"...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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Friday, July 16, 2010

Notes on the Barzakh

Barzakh is a biannual multi-genre journal with an internationalist stance. Emerging out of the English department at the University at Albany, SUNY   From their "About Barzakh" webpage:


: a word / concept that names the connecting link, the “between” of something, such as different spheres of existence. As a temporal concept it can be, and historically was, considered an interval of time — say, the time between death and Resurrection in the Qu’ran, similar to the Bardo Thödol of the Tibetans, or the travel between life and death as the Egyptians imagined it. The Arabic word has the literal meaning of “barrier,” “veil,” “curtain.” Thus traditionally seen as a separator, it is however also and more interestingly thinkable as a “between” that links, and in that sense can be translated as “isthmus.” 

For the great Arab mystic & poet Ibn Arabi, Barzakh is a kind of purgatory—the temporary and yet historical place which constitutes this, our world where we live and love and labor, aware that what we need most to find our way through is what the poet John Keats called “negative capability,” i.e., the ability “of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” The idea of the Barzakh is thus not to map a territory but to travel along boundaries, criss crossing always-to-be-redefined regions, in the process creating rhizomatic assemblages, de- and re-territorializing language-intensities as shifting fields of forces.

As Stefania Pandolfo writes in the introductory chapter of Impasse of the Angels: “The purpose … is not to map a territory, but to travel on the boundary of what Maghribî writers of decolonization have called a différence intraitable: a hiatus which destabilizes the assignment of places and parts, which displaces the categories of classical and colonial reason and opens a heterological space of intercultural dialogue — an atopical intermediate region that might be called a Barzakh. There, in that interstitial mode of identity between languages and cultures, between genders and categorizations, a certain listening becomes possible.”

Pandolfo begins her book with a quote from Ibn 'Arabi:  "A barzakh is something that separates two things while never going to one side, as for example the line that separates shadow from sunlight. .. There is nothing in existence but barzakhs since a barzakh is the arrangement of one thing between two things ... and existence has no edges." (This is from The Meccan Revelations, and is cited by Wm Chittick in The Sufi Path of Knowledge, p. 14.

Editors Urayoán Noel and Pierre Joris are interviewed at the Poetry Foundation here

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