"...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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Monday, July 12, 2010

Basil Bunting & Iran

From the Encyclopedia Iranica entry on the British poet Basil Bunting:

BUNTING, Basil Cheesman (1900-1985), British poet, linguist, translator, journalist, diplomat, and spy.

... In 1942, during the Second World War, Bunting joined the Royal Air Force; because of his knowledge of Persian he was sent to Iran, first as an interpreter, rising to the rank of Squadron Leader, based within the Baḵtiāri region, and later starting work as an intelligence officer for MI6. He is thought to have quelled a German supported Baḵtiāri uprising (Alldritt, p. 103). In Iran he quickly mastered many of the local dialects. His squadron was moved to the Mediterranean in 1943. Towards the end of the War, Bunting was ordered back to London and then appointed vice-consul in Isfahan, of which he became an avid admirer. His job combined espionage and diplomacy; he had to deal with both American and Russian Intelligence Services. After 18 months in Isfahan, he was recalled back to England (June 1946). In the spring of 1947 he was once more sent to Iran as Chief of Political Intelligence in Tehran. He traveled extensively within Iran during his service. During his first year in Tehran he met and fell in love with the fourteen-year-old Sima Alladadian (b. 1931), an Armenian Kurd, thirty years his junior, whose sister was married to another British Agent, Ronald Oakshot. They married on the 2nd Dec. 1948, the marriage lasting until 1979. Because of his marriage to an underage girl Bunting lost his position at the British Embassy, but continued his important intelligence work under the guise of being correspondent for The Timesin Tehran; he retained this post until April 1950. His contract with The Times was not renewed after Sima at the age of fifteen gave birth to their first child, Sima-Maria, in January 1950. They left Iran in April. .. Bunting was reappointed Times correspondent in Oct. 1951 but was expelled by the government of Prime Minister Mossadeq in April 1952...

His interest in Persian had started in early 1930 when he had picked up a volume of the Šāh-nāma in French in Genoa; he took it to Rapallo and read it for the Pounds. Seeing his enthusiasm Pound bought him a three-volume copy of the original, and with the help of Richardson’s dictionary Bunting taught himself to read Persian. His enthusiasm for Ferdowsi is immortalized in Ezra Pound’s Canto 77: “If Basil sing of Shah Nameh” ... 

Bunting loved and admired many of the early Persian poets. He wrote extensively about them to Louis Zukofsky and in his introduction to Omar Pound’s translations (1970). The Collected Poems (1968) contains “Overdrafts” from Ferdowsi, Rudaki, Manučehri, Saʿdi and one rubaiʿ of Hafez, which was originally sent in a letter to Zukofsky but appears as Ode I. 28 under his own name.  His justification was that there was not “much of Hafiz left in the product.” ...  His aversion towards any kind of mysticism has stripped his translations of Hafez of any Sufi implications. He wrote “Persian poetry has suffered badly from neoplatonic dons determined to find an arbitrary mysticism in everything...” (read the entire entry here).   And see this review of his Complete Poems.

Photo: Bunting at Rapallo, Italy, 1930s here

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