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Henry Corbin. Spiritual Body andCelestialEarth - FromMazdean Iran toShi'ite Iran, trans.Nancy Pearson. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, Bollingen
Series xcI: 2, I977.)
Henry Corbin. Corps spirituelleet terreceleste,de l'Iran Mazdean a l'Iran shi'ite. Pp. 303. (Paris: Buchet/Chastel, I979.) Essais sur l'Islam iranien. 447. (Paris: Henry Corbin. Temple etContemplation, Pp. Flammarion, I980.) aux Henry Corbin. La Philosophie iranienne xviie et xviiie siecles.Pp. 4I 7. (Paris: Buchet/Chastel, 198I.) The appearance of several major works of Corbin during the past three or four years, along with the translation of more of his writings into English than had been hitherto available, is an event of importance not only for the field of Islamic studies, but also for comparative religion and what is gradually coming to be known as comparative philosophy. A tireless scholar dedicated through both intellectual participation and love to the field of Islamic philosophy, theosophy and Sufism, especially in its Persian form and expression, Corbin was able to leave a monumental work behind when late in I978 sudden illness caused his death while he was at the prime of his scholarly activities. Since then, thanks to the diligent care and systematic and meticulous effort of his wife and life companion Mme Stella Corbin, several of his works have appeared in new editions or in fact have seen the light of day for the first time as in the case of Temple et contemplation La Philosophie and iranienne. Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth is one of the most important and ground breaking works of Corbin whose original French version under the title Terre celeste et corps de resurrection(Paris, I96I) revealed a whole domain and 'climate' of the spiritual universe of the Persian sages and mystics. The second French edition contains not only a new title and certain corrections but an important new 'prelude' in which Corbin summarizes the doctrine of the 'imaginal world' (mundus imaginalis)with which the work is primarily concerned. As for the text, it consists, like the original edition, of two parts, the first dealing with the doctrine of the intermediate world or eighth clime as reflected in both Mazdean and Islamic and more particularly Shi 'ite sources; and the second with a translation of selected texts of some of the Islamic philosophers, theosophers and gnostics who have dealt with this subject beginning with Suhrawardi in the 6th/I 2th century and continuing
through Ibn 'Arabi,Da'uid al-Qaysari, 'Abd al-Karim al-Jill, Shams al-Din LThiji, Sadr al-Din Shirazi, 'Abd al-Razzaq Lahiji and Mulla Muhsin Fayd Kashani to several masters of the Shaykhi school who lived during the last century. When Corbin first conceived the plan of this work early in the 50s, practically nothing of these figures was known in theWest save perhaps Ibn 'Arabi. It is to a large extent thanks toCorbin's own efforts that, nearly thirty years later, scholars of Islamic thought at least are gradually beginning to become aware of themain contours of the vast intellectual and spiritual space of later Islamic and Persian philosophy and gnosis unveiled formany in the Occident for the first time by Corbin in this work. The task of translation from the original Arabic and Persian by Corbin was indeed a difficult one in that Corbin was forced to develop a 'new' vocabulary to deal with a type of doctrine which had been alien to the current philosophical vocabulary of French since the Renaissance. Hence his continuous recourse to earlier Latin terminology and the need to resuscitate some of the earlier vocabulary used by medieval and Renaissance philosophers and theosophers who still spoke of and were concerned with such doctrines as that of the intermediate world. The English translation, although in general satisfactory, leaves something to be desired as far as the second part of the book is concerned, for it really represents a translation of a translation. It would have been much better if the selections had been translated into English from the original Arabic and Persian. Be that as itmay, the translation of Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth is still a major addition to the literature on Islamic philosophy in English and the translator succeeds in most instances in reflecting the meaning intended by Corbin, as couched in the special style which characterizes his writings, for thosewho are familiar with the technical vocabulary which he employs. The work is particularly welcome in that it also deals with Islamic eschatology concerning which there is so little serious literature inWestern languages. Temple et contemplationis based on a series of the Eranos conferences at Ascona whose proceedings first appeared in the Eranos Jahrbuch, selections being made by Corbin himself before his death to have them printed together as the present book; it is not only a major study of the spiritual meaning of the Temple in Islam, but also an important work of comparative religion. Through his phenomenological approach Corbin deals with the metaphysical, initiatic and cosmological significance of the Temple in all the monotheistic religions with special emphasis on Iranian Islam. The work takeswithin its compass color symbolism in Islamic cosmology; the 'Science of the Balance' in Islamic gnosis; the Sabaean Temple and Isma'llism; the Configuration of theKa'bah as the secret of the spiritual life; the Imago templi in face of the profane world; Ezekiel and the New Temple: the Imago templi from Ezekiel to Philo, Eckhardt and Robert Fludd; the spiritual temple and
the Qumran community; the Imago templiand the Templar knights; the Temple and the Holy Grail, the Imago templiand the 'Sons of theValley'; and finally theNl/ovaHierosolyma of Swedenborg. As the table of contents reveals, this book cuts across religious frontiers. It is in fact an ecumenical work in the real and not debased sense of theword and represents a major achievement in the field of comparative religion, revealing profound morphological similarities in the spiritual universes created by theAbrahamic revelations. Of particular interest, as far as Islamic studies is concerned, is the long chapter on the configuration of theKa'bah based on the Secrets of Worship (Asrar al-'ibadat) of the IIth/ I7th century Persian philosopher and gnostic Qad! Sa'ld Qummi. In thismasterly work not only does Corbin deal with the spiritual significance of the rites of pilgrimage (al-haj), but also with the symbolism of the geometry of the Ka'bah as a reflection of the celestial Temple which is the prototype of all temples. This study is therefore as precious for the understanding of certain aspects of Islamic art as it is for the religious practices of Islam. Corbin also returns again and again to the relation between contemplation and the Temple as understood not only externally but most of all inwardly, forman in his inner reality ishimself theTemple wherein residues theDivine Presence. La Philosophie iranienne, although a lengthy volume in itself, represents only a part of a major project which Corbin undertook during the last years of his life and which was never completed. In the late sixties when we discussed together in Tehran the possibility of carrying out an extensive project to make better known the later phase of Islamic thought in Persia and adjacent areas, it was decided that one should first prepare an anthology of the writings of the philosophers and theosophers of the last few centuries, and then embark upon an indepth study of the subject. Together, we decided thatwhat E. Gilson, and later his students, had achieved forLatin Scholastic philosophy would have to be undertaken for Islamic philosophy especially in its later phases beginning with a substantial anthology. With this end in view I suggested to him to collaborate with the indefatigable Persian scholar S. J. Ashtiyani who, besides being a traditional philosopher, had already amassed a great deal of information about manuscripts of works of lesser known Islamic philosophers, following in the wake of Nasir al-Din Tiisi and Qutb al-Din Shirazi. Corbin and Ashtiyani thus began to collaborate on the anthology of theworks of the later philosophers, deciding to commence with Mir Damad and the Shl'ite thinkers of the Safavid period rather than those of the earlier period. A work which was planned in two volumes to be published by the Iranian Academy of Philosophy grew rapidly to seven long volumes incorporating material not known even to traditional authorities on Islamic philosophy in Persia and disclosing a landscape much more varied and diversified than had been hitherto suspected. Corbin wrote a lengthy prolegomena to each of the three volumes that appeared before his death,
analyzing the writings of each philosopher chosen by Ashtiydn! and often making comparisons with their European contemporaries such as Leibnitz and the Cambridge Platonists. Unfortunately the death of Corbin prevented him from writing the prolegomena to the fourth volume that has since
appeared and the last three volumes have not seen the light of day even
without a French or English introduction. The three prolegmenas already printed have been assembled in this book and together constitute a major study in later Islamic philosophy and also Shl'ite religious thought. They portray a remarkably rich intellectual life in the later history of the Islamic world and a philosophical tradition which still breathed in a religious universe dominated by the presence of a revealed
book, at a time when in the Christian West, the mainstream of European
philosophy, was becoming ever more secularized and the 'prophetic philo sophy' which is the primary character of Islamic philosophy was becoming rapidly forgotten or at best viewed as of solely historical interest. La Philosophie iranienneis therefore an important work, not only for the understanding of later Islamic philosophy, but also for the field of comparative philosophy.
It deals both with philosophy per se as understood did not live in the traditional sense
and with philosophy of religion as the term is currently understood. How
unfortunate anthology complete it is that Corbin in collaboration the Arabic with to complete this monumental one hopes, will at least Ashtiydn! who, parts of the work himself.
The appearance of this series of works of Corbin raises the hopes that his other unpublished works, as well as those out of print, will see the light of day before long. Corbin not only wrote numerous essayswhich, as in the case of Temple et contemplation, need to be collected and edited in book form even if there are certain repetitions of themes, subjects or ideas, but made several important translations of major works of Islamic philosophy such as the IHikmat al-ishraqof Suhrawardi and the Sharhusul al-kift ofMulla Sadra which deserve to be made available to the general scholarly public. Let us hope that the love and devotion of Mme Corbin for the life-work of her late husband will make such an event possible. Also our expectation is that English translations of high quality and accuracy will make available more of thewritings of this outstanding scholar of Islamic philosophy, Sufism and religious philosophy in general to those not able to benefit from the poetic and sometimes difficult French style of Corbin. SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR P. H. Vrijhofand J.Waardenburg (eds.). Official andPopularReligion. Analysis of a Themefor Religious Studies. Pp. 739. The Hague: Mouton, I979. $56. OfficialandPopularReligion comprises eighteen papers contributed by members of a study group formed from the staffs of the Faculties of Theology, Arts and Social Sciences at theUniversity of Utrecht, aswell as four introductory