I Am Still Big, it's the Cosmos that Got Smaller
Which caught me by surprise, since I thought my self-appointed mission was to translight his ideas into a Christian context. Certainly he is no one's idea of an orthodox Christian, and not even an unorthodox one; rather heterodox.
For example -- I don't want to get too deep in the weeds here, but he accepted one of the early views of Christ that was rejected by the councils, Docetism. According to Cheetham, he did so because for some reason he believed that "the Incarnation precludes a unique and personal relationship between God manifesting as a person and the unique individual to whom He manifests and on whom He thereby confers personhood."
In general, I find that Corbin unnecessarily fled from certain erroneous notions of Christianity in favor of truths he discovered in Sufism but could have found all along in a Christianity rightly understood. Now that I think about it, this is a common pattern. I did the same thing myself, discovering many truths in Sri Aurobindo's yoga that I thought were unavailable in the west, only to find out otherwise. It seems to be motivated by a kind of spiritual oikophobia, which goes to Jesus' crack about a prophet being without honor in his own home.
By the way, in one of these books, Corbin makes the interesting point that you don't necessarily find a home in a religion, but rather, find a home for the religion in yourself. I can totally relate to this. For example, despite my love for Judaism, I don't think it could be my spiritual home. However, that doesn't mean I can't make a nice home for it inside the soul.
We will no doubt come back to this idea, but at the moment it is accurate to say that this second book on Corbin, All the World an Icon, has overloaded my circuits and left me uncharacteristically discoonbobulated. I don't even know where to start digging myself out of this abyss of light, nor am I able at the moment to wrap the melon around it. Oh whale, is this what it was like for Jonah?
Cheetham himself has now written five books on Corbin in his own attempt to swallow the whale, so I can't even digest the predigested. It reminds me of what Don Colacho says: "The collision with an intelligent book makes us see a thousand stars." I'm seeing enough stars at the moment to methodically catalogue them for the rest of the year.
I won't even say that the book is necessarily "for" anyone else, i.e., You Guys. I can only say that it is definitely in my spiritual idiom, meaning that it is speaking in my soul-language. Of course, the meaning is in myself, but is discovered and illuminated via the idiomatic encounter.
How about we begin on page one. No, better start before the beginning, with an epigraphical clue by Andrew Forge: "When we are looking at a painting we are making a reading; and a reading is not a definitive interpretation, a reading is absorbing and formulating what we understand by it, and then claiming it for ourselves."
I emphasized that last bit because it goes to exactly what I just said in the paragraph immediately above. The reading is our own attempt to articulate and assimilate what the object has provoked in us. Obviously this involves a combination of objectivity and subjectivity, but NOT SO FAST, because this in no way implies subjectivism or relativism.
Rather, it is all about persons and individuals, or more precisely, the individuation of the Person. Corbin is supremely concerned with the individual, but definitely not in any modern egoistic sense. Rather, his understanding is identical to mine, in that the individual is a particular mode of expression of the Absolute.
For me, Christ is the quintessential case, but again, for some reason Corbin failed to make the connection, perhaps because he saw how religion misunderstood and misapplied can indeed result in the arrest of individuality, when the whole point is to become -- to actualize -- one's unique self, not to be a cognitively enclosed robot.
Corbin would also agree that there is no self in the absence of relationship, but for some reason he failed to relate this to the trinitarian metaphysic that makes it both possible and necessary. As suggested in yesterday's post, there can be no abstract/universal God except insofar as the manner in which he manifests in particular individuals via relationship. Perhaps this is ill-sounding, but your relationship to God cannot be the same as my relationship to God, because we are unique individuals.
It reminds me of how my mother used to say that she loved all four of us absolutely equally. Although she was no doubt being sincere, in my mind I would think to myself, "oh, bullshit. How can you love him the same way you love me? Because if you're suggesting that I'm like him, that's an insult. And if you're suggesting that he's like me, that's an insult."
Can you really love without loving individually? Isn't this the problem with the left? You know, they LOVE mankind. It's just people they hate. No one loved mankind more than Marx or Lenin or Stalin. To invert the infamous cliché of the latter, to love one person is a joy. To love a million is a statistic. And probably a tragedy, as in how the left LOVES the poor. To death.
Moving on to page 1, we read that "Corbin's life work was to serve as a champion of the supreme importance of the individual and of the central place of the Imagination in human experience." But just as the individual is distinct from the ego, the imagination is not to be confused with the imaginary, let alone such lesser modalities as fantasy.
And like any Raccoon, "His interests are eclectic and wide-ranging and defy all the traditional boundaries of academic scholarship and, some would say, good sense."
I would go further and suggest that if you fail to violate good sense, you won't get anywhere, for to be trapped in human sense is to be trapped, period. If man is situated between two attractors, then our first task is to somehow vault ourselves out of the orbit of the one for the other. This is precisely the point of a "spiritual practice," although Corbin would agree that our own (↑) not only evokes (↓), but is already a manifestation of it.
Corbin also had a much more expansive and fulsome concept of Truth than do the dwarves of academia. For one, "He believed that truly philosophical thought must always be theo-logical," and even more importantly, "that theology and philosophy are pointless unless they lead to spiritual transformation."
This goes to our own fundamental distinction between (k) and (n). No amount of (k) adds up to one drop of (n), because it is not only the difference between quantity and quality, or knowledge and wisdom, but between a truth that leaves its knower unchanged vs. one that transforms its knower. And all religious truth is of the latter nature.
Yes, such truth can be expressed dogmatically, but that is no better than a load of tenured (k) if it doesn't illuminate and transform you from the inside out. To truly understand a religious truth is to be changed by it, whereas conventional secular truth is often a defense against change.
Here we are in the realm of metanoia, the interior revolution -- or better, re-orientation -- through which we turn ourselves around and turn the cosmos right-side up. You can call it a second birth, so long as you've accomplished the first death and hidden the body.
Just as our relationship with God is what perfects our individuation, we see something similar with regard to our encounter with scripture (or revelation in general). Here again, your encounter will not be my encounter. Rather, the text "provides a con-text for an interpersonal dialogue of mutual interpretation between the reader and the Word."
Con-text is with-text, and only persons can be-with; we are present to the text which is likewise present to us, while we could say that the space in between is a stage for the play of the Divine Third, the Holy Spirit. So it's really a dancing space of three. IMO.
Now this is weird. I just looked it up, and Corbin died nine days before John Paul become pope in October 1978. Weird because the latter's emphasis on persons might have remedied many of Corbin's misunderstandings of Christianity.
Indeed, the two are very much on the same page, because for Corbin, "the individual is the first and final reality." As such, personhood "can neither be deduced nor explained," such that any attempt to do so merely explains away and imprisons oneself in one's own paltry explanation.
After all, if you have explained yourself -- say, via Darwinism -- doesn't that mean ipso facto that you have transcended and escaped from your explanation? C'mon atheists! You can do better than that.
I think I'll stop now. Gotta leave the forest for the trees.