"...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, September 30, 2011

Corbin - Hillman - Duncan

In a move that elegantly ties together many of the threads that have made up the last 20 years or so of my life, Robert Duncan dedicated one of the late poems in his Passages series, "Whose," as follows:

[for Jim Hillman's tribute to Henri Corbin The Thought of the Heart]

It was Hillman's 1979 Eranos lecture that first turned my attention, and that of many others I know, to Henry Corbin. In it he wrote,

"You who have been privileged at some time during his long life to have attended a lecture by Henry Corbin have been present at a manifestation of the thought of the heart. You have been witness to its creative imagination, its theophanic power of bringing the divine face into visibility. You will also know in your hearts that the communication of the thought of the heart proceeds in that fashion of which he was master, as a récit, an account of the imaginal life as a journey among imaginal essences, an account of the essential. In him imagination was utterly presence. One was in the presence of imagination itself, that imagination in which and by which the spirit moves from the heart towards all origination." -  James Hillman, The Thought of the Heart and the Soul of the World. Dallas: Spring Publications, 1992, 3. For more on Hillman's debt to Corbin see Archetypal Psychology, Volume 1 of the Uniform Edition of Hillman's works.

Duncan's poem can be found on page 263 of Ground Work: Before the War, In the Dark. Those interested in Duncan's relation to Hillman should search out a copy of Duncan's remarkable lectures to the Analytical Psychology Society of Western New York transcribed for Spring Journal (1996): Spring 59: Opening the Dreamway: In the Psyche of Robert Duncan (out-of-print but worth searching for). The audio recoding of the second lecture can be found here as "Reading on "Wind and Sea, Fire and Night" at the American Psychoanalytic Society, 1980." The audio of the first lecture will be available on PennSound in the near future.

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