Today I have signed a contract for the paperback version of my second book, The Problem of Disenchantment: Scientific Naturalism and Esoteric Discourse, 1900–1939. With a list price of $240, the hardback (Brill, 2014) hasn’t exactly been a coffee table book. (Content-wise it probably still isn’t.) The paperback will appear with SUNY Press (who also published my first book, Arguing with Angels), and hopefully we can cut the price close to 1/10th of the existing edition. Publication date still to follow.
"...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.
Monday, April 24, 2017
Henry Corbin, theologian and professor in Islamic Studies at the Sorbonne, is widely regarded as the West′s authority on Persian philosophy. Despite having died in 1978, he is not only revered in modern-day Iran, he has also been appropriated. By Marian Brehmer
An unremarkable street in the southern part of Tehran′s city centre, not far from the Armenian Embassy, bears the name of a French academic - ″Henry Corbin Street″. If you walk a few blocks further down Enghelab Street and visit one of the numerous bookshops opposite the University of Tehran, the same name will leap out at you from the philosophy shelves, printed on the spines of books placed prominently beside the works of Iranian academics.
No other European Iran specialist and scholar of Shia is as respected in modern-day Iran as the French philosopher and mystic Henry Corbin (1904-1978). There is no study of ancient Iran in which his name does not appear; no research on Iranian philosophy that does not build on his work. Corbin had a traditional Catholic education, before studying philosophy at the Sorbonne. At the age of 22, his intellectual journey eastwards began with the study of Arabic and Sanskrit.
Making the acquaintance of the “Imam of the Platonists”
In 1929, when Corbin was 25, the young Orientalist met the Islamic studies scholar Louis Massignon in Paris – an encounter which was to change his life. Massignon, a Catholic priest particularly famed for his research on the Islamic mystic Mansur al-Hallaj, introduced Corbin to the Iranian Sufi philosopher Shahab al-Din al-Suhrawardi. Massignon had just returned from Iran and handed over to Corbin a manuscript of Suhrawardi′s major work, the Hikmat-ul Ishraq, that he had brought back with him.
It was an act of providence that Corbin would later describe as ″inspiration from heaven″. He devoted most of the rest of his life to studying the works of Suhrawardi, whom he called the ″Imam of the Persian Platonists″. Suhrawardi, born in 12th-century Persia, is also known as Shaykh al-Ishraq, or Master of Illumination. Suhrawardi developed a complex philosophical system, in which the whole of creation is an emanation of the highest divine light.
Corbin saw his work on Suhrawardi as more than just an academic undertaking. ″Through my meeting with Suhrawardi my spiritual destiny for the passage through this world was sealed,″ the French scholar later revealed. Alongside the study of Platonism, Zoroastrianism and Islamic mysticism, Corbin delved into the German theological tradition, in particular the legacy of Martin Luther. In the 1930s, Henry Corbin published several translations of Suhrawardi′s works. At the same time, he was completing the first translation of Joseph Heidegger′s major work ″Being and Time″ into French. The two philosophers had met in Freiburg in 1931.
Making Eastern intellectual worlds comprehensible
Thanks to his far-sightedness, Corbin was able to look beyond the traditional boundaries of academic subject areas. Furthermore, he was just as much at home in Western as he was in Eastern schools of thought. He probably has no equal in the history of Oriental studies when it comes to making Eastern intellectual worlds comprehensible to the West. He was aided in this by a deep linguistic knowledge of Greek, Latin, German, Persian and Arabic. Corbin′s multilingualism enabled him to navigate between cultures, religions and philosophical traditions – and he did so at an intellectual level rarely found today.
Following a post at the French Archaeological Institute in Istanbul during the war years, Corbin travelled to Iran for the first time in 1945. Here he found not only a second homeland, but a wealth of research material: nothing substantial was known about Iranian philosophers in Europe. Corbin regarded ancient Persia as the point of intersection between the Eastern religions and the West.
Corbin′s explanation of Persia′s philosophical tradition and Shia philosophy to the West is regarded by Iranians today as a service to their country. After decades of imperialist intervention in Iran by Europe, which brought with it the production of a reductionist view of Iran, Corbin was a welcome cultural ambassador.
Conversion to Shia?
An article published in 2012 on the Iranian state news portal ″Farhang News″ even describes Corbin with certainty as a Shia. The text, under the headline ″How did a French Catholic become a Shia?″ outlines Corbin′s life story and describes his meeting with the Shia polymath Allamah Tabatabayi, who over the years in Tehran became Corbin′s most important teacher and mentor. Tabatabayi, himself the author of a 20-volume Koran exegesis, travelled from Qom to Tehran once a week to instruct his French pupil in Shia philosophy.
Tabatabayi saw Corbin as a gift from God, a man who, with the aid of his sharp intellect, might be able to clear up the dominant misunderstandings about Shia Islam in Europe. Prior to this, the European image of Shia had been formed almost exclusively from Sunni sources, as Tabtabayi once explained.
The ″Farhang News″ article claims that under the influence of Tabatabayi′s incredible mind, Corbin converted to Shia. Further, it says that in Corbin′s eyes, Shia was the only religion that had retained its original character – and that he even advocated on behalf of Shia at conferences in France.
But the article probably says more about how a personality like Corbin could be co-opted by the present-day Islamic Republic than it does about the reality of his life. The Corbin scholar Tom Cheetham, author of five books on Corbin′s life′s work, is convinced that despite his spiritual connection to Shia, he was not a Muslim. Corbin, in Cheetham′s view, was ″neither Jew nor Christian nor Muslim but rather something both very ancient and radically new.″
In 1976, when Corbin himself was asked by a journalist who he really was, in view of his multifaceted life′s work, he replied – in a language fitting for a mystic and philosopher who lived between cultures: ″I am neither a Germanist nor an Orientalist, but a Philosopher pursuing his Quest wherever the Spirit guides him. If it has guided me towards Freiburg, towards Tehran, towards Isfahan, for me the latter remain essentially ′emblematic cities′, the symbols of a permanent voyage.″
© Qantara.de 2017
Translated from the German by Ruth Martin
Posted by Tom Cheetham at 8:31 AM
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Here's a bit of good news
Click on image to enlarge
Analyzes the place of beauty in the Sufi understanding of God, the world, and the human being through the writings of Sufi scholar and saint Rūzbihān Baqlī.
According to Muhammad, “God is beautiful and He loves beauty.” Yet, Islam is rarely associated with beauty, and today, a politicized Islam dominates many perceptions. This work tells a forgotten story of beauty in Islam through the writings of celebrated but little-studied Sufi scholar and saint Rūzbihān Baqlī (1128–1209). Rūzbihān argued that the pursuit of beauty in the world and in oneself was the goal of Muslim life. One should become beautiful in imitation of God and reclaim the innate human nature created in God’s beautiful image. Rūzbihān’s theory of beauty is little known, largely because of his convoluted style and eccentric terminology in both Persian and Arabic. In this book, Kazuyo Murata revives Rūzbihān’s ideas for modern readers. She provides an overview of Muslim discourse on beauty before Rūzbihān’s time; an analysis of key terms related to beauty in the Qur’ān, Ḥadīth, and in Rūzbihān’s writings; a reconstruction of Rūzbihān’s understanding of divine, cosmic, and human beauty; and a discussion of what he regards as the pinnacle of beauty in creation, the prophets, especially Adam, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and Muhammad.
“Murata opens up a vista on Islam that nobody talks about anymore: the Sufi vision of Islam as a religion of love and adoration of beauty. This is a fascinating book and an impressive achievement. I predict that it will remain the central work on the metaphysics of beauty in Sufism for decades to come.” — Leonard Lewisohn, Senior Lecturer in Persian, University of Exeter
Kazuyo Murata is Lecturer in Islamic Studies at King’s College London and coeditor (with Mohammed Rustom and Atif Khalil) of In Search of the Lost Heart: Explorations in Islamic Thought byWilliam C. Chittick, also published by SUNY Press.
Posted by Tom Cheetham at 8:18 AM
Thursday, April 6, 2017
Shipping outside the US is available.
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Posted by Tom Cheetham at 8:58 PM
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
BUCHREIHE CUSANUS XXI: CASARELLA
Buchreihe Cusanus XXI: Casarella
Word as Bread
This study examines the Verbum speculation of Nicholas of Cusa. The investigation concentrates equally on the concept of language that he inherited from medieval and Quattrocento sources and on the Christian theology of the Word that he wove together using his own resources and distinctive approaches. It includes a consideration of the resonances between Gadamer’s hermeneutical theory and Cusanus’s unfolding of a productive and rhetorically-oriented concept of the Word. The next section offers a detailed examination of the medieval and humanistic sources for his theology of the Word, paying special attention to Albertism, Ramon Llull, and the role played by Heymeric of Camp. This study highlights a development in Cusanus’s thought that takes place after 1450 towards a speculative synthesis of human ars through the semiotic appearance of the power and intentionality of the word. It is also argued that even in the late works Cusanus does not submit to the nominalist tendencies of the via moderna. A penultimate section offers a detailed study of the role of faith in the acceptance of the divine Word. Cusanus fuses the unformed discursive knowledge that is known by analogy with the formal certainty received through intellectual vision. Faith and speculative knowledge unite to lead the believer beyond the images that words convey to the unifying image of the divine Word. The last section reviews recent literature on language and theology in Nicholas of Cusa and indicates a path as to how research on the speculative thought of Cusanus and on intercultural theology could move forward together in the future.
Über den Autor
Peter Casarella received his PhD from the department of ReligiousStudies at Yale University. In 2007 he was appointed as a Professorin the Department of Catholic Studies at DePaul University in Chicago. In 2008 he was named the founding Director of DePaul’s Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology. In 2013 he joined the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame as an Associate Professor to teach systematic theology and help with the doctoral program in World Religions and World Church. At Notre Dame‘s Kellogg Institute for International Affairs, he directs the Latin American North American Church Affairs project.
Saturday, March 11, 2017
280 pages | 1 table | 6 x 9 | © 2011
In Imagination, Meditation, and Cognition in the Middle Ages, Michelle Karnes revises the history of medieval imagination with a detailed analysis of its role in the period’s meditations and theories of cognition. Karnes here understands imagination in its technical, philosophical sense, taking her cue from Bonaventure, the thirteenth-century scholastic theologian and philosopher who provided the first sustained account of how the philosophical imagination could be transformed into a devotional one. Karnes examines Bonaventure’s meditational works, the Meditationes vitae Christi, the Stimulis amoris, Piers Plowman, and Nicholas Love’s Myrrour, among others, and argues that the cognitive importance that imagination enjoyed in scholastic philosophy informed its importance in medieval meditations on the life of Christ. Emphasizing the cognitive significance of both imagination and the meditations that relied on it, she revises a long-standing association of imagination with the Middle Ages. In her account, imagination was not simply an object of suspicion but also a crucial intellectual, spiritual, and literary resource that exercised considerable authority.
Posted by Tom Cheetham at 6:21 PM
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Saturday, February 11, 2017
from The Heterodoxology Blog:
"The latest issue of Aries has just been published: A special issue on Esotericism and the Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR), edited by Markus Altena Davidsen and myself. As we explain in our editorial, “What Cognitive Scienece Offers the Study of Esotericism”, Western esotericism and CSR have developed in parallel over the past couple of decades, each, in their own ways, pushing the academic study of religion into new territory. Given that esotericism is full of psychologically rich sources (from visions and trances to hidden correspondences and esoteric hermeneutic techniques), it seems that much could be gained from bringing these two fields together. My Occult Minds project has already been taking steps in this direction. The intention behind the Aries special issue, however, is to push this agenda in a collaborative way, by publishing articles on esoteric subject matter informed by a range recent theories of cognition, together with a response article by someone in the field of CSR. We were happy to get Jesper Sørensen in this role, a central figure in the “Aarhus school” who has worked on problems that are directly relevant to esotericism." ... READ MORE
Posted by Tom Cheetham at 11:00 AM
Friday, February 10, 2017
Corbin has sometimes been accused of coming from the same right-wing tradition as Julius Evola. Although he did have some elitist tendencies, and his political sensibilities were entirely undeveloped and naive, the whole tenor and intention of Corbin's ecumenical and inclusive work stands in stark opposition to the fundamentalism and ethnic supremacism of the "fascist Traditionalists" who used religion as justification for their vile political intentions.
By JASON HOROWITZ FEB. 10, 2017 NYTimes
But for all the examination of those remarks, a passing reference by Mr. Bannon to an esoteric Italian philosopher has gone little noticed, except perhaps by scholars and followers of the deeply
taboo, Nazi-affiliated thinker, Julius Evola. "The fact that Bannon even knows Evola is significant," said Mark Sedgwick, a leading scholar of Traditionalists at Aarhus University in Denmark.... READ MORE
Sedgwick has a relevant post on Corbin etc HERE
Posted by Tom Cheetham at 11:02 AM
Friday, February 3, 2017
If a butterfly in Brazil can change the weather of the Americas and by extension the world (and even if it cannot), the great hope animating this fine book is that the sheer beauty of thought can transform the beleaguered weather of our human conditon. Such courage is exemplary and inspiring. And real. In addition, the reader of Imaginal Love will get a clear picture of the profound and productive, yet complex, relation between Hillman and Corbin and gain an appreciation for the latter’s influence on the more purely artistic milieux of the later 20th century North American scene. Beautifully written, Cheetham's book gives us a taste for the sacramental value of metaphor and therefore transformation: a splendid reading experience. - Todd Lawson, Professor Emeritus of Islamic Studies, University of Toronto
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
The Imaginal World and Modern Oblivion: Kiarostami’s Zig-Zag
Filozofski vestnik | Volume XXXVII | Number 2 | 2016 | 21–58
A zigzag path carved into a hill winds from base to crest, where it is crowned by a lushly-leafed tree standing solitary and upright like a kind of hieratic bouquet: this image recurs in three ¨lms – Where Is the Friend’s House? (1987); Life and Nothing More (1992); and Through the Olive Trees (1994) – which critics refer to as “the Koker trilogy,” simply because they are all set in the same location, the village of Koker in Northern Iran. Easily mistaken for a “found” image, part of the natural geography of the films’ actual setting, the recurrence of the image would seem to raise no questions nor require explanation. And yet there can be no confusing this image with natural geography, for as we learn from interviews, the films’ director, Abbas Kiarostami, did not just stumble upon this peculiar landscape while scouting locations. He had his ¨lm crew carve the pronounced zigzag path into the hill. An articial landscape, then, inserted by Kiarostami into the natural setting, it replicates, as it turns out, a miniature found in a manuscript executed at Shiraz in southern Persia at the end of the fourteenth century. In the miniature, just as in the Koker trilogy, a sinuous path curls up the side of a hill atop which sprouts a single, °owering tree. This miniature graces the cover of Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth, a book on Islamic philosophy in which the book’s author, the infuential Iranologist, Henry Corbin, praises the miniature as “the best illustration… which has come down to us today” of what he calls “visionary geography.” Distinct from natural geography or physically “situated space,” which is organized according to pre-established coordinates, visionary geography is, instead, “situative.” Neither purely abstract nor purely concrete and sensible, visionary geography is a “third” or intermediary realm between the abstract and the sensible; it functions as a creative forecourt of sensible reality, as the origin of [actual] spatial references and [that which] determines their structure.” In this realm the sense-perceptible is raised and pure intelligibility lowered to the same level, matter is immaterialized and spirit corporealized or, “to use a term currently in favor,” Corbin adds, “an anamorphosis is produced.” In Arabic this intermediate space is called alam-al-mithal: Corbin translated it: monde imaginal, the imaginal world...
Posted by Tom Cheetham at 9:46 AM
Thursday, January 19, 2017
“The Possibility of Traversing The Imaginal Knowledge- Remarks of Muhammad B. Abd Al-Jabbār Al-Niffarī on Vision (Ru’yah) and Absence (Ghaybah)”
Journal of Faculty of Theology of Bozok University,
10, 10 (2016/10) pp. 165-183.
Among the various aspects those make the Sūfī world view unique, the lore or the knowledge attained through the purification of the self plays a vital role. For, it has its roots in Revelation. Despite the diversity in methods (usūl), many representatives of Sūfī thought are in agreement concerning the nature of this profound knowledge. The ways differ in accordance with the capacity of the ones who demand it. However, the authenticity of it enables seekers to lead a life akin to that of the Perfect Man. In order to gain this sort of inward knowledge, the sufīs appeal to the opinions of the masters of theoretical Sufism (irfān-i nazarī) who define the ways to understand the truth that lies behind the veils. One of these masters is Muhammad b. Abd al-Jabbār al-Niffarī, the writer of al-Mawaqif wa al-Mukhatabat. Niffarī’s work consists of mawqifs those written in an almost abstruse language. Niffarī explains many sufi terms including the staying, veil, gnosis, vision, etc. skilfully. In this article, we will try to explain the nature of veils and unveiling in the context of vision as a suprarational means of attaining the truth. Then we will try to find out the role of vision through imagination. Finally, we will try to explain the relation of vision with the absence.
Keywords: Staying, vision, absence, gnosis, veil
Thursday, January 12, 2017
The Unseen Partner
Love & Longing in the Unconscious
Don't miss this gorgeous book! I have waited years with great anticipation for this book.
It is even more beautiful than I expected. It's really a volume to treasure. My congratulations
to the author for the perfect completion of a long labor of love. Here's my
to the author for the perfect completion of a long labor of love. Here's my
contribution to the small flood of positive reviews:
"In the tradition of Jung’s Red Book and Edinger’s The Living Psyche, Diane Croft’s The Unseen Partner is a beautifully illustrated, gorgeously produced and deeply moving account of personal transformation. Croft’s presentation of her own visionary recital in the company of the invisible guide who dictated these poems will be inspiration and solace to all who find themselves suddenly strangers in the strange and often frightening realm of the autonomous psyche. We should be grateful for such a gift." - Tom Cheetham
Visit the website for more reviews and details about this book. Here is an introduction:
The Unseen Partner records one woman's descent into the collective unconscious, a universal field of reality transcending time, space, and matter. For three years, the author recorded the primordial poetry she found there. It took almost two decades of struggle to make sense of the experience and to write about it in this book.
Drawing heavily on the discoveries of C.G. Jung, as recounted in his Red Book, this book explains our human need for the transcendent -- a dimension not somewhere else, but inextricably a part of us. Her living account demonstrates that we live in both a physical world and a spiritual realm simultaneously.
It is also available on amazon.
Posted by Tom Cheetham at 2:46 PM
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
The Octopus: A Meditation on Creative Imagination
by Tom Cheetham
Phi Beta Kappa Lecture
The Connecticut College Department of Philosophy,
Blaustein Center for the Humanities,
March 29, 2013
Posted by Tom Cheetham at 12:19 PM
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Cosmopolis, no. 3-4, 2016
Daniel Proulx, philosophe et religiologue. Spécialiste de la pensée de Henry Corbin et du rôle de l’imagination dans l’expérience spirituelle, il tente de contribuer à un renouveau des études sur Henry Corbin en valorisant l’aspect philosophique de son œuvre. Il poursuit actuellement un doctorat de philosophie à l’Université catholique de Louvain sur la conception de l’histoire chez Henry Corbin. Il est membre actif des associations des amis de Henry Corbin et de Gilbert Durand.
En reversant le rapport usuel à l’espace et à la lumière James Turrell, ne propose pas une simple modification ou altération d’un espace, il propose, en faisant de la lumière, non pas ce qui fait voir une œuvre, mais l’œuvre elle-même, une véritable transfiguration qui laisse un instant transparaître ce que l’on pourrait facilement caractériser comme la nature spirituelle d’un espace. Ce texte propose une analyse de l’œuvre de Turrell en se demandant si son travail n’est pas une représentation visuelle, mais aussi expérientielle pouvant aider les philosophes à comprendre les nombreuses descriptions mystiques qui font appel à la lumière.
Posted by Tom Cheetham at 11:50 AM