"...the Imagination (or love, or sympathy, or any other sentiment) induces knowledge, and knowledge of an 'object' which is proper to it..."
Henry Corbin (1903-1978) was a scholar, philosopher and theologian. He was a champion of the transformative power of the Imagination and of the transcendent reality of the individual in a world threatened by totalitarianisms of all kinds. One of the 20th century’s most prolific scholars of Islamic mysticism, Corbin was Professor of Islam & Islamic Philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris and at the University of Teheran. He was a major figure at the Eranos Conferences in Switzerland. He introduced the concept of the mundus imaginalis into contemporary thought. His work has provided a foundation for archetypal psychology as developed by James Hillman and influenced countless poets and artists worldwide. But Corbin’s central project was to provide a framework for understanding the unity of the religions of the Book: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. His great work Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi is a classic initiatory text of visionary spirituality that transcends the tragic divisions among the three great monotheisms. Corbin’s life was devoted to the struggle to free the religious imagination from fundamentalisms of every kind. His work marks a watershed in our understanding of the religions of the West and makes a profound contribution to the study of the place of the imagination in human life.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Mishkín Qalam

I am reminded by Farshid Kazemi of an online essay of mine from some years ago which eventually became a chapter in Green Man, Earth Angel"Within This Darkness." The illustration which the editor chose is, Farshid points out, a bit of calligraphy by the 19th century Bahá'í calligraphist Mishkín Qalam. (Also here.)

A collection of his calligraphy was compiled by Annemarie Schimmel and Vahid Rafati. In a note regarding Mishkín Qalam, Schimmel writes:

"Every visitor who comes to the Sackler Museum of Art at the Harvard University is attracted by a beautiful calligraphic picture showing a golden rooster on a radiant blue background -- one of the few items in the Near Eastern Galleries whose reproduction as a greetings card is available in the museum shop. We are often asked about the rooster's provenence and its meaning, and try to explain its importance to our visitors: throughout Iranian history the rooster was a bird connected with light, the herald of the true morning and, in the Islamic tradition, of the time for dawn prayer -- hence a bird whose picture evokes thoughts of clarity, and splendor, bahá. It is, therefore, not surprising that the leading Bahá'í caligrapher, Mishkín Qalam, has devoted some of his calligraphic paintings to the representation of this bird of light, made up from religious formulas." - My thanks to Farshid for these notes.

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