"...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

Thursday, October 17, 2019

A Corbin Drama!!! This is big news.

Splinters of a Careless Alphabet
A staged reading of a new play by Roxanne Varzi

Sunday, November 10
Winifred Smith Hall
University of California, Irvine

On the eve of a major protest what can French philosophy possibly have to do with the Iranian Revolution?

The setting is a chance encounter on a snowy Tehran night between an Iranian student and a French philosopher. Ali, a newlywed graduate student at Tehran University goes to return a book at the University and ends up in the office of French philosopher Henri Corbin. Unable to pass up on the opportunity to speak with Corbin, Ali spends the evening discussing Mystical Islam while his new wife, Leili is out protesting. He hears gunshots and runs out into the crowd to look for her.
We regard the 1979 Iranian Revolution as an Islamic movement, few know that a French philosopher may have had an influence on the Revolution. Splinters of a Careless Alphabet brings philosophy, history and religion to life through three students and a prominent Western philosopher on the eve of the Iranian Revolution when they are forced to come to terms with the choices they made that night and the resulting effects on their faith, relationships and ultimately the future of the country.

Splinters of a Careless Alphabet has been read at the American Anthropological Association’s Visual Anthropology Festival in San Jose in 2018, at University of California Irvine’s graduate student Anthropology in Transit and at The Hopscotch Reading Room in Berlin, Germany. 

This is the first staged reading and will follow a workshop of the play by professional actors under the direction of Elina Dos Santos, Co-Artistic Director of the Rogue Machine Theatre, and Resident Director of the Pacific Resident Theatre, both in Los Angeles, CA. 

Roxanne Varzi is a writer, artist, filmmaker and professor of Anthropology at University of California, Irvine. She was born in Iran to an American mother and Iranian father and migrated to the U.S shortly after the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Journée Corbin 30 nov 2019

Journée Corbin 30 nov 2019

Daniel Gastambide, président de l'AAHSC
Marc Gastambide, trésorier
Pierre Lory, secrétaire général
- 9h30-10h30 André VAUCHEZ (Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres),«La militia Christi dans la spiritualité de l’Occident médiéval (XIIe-XIIIe siècles)»

-10h30-11h30 Christian JAMBET (EPHE), « Le Jihâd majeur selon Mullâ Sadrâ »

-11h30-12h30 Martin AURELL (Universitéde Poitiers), « Contester la croisade au
nom de l’Évangile aux XIIeet XIIIe siècles »

14h15-15h00 Daniel PROULX « Recherches historiques autour de la notion de combat chez Henry Corbin »

15h00-16h00 Sepideh PARSAPAJOUH (CNRS), « La passion des martyrs de
guerre en Iran chiite contemporain - Un regard anthropologique »

16h00-17h00 Kabira NAÏT RAÏSS (UC Louvain) : « Frontière militaire et eschatologie chez les premiers ascètes combattants de l’islam »

Samedi 30 novembre 2019de 9h30 à 17h30 à l’amphithéâtre de l’INHA, 
2 rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The World Turned Inside Out in a new translation!

The World Turned Inside Out
Henry Corbin and Islamic Mysticism

by Tom Cheetham

Translated by
Amir Hossein Pournamdar

in Farsi! Available here:


Sunday, July 7, 2019



Mark Roblee

Readers of this blog will find MUCH of interest in this dissertation,
which can be accessed as a pdf here:

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Hermes Explained

Hardcover – June 17, 2019
by Wouter Hanegraaff (Editor), Peter Forshaw (Editor), Marco Pasi (Editor)

Few fields of academic research are surrounded by so many misunderstandings and misconceptions as the study of Western esotericism. For twenty years now, the Centre for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents (University of Amsterdam) has been at the forefront of international scholarship in this domain. This anniversary volume seeks to make the modern study of Western esotericism more widely known beyond specialist circles, while addressing a range of misconceptions, biases, and prejudices that still tend to surround it. Thirty-one major scholars in the field respond to questions about a wide range of unfamiliar ideas, traditions, practices, problems, and personalities that are central to the field. By challenging many taken-for-granted assumptions about religion, science, philosophy, and the arts, this volume demonstrates why the modern study of esotericism leads us to reconsider much that we thought we knew about the story of Western culture.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

New Translation!!!


De los cinco libros que Tom Cheetham ha consagrado a la obra del gran islamólogo francés Henry Corbin (1903-1978), es este volumen el que dedica mayor extensión y profundidad a descifrar el término árabe ta?wil, que conforma en sí mismo el concepto más importante de todo el corpus corbiniano. Ta?wil es la interpretación espiritual del sentido interior del Corán, que debe distinguirse de su lectura literal para convertirse en la tarea esencial de cualquier búsqueda espiritual. Tras ofrecer una visión general de la vida y obra de Corbin, que tanto amplió el contexto hermenéutico de las religiones, la espiritualidad contemporánea y la teoría y práctica del arte, especialmente de la poesía, Cheetham nos va desvelando el concepto ismailí de la gnosis del tiempo cíclico y ciertos relatos visionarios de Avicena, para explicar el sentido interior e integral de la Palabra en los textos sagrados e introducirnos en la hermenéutica del retorno al sentido original. Pero la idea central de este ensayo es la Imaginación, con mayúsculas, como potencia espiritual. El autor intenta clarificar las diferencias entre las perspectivas de Corbin, Jung y Hillman sobre su naturaleza. Algo que «no es un ejercicio meramente erudito», dice Cheetham, «desde el momento en que constatamos el papel esencial que juega en el gran esquema de las cosas, cómo influye decisivamente en lo que cada cual imagina y cómo uno responde a las demandas que crea la propia Imaginación». Tom Cheetham, además de sus cinco libros sobre las implicaciones de la obra de Henry Corbin en el mundo contemporáneo, ha escrito un volumen de poemas. Es miembro de la Academia Temenos ?fundada por Kathleen Raine y dedicada al fomento de las artes de la Imaginación? y profesor adjunto de la Universidad del Atlántico en Bar Harbor, Maine.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019


I'm going to send out a semi-regular email Newsletter with information about online classes, lectures & workshops, new writing and other bits of interest. 

Sign up for it

& thanks for your interest

Tom Cheetham

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Summer Online Corbin Course

After Prophecy
Henry Corbin & the Angel Out Ahead


Tom Cheetham
8 Week OnLine Class
Tuesdays, May 14 — July 2 2019
3pm New York Time

TO REGISTER CONTACT tcheetham@gmail.com

3rd in a series introducing the work of Henry Corbin. 
This course can be taken with no prerequisite. 
We meet once a week for approximately 2 ½ hours.
All sessions are recorded and available for download by registered students. 
Tuition for the course is $300, or $40 per session.
"Scholarships" are available for those in need. 


"Mundus Imaginalis or the Imaginary and the Imaginal" 
The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism

& selections from 

Temple and Contemplation 
Cyclical Time and Ismaili Gnosis

Texts are available as pdf files free of charge through links I will provide.  
There will be a weekly Newsletter with notes and reference material. 

Tom Cheetham, PhD, is a biologist, philosopher and poet. He is the author of five books on the imagination in psychology, religion and the arts, most recently Imaginal Love (2015), and a book of poems, Boundary Violations (2015). He compiled the bibliography of archetypal psychology for James Hillman’s Archetypal Psychology: A Brief Account and is editor of volume 11 of the Uniform Edition of Hillman's works, On Depression (forthcoming). He is a Fellow of the Temenos Academy in London and teaches and lectures regularly in Europe and the US.
Amazon Author Page

Monday, March 18, 2019

Charles Olson reads from Corbin's Avicenna and the Visionary Recital (20 Jul 1965)

Charles Olson reads from 

Avicenna and the Visionary Recital 

(20 Jul 1965)

posted by 


Corbin & Poetry

Here is a link to a new working document I'm putting together on Henry Corbin's relation to Art & Poetry worldwide. 
If you have additions or corrections please don't hesitate to contact me:


Visionary Recitals After Corbin
A Source Book

Tom Cheetham

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Corbin on Tolkien (originally posted in 2009)

What follows is from the Epilogue to « L'Elément dramatique commun aux cosmogonies gnostiques des religions du Livre », Cahiers de l'Université Saint Jean de Jérusalem 5, 1979, 141-174. It appears in English as "The Dramatic Element Common to Gnostic Cosmogonies of the Religions of the Book," Studies in Comparative Religion 14/3-4 (1980): 199-221. This is the last talk Corbin delivered. He presented this essay in June, four months before his death in October, 1978.

"…Is it right to speak, as is often the case, of the pessimism of Gnosis? Such a judgment assumes that one has forgotten what the struggle of the Gnostic is about, what its origin is and what its outcome will be. This outcome makes it clear that if gnosis despairs of this world it is in the form of a desperatio fiducialis, a confident desperation… Where then is the optimism of this despair rooted?

For this optimism is in contrast with the grandiose but hopeless perspective of the heroic Nordic epic, with its eschatological vision of Ragnorak, the Fate of the Gods. There too the gods are the allies of men, and both together are partners in the same struggle against monstrous cosmic powers; but they know that they will finally be killed by these monstrous powers, and that after that the world will be destroyed. “The victors are Chaos and Insanity, but the Gods who will be defeated consider that the defeat is not a refutation… They offer absolute resistance, perfect, because without hope…” [W.P. Ker, The Dark Ages, 1904] Certainly the predominance of Darkness is not a refutation of the Light. But inversely, when the Light prevails over Darkness, is this a refutation of Darkness? Does Darkness allow itself to be refuted? Will the Light simply be its refutation?

I would like to reply to these questions with the aid of a recent work, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I think that this is the first time since the conclusion of the Grail cycle that there has appeared in the West an epic at once heroic, mystic and Gnostic, the narrative events of which can enchant the wise both young and old because they will recognize its hidden meaning. Throughout the epic is dominated by the theme of the maleficent Ring mislaid in the country of Light. This ring continually incites the best among the beings of the Light to submit to the temptation it represents: the will to power. Indeed the temptation is great to use the evil will to power in the service of the Light. Moreover it is not in the Darkness that the temptation of the Darkness can become virulent, but in the realm of light. It is in the world of Light that the drama, which for all gnoses initiates cosmogony, has its origin.

But the world of Light absolutely must not resort to the evil will to power in order to ensure its victory over Darkness. To resort to that desire would be to ensure the triumph of the Darkness. It is not even enough to hide, to bury the Ring in some secret and unknown place in the realm of Light: its malefic influence will continue to operate. It must be not simply rejected but destroyed. But to destroy is a negative action, and the world of Light does not permit negativity.

The weapon of the light is of another order: it is to compel the Darkness to destroy itself, to accomplish its negation by the negation of its own negativity. To destroy the evil Ring, representative of the will to power, is to cast it back into Darkness, so that the Darkness destroys what has issued from it. A fearless hero, overcoming the most terrifying apparitions and traps, must carry the Ring back to its place of origin: to the furnace which is in the crater of the mountain of the Lord of the Shadow, in the land of Darkness. When the hero finally casts the Ring into the abyss, the world of Light is delivered from the evil will to power. This is the theme of Tolkien’s epic.

What the hero performs in this epic appears as a Quest in reverse of the Quest for the Holy Grail. But at the same time this Quest seems to be a necessary prelude, a Quest without which the Quest for the Grail cannot succeed. Parsifal’s speech, at the end of Book XV of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s epic, warns us that “no one can obtain the Grail except him whom God himself has appointed.” From this time. Wolfram tells us, “this word traveled across all lands, that no one could win the Grail by fighting for it, and so, many knights gave up searching for it.” For the Elect are not appointed by God to become ‘possessors’ of the Grail by force of arms. They must first of all renounce such possession, and this is to destroy their will to power through their own powerlessness. Only then can they attain the vision of elsewhere to which they must commit themselves. “This is why the Grail still remains hidden to all eyes,” Wolfram tells us.

We know what he means: it is hidden to all eyes of the flesh. The epic of the Grail ends in occultation. Parsifal carries it back to a mystical East…that is not on our maps, or it is taken from this world and withdrawn to the “spiritual Palace” (Galahad). Must we then speak of the pessimism of the Grail cycle? To do so would be to forget…what is the nature of the struggle that opens to way towards the Grail, and what the eyes are that perceive this way. The world in which the Grail is occulted is still visible to the eyes of fire, and that is why there will always be secret Knights-Templar who pursue the Quest for the Grail… [F]or it is not with the weapons of the will to power but through knightly service that one is a partner of a God in exile and that one sets free the sparks of light imprisoned in… the world of shadows and defilement…"

(Translation slightly altered.)

Orodruin, Mount Doom, Mordor.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Online Corbin Course #2 - Sign up Now!!!

Visionary Recitals
Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings

An Online Course with Tom Cheetham

We meet for 3 hours, once a week for 8 weeks.

Tuesdays 3-6 pm New York Time
March 12 - April 30, 2019

Register or inquire about details by contacting me directly:

$50 per live class session - $400 for the course
*Sliding scale—reduced rates available*
Payment via Paypal

Audio & Video recordings available for registered students.
You do not have to attend a live session.

Classes will be via Zoom online meeting host.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019


Narjis Mirza, Auckland University of Technology
Performance Philosophy Journal Vol 4 no 2, 2019

Narjis Mirza is an installation artist and a PhD candidate at Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand. Her practice-led research brings together philosophy and spatial experiments of light, highlighting the transcendent philosophy of a Persian Muslim philosopher Mulla Sadra Shirazi. Narjis plans to expand the dialogue through concept films and light installations. Narjis completed her masters’ degree in media and design from Bilkent University, Turkey. She also received distinction for her Bachelors in Fine Arts at the National College of Arts in Pakistan. Narjis lives and works in Sydney and Auckland.

Image 1: Narjis Mirza, Light Installation 2018 (photo credit Sam Hartnett)

Light in its unqualified sense bears many meanings according to the multitude, some meanings are equivocal, some literal and some metaphorical, such as light of the sun, light of the moon, light of the lamp, the light of intellect, the light of faith, the light of piety, the light of a ruby, the light of gold, the light of turquoise. (Sadra 2004, 35)

It is through light that we are able to reach out to the not-yet known, to the indistinct potential and the unrealised. Artist Derek Ventling suggests that light is a source for “continuous negotiation with our surroundings” (Ventling 2017, 19). The ephemeral force of light contours our perception and defines our physical and spatial surroundings. Light is significant for both art practice and philosophy. In the book The Practice of Light, Sean Cubitt ruminates on the performance of light and the “potential that lies curled up inside.” Light begins in the invisible black and performs as a mediation between the known and unknown world (2).

Sadr-ud-Din Muhammad Shirazi, famously known as Mulla Sadra, a 17 th-century Persian Muslim philosopher, begins his exegesis on the “light verse”[1] of the Quran by contemplating the multitude of meanings of light. Sadra draws light away from its physical temporal meanings towards a divine spiritual entity (al Munawwir) “that realizes all existence” (Sadra 2004, 43). Sadra equates existence with light by saying “the reality of light and existence is the same thing” (21).

There is a long history for the use of light to present God’s presence towards creation. Cubitt tracks a genealogy of such a light in early artworks dating as far back as the 1400s. He writes, “Light was a perfect symbol of God illuminating everything yet itself invisible” (Cubitt 2014, 46). As a contemporary artist, I use light as a research tool to trace the resonance of the unseen. For me, light is a medium of immense potential, that structures our perception of the visual world. Light is in constant movement, transient and transcendental.... READ THE ARTICLE

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Corbin and Poetry in America: another in the endless series...

Diane di Prima:
Visionary Poetics and the Hidden Religions

David Stephen Calonne

You can read pp 171-174 on Henry Corbin at Google Books