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[a] MORRIS, James W. - Religion After Religions [Henry Corbin and the Future of the Study of Religion]

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Islamic Philosophy, Henry Corbin, Mysticism, Iran, Orientalism.
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  BIBLIOTHEQUE DE L ECOLE DES H UTES ETUDES SCIENCESRELIGIEUSES    RELIGIONAFTERRELIGIONS HENRYCORBINANDTHEFUTURE   THESTUDY   RELIGION JamesW MORRIS University of Exeter One of HenryCorbin smostvehementlyrepeatedexhortations,duringtheyearsIwasstudyingwithhimin Iran neartheend of hislife,was  lfaut sortir   philosophieisfamiquedughettod orientalisme l-referring abovealltothefundamentalneedto translate andcommunicatetheuniversalmasterpieces of Islamicthoughtintoforms and contextswheretheycouldagaininspirealargercircle of properly apt readers,so tha theycouldagainservethewider,perennial human purposesforwhichtheyhadoriginallybeencomposed and intended.Sincethen,agreatmanyscholars of Islam,includingseveral of hisformerstudentsgatheredforthiscommemoration,havemadeenormousstridesintranslating and introducing inseveralEuropeanlanguages)majorworksbymost of thekeyIslamicthinkers,metaphysicians and spiritualfigureswhoseworksCorbin had himselffirstdiscovered and presented,especiallythroughamonumentalset of criticaleditions.Butdespitethosecollectiveefforts,onemaylegitimatelywonderhowmuchprogresshasreallybeenmade in awakening and nurturing,beyondthenarrowconfines of Islamicintellectualscholarship,amuchwiderappreciation of theessentialcontemporaryimportance and relevance of thosefigureswhoseperennial,potentiallyuniversalsignificancewassoclear to HenryCorbinhimself.Indeed,withregard to theopenness and receptivity of thewiderworldslyingoutside that narrowscholarlyspecialisation inIslamicphilosophy),one cannot butnote that Corbin sowndeeplyheldconviction of theuniversal human valueandinterest of thesephilosophic traditions-an outlookwhichhecertainlysharedwith most of thoseearlierMuslimthinkerswhoseworks and thoughthewasseeking to communi cate-today runsprofoundlycountertothehost of newreligio-politicalideologies,withtheirfiercelyparticularistcredos and institutions, that havecome to dominatepublicintellectual and culturallifethroughoutmuch of theIslamicworld and most notably in Iran)sincehisdeath.However,as we lookmorecloselytoday, both intheIslamicworld and intheWest, we discover that thatsituationmayalreadybechanging.This paper isdevotedtoexploringsome of those Signs and conditionsforawiderappreciation of Corbin sscholarly and intellectualcontribution,especiallyintheemergingnewfield of the Study of Religion. In therealms of thoughtandspirituality,inparticular, influences areremarkablymysteriousthings.Asonemustexplaintonewstudentseachyear,ourlanguageseems to implysomesort of causalitypassingfromone source of influence 1  WehavetobringIslamicphilosophyout of theghetto of Orientalism -where  orientalism hasthepurelyinstitutional,academicsensereferringtothehandful of dedicatedscholarsdevotedtostudying,interpretingandteachingthekeytextsandtraditions of Islamicphilosophyintheirsrcinallanguages nottothecompletelydifferentliterary and politicaltheorieslaterpopularisedby E Said).  9  JamesWMorris toanother receiver y t inrealitytheactivelydeterminant,creativeelementinthatprocess is almostentirelyontheostensibly receiving side:intheintellectual,spiritual,linguistic and artistic situation whichawakensthemysteriousrecognition of eachinsight,observation or responseappropriateto that outwardlynewhistoricalcontext.Oneobviouscorollary of that recognition is that most of thepowerfullyinspiring and transforminginfluencesinthelife and work of anyseriousseeker,philosopher,artistorintellectual,even if theirworksdobecomepublicly and lastinglyvisibleinsome way normallyremainentirelyinvisibleunlessthatpersonchooses throughautobiography or othermeans)todrawattentiontothis or that inspiringfactor.   When we lookatCorbin sinfluencesindifferentlinguistic and culturaldomainsoutside of hisowntwinhomelands of France and Iran,theessentialrole of veryselective,particularlocalfactors of receptivity is immediatelyapparent.That is to say thechosenobjects of intellectual and culturalinterest and elaborationarelargelydictatedbypeculiar local interests,needs and otherconditions, not bytheauthor sownideas,works and intentions. 3 Forexample,outsidethespecialisedrealms of studies of Islamicthoughtand modem Frenchphilosophy and literature,whicharethesubject of anumber of contributors to thiscommemoration,thebest-knownwiderinfluences of HenryCorbin sthoughtintheAnglophoneworldhavefordecadescomeindiverseareas of religiousstudies,Jungianpsychology,and artand literaturewherepeoplehavefortunately had accesstothelimitedset of translationsappearingwithBollingensupport.ThisincludesthethreePrincetonvolumesonIbn ArabI,:Avicennism, and theanthology of Islamictexts on theimaginalworld  Terreceleste  t corpsderesurrection), togetherwithshortersummaries and extractsfromtheannual EranosJahrbuch. Eveninthosedomains andagain, we arespeakingonly of Anglophonecontexts),Corbin sownwider influence and anyawareness of hisunderlyingIslamic sources has beenlargelymediatedbytheactivities of hisfriendssuchasMirceaEliade whowassoinfluentialinspreadingthephenomenologicalapproachtoreligiousstudiesin North America) and therecentlydepartedpoetKatherineRaine; or bythemoreindirectmedium of thehandful of specialisedstudents of Islamicphilosophy and spirituality whether or not theywereprivilegedtostudywithhim)who will remaincontinuallyindebtedtohisprodigiousaccomplishmentsinediting,translating and bringingtopublicattentionsomanydiverse and significanttraditions of Islamicthought,inphilosophy,spirituality and therelatedIslamichumanities.What is soparticularlystrikingaboutthatwholespectrum of artistic,literary and psychologicalinfluencestodate beyondspecialisedIslamicscholarship), of course,isthattheyhavesystematicallyexcludedanyseriousappreciation and furthercreative 2 See our recentstudy«Ibn Arabiinthe  Far West »:SpiritualInfluences and theScience of Spirituality  Journal o the  u }iddin Ibn  Arabi Society 29 [2001]),parts of whichwereoriginallypreparedforanearlierplannedCorbincommemorationinthelate1990 s.Amorecompleteversion of thatstudy is toappearinaspecialissue of TheJournal o theHistory o Sufism 5 2006). 3 Thus, to takeonetellingexample,nooneinFrancecouldpossiblyhaveimaginedthat,withinthespace of onlya few decades,dozens of newuniversityliteraturedepartments andperhapsthousands of booksandtheses)in North Americawouldbededicatedalmostentirely, and quiteexclusively,tointerpreting and applyingtheideas of aFoucault or Derrida. 3  HenryCorbinandtheFuture   theStudy   Religion explorationoftwo of themostfundamentaldimensions of almostall of Corbin sownwriting:itsprofoundembeddednessinthelargerenterprise of metaphysics,andhisdevotionthroughoutthelasthalf of hislifetomany of themostcreativeandinfluentialmetaphysicalfiguresinthewiderIslamictradition.   Today,however,thatsituationmayalreadybechanging.Thusoursubjectinthisessay is notsomuchhistoricalas prospective that is itisthepreliminaryexploration of a potential and certainlydesperately needed influence of Corbin swork that has not yetbecomeveryvisiblysignificanteitherintheIslamicworldorinthewiderfield of thestudy of Religion.   However,thecorrespondinghuman and intellectualneedsarealreadyeverywherequiteapparent. That hastodowiththegrowingrecognition, both withinthestudy of Religion and inmanywiderpubliccontexts, of theindispensableneedforacomprehensivescience of spirituality for adisciplineattheconvergenceof, and equallyrootedin,thehistoricalstudy of pastspiritualtraditions;inahost of practicalandtherapeuticalforms andexpressions) of spirituality;andintheoverlappinginterests of severalsciencestouching on relatedareas of theactualphenomenology of spiritualexperience.Ontheotherhand,students of IslamicthoughtknowthatCorbininfactdevotedthelast half of hislife to thepioneeringexploration and revivification of preciselythosekeyintellectual and spiritualfigureswhoseworksweremostclearlyresponsestothatsameperennialneed,intheirownearlierhistorical and civilisationalcontexts.   thatsense,theremarkableensemble of Corbin spublishedworks 6 isalreadyacentralinspirationtothisformidableworld-widetask of theslowelaboration of what we haveelsewherecalledthis NewScience of spiritualityattheheart of thecontemporaryfield of the study of Religion. 7  nd that enterpriseitselfwillcertainly not becompletewithouttakingintoaccountseveral of thosekeyIslamicphilosophicalandspiritualfigureswhomCorbinsoeffectivelybrought to ourwiderattention. 4 To someextent, of course,this deafness tosuchcentraldimensions of Corbin swritingreflectstheheatedandstillongoingdivorce of Anglo-Americanphilosophydepartmentsfromearlierphilosophicaltraditionsovermuch of thepastcentury.Butitcouldalsobe argued as we dointheremainder of this chapter that it waspreciselythatdivorcewhichmadepossibleandevenencouragedthephenomenalexplosion of departmentsfortheStudy of Religion in recentdecades. 5 There is another,entirelydifferent essay which we couldhavewrittenhereontheevendeepercorrespondingneedforCorbin sphilosophicalperspectives,andfortheIslamicauthorsandtraditionsattheheart of hislaterwork,throughoutthewiderIslamicworldtoday.Whileanappreciation of thoseneglectedmetaphysicaldimensions of Islamictradition is todayvisibleonlyamongscatteredscholarsintheArabworld-especially,andunderstandably,inregionswithanongoingFrancophoneintellectualconnection, or amongadherentsoftraditional Sufism wider circles of MuslimintellectualsinIndonesiaandMalaysia,inparticular,haverecentlybeguntotranslateandstudymany of thecentralfigures  ~adra Suhrawardi,Ibn Arabi)attheheart of Corbin swork. 6 Aswithanyauthor,thelist of thoseworks of HenryCorbinhepublishedasbooksinhisownlifetime incontrastwiththeconsiderablebodyofunpublished,oftenmorespecialisedlectures,textsandtranslations,especiallyonsubjectsinShiitestudies,whichwerebroughtoutonlyafterhisdeath) is generallymoreindicative of thoseworkswhichheunderstoodtohaveawiderpotentialaudience. 7  ee theconcludingchapter of our Orientations IslamicThought   aWorldCivilisation London,ArchetypePress,2004.  
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