"...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, October 7, 2014

Corbin & American Poetry - Robert Kelly

As I've mentioned before, Robert Kelly is one of the most important poets to have put Corbin's work to use. This new collection of essays is very much worth your attention. Though there is no explicit mention of Corbin in these 800 pages, there are three occurrences of ta'wil. On p 284 is the justly famous comment that "A poem is the ta'wil of the first word written down." Perhaps more striking to me is the commentary on Charles Olson and the Angel, which begins on 171 - Olson was, Kelly says, particularly in the late, post-Maximus work, a man in search of his Angel. [I have written about the Olson/Corbin connection many times, and Maud's excellent Charles Olson At the Harbor - see here for instance.] There is so much of interest in this immense volume that it seems to me indispensable.

A companion book, forthcoming [this Fall?] from Contra Mundum, A City Full of Voices, will include the full text of the seminal 1974 collaboration Ta'wil, Or How to Read which I have pointed to several times here. And I will whet the appetite of all with an interest by mentioning that this volume will also contain an essay by George Quasha, "Uncertainties," which discusses Kelly's poetics and the entire complex of issues involved with the poetics of ta'wil, the visionary recital, initiation, creative imagination and alchemy. It is, it seems to me, quite wonderful and utterly essential reading for anyone interested in these matters.

Thanks to Pierre Joris for co-editing these books and for drawing our attention to them.

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