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Nasr Reviews Corbin

Nasr Reviews Corbin

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Published by Tom Cheetham
Seyyéd Hossein Nasr: Review of Henry Corbin, Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth: From Mazdean Iran to Shî'ite Iran by Henry Corbin; Corps spirituelle et terre céleste, de l'Iran Mazdean à l'Iran shî'ite; Temple et Contemplation; La Philosophie iranienne aux xviie et xviiie siècles. Religious Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Jun. 1982), pp. 233-236.
Seyyéd Hossein Nasr: Review of Henry Corbin, Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth: From Mazdean Iran to Shî'ite Iran by Henry Corbin; Corps spirituelle et terre céleste, de l'Iran Mazdean à l'Iran shî'ite; Temple et Contemplation; La Philosophie iranienne aux xviie et xviiie siècles. Religious Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Jun. 1982), pp. 233-236.

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Published by: Tom Cheetham on Feb 06, 2010
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05/11/2014

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Rel.Stud. I8, pp.233-276
REVIEWS
Henry Corbin.SpiritualBodyandCelestialEarth-FromMazdeanIrantoShi'iteIran,trans.NancyPearson.(Princeton:PrincetonUniversity Press, Bollingen
SeriesxcI: 2,I977.)
HenryCorbin.Corps spirituelleet terreceleste,del'IranMazdeanal'Iranshi'ite.Pp.303. (Paris:Buchet/Chastel, I979.)HenryCorbin.TempleetContemplation,ssaissurl'Islamiranien.p.447. (Paris:Flammarion,I980.)Henry Corbin.LaPhilosophieiranienneuxxviieetxviiiesiecles.Pp.4I 7.(Paris:Buchet/Chastel,198I.)Theappearance of severalmajorworks ofCorbinduringthepastthreeorfouryears,alongwith thetranslationof moreof hiswritingsintoEnglishthanhadbeenhithertoavailable,isaneventofimportancenotonlyforthefieldofIslamicstudies,but also forcomparativereligionand what isgraduallycomingtobe knownascomparativephilosophy.Atirelessscholardedicatedthroughbothintellectualparticipationand love tothefieldofIslamicphilosophy,theosophyandSufism, especiallyinits Persianformandexpression,Corbin wasabletoleaveamonumental workbehind whenlateinI978 sudden illnesscaused hisdeath whilehewasattheprimeof hisscholarlyactivities.Sincethen,thanks tothediligentcareandsystematicandmeticulous effortof his wife andlifecompanion MmeStellaCorbin,severalof hisworks haveappearedinneweditionsor infacthaveseenthelightofdayfor the first time asinthecase ofTempleetcontemplationndLaPhilosophieiranienne.Spiritual BodyandCelestialEarthisoneofthemostimportant andgroundbreakingworks ofCorbinwhoseoriginal French versionunder thetitle TerrecelesteetcorpsderesurrectionParis,I96I)revealedawholedomain and'climate' ofthespiritualuniverseofthe Persiansages andmystics. ThesecondFrencheditioncontains notonly a new titleand certaincorrections butanimportant new 'prelude'in whichCorbinsummarizes thedoctrine of the'imaginal world'(mundus imaginalis)with whichthe work isprimarilyconcerned. As forthetext,itconsists,like the originaledition, oftwo parts,thefirstdealingwiththedoctrine ofthe intermediateworld oreighth climeasreflectedinbothMazdean andIslamic andmoreparticularlyShi'itesources;and thesecondwith atranslation ofselected texts ofsome of theIslamicphilosophers,theosophersandgnostics whohave dealtwith thissubject beginningwithSuhrawardiinthe6th/I2th centuryandcontinuing
 
234RELIGIOUS STUDIES
through Ibn 'Arabi,Da'uid al-Qaysari, 'Abd al-Karim al-Jill, Shams al-DinLThiji,Sadr al-DinShirazi, 'Abdal-RazzaqLahiji and MullaMuhsinFaydKashani to severalmasters of theShaykhi schoolwho lived duringthe lastcentury.When Corbinfirst conceived the planof this work early in the50s,practically nothingof these figures was known in theWest save perhapsIbn'Arabi.It is toalarge extent thanks toCorbin'sown efforts that, nearly thirtyyears later, scholars of Islamic thoughtatleastaregradually beginning tobecome aware of themain contours of the vastintellectual and spiritual spaceof later Islamic and Persian philosophyand gnosis unveiled formany in theOccidentforthefirst timebyCorbininthis work.The task oftranslationfrom the original Arabic and Persianby Corbinwasindeedadifficult onein thatCorbinwasforcedtodevelop a 'new'vocabularytodeal withatypeof doctrine which had been alientothe currentphilosophical vocabulary ofFrench since the Renaissance.Hence hiscontinuous recourseto earlier Latin terminology and the need to resuscitatesomeof the earlier vocabulary used by medieval and Renaissance philosophersand theosopherswho stillspokeof andwereconcernedwithsuch doctrinesasthat of the intermediateworld. TheEnglish translation,althoughingeneral satisfactory,leavessomethingtobe desiredasfarasthesecond partofthe book isconcerned,foritreallyrepresentsatranslation ofatranslation.Itwouldhave beenmuchbetterifthe selectionshad beentranslated intoEnglish from the original Arabic and Persian.Be that as itmay, the translationofSpiritual BodyandCelestial Earthisstillamajoradditionto theliteratureonIslamicphilosophyinEnglishandthetranslator succeedsinmostinstancesinreflecting the meaning intendedby Corbin, as couched in thespecial style which characterizes his writings,for thosewho are familiar withthetechnical vocabularywhich heemploys.The workisparticularlywelcomeinthat italso dealswithIslamiceschatology concerningwhich thereis solittleseriousliteratureinWesternlanguages.Temple et contemplation s based ona seriesoftheEranosconferencesatAsconawhoseproceedingsfirstappearedinthe EranosJahrbuch,selectionsbeingmadebyCorbinhimselfbeforehis deathtohave themprintedtogetherasthepresentbook;itisnotonlyamajor studyof thespiritualmeaningoftheTempleinIslam,but alsoanimportantworkofcomparativereligion. Throughhisphenomenological approachCorbindealswiththemetaphysical,initiatic andcosmologicalsignificanceoftheTemplein all themonotheisticreligionswithspecial emphasison IranianIslam.Theworktakeswithin itscompasscolorsymbolismin Islamiccosmology;the'Scienceof theBalance'inIslamicgnosis;the SabaeanTempleandIsma'llism;theConfigurationof theKa'bahasthesecret ofthespiritual life;theImagotempliinfaceof theprofaneworld;EzekielandtheNewTemple:theImago templifrom Ezekiel toPhilo,Eckhardt and Robert Fludd; the spiritual templeand
 
REVIEWS235
the Qumran community; the Imago templiand the Templar knights; theTemple and the Holy Grail, the Imago templiand the 'Sons of the Valley';and finally theNl/ovaHierosolymaofSwedenborg.As the table of contents reveals, this bookcutsacross religiousfrontiers.It is in fact an ecumenical workinthe realand not debased sense ofthewordandrepresentsamajorachievementinthe field ofcomparativereligion,revealing profound morphological similaritiesinthe spiritual universescreated bytheAbrahamic revelations.Ofparticular interest,asfar as Islamicstudies isconcerned,isthelong chapterontheconfigurationof theKa'bahbasedontheSecretsof Worship (Asrar al-'ibadat)oftheIIth/ I7th centuryPersianphilosopherandgnostic Qad!Sa'ldQummi.Inthismasterlyworknot only does Corbin deal with the spiritual significance of the rites ofpilgrimage(al-haj),but also with the symbolism of the geometry of theKa'bah as a reflection of the celestialTemplewhich is the prototype of alltemples. This study is thereforeasprecious for the understanding of certainaspects of Islamicart asit is for thereligiouspractices of Islam.Corbinalsoreturns again and again to the relation between contemplation and theTemple as understood not only externally but most of all inwardly, formanin his innerrealityishimself theTemplewhereinresidues theDivine Presence.La Philosophie iranienne,lthoughalengthyvolumeinitself,representsonlyapartofamajor projectwhichCorbin undertookduringthe lastyearsofhis life and which wasnevercompleted.Inthe late sixties whenwediscussedtogetherinTehran thepossibilityofcarryingoutanextensiveprojecttomake better knownthe laterphaseofIslamicthoughtinPersia andadjacentareas,it wasdecidedthat oneshould firstprepareananthologyof thewritings of the philosophers and theosophersof the last fewcenturies,and thenembarkuponan indepth studyof thesubject. Together,wedecided thatwhatE.Gilson,andlater hisstudents,had achievedforLatinScholasticphilosophywouldhavetobe undertakenforIslamicphilosophy especiallyinits laterphases beginning witha substantialanthology.With thisendinviewIsuggestedtohimtocollaboratewiththeindefatigablePersianscholarS.J.Ashtiyaniwho, besides beingatraditionalphilosopher,hadalready amassedagreatdeal of information aboutmanuscriptsofworks oflesserknownIslamic philosophers, followinginthe wake ofNasiral-DinTiisi and Qutbal-Din Shirazi.CorbinandAshtiyanithusbegantocollaborateontheanthologyof theworksofthe laterphilosophers,decidingtocommence withMirDamad and theShl'itethinkers of the Safavid period rather than thoseof theearlierperiod.Awork whichwasplannedintwo volumestobepublishedbytheIranianAcademyofPhilosophy grew rapidlyto sevenlongvolumesincorporatingmaterialnotknown even totraditional authorities onIslamic philosophyinPersia and disclosing a landscape much more variedanddiversified than had been hitherto suspected. Corbin wrote a lengthyprolegomena to each of the three volumes that appeared before his death,

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