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Green Man, Earth Angel Reviewed by Dennis Patrick Slattery

Green Man, Earth Angel Reviewed by Dennis Patrick Slattery

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Published by Tom Cheetham
in Spring Journal 76 (2007) - Psyche & Nature Part 2
in Spring Journal 76 (2007) - Psyche & Nature Part 2

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Published by: Tom Cheetham on Sep 02, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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07/20/2013

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Green Man, Earth Angel 1
TOM CHEETHAM.
Green Man, Earth Angel: The Prophetic Tradition and the Battle for the Soul of the World 
. Foreword by Robert Sardello. Albany:State University of New York Press, 2005.Reviewed by Dennis Patrick Slattery
(In SPRING 76 – Psyche & Nature Part 2)
Tom Cheetham’s book could just as easily be titled:
 A Brief but  Involved History of the Writings of Henry Corbin
. Corbin (1903-1978) wasdirector of Studies in Islam and the Religions of Arabia in Paris and heldother teaching posts at the University of Teheran, lecturer at Eranos andothers.Robert Sardello’s Foreword to Cheetham’s research and insights is on point in revealing the imaginal link between the thought of C.G. Jung toCorbin’s insights on Islamic mysticism. Where the two thinkers converge isin their respective explorations of the imaginal quality of psyche. Yet, asSardello makes clear, part through his own teaching and writing on the soulof the world, the realm of spirit is that which separates Jung from Corbin’sinterests: “the
Mundus Imaginalis
is the imaginal world of the spirit” (p.xiii).The five chapter titles, carrying initially their own cryptic weight,delineate the themes of this challenging text: 1. “We Are Now in Heaven”:The
Mundus
 
 Imaginalis
and the Catastrophe of Materialism; 2. Consuming
 
Green Man, Earth Angel 2
Passions: The Poet, the Feast, and the Science of Balance; 3. Black Light:Hades, Lucifer and the Secret of the Secret; 4. Within This Darkness:Incarnation, Theophany, and the Primordial Revelation; 5. HarmoniaAbrahamica: The Lost Speech and The Battle for the Soul of the World.This last carries the apocalyptic urgency of the subtitle, excavated fromCorbin’s own world view. Nowhere does this far ranging and sophisticatedsurvey of the loss of the world soul allow for easy summary; it is far too baroque in architecture and in thematic interests: history, religion,imagination, abstraction, language, culture, myth, poetry, alchemy,mysticism, depth psychology, philosophy, human embodiment—enough torattle anyone’s caged thoughts into new territory. A glance at the extensive bibliography confirms such.I take as my platinum bar when I read a book the following: what doesthis work allow, coax, persuade, and provoke me to think about? Whatindividual or sets of analogies begin to emerge and coalesce through thealchemy of this text? Cheetham’s excursus forced dozens of associations tothe fore, most especially the poetic imagination’s workings. I say this because of Cheetham’s deft treatment of that space between psyche andmyth: “we uncover here in mythic space, in psyche, the primal conjunctionof the concrete and the uncertain; the fecundity of the void. It is just here, at
 
Green Man, Earth Angel 3
this origin, where mystery and certainty coincide…it is here, in the realm of the inhuman, both divine and demonic, where meaning is born. This is the
mundus imaginalis
” (p.7). Influenced deeply, Cheetham admits, by the work of David Abram’s
The Spell of the Sensuous,
he is attracted to this more-than-human realm where the imaginal pulses, however weakly in these pedestrian times.At times too preachy for my tastes, and often with a predilection touse the pronoun “We” with strident abandon—and makes me wonder whothis “we” refers to—nonetheless, as the subtitle of the book expresseswithout apology, the battle today is for the
anima mundi
as it is continuallytrodden by a world descending into further abstractions and its source,rationality, which Cheetham believes, ignores most of life’s weightyexperiences. One of his clarion calls is to return to thinking as an imaginalact, and to ideas as “openings onto other worlds, tangential to ours. Theydemand the attention of the whole person; they demand attention tosubtleties we have almost wholly forgotten” (p.11). This idea too I like:“Myths, or mythic moves, open spaces. Rational accounts limit them…Bothare necessary.” (p.9). His call is not rabid; it is balanced but frequentlyhyperbolic in the way poetry is hyperbolic, full of exaggerations, evendistortions, in order to bring attention to the insight. Cheetham’s approach,

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