"...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

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Reading List

Richard Grossinger is a prolific author and the publisher of North Atlantic Books (which has published Corbin's The Voyage and the Messenger). He recently posted a Primary Reading List on his blog that may be of interest. He writes,

"When I was twenty, the poet Robert Kelly presented Lindy and me with a reading list to get us started, so to speak, in life. He was concerned that the traditional education that we were receiving at Amherst and Smith Colleges was missing a lot of important things, like what the universe is, what it means to be human, the history of the non-Western Earth, how the gods have been named, and so on. I may still have that original Kelly list somewhere in a file, but I can’t find it. I do remember that his curriculum included The Sufis, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, Magick in Theory and Practice, and a few other books that I have carried over to this list, which is my current and expanded version of the Kelly “life” list."

Grossinger's list includes Corbin's Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi (Alone with the Alone). I quote his commentary:

"There are many soft, mystical Islams that are afire with only the seeking of the Divine.  Corbin’s is perhaps the softest and most mystical, as he turns the worldly mosque and imam into the cosmic mosque with only angelic gatekeepers and thus opens the original vision of Mohammed to a glimpse (even to the eyes of such Western infidels as many of us are).

The book is based on complex and paradoxical relationships, as engendered in the world of Islamic theology, between a God who knows us as we know him and a God who only exists as we simultaneously recognize and deny him (or even refute him) while being drawn along the path of our simultaneous apostasy and recognition, both potentially ecstatic and visionary, both leading toward his light and majesty.
Corbin’s exegesis of Ibn Arabi petitions the Divine Being through his manifestation in names and symbols and by acts of internal visualization (e.g., creative imagination) of the sacred.  He celebrates the epiphany of the manifest world elicited through prayer and devotion. The mystery of our essential being lies solely in the mystery of God’s being and essence, in the secret of his own concealed creative imagination.  God is a lonely creature who longs to be known and thus created creatures in order to be known in them.  As he causes us to exist, we bring him into being, we cause him to exist.  By knowing him, we allow and we elevate him.  This is our manifestation of God, our theophany, our hidden divine treasure.

Out of this prophetic theophany, Corbin brings forth Islam, not the Islam known by the current West, that bogus cauldron of misogyny and guerrilla Jihad, but an Islam that contains a deeper jihad, a truly profound divine and cosmic passion that cannot be transmuted into secular immolations and martyrdoms.  The only legitimate submission and suicide is the one into the ecstasy of the knowing of the divine.  Everything else is a misplaced passion.  One can see how one martyrdom is so easily “hijacked” (to use the fashionable meme these days) by another, especially one looking for a military edge, likewise a the more explicit and vernacular fervor is misinterpreted out of a subtler, more elusive emotion.  The neo-Muslim betrayal of women is a different misreading of the Koran, though either side on this one similarly considers the other to be running up a trenchant blasphemy.

The Corbin text is primarily engaged with the formal practice of love and adoration whereby a profound sympathy is struck between romantic love and divine or sacred love such that they can be viewed as exemplars of each other, for the beloved contains an aspect of the Divine, and the Divine offers a unique depth perspective into the source-fount of human love as well as carnal infatuation.  In the translated words of Ibn Arabi himself:

'One of the most subtile phenomena of love is that which I experienced in myself.  You experience a vehement love, a sympathy, an ardent desire, an emotional agitation so great as to provoke physical weakness, total insomnia, disgust at all food, and yet you do not know for whom or by whom.  You cannot determine the object of your love.  It is the most subtile that I have observed in love by personal experience.  And then by chance a theophany appears to you in an inner vision.  Then this love attaches itself (to this mental theophany).  Or else you meet a certain person; at the sight the previously experienced emotion attaches itself to that person (as its object); you recognize that this person was the object of your love, though you were unaware of it.  Or else you hear a certain person spoken of, and you feel an inclination for the person, determined by the ardent desire that was in you before; you recognize that that person is your companion.  This is one of the most secret and subtile presentiments that souls have of things, divining them through the veils of Mystery, while knowing nothing of their mode of being, without even knowing whom they are in love with, in whom their love will repose, or even what the love they feel is in reality.  This is also experienced sometimes in the anguish of sadness or in the expansiveness of joy, when the cause of it remains unknown….  This is due to the pre-sentiment that souls have of things even before they materialize in the sphere of the outward senses.' "     

-  Richard Grossinger.

No comments:

Post a Comment