Green Man, Earth Angel

Green Man, Earth Angel by Tom Cheetham

Green Man, Earth Angel

The Prophetic Tradition and the Battle for the Soul of the World

Tom Cheetham

“We must try, in the face of all that is darkest in this night of the world, to learn what the Sufis call ‘the thought of the heart.’”

Tom Cheetham’s Green Man, Earth Angel is a work of deep scholarship that will be fully grasped only by other leading scholars. At the same time, for the general reader hungry for some glimmer of insight to Islam, to Sufism, and to Henry Corbin’s immense contribution to our understanding of both, this is a book that opens many doors. It is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the world of ideas, in the spiritual quest of the individual soul, and especially the “battle for the soul of the world.”

“We are living out the consequences of three great crises,” Cheetham asserts, “a rupture between the individual and the Divine, a severing of the felt connection between human beings and the living earth, and a profound breakdown of long-held assumptions about the nature and function of language . . .”

This rupture in Western culture as Cheetham makes clear was “the constant and central theme of Henry Corbin’s life of theological meditation.” Corbin’s ideas are refined for us through the continuing meditations of Tom Cheetham. What did Corbin’s immersion in the wisdom of Sufi masters convince him was the way out of our present human crises? Above all, Corbin believed in the primacy of the human imagination. The same imagination, Cheetham reminds us, from which came the technology that powers our present world and that also has the power to annihilate us.

There is so much here in this rich introduction to Corbin’s theology, in the insights we are given to the core beliefs of Islam, and in the application of ancient wisdom to our current human crises – as Robert Sardello says in his foreword to this book, we can only be transformed by it. Among the many things we found enriching was the discussion of the third aspect of the three-pronged human predicament Cheetham describes, the one concerning language.

We all have some sense of the descent of language. As Cheetham says, “The profound and magical news of the human that Shakespeare once brought has now degenerated, at the end of literacy, into advertising and mere ‘news.’” We recognize the perilous effects of living in a sound-bite culture. Yet Cheetham leads us into a much deeper understanding of the spiritual costs to human beings so out of touch with the true nature of language.

“Human language grows out of the world itself. We speak because the world speaks . . . The language of poetry is as close as we can get to the language of the angels. It is a language of images, of imagination . . . Corbin tells a tale of human life in which the place of language and the Word is central, and in which the quest for the lost language of God and the angels is the fundamental problem . . .”

Cheetham gives clear voice to Corbin and the Sufi mystics as he encourages us to listen to the language with which Nature speaks, the language of God and the angles. He urges us to believe in the great power of the imagination – the imagination we are part of – the force that will enable us to reimagine our world.

The Gleam of Light Team

Green Man, Earth Angel
The Prophetic Tradition and the Battle for the Soul of the World
Tom Cheetham
2005, State University of New York Press
Series in Western Esoteric Traditions

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