From Swedenborg and Esoteric Islam by Henri
Corbin, Translated by Leonard Fox:
...alam al-mithal, the world of the Image, mundus imaginalis: a
ontologically real as the world of the senses and the world of the intellect, a
world that requires a faculty of perception belonging to it, a faculty that is a
cognitive function, a noetic value, as fully real as the faculties of
perception, or intellectual intuition. This faculty is the imaginative power,
the one we must avoid confusing with the imagination that modern man identifies
with "fantasy" and that, according to him, produces only the "imaginary."
I have proposed the Latin term mundus imaginalis for it, because we are
to avoid any confusion between what is here the object of imaginative or
imaginal perception and what we ordinarily call the imaginary. This is so
because the current attitude is to oppose the real to the imaginary as
the unreal, the utopian, as it is to confused symbol with allegory, to confuse
the exegesis of the spiritual sense with an allegorical interpretation.
...the appearance of an Image having the quality of a symbol is a primary
phenomena (Urphanomen), unconditional and irreducible, the appearance of
something that cannot manifest itself otherwise to the world where we are.
If we do not have available a cosmology whose schema can include, as does the
one that belongs to our traditional philosophers, the plurality of universes in
ascensional order, our Imagination will remain unbalanced, its recurrent
conjunctions with the will to power will be an endless source of horrors. We
will be continually searching for a new discipline of the Imagination, and we
will have great difficulty in finding it as long as we persist in seeing in it
only a certain way of keeping our distance with regard to what we call
and in order to exert an influence on that real.
For instead of the image being elevated to the level of a world that would be
proper to it, instead of it appearing invested with a symbolic function,
to an internal sense, there is above all a reduction of the image to the level
of sensory perception pure and simple, and thus a definitive degradation of the
image. Should it not be said, therefore, that the more successful this reduction
is, the more the sense of the imaginal is lost, and the more we are
producing only the imaginary?
...is it not precisely this postulate of the objectivity of the imaginalworld
that is suggested to us, or imposed on us, by certain forms or certain symbolic
emblems (hermetic, kabbalistic; or mandalas) that have the quality of effecting
a magic display of mental images, such that they assume an objective reality?
Henri Corbin (1903-78) was a French orientalist, philosopher,
and mystic. Corbin organized, in 1946,
the Department of Iranology of the Franco-Iranian Institute
in Tehran. There he established and directed the Bibliothèque
Iranienne Series, an important collection of editions of
and Arabic texts together with analytical studies. From 1954
to 1974 he held the position of directeur d'études at the
Pratique des Hautes Études at the Sorbonne University. He is also
recognized as the as "second father"
(after C.G. Jung) of archetypal psychology. He posited Jung's "mundus archetypalis"
is also the "mundus imaginalis" and corresponds to the Islamic alam al-mithl.
His many publications in French and translated into
English include Avicenna and the Visionary Recital
(1960), Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn'Arabi (1969),
Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth (1977) and The Man of Light in Iranian