"...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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Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Act of Being by Christian Jambet

I'd like to call attention to the English translation of a work from one of Corbin's most illustrious students, Christian Jambet.

David Burrell begins his lengthy review (in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews here) as follows:

"A superb translation of L'acte de l'etre (Paris: Fayard 2002), this comprehensive presentation of Muhammad Ibn Ibrahim Sadr al-Din Shirazi [Mulla Sadra] will help western philosophers and theologians to come to appreciate the trajectory of Islamic thought which extends beyond the stereotype prevailing in the west: that Islamic philosophy all but evaporated after al-Ghazali's trenchant attack on Ibn Rushd [Averroes]. It rather moved back to the heartland from Andalusia, in the personages of Suhrwaradi, Ibn al-Arabi, and later, Mulla Sadra, as well as countless lesser luminaries, as Sayyed Hossain Nasr has been reminding us for some time. I came to realize the truth of Nasr's contention in the first Mulla Sadra conference in Teheran in 1999, where the participants were overwhelmingly impressed with the contemporary vigor of philosophy (and poetry) in Iran. That event gave me the opportunity to compare Mulla Sadra's attitude towards existence with that of Thomas Aquinas, using Henry Corbin's edition and translation of Mulla Sadra's Masha'ir [Les Penetrations Metaphysiques]."

Burrell's comparative essay can be read here as a pdf: "Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) and Mulla Sadra Shirazi (980/1572 – 1050/1640) and the Primacy of esse/wujûd in Philosophical Theology," David B. Burrell, Medieval Philosophy and Theology, Volume 8, 2 (September 1999), 207-219.

The book has also been reviewed in the Journal of Islamic Studies: here (1st page only; subscription required).

I make Jambet's Preface to the English Edition available here  in the hope that it will entice readers to embark on this journey.

The Act of Being - Christian Jambet - Preface to the English Edition

And those who can read the French should see this review / article in Le Monde from January 2003:
Christian Jambet, l'islam dans le désert Contre les extrémistes de la charia et contre le discours simpliste qui assimile l'islam au terrorisme, le philosophe tente, en explorant les textes, de faire entendre une voix dissidente.


  1. i wrote the review for JIS and can send you the word file if you want

  2. YES! Please do - I would be delighted if I could post it, or at least some excerpts - would that be possible? Please send to my eail - tcheetham@gmail.com