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Hermeticism in Islam:  from the Sabians of Harran to al-Suhrawardi

Hermeticism in Islam: from the Sabians of Harran to al-Suhrawardi



Hermeticism can be described as the idea that vast amounts of wisdom, especially related to the correspondences between the microcosm and the macrocosm (“as above, so below”), had been revealed to Hermes Trismegistus and then transmitted in the form of occult knowledge to the elect. This Hellenistic tradition, which as we know found new life in the Renaissance, was preserved and enriched throughout the medieval Islamicate world. The lecture will follow the metamorphoses of the Hermes legend and of the corpus Hermeticum through the Middle Ages and the early modern era, with special emphasis on the Ottoman reception and on the relationship of al-Suhrawardi’s Illuminationism with Neoplatonic philosophy (emanations, world of images) and with Hermeticism. Thus, we will seek to describe a wider array of Neoplatonic ideas, as they were adopted and adapted in late medieval and early modern Islamicate cultures.



Marinos Sariyannis is Research Director at the Institute for Mediterranean Studies/FORTH. He is a historian who specializes in Ottoman cultural and intellectual history. His books include A History of Ottoman Political Thought Up to the Early Nineteenth Century (Leiden: Brill 2018), Perceptions ottomanes du surnaturel : aspects de l’histoire intellectuelle d’une culture islamique à l’époque moderne (Paris: Cerf 2019), and The Horizons, Limits, and Taxonomies of Ottoman Knowledge (Otto Spies Memorial Series, Vol. 11) (Berlin: EB-Verlag 2021). He is currently the Principal Investigator of the research project “GHOST – Geographies and Histories of the Ottoman Supernatural Tradition”, funded by the European Research Council.


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