الأحداث

Esoteric Cultures of Scripture Conference

17/12/2019 to 18/12/2019
The Institute of Ismaili Studies
Aga Khan Centre
London
N1C 4DN
United Kingdom
Download the Esoteric Cultures of Scripture Conference Programme here:  

The focus of the research and publications of the Qur’anic Studies Unit at The Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS), London, has hitherto been on scriptural exegesis within Islam, including interpretations which may be termed, for lack of a better word, esoteric. The current workshop and projected volume involve a much wider lens, extending from esoteric interpretation in Islam to many other religious traditions. In this sense, the workshop is the first of its kind convened at the IIS.

The aim of this two-day workshop, which brings together some of the foremost scholars in their fields, is not to align itself with any given school or approach, but to investigate the complex interplay of scriptures and the esoteric intellectual cultures and spiritualties that they shape. The very definition of what ‘esoteric’ refers to, or should refer to, is disputed in scholarship; it may also be used differently in different disciplines and across the diverse traditions. Hence ‘esoteric’ is used here pragmatically and heuristically.

If scriptural authority has, prima facie, shaped the variety of esoteric cultures in question, those cultures in turn have also in some sense formed their scriptures by a process that can be described as disinterring meanings implicit within them, or as bearing out the semantic potentialities of sacred texts. This disinterring of meanings can be highly ingenious and even constitute a re-description that has sometimes been designated ‘radical interpretation’, in the sense of a deep transference of signification.

Whereas it may be argued that exoteric interpretation in principle aims to engage with such texts in a task of faithful elucidation, commentary and historical contextualisation, esoteric interpretation digests and reconfigures them in the light of doctrines that are initiatory, or in the light of the consciousness and selfhood of the individual esotericist or mystic, who is, in turn, entextualised. It is arguable that methods such as eisegesis and allegoresis need re-assessment and to be given a positive connotation, in contrast with their disparagement in certain modern scholarly discourses.

The seven panels in this workshop are not arranged chronologically or by tradition, but are grouped thematically. The event invites speakers and audience to apply a multifocal perspective to some of the ‘radical’ hermeneutical approaches to scripture across historical traditions – Abrahamic, Gnostic, Indo-Iranian – to scrutinise specific examples, juxtapose them and, ultimately, to explore correlations where possible.

 

Day 1: Tuesday 17 December

09:00 - Registration

 

09:30 - Welcome Address

Omar Alí-de-Unzaga and Toby Mayer (IIS)

 

10:00-11:30    I. NEO-GNOSTIC HERMENEUTICS

Chair: Toby Mayer (IIS)

10:00The Revitalization of Early Shi‘i Esoteric Qur’aninfo-icon Interpretation in Yemenite Ṭayyibism: Its ‘Gnostic’ background.

Daniel De Smet (CNRS / KU Leuven)

10:45 - Parascripturalism and Esoteric Scriptural Exegesis in Medieval Christian Dualism

Yuri Stoyanov (SOAS)

 

11:30 - Break

 

 

12:30-13:30    II. GRAPHEMES AND GRAPHICS

Chair: David Hollenberg (Oregon)

12:00 - Calligraphic Spaces and Qur’anic Dimensionality in Saʿd al-Dīn Ḥamūyeh’s Kitāb al-Maḥbūb

Elizabeth Alexandrin (Manitoba)

12:45 - Jung and the Kabbala

Pinchas Giller (American Jewish University)

 

13:30 - Lunch

 

14:30-16:00     III. SOMATIC APPROACHES

Chair: David B. Gray (Santa Clara University, CA)

14:30 Physical Yoga in Texts and Practice

James Mallinson (SOAS)

15:15Platonic Tantra: The Theurgists of Late Antiquity

Gregory Shaw (Stonehill College, MA)

 

16:00 - Break

 

16:30-18:00     IV. LETTRIC DIMENSIONS 

Chair: Orkhan Mir-Kasimov (IIS)

 

16:30Four Strategies of Esoteric Interpretations in Jewish Mysticism

Moshe Idel (Hebrew University)

17:15Nuṣayrī Views of Scripture and its Interpretation

David Hollenberg (Oregon)

 

18:30 - Participants’ Dinner

 

Day 2: Wednesday 18 December

09:30-11:00    V. SCRIPTURAL ADAPTION IN TRADITIONS OF TRANSFORMATION

Chair: James Mallinson (SOAS)

 

09:30 Alchemical Tafsīr: Qur’anic Hermeneutics in the Shudhūr al-Dhahab and its Commentaries. 

Richard Todd (Birmingham)

 

10:15Unending Revelations: Commentary as a Creative Force in Esoteric Traditions

David B. Gray (Santa Clara University, CA)

 

 

11:00 - Break

 

 

 

11:30-13:00     VI. ALLEGORY AND ALLEGORESIS

Chair: Elizabeth Alexandrin (Manitoba)

11:30 - The Hermeneutic of Parables and Symbols in Shahrastānī’s Keys to the Arcana

Toby Mayer (IIS)

12:15 Esoteric Interpretations of Scripture in Philo and Hellenistic Judaism, Clement and Origen

Ilaria Ramelli (Angelicum University)

 

13:00 - Lunch

 

14:00-15:30     VII. ONTOLOGICAL AND UNITIVE INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE 

Chair: Richard Todd (Birmingham)

14:00Early Modern Shi‘i-Sufi Exegesis and the Akbarian Legacy: Waḥdat al-Wujūd and Exegesis as Spiritual Practice in Sulṭān ʿAlī Shāh’s Qurʾanic Commentary

Alessandro Cancian (IIS)

14:45How Meister Eckhart Rewrites the Bible

Bernard McGinn (Chicago)

 

15:30- Break

 

16:00-17:00   VIII. ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION

Chair: Toby Mayer (IIS)

17:00 - Closing Remarks