"...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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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Spring 2018 Lecture/Workshop

Tom Cheetham

June 1 & 2, 2018
The C.G. Jung Center
Brunswick, Maine

Draft Description - Subject to Change

Friday Evening Lecture

Not a Science But a Story
Imagination & the Lumen Natura

We begin with a meditation on Jung's Red Book and the nature of imagination in art, psychology and religion. In his essays on Picasso and Joyce, Jung expressed "intense irritation." He treated them, Sonu Shamdasani tells us, like "crazy brothers" whose works are "way too close for comfort as they approach a similar terrain from a different vertex." He thought they were playing a dangerous game. "He recognizes the motifs from his own experience, but he still judges it as crazy" because "they appear to be exalting, reveling in it. The nekyia becomes a bacchanal." It offends him as "almost sacrilegious" and "a send-up of the holiest mysteries." He didn't consider that the dedication of these radical artists might be a religious act itself. Shamdasani then makes a critically important point: "[Jung] also doesn't see the extent to which the form of presentation within Picasso and Joyce is sufficient unto itself. There's a lumen natura, to borrow one of the alchemical expressions Jung himself uses, already within the image, There's a translucency that doesn't require anything else… [But] for Jung, it's insufficient." Whole cosmologies, cultures and forms of life revolve around the way we understand this lumen natura. What is this translucency? What is it sufficient for? And why was it insufficient for Jung? What was he looking for? What should we be searching for? Drawing on the work of James Hillman, Henry Corbin and a range of contemporary poets and artists, we'll address questions about the nature of the lumen natura and why Jung refused to think of the Red Book as "art."

Saturday Lecture

Wonders to Behold
Henry Corbin, Gaston Bachelard & the Blaze of Reality

A recurring phrase in the archaic Greek of the Iliad and the Odyssey is thauma idesthai: a wonder to behold. These incandescent marvels occupy the boundary between humans and the gods. Scholar Vered Lev Kenaan tells us that this experience of wonder "requires a mode of perception that involves recognition of the hidden, invisible, and divine dimension of things [and] is accompanied by a sense of danger." The anthropologist Stanley Diamond argued that an archaic sense of immersion in reality is common to the people of non-technological cultures, to artists and to mystics. They share a heightened awareness of reality that "commands a focus on the singularity of the object to such a degree that everything seems at once marvellous, strange, familiar and unexpected. No category can exhaust such an object; it saturates the perceiving subject… for [the artist] the object has become incandescent." The contemporary phenomenologist Jean-luc Marion has called such events "saturated phenomena." They "appear in full authority, in full glory, as the first morning of a world." They are unforeseeable, dazzling, unconditional and paradoxical. Marion insists they are not mystical limit cases, but rather the most fully realized experience of the bare phenomenon. Such a being "appears without the limits of a horizon and without reduction to an I." In Buddhist cultures such an egoless and unbounded openness is enlightenment. The 13th century Japanese Zen master Dōgen Zenji wrote: "To carry yourself forward and experience myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and experience themselves is awakening." This intensity of experience lies at the root of the mystery of the sacred. Referring to tale of the Burning Bush, Father Pavel Evdokimov lamented that today “we have lost the flame of things and the secret content of simple reality.” How can we recover a sense of reality that both humbles and empowers us and wakens us to the continuous mystery and beauty of merely being alive?
We can go a long way towards answering that question by attending to the life and work of two of the 20th century's great champions of the imagination, Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962) and Henry Corbin (1903-1978). They, like Jung, shared a fascination with an alchemical vision of fire, light and transformation. Bachelard discovered in Corbin's work an impassioned example of the fire of imagination that he had been meditating on for many years. We will examine the allied but contrasting visions of Jung, Corbin and Bachelard and use their work to help open ourselves to forms of life and thought that can free us to experience the blaze of reality in all things.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

New from Peter O'Leary

Thick and Dazzling Darkness

Religious Poetry in a Secular Age

Peter O'Leary

November 2017

How do poets use language to render the transcendent, often dizzyingly inexpressible nature of the divine? In an age of secularism, does spirituality have a place in modern American poetry? In Thick and Dazzling Darkness, Peter O’Leary reads a diverse set of writers to argue for the existence and importance of religious poetry in twentieth- and twenty-first-century American literature. He traces a poetic genealogy that begins with Whitman and Dickinson and continues in the work of contemporary writers to illuminate an often obscured but still central spiritual impulse that has shaped the production and imagination of American poetry.

O’Leary presents close and comprehensive readings of the modernist, late-modernist, and postmodern poets Robinson Jeffers, Frank Samperi, and Robert Duncan, as well as the contemporary poets Joseph Donahue, Geoffrey Hill, Fanny Howe, Nathaniel Mackey, Pam Rehm, and Lissa Wolsak. Examining how these poets drew on a variety of traditions, including Catholicism, Gnosticism, the Kabbalah, and mysticism, the book considers how modern and contemporary poets have articulated the spiritual in their work. O’Leary also argues that an anxiety of misunderstanding exists in the study and writing of poetry between secular and religious impulses and that the religious nature of poets’ works is too often marginalized or misunderstood. Examining the works of a specific poet in each chapter, O’Leary reveals their complexity and offers a defense of the value and meaning of religious poetry against the grain of a secular society.

Peter O’Leary is the author of Gnostic Contagion: Robert Duncan and the Poetry of Illness (2002), as well as several books of poetry, most recently The Sampo (2016), and he is the editor of a new edition of Ronald Johnson’s ARK (2013). He teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago.