Cultural Hermeneutics: The Concept of Imagination in the Phenomenological Approaches of Henry Corbin and Mircea Eliade Author(s): Adriana

Berger Source: The Journal of Religion, Vol. 66, No. 2 (Apr., 1986), pp. 141-156 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 30/03/2013 18:25
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact


The University of Chicago Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Journal of Religion.

This content downloaded from on Sat, 30 Mar 2013 18:25:39 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

en sa profoundeur. 30 Mar 2013 18:25:39 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Cahier de Two original personalities. de l'Herne 1981)] CORBIN to Louis Massignon.Cultural Hermeneutics: The Concept of Imagination in the Phenomenological Approaches of Henry Corbin and Mircea Eliade AdrianaBerger/ Universityof Wisconsin-Madison Mais pourtant notre etre meme. In their own respective works they both recovered a metaphysics of the imagination that.60. 0022-4189/86/6602-0002$01. Christian Jambet. Henry Corbin and Mircea Eliade. understood not merely as fantasy but as the scene of an encounter with other worlds. a method close to poetic experience. 1936. ed. the perception of an overall unity that cannot be captured by either dogma or positive investigation. Henry Corbin. [HENRY l'Herne (Paris: Ed. in Texteschoisis. Such an approach com? 1986 by The University of Chicago. The aim of this article is to uncover the implicit intentions expressed in their approaches and thus to try to answer whether it is possible today to envisage an underlying. I shall claim. All rights reserved. is a special method of reading texts. n'est-il point soumis a un seul et meme appel? Et je sais que je peux prier avec vous. differs significantly from a Romantic conception. finally.11 on Sat. have revived a positive notion of the imagination. common spiritual path shared perhaps not only by Eliade and Corbin. despite superficial resemblances.00 141 This content downloaded from 78.180. but by all human experience as it participates in the questions that humankind has asked itself. What both Eliade and Corbin have in common. arising from a mode of perception that calls for participation and is. October 23. I shall claim that this particular way they share of reading texts is a complete methodology that enables the interpreterto grasp the essence of all other creative experiences and at the same time to give body to new creations. en sa solitude derniere devant Dieu.

Brieflystated. is the activeand creativescene of encounters with other worlds through which understandingis achieved. poetic. 1973). A body of critical cultural theory is needed which incorporates not only the praxis of human culture but its telos as well.whetherreligious. pp. As a creativemethod. and the methodof understanding creativity creativity through creation).The imagination.60. is capable of achievinga harmoniousfusionbetweenphilosophy.and all other creative endeavors. Religionand Reason(The Hague: Mouton Publishers.11 on Sat. or with the problemof innermeaning." I 142 This content downloaded from 78.arewe and interpreting that inner meaning. Reidel Publishing Co.bearingthe statusof an essenceperpetually capable of receivingideas and giving them body. And capableof understanding the answeris that we are capableof doing so by a peculiarmethodof which we may designateas a phenomenological hermeinvestigation neutics.2 As we shall this common to is texts made see.1 number of studies on and broader a and more Corbin. Rasmunssen. Allen deals with Eliade's religious phenomenology and not with the philosophical phenomenology per se.The imagi(existential) nation is thus a mediation.and thus an imaginative method.philosophical. collaborative methodof criticismfor all the humanities. This intermediary world.such a hermeneutics involvesa sympathetic in distantexperiences and events. Structure and Creativity in Religion: Hermeneutics in MirceaEliades Phenomenology and New Directions." in Cultural Hermeneutics (Dordrecht: D.attempting to illuminateareashiddento "objective" intermediary world.whichobjectivizes itself in the physical one. as it has been treated by both Eliade and Corbin..theology. "Between Autonomy and Sociality. for they are all concerned The majorquestionthatarisesthenis how. Therefore.. 1978). Such a synthesis suggests a homology between all kinds of esotericism.history.The Journal of Religion bines poetic and mystical ecstasy with scholarlyinvestigationand commandstwo closely relatedinterests:religionand literature(i. Imaginationthus and a modalityof being. both scholars' of the imagination involvesthe following understanding themes. I hope that this article will help to introducethe readersof this to ideas that will merit their furtherattentionand that it will Journal lead to a series of new works in three directions:a more elaborate researchinto Eliade'sphilosophical a insightsand religiousontology. 30 Mar 2013 18:25:39 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . it becomesa real presence. participation None of Eliade's critics have conceived a correlation between his methodology and the philosophical phenomenology implied. larger finally. andby whatmeans. approach reading possibleby a common understanding of the status of the imagination. 2 Compare David M.e. 31-32: "The meaning of culture can be when a common grasped only interchange of ideas and interpretation is possible.180. Compare Douglas Allen.far frombeing the mere fantasywe usually take it to be. and in appearsas both a meansof knowledge that sense it bearsa philosophical dimension.

In the classical sense. truth is at the same time closure and disclosure. understood and explained. Such an essence can be reached. In its broadest sense. and ed. as in philosophical phenomenology. which requires a special method characterized by openness. 1976). This process is usually understood as a peculiar type of interpretation. to immediate experience as it is perceived intuitively on a prescientific ground. p. I claim that such a method is both an artistic science and a scientific art. and it is directed toward the phenomenon of understanding and its perception. to be open for and involved in a dialogue that projects you beyond your time implies the power of the free imagination. or a novel. Hermeneutics. Only then can the invisible world and the mystery of existence be grasped and acknowledged. suspension of judgment (the phenomenological epoche). 143 This content downloaded from 78."4 Corbin and Eliade pursue this insight even further in their recovery of the imagination as an intermediary world between sense and intellect. and sympathetic participation as a mode of feeling. Phenomenology takes as its central value the concrete human experience but at the same time grants equal rights to reason. phenomenology is a return to the things themselves. literal. David E. 12. and thus they make a distinctive and essential contribution to the development of a comprehensive phenomenological hermeneutics. in its scientific and nonscientific modes. as it recovers the fullness and richness of the living experience. Linge (Berkeley: University of California Press. which leads to general synthesis.3 In a more philosophical sense hermeneutics involves an imaginative variation that appeals to ontology. reexperience. a regressive analysis.Cultural Hermeneutics Thus. external. As Gadamer pointed out. a demythologization. "The Universality of the Hermeneutical Problem.180. a play. Beingand Time. 4 Hans-Georg Gadamer.60. It is the art of making obscure expressions clear and understandable. which can be called the former's essence. as well as the inner meaning of any religious experience. hermeneutics means interpretation and the theory of interpretation. spiritual or esoteric. could never be understood. "It is imagination (Phantasie) that is the decisive function of the scholar. 30 Mar 2013 18:25:39 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . The term "hermeneutics" stands for a certain conception of philosophy and its typical method. 3 Compare Heidegger. adequate to all humanistic inquiry. The task of phenomenological hermeneutics therefore consists in restoring the initial meaning and understanding of the essence of a living experience through a process of reconstruction of the initial historical and existential situations." in Philosophical trans. without which the inner meaning of a poem. by an intuitive vision. For him.11 on Sat. or exoteric there corresponds something hidden. reception. The central postulate of this type of approach is the belief that to everything that is apparent.

11 on Sat. 8 Ibid. It is this that belongs to certain individuals or to certain communities not to invent.The Journal of Religion Henry Corbin.J. 78. a philosopher displays his quest on a variety of fronts only if philosophy does not limit itself to too narrow a concept of rationality. These two achievements exemplify his conception of philosophy. 144 This content downloaded from 78. 12. to interpret. p. Ibn "Arabfand Mulla Sadra Shfrazf. without which the human terrestrial destiny remains incomprehensible. ed. my translation.. if he had not been exposed to Heidegger. they are. Therefore. philosophy has nothing to do with wisdom. who was the first to translate Heidegger into French. to understand. believes that his research work encompasses all philosophical and religious studies. explains his phenomenological methodology as follows: "Our point of view remains metaphysical."6 For his own part." in Textes choisis. Bollingen Series 91 (Princeton. he claims that it would have been more difficult for him to translate Suhrawardf. "consistsof letting the object show itself such as it shows itself to those to whom and by whom it shows itself. 30 Mar 2013 18:25:39 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . de 1'Herne. As Corbin himself puts it. Eliade would claim the same thing about the Christian tradition and Mahayana Buddhism. but to unveil..trans. "De Heidegger h Sohrawardi: Entretien avec Philippe Nemo.HenryCorbin. 7 Ibid. du Seuil.that undergo dramatic adventures. 1969). Indeed. for Corbin the task of the hermeneut is analogous to that of the philosopher. from a phenomenological point of view. 1981).180. 1981). Corbin. and he recalls that the form that the esotericism took in in Islam. The Creative in the SuJism Imagination of Ibn 'Arabi. According to Corbin.: Princeton University Press. In the preface to his book La philosophie iranienne Corbin Islamique. See also Henry Corbin. "There are too many things of which I should never have become aware if not for my familiaritywith the spiritualworld of Iran. Ralph Manheim. inseparable. helped him better to understand the Christian spirituality of his own tradition."8This implies that only the world of the imagination allows a hermeneutics that takes the spiritual 5 Compare Henry Corbin. and should be considered.. 25. 6 Henry Corbin.. p. my translation. N. to perceive and to tell. p. Cahier de 1'Herne(Paris: Ed. Otherwise."7For Corbin. the phenomenon of the Holy Book engendered a single spiritual discipline within the branches of the religions of the book: a creative hermeneutics whose task is to discover. was also the first to introduce Iranian Islamic philosophy in France. just like Eliade. ChristianJambet. "Quietude et inquietude de l'ame dans le soufisme de Ruzbehan Baqli de Shiraz. 24. In fact. and to communicate the essence of that book's meaning.60. p. There are metaphysical worlds with their ontological structures." in La iranienne philosophie Islamique (Paris: Ed.5 Corbin states that what he sought and found in Heidegger he also sought and found in Irano-Islamic metaphysics. as a prophetic religion. interpretation.

for it is perceived as the cipher of the mysterious.180. For. Understanding arises out of a creative imaginative process of interpretation (historical.11 on Sat. La theologie dialectique et 'histoire (Paris: Bovin. a time which is real and sacred. and as such it can never be completely explained. that is able to change sensible data into symbols. etc. on the contrary. 30 Mar 2013 18:25:39 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 1938). the situation of his object. En Islam Iranian: aspects spirituels et philosophiques (Paris: Gallimard. The specificity of the phenomenon can be grasped only from a subjective point of view-that to whom it appeared initially. within the "creativity of the heart" (himma). Therefore. its space and time. (For him. Within such a representation of the world. all interpretation is an imaginative process which is meaningful and real. Corbin comes to designate sacred history by the term Hiero-History10 (Hiero-Histoire). Imagination thus partakes of the real. history would be perceived as an imaginative scenario. Hence. grasped as the embodiment of the theophanic perception. Hence. literary. and in that sense. 1933-34). if there is a meaning in history. arranging in a meaningful way the totality of events from which meaning is given and extended. Corbin talks about his refusal to let himself be bound by or confined within the historicity and causality of history. for his part. and exterior events into symbolic histories. which consists of events belonging to the invisible world and which take place within the soul. and Heidegger-qu'est-ce que la metaphysique-suivi d'extraits sur l'tre et le temps et d'une conferencesur Holderlin (Paris: Gallimard. esoteric. which concerns not the external events but the esoteric hidden behind the exoteric. It is only the imagination. emphasizing that there is a historicity (historicite)"deeper" and more "primitive" than the history of external events.60.Cultural Hermeneutics meaning for the literal one and vice versa. Hence. Corbin. it is subject to new and endless interpretations. religious. Hence the indissoluble relationship between the visible. the interpreter must let himself live. and ontological roots of history. 145 This content downloaded from 78. occult. that meaning does not lie within the history of external events. which showed the ontological roots of historical science. in order to understand.9 Corbin thus opposes historical and what he calls "gnostic" consciousness because there is a time different from that of history. philosophical. but within the secret. 10 Corbin makes use of the word "soul" in an ambivalent way: the soul as the irreducible experience of the subject and the experience that a culture does out of a dimension of human reality. the revealed 9 Compare Henry Corbin. through his imagination. the concept of the imagination becomes a rediscovery of something that was lost and forgotten). claims that his research originated in his analysis of Heidegger. It is in this light that both Corbin and Eliade understand that phenomenology authorized them to free themselves from mere historicism. 1971). the symbol plays an essential part.).

as it is understood at the level of sense perception. . Perceived as such. 3. the ontological status of the imaginative world is neither a place nor a nonplace but. as Corbin calls it. In that respect Corbin applies the concept of Ibn 'Arabr'smystical theosophy. for whom visible states can never be the causes of other phenomena. 1939). the hidden. It is a world settled "between the universe that can be apprehended by pure intellectual perception. seen thus as an organ of the transmutation of the sensible. Sohrawardi de la doctrine illuminative dAlp (1191): Fondateur (ishraqi)(Paris: Maisonneuve.60. 146 This content downloaded from 78. The Creative in theSufismof Ibn 'Arabi. Corbin describes the latter as a world that is no longer the empirical world of sense perception but that is neither yet the world of the intellectual intuition of pure intelligibilities. which of course correspond to a certain subjective state and therefore should be investigated accordingly." in La philosophie Islamique (n. 1979). The creative imagination. Hence. 12 See Henry Corbin. it is "an intermediate world. Thus. . imagination functions directly as a faculty of knowledge. 1952). within the Shi'ite esotericism. Corpsspirituelet terreceleste:De liran Mazdeenai lIran Shi'ite (Paris: Maisonneuve. a key capable of opening every particular lock. and the invisible.'1 the immaterial.11 on Sat. the hidden (batin). of subtle substances. of immaterial matter. The invisible realities descend to the reality of the image and can again transcend the image's reality and return to the level of ideas. which thus turns out to be a kind of method. 30 Mar 2013 18:25:39 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and as the function that assimilates knowledge. Displaying Ibn 'Arabi's metaphysics of the active imagination and of the mundus imaginalis.and the universe perceptible to senses". of archetypal figures. For Corbin. Imagination p. However. He thus suggests that the hiatus between the pure intelligible and the sensible worlds must be filled by the imagination as an intermediary. Sohrawardi et mystiques de SihabaddinYahya al-Maqtul:Oeuvres philosophiques Sohrawardi (Paris: Maisonneuve.180."13 In other words the imagination becomes the capacity to transmute sensory perceptions and to create new forms of spirituality which manifest themselves in physical form.The Journal of Religion (zdhir). Truth concerns inner being and esoteric events. 13 Henry Corbin. Corbin deals with the imagination not in the usual sense of the word: neither with fantasy. 6 above). He deals rather with a basic function of perceiving and understanding through the imagination. the imagination is a projection of the inner soul upon the out1 Compare the most profoundly characteristic idea of occultism (ghayba)or absence of the Imam. the world of IdeasImages. and "De l'immaterialite de l'imagination et du monde iranienne imaginaire. for what acts is the invisible. is "le pays du non-ou"12 settled between the sensible world and the intelligible one. what leads to this meaning is hermeneutics. with Eliade's interpretation and understanding of Deus Otiosus. nor with a faculty that produces images identified with the unreal. gives a new status to the image.

fullfills in its own way the program of Greek science. Duodeciman ShP'ism.. no Creation. no theophany." EranosJahrbuch 33 (1965): 71-176. "the notion of the image as a body (a magical body. a mental body). practiced by the theosophes of ShP'ism. as it mediates between creation and the material and makes knowledge in its sensory or perceptive representation intelligible. 30 Mar 2013 18:25:39 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and Ismailian gnosis in their esoteric hermeneutics of the Koran is the famous technique of making the apparent occult and the occult manifest. we are entitled to talk about a science of the imagination. 244. 147 This content downloaded from 78. .11 on Sat. as used by Corbin and Eliade. which is to save the phenomena ("sauver lesphenomenes"). 17 Ibid. the imagination acquires a magical potency for creation. that is. Hence. Corbin points out. For. 18 See the theological origins of hermeneutics as used in philosophy." New Literary History35. The technique of understanding. as well as for Eliade.17Corbin insisted on the restorationof a certain idea of theology."16 Beginning from such a broader comparative hermeneutics.." a symbol to what it symbolizes. "Creativity in the Interpretation of Religion: The Question of Radical Pluralism. the intuition of an essence or person in an image which partakes neither of universal logic nor of sense perception." says Corbin... 15 Ibid. which was to be achieved only by the cooperation of all hermeneutics. no. and which is the only means of signifying what is to be signified. the phenomenological approach. becoming the archetype for creative action. and both Corbin and Eliade refer to it as such.18as practiced in the religions of the book."14In that sense. 16 See Henry Corbin. giving birth to the sensible world."15 Thus. 13. p.. The Imagination is a creative magical potency which. 2 (Winter 1984): 289-309. 179. it anticipates all sense perceptions and transmutes them into symbols. 'The ta'wil is essentially symbolic understanding. the image is the recurrence of creation.. and only in that sense. or in other words.Cultural Hermeneutics side world. it was in those reli14 Ibid. "Une hermeneutique spirituelle comparee. produces the spirit in forms and colours. p.60. In that respect I can justify the statement I made in the introduction to this article.. "The imagination accomplishes at every instant a 'new creation' and. there would be no manifest existence. the transmutation of everything visible into symbols. in which are incarnated the thought and the will of the soul.180. which means "carryingback of a thing to its principle. For the problem of pluralism in interpretation.. Without imaginative presence. that the special method that both Eliade and Corbin make use of can be designated as a scientific art and an artistic science. see also David Tracy. "We wish to stress. for Corbin. This technique is implied by the word ta'wil. according to him. p.

In order to understand one needs imagination. enacted on two levels of time-past and present-and between different modes of being. in which Eliade has maintained continuing interest. living the event as one of its contemporaries. 30 Mar 2013 18:25:39 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and experience within its initial unity of meaning. Such an active and creative imagination. as Kierkegaard insisted. Only then. and thus letting oneself be transformed by the active and creative imagination. Fifty years later.. is therefore capable of making the past live through the present. 20 See also David Tracy. within one's active and creative imagination. Rather.60. to poets and to all artists. who is "a cave. of archetypal figures. 1981).21 organ par excellence of the subtle world.19the second way consists in making the event one's contemporary. Between 1925 and 1926 he published an article on Kierkegaard that turned out to be the first article written on Kierkegaard in Romania. proper to Ibn 'Arabi and to all mystics and mysticism close to him. Eliade noted in his diary: "Pour moi la 19 The essence of Corbin's phenomenological approach consists in imagining the other. of subtle bodies. as if it were taking place here and now. the creativeness of the heart in esoteric Islam. do I really 'repeat' them. with the heart where the Upanishads situate the presence of the atman. Hence the importance given to the valorization of the imagination for all spiritual experience. only then is one able to recreate life.20 Meaning grows out of creative interpretation. from within. therefore. and the present through the past. a world of ideas-images. has the merit of making intelligible the objective and real existence of the imagination as an intermediaryworld. that would mean to "readthe Koran as if it were written just for you. responsible for all further interpretations. Corbin. the unknown becomes perceptible is precisely the soul. p. due to the active imagination. remains unknown." 148 This content downloaded from 78. at the same time." 21 Compare the concept of the himma. perceived as an intermediaryworld between that which is a source of knowledge and that which. Reading Kierkegaard (as well as other phenomenologists) and writing on him was not a "caprice"or a fashionable intellectual curiosity.The Journal of Religion gions that hermeneutics developed as a spontaneous exegesis.11 on Sat. This type of approach proceeds in two ways: the first way consists of becoming a witness of the event.180. being perpetually open for the future and renewed by new interpretations. To cite Suhrawardi. The Analogical Imagination (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co. I must interpret them. world. joins that imagination which played such an important role for the occidental philosophers of the Renaissance. Much like Corbin. Eliade began his scholarlycareeras a philosopher. in being for a moment the other." Such an endless dialectic. it arose from a deep concern with metaphysics. with being and existence. 103: "I can never repeat the classics to understand them. And the place where.

24For Ionescu philosophy is but an effort to reach a personal way of thinking. personal. it is an act of life. Metafzica(Bucharest: Imprimaria Nationala. (Although Eliade had some differences with Ionescu."22As a philosophy student. His rule was that all students were to speak from experience. a savoir qu'il existe un sens profond et significatif de tout ce qu'on appelle 'religion naturelle' et que ce sens interesse directement l'homme moderne. however.. 1942). was a professor of logic. 1:400. 149 This content downloaded from 78.Cultural Hermeneutics premiere fois que je lis le texte integral de l'opuscule de Kierkegaard Thepoint of view of my workas an author. Convorbiri (Freising. and 22 tation.. 24 See Nae Ionescu. je pourrais montrer qu'il existe une unite fondamentale de tous mes ouvrages. and one can easily recognize his influence in Eliade's methodology and conceptions.60. and Roza Vinturilor (Bucharest: Editura Cultura Nationala.Ce qu'il dit de sa 'duplicite': auteur d'oeuvres esthetiques et morales en apparence. Eliade wrote his master'sthesis on Renaissance philosophers. Already at that time. who acknowledged the authenticity of religious Mircea Eliade. Compare Nae Ionescue and phenomenologists such as Gaston Berger.Marsilio Ficino. With him Eliade studied post-ShankarianVedanta and the philosophy of Samkhya. they arose from Eliade's dissatisfaction with the theological inexactness of Ionescu'smethod and with his political orienEliade's Indian mentor. que l'oeuvre scientifique illustre ma conception philosophique. Eliade perceived the resemblance between Heidegger's thought and the Hindi philosophy. philosophy. 1936).11 on Sat. The doctrinalelement in Ionescu'sthought. Gabriel Marcel. 30 Mar 2013 18:25:39 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .180. and history of metaphysics. Fragments dunjournal(Paris: Gallimard. Thus his interest in India was not limited to Indian culture in general but included Indian philosophy and mysticism in particular. spontaneously and intuitively.) paganism. metaphysics. Readers of Ionescu will recognize in the few writings he left the concept of the "second reflection"that attempts to return to a unified and primitive first-person experience of the world. also had a penche toward philosophy. anticipated Marsilio Ficino. philosophy means the interpretation of sensible reality and its adaptation to the needs of one's personality. mais en realite auteur exclusivement religieux. 1978).23Eliade's Romanian mentor. metaphysics. and Giordano Bruno. a living gesture. 1951). It was this turn to experience which provided the basis for philosophizing. Compare also Suhrawardi. through a synthesis of Plato and Zarathustra. Nae Ionescu. In other words. For Eliade. subjective.. Si j'ecrivais un jour une interpretation similaire de mes livres. philosophy of religion. Surendranath Dasgupta. through a process of spiritual projection over the entire universe. is his Socratic method of teaching. 23 Compare Eliade's philosophy with Bruno's. Pico de la Mirandola. who. and close to the poetic perception of the world of life in its intuitive forms.

Australian cultures.. Eliade assumed a method of synchronical readings. See Mircea Eliade. de plus eloigne de la Florence de Marsilo Ficin que Calcutta ou Rishikesh? Et. 1943).. Fragmentarium (Bucharest: Ed. la decouverte de nouvelles sources et le retour a des sources abandonnees. Oceanografie (Bucharest: Ed. Hence. 27 Compare Mircea Eliade. je me trouvais la-bas. see also p.. Ordeal by Labyrinth (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. That group was the first in Romania to deal with Heidegger and Kierkegaard. . I am essenclaiming. p. We hope to see these books published soon in the English translation of Mac L."25 After returning to Romania. nor was there a contradiction between these and his vocation as a writer of fiction. 1982). 1932). p. 247. Oceanic. parce que je revais retrouver le modele d'un "homme universel. Central-Asian. Eliade focuses on the archaic and primal religions.The Journal of Religion orientalism were the expressions of a single quest: the unity of the spirit. for Eliade there is no contradiction between his vocation as an Orientalist and his passion for Renaissance philosophers. a premiere vue. of course. Thus. with experience and existence. 26 25 150 This content downloaded from 78. 30 Mar 2013 18:25:39 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .11 on Sat. Showing a marked resemblance to Corbin's views on the subject. 1934). Fundatia Regala pentru Literatura si Arta. This particular method is. also significant differences between Eliade and Corbin: Eliade does not share Corbin's zeal for the religions of the book nor for the "spiritual chivalry" of the esoteric traditions behind the written traditions of the text. oubliees. Qu'y a-t-il.27 There are. cependent. a la recherched'un nouvel humanisme plus large. Ricketts. Cartea cu Semne. plus audacieux que l'humanisnme de la Renaissance trop dependent des modeles du classicisme mediterranean. and pre-Indian. Criterion (1933-34). 209. Eliade says: L'orientalismen'etait qu'une nouvelle version de la Renaissance. Eliade. bringing together different meanings from different cultures and times: the Indo-European. la vraie legon de la Renaissance: l'elargissement de l'horizon culturel et la situation de l'homme recondiseree dans une perspective plus vaste. rather. Eliade recalls that it was not possible to understand man's specific mode of being in the world without some preliminary familiarity with archaic experiences of religion. for philosophy in general or for history of religions. 19 iff.60. For a comparison between yoga and existential philosophy. Soliloquii(Bucharest: Ed. the presence of the transcendent within human experience.180. he published his most insightful and provocative philosophical essays26 and also participated in the meetings of the avant-garde group. His understanding of his own Christian tradition became possible through his Indian experience. Cultura Poporului. J'etais peut etre sans le savoir. in his attempt to find meaning and to understand the unity of the human spirit.

30 See Eliade. understanding is approximative. the irreducible place of interpretation29is always linked to the construction of the imagination and imaginative process.11 on Sat. bien qu'effectuee dans un moment historique bien delimitt. Plotin et Saint Augustin. In that sense. Fragments dunjournal. the structure of understanding is close to intuition and revelation32and thus to the poetic." 31 See Eliade. 34 Eliade. 30 Mar 2013 18:25:39 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . from somewhere within ourselves or from the outside. And this is only possible with the power of the imagination.should be used in all types of humanistic inquiry. 73.ed. Following Corbin's and Eliade's method of reading texts one may thus conclude that hermeneutics is a humanistic discipline par excellence. imaginative. p.p. Bucharest. ecstatic. 1973). Ricoeur-et qui encore pour le moment?).g. by means of trying to relive the experience of the other. implies person which receives. Cuuantui. I suggest that such a method-this broad culturalhermeneutics . Jean Jacques Approaches Waaldenburg (The Hague: Mouton. but it is not known through thinking.. and it is only possible by means of empathy. Etienne Gilson's letter to Mircea Eliade (1953) in Eliade.Gadamer. Point de depart: une revelation. est toujours transhistorique. 73. and creative moments of the mind. Methodsand Theoriesof Research. According to him." 29 Compare William Brede Kristensen. 547: "L'hermeneutlquehistorico-religieuse que tentent certains d'entre nous (Corbin. "ItinerariuSpiritual IX-Misticismul. and creative. experience." in Classical to the Study of Religion: Aims. According to Eliade there are no means of understandinghistory but through its imaginative recreations. 547. TruthandMethod. Eliade observes that even by knowing we do not understand. 6-7. both in Archives of the Romanian Academy." very precise. not reductionist and analytical. starting from and interpreting essence from the very archaic mentalities to the global and synthetic generalizations. 151 This content downloaded from 78. rediscovery of meaning is precisely hermeneutical. and meaning. 32 Compare Heidegger.180. active. 1927.60.o. Fragments d'unjournal. Beingand Time. 33 Eliade. VII. In that respect. Eliade claims that the term nomenology while not a of the "transmutation "interpretation."34 28 See. 'universelle' et susceptible d'interpretationspersonnelles. e.p. aiming to a total comprehension of culture and civilization. Soliloquii.31For him. moi. in Gandireu. "Cuvinte despre o filozofie. of creativity and its meaning. October 30. See also Mircea Eliade. Fragments d'unjournal. and in order to understand it one has to plunge into a process of imaginative recreations. Soliloquii. 212: "Je ne doute pas que vous ne soyez cite quelque jour par les historiens de la philosophie comme ayant ouvert des perspectives ignoreesjusqu'a vous sur la prehistoire de la metaphysique du temps chez Platon."33 anymore than phecan be learned from books. "Understandingis ecstatic and contemplative. I claim that there are no other means of understanding any creation whatever but through imaginative recreations.30Following his statement. p. "On the Study of Religious Phenomena." in III 9111.Cultural Hermeneutics tially philosophical28because it is concerned with essence. True meaning is multiple and polyvalent. 1928. interprets and assimilates the revelation. Understanding is given to us.

Dacia. religious experience is always existential. p. 12. Hence. For Eliade. 152 This content downloaded from 78. p. the comparative inductions. "isunderstanding their mode of being in the world. See Mircea Eliade. from simple conclusions to the whole system of meaning. All is linked. accordingly. everything is connected. such an imaginative process implies living a situation again and again along with all the rest of humanity's possible existential situations. any process of understanding operates through living. The ideal condition of understanding would thus be spontaneity-realizing an ontological situation spontaneously. 1982).The Journal of Religion Hence.of Eliade's phenomenological hermeneutics is represented by the unity between intuition and text. a result of erudition and exegesis. an imaginative living in participation and subjectivity36(or as we often call it. one of the main aspects. Thus."claims Eliade. and imaginatively through techniques of contemplation proper to the oriental traditions and some philosophical training. from the particular to the general. 26 above). 123."35 For Eliade and for Corbin. All exegesis. 1980). hermeneutical reflection. and Fragmentarium (n. Oceanografie(n. but one of subjective sympathy and participation. total. nothing remains isolated. through certain experiences.60. 156. 30 Mar 2013 18:25:39 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . EranosJahrbuch 26 (1957): 58. Ordeal by Labyrinth. A Historyof Religious IdeasI (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. and synthetic orientation. and develops on an inner level37that is esoteric and not exoteric. in a holistic and pluralistic perspective.11 on Sat. must always express itself through personal intuition and creative imagination. "Understandingpeople's mythologies and theologies. fundamental to any perception).38when the entire world represents an open text. although they also speak to us and have meaning for us.and perhaps one of the most important ones . intuitively. and all fragments acquire meaning and content only if integrated within the whole. in sympathy). 26 above). 36 p." in Hermeneutica lui Mircea Eliade (Cluj-Napoca: Ed. and not ours. which provides access to other realities.180. moves from events to essence. 38 Compare Adrian Marino. and this presupposes a certain kind of living. the most appropriate attitude through which one can discern the meaning of a human situation and/or experience is not one of objectivity. Thus. "L'interiorisationdu sens en hermeneutique soufie iranienne. In such a process phenomena observed should be understood within their own frame of reference. 37 Compare Henry Corbin. 1978.39 35 Eliade. (Essence is understood as the general. 156. Exegesis is possible only through a creative preunderstanding (what Eliade calls intuition) of the entire situation. p. 39 Compare Eliade. Interpretation is not possible without an inner comprehension of that existential experience.

and drama--is founded on the basic idea that miracle is unrecognizable. Allen [n. one can easily perceive that what predominates in Eliade's spiritual orientation and methods of investigation is the esoteric rather than the exoteric. see Sergiu Al-George. which has greatly influenced both Eliade41 and Corbin. Eliade considers the hermeneutical act as a possibility of mediation between past and present. philosophical essays. Lazar Saineanu. "Le double visage de l'Asie et la tradition orientale de la culture Roumainde Recherche roumaine. and the text becomes contemporary with being. Eminescu.11 on Sat. Lesrelzgions orientales danslepaganisme romain(Paris: Leroux. Within Eliade's way of thinking one can distinguish two types of mysticism (cf. These translate primordial experiences. 22 above). Arhaicsi universal (Bucharest: Ed. 42 d'uh Compare Eliade. 1900).vol. Compare Allen (n. Compare Corbin. p. see Franz Cumont. du Couvrier. The deciphering of deep meanings presupposes "hidden. 1909). Annalesdu Musie Guimet." Centre Bulletin 1 (1951): 40. The goal of hermeneutics consists."40 says Eliade. 1 above). the doctrine of light and darkness in ancient Persia (Ahura Mazda. 43 Eliade. On oriental influences on Romanian culture. Referring to Eliade's oriental orientation. "I feel myself wholly contemporary with all the great political and social reforms or revolutions. pp. Oceanografie. 136-37.180. and reference to their content involves grasping the essential meanings of all phenomena. 27 above).60. adequate methods of investigation. cryptic. characterized by a mystical achieve41 40 153 This content downloaded from 78. Marino. the hidden and the occult rather than the visible and the manifest. 24. The hermeneutical act is possible for him only when it begins by identifying and defining archetypal situations. which is much more inclusive and contemplative than the Western one. it acts directly on mankind by contact and union. 30 Mar 2013 18:25:39 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 1981). cf. or fragmentary. La theologie solairedu paganisme romain (Paris: Klincksieck. Les motifsZoroastriens de Sohrawardi (Teheran: Ed. 1909). thus. I want to recognize myself--in the philosophical sense--in my fellow man. Influenta orientala asupralimbiisi culturiiromdne (Bucharest." "hermetical" truth and. Zalmoxis (Gebelesis). Zarathustra)with the Dacian God. 265. See also Mircea Eliade. Fragments journal(n. Compare Henry dansla philosophie Corbin. Hence. p. The sacred is disguised under the profane and vice versa. as they are articulated within a coherent vision. MirceaEliade-orizzontefilosofico (Assisi: Cittadella Editrice.42 "The unrecognizable is the perfect form of divine revelation: the sacred no longer manifests or marks itself present by contrast. 1978). In that respect. pointing to the future through a dialectic that imaginatively transforms being and text: being becomes contemporary with the text. Eliade's entire oeuvre -theoretical writings in the history of religions. loan Petru Culianu. 1946). in finding and rediscovering meanings. We see thus that it is this oriental way of thinking."43 Eliade. autobiographical fragments. Ordeal by Labyrinth (n. occult. 97.Cultural Hermeneutics In that respect. both in thinking and methodology. 1 above]): the differentiated union. fictional writings. then. making transparent that which is allusive. Eliade sensed this basic intuition-the mystery Already in Oceanografie of disguise which arises at the bottom of all metaphysics.

however. It is your history. This is the raw material for all types of creative investigation.11 on Sat. becomes a ground for knowledge and culminates in the notion of the symbol." 45Hermeneutics is thereforecalled to stimulate a given culture in a creative way and also to stimulate the encounter with other universes and spiritual systems. 45 Ibid. 30 Mar 2013 18:25:39 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . "Youparticipate in the phenomenon you are attempting to decipher. for. a perfect identification with the ultimate reality. 154 This content downloaded from 78. remains transcendent (thus implying the duality of the usual occidental pattern) and the undifferentiated union. in fact. intuition. through a process of transformationand imaginative reconstructionof the sacred. proper to Romanticism. To sum up Corbin's and Eliade's approaches. for all types of creation and creativity. characterized by a fusion within the other. all culture is made out of a series of interpretations and re-evaluations of myth. (Indeed. thus placed as a mediator between the sensible and the intelligible. we can point to a parallel between the concept of "Deus Absconditus" and its passage to "DeusRevelatus" as described by Corbin. aiming to unite all the contraries and to achieve the coincidentia oppositorum. of his being."44The imagination. and intense imagination capable of allowing a mental conversion of the historical moment in order to locate the specific project of thinking within the perspective of its own horizon. p. and that of "DeusOtiosus" as described by Eliade. poetical. Such a creative hermeneutics defines its interpretations as the "living sources of a given culture. The historian of religion is motivated by an ambition to know. which is not the sense of mere fantasy. 121. philosophical. And the power of the irrational is certainly lurking there. p.. 27 above). their creative hermeneutics presupposes concrete experience: authentic living. Their exemplary hermeneutics offers endless possibilities for deciphering mainly because it reveals certain values not evident on the level of immediate experience. 149. and therefore also to understand the roots of his culture. In this second case mystical achievement calls for a total union.60. These two types of mysticism seem to be harmoniously integrated by Eliade's vision. or otherwise) in its intuitive and imaginative aspects. this type of phenomenological hermeneutics can offer to all historical and nonhistorical disciplines a meaningful perception of the existential dimension (whether religious. Ordeal by Labyrinth (n. it reveals hidden meaning.The Journal of Religion Thus. That intermediary reality exists precisely because it unveils the modalities of the real: experience and being.) 44 Eliade. ment that calls for a union with the ultimate reality and that. touching the poetic rather than the objective perception of the world. between the senses and the intellect. as though you were pouring over a palimpsest of your own genealogy and the past history of your own self. sympathetic participation.180. and reflects the usual oriental pattern (although some occidental mystics have been inspired by it). It is in this sense that both Eliade and Corbin understand the imagination.

which is never reductive and which does justice both to being and experience. breathe a kind of hope into him. subject to interpretation. "ata certain moment. This indirect path via symbol and through interpretation constitutes the turn to their particular type of phenomenological hermeneutics.) Hence. and philosophical one.180.Cultural Hermeneutics Hence. what we do in the realm of art. of philosophy. pointing at the same time to the "wholly other. Ordeal by Labyrinth. expressions of the mystery of human existence.11 on Sat.60. Fragments d'unjournal (n. "Quand on etudie les religions (Buddhisme. 80. through imagination.) on ne fait pas de l'erudition-mais on affronteles problemes de la philosophie d'aujourd'hui. The hermeneutical process enlarges itself-in Eliade's and Corbin's approaches. on his part. Corbin's work finds its meaning in the central question of whether or not it is possible radically to change the direction of modern. will have a political effect: alter man's consciousness. human possibilities for transcendence are made concrete. Zoroastrisme. so that our perception would then be able to turn itself toward other philosophies and cultures and to rejuvenate our cultural tradition. therefore. artistic. As Eliade rightly claims. In that way."48Both Eliade and Corbin address themselves to a certain set of symbolic expressions by which we may better understand ourselves. furthermore. Que nous-est-il permis d'esperer?can be raised from different perspectives. believes that. a creative individual expression of the universal imagination. 30 Mar 2013 18:25:39 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . will always remain the source for a philosophical quest and." should be considered and given more attention in the humanities. Western ways of thinking. certain essential truths. I claim that a basic indirectness is required in the reading of Corbin and Eliade. Humanity cannot know itself directly. thus. which can stimulate other ways of thinking. while Eliade used his mainly concerning archaic and primitive unwritten traditions. Although Corbin used his methodology mainly concerning the religions of the book. p. 502. Eliade."46 I claim that such a method. of science. p.from the analysis of the religious phenomenon to the spiritual. (For the same reason. it must take the path of indirectness. 155 This content downloaded from 78. one may say that one of the most important contributions of Corbin's lies in this project of recovering a way of thinking for which the philosophical question. 5 above). ParaphrasingChristianJambet. 22 above). they nevertheless used the same 46 47 48 Eliade. venture to say that it provides the foundations for a new philosophical anthropology. in order to reach its essence.47 by a transmutation that should come from the heart. I would. all interpretation is a spiritual recreation. Compare Jambet (n. etc. Eliade.

Through a multiplicity of meanings and endless possibilities of human existence. Beginning with a method of philosophical phenomenology. together with Einstein. Both Eliade and Corbin sought to grasp the entire destiny of human life. In conclusion. and in this sense only. whether in the essence of its religious roots. protohistorical. trans. part of our history. art. is not alien to us. both Eliade and Corbin send us from one civilization to another. ed. therefore reminding us that the true humanistic quest takes place everywhere.180. whether of the archaic. and civilization. oriental. What Eliade teaches us to see in the Australian religions.thisknowledge. at the center of true religiousness. between the occult and the revealed. is thisfeeling. which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms. its mystical poetry. that "to know that what is impenetrableto us really exists. thus comprising the deepest insights of reality and of the human condition. mediating between different levels of being and experience. I belong to the rank of devoutly religious men. and on different planes simultaneously. Philip Frank. Einstein: from German by George Rosen. 1947). Moreover. can be grasped intuitively.The Journal of Religion approach in assimilating a common message. which have thereby been understood anew. As such. We may then say. or non-European cultures. and rev.60. or Corbin in Shr ite spirituality. p. would be a total hermeneutics. it can be said that the essential community between the visible and the invisible. 284. my emphasis. 156 This content downloaded from 78. manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty. In this sense. the imagination points thus to the unity of the spirit in an all-embracing universal harmony. for what they bring to life is but a universal meaning of mankind. or myth.11 on Sat. this method proves to be both an art and a science. the imagination becomes a real presence. That common ground is the imagination which bears both a poetic and a cognitive function. Hence. Shuichi Kusaka."49 49 His Lifeand 'imes(New York: Alfred A. an unknown that is still ours. we can not only apply to the present but can also claim actuality for the ancient spiritualities that both Corbin and Eliade mediated. 30 Mar 2013 18:25:39 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . culture. and by so doing both of them led to what we today call cultural hermeneutics. A methodology suitable for this type of investigation and understanding. as it restored the common ground lying between the physical and the spiritual. a message that undoubtedly expresses our own spirituality and cultural world. back and forth. Knopf.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful