Arabic Alchemy and Gnosticism with Brian Cotnoir
Beacon of Light: Ibn ‘Arabi and the Sufi Tradition of Al-Andalus with Stephen Hirtenstein, M.A.
The Esoteric Interpretation of Words in Andalusian Sufism: Exploring the Roots with
Pablo Beneito, Ph.D.
Sufis and Kabbalists in Andalusia with Paul Fenton, Ph.D.
Fruits of Al-Andalus: Troubadours, Kabbalists and Cathars with Christopher Bamford
Black Fire and White Fire in the Zohar: Written and Oral Kabbalistic Traditions with Mario Satz
Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross: Jewish Roots, Sufi Soil with Mirabai Starr
The Fragrance of Yemen: The Shared Symbology of Spanish Mysticism and Sufism with Luce López-Baralt, Ph.D.
The Royal City of the Alhambra: A Paradise of Water, Light and Poetry with Antonio Orihuela, Ph.D
Arabic Alchemy and Gnosticism
Arabic alchemy developed out of Hellenistic alchemy and the hermetic and gnostic traditions centered in Alexandria . Islam views creation as a theophany; a divine disclosure. Nature is an expression of God, and so through the study of nature, we can begin to understand the will of God and so begin our return to the divine. This fertile ground allowed alchemy to reach its full blossom through both practical and theoretical innovations. Alchemy spread, as did Islam, through North Africa and into Spain and Sicily . But it was in Spain that the first translations of Arabic alchemical texts took place. Alchemy's gnostic heart, using matter to approach the divine, allowed it to be understood and adapted by the three great traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Beacon of Light:
Ibn ‘Arabi and the Sufi Tradition of Al-Andalus
Stephen Hirtenstein, M.A.
In 1190, at the age of 25, Ibn ‘Arabi had his sublime vision in the Great Mosque in Cordoba, in which he met all the prophets and saints, from Adam to Muhammad. This event not only presaged his own crucial role within the Islamic spiritual tradition, but also integrated the esoteric teachings that had preceded him. One of the most remarkable figures of world spirituality, Ibn ‘Arabi penned writings which left an indelible mark on following centuries, becoming a beacon of light, tolerance and compassion. This talk will focus on his life and writings, including his famous meeting with Averroes, and explore the milieu of remarkable men and women he described.
The Esoteric Interpretation of Words in Andalusian Sufism:
Exploring the Roots
Pablo Beneito, Ph.D.
The idea of a common original meaning permeating words with interrelated roots is a fundamental key to the understanding of many esoteric interpretations. To understand Sufi interpretations of revealed texts in Arabic, it is necessary to know how they conceived of certain words as sharing the same grammatical root, and thus created a highly relevant framework for contemplation and gnosis. This talk examines the special features of the Arabic language concerning the grammatical forms and roots of words—generally three letters—that are the base of a word’s composition. We will look at writings, including poetry and the Koranic commentaries of the Sufis, that reveal some of the secrets of esoteric Arabic semantics.
Sufis and Kabbalists in Andalusia
Paul Fenton, Ph.D.
Medieval Spain has been a rich terrain for mystics of the three monotheistic faiths. For over a century, historians of religion have speculated on the possible connections between the spiritual masters of different traditions. Paul Fenton proposes to demonstrate in the light of literary works, such as the Jewish Sufi Bahya Ibn Paquda's Duties of the Hearts, but also in light of personal testimonies, like that of the great Muslim mystic Ibn Arabi's Meccan Revelations, that inter-confessional contacts did indeed take place. He traces some of these works through Muslim and Christian Spain and even North Africa, bringing out some of the mystical themes they hold in common.
Fruits of Al-Andalus: Troubadours, Kabbalists and Cathars
Influences and esoteric streams of all kinds flowed from Mozarabic Spain through the South of France during the centuries leading up to what has been called “the 12th-century Renaissance.” We shall focus on the initiatory Sophianic path of love practiced by the Troubadours who arose in the context of a vibrant, evolutionarily significant spiritual vortex that also produced the Zohar and the little-known, maligned, misunderstood, and much persecuted Cathar religion. Doing so, we shall discover a profound cross-pollination between Sufism, mystical Judaism and esoteric Christianity, in which we can find the growing tip of a truly future-oriented ecumenical spirituality.
Black Fire and White Fire in the Zohar:
Written and Oral Kabbalistic Traditions
According to The Zohar, The Book of Splendor (the 13th-century Spanish Kabbalah text), the Torah or The Teachings were taught in the two ways: that of the black fire (the written tradition) and that of the white fire (the oral tradition). The relationship between biblical wisdom and fire began with the burning bush and Moses on the mount. In the 19th century, the Hasidim of Central Europe took this theme further with much more fervor, and focused on how one would experience these teachings within one’s own heart. These two traditions can be compared to the ancient proverb which says, “The Teachings of the Creator are like that of the iris in the eye of man,” where light and darkness reside.
Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross: Jewish Roots, Sufi Soil
In this talk, Mirabai Starr will offer an overview of the lives of the two great Spanish mystics of the Early Renaissance, John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, paying special attention to how the esoteric teachings of Judaism and Sufism influenced each of them, not only by virtue of the spiritual legacy that still lingered from the Golden Age of Spain, but also in their own family heritage. Mirabai will illustrate her talk with brief readings from her new translations of Dark Night of the Soul, by John of the Cross, and The Interior Castle and The Book of My Life, by Teresa of Avila.
The Fragrance of Yemen:
The Shared Symbology of Spanish Mysticism and Sufism
Luce López-Baralt, Ph.D.
Strange as it may seem, some of the most important mystical symbols used by St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avila are of Islamic origin. Miguel Asín Palacios, Spain’s foremost Arabist, began researched the parallels between these Spanish mystics and their Sufi predecessors until his death in 1944. He was able to trace St. John’s dark night of the soul to the Shadilite school of mysticism, as well as St. Theresa’s seven concentric castles to an anonymous 16th-century treatise called the Nawadir. This talk updates these theories. What the critics have deemed extremely mysterious and “original” in Spanish mysticism is, in many ways, just the adaptation of Islamic mystical symbols.
The Royal City of the Alhambra:
A Paradise of Water, Light and Poetry
Antonio Orihuela, Ph.D.
The Alhambra occupies a hill which rises steeply into the old Islamic City of Granada. The walls once enclosed seven palaces, plus dwelling houses for officials and the nobility, as well as mosques, baths, workshops and gardens. The Nasrid sultans founded their Royal City at the beginning of 13th century with courtyards and gardens, and pools that reflected the architecture in water mirrors producing beautiful effects. Wooden and stucco lattices controlled the light and created a magical atmosphere along the walls, which were fully decorated with religious and poetic Arabic inscriptions.