We discuss arguably the greatest magical book of the Islamicate tradition, the Shams al-maʿārif al-kubrā or Great Sun of Knowledge. Turns out it isn't by al-Būnī as everyone thought, though there is some Būnī in there; but it has so much to tell us about Islamicate culture, Sufism, and the ‘project of forgetting’ of esoteric Islām among both Muslims and scholars.
Oddcast Episodes Themed "Islam"
We introduce Aḥmad al-Būnī, master sūfī and alphanumeric speculator, but most famous in the Islamicate world as an authority on magic. We sift the wheat from the chaff and get to the bottom of who al-Būnī was, what he really wrote, and what kind of reception he has had, both within and outside of Islam.
We discuss those ‘magic squares’ that we find in esoteric texts from Indonesia to London, curious grids of numbers often used as astral-magical talismans with integrated alphanumeric mysteries. Bink Hallum has done the research, and lays out the story of the magic square from China to Agrippa.
We continue our interview with Michael Noble, exploring magical, exegetical, soteriological, prophetological, and other aspects of Rāzī's thought. Things get seriously esoteric, and you know that we do not say things like that lightly.
Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī was a Persian universal scholar and theologian, particularly well-known for his tafsīr or work of Qur'ānic interpretation, a mainstay of Sunni Islam to this day. Less well-known is his work of addressative, astral, talismanic ritual, The Hidden Secret. Michael Noble has published a study of this work in the context of Rāzī's thought and of the larger intellectual currents in which he swam. Come for the enduring legacy of staunch, but philosophically-rich, Sunni theology, stay for the orgies and severed heads.