another speaker, Corbin gave this two-part lecture at the Eranos Conference of 1971. It is a spontaneous dive into Persian and Arabic linguistics, the source of eternal youth, and the common currents of the Paraclete and the Twelfth Imam. Only Corbin can accomplish this so gracefully." The French original is « Juvénilité et chevalerie (Javânmardî) en Islam iranien », Eranos-Jahrbuch, XL/1971, Leiden : Brill, 1973, pp 311-356; reprinted in L'Homme et Son Ange: Initiation et Chevalerie Spirituelle, Fayard, 1983.

Folio from a Khamsa by Nizami; Bahram Gur and the Indian princess in the Black Pavilion; 1548, Safavid dynasty, Shiraz, Iran. From The Freer & Sackler Galleries

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Ta'wil and Henry Corbin" by Eric Mottram - (Corbin & Poetry #16)

It is with great pleasure that I make a most important essay available here:

Eric Mottram, "Ta'wil and Henri Corbin: a legacy for radical American poets," Talus 8 (London, 1994) 115-180.

Eric Mottram (1924–1995) was a teacher, critic, editor and poet who was one of the central figures in the British Poetry Revival. He was Professor of American Studies and English Literature at King's College, London. An extended obituary in The Independent can be read here. This essay is reproduced with the permission of the Mottram Archive at King's College.  Also see this memoir, Live All You Can: American Experience, 1965-6, by Robert Banks. Amy Evans and Shamoon Zamir have complied an excellent piece on Mottram and Robert Duncan in Jacket 34, "Between Revelation and Persuasion" which is not to be missed. They write, "Eric Mottram was a poet, a teacher and a critic. A figure central to the British poetry revival which began in the late 1960s and a pioneer of American Studies in the United Kingdom, he was an influential editor of The Poetry Review, the journal of the Poetry Society in London, from 1971 to 1977 and wrote widely on British and American literatures and cultures. Mottram’s prolific investigations into innovative poetries and poetics remain ground-breaking; perhaps no-one did more to bring several generations of British readers and students to the excitement of post-World War II American poetry than he did."

My sincere thanks to Shamoon Zamir, who is former editor of Talus, for sending me a copy of this essay. (Back issues of Talus can be had here). I found the piece in a circuitous way. In the course of a long phone conversation Duncan McNaughton mentioned John Clarke to me as someone associated with Charles Olson who had read Corbin. [Audio CD of Clarke in Buffalo c.1985 to be available here). In researching Clarke's work I chanced upon the connection with Mottram, which led me to the Archive and this essay. It was Pierre Joris who suggested Zamir as a possible source for the text, which I had trouble finding in other ways. My thanks to all.

As readers will know, I had made it a project to investigate the reach of Corbin's influence on American poetry. I had come quite a way in finding facts and chronologies which are now confirmed and extended. Mottram's essay is the definitive document and puts an end to the initial phases of my research. It is just the sort of work I might have hoped to find - and written by someone who knew American poetry thoroughly, as I certainly do not. I wish I had known Mottram, who wrote this just a few years after I began my own work on Corbin.

The cast of characters discussed is large and inclusive: Charles Olson, Robert Duncan,  Robert Creeley, Robert Kelly, Norman O. Brown, Buckminster Fuller and more.

Mottram begins:

"In 1953 Basil Bunting wrote to Louis Zukofsky:

Reverting to the West has made me more convinced than before that we've got to learn almost everything from the East (which, to the measure of my limited experience, is the lands of Islam) before there's a chance of any peace of mind or dignity for most of us. And that's a way of saying to hell with material welfare, and, logically, all the laws and references and adages designed to procure it.

Bunting at the age of fifty-three could cite his first-hand experiences of Islam obtained while working in Persia and studying the culture. In America, Charles Olson drew towards certain aspects of Sufism through reading Avicenna and the Visionary Recital (1950) by Henry Corbin, the distinguished French professor of Islamic religion at the Sorbonne in the 1950s."

I urge everyone with an interest in the meaning of Corbin's work in the modern world to read this penetrating essay - to react to and think with.

Henry Corbin & Ta'Wil - Eric Mottram

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

In Search of the Lost Speech - May 2010, NYC

Poetry & Prayer as Spiritual Practice:
In Search of the "Lost Speech"

Tom Cheetham

"Prayer is the supreme form, 
the highest act of the Creative Imagination."
Henry Corbin

Judaism, Christianity and Islam are united by the idea of the sacred nature of language, and the perception that all of creation is a kind of book. The great scholar of Islamic mysticism, Henry Corbin, said that a problem common to all the "religions of the book" is the drama of the "Lost Speech" i.e. the interior meaning of the Book, hidden under its literal interpretation. The contemporary world leaves most of us little time and less encouragement to seek out the interior meaning of our lives or of the world around us. The literal forms of religion lead to fundamentalism, and science, powerful and necessary though it is, cannot by itself give meaning to our lives. So our only recourse is the exercise of our creative imagination to rediscover the "Lost Speech." This evening we will try to understand how poetry, prayer and acts of imagination can open us to the worlds within and around us.

Evening Workshop
7 - 10 pm
Friday, May 7, 2010  
 New York Open Center
22 East 30 Street
New York, NY 10016

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cross of Light & Harmonia Abrahamica - in a film review

As I noted last June, Godfrey Cheshire, film critic for Indy Week discussed Henry Corbin in his review of Linklater's "Waking Life" back in 2001. I did not know that he drew on Corbin again in a review of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ" in 2004. Its rather wonderful  to see Corbin's work used so effectively and a bit of a shock to see it used at all in such a context. Mr. Cheshire begins his review as follows:

"In his essay "Divine Epiphany and Spiritual Birth in Ismailian Gnosis," the great Iranologist Henry Corbin recalls a crucial scene recounted in the Gnostic Acts of John:

On the evening of Good Friday the Angel Christos, while the multitude below, in Jerusalem, imagines that it is crucifying him, causes the apostle John to go up to the Mount of Olives and into the grotto illumined by his presence; and there the angel reveals to John the mystery of the "Cross of Light."

Here is what the apostle hears:

"This is not the cross of wood which thou will see when thou goest down hence: neither am I he who is on the cross, whom thou now seest not, but only hearest his voice...Thou hearest that I suffered, yet I did not suffer; that I suffered not, yet I did suffer...and in a word, what they say of me, that befell me not. But what they say not, that did I suffer."

Corbin cites these lines in a complex argument that can be seen as part of a search for what he elsewhere called the "Harmonia Abrahamica," the essential commonalities shared by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. No bland or wishful ecumenism, this project recognizes that the three faiths will always be separate and distinct voices, yet it posits that if each were properly understood, they would harmonize rather than screeching at each other discordantly and, indeed, dangerously.

Understanding, for Corbin, means seeking the spirit behind the letter, the esoteric concealed within the exoteric. And the purpose of such a search is intentionally transformative. For example, the description of the Crucifixion given above--which accords with the docetic understanding of that event held by Muslims--has one noticeable effect: It obliges us to look up, toward divine Mystery and Meaning, rather than down, toward matter and the limitations of conventional understandings.

As for why anyone would bother seeking "Harmonia Abrahamica," we need only juxtapose two fiery images: the explosions of Hiroshima and those of 9/11. The first of these announced a capacity for destruction that could conceivably engulf the planet in the 21st century; the second heralded the likelihood that such a cataclysm, if it comes, will erupt along the fault lines separating the three Abrahamic religions."

Read the entire review here.

Photo: The Mount of Olives.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Henry Corbin in the Encyclopedia Iranica

I include below the very fine entry on Corbin by Daryush Shayegan in the English version of the excellent Encyclopedia Iranica. This site is still under development and the search feature is not entirely reliable. The search feature will not find this article - it can be found by perusing the alphabetical list of topics.

CORBIN, HENRY (b. Paris 14 April 1903, d. Paris 7 October 1978), French philosopher and orientalist best known as a major interpreter of the Persian role in the development of Islamic thought.

Corbin’s life and thought

Corbin was the son of Henri Arthur, a business executive, and Eugénie Fournier Corbin. He was graduated from the abbey school of St.-Maur in Paris in 1922 and studied with Étienne Gilson at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (Ve Section) beginning in 1923; he received his degree in philosophy in 1925. From Gilson he learned how to interpret early texts, as well as the importance of the Latin translations of Arabic philosophical texts. In Corbin’s later editions and translations of Islamic texts he tried to apply the same rigor that Gilson had devoted to the recovery of Latin texts. He also began to study Arabic and Sanskrit at the École des Langues Orientales. In 1928 he was graduated from the École des Hautes Études with a thesis on stoicism and Augustinianism in the thought of the 16th-century Spanish poet Luís de León, for which he was awarded the Luís de León prize by the University of Salamanca. He became an adjunct at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and the following year received a degree in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish from the École des Langues Orientales and made the acquaintance of the Iranist H. S. Nyberg.

In 1930 he made his first trip to Germany and began to read the works of Martin Heidegger; two years later he visited Germany again and then went on to Sweden. In this period he met such leading intellectuals as Rudolf Otto, Karl Lowith, Alexandre Kojève, Bernard Groethuysen, André Malraux, Ernst Cassirer, Karl Jaspers, Karl Barth, and Georges Dumézil. In 1931-­32, stimulated by an intellectual interest in Protestant theology from his reading of Barth, Corbin and his friends Denis de Rougement, Roland de Pury, and Albert-Marie Schmidt founded a journal entitled Hic et Nunc. The four articles he published there and other early works already dealt with themes important in his later works—notably hermeneutics, the link between knowing and being, and eschatological time. In 1933 he married Stella Leenhardt, daughter of the celebrated anthropologist Maurice Leenhardt. He spent 1935-36 in residence at the Institut Français in Berlin, where he met Heidegger and completed his translation of Was ist Metaphysik? (Qu’est-ce que la metaphysique? Paris, 1938, with an appendix containing passages from Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit and a lecture on Holderlin). In 1937 he succeeded Alexandre Koyré at the École Pratique des Hautes Études, teaching courses on the Lutheran theologian Johann Georg Hamann (1730-88) and on Lutheran hermeneutics.

His encounter with German thought, especially with the hermeneutics of Heidegger, provided Corbin with the “hermeneutic key” (clavis hermeneutica). As he noted, “The enormous merit of Heidegger is to have focused even the act of philosophizing upon hermeneutics” (“De Heidegger à Sohrawardī,” in Jambet, p. 24). He was also influenced by the Protes­tant theology then being taught at the Collège de France by the brothers Joseph and Jean Baruzi, a theology based on the thought of the young Martin Luther, then fashionable in Germany, and of such Protestant intellectuals as Sebastian Franck, Caspar Schwenkfeld, Valentin Weigel, and Johann Arndt. What particularly caught Corbin’s attention was the “phenomenon of the holy book” and the hermeneutic approach. He discovered the works of Emanuel Swedenborg—particularly the theme of correspon­dences between natural and spiritual things—as well as the dialectical theology of Barth. He was the first translator of Barth’s work, as he had been for that of Heidegger; his translation of the little work entitled Die Not der evangelischen Kirche appeared under the title “Misère et grandeur de l’église évangélique” (Foi et vie 39, 1932).

The most influential event in Corbin’s intellectual life, however, was his discovery of Šehāb-al-Dīn Yaḥyā Sohravardī (d. 578/1191). Louis Massignon gave him a lithographed edition of Sohravardī’s principal work, Ḥekmat al-ešrāq. “The young Platonist that I was then could only take fire from contact with "the imam of the platonists of Persia"” (“Post-Scriptum à un entretien philosophique,” in Jambet, p. 41). In 1935 Corbin published his first important orientalist work, an edi­tion and translation, in collaboration with Paul Kraus, of Sohravardī’s Avāz-e par-e Jebrāʾīl (“Le bruissement de l’aile de Gabriel,” JA 227, 1935, pp. 1-82), followed by Suhrawardî d’Alep (ob. 1191). Fondateur de la doctrine illuminative (Paris, 1939).

In 1939 he and his wife went to Turkey to obtain microfilms of the manuscripts of Sohravardī held in the Istanbul libraries. They planned to stay three months, but World War II kept them there until 1945. Corbin’s study of Sohravardī and his involuntary exile taught him “the virtues of silence and the discipline of the arcane.” In September 1945 he went for the first time to Tehran, where he published Les motifs zoroastriens dans la philosophie de Sohrawardî (1946).

Corbin returned to Paris in 1946, and his subsequent career was divided between Paris and Tehran. He was head of the department of Iranian studies at the Institut Français d’Iranologie in Tehran until 1954, when he was named to succeed Massignon in the chair of Islam and the religions of Arabia in the division of religious sciences at the École Pratique des Hautes Études. In that year he presented a paper on the thought of Avicenna (Ebn Sīna) and Imamism in Tehran, at the congress celebrating the millennium of Avicenna’s birth. From 1334 Š./1955 to 1352 Š./1973 he taught regular courses on Islamic philosophy in the faculty of letters at the University of Tehran, where in 1337 Š./1958 he was awarded an honorary doctorate. Between 1949 and 1978 he was also an active participant in the Eranos circle, a heterogeneous society of international scholars that met annually in Switzerland; he delivered many lectures at its meetings, on themes that he later developed in his publications. The first two volumes of his major work En Islam iranien appeared in 1971 (see below). In 1974 Corbin retired from the École Pratique des Hautes Études and became one of the founding members of the Université Saint-Jean de Jérusalem, centered in Paris; it was a society of scholars dedicated to comparative studies in spiritual mat­ters. He continued to return each autumn to Persia at the invitation of Sayyed Hossein Nast, director of the Imperial Iranian academy of philosophy; Nasr was the editor of Mélanges offerts à Henry Corbin, which was published in Tehran in 1977.

Corbin and Persia. Corbin’s contribution to the study of Persian and Islamic thought must be consid­ered on several levels. He was the first orientalist to deal seriously with the tradition of Shiʿite gnosis, drawing attention to the importance of the later tradi­tion of Shiʿite philosophy and other areas of esoteric Islamic thought, as well as to the importance of Persia and its pre-Islamic heritage within Islam. As a philolo­gist he was responsible for critical editions and trans­lations of numerous Arabic and Persian texts. Prima­rily, however, he was a philosopher, pursuing his guiding ideas in the “visionary space of the Persian world”: “My training was originally entirely in phi­losophy, which is why I am actually neither a germanist nor even an orientalist but a philosopher pursuing his quest wherever the intellect leads him. If it has led me to Freiburg, to Tehran, to Isfahan, they remain for me essentially "emblematic cities," the symbols of a never-­ending voyage” (“De Heidegger à Sohravardî,” in Jambet, p. 24). It was the Persian world that provided him with his “metaphysical framework.” The dia­logue between “Thou” and “I” in Barth’s dialectical theology was thus transformed for Corbin into the union of the soul with its angel; the significatio passiva of Luther was joined to taʾwīl, which the Persian philosophers linked on one hand to symbolic narrative (ḥekāyat) and on the other to the esoteric meaning of the holy book. In Corbin’s thought Heidegger’s “existence until death” (Sein zum Tode) was extended into the existence beyond death propounded in the theoso­phy of Mollā Ṣadrā Šīrāzī (d. 1050/1641), and the world of symbols was expressed in imaginal space, where the angel’s luminous body became visible. All Persian Islamic mystical thought was focused on taʾwīl, that is, on the “unveiling of what is hidden” (kašf al-­maḥjūb). “But then is not phenomenological research what our ancient mystical treatises designated as Kašf al-maḥjūb? The unveiling of that which is hidden? Is it not also what is meant by the term taʾwīl, fundamen­tal in the spiritual hermeneutics of the Koran?” (1977, pp. 22-23). For Corbin the Persian world was clothed in symbolic meaning. Located between India and the Arab world, Persia was the country of Zoroaster, Sohravardī, Rūzbehān, and Ḥāfeẓ, “a world both inter­mediate and mediatinġ . . . not merely a nation or even an empire, but an entire spiritual universe, an arena for the history of religions” (“Post-Scriptum à un entretien philosophique,” in Jambet, p. 41). Ontologically, too, Persia was an intermediate world, the privileged “place” of the soul and of visionary narratives. Finally, in eschatological terms Persia was a land of expectation, where during the great occultation (ḡaybat-e kobrā) the Hidden Imam prepares for the hour of his reappear­ance. Corbin believed that “within the Islamic com­munity the Iranian world constituted, from the begin­ning, an entity of which the characteristic traits and temperament can be explained only if one considers the Iranian intellectual universe as forming a whole, before and after Islam. Islamic Iran has been the country par excellence of the greatest philosophers and mystics of Islam” (En Islam iranien I, p. xxvii).

The metaphysics of the imagination. Corbin’s cen­tral concern was the role accorded the imagination in the theosophical thought of Persia. He coined the term “imaginal,” as “imaginary” had acquired a very re­stricted meaning in Western philosophy. Corbin be­lieved that Sohravardī had been the first to establish the ontological reality of the imaginal but that it had been foreshadowed in the cosmology of Avicenna and even in the concept of xᵛarənah (light of glory; see farr) in Mazdean cosmology (q.v. i). “From century to century the meditations of the Persian thinkers have been devoted to the state of a realm that is neither that of empirical perception nor that of abstract under­standing. The idea of this intermediary universe reap­pears from Sohravardī (12th century) to Mollā Ṣadrā Šīrāzī (17th century), Hādī Sabzavārī (19th century), and so many others down to our own day. They have called this universe by different names: Sometimes, referring to the seven climes of traditional geography, they have called it the "eighth clime," sometimes more technically the ʿālam al-meṯāl” (“Siyavakhsh à Persépolis,” Orient 39/3, 1966, p. 70). Corbin per­ceived this realm as having extension, an “immaterial materiality.” For him it was the space of con-junction, where the human soul and the angel imagine each other. In order to distinguish more clearly the cognitive quality of this territory, Corbin, drawing his inspiration from Sohravardī, explained that the imagination, fertilized by intellect, becomes the angel’s mode of perception, that is, a meditative faculty (mofakker); but, on the other hand, when delusion (wahm) intrudes, the imagination transforms itself into fantasy (motaḵayyala) and degenerates into a malefic force. As a result, this realm has the power of typification (taṣwīr) and of actual symbolization (tamṯīl). It is the site of the events of the soul and of the visionary narratives of the poets and philosophers, and it thus renders possible the articulation of a symbolic lan­guage in which images are transmuted into forms that are half intellectual, half sensual (Geistleiblichkeit). On the threshold of this world time and space are reversed: That which was hidden is revealed; the invisible becomes visible. It is thus a situating, rather than a situated, realm (En Islam iranien IV, p. 384). Entry into it requires a reversal of direction, that is, a taʾwīl. Finally, this realm has a visionary geography, with fabulous cities, mountains, miraculous springs, and rivers.

Zoroastrianism, visionary recitals, and the inner mystical guide. Several other themes were central to Corbin’s interpretation of Persian Islam. First, he stressed the continuity of the spirituality of Islamic Persia with pre-Islamic Zoroastrian Persia. He saw Sohravardī as reuniting the wisdom of the ancient Persians with the philosophical tradition of the Greeks in the illuminationist tradition of ešrāq. Platonic ideals became Persian archangels; the archangel Bahman, the angel Gabriel, and the active intelligence were thus equivalent concepts. Sohravardī presented Kay Ḵosrow, a perfect sage (theosophist, ḥakīm motaʾalla) and wise ruler, the type of one of the great ethical ideals of Persia in all periods, as a founder of philosophy in the east. Sohravardī thus appeared as the proponent of an “eastern” philosophy. Second, Corbin attributed great importance to the “visionary recitals,” mystical and philosophical allegories writ­ten by such philosophers as Avicenna and Sohravardī. He argued that Avicenna had outlined the premises of a mystical philosophy in which knowledge was raised to the level of visionary narrative and that Sohravardī had gone farther, picking up the torch of “eastern philosophy” from Avicenna; he thus introduced an entire cycle of narratives in which he employed the taʾwīl of the hieratic figures drawn from the heroic epic of ancient Persia, making possible “the transition from the heroic epic to the mystical epic.” In this way heroes from the Avesta and the Šāh-nāma of Ferdowsī (d. 411/1020) reappear, and the inner guide in the narra­tive mode of the mystical tales appears sometimes as the fabulous bird of Persian mythology (sīmorḡ), some­times as an ageless youth, and sometimes as the Mazdean angel Bahman. Third, Corbin was fascinated by the figures of the inner mystical guide and the perfect human types of the seeker, which reappear in various forms. In ešrāqī philosophy the inner guide is the active intellect, and the human types are Plato and Zoroaster—that is, the wise man and the theosophist. In the prophetic mode the former corresponds to the imam or angel or “Mohammadan reality,” and the human type is Moḥammad or the Twelfth Imam. In the realm of the visionary recital the inner guide is represented by Gabriel or the sīmorḡ, and linked with them are Kay Ḵosrow and Esfandīār. Finally, in the realm of mystical love the figure of the beloved or Sophia, the feminine principle, on one hand, is linked with Majnūn or the faithful lover (fidèle d’amour), on the other (Shayegan, pp. 59-64). Corbin believed that the inner guides on all these levels were to be identified with one another. Because Sohravardī had been able to create a synthesis in which the angel of prophetic revelation was identified with the active intellect of the philosophers, Persia avoided the schism between faith and knowledge that occurred in the West.

Corbin’s major works

An exhaustive bibliography of Corbin’s publications through 1981 includes 305 titles (Jambet, pp. 345-60), but to those should be added several posthumous works. Only works on Islamic topics published in book form are listed below. Many shorter works, particularly Corbin’s annual lectures to the Eranos circle in 1949-78, were later incorporated into such major works as En Islam iranien. He also wrote numerous journal articles, reviews, encyclopedia articles, and prefaces for monographs and editions by other scholars.

Texts, translations, and commentaries. The follow­ing are editions of texts by Persian philosophers, theo­logians, and mystics published by Corbin, most in the series Bibliothèque Iranienne issued by the Institut Français d’Iranologie in Tehran. In each entry the number of pages of Arabic or Persian text is given first, followed by the number of pages in French.

Sohravardī, Majmūʿa-ye moṣannafāt-e Šayḵ-e Ešrāq (Oeuvres philosophiques et mystiques I, 1945; repr. 1976; 541, 10 + 85 pp.), containing the metaphysical portions of Sohravardī’s Ketāb al-talwīḥāt al-lawhīya wa’l-ʿaršīya, Ketāb al-moqāwamāt, and Ketāb al-­mašāreʿ wa’l-moṭāraḥāt); II (1976; 350, 12 + 104 pp.), containing Ḥekmat al-ešrāq and two short works. Corbin wrote the introduction to a third volume, edited by S. H. Nasr and containing fourteen short Persian works, mostly mystical allegories (1970; repr. 1976).

Abū Yaʿqūb Sejestānī, Kašf al-maḥjūb (1949; 115, 25 pp.), an early Ismaili text. Corbin’s translation of this work was published posthumously as Le dévoilement des choses cachées (Kashf al-mahjub) de Abu Ya’qûb Sejestânî (Lagrasse, France, 1988).

Nāṣer-e Ḵosrow, Ketāb-e jāmeʿ al-ḥekmatayn (Le livre réunissant les deux sagesses, with M. Moʿīn, 1953; 346, 147 pp.).

Šarḥ-e qaṣīda-ye fārsī-e Ḵᵛāja Abu’l-Hayṯam Aḥmad b. Ḥasan Jorjānī mansūb be Moḥammad b. Sorḵ Nīšābūrī (Commentaire de la qasida ismaélienne d’Abu’l-Haitham Jorjani, with M. Moʿīn, 1955; 128, 116 pp.).

Rūzbehān Baqlī Šīrāzī, Ketāb ʿabhar al-ʿāšeqīn (Le jasmin des fidèles d’amour, with M. Moʿīn, 1958; 244, 128 pp.).

Īrān wa yaman. Se resāla-ye esmāʿīlī (Trilogie ismaélienne, 1961; 188, 400 pp.), containing an edition of three Ismaili texts with translations and com­mentary. The texts are Ketāb al-yanābīʿ by Abū Yaʿqūb Sejestānī, Resālat al-mabdaʾ wa’l-maʿād by the 13th-century Yemeni dāʿī Ḥosayn b. ʿAlī, and the anonymous Baʿżī as taʾwīlāt-e golšan-e rāz.

Mollā Ṣadrā Šīrāzī, Ketāb al-mašāʿer (Le livre des pénétrations métaphysiques, 1964; 248, 271 pp.; 2nd ed., n.p. [Paris], 1988), containing the Arabic text, a French translation with extensive notes by Corbin, and a 19th-century Persian translation with commentary by Badīʿ-al-Molk Mīrzā ʿEmād-al-Dawla.

Rūzbehān Baqlī Šīrāzī, Šarḥ-e šaṭḥīyāt (Com­mentaire sur les paradoxes des Soufis, 1966; 740, 46 pp.)

Ḥaydar Āmolī, La philosophie shîite (with ʿO.-E. Yaḥyā, 1969; 832, 75 pp.), containing Jāmeʿ al-asrār wa manbaʿ al-anwār and Naqd al-noqūd fī maʿrefat al-wojūd.

Ḥaydar Āmolī, al-Moqaddamāt fī ketāb naṣṣ al-noṣūṣ (Le texte des textes, with ʿO.-E. Yaḥyā, 1975; 546, 46 pp.), a commentary on Ebn ʿArabī’s Foṣūṣ al-ḥekam.

L’archange empourpré (Paris, 1976, 25 + 549 pp.), containing translations of fifteen short philosophical treatises and mystical allegories by Sohravardī, with introductions and notes. The title refers to the gnostic function of the encounter with the angel and the pro­cess of intellectual individuation: “This ever-recur­ring presence reveals the essential mediating function of the angel in ešrāqī spirituality: theophanic function, initiating function, salvation function” (p. xvii).

Le livre de la sagesse orientale (Hikmat al-Ishrâq) de Sohravardî. Commentaires de Qotboddîn Shîrâzî et Mollâ Sadrâ Shîrâzî (Lagrasse, France, 1986), a trans­lation of the introduction and the long section on metaphysics from Sohravardī’s masterwork, with ex­tensive annotations and translated extracts from the two best-known commentaries.

Monographs and other works. Apart from his text editions Corbin published works that were either elaborations of his articles in Eranos-Jahrbuch or fresh contributions to the study of Persian thought. The most important are mentioned here in chronological order.

Avicenna et le récit visionnaire (2 vols., Tehran and Paris, 1954; tr. W. R. Trask as Avicenna and the Visionary Recital, New York, 1960), a study of the rich symbolism in three of Avicenna’s narratives, Ḥayy b. Yaqẓān, Resālat al-ṭayr, and Salmān wa Absāl, with translations of all three recitals and a Persian commen­tary on the first attributed to Jūzjānī. (The Persian and Arabic texts are omitted in the English edition.) Corbin identified these works as a cycle representing the “eastern” dimension of Avicenna’s thought and linked them with the thought of Sohravardī.

L’imagination créatrice dans le soufisme d’Ibn ʿArabī (Paris, 1958; 2nd ed., Paris, 1976; tr. R. Manheim as Creative Imagination in the Ṣūfism of Ibn ʿArabī, Princeton, N.J., 1969), an account of imagination and its relation to prayer and theosophy in the mysticism of Ebn ʿArabī (560-638/1165-1240). After sketching in broad strokes the spiritual ties between Andalusia and Persia, Corbin described three pivotal events in the life of the great Spanish mystic: his attendance at the funeral of Averroës (Ebn Rošd), his journey to the east, and his mystical encounter with Ḵeżr. He argued that Ebn ʿArabī and the Persian platonists had produced a new phenomenon: theosophy. Corbin also studied Ebn ʿArabī’s symbolism, set forth in Ketāb al-fotūḥāt al-makkīya (Book of the spiritual conquests of Mecca)—the primordial mist (ʿamāʾ), the theophanies, and the divine names—and his mystical theology of prayer.

Terre céleste et corps de résurrection. De l’Iran mazdéen à l’Iran shīʿite (Paris, 1961; rev. ed., Corps spirituel et terre céleste. De l’Iran mazdéen à l’Iran shīʿite, Paris, 1979; tr. of 1st ed. N. Pearson as Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth. From Mazdean Iran to Shiʿite Iran, Princeton, N.J., 1977), an account of Persian mystical geography. In a lengthy introduction Corbin gave an account of imaginal space and demon­strated its importance in the Persian spiritual universe, including the mythical geography of pre-Islamic Per­sia: the seven kešvars, Ērān-Vēj, and xᵛarənah. The second part of the book consists of translations of traditional texts on the “eighth clime” by Sohravardī, Ebn ʿArabī, Dāʾūd Qayṣarī, Mollā Moḥsen Fayż Kāšānī, and several leaders of the Shaikhi school.

Histoire de la philosophie islamique (with S. H. Nasr and O. Yahya, 2 vols., Paris, 1964; Volume II was identical with Corbin’s Volume III in the Pléïade Histoire de la philosophie, Paris, 1974; the two vol­umes were reprinted together in Paris in 1986), a survey of the major phases in Islamic thought, includ­ing spiritual exegesis of the Koran, Shiʿism, Ismailism, hellenizing philosophy, Sufism, Sohravardī, the theo­logians, the encyclopedists, and the schools of Isfahan, Tehran, and Khorasan. Corbin argued that Averroës symbolized a cleavage between the western and east­ern aspects of Islamic thought. In the west Avicennism died out under the attacks of William of Auvergne, and Latin Averroism came to an end with the school of Padua. As for the east, “Neither was Averroism known there, nor was the critique by Ḡazālī recognized as having the fatal consequences that our historians of philosophy have often accorded to it. Avicenna had excellent direct disciples . . . . But one can say, without paradox, that Avicenna’s successor was Sohravardī, not in the sense that he incorporated into his own works certain elements of Avicennian meta­physics, but in the sense that he took up in his turn the goal of producing an "eastern philosophy" . . . . This goal Sohravardī achieved by reviving the philosophy, or theosophy, of ancient Persia” (1986, p. 246).

L’homme de lumière dans le soufisme iranien (Paris, 1971; tr. N. Pearson as The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism, Princeton, N.J., 1978), a study of the physiol­ogy of luminous man in the works of Najm-al-Dīn Kobrā (d. 617/1220), Najm-al-Dīn Rāzī (d. 654/1256), and ʿAlāʾ-al-Dawla Semnānī (d. 736/1336). In this work Corbin discussed the various correspondences among colors, spiritual stations, organs, and prophets.

En Islam iranien. Aspects spirituels et philosophiques (4 vols., Paris, 1971-73), Corbin’s magnum opus, a survey of the entire esoteric tradition in Persian thought. It consists of seven books of essays dealing with aspects of Twelver Shiʿism, the phenomenon of the holy book, and the cycle of prophethood and walāyat (vol. I); Sohravardī and the Persian platonists (vol. II); theories of love and the fidèles d’amour in the work of Rūzbehān Baqlī, the connections between Shiʿism and Sufism as seen in the works of Ḥaydar Āmolī, Ṣāʾen-al-Dīn Torka Iṣbahānī, and ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn Semnānī (vol. III); and the school of Isfahan, including Mīr Dāmād, Mollā Ṣadrā, and Qāżī Saʿīd Qomī, the Shaikhi school, the twelfth imam, and chivalry in general (vol. IV). It thus encompasses most of the major topics of Corbin’s Islamic researches, with the primary exceptions of the Ismailis and Ebn ʿArabī. The wide-ranging contents of this work can be viewed as reflecting four parallel itineraries traced by Corbin in four different dimen­sions of existence: prophetic, ontological, narrative, and erotic-mystical. In his thought none of these dimensions has priority over any other; rather, they can be compared to a melody that remains identical in structure and clearly recognizable when transposed into different keys. Furthermore, each itinerary in­volves a passage from one state to another, parallel state on a higher plane of existence. The work thus represents the summation and ultimate refinement of Corbin’s lifelong meditation on Persian spirituality.

Philosophie iranienne et philosophie comparée (Paris, 1977, 155 pp.).

Temple et contemplation (Paris, 1980; tr. P. Sherrard as Temple and Contemplation, London, 1986), a col­lection of five lectures delivered at the Eranos confer­ences dealing respectively with color symbolism in Shiʿism, taʾwīl in Ismaili gnosis, and the symbol of the temple in Sabianism and Ismailism, in Shiʿism, and in Jewish and Christian theology.

La philosophie iranienne islamique au XXVIIe et XVIIIe siècles (Paris, 1981, 417 pp.), a partly revised version of the French introductions to the three volumes of Anthologie des philosophes iraniens, edited by Sayyed Jalāl-al-Dīn Āštīānī (3 vols., Paris, 1972-77). It con­tains discussions of the lives, works, and views of eighteen Persian philosophers from Mīr Dāmād (q.v.; d. 1040/1631) to ʿAbd-al-Raḥīm Damāvandī (d. ca. 1150/1737).

After Corbin’s death his students published addi­tional translations (discussed above) and works compiled from lectures and uncollected articles. The latter include: Temps cyclique et gnose ismaélienne (Paris, 1982; tr. R. Manheim and J. Morris as Cyclical Time and Ismaili Gnosis, London, 1983), three lectures delivered and published in the 1950s and dealing respectively with cycles of time in Mazdaism and Ismailism, the imam in Ismaili gnosis, and the relation between ancient gnosticism and Ismailism.

Corbin’s other major posthumous works include Le paradoxe du monothéisme (Paris, 1981), Face de Dieu, face de l’homme (Paris, 1983), L’homme et son ange (Paris, 1983), and Hamann, philosophe du luthéranisme (Paris, 1985).

Bibliography : C. J. Adams, “The Hermeneutics of Henry Corbin,” in R. C. Martin, ed., Approaches to Islam in Religious Studies, Tucson, Ariz., 1985, pp. 129-50. Idem, “Corbin, Henry,” in M. Eliade, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion III, New York, 1987, pp. 86-87. C. Jambet, ed., Henry Corbin, Paris, 1981 (containing a chronology of Corbin’s life; a number of his short pieces; essays, appreciations, letters, etc., by associates; and a full bibliography of his works up to that time). D. Shayegan, Henry Corbin. La topographie spirituelle de l’Islam iranien, Paris, 1990. E. Waugh, review of En Islam iranien, History of Religions 14/4, 1975, pp. 322-34.