Monday, 11 February 2019

New ENSIE member: Bink Hallum

Bink Hallum writes:

I am very pleased to join ENSIE. I am Curator of Arabic Scientific Manuscripts at the British Library and Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in the Department of Classics and Ancient History, University of Warwick. I have a background in Classics and Material Culture (BA [Wales] Archaeology/Classical Studies, MA [London] Classics) and a strong interest in the history of science (especially the occult sciences) and the social dynamics of the sciences within and between cultures.

My PhD (Warburg Institute, 2008) research focussed on the Graeco-Arabic translations of the 9th-11th centuries and the Arabic/Islamic reception of writings attributed to the Roman-Egyptian alchemist Zosimus of Panopolis (fl. ca 300 AD). My first post-doctoral position (Warwick) was as a researcher on a project on Islamic medicine and the Arabic tradition of Galen’s commentary on the Hippocratic Epidemics. After this I moved to the British Library, where I spend most of my time cataloguing manuscripts containing Arabic texts on a wide range of sciences in preparation for digitisation for the Qatar Digital Library.

My Wellcome Trust Fellowship project is titled ‘Alchemy, Medicine, and Pharmacology in Medieval Islam: Rāzī's Twelve Books’. I aim to collect all extant manuscript copies of Abū Bakr Muḥammad b. Zakariyā al-Rāzī’s alchemical magnum opus, the Twelve Books, to produce a critical edition and annotated English translation. The project will also explore the Arabic, Persian, Latin and Hebrew reception of Rāzī’s Twelve Books and its influence amongst alchemists, physicians and physicists (!) from the 4th/10th to roughly the 9th/15th century.

Apart from alchemy and medicine, I have a interest in Islamicate number magic – particularly the talismanic use of awfāq (magic squares) – and I am working (with Rosa Comes and Emilia Calvo, Universitat de Barcelona) on a study of literary traditions of the 7 planetary awfāq talismans, for which I will produce an edition and annotated translation of Ibn al-Zarqālluh’s (AKA al-Zarqālī, Abū Isḥāq Ibrāhīm b. Yaḥyā al-Naqqāsh al-Tujībī al-Ṭulayṭilī [d. 493/1100]) treatise on the 7 planetary awfāq talismans along with a historical study of related writings in this genre.

In relation to my research on awfāq, I wonder if any ENSIE members can help me identify a certain Muḥammad al-Shāfiʿī al-Ḥanafī al-Khalwatī, to whom is attributed a short text called al-Sirr al-maẓrūf fī ʿilm basṭ al-ḥurūf, published in 1951 in Cairo by Sharikat Maktabat wa-Maṭbaʿat Muṣṭfā al-Bābī al-Ḥalabī wa-Awlādihi along with a few works by al-Būnī and one attributed to Alī b. Muḥammad al-Ṭandatāʾī, who is said to have finished the work in 1003/1594. İsmail Paşa mentions the al-Sirr al-maẓrūf in his Īḍāḥ al-maknūn, but offers no further information about its author. The Muḥammad al-Khalwatī I’m looking for may or may not be the author of Nūr al-sāṭiʻ wa-al-sirr al-qāṭiʻ fī ʻilm al-awfāq. I’d be grateful for any information leading to a proper identification. At the moment, all I’ve got is an ever increasing list of treatises on awfāq attributed to Muḥammads (and Maḥmūds) al-Khalwatī!

Sunday, 27 January 2019

ENSIE at ESSWE 7--registration

Registration is now open for ESSWE 7 (2-4 July 2019, Amsterdam), where ENSIE has three panels. Registration information is available here, and details of the ESSWE panels are available here.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Sirāj al-Dīn al-Sakkākī’s Complete Book and a Fragment of Spells

Thursday, 29 November, 2018 – 17:15 to 18:45 at Cambridge University, rooms 8 & 9, Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies.

Dr. Emily Selove, "Literature as Magic, Magic as Literature: Sirāj al-Dīn al-Sakkākī’s Complete Book and a Fragment of Spells."

Handbooks like that ascribed to the famous 13th-century scholar of language and magic, Sirāj al-Dīn al-Sakkākī’s Kitāb al-Shāmil wa-baḥr al-kāmil, do not themselves invite literary readings. This grimoire often displays all the literary charms of an ungrammatical cookbook; it is a technical manual—a mixed collection of magical recipes and rituals. It includes instructions for creating talismans, for contacting both jinn and devils, for causing hatred and sickness, for curing such magically caused afflictions, and for calling upon the power of each of the planets. As for previous research on Sakkaki, such studies tend to center on his influential book on language and rhetoric, Miftāḥ al-‘ulūm (The Key to the Sciences), often ignoring his reputation as a magician. Nevertheless, early biographical literature credited him with the power to, for example, strike cranes down in mid flight with a magical inscription. I will argue that both Sakkaki’s linguistic and magical interests show his fascination with the power of language. The power of language to alter the mind or create effects in the physical world is described as a kind of bewitchment in occult literature as well as in studies of language, not to mention in love poetry, and my own strategy in approaching magical texts is to read them with the techniques applied to poetry. I will also discuss some evidence of the practise of magic today, focusing on a mysterious 6-folio fragment of spells in Yale’s Beinecke library.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Friday, 17 August 2018

ENSIE at ESSWE 7: reminder

ENSIE is again organising panels for the biannual conference of ESSWE, which in 2019 will be in Amsterdam, 2-4 July 2019. The theme of the conference is "Western Esotericism and Consciousness: Visions, Voices, Altered States" (read more on the ESSWE website​), and while the ESSWE Call says that the objective is "a large and inclusive conference,"  it also says that "paper and session proposals will go through a careful selection procedure so as to make sure that the final program will have a sharp focus on the conference theme."

Proposals are therefore invited for papers dealing with any aspect of Islam, esotericism and consciousness.
​In particular, proposed topics include:
  • Conceptualisations of consciousness
  • Intoxication
  • Demon possession
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Gendered consciousness
  • Individuation and consciousness.
Papers with a. comparative perspective, for example treating Western or Jewish esotericism as well as Islam, are welcome, but for an ENSIE panel, there must always be a clear Islamic element.
Paper proposals of max 300 words should be submitted in English by 1 September 2018 to Mark Sedgwick, The ESSWE deadline is 1 October 2018, and the ENSIE deadline is designed to allow time to meet this. ENSIE will assemble proposals into proposals for sessions, and forward these to ESSWE. Each session will have four papers.

We welcome submissions from graduate and post-graduate students as well as more experienced or established scholars.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Exorcism and Non-Voluntary Spirit Possession: Call for Papers

“Embodying Modern ‘Scientific’ Medicine and ‘Religious/Spiritual’ Healing: A Comparative Perspective on Exorcism and Non-Voluntary Spirit Possession”

International Conference, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice, 13-14-15 December 2018

This conference will propose a comparative and cross-cultural perspective on spirit possession and exorcism, with a particular focus on the interactions with medical practice and practitioners. We invite contributions that focus on one or more of the following points: experiences of people who are affected by non-voluntary spirit possession and their case histories; experiences of possessed people in their interaction with medical practice; interactions between exorcists and medical practitioners; experiences of possession and bodily perceptions as emerging through practice, rather than their symbolism, meaning making and cognition; and interactions between humans and non-humans.

The full Call is available here.