The Entanglement of Philosophy, Politics and the Occult: The Hidden Secret of early Post-Avicennan Thought in the Islamic East
Keywords:Rāzī, Suhrawardī, Sakkākī, Talisman, Daimon, Occult, Perfect Nature
By the thirteenth century, philosophy, politics and occult science had become deeply entangled in the Persianate Islamic world. Two of the greatest luminaries in this intellectual milieu were Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d.1210) and Shihāb al-Dīn Yaḥyā Ibn Ḥabash Ibn Amīrak al-Suhrawardī (d.1191/2), who at one point were fellow students of philosophy under a certain Majd al-Dīn al-Jīlī in Marāgha in northeastern Iran. Both subsequently sought royal patronage, the former travelling eastwards to Transoxania to secure the generosity of the Khwārazm-Shāhs, the latter travelling eastwards to the Levant to gain the intimate trust of Malik al-Ẓāhir, the son of the Ayyūbid sultan Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn—known in the West as Saladdin. Both composed works devoted to talismanic astral ritual. And crucially, both developed philosophical soteriologies coloured by their meditations on the “craft”—soteriologies with profound implications for the nature of political authority.
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