"...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.
During a prolific 200-year period in the 14th–16th centuries, four master calligraphers invented one of the most aesthetically refined forms of Persian culture: nasta‘liq, a type of calligraphy so beautiful that for the first time the expressive form of the words eclipsed their meaning. “Nasta‘liq: The Genius of Persian Calligraphy,” opening Sept. 13 at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, displays 20 rarely seen masterworks created by the script’s greatest practitioners, tracing its evolution from a simple style of writing to a potent form of artistic expression.
This is the first exhibition ever to focus specifically on nasta‘liq, which was used primarily to write poetry, Persia’s quintessential form of literature. With sinuous lines, short vertical strokes and an astonishing sense of rhythm, the script was an immediate success and was rapidly adopted throughout the Persian-speaking world from Turkey to India. The exhibition shows how generations of itinerant calligraphers, bound by the master-pupil relationship, developed, enhanced and spreadnasta‘liq between major artistic centers.
“Nasta‘liq represents one of the most accomplished forms of Persian art, developed at a time of cultural and artistic effervescence in Iran,” said Simon Rettig, exhibition curator and curatorial fellow at the Freer and Sackler galleries. “In a sense, it became the visual embodiment of the Persian language enthusiastically embraced from Istanbul to Delhi and from Bukhara to Baghdad.”
Each of the four masters featured in the exhibition—Mir Ali from Tabriz (active ca. 1370–1410), Sultan Ali from Mashhad (d. 1520), Mir Ali from Herat (d. 1545) and Mir Imad Hasani from Qazvin (d. 1615)—further evolved the nasta‘liq style, intentionally slanting the script for dramatic effect, modulating lines to balance fluidity and discipline, and adding delicate, twisting flourishes. Often attached to royal and princely courts, many calligraphers were the celebrities of their time, and visitors will learn fascinating anecdotes of fame and rivalry.
Mastering nasta‘liq can take a lifetime, but it remains the most popular form of Persian calligraphy today. A demonstration video in the exhibition, along with calligraphic tools and accessories, shows how techniques developed more than 500 years ago are still practiced by contemporary calligraphers.
Primarily drawn from the collections of the Freer and Sackler galleries, highlights include the only known signed work by the “inventor” of nasta‘liq Mir Ali from Tabriz, two folios from a collection of poetry by the late 15th-century ruler Sultan Husayn Bayqara and sumptuous illuminated pages from imperial Mughal albums.
The exhibition will be on view through March 22, 2015, and will be featured during the museum’s annual family festival celebrating Nowruz, the Persian New Year, Saturday, March 7, 2015. Other exhibition-related programs include a Point of View talk with exhibition curator Simon Rettig Oct. 14 and lectures by eminent specialists, including David J. Roxburgh of Harvard University Dec. 14 and Dick Davis of Ohio State University Jan. 25, 2015. For a full listing of related events, visit asia.si.edu/nastaliq.
The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue S.W., and the adjacent Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day (closed Dec. 25), and admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information about the Freer and Sackler galleries and their exhibitions, programs and other public events, visit asia.si.edu or follow twitter.com/freersackleror facebook.com/freersackler. For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.
We outline a specific profile of philosophy of religion emerging from the work of Henry Corbin, a thinker who engages with contemporary issues, interpreter of the Iranian Shi’ite tradition and of the currents of Gnosis,. The first chapter is devoted to the phenomenological method of Docetism. Compared to the bettern-known issue of mundus imaginalis, the Docetism is equally crucial: it is familiar to many Eastern and Western gnostic currents – a downright critical theory of visionary knowledge, that rebuilds metaphysics in a perspective that goes beyond Nietzsche and Heidegger, and an ontology not primarily ontic, not simply predicative, but “ontophanique” (G. Durand). In the second chapter we have meant to discuss the docetist theoretical foundations of ‘image’, starting from the illusory paradox of the regard granted to imagination in the Islamic context, usually defined as aniconic. The aniconic instance is analysed starting from the contrast between “idol” and “icon”: the first is the opaque image, the second is the transparent mirror. The image, at that level, is not the imitation of a model, but the ability to mirror, and a constitutive relating with the other outside the self: unus ambo, dualitude. In the third chapter we present the main focus of this kind of Docetism: to actualize the spiritual. The specificity of the Iranian Islam is confronted with the Platonic tradition of the Russian theology, the psychology of Jung, and a Western archaic sense of the image. Finally, in order to avoid any relativist misunderstanding, we reflect, along with Corbin, upon what makes a vision true.
It reminds me of Castoriadis' attempt (not unrelated I think) to include the imagination in philosophy:
"[P]hilosophers almost always start by saying: “I want to see what being is, what reality is. Now, here is a table; what does this table show to me as characteristic of a real being?” No philosopher ever started by saying: “I want to see what being is, what reality is. Now, here is my memory of my dream of last night; what does this show me as characteristic of a real being?” No philosopher ever starts by saying “Let the Requiem of Mozart be a paradigm of being”, and seeing in the physical world a deficient mode of being..."
Here is a link to Professor Chittick's academia.edu page. It gives full access to all of his articles published to date. Most of them are up there now, and few dozen more will be added in upcoming weeks. There are also some translations of his articles available here, as well as several of his interviews:
If you do not have an academia.edu account, you'll need to create one (free of charge) in order to download the articles (although without an account you can still view most of them). Having an academia.edu account also gives access to the works of many other scholars in Islamic Studies (and various other disciplines).