"...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.
The Fourth International Congress on Islamic Feminism will be focused on the analysis of the current status of this movement and its future prospects. Once launched the debate and main arguments, there remains the daunting task of making them known and achieve the greatest possible number of accessions. It is necessary to locate the main resistance to IF, both among non-Muslims and Muslims, and think ways to face them. What has the real potential to change the IF real situation of Muslim women in those contexts in which are discriminated? How to deal with the claims of authority (authoritarianism) of conservative religious structures? • Related topics: Millennium Goals UN; Alliance of Civilizations; Islamic feminism in Europe; cultural diversity, secularism and human rights; Qur’anic hermeneutics; spirituality and feminism. • The spiritual dimension. One of the main focus of the fourth edition will be exploring the relationships between spirituality, Sufism and feminism in Islam.
"In her post of July 11, “Veiled Threats?” and her subsequent response to readers, Martha Nussbaum considers the controversy over the legal status of the burqa — which continues to flare across Europe — making a case for freedom of religious expression. In these writings, Professor Nussbaum applies the argument of her 2008 book “Liberty of Conscience,” which praises the American approach to religious liberty of which Roger Williams, one of the founders of Rhode Island Colony, is an early champion. Williams is an inspiring figure, indeed. Feeling firsthand the constraint of religious conformism in England and in Massachusetts Bay, he developed a uniquely broad position on religious toleration, one encompassing not only Protestants of all stripes, but Roman Catholics, Jews and Muslims. The state, in his view, can legitimately enforce only the second tablet of the Decalogue — those final five commandments covering murder, theft, and the like. All matters of worship covered by the first tablet must be left to the individual conscience.
I came to Henry Corbin through reading James Hillman quite a few years ago now. I was teaching biology and environmental studies at the time and my fundamental commitment to "ecology" and environmentalism in a very broad sense remains as it was then. As my work on Corbin winds down (maybe one more book of essays if I can find a publisher) I expect to put most of my time and energy back into the ecological implications of this work on language, imagination, the psyche and embodiment - and "environmentalism" generally. As I no longer have students to share some of my musings with it seems likely that I'll want to post things that are related in some way to these larger issues. I've already begun straining at the limits of relevance of the Legacy of Henry Corbin. Some time ago I started a blog with this in mind and I expect I'll begin posting there fairly often. For those with an interest, keep an eye here: A Music Long Before Meaning.
I do expect to keep posting to The Legacy of Henry Corbin and am alway glad to have suggestions for posts and links.
The 2010 Yawm-e Ali Lecture at the Ismaili Centre, London was delivered on 14 July by Dr Reza Shah-Kazemi, Reasearch Fellow at The Institute of Ismaili Studies in London. In his lecture titled Imam Ali and the Power of Compassion, Dr Shah-Kazemi explored the role played by Rahma — divine compassion — in the teachings of Hazrat Ali.
He stressed the relationship between intellect and compassion as one of the key polarities in the thought of Imam Ali. Just as the operation of the intellect requires the participation of all the cardinal virtues — compassion above all others, says Dr Shah-Kazemi, likewise, the deeper meaning and transformative power of the virtue of compassion can only be unlocked by the spiritual and moral application of the faculty of the intellect.
About Dr Reza Shah-Kazemi
Founding editor of the Islamic World Report, Dr Reza Shah-Kazemi studied International Relations and Politics at Sussex and Exeter Universities before obtaining his PhD in Comparative Religion from the University of Kent in 1994. He has authored and translated several works, including Justice and Remembrance: Introducing the Spirituality of Imam 'Ali(I. B. Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2006) and Doctrines of Shi'i Islam (I. B. Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2001). He has also edited a number of collective volumes and published many articles and reviews in academic journals.
Formerly a Consultant to the Institute for Policy Research in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, Dr Shah-Kazemi is presently a Research Fellow with the Department of Academic Research and Publications at The Institute of Ismaili Studies, where he is editing the English translation and edition of the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia (from Persian).
Die Welt 20.07.2010
The city of Weimar is seeking to twin itself with the Iranian city of Shiraz, the home town of Goethe's idol the Sufi poet Hafiz - on the condition that the Iranian side recognises the Holocaust. The Iranian delegation has since been to Weimar but refused outright to visit Buchenwald. Weimar, however, is reluctant to sever ties with its new friends, as Matthias Küntzel reports. "At the beginning of the week Fritz von Klinggräff, the Weimar press officer, confirmed the change of course. They had abandoned the bit about Buchenwald being an essential component of the friendship from the outset, in favour of the metaphor of 'the long road'. What was needed was an extended period of travelling in one another's company in order to 'see, as in an intellectual exchange, how compatibility can be created'." (In other words: one lot is saying there was a Holocaust, the other lot says there was no Holocaust and the truth lies somewhere in between!)
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
[This has been by far the most often visited post on the blog. I have finally made this list into a Page on the blog, accessible at the upper left of the blog screen. This post will no longer be updated though I will leave it online.For updated version please go to this page.]
The Voyage and the Messenger(Google Books) &Full text at Scribd , 1998, trans. Joseph Rowe, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley. [translation of L'Iran et La Philosophie, Fayard, 1990]; Iranian Studies and Comparative Religion (1948); Iranian Studies and Philosophy (1951); Problem and Method in Religious History (1968); A Theory of Visionary Knowledge (1977); The Theme of the Voyage and the Messenger (1973); A Shi'ite Liturgy of the Grail (1974); Prophetic Philosophy and the Metaphysics of Being (1966); Sufism and Sophia (1956); The Musical Sense of Persian Mysticism (1967)
Essays and Interviews - Chronological by date of composition or French publication : 1932 - Theology by the Lakeside in Henry Corbin, edited by Christian Jambet, Cahier de l'Herne, no. 39. Consacré à Henry Corbin, Paris, 1981. 1951, 56 - Cyclical Time in Mazdaism and Ismailism (1951) and The Time of Eranos (1956) inMan and Time: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooksfrom Scridb.
I recall seeing in the Persian edition a very interesting question posed to Nasr concerning the influence of Corbin upon his thought. His answer shed a good deal of light on his relationship with Corbin."
The Persian version is,
Ramin Jahanbehloo and Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Dar just o juy-i amr-i qudsi: guft o gu (Tehran: Nashr-i jahan, 2006/7) WorldCat link.
I would very much appreciate it if anyone with access to this volume could supply us with the some information concerning Nasr's comments on Corbin - TC.
From the Publisher:In a unique parallel analysis, Muhammad Kamal delves into the most controversial subjects of Islamic and Western existential philosophy. He describes the philosophical ‘turn’, ontological difference, becoming, and nothingness in the ontology of Mulla Sadra and Martin Heidegger. Through analysing the ontological enterprises of Sadra and Heidegger, Kamal shows how they both held that Being is the sole reality, and how both stood in opposition to Plato’s metaphysics. Despite hailing from different regions and eras, both Sadra and Heidegger viewed Plato’s philosophy as an established philosophical tradition which led to a state of untruth, or what Heidegger would have called “the oblivion of Being”.
As Kamal explicates, Heidegger’s opposition to Plato became manifest in his deconstruction of the history of ontology, while Mulla Sadra’s opposition to Plato was through his criticism of the Iranian philosopher Suhrawardi’s doctrine of the principality of essence. These new interpretations of being by two philosophers brought new life to both Islamic and Western schools of philosophy and have formed the basis of much of modern ontology, epistemology, and philosophical psychology.
Muhammad Kamal is a senior lecturer at the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne. He has written extensively on Western and Islamic philosophy. His other work on Sadrian philosophy is Mulla Sadra’s Transcendent Philosophy.
"Sleep, to whom Keats partly owes his "worthy rhymes," has long been kin to poetry. Saint-Pol Roux affixing a sign that reads "poet at work" to his bedchamber is the most playful example of this alliance. Both sleep and poetry open a passage to the unconscious, one by nature, the other by artifice. Both create memories of astonishing wakefulness, one through dream, the other through imagination. It is almost impossible to reproduce or transmit such experiences by other means."
Jurek Polanski: In your poem "Dedication," you wrote: "That I wanted good poetry without knowing it,/That I discovered, late, its salutary aim,/In this and only this I find salvation." Milosz: I consider myself, to a large extent, to have been saved by poetry. At one time, I was too much under the influence of philosophy, and I noticed that that was very detrimental to my internal equilibrium. I had to go back to poetry to save myself from philosophy. To this day I still believe that in poetry there is much more wisdom. For example, in the work of the American poet better known than all others taken together, Walt Whitman.
This resonates with my own experience. Corbin was instrumental in saving me from philosophy and freeing me for poetry - both because of the nature of his own relation to philosophy and because of his privileging of Imagination as the primary human act. Perhaps even more important, partly at least because I read him first, was James Hillman. I think both of them can help to save us from "fundamentalism" which comes in a tremendous variety of disguises and requires constant attention to unmask and energy to defend against. For that reason alone both of them deserve our attention and our thanks.
In this short work, I begin by exploring gnosis as a way of knowing that is direct, embodied, and embedded in the active imagination that is so essential in teaching and art making. As an artist and art educator, I utilize the phenomenological process of shikantaza, or “just sitting” as a methodology of witness. Second, I consider how compassion asa way of knowing candevelop within a cosmology that recognizes the dependent, relational quality of everything that manifests. Last, I propose that releasing as a way of knowing opens the teacher and the artist in the most profound way to understand the experiences that occur in the classroom and beyond. As a parallel text, I offer three artist journal insights, composed as I worked through the process of presenting the Blue Medicine Buddha in a painting.
: a word / concept that names the connecting link, the “between” of something, such as different spheres of existence. As a temporal concept it can be, and historically was, considered an interval of time — say, the time between death and Resurrection in the Qu’ran, similar to the Bardo Thödol of the Tibetans, or the travel between life and death as the Egyptians imagined it. The Arabic word has the literal meaning of “barrier,” “veil,” “curtain.” Thus traditionally seen as a separator, it is however also and more interestingly thinkable as a “between” that links, and in that sense can be translated as “isthmus.”
For the great Arab mystic & poet Ibn Arabi, Barzakh is a kind of purgatory—the temporary and yet historical place which constitutes this, our world where we live and love and labor, aware that what we need most to find our way through is what the poet John Keats called “negative capability,” i.e., the ability “of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” The idea of the Barzakh is thus not to map a territory but to travel along boundaries, criss crossing always-to-be-redefined regions, in the process creating rhizomatic assemblages, de- and re-territorializing language-intensities as shifting fields of forces.
As Stefania Pandolfo writes in the introductory chapter of Impasse of the Angels: “The purpose … is not to map a territory, but to travel on the boundary of what Maghribî writers of decolonization have called a différence intraitable: a hiatus which destabilizes the assignment of places and parts, which displaces the categories of classical and colonial reason and opens a heterological space of intercultural dialogue — an atopical intermediate region that might be called a Barzakh. There, in that interstitial mode of identity between languages and cultures, between genders and categorizations, a certain listening becomes possible.”
Pandolfo begins her book with a quote from Ibn 'Arabi: "A barzakh is something that separates two things while never going to one side, as for example the line that separates shadow from sunlight. .. There is nothing in existence but barzakhs since a barzakh is the arrangement of one thing between two things ... and existence has no edges." (This is from The Meccan Revelations, and is cited by Wm Chittick in The Sufi Path of Knowledge, p. 14.
He begins with this quote: "I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will raise myself beyond these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real itself; I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labours and sufferings of the world." -Teilhard de Chardin, "Mass on the World" collected in Hymn of the Universe
In his very nice piece on poetry & metaphor as responses to fundamentalism, Derr writes:
"In her book Wisdom and Metaphor poet and philosopher Jan Zwicky argues for a poetic form of doing philosophy, one rooted in an understanding of metaphor. As she sees it, metaphor teaches us to see "X (as Y) and at the same time X is not Y." In her introduction she says we are not wise in a vacuum but are wise about things: people, situations and contexts. People who think metaphorically think truly, as their thinking follows the shape of the world.
Zwicky says that metaphor, as a philosophical device, is a form of seeing-as. Out in the Chinese wilderness de Chardin may have agreed. The poem -- in de Chardin's case his "Mass" -- opens up our longing and asks us to hold together a variety of images in their contradictions and similarities. Theologically it means that the theological task is less scientific-philosophical but more an act of seeing-as. The Mass de Chardin performed did not challenge Catholic liturgical authority, reform the church or introduce sweeping panentheist theological directions. But as a poem it drew its readers into a form of seeing-as that allowed a reimagining of the relationship between God and creation, and a meditation on the real presence of Christ in the elements as the story of God's relationship with all of material creation."
Laura U. Marks is a writer and a curator of artists’ media. She is the author of The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses (2000)], Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media (2002), and the forthcoming Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art (MIT Press, 2010). She has curated experimental media for festivals and art spaces worldwide. Dr. Marks is the Dena Wosk University Professor in Art and Culture Studies at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver.
From the publisher's description of Enfoldment & Infinity:
"In both classical Islamic art and contemporary new media art, one point can unfold to reveal an entire universe. A fourteenth-century dome decorated with geometric complexity and a new media work that shapes a dome from programmed beams of light: both can inspire feelings of immersion and transcendence. In Enfoldment and Infinity, Laura Marks traces the strong similarities, visual and philosophical, between these two kinds of art. Her argument is more than metaphorical; she shows that the “Islamic” quality of modern and new media art is a latent, deeply enfolded, historical inheritance from Islamic art and thought.
Marks proposes an aesthetics of unfolding and enfolding in which image, information, and the infinite interact: image is an interface to information, and information (such as computer code or the words of the Qur’an) is an interface to the infinite. After demonstrating historically how Islamic aesthetics traveled into Western art, Marks draws explicit parallels between works of classical Islamic art and new media art, describing texts that burst into image, lines that multiply to form fractal spaces, “nonorganic life” in carpets and algorithms, and other shared concepts and images. Islamic philosophy, she suggests, can offer fruitful ways of understanding contemporary art."
Thanks to Charles Cameron for alerting us to this work. - TC
BUNTING, Basil Cheesman (1900-1985), British poet, linguist, translator, journalist, diplomat, and spy.
... In 1942, during the Second World War, Bunting joined the Royal Air Force; because of his knowledge of Persian he was sent to Iran, first as an interpreter, rising to the rank of Squadron Leader, based within the Baḵtiāri region, and later starting work as an intelligence officer for MI6. He is thought to have quelled a German supported Baḵtiāri uprising (Alldritt, p. 103). In Iran he quickly mastered many of the local dialects. His squadron was moved to the Mediterranean in 1943. Towards the end of the War, Bunting was ordered back to London and then appointed vice-consul in Isfahan, of which he became an avid admirer. His job combined espionage and diplomacy; he had to deal with both American and Russian Intelligence Services. After 18 months in Isfahan, he was recalled back to England (June 1946). In the spring of 1947 he was once more sent to Iran as Chief of Political Intelligence in Tehran. He traveled extensively within Iran during his service. During his first year in Tehran he met and fell in love with the fourteen-year-old Sima Alladadian (b. 1931), an Armenian Kurd, thirty years his junior, whose sister was married to another British Agent, Ronald Oakshot. They married on the 2nd Dec. 1948, the marriage lasting until 1979. Because of his marriage to an underage girl Bunting lost his position at the British Embassy, but continued his important intelligence work under the guise of being correspondent forThe Timesin Tehran; he retained this post until April 1950. His contract withThe Timeswas not renewed after Sima at the age of fifteen gave birth to their first child, Sima-Maria, in January 1950. They left Iran in April. .. Bunting was reappointedTimescorrespondent in Oct. 1951 but was expelled by the government of Prime Minister Mossadeq in April 1952...
His interest in Persian had started in early 1930 when he had picked up a volume of theŠāh-nāmain French in Genoa; he took it to Rapallo and read it for the Pounds. Seeing his enthusiasm Pound bought him a three-volume copy of the original, and with the help of Richardson’s dictionary Bunting taught himself to read Persian. His enthusiasm for Ferdowsi is immortalized in Ezra Pound’s Canto 77: “If Basil sing of Shah Nameh” ...
Bunting loved and admired many of the early Persian poets. He wrote extensively about them to Louis Zukofsky and in his introduction to Omar Pound’s translations (1970). The Collected Poems (1968) contains “Overdrafts” from Ferdowsi, Rudaki, Manučehri, Saʿdi and one rubaiʿ of Hafez, which was originally sent in a letter to Zukofsky but appears as Ode I. 28 under his own name. His justification was that there was not “much of Hafiz left in the product.”... His aversion towards any kind of mysticism has stripped his translations of Hafez of any Sufi implications. He wrote “Persian poetry has suffered badly from neoplatonic dons determined to find an arbitrary mysticism in everything...” (read the entire entry here). And see this review of his Complete Poems.