"...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, January 24, 2017

The Imaginal World and Modern Oblivion: Kiarostami’s Zig-Zag by Joan Copjec

The Imaginal World and Modern Oblivion: Kiarostami’s Zig-Zag

Joan Copjec

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 artiœcial 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 •ƒ–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...


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