Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Arabic Hermes: From Pagan Sage to Prophet of Science

I found an absorbing and complex review of the book by Kevin van Bladel - The Arabic Hermes: From Pagan Sage to Prophet of Science - from Oxford University Press, 2009. For the Neoplatonist Monist Theurgists in our community this will be an interesting, expensive at $74.00, and controversial book.
Here is the review from Bryn Mawr Classical Review.

"...As for the Harranians, they must be divided into two quite different groups. Those who remained in Harran did indeed maintain their astral cult well into the eleventh century, if not longer, though we possess precious few details. On the other hand, the Harranians who relocated to Baghdad, while proudly maintaining their "Sabian" identity, were highly acculturated to the higher circles of the Islamic society in which they lived. It is this group alone, of whom the most prominent was the mathematician and philosopher Thabit ibn Qurra, whose writings have survived, and they betray almost no "Hermeticism". In sum, Hermes was just one among many prophets recognized by the Harranian star-worshipers, and no extant Hermetic texts--applying here van Bladel's strict construction of the category--can be connected to the Sabians of Harran. On the other hand, later on in the book (196 ff.), van Bladel makes a strong case for viewing a "new" Hermetic text, the Testament to Ammon, as essentially a calque of Islam (my phrase, not his), with Hermes the prophet authorizing a religious code; this was done by a Baghdad Harranian who was anxious to present the Sabians as a legitimate religion in the eyes of the Caliph."...(Cont.)...