Monday, 15 July 2019

Henry Corbin, philosopher and Ishrâqi mystic

According to Wikipedia, Henry Corbin (14 April 1903 – 7 October 1978) was a philosopher, theologian, Iranologist and professor of Islamic Studies at the École pratique des hautes études in Paris, France.

According to his widow, Stella Corbin, as reported by Peter Kingsley in his book Catafalque: Carl Jung and the End of Humanity (p364), however, Henry Corbin's “real identity and purpose” was “not as a scholar with some minor mystical leanings but as a mystic, inwardly directed to play the role of academic.” She described to Kingsley how in Iran, “the great spiritual teachers or sheikhs often offered to initiate him as a Sufi on condition that he converted to Islam; and how he always politely refused. ‘Thank you for your invitation but there is no need, because I already have my own inner sheikh inside me.’”(pp364–365)

Corbin (who knew and understood Jung and his work so well) spoke of an “inner church”, echoing Jung fifty years previously when Jung explained how “if we belong to the secret church, then we belong, and we need not worry about it, but can go our own way. If we do not belong, no amount of teaching or organization can bring us there.” (p366).

Catafalque; Die Before You Die: In Search of a Middle Path

One thing that Peter Kingsley brings up several times in Reality and in Catafalque: Carl Jung and the End of Humanity is the need to "die before you die", for the ego to die before one's physical death, whether in the context of Jung's individuation or the path of traditional Sufism. In the case of individuation, it means descending into the underworld, being torn to shreds, being born again into a greater but notably impersonal reality, and undergoing horrendous conscious suffering; and the seven valleys that we pass through in the Sufi, Attar's The Conference of the Birds doesn't exactly turn out to be a jolly weekend ramble and picnic in the park (though in the case of both, there is a call or move to stillness, serenity and peace).

Kingsley leaves few stones unturned in his quest, from mistaken beliefs and tragically-lost knowledge, right down to the crucial original constellation of meanings of individual words. But in both the study of, and practice in, the Sufi Way, and also in Kingsley's explanations of individuation, one topic that is taken for granted and seldom examined is the central need to "die before you die" (and the need to avoid dangers such as self-inflation).

In his book, Islamic Sufism, the Sirdar Ikbal Ali-Shah writes that unlike other Sufis the Shattariyya (from shattar, meaning lightning-quick, rapidness; etc) do not subscribe to the concept of fana (annihilation of the ego).[1][2] He quotes Khaja Khan's work, Studies in Tasawwuf,[3] saying: "With the sect of Shattaris, the Salik (seeker, aspirant) descends, of himself, in his own knowledge - there is no annihilation of self with them." (p95) In that book, however, Khan is not recommending this course of action, seeing it as a "thorny path" (p15) and commenting that "Imagination and judgment are upset, and a man is liable to become an Egotist (Self expressionist). This path is therefore abjured." (pp15–16).

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

The World Teacher

That toe you stub accidentally on purpose; that cup you drop in a moment of unconscious clumsiness – and miraculously catch in mid-air. That gulp you instinctively make when someone addresses you and subtly and quite casually – or all-too-directly – expresses a deep truth you thought well-hidden. That moment of hair-raising joy when you dare to connect – through written or spoken words and word-play; music; poetry; film; dance; art – a thousand and one arts, crafts and sciences; that “chance” meeting and kiss of lips, that tender union; that resonance and synchronicity; archetype; symbol; subtle alchemical fragrance of something distantly remembered; that coming to your senses – awake and alive; inspiration; inner-tuition; whisper, nudge, sign or affirmation; perfection embracing imperfection; unity in diversity; that king or queen – nay, goddess – in a shabby grey cloak, carrying a beggar's bowl; that face behind the face behind the mask.

That moment of hair-raising joy when you dare to connect – through communion with Mother Nature; that longing; or that serene, soulful, eternal silence and clarity; that receptivity, acceptance and admission, and loving gratitude and reciprocation. That meeting through physical contact or psychic, with a person – whether an earthbound misfit or – joy of joys! – homeward bound mystic, whether near, remote, or even supposedly fictional. That social media post you briefly scan – yet register, perhaps unconsciously or perhaps with increasing awareness – as you casually or rapidly scroll through reams of text and images and memes in your web browser, with one eye on the ever-ticking clock – looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, that hidden gem that makes it worth your while. Yes – even in cyberspace as well as in this virtual reality; as above, so below; as within, so without.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Reality by Peter Kingsley

I was going to write a review about Peter Kingsley's awesome non-fiction work, Reality. But since Gregory Shaw has already produced a wonderful, deep, explanatory review of the book, and I could not reinvent that wheel and do it any real justice, I'll simply confine myself to just a few personal remarks.

First this is how Gregory Shaw leads into his review:

Reality is the culmination of Kingsley's previously published research on both Parmenides and Empedocles, and, to the surprise of no one who is familiar with his work, he holds nothing back. Reality is a brilliant and passionately written book that will strike many if not most readers as monstrous, and in the true sense: it is wondrous, portentous, even frightening. For if we read it with care Reality will undermine not only our accustomed understanding of Parmenides and Empedocles, it will undermine our habits of rational sensibility, our consensus reality, even our self-identity. As Kingsley puts it: "If you want to keep a grip on what you think you already know, you will have to dismiss what I say" (15), and he breaks scholarly convention by arguing that these ancient authors have something critically important to say to us. While his command of the primary and secondary literature is impressive and his philological insights are illuminating, Kingsley is not interested in giving us information: he wants to change us, to draw us into the initiatory spell cast by Parmenides and Empedocles....”

Saturday, 18 May 2019

This is a Global Emergency: No more! Enough is Enough!

#ClimateEmergency #EcologicalBreakdown #BiodiversityLoss

Fridays For Future, Oslo.
Fridays For Future, Oslo.

Swedish schoolgirl and climate activist, Greta Thunberg came to the public attention through the school strikes for climate which she instigated, which have since spread around the world. It’s heart-warming news to see her courageously standing up on the world’s stage and speaking on behalf of her generation and the generations to come, of the dire climate crisis, ecological breakdown, and rapid and deep loss of biodiversity that we are now facing. Thunberg tells us that she is only bringing our attention to what climate scientists have been saying for years. Scientists now predict that we have a small window of opportunity – perhaps only 12 years – in which to reduce CO2 levels (carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels; etc) before we hit a tipping point and global heating really goes out of control. If the world’s climate (not weather patterns) heats up much more, then permafrost near the poles will thaw at an increasing rate, releasing huge amounts of previously-trapped methane into the atmosphere – and methane is a gas that has a far more potent and dangerous greenhouse effect than CO2.

The climate crisis is, of course, only part of the wider picture. Equally alarming is the ecological breakdown and loss of biodiversity, issues that have led to the prediction that the world is facing a sixth extinction or Anthropocene extinction, as a result of human activity. Indeed, with the ongoing extinction of many species, we have already entered the sixth extinction phase in Earth’s history, and in response to this, a new global movement of activists, Extinction Rebellion, has also been holding protests throughout the world and demanding change.

Mostly as a result of the work of activists like school strikes for climate and Extinction Rebellion, and meetings with politicians, several governments have declared climate emergencies. However, if further action is not taken by governments, industry and other key players, then the protests will continue and grow still further.

This is only one major part of a much wider picture, however ...

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

The Cultural Creatives: Book Review

The Cultural Creatives
★★★★★ The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing the World by sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson which came about after 15 years of extensive research is a fascinating, detailed, nuanced and easily-readable work.

This compelling book provides historical and detailed macroscopic overviews, interspersed with microscopic interviews with Cultural Creatives from many walks of life, and the fascinating and inspiring stories they each have to share.

It describes the three main categories of people in the Western world: the Moderns, the Traditionals, and the newly-emergent Cultural Creatives.

Just as Idries Shah's seminal work, The Sufis (about the Sufi mystical tradition) was in part a call to the "natural" Sufis in Western society, so this work is a call to the "natural" Cultural Creatives in the world – most of whom do not realize that there are so many others like them; who may feel isolated and misunderstood; perhaps round pegs in square holes; and who don't know how they turned out the way they are.

The modern mainstream, the Moderns, are still running the show after 500 years, and "standing pat"; accepting the system and doing the best they can with the Modern worldview; hanging in there (often unwilling or unable to change), in the face of increasing dysfunction.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Rewild Britain now to avert impending environmental and human catastrophe

North York moors, Yorkshire, England.
North York moors, Yorkshire, England.

Remnants of the Wildwood

Britain’s vast areas of wild and wuthering moorland and heath certainly have their appeal, and some of the land, such as the North York Moors, has been designated as National Parks. While many upland areas are devoid of all but heathland shrubs and grasses, thankfully there are still many fertile valleys and man-made plantations managed by the Forestry Commission.

However, if we look further back in history, we can see that what we are now left with are – by comparison – a few grotesquely-stunted remnants of a great and diverse, natural “wildwood” that covered much of Britain.