Thursday, February 25, 2016
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Coming from a rogue scholar of the imagination in esoteric Islam, a book of poems should be of no surprise, but this one sure is. Tom Cheetham plunges us deep into the imaginative realities of a life as far from Mecca as Maine. By turns ludic, dark, elegant, honest, with an enviable sense of the absurd, and with generosity towards existence, Cheetham is ever faithful to the turns of thought and feeling, interleaving the planes of the real into his continuous and wonderfully whacked-out song. - Joseph Donahue
There is a madcap intelligence at work in these poems, an intelligence that has given itself permission to go as far as it can. Tom Cheetham calls his book Boundary Violations (the boundaries of the voice, of the poetic line, of standard poetic discourse, of literary propriety…), but it could also be said that here, all poetic boundaries have been entirely dissolved. Charles Olson meets Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle meets Rocky the Flying Squirrel. But like other poets who insist on violating boundaries (think: Rimbaud; think: Frank O’Hara), Cheetham is absolutely serious and playing for keeps (OK, maybe not absolutely serious). In any case, I encourage you to join him in observing “the mysterious energies of life exploding off the pages…” - Norman Finkelstein
Monday, March 9, 2015
in Henry Corbin & James Hillman
I will not forget this book. It has subtly but, I suspect, permanently shifted the way I look at reality, the way I listen to language. - Cynthia Bourgeault, retreat leader and author of The Wisdom Way of Knowing, The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three, and Mystical Hope.
Imaginal Love is a work of vital imagination, at once personal, formally audacious, penetrating, and richly insightful. Beginning with the premise of the inherent and initiatic complexity of Henry Corbin’s thought, and building on the intricately laid foundation of the four previous volumes in his Corbin Quartet, Tom Cheetham brings his considerable learning and experience to bear on a dynamic, psychocosmological reading of Corbin’s mighty influence on the work of archetypal psychologist James Hillman, and those modern and contemporary poets, including Robert Duncan and Charles Olson, some of whose works have been guided significantly by Hillman’s ideas. For anyone interested in the overlapping open fields of depth psychology and Projective Verse, Imaginal Love is essential. - Peter O’Leary, poet and author of The Phosphorescence of Thought, and Gnostic Contagion: Robert Duncan and the Poetry of Illness
Imaginal Love radically reframes the ancient question of the nature of love, in particular as a path for a consciously realized life. Tom Cheetham drives passionately, sympathetically, and lucidly between the intertwined yet critically antithetical paths of Henry Corbin, the great mystical French exegete of Sufi “psychocosmology,” and James Hillman, the great American heretical transformer of Jungian psychology. And he does it by way of his long personal journey, showing that any realization of “imaginal love” can only happen within the person, actual singular being. At the same time he profoundly engages the paradox that such intensively lived singularity is also the site of non-limiting multiplicity and visionary openness. It’s a vision as well of a higher function of language, implicitly a poetics of alchemical intensity, yet which can only occur within the deepening process of life itself.
Tom Cheetham shows the heights that independent scholars outside academia can achieve. His prior work has virtually defined independent scholarship on Henry Corbin. In Imaginal Love, he has turned his gifts to "the meanings of imagination in James Hillman and Henry Corbin." The result is a powerful contribution to our understanding of the full meaning of imaginal love -- and the central role of such love in human life. - Michael Lerner, President, Commonweal.
The text is studded with breath-taking virtuoso passages, as when Cheetham feels his way through the nuances of relationship with the Angel, the Face of the Divine that is individual to each of us; or the shattering experience and alchemical transmutation of, autonomous ‘feeling-toned complexes.’ After such passages you just want to stand up and cheer. (full review) - Belinda Hunt, Artist and Writer, Winchester, UK
Friday, October 3, 2014
Friday, March 2, 2012
"In a series of brilliant books, Tom Cheetham has single-handedly brought the work of Henry Corbin forward to the English-speaking world in its depth and originality. Writing in prose at once lucid and inspired, Cheetham conveys the vision of Corbin into the Persian mystical tradition in ways that kindle reflection on the part of the reader. Drawing on extensive knowledge, Cheetham accomplishes what every serious scholar of this tradition seeks: to place the mark of thought upon a living legacy." Edward S. Casey, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, SUNY Stony Brook and author of The World at a Glance.
"For anyone attracted to the elusive realm of creative imagination, this new book draws out and makes explicit what lives so strongly as a lure within the heart, the desire to find again our first home, the imaginal worlds and their inhabitants, the angels of creativity. As acknowledged master interpreter of the great work of Henry Corbin, Tom Cheetham follows Corbin’s path of seeing all the world as living symbol of the divine worlds. More, he shows how to go through the portal of the world as symbol to enter the imaginal realms in their intimate autonomy, and develop impeccable trust in their spontaneous appearance as personal images. Here, in this writing, we can learn interior listening, discovering the inherent poeticizing action of the word. This beautiful volume goes beyond, way beyond, any of our usual self-serving inclinations and leads us into being servants of the angel of the Earth." - Robert Sardello, Author of Silence: The Mystery of Wholeness
“Tom Cheetham once again exhibits in All the World an Icon a writing gift of taking complex and esoteric ideas that range and intermingle philosophy, mysticism, poetry, psychological schools of thought— as well as Sophianic wisdom and angelology—and weaves them into a coherent fabric for the intelligent layperson interested in a humanities inflected approach to Henry Corbin’s lifelong interest in promoting the Imagination as central to a fully lived life. Towards the end of his new book, he candidly and a bit gleefully admits, ‘My secret hero has always been a poet.’ Not surprising at all; he writes with a poetic sense and an intelligibility that invites and challenges his readers. I loved this book as much as I did the last one he wrote on Henry Corbin’s opus.” —Dennis Patrick Slattery, Core Faculty, Pacifica Graduate Institute and author of Day-to-Day Dante: Exploring Personal Myth Through the Divine Comedy
John Carey's review for the Temenos Academy Review can be read here.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Cover Photo by Jim Yasuda
The third volume in a quintet of works which explore the implications of the spiritual vision of Henry Corbin (1903-1978). Corbin was one of the 20th century’s premier scholars of Islamic mysticism. He was a colleague of C. G. Jung and a major figure at the Eranos Conferences. He introduced the concept of the mundus imaginalis into contemporary thought and his work has provided much of the intellectual foundation for archetypal psychology as developed by James Hillman. But Corbin’s underlying theological and philosophical project was to provide a framework for understanding the unity of the religions of the monotheistic tradition: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. His profound grasp of the phenomenology of the religious imagination and his uniquely ecumenical approach make his work essential reading in a complex and pluralistic age.
Tom Cheetham addresses us lucidly and accessibly, in a prose often kindled into lyricism by his dedication to his subject. His enthusiasm is infectious, the range of his knowledge daunting, the depth of his commitment an inspiration. The book is full of wisdom. In a field whose exoticism and difficulty could easily tempt one to play the mystagogue, Cheetham’s sincerity and humility are disarmingly evident. This is an important and very valuable book, the culmination of an important and very valuable trilogy. It sheds precious light on the profoundest levels of what it means to be human – of what it means to be. It holds open a door which, for some at least among Cheetham’s readers, may bring them face to face at last with their true nature. - – John Carey, Editor, Temenos Academy Review, Author of A Single Ray of the Sun and Ireland and the Grail - full Review in Temenos Academy Review 11 - 2008. Read the full review here.
Based on the author's profound insight into the works of Henry Corbin, After Prophecy explores the creative role of the imagination in the formative ground of Western religious traditions. - Sophia: The Journal of Traditional Studies
Cheetham's passionate engagement with Corbin's thought transforms his "research" into something more than scholarship. In approaching some rather abstruse and easily ridiculed religious traditions with rigour and a critical eye, he brings them alive for the post-psychological West… In our present world, with obscene indulgence and famine competing for headlines, Cheetham's accessible and thoroughly intelligent exposition of traditions of mysticism, poetry and gnosis that try to attack the roots of these horrors couldn't be more welcome… His skilful analysis works just fine as a tool for the deeper appreciation of some of the stranger treasures of human culture. But running throughout this valuable book is something immensely courageous, and perpetually relevant: "a quest to be open to the world without fear of violation". - The Dreamflesh Library. Read the Full Review.
Henry Corbin was one of the most profound and original thinkers of the 20th century and without any doubt at all one of the most undersung — if not utterly misunderstood and spurned —scholars of our age. There are reasons for this: He chose to express his compelling and sometimes daunting meditations and ideas through the medium of the history and contents of esoteric Islamic thought. This book by Tom Cheetham will be celebrated by all who have known this but somehow felt powerless to change the situation. His clear, lucid, profound reading of Corbin, his patient, knowing and sincerely humble voice, will serve to commend and demystify the timeless and urgent message found in his subject. We must all be grateful to him for his labor for it has produced marvelously accessible and true statements touching the essence of Corbin's work such as: "Secretly the world is already a burning bush, but the quest is to see it that way, and to act as if you saw it that way." In the context of this beautifully written and deeply illumined study, such language never sounds facile, glib or clever. Rather it helps us see and act. One is tempted to say that anyone interested in anything must read this book. And I think I will. - Todd Lawson, University of Toronto, Author of Reason and Inspiration in Islam
Cheetham’s passion for the material carries the reader into an ever-deepening appreciation of the huge importance of Henry Corbin for the re-valuation of vision and imagination. Arabic and Persian parallels and arguments with Western thinkers including Levinas, Illich and Jung are set forth clearly and fairly. It seems to me a faultless book. – James Hillman
This book is a clear and profound contribution to any deep reflection on the sacred nature of creation. I have been humbled by Cheetham’s passion and deep commitment to his subject, a subject that is for him not one of mere intellectual curiosity, but a way, a path to be lived, suffered and fully encountered. For anyone practicing in the therapeutic professions it is an essential meditation on the whole purpose and direction of the cure of souls. - Sir Nicholas Pearson, Chairman, The Temenos Academy
Tom Cheetham has written a powerful book. With great talent, he shows how Henry Corbin's deep spirituality has the power to eliminate our "spiritual neediness," because it gives us what we are truly looking for: a non-literal god, a god that does not even ask to be called "God" (or "Goddess"), one that is the World, not beyond it. Cheetham's book should be required reading for all believers. He provides an alternative to the neurotic God complex that is tearing humanity apart. This book is much needed, offering a balm to wounds of the collective psyche. As an atheist who feels the divine beauty of this world, I can only applaud this reading of Corbin, who replaces belief in God with a profound capacity to perceive the harmony of the sensate world. - Ginette Paris, Pacifica Graduate Institute, Author of Wisdom of the Psyche
This is a work that deepens our appreciation of Corbin and his passion for the natural world. The author enhances Corbin's poetic analysis with his own aesthetic narrative, creating a synthesis that embodies the very ideals he seeks to interpret. With a deepening gaze, the author explores the creative role of the imagination in the formative ground of western religious traditions. According to Corbin, engaging the soul of the world through the mediating power of the the Imaginal, is an act of love. The author explores this theme fully through his analysis of mystical poverty, contemplative knowledge, the luminosity of the earth, the theophanic vision, the Christ angel, the divine sensorium, alchemical transformation, the spiritual humanism of Ivan Illich, western iconoclasm, and the centrality of gnosis, all in the service of individual awakening to spiritual responsibility. The author offers a visionary alternative to the confusions of contemporary life while also celebrating the creative capacity of soul to engage the world with hope. Highly recommended. – Lee Irwin, Chair, Department of Religious Studies, College of Charleston, Author of Awakening to Spirit
John Carey's wonderful review of After Prophecy in The Temenos Academy Review (Volume 11) is now available as a Google Document here.
The Corbin Trilogy
By Tom Cheetham
Reviewed by M. Ali Lakhani
Read more ...
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Tom Cheetham has written a remarkable book that has the power of shifting our way of imagining the world ... He is one of the most courageous thinkers I have ever read ... I hope you enter into a study of a work that certainly does not belong to the world of throwaway books. This book requires slow reading, for as you read these living words you are undergoing a transformation. At the end of reading, the world will not be the same. - from the Foreword by Robert Sardello
Nowhere does this far ranging and sophisticated survey of the loss of the world soul allow for easy summary; it is far too baroque in architecture and in thematic interests... - enough to rattle anyone's caged thoughts into new territory. One of [Cheetham's] clarion calls is to return to thinking as an imaginal act... [his] style and manner is scholarly-poetic for he calls on the reader to imagine his work with him... [He] argues that the world's languages need to be heard once more by ears grown deaf by dogma, closed by arthritic credos and waxed over by wandering abstractions that bypass the world soul's desire to be recognized on its own terms. – Dennis Patrick Slattery, Pacifica Graduate Institute, Author of The Wounded Body (full review HERE)
Particularly affecting is the final essay, ‘Harmonia Abrahamica’ (a reference to Corbin’s vision of uniting the three Religions of the Book), in which Cheetham meditates with great feeling on the problems crystallized in the mysterious post-war meeting between Jewish poet Paul Celan (whose parents died in the Holocaust) and philosopher Martin Heidegger (notorious for his Nazi sympathies). Anyone interested in phenomenology and Indo-European mysticism will inevitably have to tackle associations with varying degrees of dubious politics. I don’t think any degree of resolution is possible here that would satisfy those who habitually relate mystical preoccupations with reactionary politics. However, this essay is an especially poignant example of Cheetham’s ability to apply intellectual vigour and profound compassion to the problems posed to anyone unable to lose sight of the liberating value of deep spiritual vision and the need for a human-centred idea of community. - The Dreamflesh Library. Read the Review.
Green Man, Earth Angel explores the central role of imagination for understanding the place of humans in the cosmos... Central to this re-imagining is an examination of the place of language in human life and art and in the worldview that the prophetic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - presuppose. Sophia: The Journal of Traditional Studies
The Corbin Trilogy
By Tom Cheetham
Reviewed by M. Ali Lakhani
Read more ...
Buy the book from:
Sunday, January 21, 2007
A deep reading of Tom Cheetham's The World Turned Inside Out could have the effect of turning the reader inside out! Not only will a person discover in this book a thorough understanding of the remarkable and important vision of Henry Corbin, the great French scholar of Iranian Islam. The reader will also be engaged by a politically useful understanding of the religion of Islam generally, of mystical and negative theology, of monotheism, of the philosophy of imagination, of language and the textures of textuality, and of the nature of reading and thinking. Among other things, a careful reading of this book can inform current interpretations of the politics of terrorism, its wars and the wars against it. In short, there exists here a shaking of the foundations of human perspectives that comes to nothing short of a radical revisioning of all attempts to make sense of the life and meaning of being in the world. - David L. Miller, Watson-Ledden Professor of Religion, Emeritus, Syracuse University, Core Faculty Member, Pacifica Graduate Institute, Author of Christs, Three Faces of God & Hells and Holy Ghosts.
A remarkable creative synthesis of the genius of Henry Corbin, the silent precursor of archetypal psychology. Tom Cheetham gives the gift of a metaphysics of interiority balancing pervasive, destructive, suffocating, spectator consciousness. And it is a convivial interiority, filled with spiritual presences. The soul can breathe again because it has found its homeland, the Soul of the World. - Robert Sardello, author of Freeing the Soul from Fear
This book is a penetrating and comprehensive introduction to and survey of the remarkable work and thought of Henry Corbin. It serves an important purpose in making Corbin's work more accessible in English. - Sophia: The Journal of Traditional Studies
The first book in English devoted to the great French author Henry Corbin, The World Turned Inside Out is an excellent introduction to and survey of Corbin's work and thought. Corbin is unique among twentieth-century scholars of Islam in his ability to imaginatively enter the world of the Sufi gnostics, and to apply their insights to the modern world. The World Turned Inside Out provides us with a bracing and stimulating overview of this seminal author's work and its implications: this is a book for all who suspect that, to paraphrase Plato, there is more to life than that which can be grasped in one's hands. - Arthur Versluis, Editor of Esoterica and author of Wisdom's Children: A Christian Esoteric Tradition.
This book does an absolutely splendid job of opening up Corbin's thought to the general reader. Corbin's work addresses our contemporary situation in a most direct way as this book shows, and the author has made an important contribution to both the philosophy of religion and the history of religions. This is an interesting, careful and important piece of work that I hope will gain the recognition that it deserves. - Charles J. Adams, Emeritus Professor of Islamic Studies, McGill University
L'Association des Amis de Stella et Henry Corbin has sponsored a French translation of this book. I am deeply grateful to Les Amis and to the translator, Hélène Senglard-Foreman. The first chapter of the French text, L'envers du Monde is available online as a pdf file. A paper version will appear in due course.
Reviewed by Dreamflesh Library here.
Read a review by Pierre Lory in English or in French
and this note by Lory in Abstracta Iranica
The Corbin Trilogy
By Tom Cheetham
Reviewed by M. Ali Lakhani
Read more ...
Buy the book from:
Spring Journal Books
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
Top Row: Rainer van Neerboos, Anne-Marie Gabella, Dieter Beschorner, Robert Bosnak; Middle Row: Wanda Luban, Mrs. Dosenbach, Robert Hinshaw, Peter Mueri, Pierre de LaBarre, ?, Monique Salzman, ?, Rudolf Ritsema, Shantena Sabbadini, Jay Livernois; Seated: Gisela Binda, Eugene Taylor, Hermann Pfaender, Masayuki Sato, Jane Reid, Noboru Maruyama, Nobuhiro Kubota, Paola Maria Gabutti, Tom Cheetham, Ben Sells
Ascona, Switzerland, October 3-7.
Noboru Maruyama - Tenjinsama and I
Ben Sells - Smoke and Mirrors: How Psychotherapy Hides from Images
Eugene Taylor - William James: Yet To Be Revealed
Robert Bosnak - Alchemy and the Unknown
Masayuki Sato - Is There Civilization Without God?
Nobuhiro Kubota - When Life Meets Life
Alan Guggenbühl - Sexual Abuse and Violence: Hidden Gods?
Tom Cheetham - Before I Was a Planet:
Poverty, Poetry and the Theory of Things
(Cheetham's lecture on Henry Corbin has been published in a revised
version as Chapter One of After Prophecy).
Saturday, November 12, 2005
The World Turned Inside Out: Henry Corbin and Islamic Mysticism
p. 5, 2nd paragraph: “which can reveal the most primordial and concrete images but at the same time hidden” should read: “which can reveal that which is the most primordial and concrete but at the same time hidden”
p. 6, 2nd line: “which Corbin calls” should read “which is inevitably raised by the clash of cultures or of what Corbin calls”
p. 50, last paragraph: “first task is the hermeneutics of itself” should read “first task is the hermeneutics of Dasein itself”
p. 31, 1st paragraph: “does not represent Islam” should read “does not represent ‘Islam’”
p. 46, 1st paragraph: “history of the language, that we use that which has” should read: “history of the language that we use that has”
p. 62, line 4: “The daring of Avicenna and living within” should read “The daring of Avicenna and Suhrawardi living within”
p. 64, line 5: “for a time” should read “for a time”
p. 67, last line: “ontological foundation for reality.” should read “ontological foundation for the reality of this world.”
p. 108, n. 62: delete “the biased” and “politically correct”. (These are not the words of the author.)
p. 109, last paragraph: “Esoteric spiritual disciplines have never been given over to the masses in theory.” Should read: “Esoteric spiritual disciplines have never been meant for the masses.”
p. 177, opening quote: delete “Gospel of”.