The characteristics of the mundus imaginalis

Based on the article by Henry Corbin “Mundus Imaginalis, or the Imaginary and the Imaginal”. For further reading follow:

(Corbin explains the origin of the word ”imaginal” like this: We cannot use the word imaginary as it is taken to mean unreal, nonexistent. Just as the Latin word origo has given us the derivative “original”, I believe that the word imago can give us … the term imaginal)

·         What is mundus imaginalis or the imaginal world?

It is the world of the Image, a world as ontologically real as the world of the senses.
It is the intermediate world between the empirical reality and the pure intelligible world.
The sages of ancient Persia call it the “Land of No-where”: Na-koja-abad or the Eighth Climate.
The imaginal world possesses extension and dimensions, forms and colors. It is fully objective and real, and everything existing in the sensory world has its analogue there.
The self that is found there is a superior self, a self “in the second person”.
The imaginal world provides the link between the pure spirit and the material body.
It is the world that contains the reality called material. Consequently, we cannot ask “where” the imaginal world is, because the “where” refers to a place in sensory space and the “where” is enveloped in the imaginal world.


·         How can a human being experience the imaginal world?

The imaginal world can be explored in the visionary state between waking and sleep
by means of the active imagination which is a cognitive function as fully real as the faculties of sensory perception or intellectual intuition but belongs to neither of these.
It is a matter of passing into the interior, - of finding oneself outside of the visible reality.
The active imagination is the organ that permits the transmutation of internal spiritual states into external states, into vision-events symbolizing with those internal states.  The active imagination is independent of the physical organism and is able to subsist after the disappearance of the latter.


Henry Corbin’s expresses this warning (see the above article):

“It is not enough to concede that our predecessors, in the West, had a conception of the Imagination that was too rationalistic and too intellectualized. 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 the real... Those who have known the “eighth climate” have not invented utopias, nor is the ultimate thought of Shi’ism a social or political fantasy, but it is an eschatology, because it is an expectation which is, as such, a real Presence here and now in another world, and a testimony to that other world.”