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New Approaches to Cosmos and Spirit in the Premodern World

This conference will celebrate the recent publication of three books on or related to the cosmos and spirit in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern world from late Antiquity until the early modern period: 

Each of these books is innovative in examining how the cosmos, its numinous aspects and the position of the human being, were understood, especially in terms of symbolic and hidden forces and their practical applications. They reveal the hidden knowledge of the occult traditions that had profound influences within the societies in which they were transmitted. While the lines of transmission can be traced across language, ethnic and religious boundaries in the Mediterranean and Middle East, the emphasis of these books is on the rich melting pot of the variegated Islamicate world, from which later Iranian, Turkic, Byzantine and Western European traditions emerged. 

The primary aim of this conference is to make these books and their subject matter well known. The authors and editors will introduce their books, and invited scholars will talk about current research and future directions in the fields they cover. Since all the authors have been students or fellows at the Warburg Institute, it is appropriate that this event should be hosted by the institute, and the historical and continuiung involvement of the institute in these studies will be described. 

The conference will take place between 2.00 p.m. and 7.00 p.m. (British Summer Time) on July 9 and July 10, 2021, and will include, aside from the contributions of the authors and editors, keynote addresses by Emilie Savage-Smith, Noah Gardiner, and Matthew Melvin-Koushki. Further scholars will be invited to talk at the Round Table, which will conclude the conference.

Charles Burnett (Warburg Institute)
Liana Saif (University of Amsterdam)


Friday July 9
14:00-14:15. Liana Saif and Charles Burnett, Welcome.
14:15-14:45. Emilie Savage-Smith, “The Expanding Field of Islamicate Magic”.
14:45-15:00. Short break.
15:00-15:30. Juan Acevedo, introducing his publication, Alphanumeric Cosmology from Greek into Arabic.
15:30-16:15. Noah Gardiner, “What is Lettrism?” in conversation with Alphanumeric Cosmology from Greek into Arabic.

16:15-16:45. A Tea Break.
16:45-17:15. Michael Noble, introducing his Philosophizing the Occult: Avicennan Psychology and ‘The Hidden Secret’ of Fakhr Al-DÄ«n Al-RāzÄ«
17:15-18:00. Matthew Melvin-Koushki, “Is Occult Philosophy Philosophy?”, in conversation with Philosophizing the Occult.
18:00-19:00. General discussion.

Saturday July 10
14:00-14:10. Abdurraouf Oueslati, introducing Islamicate Occult Sciences, on behalf of the publishers, Brill.
14:10-15:10. Liana Saif, Francesca Leoni, Matthew Melvin Koushki and Farouk Yahya will comment on Islamicate Occult Sciences as editors.
15:10-16:40. Maria Subtelny, Rachel Parikh with Maryam Ekhtiar (recorded), and Christiane Gruber, reflecting on subjects covered in Islamicate Occult Sciences.
16:30-17:00. Tea break

Entangled developments:

17.00-17.15. Peter Forshaw. 
17.15-17.30. Guido Giglioni.
17.30-18.30. Round table on Cosmos and Spirit.


image: The Angel Ruh ('Spirit') holding the spheres of the cosmos: Iran, late 16th century. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.