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In the modern, materialist world, which takes for granted the tenets of scientific materialism, the word ‘imaginary’ is often used synonymously with ‘unreal’. However, in most traditional cultures the life of inner experience was valued as the source of richness and meaning that not only carried importances vis-à-vis the world of matter, but stood in counterbalance to it. Hence, in the Islamic tradition, every phenomenon in the outer-world (Ẓāhir) has its corresponding opposite in the inner world of spirit (bāṭin). The uncovering of these inner worlds (or ‘climates’) is the goal of the spiritual seeker.

The discussions will be based on the publication Swedenborg and Esoteric Islam by the late Islamic scholar and perennial philosopher Henry Corbin. We will begin with the first essay titled 'Mundus imaginalis, or The Imaginary and the Imaginal', which addresses the topic of ‘spiritual imagination’ in both mystical Islam and the thought and experiences of Emanuel Swedenborg. Henry Corbin (1903-78) was a philosopher, theologian and profesor of Islamic Studies at the École pratique des hautes études in Paris. His work has had a lasting impact with, amongst others, poet Kathleen Raine and critic Harold Bloom citing him as significant influences.

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