"...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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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Divine Twin in Late Antiquity

I have in hand a draft copy of an essay that will be of considerable interest to students of Corbin:

"A unus-ambo anthropology: The Divine Twin in the Gospel of Thomas, the Cologne Mani Codex, and Plotinus' Enneads," by Charles M. Stang , Asst. Professor of Early Christian Thought, Harvard Divinity School.

Dr. Stang writes, "A version of this essay was delivered at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. It will appear in a forthcoming volume edited by Kimberley Patton, entitled Gemini and the Sacred: Twins in Religion and Myth (I.B Tauris). This essay is an attempt to sketch out the contours of a new research project on the theme of the divine twin or double, tentatively titled "When You Become Two: The Divine Twin in Late Antiquity." The book owes quite a bit to Corbin's opening two chapters of L'homme lumiere. It will have chapters devoted to the Gospel of Thomas, the Acts of Thomas, the Hymn of the Pearl, the Cologne Mani Codes (and other Manichean literature), and Plotinus. Perhaps other chapters on Plato (Phaedrus and Symposium) and Hermeticism."

Here are the opening paragraphs of Stang's essay:
In 1971, Henry Corbin published a short book by the title of L'homme de lumiere dans le soufisme
Ostensibly this book explores symbols of light in the writings of several medieval Persian
sufis, but Corbin begins with an exploration of "an innovation in philosophical anthropology" from
antiquity, a notion that "the individual person as such ... has a transcendent dimension at his
disposal," "a counterpart, a heavenly 'partner,' and that [the person's] total structure is that of a biunity,
a unus-ambo." Corbin traces this unus-ambo anthropology through a variety of sources from the
ancient Eastern Mediterranean up to and including the Iranian plateau. An unus-ambo anthropology
suggests that what it means to be properly human is not to be a single, integrated subject - to be
oneself, so to speak - but somehow to be one and two simultaneously. In several of the sources
Corbin considers, such an anthropology is figured as one's encounter with one's divine double or
twin. In other words, these sources imagine that only when one encounters one's divine double or
twin, only when one recognizes that one is and has always been two, does one (now a one-yet-two,
or unus-ambo) become a proper human self.

Among the sources to which Corbin turns is the small body of literature associated with the apostle Judas Thomas, who is said to have been the "twin" (didymus) of Christ - although what "twin" means in this context is unclear. Another source for him is Manichaean literature, wherein it is said that the prophet Mani was twice visited by his divine twin, heavenly companion or counterpart. Yet another is Plotinus' Enneads, where it is said that the self is divided between lower and higher halves. Corbin, I believe, is correct that there is a peculiar anthropology animating these three roughly contemporary corpora. Together these three offer a picture of human selfhood as being properly one and yet two, an anthropology according to which the inauguration of an intimate relationship with the divine is marked by an encounter with one's double or twin. All three offer an anthropology suspicious of simple singularity and easy integration, an alternative anthropology that relies on the figure of the twin to gesture at the baffling coexistence of singularity and duality. In what follows, I will explore this alternative, unus-ambo anthropology by an examination of selections from these three corpora...

[The Cologne Mani Codex reproduced here]

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