"...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.

Search The Legacy of Henry Corbin: Over 800 Posts

Saturday, May 29, 2010

L' islam sera spirituel ou ne sera plus
Éric Geoffroy
Éditions Seuil, mars 2009
(see the author on video HERE)
Pierre Lory
Directeur du département Études arabes, médiévales et modernes
de l'Institut français du Proche-Orient
et Directeur d'études à l'École Pratique des Hautes Études

Mardi 22 juin 2010, de 18h à 20h
Salle Maurice et Denys Lombard
96 bd Raspail, 75006 Paris


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Coming Into the World: Henry Corbin & the Exegesis of the Soul

I will be publishing a pair of essays in the next two issues of Sacred Web, 25 (Summer - to be available in June or July) and 26 (Winter). These provide readings of two important  texts of Corbin's. I'll post a note when these issues appear. Below is a brief excerpt from the first essay (without footnotes).

Coming Into the World - Henry Corbin & the Exegesis of the Soul:  Part I – Cyclical Time

In what follows we will be trying to set out the “schema of the worlds” in which Corbin finds his key concepts – ta’wil perhaps pre-eminent among them. Two texts in particular will claim our attention: the essay on “cyclical time” that Corbin wrote for the 1951 Eranos Conference when he was 48 years old, and some sections from his first major book Avicenna and the Visionary Recital, published in French in 1954.  They are important early products of his maturity as a scholar and thinker, and are exceptionally rich and dense with ideas. A close reading shows that very many of the major themes of his later work are already present. This alone makes these texts worthy of attention. They are also the first of his works to be published in English and therefore the first to be read by any number of non-specialist readers. Both appeared as part of the Bollingen Series, established by the Bollingen Foundation to make available the works of C.G. Jung and his colleagues at Eranos.  And both were read by Charles Olson, who seems to have been the first major American poet to have come across Corbin’s writing. Olson had a significant influence on the dissemination of Corbin’s work beyond the community of orientalists in the English-speaking world. This is a further reason to look closely at these foundational texts.
    Some of the history of the reception of Corbin’s work among American poets has been chronicled and analyzed by the English poet, critic and teacher Eric Mottram (see here).  His essay on the meaning of ta’wil for the practice of poetry reviews the influence of Corbin’s work on Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley and Robert Kelly among others. As he shows in some detail, the chief sources for Olson were the “Cyclical Time” essay and the Avicenna book, particularly certain portions of the latter. In all likelihood Olson also would have read Corbin’s “The Time of Eranos” which served as the introduction to Joseph Campbell’s 1957 collection Man and Time in which “Cyclical Time in Mazdaism and Ismailism” appeared. Duncan and the others had access to Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi which was published in English after Olson’s death. Mottram provides not only an account of the use these authors made of Corbin but in doing so, a reading of Corbin that repays further attention by all who are interested in the implications of Corbin’s work  for creative artists in the modern world. It is worth providing a reading of these texts that were studied with such intensity by these important figures in American literary life in the 20th century.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

from Jacob Frank’s The Words of the Lord

The following is from Jerome Rothenberg's Poems & Poetics blog. - This material is particularly relevant to Corbin's project to envision the prophetic tradition from the widest and most inclusive possible perspective. -

Reconfiguring Romanticism (42): from Jacob Frank’s The Words of the Lord

Translation from the Polish Manuscripts by Harris Lenowitz


[Originally written for Rothenberg & Robinson, Poems for the Millennium, volume 3, with passages adapted from A Big Jewish Book (a.k.a. Exiled in the Word), but never published as such. Jacob Frank, the eighteenth-century Jewish messiah, was one of a long chain of Messiahs from the time of Jesus and before. See also H. Lenowitz, The Jewish Messiahs: From the Galilee to Crown Heights, Oxford University Press, 1998.]

As a time of growing dislocations & deconstructions, the eighteenth-century saw changes of mind that reached into isolated corners of Europe, far removed from the strongholds of both the Enlightenment & the “natural supernaturalism” & radical mysticisms that were among the marks of an emerging Romanticism. The messianic Frankist movement as it affected eastern European Jews involved, like its literary & western counterparts, a shift in language & its attendant symbols that resembled the shifts emerging as well in the dominant cultures.

Of the work presented below, Harris Lenowitz writes as translator: “These are some of the sayings of Yankiev Leivich, Yakov ben Lev, who called himself Yakov Frank and whom some called Wise Jacob. Jacob Frank was a creature of Podolia, Turkey, Poland-in-its-disintegration. He traveled. His father was a traveling preacher. Frank was a peddler too and spoke everybody’s language: Balkan, Turkish, Yiddish, Polish, Ladino, with quotations, citations, and language play from Hebrew and Aramaic. He joined up with Sabbateans, followers of the messianic movement begun by Shabtai Zvi and Nathan of Gaza [in the seventeenth century], continued through Barukhya Russo [d. 1721], and temporarily short one messiah. With them he turned against the Talmud, into the Zohar, and out through the Sabbatean pore. He added some things to the movement: a new emphasis on the Virgin, a passage through Christianity, after the passage through Islam which Shabtai/Nathan originated, on the way to Esau. Perhaps more sex. He became a messiah to thousands of Jews.”

In the “words” written down by his followers, the mini-narratives show a range of transformative experiences that came to him, like vatic prose poems, in the form of dreams & visions or by observations, simple or not, of the people & events to which his way of life had brought him.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Art of Central Asia - Washington DC, May 22, 2010



Saturday, May 22, 2 PM. Meyer Auditorium
Free. Seating is on first-come, first-served basis.

After fifty years of isolation and two decades since the fall of the Soviet Union, Central Asian nations are re-connecting to the world and renegotiating relationships with one another through small but vibrant artistic communities. Leeza Ahmady, independent art curator and specialist in art from Central Asia, lectures on the struggles and successes of artists from Afghanistan and the former Soviet Republics of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan.

Born in Kabul, Afghanistan and based in New York, Ahmady has implemented innovative programs featuring a variety of art forms, notably as director of Asian Contemporary Art Week (ACAW), which is presented annually in museums and galleries throughout New York City. As part of an ongoing curatorial project, Ahmady has traveled widely in Central Asia, promoting the largely unknown artists of the region in various international art forums, including the Venice Biennale, Istanbul Biennale, and Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong.

 find us on flickr                        become a fan                      follow @ FreerSackler 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

George Steiner on the Secular Age

As a follow-up to my last post on David Bentley Hart's response to the "New Atheism" I can't forgo mentioning the work of George Steiner. As readers of my books will know, I have drawn on his writing repeatedly. A good introduction to his work, and a short 2002 lecture by Steiner can be read here (pdf). He is quoted in Elliott's introduction there as saying that central to his thinking "is my astonishment, naïve as it seems to people, that you can use human speech both to love, to build, to forgive, and also to torture, to hate, to destroy and to annihilate."  His books always amaze, challenge, entertain and provoke - I invariably learn from them. Of most significance to me in the last few years are Real Presences and Grammars of Creation.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hart on the New Atheists

I usually avoid postings that have little direct relevance to Henry Corbin, but a review essay by David Bentley Hart on the "new atheists" will be of interest to many readers of this blog. The essay, Believe It or Not is a review of 50 Voices of Disbelief and comes from First Things - it is a kind of "preview"of his recent book Atheist Delusions. Hart's comparison of Dennett, Dawkins, Hitchins et al. with Nietzsche is really nicely done. Hart is always entertaining. He is a powerful Orthodox Christian thinker and would be as dismissive and scornful of Corbin's docetism as he is of the flippant atheism he attacks here, but I generally learn something by reading his work and this short review is a nice counter to the nonsensical attacks on "religion" that have been most recently spawned by the horrors of violent fundamentalism.

Monday, May 17, 2010

AAHSC, 7 Rue Nicolas Houel, 76005 Paris,
Secrétaire général : Pierre Lory, Trésorier : Marc Gastambide


Le jeudi 17 mai 2010
à 18 heures - à la Sorbonne, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes - (esc. E, 1e étage à g., salle Mauss)

1. Rapport moral
2. Rapport financier
3. Exposé des activités de l’année, principalement de la 6ème Journée d’étude 
consacrée à Henry Corbin, le samedi 18 décembre 2010.
4. Questions diverses : autres projets, suggestions, informations.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Charles Olson Centennial Events

The Charles Olson Society of Gloucester, Massachusetts is organizing a series of events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Olson's birth. The main events will take place in downtown Gloucester on Columbus Day weekend (Friday, October 8 through Sunday, October 10), though other events will be held before the main festival. Details here.

(Readers of this blog will know of Olson's late and intense interest in Corbin. See Eric Mottram's essay.)

Photo here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Un monde ou l'amour devrait preceder toute connaissance...

Thanks to the indomitable Aziz Ibrahim we have at last the photographs of the final resting place of Henry Corbin and his wife Stella Leenhardt. 

This is from the obituary published in  Le Monde, October 10, 1978:

"The orientalist Henry Corbin, who died on October 7, 1978, was buried in the cemetery of Champeaux, Rue Gallieni, in the city of Montmorency, Val d' Oise."

The inscription on the grave stone is from the closing paragraph in his  review of Jung's Answer to Job, « La Sophia éternelle » (à propos du livre de C.G. Jung : Antwort auf Hiob), Revue de culture européenne 5, 1953.  In the French original it reads:

Un monde ou l'amour devrait preceder toute connaissance, ou le sens de la mort ne serait que la nostalgie de la resurrection.

In English: ...a world where love would precede all knowledge and where the sense of death would be only a nostalgic yearning for the resurrection...

You can zoom in on "A" on the map below: Rue Gallieni, 95160 Montmorency, France

* approximate times

View Larger Map

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hillman, Jung, Corbin

I've had a chance to watch nearly all of the DVD of James Hillman speaking at Pacifica on Jung's Red Book and active imagination, which I noted earlier here. He does indeed mention my work, though briefly. His point concerns Corbin's crucial linkage of Mulla Sadra's notion of the "intensity of being" with the practice of "creative" or "active" imagination. It seems to me that this lecture is very worthy of attention, though I wish they would lower their prices. The topic is of particular concern to me lately & I expect to have more to say about this, perhaps in the Oxford lecture this fall.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Charles Bernstein on History & the imaginal

 from Charles Bernstein, A Poetics  (p. 75)

But escape can be an image of release from captivity
in a culture that produces satisfaction as a means
of exploitation or pacification. The problem
with "escapist" literature is that it offers no escape,
narratively reinforcing our captivity.
To escape, however, if only
trope-ically, is not a utopian refusal
to encounter the realpolitik of history: it is a
crucial dialectical turn that allows imaginal place
outside history as we "know" it,
in order to critique it,
an Archimedean point of imaginative
construction, in which we can be energized,
our resources shored. The utopian, ecstatic
is not a refusal of history
but an envisionment of the indwelling
potentialities of history
that must be envisioned - audibly embodied -
in order to occur...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mohammed Arkoun

Thanks to Sayyed Mohsen Mousavi, who has linked to my page, I discovered the excellent Gifford Lectures webpage which has enough material to keep one busy for several lifetimes. As Mousavi notes, the text for Mohammed Arkoun's 2001 Lecture is online there:

The Unthought in Contemporary Islamic Thought 2001, Mohammed Arkoun 

From Arkoun's biography at the Gifford Lectures site: Professor Arkoun's early studies of the historian and philosopher Ibn Miskawayh established his scholarly reputation. He taught at Lyon 2 University (1969-1972) and at the New Sorbonne University of Paris (1972-1992). Additionally he has taught at UCLA, Princeton University, Temple University, the University of Louvain-la-Neuve, the Pontifical Institute of Arabic Studies in Rome and the University of Amsterdam. He is Emeritus Professor at the Sorbonne as well as Senior Research Fellow and member of the Board of Governors of the Institute of Ismali Studies. Professor Arkoun serves as a jury member for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. He has served as the scientific director of the magazine ARABICA and in 2002 he was a member of the international jury of the UNESCO Prize for the promotion of peace.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Why Translation Matters

Thanks to Ron Silliman for alerting his readers to this piece from Foreign Policy magazine by Edith Grossman.

A New Great Wall

Why the crisis in translation matters.

"One of the truly great war correspondents, a monumental figure who reported from Afghanistan for 20 years and won almost every literary prize offered in Italy; a humanistic French-Tunisian scholar who has sought a middle way between Islam and secularism; an Eritrean writer whose epic saga of his country's troubled history subverts both official versions, the Ethiopian and the American. They are some of the most important voices in the world today, honored intellectuals in their own countries. You're not likely to have heard of Ettore Mo, Abdelwahab Meddeb, or Alemseged Tesfai, however, because they are rarely translated into English. In the English-speaking world, in fact, major publishing houses are inexplicably resistant to any kind of translated material at all."  Read the entire piece here.

On Meddeb see the wikipedia entry with Bibliography including English titles.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Andrew Samuels and the mundus imaginalis

Thanks to David Tacey for alerting me to the fact that Andrew Samuels makes use of Corbin's idea of the mundus imaginalis in psychotherapeutic theory, following in some sense James Hillman's lead. See:

Samuels, A. (1985). 'Countertransference, the 'Mundus Imaginalis' and A Research Project, Journal of Analytical Psychology 30 (1), pp. 47–71.

Tacey writes: "This also seems to appear as Chapter 9 in his remarkable book, The Plural Psyche (1989).  I think you will see that these pieces secularize and broaden Corbin's concept of mundus imaginalis, to such an extent that Corbin would no longer recognize it." His comments seem accurate to me.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Institut d'Etudes de l'Islam et des Sociétés du Monde Musulman

Web Page Here: Institut d'Etudes de l'Islam et des Sociétés du Monde Musulman

Créé en 1999 par le Ministère de l'Éducation Nationale, de la Recherche et de la Technologie, au sein de l'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, l'IISMM met en oeuvre trois missions:
  • ouvrir un espace de collaborations et d'échanges entre chercheurs spécialisés dans l'étude du monde musulman (axes de recherche, séminaires de recherche, manifestations scientifiques);
  • diffuser un enseignement et proposer un soutien aux jeunes chercheurs;
  • contribuer à la diffusion des savoirs scientifiques sur l'islam et le monde musulman, par ses publications, une veille éditoriale, des cycles de conférences ouverts à un large public, des actions de formation à destination de professionnels dans les administrations publiques et les entreprises.
Localisé à Paris, l'Institut s'attache à coordonner ses actions pédagogiques et de recherche avec les autres pôles scientifiques en France et à l'étranger.

Below is the 12 page Bulletin for May 2010:

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A New Book by Peter Lamborn Wilson

Peter Lamborn Wilson knows Henry Corbin's work from the inside out.  (See his wikipedia entry - especially for the bibliography which has a fair number of entries of considerable interest). Don't miss his reviews of Corbin's  Man of Light and Temple and Contemplation. This new book, which I have not (yet) seen, seems worthy of note. (I would point readers to certain pages in David Abram's The Spell of the Sensuous, and also to some of Hamaan's writing for context).

Abecedarium - Alphapoetic meditation on the etymology of the English alphabet with diagrams by the author.

Peter Lamborn Wilson’s quick wit and poetic intelligence add immeasurably to the small store of recent art and poetry (Mac Low, Berman, Silliman, Bok, Johns, to name a few) celebrating or utilitizng the lore and wonder of alphabetic writing. As with Mac Low and Berman in particular, Wilson’s focus is on the Hebrew alphabet, coterminous with the Phoenician at the alphabet’s beginnings: a meditation, visual and verbal, on the shape, form, history, and praxis of the letters and signs in question. The resultant Abecedarium, reads like poetry or what we now take poetry to be: short and tight prose versets that bring to life a world of lore and tradition, and by so doing, make it new. A book to read again and again, and a lettristic delight.
—Jerome Rothenberg

Abecedarium by Peter Lamborn WilsonThis remarkable lexicon explores tensions between life in a world before the State and the emergence of the alphabet, or the origin of the world as we purport to know it. Amidst the reign and terror of nonsense, in a land where ‘everything is believable and nothing knowable,’ Peter Lamborn Wilson—at the peak of his extraordinary power—tutors us in the old ways in an offering of both knowledge and wisdom.
—Ammiel Alcalay