"...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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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Stranger Magic

Chatto & Windus (hardback) London 2011
Harvard University Press (hardback) USA 2012

Reviewed by Harold Bloom in the NYTimes:

Gardens of Unearthly Delights
‘Stranger Magic’ by Marina Warner
Published: March 23, 2012 

From the review:

"Warner wisely restricts her commentary to just 15 stories, all of which she begins by retelling in the spirit of a ­psychopomp guiding us into what the Sufi mystics of Persia called “the imaginal realm,” suspended between the empirical world and the totally visionary. She takes us into “stranger magic” in the hope that we will find ourselves there more truly and more strange. Her choice of narratives gives us jinn and peris (genies and fairies), magicians, speaking talismans and the archetypal figure of Aladdin, master of illusions, of flights and of vanishing acts."

From Warner's Introduction:

“It did not seem enough to invoke escapism as the reason for the popularity of ‘The Arabian Nights’ in the age of reason. Something more seemed to be at stake. Magic is not simply a matter of the occult or the esoteric, of astrology, Wicca and Satanism; it follows processes inherent to human consciousness and connected to constructive and imaginative thought. The faculties of imagination — dream, projection, fantasy — are bound up with the faculties of reasoning and essential to making the leap beyond the known into the unknown. At one pole (myth), magic is associated with poetic truth, at another (the history of science) with inquiry and speculation. It was bound up with understanding physical forces in nature and led to technical ingenuity and discoveries. Magical thinking structures the processes of imagination, and imagining something can and sometimes must precede the fact or the act; it has shaped many features of Western civilization. But its influence has been constantly disavowed since the Enlightenment and its action and effects consequently ­misunderstood.” 

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