"...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

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Turning Inside Out

I want to draw attention to the relation between Corbin's spiritual hermeneutics and the ecological phenomenology of the philosopher and ecologist David Abram. Their approaches to explaining the relations between language and the phenomenology of "turning inside out" seem to be diametrical opposites. Corbin is wholly committed to a hermeneutics of language that is theological and transformational - a "top-down" conception of hermeneutic phenomenology. Abram is wholly secular and his analysis of religious language is, in at least a simple sense, reductive and "bottom-up" as he wants to ground it in our immediate physical experience of the world. Both draw on Heidegger's phenomenology, but Abram turns to Maurice Merleau-Ponty, whereas Corbin turns to the Ibn 'Arabi and the Sufis. But things get complicated quite fast and I have long thought that a careful consideration of their opposing views of the nature of language, literacy, reading and the imagination is extremely fertile ground for thought. It may be that in the poetic functions of language their world-views come closest to touching. Much of my writing is implicitly a response to the approach that Abram so very ably articulates. His book The Spell of the Sensuous is truly a remarkable tour-de-force and not to be missed. What follows is an excerpt from my first book, The World Turned Inside Out :

The soul can only be at home in a world ensouled, animated with presences, which are here conceived as Angels. Only by turning inward can the true objectivity of the world of the Anima Mundi be found.

"...[F]or all our esotericists, the interior world designates the spiritual reality of the supersensible universe which, while a spiritual reality, is that which encircles and envelopes the reality of the external world... 'To leave' that which we commonly call the exterior world is an experience not at all 'subjective' but as 'objective' as possible, but it is difficult to transmit this to a spirit wanting to be modern."

Every birth requires the death of that which came before, and so it is here. The Prophet said, "You must die before you die!"  Corbin writes: "...to leave this world, it does not suffice to die. One can die and remain in it forever. One must be living to leave it. Or rather, to be living is just this."   This death to the world of Absence is a birth to the Presence of the World and takes place by a kind of inversion; it is a process of turning inside out. In this blossoming, this triumph of the esoteric, the soul finds that it was a stranger in the world in which it had lived, and that now it has come home:

"...[I]t is a matter of entering, passing into the interior and, in passing into the interior of finding oneself, paradoxically, outside... The relationship involved is essentially that of the external, the visible, the exoteric..., and the internal, the invisible, the esoteric, or the natural and the spiritual world. To depart from the where...is to leave the external or natural appearances that enclose the hidden realities... This step is made in order for the Stranger, the gnostic, to return home - or at least to lead to that return.
    "But an odd thing happens: once this transition is accomplished, it turns out that henceforth this reality, previously internal and hidden, is revealed to be enveloping, surrounding, containing what was first of all external and visible, since by means of interiorization one has departed from that external reality. Henceforth it is spiritual reality that...contains the reality called material."

In this treatment of the gnostic theme of the Stranger, there is no sense of the pessimistic and world denying kind of Gnosticism that seeks only to escape to the Beyond. The escape occurs in this world, by the spiritualization of this world, not by its rejection.

We encounter a strikingly similar phenomenology in David Abram's description of the reanimation of the sensuous world. His work, like Corbin's, is influenced by Heidegger as well as by direct contact with traditional cultures, in particular, those of Indonesia and Nepal. We find in this comparison evidence for the universality of this experience of the anima mundi. Abram too describes a process of "turning inside out."  He writes, in words that apply equally well to the phenomena that Corbin presents to us:

"As we become conscious of the unseen depths that surround us, the inwardness or interiority that we have come to associate with the personal psyche begins to be encountered in the world at large: we feel ourselves enveloped, immersed, caught up within the sensuous world. This breathing landscape is no longer just a passive backdrop against which human history unfolds, but a potentized field of intelligence in which our actions participate. As the regime of self reference begins to break down, as we awaken to the air, and to the multiplicitous Others that are implicated, with us, in its generative depths, the shapes around us seem to awaken, to come alive..." [SEE NOTE BELOW]*

Coming to consciousness in this way, and thus realizing that the realities of the soul, or of the psyche, are objective, all encompassing and ubiquitous, means that we are never alone again. In fact, it is only to the degree that we become conscious in this way that we can experience the light of that Presence which is the ultimate source of all personification, of all the presence required for the appearance of persons. Without some degree of this interiorization, without some sense for this anima mundi, we cannot experience persons at all. What we are then left with is a world of absence: of objects existing only in public space and historical time. Paradoxically, the world of the objective public, depends upon the gaze of "no one."  And so for Corbin, a world without Presence becomes a world in which there can no longer be persons.

* NOTE: Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous, p. 260. The last chapter in his book is called, in fact, "Turning Inside Out."  Abram is no Sufi and his approach differs in many important respects from Corbin's, particularly with respect to the status of spiritual reality.  Nonetheless they share a sense that imagination must be placed near the center of reality, and their works are mutually illuminating. For another approach to this Event see Hillman's treatment of the phenomenology of interiorization in Hillman, Anima: An Anatomy of a Personified Notion, 1985.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Robert Moss & Henry Corbin Update - 6/27

Dream teacher Robert Moss has posted a note about Corbin (and my first book) at his blog here. Moss cites Corbin as one of his "guiding lights." See his extensive webpage. He will be posting a series of entries on Corbin in the next days or weeks at his blog here.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Poetry, God and the Soul

Christian Wiman on Poetry, God and the soul. (in The American Scholar)

It is time that the stone grew accustomed to blooming,
That unrest formed a heart.

—Paul Celan

"Some modern philosophers (Heidegger, Kierkegaard) have argued that existential anxiety proceeds from being unconscious of, or inadequately conscious of, death. True, I think, but I wonder if the emphasis might be placed differently, shifted from unconscious reaction to unrealized action: that is, our anxiety is less the mind shielding itself from death than the spirit’s need tobe. It is as if each of us were always hearing some strange, complicated music in the background of our lives, music which, so long as it remains in the background, is not simply distracting but manifestly unpleasant, because it demands the attention we are giving to other things. It is not hard to hear this music, but it is very difficult indeed to learn to hear it as music." Read the entire essay here.

Christian Wiman is the editor of Poetry magazine and the author of two books of poems. His most recent book is Ambition and Survival.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Arts & Letters of Islam

This new initiative from  Malik Merchant, Editor/Publisher of simerg.com looks to be of considerable interest.

See Arts & Letters of Islam

Arts and Letters of Islam

June 5, 2010

Insights from Around the World

Filed under: Uncategorized — simergculture @ 9:29 pm

2010 EDITION – An Initiative of Www.Simerg.Com

Essays, Letters and Opinions

June 23: Polo in Mughal India. His Majesty Akbar the Great is very fond of this game. Externally, the game adds to the splendor of his court, but viewed from a higher point, it reveals concealed talents …more»

June 22: “The 99″ has been translated into eight languages. It is a comic book series of superheroes to inspire pride and belief in the Islamic faith at a time when the faith is subject to all forms of negative portrayals…more»
June 19: “The Caul of Inshallah” …My baby was born on the brink of death. He was prayed for by Sunni, Shia, Ahmediya, Sufi…”God doesn’t need their prayers,” one of my orthodox Muslim visitors sniffed, dismissing the non-Muslims and heretics among them…But I and my family were not in the mood for turning away prayers—from anyone …more»
June 11: A Treasure House of Knowledge Rises Again…In existence from roughly 290 BCE to 415 CE, the Library of Alexandria in its modern reincarnation aims to become a place of dialogue between cultures and also seeks to redress the wrong situation where the Islamic tradition has been presented in a biased fashion …more»
June 10: I realised it was impossible to study Islam in America without first looking back to the Mayflower settlers, says Akbar Ahmed, after travelling through the United States for over a year and talking to thousands of Muslims and non-Muslims …more»
June 7: Hundreds of thousands of Hindu Pandits who fled the Kashmir Valley some twenty years ago, fearful of a separatist insurgency, are trickling back and are astounded at the warm welcome they have been receiving from the valley’s Muslims. Kashmiri Muslims believe the place is really incomplete without its diversity …more»
June 6: ‘Everybody Draw Mohammad Day’ sparked outrage in the Muslim world and a Pakistani ban on Facebook. Why was the idea so offensive to Muslims worldwide?…more»
June 6: To imagine Central Asia’s future, readers are taken on a remarkable journey of rediscovery of what was once home to some of the world’s most renowned intellectuals …more»
June 6: What is the Islamic View on the Hour of Doom? It is described as that time when “those who are in their graves God will raise to life”…more»

June 6: The Crusaders’ disregard for personal hygiene, contrasted the attitude of Muslims who put a premium on cleanliness and dietary regime. Prophet Muhammad’s teachings provided a general blueprint for healthy living and abstemious behaviour …more»

Culture and Arts

June 22: Married to a Turk?! She knew nothing of Ali, my fiancé, other than the fact that he was Turkish. Yet, this very little information had sent her into a fit that materialized into unleashed accusations as if she had decoded his DNA fingerprints …more»

June 16: By modifying Persian miniatures, Soody Sharifi creates “maxiatures” which depict stories of the everyday life of the Islamic world …more»
June 14: Rainbow emerged from an ambitious process of collaborative creativity that reached across continents and cultures, and represents at once a continuity and a turning point in the Smithsonian Folkways-Aga Khan Music Initiative CD-DVD series Music of Central Asia …more»
June 11: Isolation allowed the Kurds to survive for thousands of years while other cultures faded from history. A cultural revival of all sorts is taking place within the tradition rich Kurdish community in Turkey through cinema, music, story telling, art as well as a return to a primordial nomadic identity …more»
June 7: The spectacular Shah Jahan Album features fifty illustrated and calligraphy folios, and offers a glimpse into the courtly life and diverse interest of its Mughal patrons …more»
June 6: If Islam enforced the elimination of images, the Muslim rulers of Egypt would have long ago destroyed the pharaonic sculptures. That they did not, speaks to the misunderstandings over Islamic art that cloud the lines of sight …more»
June 6: Al-Andalus, Afghanistan and Iran present some of the Muslim world’s most important musical figures, styles and encounters …more»
June 6: Though some would deem Salman Ahmad sinful, the leading exponent of “Sufi rock” music, is a decent man. Among other roles he plays, he’s a UN goodwill ambassador for HIV/Aids …more»


June 9: Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s provocative views on Islam in her new book, Nomad, touted as a coming-to-America emotional journey, mostly reads as an anti-Islamic screed. Hirsi Ali insists Islam and the West are locked in “a clash of civilizations,” the rallying cry of the Fox News Channel’s vox populi…more»and more»

June 8: “It is the benign ignorance of things all Muslim that suffuses the educated opinion, and not only the malign version which we have become familiar with”… The Flight of the Intellectuals reviewed …more»
June 6: Many Muslim youth around the world have little knowledge of Islamic liberal and intellectual past. Philosophy is seen as blasphemous because the subject questions God. A book on 9 iconic Muslim philosophers is aimed at cultivating a “revival” of the study of philosophy in the Islamic world …more»
June 6: As Buddha was not specifically listed in the Quran among the prophets sent by God, and because Muslims have assumed Buddhists to be atheistic, there has been very little dialogue between these two traditions, but a new book represents a historic shift …more»

Noteworthy News and Events

June 17: While Muslim nations may be taking steps to curb smoking in public spaces…more», a persistent drug problem ravages Muslim populations in Central Asia …  more » (see “Afghan High” under photographer’s Recent Work category)

June 13: Pakistani gallery leader believes in religious harmony and wants to preserve traces of an ancient Buddhist civilization that is fading from Eastern memory
June 6: Devout Muslim Rapper K’Naan gets ready to rock the world at the FIFA World Cup as his song is the choice of Coca Cola’s official World Cup anthem for South Africa 2010 …more»
June 6: The late Henry Corbin’s life was devoted to the struggle to free the religious imagination from fundamentalism of every kind. A day-long program, Henry Corbin, Islam and Imagination is being offered next Autumn by the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education …more»
June 6: The death of Moroccan Mohammed Al-Jabri robbed the Arab world of one of its most influential thinkers. He had called for an oppositional mode of thought, drawing on the history of non-orthodox Muslims including Ismailis, Shias and Sufis …more»
June 6: Egypt’s announcement to remove extreme religious content from its religious curriculum will seek to inculcate moral values independently of religious ones, and encourage creative thinking …more»
June 6: The Aga Khan Awards for Architecture rewards projects for their impact on the quality of life as well as architectural excellence. The 2010 Awards will be announced in Doha in October. The shortlist of nominees has been announced ...more

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Poetics of Iran, June 26TH at 7:30 PM - Brooklyn NY

Presenting a sampling of Persian poets, such as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī, Baba Taher, Shams e Maghrebi, and Mohammad-Reza Shafiei Kadkani, among others.

at Zora Artspace, Brooklyn NY

Sara Goudarzi - Vocal (poetry)
Aida Shahghasemi - Vocal (singing) & Daf
Sinan Gundogdu - Saz & Oud

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sufism & the Christian East

Paths to the Heart: Sufism and the Christian East (2002), edited by James S. Cutsinger (Cutsinger's Blog)

Here at Google Books

From the publisher: "This book is a collection of essays concerning the mystical and contemplative dimensions of Eastern Christianity and Islam presented at the October 2001 conference on Hesychasm and Sufism at the University of South Carolina. Contributions from internationally recognized spiritual leaders and scholars include Kallistos Ware; Seyyed Hossien Nasr; John Chryssavgis; Reza Shah-Kazemi; Huston Smith; William Chittick and more.

Despite the long and well-known history of conflict between Christians and Muslims, their mystical traditions especially in the Christian East and in Sufism, have shared for centuries many of the same spiritual methods and goals. One thinks, for example, of the profound similarities between the practices of the Jesus Prayer among the Hesychast masters of the Philokalia and the Sufi practices of dhikr or invocation.

These commonalities suggest the possibility for a deeper kind of religious dialogue than is customary in our day, a dialogue which seeks to foster what Frithjof Schuon has called inward or "esoteric" ecumenism, and which, while respecting the integrity of traditional dogmas and rites, "calls into play the wisdom which can discern the one sole Truth under the veil of different forms."

The purpose of this book, the first major publication of its kind, is to promote precisely this more inward kind of ecumenical perspective. These essays point to a spiritual heart in which the deeper meaning of Christian and Muslim beliefs and practices come alive, and where spiritual pilgrims may discover, beyond the level of seemingly contradictory forms, an inner commonality with those who follow other paths."

Friday, June 18, 2010

Jambet's "Stranger and Theophany"

Christian Jambet, "The Stranger and Theophany," (English translation of Le Caché et l'Apparent). Umbr(a): A Journal of the Unconscious 2005 - The Dark God: 27-41. (Publication of Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Culture - SUNY Buffalo).
(this is from  Scribd here)
Stranger and Theophany by Christian Jambet

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Spiritual Body & Celestial Earth and the "Buyid Silks"

[ I update this early post from December 2008 with the addition of the entire essay by Blair, Bloom & Wardwell. For those who may have an interest, I have a high resolution image of the textile in question (on the left here), but was asked by the Cleveland Museum not to post it online (not sure of their rationale on that). I would make it available to anyone with an interest.]

The silk textile used as the Frontispiece to Corbin’s Spiritual Body & Celestial Earth (first published in French, 1960), was said to be among those found in Rayy outside of Teheran in 1925. It was attributed by Wiet (1947) to the Sasanian period. Along with many of the objects allegedly found at that site, this piece has since been determined to be a forgery. The story of the controversy surrounding what came to be known as the “Buyid Silks” is complex and of some interest to students of Islamic art. I provide here a few details from the larger narrative that are relevant to this “Sasanian silk” in particular as well as references to the literature.

Corbin’s description of the illustration is as follows (see my earlier post of Dec. 3, 2008):

“The design of the frontispiece is reproduced from a silk textile in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art, purchased from the J.H. Wade Fund. It also appears in a book by Gaston Wiet entitled Soieries Persanes (Mémoires de l’Institut d’Egypte, Vol. 52, Cairo, 1947, Pl. XI and pp. 55-63). The original figure on silk was discovered in 1925, together with many other extraordinary pieces, when certain graves accidentally came to light in the hills adjoining the sanctuary of Shahr-Bānū, not far from Ray (the Rhages of the Book of Tobias), a few miles to the south of Teheran.
It can be inferred from the place of the discovery that this was a precious material offered by friends or relatives for wrapping the body of the deceased person (cf. Issa Behnam, in Revue de la Faculté des Lettres de l’Université de Téhéran, October, 1956). It is said to date from the fifth century (eleventh century C.E.) and was found in a state of perfect preservation. Iconographically, it is interesting as a motif in the Sāsānid style on material dating from the great Islamic period. The site of the discovery makes it even more interesting, for, according to Iranian tradition, the princess Shahr-Bānū, daughter of the last Sāsānid ruler, Yazdgard III, became the wife of Husayn ibn ‘Alī. the Third Imam of the Shi’ites, and here we find an expression, iconographic and topographic, of the union of Mazdean Iran and Shi’ite Iran.” [Corbin, xxxi.]

The textile in question remains in the Cleveland Museum (CMA1962.264). (It is listed by Blair, Bloom and Wardwell [BBW] as Wiet IX, not “Plate XI” as in the English translation of Corbin.) It is one of two “Sasanian” textiles discussed in Wiet, 1947. He assigned the rest of the pieces to the Buyid and Seljuk Periods. (It is also said to be illustrated in D. G. Shepard, “Medieval Persian Silks in Fact and Fancy (A Refutation of the Riggisberg Report),” Bulletin de Liason du Centre International d’Etude des Textiles Anciens 39-40 (1974): 137ff., Fig. 1).

Cleveland Museum Accession Number: 1962.264. Medium: lampas weave, silk. Measurements: Overall: 171cm x 65cm. The entire textile is roughly three times the size of the section illustrated in Corbin’s book. There are three pairs of double-headed birds carrying human figures on the extant section of textile. Acquisition: Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund. Inscription: on the wing of each small bird is an inscription: "al-rahmah" [mercy]. On the upper part of the arms of the small standing figure: "al-barakah" [blessing]. At top of textile, Kufic inscription: "baqayta amir al-mu'minin fa-innama baqa['u]ka hasan lil-zaman wa-tay-yib" [Thou hast remained Commander of the Believers, and indeed, Thy remaining is (a) handsome and good (thing) for the age].

Of the silks that Weit discussed, Blair, Bloom and Wardwell write, “It was later revealed that the textiles had first been acquired by ‘a Mr. Mattossian, a wealthy Cairene tobacco merchant who traveled frequently to Persia, collect[ing] objects for his own interest and apparently …also not averse to selling some of them occasionally.’ During the war the textiles were in Cairo, where Wiet studied them, and then Mme. Paul Mallon brought them to New York.” [BBW, 2] These objects were then acquired by a variety of museums in the US, Europe and in Karachi. Florence Day pointed out in her review of Wiet’s book that “[t]he unknown provenance and history of these textiles made them unacceptable historical documents.” [BBW, 3]


Day, Assistant Curator of Near Eastern Art at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, in a scathing review of his book, “challenged virtually everything Weit had written about the silks.” [BBW, 2] She argued that there was no reason to think that any of them came from the sanctuary of Shahr-Bānū, and that the iconography and style of the “Sasanian” silks was inconsistent with that attribution. She pointed out that some of the pieces, including the one of interest here (Wiet IX, CMA1962.264), were long enough to suggest that they “had just come off the loom.” [BBW, 3. Weit IX is 171 cm]. And finally, as Blair, Bloom and Wardwell summarize her conclusions: “the dull color schemes of the doubtful pieces compared unfavorably with those of such genuine silks as the St. Josse Shroud, which has distinct, clear, and contrasting colors.” [BBW, 3]. In a subsequent reply to a response by Wiet published in the same volume as her review, Day wrote “The heart of the matter is style. The very ugliness of these silks, and their peculiar style, completely unrelated to Sasanian art, or to Islamic art either before or after the Buwayid period…first aroused my doubts.” [Day, “Miss Day’s Reply].

In their own epigraphic analysis Blair, Bloom and Wardwell write as follows of CMA1962.264: “An almost complete silk cloth with two-headed eagles carrying human figures has a verse by the Arabic poet al-Buhturi congratulating the ‘Abbasid caliph al-Mutawakkil (r. 847-61) on being saved from drowning: ‘You remain the Commander of the Faithful and your preservation is a handsome and good [thing] for the era.’ ” [BBW, 9-10] Although it seems there is nothing essentially suspect about this particular inscription, they conclude their analysis of the large group of questionable textiles by saying “A study of the inscriptions on the ‘Buyid’ silks thus raised grave doubts about the date of many of the pieces.” [BBW, 10]

The investigation by Blair, Bloom and Wardwell was requested by the Cleveland Museum in 1989. Central to their project was radiocarbon dating of 17 “Buyid” textiles. CMA1962.264 was not among those selected for analysis. Their general conclusions are as follows. The silks fell into four groups on the basis of radiocarbon dating. Those in Group A are unquestionably medieval, dating from the 10th to the 12th centuries. Two textiles comprising Group D are without question forgeries made after 1950 (on the basis of the presence of radioisotopes produced by atomic bombs). The largest set, Group C, dated between the early 16th or mid-17th century and 1950. Though the radiodating range is large and imprecise other evidence is highly suggestive. On the basis of stylistic, iconographic, paleographic and epigraphic evidence “It…seems likely that they began to be produced as forgeries in the early twentieth century, certainly before their first appearance in the literature of the 1930’s and presumably after the original finds at Rayy in 1924-25.” [BBW, 17] Finally two pieces in Group B remain problematic, but were dated between the mid-15th and mid-16th centuries. Like Group C however, stylistic and other evidence suggests they are unlike other objects known from this period.

To conclude: Among the “Buyid” textiles under scrutiny, there were some that were indeed medieval, but there were also two groups of forgeries: “those produced between ca. 1930 and 1945 and those made after 1950. While both groups of forgeries were undoubtedly made to deceive collectors and scholars, the textiles of the first group show a far more sophisticated knowledge of the style and epigraphy of textiles actually made in Iran in the medieval Islamic period.” [BBW, 18]

We are left in doubt about the origin of CMA1962.264 other than the fact that it was made prior to 1945, since Wiet studied it during the war in Cairo. Day’s conclusion that it is among what has been shown to be a large group of 20th century forgeries is beyond question on stylistic grounds, and it has been accepted as such by the Cleveland Museum.


Blair, Sheila S., Jonathan M. Bloom and Anne E. Wardwell, “Reevaluating the Date of the ‘Buyid’ Silks by Epigraphic and Radiocarbon Analysis,” Ars Orientalis, Vol. 22, (1992), 1-41. [BBW] See below.

Corbin, Henry. Spiritual Body & Celestial Earth: From Mazdean Iran to Shi'ite Iran. Translated by Nancy Pearson. Princeton: Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series XCI: 2, 1977.
_____ Terre céleste et corps de résurrection de l'Iran mazdéen á l'Iran shi'ite. Paris: Buchet/Chastel, 1960.

Day, Florence E. Review: “Soieries persanes. By Gaston Wiet,” Ars Islamica 15-16 (1951): 231-44.
_____ “Miss Day’s Reply,” Ars Islamica 15-16 (1951): 250-51.

Wiet, Gaston. Soieries Persanes. Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 1947.

Blair, Bloom & Wardwell

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Spring Journal and Spring Journal Books
Spring Journal Books
(the book publishing imprint of Spring: A Journal of Archetype and Culture, the oldest Jungian psychology journal in the world)
C.G. Jung in the Humanities
C.G. Jung in the Humanities
Taking the Soul’s Path
by Susan Rowland
ISBN: 978-1-935528-02-9
190 pp.
Price: $ $24.95
Publication Date: April 15, 2010
This book, by eminent Jungian and feminist literary critic Susan Rowland, is the first comprehensive analysis of the significance of Jung's work to the humanities, and even to those complex areas where the humanities and sciences border one another. More radically, it shows that Jung was a writer of myth, alchemy, symbolism, narrative, and poetics, as well as on them. Jung's writing is, in holistic terms, a complex adaptive system that comes alive when realized (made real) in the reader's psyche.

Despite his influence on a remarkable array of artists and thinkers, Jung's ideas have often suffered neglect and misunderstanding. This book goes a long way to making up for that situation. In addition to summarizing his core concepts for the novice, it addresses Jung's sometimes questionable judgment on political and gender issues, demonstrates his past importance and ongoing relevance, and previews some contemporary extensions of the frontiers of Jungian theory.

By penetrating the secrets of the creative psyche, and by exploring the individual's connections with both the natural environment and the social and psychological collective, Jung proves a forerunner of the new holism. His work offers the promise of reconciling the sciences with the arts, humanity with nature.
Praise for C.G. Jung in the Humanities
With passion and lucidity Susan Rowland surveys the diverse ways in which the recent upsurge in Jungian scholarship in the humanities sees perennial questions of meaning and value. No one is in a better position to do so, given her own distinguished contributions to this development.
Rowland has created a comprehensive tour of the vast psychic territory covered by Jung, illuminating to both specialists and lay readers. … [S]he points at what, in Jung, is still valid, and discards what belongs to the prejudices of his time and gender. … Captivating and well written, it is a major contribution to Jungian studies, a book that will become a classic for all students of depth psychology.
In every chapter Rowland truly "lets the psyche breathe," writing gracefully and with economy of motion. She demonstrates how Jung's use of the rhetorical tools of metaphor and pivot create a net-like text that functions as a living symbol, a symbol that initiates the individuation process by causing the reader to "experience the creative immanence of the imagination." This insight and many more like it make this a book of great value to the practicing Jungian analyst.
Chapter 1: Getting Started with Jung
Chapter 2: Jung the Writer on Psychotherapy and Culture
Chapter 3: Jung for Literature, Art and Film
Chapter 4: Myth and History
Chapter 5: Jung and Science, Alchemy and Religion
Chapter 6: Jung and Power: Politics and Gender
Chapter 7: Jung in the Twenty-First Century: Fishing at the Gates of Hell
About the Author:
Susan Rowland is Professor of English and Post-Jungian Studies at the University of Greenwich, UK. Her recent books include Jung as a Writer (Routledge, 2005) and Jung: A Feminist Revision (Polity, 2002), as well as editing Psyche and the Arts (Routledge, 2008) and writing a book and essays on female British mystery writers, identifying myth as the deep form of that genre. Future work includes The Ecocritical Psyche, which introduces Jung to the emerging field of ecocriticism.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Poems by Hafez

The Tangled Braid: Ninety Nine New Poems by Hafez. Translators: Jeffrey Einboden and John Slater.

From  Fons Vitae: The Tangled Braid offers a fresh and distinctive translation of one of the world’s supreme spiritual poets – Hafiz of Shiraz.  A unique collaboration between a Cistercian monk (John Slater) and an Islamic scholar (Jeffrey Einboden), this volume combines precision and understanding, giving voice in English to Hafiz’ powerful esoteric verse. 
As suggested by its title, The Tangled Braid interweaves a variety of discrete literary strands, knitting together spiritual meaning and sensual image; Muslim source and Western reader; classical Persian verse and modern English poetics.  This translation aims to wed aesthetics and erudition, presenting a work of pleasure that is also intellectually enriching and spiritually invigorating. 
Generated through conversation and exchange, these poetic translations provide an authentic means of crossing religious and cultural borders, admitting contemporary audiences into the illimitable world of Persian Sufism. (Read More)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Texts by Henry Corbin Available Online - Updated 7/23/10

!!This list has been updated - if you have this page bookmarked, please update to the new post HERE.

Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi (Google Books)
Avicenna and the Visionary Recital (pdf)
Cyclical Time and Ismaili Gnosis (pdf)
En Islam Iranien Vol 2: Suhrawardi and the Platonists of Persia.
The History of Islamic Philosophy - Part I (pdf)
The History of Islamic Philosophy - Part II (pdf)

Swedenborg & Esoteric Islam
Temple and Contemplation Part 1 & Part 2 (pdf)
The Voyage and the Messenger

Essays and Interviews:

Apophatic Theology as Antidote to Nihilism
The Concept of Comparative Philosophy
"Dramatic Element Common to the Gnostic Cosmogonies of The Religions of The Book" from Studies in Comparative Religion.(pdf)
"Emblematic Cities"
The Eternal Sophia & in French (entire): "La Sophia Eternel"
Eyes of Flesh, Eyes of Fire
The Force of Traditional Philosophy in Iran Today
From Heidegger to Suhrawardi: An Interview with Philip Nemo
"The Imams and the Imamate" (Ch. 12) and "Shi'i Hermeneutics" (Ch. 13) in Shi'ism: Doctrines, Thought and Spirituality edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Hamid Dabashi (from Google Books)
The Jasmine of the Fideli d'Amore: A Discourse on Ruzbehan Baqli Shirazi. Sphinx: London
Mundus Imaginalis or, The Imaginary and the Imaginal (Ruth Horine's translation from Spring 1972)
Mundus Imaginalis or, The Imaginary and the Imaginal (Fox's translation from Swedenborg and Esoteric Islam)
"Mysticism & Humour"
"The Time of Eranos" (1956) and "Cyclical Time in Mazdaism and Ismailism" (1951) in Man and Time: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks from Scridb.
The Paradox of Monotheism
"Prefatory Letter" to David Miller's The New Polytheism
"A Shi'ite Liturgy of the Grail"
"Theology by the Lakeside"
"Theophanies and Mirrors: Idols or Icons?"
"Theory of Visionary Knowledge in Islamic Philosophy," Temenos 8, 1987.

"Towards a Chart of the Imaginal" Prelude, 2nd French Edition of Spiritual Body & Celestial Earth.
"Réalisme et symbolisme des couleurs en cosmologie shî'ite" in
Eranos Jahrbuch 1972: The Realms of Colour / Die Welt der Farben / Le monde des couleurs, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1974. (Searchable text through Google Books.)

"The Visionary Dream in Islamic Spirituality"

(I would appreciate knowing of any additions to this list. Thanks to all who have contributed. - TC -  tcheetham@gmail.com).

Folio from a Falnama (Book of Omens): Prophet Muhammad's Night Journey, mid 1550s-early 1560s. Safavid period. Qazvin, Iran. S1986.253a-b Freer & Sackler Galleries

Gnostic Contagion

Gnostic Contagion: Robert Duncan and the Poetry of Illness, by Peter O'Leary

(Octopus Magazine Interview with O'Leary)

Norman Finkelstein (author of On Mount Vision) has called this book "an absolute must-read," and a brief glance at the contents is more than enough to convince me and a copy is on the way. It is of course chock-full of references to Corbin.

Nathaniel Tarn's review in Jacket 22 begins with this:

"The suspicion that the making of poetry, indeed of any art, might be an abnormal act, a kind of insanity in fact or, at the least, a form of illness, of dis-ease is very ancient — possibly as ancient as the human race. The rider, that the madness or illness might contain the seeds of its own cure, or healing, may — given the probable great age of shamanic initiation and practice — be just as venerable. The basic model of such an initiation (on which many other later and more sophisticated types might have been grafted) is: an individual susceptible of being initiated (the signs are recognizable as per tribal lore) becomes sick as a result of straying into and witnessing the domain of a mystery; is cured by becoming a fellow member of the group already practicing the mystery; is then capable of healing a break in a part or the whole of the cosmos by bringing upper and lower domains together through magical flight and turns into a social treasure through the practice of an art of healing — most often a matter of exercising a number of tricks and a gift for language and song.
      We are in our time way down the line from this model but a frequent assimilation of the contemporary shaman to the poet forms the basis of Peter O’Leary’s quest: is poetry, as seen by Duncan, an illness, or better, a dis-ease? Can it be a world-, and word-, comprehending art by working through the insight afforded by a Gnostic interpretation of history: that the very creation by a demiurge is a catastrophe separating the lower, profane, world from the higher, sacred, one — a separation that must be mended toward an individual, or even social salvation? In the last resort, can poetry be said or thought to heal? Also: if poetry is a dis-ease, can it be inherited naturally or culturally through the familiar process of lineage formation among poets: i.e. can it be gotten by hearing or reading from another poet and/or other poets and then passed on to another poet or other poets?
      The core of O’Leary’s complex, demanding  and fascinating book consists of a guidance through an extraordinarily involved scenario played out by three main figures in which Duncan is part of an initiatic triangle involving Freud — as great poet-mythographer as well as psychoanalytic healer — H.D., Duncan’s lineage mistress, and Duncan himself. As Freud is to H.D., so H.D. is to Duncan. The initiation involves both sickness and cure through the process of analysis. Involved in the complexity of the very esoteric vortex at work here is Duncan’s drama of conceiving himself as having killed his mother through his own birth (his father too by grief at the mother’s death) and rediscovering a comforting mother archetype in H.D. The occult component (out of Hermeticism and Esoterism) displays a serial initiation with marked sexual undertones: Freud initiating H.D. and H.D. initiating Duncan. In all of this (we will not balk at it but Freud might conceivably at times be spinning in his grave), there is, of course, a great deal more poetry than science. Be this as it may, the initiatic lineage eventually carries on down when Duncan, through the influence of his work, passes the ‘Gnostic contagion’ onto other poets, principally Nathaniel Mackey." Read Tarn's entire review.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road

Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road by Johan Elverskog

This volume is of particular relevance given Corbin's interest in Central Asian Sufism.

From the publisher: In the contemporary world the meeting of Buddhism and Islam is most often imagined as one of violent confrontation. Indeed, the Taliban's destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001 seemed not only to reenact the infamous Muslim destruction of Nalanda monastery in the thirteenth century but also to reaffirm the stereotypes of Buddhism as a peaceful, rational philosophy and Islam as an inherently violent and irrational religion. But if Buddhist-Muslim history was simply repeated instances of Muslim militants attacking representations of the Buddha, how had the Bamiyan Buddha statues survived thirteen hundred years of Muslim rule?

Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road demonstrates that the history of Buddhist-Muslim interaction is much richer and more complex than many assume. This groundbreaking book covers Inner Asia from the eighth century through the Mongol empire and to the end of the Qing dynasty in the late nineteenth century. By exploring the meetings between Buddhists and Muslims along the Silk Road from Iran to China over more than a millennium, Johan Elverskog reveals that this long encounter was actually one of profound cross-cultural exchange in which two religious traditions were not only enriched but transformed in many ways.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

On Mount Vision: Forms of the Sacred in Contemporary American Poetry

On Mount Vison: Forms of the Sacred in Contemporary American Poetry
by Norman Finkelstein

I want to draw attention to a new book that has me quite excited. With multiple references to Corbin and ta'wil, particularly in the chapter on Nathaniel Mackey, this volume, among its many other virtues, brings us up to date on the continuing relevance of Henry Corbin for American poetry, and demonstrates the central place poetry can occupy in the reimagination of the sacred in contemporary life. I will have more to say about this provocative and wonderfully useful book later on.

From the publisher: “On Mount Vision is an excellent book, one whose value exists on the level of explanation to be sure, but more powerfully, more suggestively, on the levels of persuasion, and of myth and metaphor, where one encounters the archetypes of the poet as priest, prophet, seer, antinomian, heretic, and scholar-translator. Finkelstein provides a lucid model for how to read and understand the often difficult and quarrelsome poetry that is his subject. This book will take its place as the exemplary study of the religious aspect of the works of contemporary American poets.”—Peter O'Leary, author, Gnostic Contagion: Robert Duncan and the Poetry of Illness   [this indispensable book, a precursor to Finkelstein's, will get its own post soon - TC]

Plumbing what the poet Michael Palmer calls “the dimension of the Spirit, with that troublesome, rebarbative capital letter,” Norman Finkelstein’s On Mount Vision asks how and why the sacred has remained a basic concern of contemporary experimental poets in our secular age. By charting the wandering, together and apart, of poetry and belief, Finkelstein illustrates the rich tapestry formed by the warp and woof of poetry, and the play of Gnosticism, antinomianism, spiritualism, and shamanism, which have commonly been regarded as heretical and sometimes been outright suppressed.

This beautifully written work begins with an overview of the spiritual problematics found in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American poetry. Traveling slightly outside of the realm of the contemporary, Finkelstein’s discussions of Emerson, Whitman, and Eliot yield to close readings of the works of Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer, Ronald Johnson, Michael Palmer, Susan Howe, Nathaniel Mackey, and Armand Schwerner. In restoring verse to its place alongside scripture, Finkelstein reminds us why the sacred remains crucial to our understanding of postmodern American poetry. (read more)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Jung Wars

This is not a blog about Jung or Jungians - but I do, rather frequently as it turns out, post things relating to Jung. He was a friend and colleague of Corbin and the two shared many interests and Corbin refers both directly and obliquely to Jung and Jung's ideas many times in his own writings; and, though I am a bit uneasy about calling myself a "Jungian," I have spent a long time reading and studying his works, and those of James Hillman, who is I suppose not unfairly sometimes labeled a renegade "jungian" with a small "j." Reading Hillman, Jung and Corbin, in that order actually, changed my life - entirely for the better. But I do tend to forget that there are plenty of people who consider Jung and his works not only irrelevant and misguided, but actually dangerous and destructive. I was reminded of this recently in discussion with a colleague who had just enthusiastically read one of Richard Noll's books. Noll has produced The Jung Cult and The Aryan Christ. I'm not going to enter into a discussion of these really astonishing books except to say that, to put it mildly, I don't recognize anything about the "Jung" that I know in them. Surely one thing we should learn from Jung is that everything has a shadow and Jung's was very large indeed - but Noll's "analysis" is so far off the mark as to be stupefying. There are plenty of (extremely) critical reviews of Noll's work available online, but I would point the interested reader to Sonu Shamdasani's works Cult Fictions , Jung Stripped Bare by his biographers, even  and Jung and the Making of Modern Psychology: The Dream of a Science. Shamdasani has his own passions (his attack on Bair's biography has been rather vitriolic) but there is no doubt that he is the foremost historian of analytical psychology in the world. He is also the editor of the Red Book and is general editor a co-founder of the Philemon Foundation. The mission statement of the Foundation reads in part as follows:

"The Philemon Foundation is preparing for publication the Complete Works of C. G. Jung. In distinction to the widely known Collected Works, it is intended that the Complete Works will comprise manuscripts, seminars, and correspondence hitherto unpublished numbering in the tens of thousands of pages. The historical, clinical, and cultural importance of this material equals and, in some instances, surpasses the importance of that which has been already published. The Philemon Foundation intends to make the completed body of C. G. Jung’s work available as volumes in the Philemon Series. As such, the Philemon Foundation is the successor to the Bollingen Foundation that originally made possible the publication of Jung’s Collected Works, the cornerstone of their Bollingen Series."

Common Ground Between Islam and Buddhism

Common Ground Between Islam and Buddhism,
by Reza Shah Kazemi

With an Essay by
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Introduced by
H. H. the Fourteenth Dalai Lama
H.R.H. Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad
Prof. Mohammad Hashim Kamali

"Common Ground Between Islam and Buddhism is an historic, true beginning of the scholarly and spiritual effort to lay a foundation for the mutual understanding between serious believers of these two great world religions which, on the surface seem diametrically opposed. The author's well-informed and insightful analysis reveals, deeper down, a genuine common ground of transcendental wisdom and merciful compassion. A splendid accomplishment, a transformative read, and a kindling of hope for real peace in days to come!" -Robert Tenzin Thurman, Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Buddhist Studies. Columbia University.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Rasula on Henry Corbin & Jack Spicer

In this 1977 essay Jed Rasula draws on Corbin to help explicate Jack Spicer's poetics. In particular, he discusses the idea of symbol as symballein, the Imago Templi and the Stranger. See "Spicer's Orpheus and the Emancipation of Pronouns" by Jed Rasula, in boundary 2, Vol. 6, No. 1, Jack Spicer (Autumn, 1977), pp. 51-102.

Also see this earlier post on Charles Olson in Rasula's new book.

Rasula on Spicer - 1977

Friday, June 4, 2010

Some Thoughts on Interpretation

The problems of interpreting a "fixed" or "sacred" text are in some respects similar whether that text is a Holy Book or a secular document. The remarks of retired US Supreme Court justice David Souter are worth pondering. See Justice Souter's Class by Linda Greenhouse in the NYTimes, and read his entire Commencement Address at Harvard. Greenhouse writes, "for those who care about the Supreme Court, Justice Souter served up some rich fare: his own vision of the craft of constitutional interpretation and a defense of the need for judges to go beyond the plain text — what he called the “fair-reading model” — and make choices among the competing values embedded in the Constitution. Doing this was neither judicial activism nor “making up the law,” he said; rather, it was the unavoidable “stuff of judging,” and to suppose otherwise was to “egregiously” miss the point of what constitutional law is about."

Henry Corbin, Islam and the Imagination - Oxford, England, October 2010

A day-long program, Saturday, October 9, 2010, offered by the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education and sponsored by the Temenos Academy.

Full details and registration here. (Or see the new flyer below)

Morning Lectures -

The Prophetic Tradition & The Battle for the Soul of the World: An Introduction to the Spiritual Vision of Henry Corbin
The Role of the Grail in Henry Corbin’s Thought
DR JOHN CAREY - University of Cork and Fellow of the Temenos Academy

Afternoon Lectures 

In Search of Lost Speech: Nostalgia, Eros and the Angel Out Ahead
Correspondences Between English Romantic and Persian Sufi Poets
DR LEONARD LEWISOHN - University of Exeter and Fellow of the Temenos Academy
with readings by TOM DURHAM

TOM CHEETHAM is the author of three books on the implications of Henry Corbin’s work for contemporary spirituality: The World Turned Inside Out, Green Man–Earth Angel and After Prophecy. He is Adjunct Professor at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine.
JOHN CAREY is a lecturer in the Department of Early and Medieval Irish, University College Cork and editor of the Temenos Academy Review. His most recent book is Ireland and the Grail.
LEONARD LEWISOHN is Lecturer in Persian and Iran Heritage Foundation Fellow in Classical Persian and Sufi Literature at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, where he currently teaches Persian language, Persian poetry in translation, Sufism and Islamic spirituality.
TOM DURHAM is an actor with a particular interest in the performance of challenging poetry. He can be heard regularly as a reader on Radio 3.

The day will be chaired by PROF. GREVEL LINDOP, formerly Professor of Romantic and Early Victorian Studies at Manchester University, and a Fellow of the Temenos Academy.

Henry Corbin at Oxford

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Spiritual Partners: Kathleen Raine, Allen Ginsberg & Frances Horovitz

The 2010 Kathleen Raine Lecture by Michael Horovitz - Monday June 14 2010 - Bloomsbury, London
Download flyer here (pdf).

Photo: Allen Ginsburg & Michael Horovitz chanting, June 1965.

For those who may not know, Kathleen Raine was a poet & essayist & scholar of William Blake & co-founder of the Temenos Academy in London. She was an enthusiastic reader and translator of Corbin. She wrote: "'Tradition' as understood by followers of Guénon, for all their insistence on 'revealed' knowledge and the metaphysical order, seem unconnected to the living source itself and highly suspicious of those very inner worlds from which it ultimately derives. That inner world both Blake and Jung affirm and both appreciated the value of the alchemical symbolism and the alchemical 'work' of self transformation ... I find what is missing from the work of Guénon and his followers in the writings of Henry Corbin...whose term 'imaginal' describes the order to which Blake's Prophetic Books belong - as it does Jung's world of psyche and its archetypes. Corbin understands that sacred tradition is itself without meaning outside that context... Corbin thus harmonizes what one might call the Protestant vision of Blake and Jung, their insistence on discovering the truth 'within the human breast,' and the recognition of a tradition of sacred knowledge embodied in every civilization and all mythologies".
Spiritual Partners Flyer