All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings

All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings

by Tom Cheetham


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All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings by Tom Cheetham

All the World an Icon is the fourth book in an informal "quartet" of works by Tom Cheetham on the spirituality of Henry Corbin, a major twentieth-century scholar of Sufism and colleague of C. G. Jung, whose influence on contemporary religion and the humanities is beginning to become clear. Cheetham's books have helped spark a renewed interest in the work of this important, creative religious thinker.

Henry Corbin (1903-1978) was professor of Islamic religion at the Sorbonne in Paris and director of the department of Iranic studies at the Institut Franco-Iranien in Teheran. His wide-ranging work includes the first translations of Heidegger into French, studies in Swedenborg and Boehme, writings on the Grail and angelology, and definitive translations of Persian Islamic and Sufi texts. He introduced such seminal terms as "the imaginal realm" and "theophany" into Western thought, and his use of the Shi'ite idea of ta'wil or "spiritual interpretation" influenced psychologist James Hillman and the literary critic Harold Bloom. His books were read by a broad range of poets including Charles Olson and Robert Duncan, and his impact on American poetry, says Cheetham, has yet to be fully appreciated. His published titles in English include Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi, Avicenna and the Visionary Recital, and The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism.

As the religions of the Book place the divine Word at the center of creation, the importance of hermaneutics, the theory and practice of interpretation, cannot be overstated. In the theology and spirituality of Henry Corbin, the mystical heart of this tradition is to be found in the creative, active imagination; the alchemy of spiritual development is best understood as a story of the soul's search for the Lost Speech. Cheetham eloquently demonstrates Corbin's view that the living interpretation of texts, whether divine or human—or, indeed, of the world itself seen as the Text of Creation—is the primary task of spiritual life.

In his first three books on Corbin, Cheetham explores different aspects of Corbin's work, but has saved for this book his final analysis of what Corbin meant by the Arabic term ta'wil—perhaps the most important concept in his entire oeuvre. "Any consideration of how Corbin's ideas were adapted by others has to begin with a clear idea of what Corbin himself intended," writes Cheetham; "his own intellectual and spiritual cosmos is already highly complex and eclectic and a knowledge of his particular philosophical project is crucial for understanding the range and implications of his work." Cheetham lays out the implications of ta'wil as well as the use of language as integral part of any artistic or spiritual practice, with the view that the creative imagination is a fundamentally linguistic phenomenon for the Abrahamic religions, and, as Corbin tells us, prayer is the supreme form of creative imagination.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781583944554
Publisher: North Atlantic Books
Publication date: 07/03/2012
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Tom Cheetham, PhD, is the author of four books on the implications of Henry Corbin's work for the contemporary world. With a background in philosophy and environmental studies, he turned his attention to the work of James Hillman and Henry Corbin in the mid-nineties, and has been writing and lecturing on Corbin since then. He is a Fellow of the Temenos Academy in London ( and an adjunct professor at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Chapter 1 The Spiritual Vision of Henry Corbin 1

Introduction 1

A Biographical Sketch 7

The Legacy of Henry Corbin 12

The Major Themes of Corbin's Thought 16

Chapter 2 Hermeneutics of the Soul: Cyclical Time 32

By Way of Orientation 32

The Orient of Light 37

Cyclical Time in Mazdaism 40

Cyclical Time in Ismailism 48

Chapter 3 Hermeneutics of the Soul: The Visionary Recital 61

A Phenomenology of the Angelic Consciousness 61

The Philosophical Situation 63

The Stranger, the Guide, and the Return of the Soul 75

Chapter 4 In Search of the Lost Speech 87

The Great Drama 87

Ta'wil and Freedom of the Soul 92

The Primacy of the Act 108

The Angel out Ahead 114

The Moth and the Flame 120

Chapter 5 Imagining the Imaginal 130

Angels and Demons, Integration and Orientation: Henry Corbin Meets C. G. Jung 130

Job, Zarathustra, and the Shadow of a Doubt 140

Active Imagination: Therapeutics and Psycho-cosmology 159

Toward a Phenomenology of the Icon 182

Chapter 6 The Vale of Soul-Making 190

Chapter 7 On the Bridge 204

Chapter 8 The Test of the Veil 215

Are You Alive? 215

The Dynamics of Love 225

Chapter 9 The Ignorance of Angels 234

Acknowledgments 252

Notes 254

Bibliography 274

Index 283

About the Author 290

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