"...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, December 1, 2009

More on J.G. Hamann

A bit more than halfway through David Bentley Hart's review of Thomas Oden's The Humor of Kierkegaard I was surprised and delighted to find a wonderful and fairly extended discussion of J.G. Hamann, who has been mentioned here more than once as a major influence on Corbin. In his review, The Laughter of the Philosophers, (First Things, Jan 2005) Hart writes,

"Johann Georg Hamann (1730-88) is, by any measure, an obscure figure, little known outside the exclusive circles of a certain very rarefied kind of scholarship, hardly read at all even in his native Germany, and perhaps truly understood by next to no one. And yet it would be difficult to exaggerate not only the immensity of his influence upon all the great European intellectual and cultural movements of his age, but his continued significance for philosophers and theologians. A friend (and antagonist) of Kant’s, an inspiration to Herder and Jacobi, read and admired by the likes of Goethe, Schelling, Jean Paul, and indeed Kierkegaard, he is the only figure to whom Hegel felt it necessary to devote a long monograph. Today, however, his importance is scarcely a rumor even to the very literate, and the best known book about him in English is a ghastly, feeble, and imbecile squib by one of the twentieth century’s most indefatigably fraudulent intellectuals, Isaiah Berlin. [he is referring to Berlin's Magus of the North - TC] The young, gifted scholar John R. Betz, of Loyola College in Baltimore, is due soon to produce what promises to be the definitive appreciation of Hamann in English, which may go some small way towards reviving interest in this miraculous man; but, at present, he remains all but forgotten."

Since this was written, Betz's book has appeared: After Enlightenment: Hamann as Post-Secular Visionary. It is the only book on Hamann in English besides Berlin's (& I share Hart's opinion of that tome though I hope I wouldn't be quite so unkind). I highly recommend Hart's entire review (and his books as well - he is an erudite and most interesting theologian of the highest caliber).

For Hamann himself in English, see Cambridge University Press, Hamann: Writings on Philosophy and Language, edited by Kenneth Haynes, 2007.

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