Tom Cheetham & Henry Corbin

Thomas Cheetham & Henry Corbin
Thomas Cheetham has written a series of four books on the work of Henry Corbin, a French philosopher, theologian, and Islamic scholar (1903-1978).  I have read two of Cheetham's books, the first and the latest, and below are excerpts from the two books:  
The World Turned Inside Out:  Henry Corbin and Islamic Mysticism  2003  first book
All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings  2012  fourth book

The Icon and Interiorization
Tom Cheetham:  All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings
An icon is . . . not a "picture," and the "space" is not behind the plane of the panel.  It is a dialogical reality, and the lines of perspective converge on the person engaged in dialogue with the reality of the symbol displayed.

[Corbin's definition of symbol] "The symbol is not an artificially constructed sign: it flowers in the soul spontaneously to announce something that cannot be expressed otherwise.  It is the unique expression of the thing symbolized as of a reality that thus becomes transparent to the soul, but which itself transcends all expression."

In the Catholicism that Corbin knew, and in the Western Church in general . . . the religious image had become a didactic tool for the education of the masses into doctrine and rule.  In the Eastern Church, on the other hand, there long remained a tradition of the icon as a sacred window onto the invisible world.  The religious art of the West was about meaning.  The icon is about being.  Corbin was deeply attached to this iconic interpretation of the Imagination.

[Regarding interiorizaton, Corbin writes]  "Interiorization is a matter of entering, passing into the interior and, in passing into the interior of finding oneself, paradoxically, outside . . . Once this transition is accomplished, it turns out that henceforth this reality, previously internal and hidden, is revealed to be enveloping, surrounding, containing what was first of all external and visible, since by means of interiorization one has departed from the external reality.  Henceforth it is spiritual reality that ... contains the reality called material."

We are prisoners in exile in the literal world, the world of idols and violence.  That is the world that must be transcended.  The battle against the forces of Darkness must be joined, but until the final Transfiguration the victories will occur in the souls of individuals who have escaped from the prison of becoming conscious of the nature of the trap.   

[Corbin writes]  "It is only upon the condition of being thus reconquered as a world of living in the soul, and no longer a world into which the soul is cast as a prisoner because it has not acquired consciousness of it, that this spiritual cosmos will cease to be liable to shatter into fragments . . ."

The interiorization of the cosmos not only dissolves its fragile walls--it makes possible a music of the spheres more glorious, more polyphonic than any conceived by the merely literal mind.  Corbin says that one can celebrate a plurality of spiritual universes, and "without taking up one's abode in them, keep an abode from them in oneself."

There is a variety of spiritual universes just a s there is a variety of human cultures. . .   A spiritual universe is a mode of both being and perceiving, and the number of these is limitless.  It is not the case that the objective world defines who we are--on the contrary, we participate in the creation of our world.  The psyche creates reality every day.  And the psyche is not in us--we are in the psyche.  What his means is that the "objects" that fill the world are not fixed and stable realities.  Or if they are, then they are so only as long as we regard them with the eyes of an idolater.  It is up to us to see the world with the eyes of prayer, the eyes that regard the icon.  All things are images, and an image can be viewed as an icon only if we ourselves are transformed into imaginal persons--persons who can see imaginal realities.

The eruption of the symbol is irreducibly individual.  It is a call to consciousness.  As such it occurs only in and to a person--to a unique individual.  The "carrying over" [of metaphorical meaning from the literal world to the world beyond, to the presence of the soul]  only occurs through the interiorization of the apparition in the world-- and with it we enter a world beyond words, an archetypal world of immense energy with the power both to liberate and destroy.  

The symbol is experienced as "the unique expression of the thing symbolized as of a reality that thus becomes transparent to the soul, but which itself transcends all expression."  The symbol is unique because it mirrors the potential individuality of the soul.  It is a call to the enactment of our individuality.  Becoming yourself is a task.  

Idolatry & the "Test of the Veil"
Tom Cheetham:  All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings
To come into being at all as creatures distinct from the Creator, we must  exist at some remove from the source of our being.  Otherwise we would have no independent being whatever. . . For us to be at all, there must be an original separation, a fall or a rupture giving birth to our independence as persons.  It is this original otherness that makes possible both our independent being and our perpetual longing.  It is the necessary curtain separating God from his creatures, and it gives rise to what the Sufis call the "Test of the Veil."  

In so far as any being is contemplated in its difference from God, it will appear to be self-subsistent.  That is when we are most at risk of idolatry.  For an idol is any being understood as a totality unto itself, self-sufficient, independent.  Any being understood as an end in itself is an idol.  But to shift the emphasis from the object to the act we must recognize that to idol-ize is a most active verb.  It is a way of seeing and of acting, an inability to perceive the transcendent dimension of the world.  It is founded on the desire to find and hold to a Truth that is complete and total.  But God, the ineffable Divinity, is open-eneded, unpredictable, uncontrollable, and awe-ful. 

Insofar as anything is perceived as determinate and comprehensible, to that degree it is a Veil of the divinity.  And yet in truth all things are masks of the infinite, and their being is the gift of God.  All things are organs by which God contemplates Himself and are not other than He.  To overcome the Test of the Veil requires that we not become trapped in the literal face of any being, that we not idolize it but rather see in it a Face of God.

And so the original opacity and otherness by which we have our being and through which we must learn to see, is the source of our self-idolatry, or our philautia.  It is ineradicable. The Test of the veil is a necessary condition of the act of being a creature.  The paradox of monotheism is equally the paradox of individualism, for the Angel as a Face of God is linked to the soul of whom it is the Twin in a bond of love that is essential for the being of each.

Eternal transcendences, Eternal Renewal
Corbin's "gothic style of cosmology" involves being eternally drawn upward into an eternal "figure".  Even God is not a fixed Unmoved Mover.   Corbin's world is a place where there can be no fixed Beings, only eternal transcendences without end.  

The vision is that we are always on our way home, in an endless series of renewals, seeking home again and again at higher and higher levels.  Oliver Clement puts it this way: "I am on a destined path as if entering a land of childhood, knowing very well that, in the words of Saint Gregory [of Nyssa], it will take me all eternity to go 'from beginning to beginning, by way of beginnings without end.'  Eternity is a first time, continually renewed."  The Angel out ahead is the figure who draws us into that eternal renewal.

Corbin, Jung's Active Imagination, and the Angels
Tom Cheetham:  All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings
Jung's method of using the images that arise from the soul is what he called Active Imagination.  [In his 1935 Tavistock lectures Jung said:] "A fantasy is more or less your own invention and remains on the surface of personal things and conscious expectations.  But active imagination, as the terms denotes, means that the images have a life of their own and that the symbolic events develop according to their own logic."

The process of engaging with the unconscious psychologically is a two part synthetic process.  First, there is a movement from the unconscious to the conscious mind, a change of psychic level, an act of "releasing unconscious process and letting them come into the conscious mind." Second, and crucially, comes the conscious elaboration and amplification of the original images.  It is a question of becoming an actor in a personal drama and not a spectator of the images that arise.  One must become a participant in the drama of the psyche. 

The theory of knowledge that underlies Corbin's theology is "illuminationist."  It combines an account of prophecy and revelation with a Platonic epistemology.  On this view, knowledge always comes from above by means of a vision of, or union with, the archetypes, the Platonic forms.  . . . The giver of forms is the Angel Gabriel.  He is the Angel of Humanity and as such is both the Angel of Revelation and the Angel of Knowledge.  It is in this precise metaphysical and theological context that Corbin adopts Jung's terminology of the "Active Imagination."  It is the Active Imagination that gives us access to the world of the Angels and of divine Revelation.  Without it we would have no knowledge worthy of the name.  The world of the Angels is a world of Imagination.  The world  of symbols and archetypal images, which Corbin will in 1964 begin to call the imaginal world, "is the world of the Imaginable, that of the Angels-Souls who move the heavens and who are endowed not with sensible organs but with pure Active Imagination."

Corbin writes:  "Our Active Imagination is a moment, an instant, of the Divine Imagination that is the universe, which is itself total theophany. . .  Creation is not ex nihilo but a theophany.  As such it is Imagination.  The Creative Imagination is theophanic imagination, and the Creation is one with the imagining Creature because each Creative Imagination is a theophany, a recurrence of the Creation.  Psychology is indistinguishable from cosmology; the theophanic Imagination joins them into a psych-cosmology."

We have here perhaps the most central instance of that mediating function of the Imagination: it heals the split between psychology and physics, between mind and matter, and between the subjective and the objective.  . . . For Corbin the imagination itself erases that divide, and the only thing we ever have is an Image.  We exist and have our being within the Divine Imagination, wholly immersed in, forever filled with, and ourselves constituted by, the images, the theophanies of Creation.

Projection &  Imago Mundi
Tom Cheetham:  All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings
The image of reality so carefully and reasonably established is seen finally to be a product of the soul--the soul's own projection of its own inmost reality.   The world is our projection, and to become conscious of this and to realize the symbolic and "personal" nature of reality allows us to escape the bondage that so-called objective truths can impose.

[Corbin writes:] "Each of us carries in himself an Image that precedes all perception, an a-priori expressing the deepest being of the person, what depth psychology calls an Imago.  Each of us carries in himself the Image of his own world, his Imago mundi, and projects it into a more or less coherent universe, which become the stage on which his destiny is played out."

Silence & the  Symbol
Tom Cheetham:  All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings
The fountain of human creativity is the poetic basis of mind--from it comes all that we are.  From that source, there flows both Sound and Silence.  Poetry is language that always stays near the source and hears the coursing of that primal Silence.  Poetry is born on the edge of silence and listens into and speaks out of that Void.

Corbin shared Jung's conviction that a true symbol is an expression of something essentially unknown.  He wrote:  "The symbol announces a plane of consciousness distinct from rational evidence; it is a "cipher" of a mystery, the only means of saying something that cannot be apprehended in any other way; a symbol is never explained once and for all, but must be deciphered over and over again."

The symbol mediates between our world and the immensity of the worlds beyond.  We cannot know of that beyond in any other way--we are speechless in the presence of that darkness.  Corbin says, "the symbol is mediator because it is silence, it speaks and does not speak; and precisely thus, it states what it alone can speak."   

The function of the symbol is the function of the Angel of Revelation, and that is to be the "hermeneut of the divine silence--that is, the annunciation and epiphany of the impenetrable and incommunicable divine transcendence."

The figure of Sophia is also exactly this mediating figure, standing on the boundary between the known and the unknowable.  She is the guardian of the Fountain of Life, the Spring from which poetry and symbols flow.  Corbin says:  "Because she is a guide who always leads the mystic toward the beyond, preserving him from metaphysical idolatry, Sophia appears to him sometimes as compassionate and comforting, sometimes as sever and silent, because only Silence can "speak," can indicate transcendences." 

The Paradox of Monothesim 
Tom Cheetham  All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings   
The paradox of monotheism is this, put simply: the single, unique Supreme God can only appear by means of a multitude of theophanic forms.  You can never have the God beyond God, only the form of God that is revealed to you.  We are to conceive of the Uniqueness of God as a verbal description.  God is the Unique because God singularizes each thing He touches--He is unique in the sense that He makes each thing and each person unique.  To do this He must infinitely pluralize and scatter Himself in the manifold individuals of creation.  

The Infinite. Beauty, Poetics,  Angelic Guide
Tom Cheetham:  All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings
Henry Corbin writes:  "Idolatry consists in immobilizing oneself before an idol because one sees it as opaque, because one is incapable of discerning in it the hidden invitation that it offers to go beyond it.  Hence, the opposite of Idolatry would not consist in breaking idols, in practicing a fierce iconoclasm aimed against every inner or external Image; it would rather consist in rendering the idol transparent to the light invested in ti.  In short, it means transmuting the idol into an icon."

It is Sophia, the Beauty of things, that makes possible the vision of the transparency of the world.  She is the figure that the ancient Zoroastrians called the Angel out ahead.  She manifests beauty and so reveals the infinite as the heart of reality, so that everything is "bulging and blazing and big in itself."  In this cosmology, all earthly being have a heavenly Twin, an archetypal figure who completes them and makes them hole.  But it is a dynamic wholeness.  And not only earthly beings have a heavenly twin.  All the celestial archetypes themselves have an Angel.  Even God has an Angel.  these are the Angels "who go out ahead" and eternally create new horizons, opening up distances within Eternity.  In this vision of the cosmos there are no fixed Beings, and every being of Light always has another Angel out ahead of itself.

I use the word poet in the broadest possible sense, to include everyone who taps into the Creative Imagination that lies at the heart of reality.  [Poetry] happens anywhere love erupts and beauty shines.  A primary characteristic of the visionary and Creative Imagination is that it is fluid, flashing, and ever-changing. . .  If we imagine that the world was produced by a cosmic Imagination, and if Imagination is the central faculty of human beings, and if imaginal reality is fluid and changeable, then no literal interpretation we can ever give the world will do it justice.  There is no complete Truth that is viable to everyone.  The cosmos cries out for interpretation because it is infinite everywhere and always, from the tiniest grain of sand to the greatest cluster of galaxies, from the tiniest living cell to the infant sleeping in its mother's arms. . .  There can be no master narrative.    We want instead a Theory of Nothing, a poetics of the dark.  Only that releases us and the world toward an infinite series of meanings. . . Henry Corbin writes of the Darkness at the approach to the pole that threatens the mystical journey with catastrophe.  the Unknown God is the fountain of all being--His Light so overpowering it seems like the Blackest Night.  I imagine that these ranks of Angels rise toward that Night, surrendering more and more of their knowledge and their substance until they abandon everything at the threshold of the Throne.  I envy the ignorance of those tremendous, final Angels.

The Angel Out Ahead
Tom Cheetham  All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings
The Angel is our "other half."  If we lose contact with it, we lose our humanity and are lost in confusion and nihilism.  the Angel is our Orient, the pole around which our lives revolve.  it is the end of all our searching.  Here is where we find our completion, our ultimate wholeness.  Only by reuniting with this celestial component of our being do we find our Self.  And to do this we must shed the shadows, the confusions, and the evils of the lower soul, not integrate them.  

The Journey of Artistic Activity, Creative Imagination, Ta'wil
Tom Cheetham  All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings   
The nature of any artistic activity, if it's valuable, is a journey and is of value only in so far as the journey is complete, that it goes somewhere, come back and reports what it has found there.  Art is the report of a place, not an idea about something.

Angels are the archetypal poets, for in them Language and Creation are one.  Speaking and Being are a single act.  Whatever they imagine flowers into reality.  It is poets who come closest to speaking the language of the Angels.  It is the language of Imagination.  

Invoking the Imagination of the Angels brings us to the heart of the energy of tw'wil.  For ta'wil is an angelic activity; it occurs in that liminal space between the literal reality of the world and the darkness that lies all around.  To read the text, the world, and the soul in this way frees the things of the world from their literality and reveals them as images, and frees them for the images that they in turn liberate.  This is what frees the world fro the journey through the landscapes of those images, a journey for which language is the vehicle, and language makes possible the report of those places where the images occur.  The intense and imaginative reading of a text, or the world, or of the soul will be a writing as much as a reading, and the perception of the images that arise and the places where they have their being is a s much creation as discovery.  Ta'wil is the exercise of the Creative Imagination.

Metaphor and Ta'wil
Meta-phor means to "carry-over," and the metaphoric vision of reality sees through the literal appearance of things to the ever-shifting and mysterious Presence that lies behind the daylight Face of things.  The ta'wil is both a mode of perception and a mode of being.  It is a way of seeing and a way of living that refuses the literal.  It is how we can live the refusal of idolatry.  It is the means by which idols are transmuted into icons.  This spiritual unveiling "consists in 'bringing back,' recalling, returning to its origin, not only the text of a book but also the cosmic context in which the soul is imprisoned.  The soul must free this context, and free itself from it, by transmuting it into symbols." [Corbin]

Ta'wil requires that the literal appearance of all things be interpreted as meta-phor, rather in the way we might view images in a dream.  We are to be "carried over" somewhere.  So, the sacred text and the world and the soul are first de-literalized.  This serves to open the mind and the heart.  It is a kind of "relativizing" move, since in an alert but dreamlike state we are less apt to grasp for solid "facts." . . . It is poets who most readily understand this aspect of ta'wil.  

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Tom Cheetham:   The World Turned Inside Out  Henry Corbin and Islamic Mysticism
Hermeneutics [the art of interpretation of sacred texts] is an unveiling . . . an uncovering, a process by which we participate in the blossoming not of ideas or words, but of images.  It occurs in the imaginal space between the soul and the text.  From the perspective of the metaphysics of Presence, ideas and words as we have come to understand them occupy a space equivalent to that which is occupied by objects.  They are the dead shells of the images, the visions which take place in us and which it is the task of hermeneutics to unveil.  By conjoining hermeneutics and the Imperative to Be!, Henry Corbin forces the insight upon us that understanding as unveiling is our most passionate mode of being.

The command [To Be! is not from the ego, but from the Lord.  And this be-ing is neither thinking nor acting, but a prophetic-poietic passion that combines both: it is imaging.  Here is the connection between the merely human and the divine.  Without this active movement in us we remain trapped in subjectivity.  

Tom Cheetham:   The World Turned Inside Out  Henry Corbin and Islamic Mysticism
Ta'wil is a kind of meditative, imaginative thinking that proceeds by means of images, not concepts.  

Everything depends upon the interiorization and true interpretation of Revelation.  And this in turn depends upon the cosmic correspondences revealed by the science of the Balance.  Visible reality has its complement, its completion, in the other world.  Ta'wil must be understood as half of a pair: Ta'wil - Tanzil.

"Tanzil properly designates positive religion, the letter of the Revelation dictated to the Prophet by the Angel.  It is to cause the descent of this Revelation from the higher world.  Ta'wil is, etymologically and inversely, to cause to return, to lead back, to restore to one's origin and to the place where one comes home, consequently to return to the true and original meaning of a text."  [Corbin, Avicenna]

Our presence is a dim reflection of the Angel, and poetic metaphor derives its truth and its energy from the levels of meaning and the correspondences within a world perceived as symbol,  from the powers of the Angels to draw beings upward: from the Desire of the Soul of the World.  Ta'wil applies not only to reading the text of a Book, but to the interpretation of the cosmic text as well, since the Cosmos itself is the Primordial Revelation.  The idea of the world as itself a divine Book is central to Islamic cosmology.

Blindness to the Esoteric
Tom Cheetham:   The World Turned Inside Out  Henry Corbin and Islamic Mysticism
The material world as an autonomous realm, belonging either to Science or to Caesar, possesses what little reality it does only by virtue of our blindness to the esoteric aspects of all things.  It is this blindness that is the real punishment and the real Fall.  So we are trapped in a world that falls apart into the Empirical and the Idal that can only be sensed and thought about, leaving us devoid of the inner spaces and times of the Imagination, with no exit, no way to imagine ourselves into the world of the Real.

The Imaginal world
Tom Cheetham:   The World Turned Inside Out  Henry Corbin and Islamic Mysticism
Knowledge of the Imaginal world is simultaneously knowledge of the knower and the known, and in the last analysis, since idolatry is the result of blindness, all knowledge, even of the "physical world" is "imagination."

"Let us emphasize then, that this does not mean that knowing things
as abstract idea, as philosophical concepts, but as the perfectly
individuated features of their Image, meditated, or rather, pre-
meditated, by the soul, namely, their archetypal Image.  That is
why in this intermediate world there are Heavens and Earths, 
animals, plants, and minerals, cities, towns and forests . . . .
Ultimately what we call physis and the physical is but the
reflection of the world of the Soul; there is no pure physics, 
but always the physics of some definite psychic activity."
[Corbin, Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth]

Creation, The Imaginal World
Tom Cheetham:   The World Turned Inside Out  Henry Corbin and Islamic Mysticism
[Note: the following quote of Corbin's words, from Corbin's book 
Creative Imagination, explores and interprets the writings of the the 
great Sufi mystic, Ibn 'Arabi.  This passage on God's Creation begins 
with a quote from the Qur'an: "I was a hidden Treasure..."

"The leitmotiv is not the bursting into being of an autarchic
Omnipotence, but a fundamental sadness: 'I was a hidden 
Treasure, I yearned to be known.  That is why I produced crea-
tures, in order to be known in them.'  . . .  The origin, the 
beginning is determined by love, which implies a movement of 
ardent desire . . . on the part of him who is in love.  This ardent
desire is appeased by the divine Sigh.

. . . Creation springs not from nothingness, from something 
other than Himself . . . but from His fundamental being . . .

Thus Creation is Epiphany . . . it is an act of the divine, pri-
mordial Imagination.  Correlatively, if there were not within us
that same power of Imagination, which is not imagination in 
the profane sense of 'fantasy,' but the Active Imagination, none
of what we show ourselves would be manifest . . ."

. . . To the initial act of the Creator imagining the world
corresponds the creature imagining the worlds, his God,
his symbols."  [Corbin, Creative Imagination]

The archetypal creative act is not based on Power but on Love.  The imagination in us is not manipulative, not coercive . . . We are not creators of what we imagine, if by creation we mean the act of a Master.  To create is to Love, to let flower.  

Creation as Imagination is founded upon Desire, Love, and Sympathy.  Symbolic perception, mystic perception, gives birth to forms, to things, to personifications, out of the depths of the mysteries of the Heart.  And these beings, lifted thus away from their entrapment in the opacity of the world perceived as merely physical, have their true being revealed in the light of the mundus imaginalis, the imaginal world.

The Image thus created and perceived is no phantasm. . . It is more real than any "thing" can ever be.  Ta'wil is possible "because there is symbol and transparency."  

The world  of sensory perception becomes transparent.  It can be seen through.  But this is because what lies on the other side, what draws the world out of itself, and which has the power to turn it inside out, is more real, more true, more powerful than any of those realities, both autonomous and opaque, which make up the world of objects.  The only true  autonomy is granted by the One, which lies in the direction of heaven.

The world perceived in this way invites a Fall into and through the world, which is itself a Return . . . an awakening to and celebration of the immensity of the true Journey.

Perpetual Recurrent Creation
Tom Cheetham:   The World Turned Inside Out  Henry Corbin and Islamic Mysticism
The Creation itself as the realization of the Divine Compassion, the Breath of the Merciful, is itself the link between the human soul and the Divine.  And because of its living connection, it must be active, continually alive, subject to perpetual ta'wil.  This Creation is a recurrent Creation, not accomplished once and for all, such that we can at some time hope to know the ends of it.  "Creation as the 'rule of being' is the pre-eternal and continuous movement by which being is manifested at every instant in a new cloak." [Corbin, Creative Imagination]

This ceaseless creation is invisible to us:

". . . At every breath of the "Sigh of Compassion" . . . being ceases 
and then is;  we cease to be, then come into being.  In reality there 
is no "then," for there is no interval . . .  For the "Effusion of Being" 
that is the "Sigh of Compassion" flows through the things of the world 
like the waters of a river and is unceasingly renewed."  [Corbin, Creative Imagination]

And so the identity of object and persons is not granted by their continuity in an illusory linear time, but rather comes from the eternal archetype or form, the principle of individuation of that being.  

"At every instant:" each being is created anew perpetually--and so ceases to be and becomes at every instant.  This ceasing to be is fana, annihilation, the disappearance of the one substance that is "pluralized in its epiphanies."  The other side of this, the perpetuation of each being, is accomplished through its existence in the One Divine Being . . .  

This manifestation and annihilation occurs eternally, perpetually, instantaneously, and in all the hierarchy of worlds from the terrestrial upwards.  The interpenetration of this world and the other means that "this is the other world, or rather, this already is the other world."  This is the "secret of Resurrection: "there is a "continuous ascension of being . . . and their ascending never ceases because the divine descent into the various forms never ceases . . .  it exists in every moment."  [quotes: Corbin, Creative Imagination]

 The beginning of the ascension is that spiritual birth which gives one access to the mundus imaginalis [the imaginal world] and so "an increasing capacity for acceptance of forms forever new."  The eschatology of Resurrection must be understood not only as referring to the worlds after death, but to spiritual birth in this world also.  And it applies not only to humanity: "every being is in a state of perpetual ascension, since its creation is in a perpetual recurrence from instant to instant."

This cosmology presents a radical challenge to the understanding of the meanings of Transcendence and Immanence, of Creation and Imagination, which have molded Western thought.

This world is indeed terrestrial, but not irremediably trapped at the level of the nihilism of "mere matter," of a world without Presence . . .

The Outward and the Manifest is the Nearness of God; the Inward and Hidden is  the Oneness, the incomparability, the no-thing-ness of Divinity.  The manifest tends to descend into idolatry; the hidden opens onto the Infinite.  God's Nearness is external.  It is His Distance that lies within.  It is through the no-thing-ness of the divinity that the essential infinitude of a person, of a presence, is determined.  And so, by turning the world inside out, by giving birth in the world to that interiority which is characteristic of the things of the soul . . . we return the hidden dimension to the manifest and uncover the depths that lie just under the surface of the world.

Creative Imagination & Symbols
Tom Cheetham:   The World Turned Inside Out  Henry Corbin and Islamic Mysticism
The hermeneutic ability of the creative Imagination to transmute all things into symbols destroys the distinction between psychology and cosmology and unites them in a psychocosmology in which Creator and the creature participate not as opposing terms with an unbridgeable gulf separating them, but as complementary poles of a divine drama.

God knows Himself in and through us. 

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