(updated Aug. 14, 2014 - fixed link and quote from scribd)

One of the key people who explored the use of Imagination in theosophy was Henry Corbin. During this last century he developed a theory of imagination called Mundis Imaginalis, lacking a suitable contemporary word, which was influenced by his study of Sufism. This is one of the greatest advances in academic theosophy in recent years. A brief overview of this concept can be found in Mundis Imaginalis in an article he wrote titled "Mundis Imaginalis, or the Imaginary and the Imaginal" (1972). Below is an excerpt:

We realize immediately that we are no longer confined to the dilemma of thought and extension, to the schema of a cosmology and a gnoseology restricted to the empirical world and the world of abstract intellect. Between them there is a world that is both intermediary and intermediate, described by our authors as the 'alam al-mithal, the world of the image, the mundus imaginalis: a world that is ontologically as real as the world of the senses and that of the intellect. This world requires its own faculty of perception, namely, imaginative power, a faculty with a cognitive function, a noetic value which is as real as that of sense perception or intellectual intuition. We must be careful not to confuse it with the imagination identified by so-called modern man with "fantasy", and which, according to him, is nothing but an outpour of "imaginings". This brings us to the heart of the matter and our problem of terminology.

(Note: The "organ" of sense perception is best thought of as a spiritual organ)

Imagination is key to theosophy, as established in our FAQ sheet. Prior conversations on this site have touched on Imagination, so I am bringing into focus one of the key ideas in modern theosophy. This was based on his long study of Sufism.

Comments are welcome.

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I think that few people have looked at Corbin. His ideas are considered revolutionary by most scholars. His work led to the creation of the term Imaginal. He worked with the Eranos Foundation during the years they studied Jung’s concept of Active Imagination. He is considered a revolutionary thinker.


I am still hazy on how he interprets both the “where and how” it limits and excludes wild and unbridled speculations w.r.t. Imagination (and the folly it can bring) from Imaginal thinking in his theory, as well as how he reconciles the use of images in a truly iconoclastic religion like Islam (Sufism, his specialty). These are critical to understand from his viewpoint before I can have any interpretations of my own worth mentioning. In the meantime, I am trying to understand him. The above two items seem to make his work key in scholastic thinking on Imagination by most authors I have read. I think most on this site have not heard of him and find him confusing, otherwise they would have said something by now. Due to lack of interest, I am less inclined to push the issues any further.

If you understand his work well, perhaps you can expand on the two issues above?


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