Skip to main content

Corbin, Henry (1903–1978)

CORBIN, HENRY
(19031978)

The French Islamicist and philosopher Henry Corbin was born in Paris on April 14, 1903. He studied with such French scholars as Étienne Henry Gilson, Emile Brehier, and Louis Massignon. To expand the scope of his studies, he learned over a dozen classic and modern languages. His interest in philosophy took him to Germany where he made an acquaintance with Ritter, Karl Löwith, Alexander Kojve, and Martin Heidegger. He translated several works of Heidegger into French, including What Is Metaphysics.

Corbin's main philosophical interest during the 1930s was the relationship between philosophy and mysticism. This was a major factor in his decision to study Islamic philosophy. Louis Massignon, then the head of Islamic studies at Sorbonne, introduced him to the works of the twelfth century Muslim philosopher Shihāb al-Dīn Yahyā al-Suhrawardī (d. 1191). Suhrawardī founded a philosophical school called the School of Illumination and sought to combine philosophical analysis with mystical experiencea theme that runs through Corbin's works.

In 1940, during World War II, Corbin went to Istanbul, Turkey, to study the manuscripts of Suhrawardī's works. He stayed in Turkey for the next five years. Then in 1945 he went to Tehran, Iran, where he founded an institute of Iranian studies under the French-Iran Institute. This is the beginning of Corbin's lifelong involvement with what he came to call "Persian Islam" (islam iranien ). Iran became a spiritual birthplace for him.

Corbin was a prolific writer. Even though his scholarly works are mostly devoted to the philosophical exposition of Islamic or "Oriental" thought, they are permeated by his lifelong concern to resuscitate the mystico-philosophical outlook of such mystical philosophers as Suhrawardī, Ibn al-ʿArabi, Mullā adrā, and Emmanuel Swedenborg. One key term in Corbin's thought is mundus imaginalis (the ʿalam al-khayal of the Muslim philosophers). Not to be confused with "imaginary" world, mundus imaginalis refers to an intermediary stage between the purely intellectual and empirical worlds. For Corbin, this is the realm of angels and spiritual visions where sensible forms become immaterial and intelligible forms take on an "imaginal" character and dimension. This is where heaven and earth meet in the metaphysical sense of the term. Corbin believed that the European intellectual tradition has lost sight of this crucial concept, severing its relation with the "angelic world" and lending religious justification to the Cartesian dualism of body and soul.

In his readings, Corbin followed the tradition of spiritual hermeneutics (taʾwil ), "returning" words to their original meanings and thus going back to the "beginning." He called himself a phenomenologist in the sense of "removing the veils of ignorance," (kashf al-mahjub ). In his philosophical quest, Corbin gave some of the best examples of what is sometimes called comparative philosophy, and his immense knowledge of European and Asian philosophies allowed him to do much more than simply compare or juxtapose different ideas and concepts.

See also Illuminationism; Nasr, Seyyed Hossein.

Bibliography

Jambet, Christian, ed., Cahiers de I'Herne Henry Corbin. Paris: Herne, 1981.

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein, ed. Mélanges offerts à Henry Corbin. Tehran, Iran: Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University, Tehran Branch, 1977.

Shayegan, Daryush. Henry Corbin: La topographie spirituelle de l'islam iranien. Paris: Editions de la Difference, 1990.

Ibrahim Kalin (2005)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Corbin, Henry (1903–1978)." Encyclopedia of Philosophy. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Corbin, Henry (1903–1978)." Encyclopedia of Philosophy. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/corbin-henry-1903-1978

"Corbin, Henry (1903–1978)." Encyclopedia of Philosophy. . Retrieved October 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/corbin-henry-1903-1978

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.