It doesn’t get any more honest than this. Tom Cheetham, long known for his dedicated and engaged scholarship on Henry Corbin, here reveals another side to his lively intelligence. The poems in Boundary Violations address us to the ordinary that Emerson proposed as America’s gift to the world. Sitting at the feet of the familiar, the low, Cheetham finds himself face to face with wonder and generously leads us into its glow. - Michael Boughn

Coming from a rogue scholar of the imagination in esoteric Islam, a book of poems should be of no surprise, but this one sure is. Tom Cheetham plunges us deep into the imaginative realities of a life as far from Mecca as Maine. By turns ludic, dark, elegant, honest, with an enviable sense of the absurd, and with generosity towards existence, Cheetham is ever faithful to the turns of thought and feeling, interleaving the planes of the real into his continuous and wonderfully whacked-out song. - Joseph Donahue

There is a madcap intelligence at work in these poems, an intelligence that has given itself permission to go as far as it can. Tom Cheetham calls his book Boundary Violations (the boundaries of the voice, of the poetic line, of standard poetic discourse, of literary propriety…), but it could also be said that here, all poetic boundaries have been entirely dissolved. Charles Olson meets Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle meets Rocky the Flying Squirrel. But like other poets who insist on violating boundaries (think: Rimbaud; think: Frank O’Hara), Cheetham is absolutely serious and playing for keeps (OK, maybe not absolutely serious). In any case, I encourage you to join him in observing “the mysterious energies of life exploding off the pages…” - Norman Finkelstein

In Boundary Violations nature is signaling to Tom Cheetham that "it’s closing time." Like Charles Olson, Cheetham knows that “the soul / is an onslaught.” Thus his mission is to awaken to “the beat beat beat of the tom-tom” by smelling the coffee in Kali’s cup. Reflecting back on the 20th Century’s mimetic ecosystem, he meditates night and day upon the cartoon characters and the cultural download that violated his boundaries. Within the wonder of natural and unnatural kingdoms, he explores his own evolution, feeling the ominous burn of a trans-human future. Put on final notice, the exuberant woof of a monkey-mind warped by predictive programming is playfully reclaimed for poetry in this thoroughly stimulating collection. - Kenneth Warren


If a butterfly in Brazil can change the weather of the Americas and by extension the world (and even if it cannot), the great hope animating this fine book is that the sheer beauty of thought can transform the beleaguered weather of our human conditon. Such courage is exemplary and inspiring. And real. In addition, the reader of Imaginal Love will get a clear picture of the profound and productive, yet complex, relation between Hillman and Corbin and gain an appreciation for the latter’s influence on the more purely artistic milieux of the later 20th century North American scene. Beautifully written, Cheetham's book gives us a taste for the sacramental value of metaphor and therefore transformation: a splendid reading experience. - Todd Lawson

I will not forget this book. It has subtly but, I suspect, permanently shifted the way I look at reality, the way I listen to language. - Cynthia Bourgeault

Cheetham’s book is a jewel that returns us to the “wild energies of creation” through his lucid and passionate dedication to the necessity of imagination for soul. His book offers the essence of these thinkers as alchemical transformers of being in the anima mundi. Imaginal Love returns psyche to cosmos: as organ of imag(e)inging where we embody the angels. - Susan Rowland

Imaginal Love is a work of vital imagination, at once personal, formally audacious, penetrating, and richly insightful. Beginning with the premise of the inherent and initiatic complexity of Henry Corbin’s thought, and building on the intricately laid foundation of the four previous volumes in his Corbin Quartet, Tom Cheetham brings his considerable learning and experience to bear on a dynamic, psychocosmological reading of Corbin’s mighty influence on the work of archetypal psychologist James Hillman, and those modern and contemporary poets, including Robert Duncan and Charles Olson, some of whose works have been guided significantly by Hillman’s ideas. For anyone interested in the overlapping open fields of depth psychology and Projective Verse, Imaginal Love is essential. - Peter O’Leary

Imaginal Love radically reframes the ancient question of the nature of love, in particular as a path for a consciously realized life. Tom Cheetham drives passionately, sympathetically, and lucidly between the intertwined yet critically antithetical paths of Henry Corbin, the great mystical French exegete of Sufi “psychocosmology,” and James Hillman, the great American heretical transformer of Jungian psychology. And he does it by way of his long personal journey, showing that any realization of “imaginal love” can only happen within the person, actual singular being. At the same time he profoundly engages the paradox that such intensively lived singularity is also the site of non-limiting multiplicity and visionary openness. It’s a vision as well of a higher function of language, implicitly a poetics of alchemical intensity, yet which can only occur within the deepening process of life itself. - George Quasha

Tom Cheetham shows the heights that independent scholars outside academia can achieve. His prior work has virtually defined independent scholarship on Henry Corbin. In Imaginal Love, he has turned his gifts to "the meanings of imagination in James Hillman and Henry Corbin." The result is a powerful contribution to our understanding of the full meaning of imaginal love -- and the central role of such love in human life. - Michael Lerner


"In a series of brilliant books, Tom Cheetham has single-handedly brought the work of Henry Corbin forward to the English-speaking world in its depth and originality. Writing in prose at once lucid and inspired, Cheetham conveys the vision of Corbin into the Persian mystical tradition in ways that kindle reflection on the part of the reader. Drawing on extensive knowledge, Cheetham accomplishes what every serious scholar of this tradition seeks: to place the mark of thought upon a living legacy." Edward S. Casey, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, SUNY Stony Brook and author of The World at a Glance.

"For anyone attracted to the elusive realm of creative imagination, this new book draws out and makes explicit what lives so strongly as a lure within the heart, the desire to find again our first home, the imaginal worlds and their inhabitants, the angels of creativity. As acknowledged master interpreter of the great work of Henry Corbin, Tom Cheetham follows Corbin’s path of seeing all the world as living symbol of the divine worlds. More, he shows how to go through the portal of the world as symbol to enter the imaginal realms in their intimate autonomy, and develop impeccable trust in their spontaneous appearance as personal images. Here, in this writing, we can learn interior listening, discovering the inherent poeticizing action of the word. This beautiful volume goes beyond, way beyond, any of our usual self-serving inclinations and leads us into being servants of the angel of the Earth." - Robert Sardello, Author of Silence: The Mystery of Wholeness

“Tom Cheetham once again exhibits in All the World an Icon a writing gift of taking complex and esoteric ideas that range and intermingle philosophy, mysticism, poetry, psychological schools of thought— as well as Sophianic wisdom and angelology—and weaves them into a coherent fabric for the intelligent layperson interested in a humanities inflected approach to Henry Corbin’s lifelong interest in promoting the Imagination as central to a fully lived life. Towards the end of his new book, he candidly and a bit gleefully admits, ‘My secret hero has always been a poet.’ Not surprising at all; he writes with a poetic sense and an intelligibility that invites and challenges his readers. I loved this book as much as I did the last one he wrote on Henry Corbin’s opus.” —Dennis Patrick Slattery, Core Faculty, Pacifica Graduate Institute and author of Day-to-Day Dante: Exploring Personal Myth Through the Divine Comedy


Cheetham’s passion for the material carries the reader into an ever-deepening appreciation of the huge importance of Henry Corbin for the re-valuation of vision and imagination. Arabic and Persian parallels and arguments with Western thinkers including Levinas, Illich and Jung are set forth clearly and fairly. It seems to me a faultless book. – James Hillman

Henry Corbin was one of the most profound and original thinkers of the 20th century and without any doubt at all one of the most undersung — if not utterly misunderstood and spurned —scholars of our age. There are reasons for this: He chose to express his compelling and sometimes daunting meditations and ideas through the medium of the history and contents of esoteric Islamic thought. This book by Tom Cheetham will be celebrated by all who have known this but somehow felt powerless to change the situation. His clear, lucid, profound reading of Corbin, his patient, knowing and sincerely humble voice, will serve to commend and demystify the timeless and urgent message found in his subject. We must all be grateful to him for his labor for it has produced marvelously accessible and true statements touching the essence of Corbin's work such as: "Secretly the world is already a burning bush, but the quest is to see it that way, and to act as if you saw it that way." In the context of this beautifully written and deeply illumined study, such language never sounds facile, glib or clever. Rather it helps us see and act. One is tempted to say that anyone interested in anything must read this book. And I think I will. - Todd Lawson, University of Toronto, Author of Reason and Inspiration in Islam

Tom Cheetham has written a powerful book. With great talent, he shows how Henry Corbin's deep spirituality has the power to eliminate our "spiritual neediness," because it gives us what we are truly looking for: a non-literal god, a god that does not even ask to be called "God" (or "Goddess"), one that is the World, not beyond it. Cheetham's book should be required reading for all believers. He provides an alternative to the neurotic God complex that is tearing humanity apart. This book is much needed, offering a balm to wounds of the collective psyche. As an atheist who feels the divine beauty of this world, I can only applaud this reading of Corbin, who replaces belief in God with a profound capacity to perceive the harmony of the sensate world. - Ginette Paris, Pacifica Graduate Institute, Author of Wisdom of the Psyche


Tom Cheetham has written a remarkable book that has the power of shifting our way of imagining the world ... He is one of the most courageous thinkers I have ever read ... I hope you enter into a study of a work that certainly does not belong to the world of throwaway books. This book requires slow reading, for as you read these living words you are undergoing a transformation. At the end of reading, the world will not be the same. - from the Foreword by Robert Sardello

Nowhere does this far ranging and sophisticated survey of the loss of the world soul allow for easy summary; it is far too baroque in architecture and in thematic interests... - enough to rattle anyone's caged thoughts into new territory. One of [Cheetham's] clarion calls is to return to thinking as an imaginal act... [his] style and manner is scholarly-poetic for he calls on the reader to imagine his work with him... [He] argues that the world's languages need to be heard once more by ears grown deaf by dogma, closed by arthritic credos and waxed over by wandering abstractions that bypass the world soul's desire to be recognized on its own terms. – Dennis Patrick Slattery, Pacifica Graduate Institute, Author of The Wounded Body (full review HERE)

This book speaks trenchantly to themes that I have returned to time and again in my writings and throws new light on them. It is a very important addition to the ongoing discussion of where we are in human history." - Huston Smith, Author of The World's Religions.


The World Turned Inside Out: Henry Corbin and Islamic Mysticism (2003)

A deep reading of Tom Cheetham's The World Turned Inside Out could have the effect of turning the reader inside out! Not only will a person discover in this book a thorough understanding of the remarkable and important vision of Henry Corbin, the great French scholar of Iranian Islam. The reader will also be engaged by a politically useful understanding of the religion of Islam generally, of mystical and negative theology, of monotheism, of the philosophy of imagination, of language and the textures of textuality, and of the nature of reading and thinking. Among other things, a careful reading of this book can inform current interpretations of the politics of terrorism, its wars and the wars against it. In short, there exists here a shaking of the foundations of human perspectives that comes to nothing short of a radical revisioning of all attempts to make sense of the life and meaning of being in the world. - David L. Miller, Watson-Ledden Professor of Religion, Emeritus, Syracuse University, Core Faculty Member, Pacifica Graduate Institute, Author of Christs, Three Faces of God & Hells and Holy Ghosts.

A remarkable creative synthesis of the genius of Henry Corbin, the silent precursor of archetypal psychology. Tom Cheetham gives the gift of a metaphysics of interiority balancing pervasive, destructive, suffocating, spectator consciousness. And it is a convivial interiority, filled with spiritual presences. The soul can breathe again because it has found its homeland, the Soul of the World. - Robert Sardello, author of Freeing the Soul from Fear

This book does an absolutely splendid job of opening up Corbin's thought to the general reader. Corbin's work addresses our contemporary situation in a most direct way as this book shows, and the author has made an important contribution to both the philosophy of religion and the history of religions. This is an interesting, careful and important piece of work that I hope will gain the recognition that it deserves. - Charles J. Adams, Emeritus Professor of Islamic Studies, McGill University


 

 

The first volume of the Corbin series is now published in French and is available from Entrelacs here.   

Listen to an interview with translator Hélène Senglard-Foreman on France Culture Radio (in French) here.