In defense of Henry Corbin




The Anglo-Saxon Ivory Tower -- that consummate bastion of Empire's toxic colonial and imperial social engineering agendas -- has once again gone on the offensive smearing Henry Corbin (d. 1978). Following behind them leading the charge in this recent episode of a 40 year vendetta, this time around there are a group of Iranian academics (based mainly out of the United States) whose motives need to be acutely interrogated in this latest round. The recent public litany of attacks against Henry Corbin issuing from the Anglo-Saxon Ivory tower -- while originating in the late 1970s with the personal ideological animus of Yale based Dmitri Gutas -- reached its warped and banal apogee in the late 1990s in a ridiculous screed penned by Reed College Religious Studies scholar Steven Wasserstrom where he attempted to accuse Henry Corbin of antisemiticism. He failed miserably in the attempt -- since he couldn't quite explain adequately the lifetime cooperation between Corbin and Gerschom Scholem and Scholem's place in Corbin's purported "Aryanism" and "crypto-Nazism" -- while publicly embarrassing himself in the process. Apparently Wasserstrom -- who is an otherwise good scholar -- was so traumatized by the subsequent negative reviews pouring in against his RELIGION AFTER RELIGION in peer reviewed academic journals (and from every direction too) that he now refuses to even discuss the book with anyone anymore.
However, every so often new angles find their way as lines of attack and so the smearing continues in a new guise. John Walbridge of Indiana University attempted to whittle away against Corbin's treatment of Suhrawardi in two books and several articles, but eventually failed in the attempt in his article on Suhrawardi's occult prayers by demonstrating his bias and intellectual laziness in not even bothering to cite Corbin regarding material of Suhrawardi's that Corbin had worked on way before Walbridge. See my review of Walbridge's article, https://www.academia.edu/9645950/Regarding_John_Walbridge_s_article_The_Devotional_and_Occult_Works_of_Suhrawardi_the_Illuminationist (part of the many advantages of not belonging to any academic establishment is the ability to call a spade, a spade, and say whatever one wishes and not play to anyone's political agendas). The late Hossein Ziai initiated this specific line before Walbridge did, but eventually, to his eternal credit, pulled himself back from its abyss as it had become obvious even to him that it was rooted in the animus of others which he ultimately did not support.
Be that as it may, in the academic study of Islam within North America and Britain, it has now become an entrenched litmus test for a given scholar to attack Corbin and cast aspersions on him in order to keep appearances and so therefore maintain the viability of a career in the corporate and agenda driven academic environment of the Anglo-Saxon world. Compare this with the attitudes and realities among Corbin's French colleagues, whether of the previous generation or among contemporaries, who do not harbor the same angst, grudges or complaints against him as the Anglo-Saxon academic establishment does. It is truly an irony that behind the thin veneer of these attacks and smears presently on Corbin one always finds the stench of Western Orientalism at work. Perhaps the Anglophone Ivory Tower could learn a thing or two from the more nuanced and finessed subtleties of their French colleagues in that regard.
That aside, known to them or not, these present attacks against Corbin in social media have little to do with Henry Corbin himself, his work or his ideas, but everything to do instead with the attempts of the governments of the United States, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies and Israel at destabilization and regime change in Iran. Besides the fact that such attacks against Corbin lack genuine substance, nonetheless such attacks are part and parcel of a "soft power" strategy of cultural and psychological warfare targeting the Iranian religious intellectual class who (even though Corbin was quite active in Pahlavi Iran and was briefly endowed even by Farah Pahlavi) have rallied behind Corbin and his works in Iran for the past three decades. It is also not a secret that Henry Corbin and his writings are quite popular among the system's elites. Ayatollah Khamenei himself has referred to Henry Corbin and his erudition on numerous occasions in public now, not to mention that there is a street in Tehran named after him.
Guido Giacoma Preparata observes in his The Ideology of Tyranny that "…Notwithstanding its poses and sentimental outbursts, seldom, if ever, is the academic corps a disobedient lot…Academia in the West is for the most part indentured to Big Business…" (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 216. While I may not agree with this statement regarding all of Europe, it is definitely the case across the board in America, Canada, Great Britain and Australasia (i.e. the Five Eyes). At the moment big business and government in the Anglo-Saxon world are determined to undermine and destabilize Iran. Unfortunately one of the pinatas and sacrificial victims trotted out to this end is poor Henry Corbin (رحمة الله و نوره عليه). As my friend Muhammad Ali Khalil aptly puts it, "They [i.e. the Anglo-Saxon academic critics of Corbin] are [like] the modern [version of the] Aleppan ‘ulamaa who clamoured for Suhrawardi’s execution, but in this case it is Corbin’s scholarly corpus which is to be extinguished."

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