Article ID: CBB814580335

Powers of One: The Mathematicalization of the Occult Sciences in the High Persianate Tradition (2017)


Occultism remains the largest blind spot in the historiography of Islamicate philosophy-science, a casualty of persistent scholarly positivism, even whiggish triumphalism. Such occultophobia notwithstanding, the present article conducts a survey of the Islamicate encyclopedic tradition from the 4th–11th/10th–17th centuries, with emphasis on Persian classifications of the sciences, to demonstrate the ascent to philosophically mainstream status of various occult sciences (ʿulūm ġarība) throughout the post-Mongol Persianate world. Most significantly, in Persian encyclopedias, but not in Arabic, and beginning with Faḫr al-Dīn Rāzī, certain occult sciences (astrology, lettrism and geomancy) were gradually but definitively shifted from the natural to the mathematical sciences as a means of reasserting their scientific legitimacy in the face of four centuries of anti-occultist polemic, from Ibn Sīnā to Ibn Ḫaldūn; they were simultaneously reclassified as the sciences of walāya, moreover, which alone explains the massive increase in patronage of professional occultists at the Safavid, Mughal and Ottoman courts in the runup to the Islamic millennium (1592 CE). I argue that the mathematicalization, neopythagoreanization and sanctification of occultism in Ilkhanid-Timurid-Aqquyunlu Iran is the immediate intellectual and sociopolitical context for both the celebrated mathematization of astronomy by the members of the Samarkand Observatory in the 9th/15th century and the resurgence of neoplatonic-neopythagorean philosophy in Safavid Iran in the 10th/16th and 11th/17th, whereby Ibn Sīnā himself was transformed into a neopythagorean-occultist—processes which have heretofore been studied in atomistic isolation.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Article Barker, Peter; (2017)
The Social Structure of Islamicate Science (/isis/citation/CBB589668279/)

Article Akbar Falahi; Gholamhossein Rahimi; (2018)
A Survey of Manufacturing and Using Firearms in Safavid Era (/isis/citation/CBB737943249/)

Article Paris, Harry S.; Amar, Zohar; Lev, Efraim; (2012)
Medieval History of the Duda'im Melon (Cucumis melo, Cucurbitaceae) (/isis/citation/CBB001320676/)

Article Ayari-Lassueur, Sylvie; (2012)
Les Propriétés des Remèdes Simples Selon Avicenne (980--1037): Analyse de Quelques Passages du Canon (/isis/citation/CBB001420246/)

Article Dalfardi, Behnam; Yarmohammadi, Hassan; Sedighi, Mahsa; Zargaran, Arman; (2014)
Al-Akhawayni and the Early Descriptions of Meningitis (/isis/citation/CBB001420778/)

Article Yousefi, Najm al-Din; (2008)
Secular Sciences and the Question of “Decline” (/isis/citation/CBB001031128/)

Article Kheirandish, Elaheh; Bier, Carol; Yousefi, Najm al-Din; (2008)
Sciences, Crafts, and the Production of Knowledge: Iran and Eastern Islamic Lands (ca. 184--1153 AH/800--1740 CE) (/isis/citation/CBB001031118/)

Article Taheri, Jafar; (2011)
Mathematician in Architecture (/isis/citation/CBB001510320/)

Article Neubauer, Eckhard; (1999-2000)
Glimpses of Arab Music in Ottoman Times from Syrian and Egyptian Sources (/isis/citation/CBB000301392/)

Thesis Bulmus, Birsen; (2008)
The Plague in the Ottoman Empire, 1300--1838 (/isis/citation/CBB001561189/)

Article Mikhail, Alan; (2013)
Unleashing the Beast: Animals, Energy, and the Economy of Labor in Ottoman Egypt (/isis/citation/CBB001212530/)

Book Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu; (2020)
Studies on Ottoman Science and Culture (/isis/citation/CBB934328666/)

Article B. Harun Küçük; (2017)
Early Modern Ottoman Science: A New Materialist Framework (/isis/citation/CBB530635750/)

Book Brooke, John; İhsanoǧlu, Ekmeleddin; (2005)
Religious Values and the Rise of Science in Europe (/isis/citation/CBB000503116/)

Book Sajjad Nikfahm; Fateme Savadi; (2020)
Naṣīr al-Dīn Muḥammad al-Ṭūsī al-Risāla al-Muʿīniyya (al-Risāla al-Mughniya) and its Supplement (/isis/citation/CBB011433309/)

Article Cristina Álvarez Millán; (2015)
Disease in Tenth-Century Iran and Irak According to al-Rāzī’s Casebook (/isis/citation/CBB468583293/)

Authors & Contributors
Brooke, John
Barker, Peter
Ihsanoglu, Ekmeleddin
Yousefi, Najm al-Din
Neubauer, Eckhard
Methuen, Charlotte
Iranian Studies
Tarikh-e Elm (The Iranian Journal for the History of Science)
Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Arabisch-Islamischen Wissenschaften
American Historical Review
Economic Botany
Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA)
Editions Peeters
Georgetown University
Written Heritage Research Institute (Miras-e Maktoob)
Cambridge University Press
Arab/Islamic world, civilization and culture
Science and religion
Science and culture
al-Sijzi, Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Jalil
Suhrawardī, Yaḥyá ibn Ḥabash
Abubakr Rabi-ibn Ahmad Akhawayni Bukhari
al-Ṭūsī, Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad Naṣīr al-Dīn
al-Rāzī, Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Zakariyyā
Time Periods
Early modern
10th century
17th century
18th century
Safavid dynasty
Persia (Iran)
Ottoman Empire
North Africa
Andalusia (Spain)

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment