"...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.
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."
Many thanks to Hadi Fakhoury for alerting me to this book. He suggests that Berdyaev was a major influence on Henry Corbin. Nicolaus notes (p. 7) Corbin's recognition of the link between Jung's "sophiology" and Bulgakov's - and by implication that of Berdyaev who Corbin knew in the 1930's. As Fakhoury points out, Corbin's interest in Berdyaev's work was life-long and he was elected President of the Berdyaev Association in 1974.
"Georg Nicolaus' writing leaps beyond mere comparison of systems of Depth Psychology and spirituality, establishing a foundation for a true Spiritual Psychology. Depth psychology has long needed a balancing of the dark interior sufferings of the psyche with the soul’s openness to the truth of Divine radiance. Here it is!" - Robert Sardello, author of Silence: The Mystery of Wholeness and Director of The School of Spiritual Psychology, USA
"Jung and Berdyaev were self-consciously modern thinkers with very different backgrounds: Swiss Protestantism and Russian Orthodoxy. Central to them both was the notion of the person, not as a given, but as a creative opportunity. Dr Nicolaus’ thoughtful book is the first to bring their ideas into dialogue." - Andrew Louth, Professor of Patristic and Byzantine Studies, Durham University, UK
Explores the necessity of enabling the imagination to prevail as part of an anti-reductionist approach, to philosophical theology, if we are to engage with God’s action in the world.
Douglas Hedley is Reader in Hermeneutics and Metaphysics and Fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge, UK. A past President of the European Society for the Philosophy of Religion, he has been visiting Professor at the Sorbonne and holder of the Alan Richardson lectureship at Durham University. He has delivered the Teape Lectures in India in 2007. His former publications include Coleridge, Philosophy and Religion (Cambridge University Press).
"Living Forms of the Imagination is a compelling, erudite articulation and defense of the indispensable cognitive value of the imagination in the philosophy of nature and God. Elegantly written, this book draws on Platonic and Romantic traditions to create a brilliant challenge to contemporary, reductive naturalists and those who, following Ryle, advance a deflationary account of the imagination. This book is essential reading for those interested in the imagination, epistemology, naturalism, and the philosophy of religion." -Charles Taliaferro, Professor of Philosophy, St. Olaf College, MN, USA
“This is an impressively learned book. Imagination is a central component of humanity’s encounter with the world. Imagination can lea to conversion of heart and empowerment for action. While the author’s retrieval of Platonism and Romanticism may not answer fundamental contemporary issues in belief, it is very suggestive of new avenues of how to deal with the crisis of belief and unbelief.”–Lucien J. Richard, OMI, Catholic Library World
Apocalypse in Islam, Jean Pierre Filiu, University of California Press, 2011 (with a few references to Corbin)
From the Publisher: This is an eye-opening exploration of a troubling phenomenon: the fast-growing belief in Muslim countries that the end of the world is at hand—and with it the “Great Battle,” prophesied by both Sunni and Shi`i tradition, which many believers expect will begin in the Afghan-Pakistani borderlands. Jean-Pierre Filiu uncovers the role of apocalypse in Islam over the centuries, and highlights its extraordinary resurgence in recent decades. Identifying 1979 as a decisive year in the rise of contemporary millenarian speculation, he stresses the ease with which subsequent events in the Middle East have been incorporated into the intellectual universe of apocalyptic propagandists. Filiu also shows how Christian and Jewish visions of the Final Judgment have stimulated alarmist reaction in Islamic lands, both in the past and today, and examines the widespread fear of Christian Zionist domination as an impetus to jihad. Though the overwhelming majority of Muslims remains unpersuaded, the mounting conviction in the imminence of apocalypse is a serious matter, especially for those who are preparing for it.
Jean-Pierre Filiu is Associate Professor at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po) in Paris. Formerly a Visiting Professor at Georgetown University, he has extensive experience working with NGOs and as a diplomat in the Middle East. His writings about the Muslim world have been translated into a dozen languages.
JUSTER, Alain, « Angelologie et politique chez Henry Corbin », dans CEMOTI [Cahiers d'études sur la Méditerranée orientale et le monde turco-iranien], 1989, Janvier, no.7, pp. 95-107. (Thanks to Daniel Proulx)
Logos and Revelation: Ibn 'Arabi, Meister Eckhart and Mystical Hermeneutics, Robert J Dobie.
(Multiple references to Corbin) From the Publisher:
What is "mysticism" and, most importantly, how do the great mystical writers understand it? Logos and Revelation seeks to answer this question by looking closely at the writings of two of the most prominent medieval mystical writers: the Muslim, Ibn 'Arabi (1165-1240) and the Christian Meister Eckhart (1260-1328).
Through his careful examination of the writings of these men, Robert J. Dobie discovers that mystical reflection and experience are intrinsically and essentially tied to the "mystical" or "hidden sense" of the sacred text. Mystical reflection and experience are, therefore, at their roots interpretive or hermeneutical: the attempt by the mystical exegete to uncover through "imaginative reading" or philosophical analysis the inner meaning of revelation. What emerges is a theology of the Word (logos, verbum, ratio, kalima) in which it is the task of the mystical exegete to appropriate inwardly the divine Word that speaks in and through both the sacred text and all creation. What the mystical writer discovers is an increasingly fitting harmony between the text of revelation, properly interepreted and understood, and the inner dynamic of the soul's reaching out beyond itself toward the transcendent.
In contrast to modern notions of the phenomenon, Dobie argues that mystical reading is not about cultivating extraordinary personal experiences. Nor does it take readers doctrinally outside of, or beyond, religious traditions. Rather, mystical reading and listening should take us deeper into the sacred text and sacred tradition.
Most strikingly, strong analogies emerge between how Christians and Muslims appropriate inwardly this divine Word, which forms a real and solid basis for interfaith dialogue founded on a mutual listening to the divine logos.
Robert J. Dobie is associate professor of philosophy at LaSalle University. His specialized areas of interest are medieval Christian, Jewish, and Islamic philosophy; comparative philosophy; and metaphysics.
Praise for the Book:
"There is simply no book-length comparative work on these two axial figures, nor one which compares with this book for its thorough grasp of each figure. Dobie has mastered the texts of each, doing so with admirable clarity."--David Burrell, C.S.C., Hesburgh Professer Emeritus of Philosophy and Theology, University of Notre Dame
"Logos and Revelation is a rich, exhilarating book on two notoriously difficult and elusive thinkers. It is also a daring venture into the treacherous field of comparative mysticism. It succeeds on all counts. It is a major contribution."--Donald F. Duclow, professor of philosophy, Gwynedd-Mercy College
The H.D. Book The Collected Writings of Robert Duncan, Volume 1.
Edited and with an Introduction by Michael Boughn and Victor Coleman; University of California Press, 2010
Readers of this blog will know of Duncan's debt to Corbin, especially to Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi. This volume is the source for many of Duncan's comments on Corbin.
From the Publisher: This magisterial work, long awaited and long the subject of passionate speculation, is an unprecedented exploration of modern poetry and poetics by one of America's most acclaimed and influential postwar poets. What began in 1959 as a simple homage to the modernist poet H.D. developed into an expansive and unique quest to arrive at a poetics that would fuel Duncan's great work in the 1970s A meditation on both the roots of modernism and its manifestation in the work of H.D., Ezra Pound, D.H. Lawrence, William Carlos Williams, Edith Sitwell, and many others, Duncan's wide-ranging book is especially notable for its illumination of the role women played in creation of literary modernism. Until now, The H.D. Book existed only in mostly out-of-print little magazines in which its chapters first appeared. Now, for the first time published in its entirety, as its author intended, this monumental work—at once an encyclopedia of modernism, a reinterpretation of its key players and texts, and a record of Duncan's quest toward a new poetics—is at last complete and available to a wide audience.
La Hiérohistoire Le samedi 18 décembre 2010
à l’Ecole Normale Supérieure, 45 rue d’Ulm, 75005 Paris
Président de séance : Leili Anvar-Chenderoff (INALCO)
9h 30 : Philippe FAURE (Université d’Orléans), « Des "évènements dans le Ciel" - Hiérohistoire et mystère liturgique dans la tradition chrétienne médiévale. »
10 h 30 : Jaume FLAQUER (EPHE) « Un Souffle qui venait de Dieu : l’histoire du Fils de Marie d’après Ibn ‘Arabî »
11 h 30 : Denis GRIL (Université de Provence) « Herméneutique et hiérohistoire dans le commentaire de la Fâtiha chez Ibn ‘Arabî ».
14 h 30 : Jean CLERGUE (chercheur indépendant) « En quête de Henry Corbin, franc-maçon chevaleresque »
15 h 30 : Pierre LORY (EPHE – IFPO) « Les animaux ont-ils une part dans l’histoire sacrale des humains ? Réflexions sur l’Epître 22 des Frères Sincères (Ikhwân al-Safâ’) »16 h 30 : Stéphane RUSPOLI (chercheur indépendant) " Les Evangiles et les Esséniens"
A partir de 17h30, réception amicale à l’Hôtel Claude Bernard, 43 Rue des Ecoles, 75005 Paris
Notez dès maintenant les références du livre de Katayoun Roudhi : « L’ontologie du lieu ; voyage au pays du non-où », avec une préface de Christian Jambet (l’Harmattan, 2010). Il ouvre un horizon artistique contemporain sur l’oeuvre de Corbin.
A globally renowned collection of Islamic art is on view at De Nieuwe Kerk (Dam, International Exhibition Centre, Gravenstraat 17; 31-20-626-8168;www.nieuwekerk.nl) through April 17. Assembled by Prof. Nasser D. Khalili, a well-known scholar and benefactor, it includes over 500 objects, among them illuminated Korans and manuscripts, paintings, gold, jewels, textiles, ceramics, glassware, lacquerware, metalwork and wood carvings.
“The exhibit shows that Islamic art is a masterly expression not of a single national culture or civilization,” said Vincent Boele, curator of exhibitions for the museum, “but of many peoples joined by Islam for more than 1,400 years.”
The collection includes works originating from around the globe — China, Spain, India, Tunisia — many of them masterpieces. They include manuscripts dating from the 10th to the 19th century, jewelry set with precious stones, as well as vibrant enamels that belonged to India’s Mughal rulers and exquisite miniatures from India and Iran.
While the general perception of Islamic art is that it is always religious and without representations of humans and animals, this exhibition shows otherwise, including in miniature paintings. It also features many pieces with the calligraphic decoration and geometric patterns that have come to characterize Islamic art.
Professor Khalili has strong links with Oxford University, where he established a research fellowship in Islamic Art and endowed the Khalili Research Center for the Art and Material Culture of the Middle East. This is the first time his collection has been shown in The Netherlands.
Open Friday to Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is 15 euros (about $19.50).
This is just to let you know about 3 Sophia Centre conferences in 2011
On 4th-5th June 2011 our ninth annual conference, 'Sky and Symbol', will be held in Bath UK, and will address the role, nature and function of celestial symbolism. The keynote speakers will be Liz Greene (University of Wales Trinity Saint David and University of Bristol), Kristin Lippincott (The Exhibitions Team), Ilana Wartenburg (University College, London), Gary Wells (Ithaca College) and Elliot Wolfson (New York University). The web site is at http://www.historyofastrology.org.uk/conferences/symbolism/
We are also holding two promotional conferences for the MA in in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology, one in Zurich and one in Mansfield, Massachussets, the latter in easy reach of Boston and New York. Both will appeal to potential students but, we should stress, all are welcome. The details are:
13th-15th May 2011, 'Origins: the Babylonian and Egyptian Contribution to Western Astrology', with Nick Campion and Bernadette Brady, Mansfield, Massachusetts, USA. More details at
best wishes, Nick Campion, Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture, School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology, University of Wales Trinity Saint David. http://www.tsd.ac.uk/en/sophia/
L'ontologie du lieu, Voyage au pays du "non-où" comme le titre l'indique, est une initiation au voyage, au sens avicénien du terme. Une tentative de répondre au pourquoi de l'acte de création en général et en peinture en particulier, ceci en invitant le lecteur à s'interroger sur le sens premier du lieu où l'indicible de l'art habite. L'espace de l'acte créateur est mis en résonance avec le "monde imaginal", fondement de la pensée du philosophe iranien du XIIe siècle Sohravardi.
In Avicenna and the Visionary Recital Henry Corbin writes, "... the symbol is mediator because it is silence, it speaks and does not speak; and, precisely thus, it states what it alone can speak." (260) The Angel is " 'hermeneut of the divine silence' —that is, [the] annunciation and epiphany of the impenetrable and incommunicable divine transcendence." (55)
Jerome Rothenberg has posted his introduction to Murat Nemet-Nejat's forthcoming book The Spiritual Life of Replicants. (excerpt here) He begins,
"The poem The Spiritual Life of Replicants is infused with Sufi ideas, and this infusion results in a poetry which consists of movements of thought in a visual field. The reader experiences the movements as he or she is ensnared by them reading the poem. The thought patterns are arabesque, circuitous, tangential, reflecting the Sufi sense that reality is not stared at directly; but it can only be touched, glimpsed at reflectively, as fragments, the way, for instance, the reality of the wind can be seen (or heard) in the traces it leaves on the movements of branches. In this way the infinite - the invisible, the music of silence - descends to visibility." READ THE ENTIRE PIECE
I am delighted to announce that this superb lecture by Dr. John Carey can now be heard online at the Temenos Academy website here. The lecture has been presented in London and in Oxford. All students of Corbin will find it of the greatest interest. Carey's scholarship is first rate, and his analysis most penetrating.
The Role of the Grail in Henry Corbin's Thought
"Henry Corbin, one of the twentieth century's greatest scholars of the inspired Imagination, is best known for his studies of Shi'ite and Sufi spirituality; but his dedication to that dimension of reality which he called the mundus imaginalis led him to explore many other traditions as well. One theme which particularly captured his imagination was the image of the Grail. This lecture will look at what the Grail was for Corbin: at the versions of the story to which he refers, at the contexts in which he speaks of it, and at the hints of what he may have believed its essential significance to be."