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Michael Noble Ascends to the Perfect Nature

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In this extended interview we discuss:

  • Talismans as military technology in the post-Mongol Islamicate world,
  • The concept of siḥr in Rāzī and its relationship to the talismanic science,
  • The nuances of why certain practices, such as invoking the sun, are seen by Rāzī, not as ineffective, but still as ḥarām for Muslims (which is not immediately obvious),
  • Reflections on Rāzī’s extraordinary open-mindedness, for instance in his countenancing the idea of multiple – perhaps infinite – worlds aside from this one,
  • More reflections of Rāzī’s ideas about spiritual practices and Tasawwuf,
  • Angelopmorphic transformation in Rāzī, explicated through his exegesis of Surah al-ṣāffāt (see primary works cited below),
  • Some very esoteric prophetological speculations perhaps implicit but left unsaid in Rāzī’s tafsir,
  • A discursus on Jung, Corbin, and Eranos,
  • An irresponsible comparison between a spiritual exercise given by Rāzī in his tafsir and Plotinus’ ‘luminous sphere’ exercise from Enn. V.8.9 (on which see Episode 113 of the podcast),
  • And a discussion of a passage in his tafsir where Rāzī gives a philosphically-cogent and religiously-soteriological theory of the efficacy of voces magicæ written in unknown scripts – perhaps the well-known charaktêres or similar glyphs.

Interview Bio:

Michael Noble is a postdoctoral researcher at the Ludwig-Maximilians Universität in Munich working on the Heirs to Avicenna project. His PhD research at the Warburg Institute resulted in a fascinating thesis, and now the fascinating book Philosophising the Occult: Avicennan Psychology and ‘The Hidden Secret’ of Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, published by De Gruyter.

Works Cited in this Episode:


The works of Rāzī, as with so many Islamicate thinkers, are not for the most part available in critical editions. See Noble 2021, pp. 283-4 for the manuscript and printed primary sources used by Michael in his work on Rāzī.

  • Surah al-ṣāffāt, ‘Those in Ranks’ or ‘Arranged in Rows’ (Qur’ān 37). The verses referred to are the cryptic opening ayât of this Makkan surah.
  • Surah al-Ṭāriq (86:4).


  • Henri Corbin. The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism. Omega, New Lebanon, NY, 1994.
  • John Walbridge and Hossein Ziai. The Philosophy of Illumination: a New Critical Edition of the Text of Hikmat al-Ishraq with English Translation, Notes, Commentary, and Introduction. Brigham Young University Press, Provo, UT, 1999.