"...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.
Illuminated Verses explores some of the rich and varied poetic traditions of the Islamic world. This series of programs, organized by Poets House and City Lore, runs through May 7. The series continues our exploration of humanity's shared poetic legacy and our celebration of poetic traditions from around the globe.
Organized by Poets House & City Lore and presented in conjunction with the Asia Society & Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), Illuminated Verses is made possible through a special Bridging Cultures grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, with additional support from the Nathan Cummings Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
"Tom Cheetham has written a powerful book. With great talent, he shows how Henry Corbin's deep spirituality has the power to eliminate our "spiritual neediness," because it gives us what we are truly looking for: a non-literal god, a god that does not even ask to be called "God" (or "Goddess"), one that is the World, not beyond it. Cheetham's book should be required reading for all believers. He provides an alternative to the neurotic God complex that is tearing humanity apart. This book is much needed, offering a balm to wounds of the collective psyche..." - Ginette Paris, Author of Wisdom of the Psyche
"Cheetham’s passion for the material carries the reader into an ever-deepening appreciation of the huge importance of Henry Corbin for the re-valuation of vision and imagination. It seems to me a faultless book." – James Hillman
"Tom Cheetham addresses us lucidly and accessibly, in a prose often kindled into lyricism by his dedication to his subject. His enthusiasm is infectious, the range of his knowledge daunting, the depth of his commitment an inspiration. The book is full of wisdom... It holds open a door which, for some at least among Cheetham’s readers, may bring them face to face at last with their true nature." - John Carey. Full Review.
"Cheetham's passionate engagement with Corbin's thought transforms his 'research' into something more than scholarship. In approaching some rather abstruse and easily ridiculed religious traditions with rigour and a critical eye, he brings them alive for the post-psychological West… In our present world, with obscene indulgence and famine competing for headlines, Cheetham's accessible and thoroughly intelligent exposition of traditions of mysticism, poetry and gnosis that try to attack the roots of these horrors couldn't be more welcome… [R]unning throughout this valuable book is something immensely courageous, and perpetually relevant: 'a quest to be open to the world without fear of violation'." - The Dreamflesh Library.Full Review.
"Henry Corbin was one of the most profound and original thinkers of the 20th century and without any doubt at all one of the most undersung scholars of our age... This book by Tom Cheetham will be celebrated by all who have known this but somehow felt powerless to change the situation. His clear, lucid, profound reading of Corbin, his patient, knowing and sincerely humble voice, will serve to commend and demystify the timeless and urgent message found in his subject... One is tempted to say that anyone interested in anything must read this book. And I think I will." - Todd Lawson, Author of Reason and Inspiration in Islam
April 30: Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution
Present wherever there are Muslims, Sufis seek to personally experience the divine through art, music, poetry, self-discipline, and contemplation. This interdisciplinary conference explores the religious, political, and cultural manifestations of Sufism in South Asia, home to a third of the world's Muslim population, where Sufis have had a strong presence for almost a millennium.
Though it is often described monolithically as Islamic mysticism or spirituality, Sufism is remarkably diverse. Its definition has been debated both within and outside Islamic circles for centuries. The conference speakers--Sufis, scholars, and policymakers--enter this debate by presenting new perspectives on Sufi identities, their social roles in South Asia and worldwide, and issues confronting Sufis today.
The conference is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Please email Rahul S. Madhavan at email@example.com to register.
Sufi Music from South Asia: Salman Ahmad and the Chishty Sufi Sama Ensemble*
Saturday, April 30, 7:30 PM | Freer, Meyer Auditorium
Free tickets required*
Don't miss this rare opportunity to hear one of South Asia's leading ensembles of Sufi qawwali music, made famous in the U.S. by the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The Chisty Ensemble appears regularly at major Sufi shrines and festivals in India. For this occasion, the ensemble is led by guest artist Salman Ahmad (vocals and harmonium), founder of the South Asian rock band Junoon. He performed for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and was profiled in the PBS special The Rock Star and the Mullahs. Joining him are Dhruv Sangari, Ashlam Hussain, and Asraf Hussain, vocals; Amjad Hussain, dholak (double-headed drum); and Akhtar Hussain, tabla.
An Ascetic, India, Deccan Plateau, 17th century, 7.1 x 4.3 cm, Watercolor, ink, and gold on paper, Gift of Charles Lang Freer F1907.762; Image of guest artist Salman Ahmad.
*Free tickets are required. Up to four tickets per person can be reserved (for a service fee of $2.75 per ticket and $1.25 per order) beginning 10 am on Monday, April 18. Contact Ticketmaster at (202) 397-7328, (410) 547-7328,or (703) 573-7328; at ticketmaster.com; or at Ticketmaster walk-up locations. Tickets will also be distributed at the Meyer Auditorium beginning at 6:30 pm on the night of the concert.
Here, as promised earlier, is Kenneth Warren's essay delivered at the Soul in Buffalo Conference. Warren is the founder and editor of House Organ, a letter of poetry and prose. He edited and wrote an introduction with Fred Whitehead to The Whole Song: Selected Poems/Vincent Ferrini published by the University of Illinois Press in 2004. Captain Poetry’s Sucker Punch: A Guide to Poetic Aspirations and Punk Protrusions, 1980-2010 is forthcoming in 2011 from BlazeVOX Books.