House Criamon, Walking Backwards, and Illuminationism

Very few of the philosophers attain this perfected philosophy, for it is acquired only by some virtuous individual divine philosophers. Among them were the Ancients who came in the time before Aristotle - Agathadaemon, Hermes, and Empedocles... - Shams al-Din Shahrazuri, commenting on Suhrawardi's Hikmat al-Ishraq

House Criamon, particularly the Path of Walking Backward, as presented in HoH: MC is so inventive and interesting! I felt like they were definitely worth expanding on, since there's just so much to add as far as ideas for Islamicate Criamon. I'd like to open by presenting some of the commonalities between Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi al-Maqtul's Ishraqiyya (Illuminationism) and House Criamon.

The text of HoH: MC explains that

One school of Sufi...reveres Empedocles as a hierophant. Their interpretation of his teaching, which is different from yet reflects the House’s understanding, fascinates many Criamon magi.

This is actually true of more than one tariqa - what is discussed as a "school" above - and many more falasifa.

An aside - the word tariqa literally translates as "path," in reference to the fundamental principle shared by functionally all practitioners of tasawwuf that a given brotherhood is just an established and organized road to understanding built on the teachings of a specific chain of masters - other roads or even the possibility of reaching the maqam/station of fana without teachers are not invalidated by the seeker's choice of a specific tariqa. The utility of the tariqa lies in the fact that the use of tried-and-true methods towards achieving fana while guided by teachers is much easier and safer (spiritually) than if one attempted to go alone - if the tariqa is a broad paved road with easy to read signs, attempting the journey of the soul alone is trying to cut a new dirt path through a tangled wood. This seems very close to the way House Criamon thinks about the nature of Paths, mystagogues, and scripts. I wouldn't be surprised if the terminology and classifications used to discuss Paths by the modern house was originally adopted from Sufism by Primus Abdkypris. That would be particularly notable because this model is one that's still new in the Islamic world, the 1200s-1300s were historically key centuries in the crystallization of Sufi tariqas proper.

The way major figures of earlier tasawwuf including Junayd al-Baghdadi or Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani engaged with the Presocratics like Pythagoras or Empedocles is mostly in terms of nubuwiyya (or prophethood.) It's an almost universally accepted article of faith in all branches of Islam that God had sent many more prophets to mankind than those mentioned in the Qur'an - supporting the explanation of God himself (Qur'an 16:31). Some of the figures discussed as possible prophets by Muslim theologians over the years can be unusual, everything from Prophet Mani to Alexander the Great has been considered before. Commonly included in these discussions are the Presocratic philosophers - here thought of as representatives of a pure monotheism typically called hanifism. This way of thinking about Empedocles as a Magic agent of the Divine is cool and has Criamonic precedent in the form of St. Nerius; I personally believe this is the interpretation Abdkypris found among the Sufis (it was pretty much the only one among Sufis until quite recently at game start) and the interpretation that is currently dominant among members of the Path of Walking Backwards, but this is just scratching the surface of what the Islamicate can offer the Criamon.

The way Muslim falasifa like al-Sijistani discussed Empedocles is also very interesting vis-à-vis the beliefs of House Criamon, but for different reasons. Reflecting both ancient and Hellenistic teachings, they believed that the Presocratic philosophers acquired their wisdom from the Orient. Thales, they claimed, received instruction in Egypt, and Empedocles studied with Luqman the African sage at the time of the prophet David. Pythagoras studied physics and meta-physics with Solomon’s disciples in Egypt. He learned geometry from the Egyptians, receiving the sciences from the “niche of prophecy” (mishkat al-nubuwwa). Pythagoras and Empedocles in particular are tied to Hermes Trismegistus, believed to be the greatest theurgist and philosopher of Egypt. The Neo-Platonic trend in falasifa inaugurated by al-Kindi abates with the growing dominance of Averroeist Peripatetic thought, but it gets revived in a remarkable way a little before the conventional Ars Magica start date of 1220.

The life and writings of philosopher Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi dovetail so well with House Criamon that I’m almost certain the Criamon will wind up involved with his Ishraqi thought as it solidifies into a school in the mid-late 1200s - Suhrawardi synthesizes the Neoplatonic trend of the falasifa and the insight of the Sufis into his own highly original work. Often thought of as a reviver of pre-Islamic Persian philosophy (see his rather lackluster Wikipedia page for an example) in the past, modern scholars of Suhrawardi studies understand him instead as a “Pythagorizing Neoplatonist” - an inheritor of Hellenistic wisdom literature and the Sophia Perennis (the “leaven of the ancients'' as he calls it) uncovered by great Presocratics who saw himself as part of a chain of philosopher-theurgist-mystics stretching from Hermes and Luqman down to Empedocles, Plato, and Pythagoras in the West and ancient Persian sage-kings Kayomarth and Fereydun as well the great Sufis al-Bastami and al-Hallaj in the East. Suhrawardi saw his intellectual endeavor as one aimed at reunification of the two streams of the Sophia Perennis, the marriage of Zoroaster and Plato back into Hermes. His interest in the mystic Orient is inherited from his intellectual ancestors in Neo-Platonism (even if the Neo-Platonics reached him a somewhat garbled form, we'll discuss that another time) not Zoroastrianism, even though he incorporates doctrines as distant as Buddhism (the School of Budhasaf to Suhrawardi) in ingenious ways. Some of Timothy Ferguson’s very cool posts on other threads seem to imply that the Founder Criamon was himself an inheritor of some form of Oriental (in the Neoplatonist sense) wisdom through his master, similar to how Empedocles was taught by the sages Luqman and Hermes the Egyptian.

Much like House Criamon, Suhrawardi thought of Empedocles as a great philosopher-magus, in contrast to the Aristotelian paradigm that dominated from Paris to Samarqand (with the obvious caveat that Scholastic and Averroean Peripatetics often interpreted Peripateticism differently.) Dr. Walbridge’s book on Suhrawardi’s relationship with the Hellenistic wisdom tradition opens its discussion of Suhrawardi’s Empedocles in a very telling manner with the title “Empedocles: The Philosopher as Mystic and Magus.” To Suhrawardi, philosophy was more than just discursive rationality - although this is an important part without which one can not become a true philosopher, a hakim muta’allih - but also a mystagogic rite of initiation transmitted by magician-teachers. Sounds a lot like a Mystery Cult House's way of looking at knowledge. Dr. Walbridge argues that Suhrawardi saw his project in the same manner as that of Empedocles, who to him “embodied the unification of philosophy, mysticism, and magic.” On the hakim muta'alliah, by the way, Suhrawardi listed some of the thinkers past who he believed had successfully combined mystic intuition ("making the heart a mirror") and discusive reasoning - a list that includes both Empedocles and Hermes the Sage.

Other, smaller, resonances that seem to make Suhrawardi a perfect figure for House Criamon to look towards for inspiration include:

  • veiled but strong indications in his writing hinting at a belief in reincarnation.

  • his own status as a Sufi dervish (when he first entered Aleppo he was thought to be a penniless donkey driver thanks to his ragged appearance), which correlates strongly with the Criamon belief that:

The pursuit of wealth, pleasure, and power are distractions or temptations to corruption.

  • his pacifism, even famously preventing his disciples from interfering with his execution at the reluctant order of Saladin’s son Az-Zahir Ghazi.

  • being quite literally described as a magician in Shahrazuri's account (perhaps a sahir or - imo - an Islamic equivalent to a learned magician in Mythic Europe.)

Of course, all of this is simply discussing why Ishraqi philosophy might become popular within House Criamon, not what an Illuminationist Criamon magus/maga would actually believe. Despite his many influences Suhrawardi was, as mentioned above, a highly original thinker whose emanationist metaphysics of light has lots of potential for productive dialogue with the House “orthodoxy." There’s also the fact that Criamon mages will likely be the first members of the Order to come into contact with the Arabic Hermetica through Illuminationism, which differs strongly in some ways from the work on Hermes Trismegistus (recall his importance as an Egyptian sage above) already available to the European Order - a minor but amusing example is that the Arabic Hermes has an equally mystic sister. Those will be left for another post(s), though.

Some sources to go hunting in if any of the above piqued your interest:

The Wisdom of the Mystic East: Suhrawardi and Platonic Orientalism and The Leaven of the Ancients: Suhrawardi and the Heritage of the Greeks, both by John Walbridge

Suhrawardi and the School of Illumination, by Mehdi Amin Razavi

The Sufi Doctrine of Man: Sadr al-Din al-Qunawi's Metaphysical Anthropology by Richard Todd

The Arabic Hermes: From Pagan Sage to Prophet of Science, by Kevin van Bladel

Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus, by Gregory Shaw

Philosophy and Theurgy in Late Antiquity, by Algis Uždavinys

And of course, the always helpful Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology, edited by Tim Winter/Abdal Hakim Murad

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I said to him: "What is the meaning of contact and union of souls with each other and with the Active Intellect?" He replied: "So long as you are in this world of yours, you are veiled. When you are separated from it and are perfected, you will have this union and contact." - The Dream Dialogue with Aristotle, Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi

Criamon Orthodoxy and Suhrawardi

Hello again! Welcome to part two in my series of yet undetermined length on the loveable mystics of House Criamon and the conversations they could have with some impressive new - or perhaps ancient - voices from the 1200s Islamicate. This is more informal than the first post and hopefully comes out less like talking at people than the intro. Today we'll just be looking at a couple of preliminary questions: what are the key or defining elements of House Criamon's cosmology and what would Suhrawardi (as well as his early commentator-disciples) say in response? My sources for the former are HoH: MC of course and Dies Irae to a lesser extent. I am aware of the quasi-canonical nature of that book but I think it contains some pertinent information. My attempt to respond with the opinions of the Ishraqis is heavily indebted to The Leaven of the Ancients: Suhrawardi and the Heritage of the Greeks by John Walbridge and Suhrawardi and the School of Illumination by Mehdi Amin Razavi

The obvious answer to "what elements define Criamon orthodoxy" is to point out that there really isn't such a thing as Criamon orthodoxy.

This is certainly true - the use of orthodoxy might be somewhat misleading, since the Criamon really aren't dogmatic about how people approach the Enigma. Everything on them seems to point to a very friendly and nurturing take on people's various paths to understanding (their indulgence of Prima Muscaria's pater speaks volumes) and they probably have a very laid back attitude towards internal differences. There still is, however, a broadly dominant consensus on cosmology within the House that could be called an orthodoxy of sorts - both because of its popularity and the fact that non-standard Criamon seem to be defined by where they break from it. As a sidebar in HoH: MC helpfully informs us:

Criamon magi do not all agree on a single cosmology, but the view presented in this chapter is typical.

So, what is this typical view? I'm going to list a few points that I think are key. Any replies with different or added ideas on what most basically defines the Criamon or the Ishraqi response are, ofc, appreciated.

  • Time is a circle.

Suhrawardi would nod approvingly but we'll get into this later, since it is the crux of the Enigma - marrying the Empedoclean and Illuminationist positions on the cyclicality of time is one of the most interesting parts of thinking about Criamonic Ishraqiyya. There's lots of weird little wrinkles in his general agreement, as you can see from stuff like the mention of duplicates each cycle below.

His position on universal cycles-the Great Year-is implicit but clear. There cannot be an infinity of distinct events in history. Temporal events are caused by the motions of the spheres, and those motions in turn are caused by the exceedingly complex interrelations among the celestial lights. Since these interrelations, though very numerous, are necessarily finite in number, eventually the spheres must return to their original positions and begin again. When that happens, all events great and small in our world will be repeated exactly. The same individual will not return, though an exact duplicate of that individual will come into being. This is also the explanation of providence. Things cannot be other than they are since the existing universe reflects the rational order existing among the celestial lighls.

  • Immortal spirits descend into the material world and become people.

Suhrawardi broadly agrees here, although his flavor of this is more Neoplatonic than Criamon's standard Empedoclean take. It is still pretty gnostic, though.

According to Suhrawardi, each human soul had a previous existence in the angelic domain or the Realm of Light Refined before descending to the Realm of the Body. Upon entering the body, the innermost center of the human soul which is immortal and angelic in nature and which is identified by Suhrawardi with the ‘lordly light’ or al-nur al-ispahbadi; divided into two parts. One part remains in the spiritual or angelic realm and the other, descended into the prison of the body. This explains the unhappiness or dissatisfaction that man experiences in this world. The unhappiness or dissatisfaction that man experiences are due to his search for his ‘other half ’ or ‘self ’ which is his celestial and primordial self; and man will not be happy and content until he has found his angelic half and becomes re-united with it and returns to his original home.

  • People reincarnate - not only into other people but into other life.

Suhrawardi was very cagey about saying so outright, but it is something approaching scholarly consensus that he did in fact believe in reincarnation/metempsychosis. He used the Buddha (or Budhasaf, rather) as his mouthpiece for the view. At the very least, his most important commentator Shahrazuri believed Suhrawardi ascribed to a form of metempsychosis that involved animal bodies.

Suhrawardi suggests a theory in which the souls of the imperfect are reincarnated in the bodies of animals corresponding to their ethical flaws and are thereby purified.

  • The capacity to do magic is the inevitable result of knowing the truth, and acting aptly.

Total agreement.

The lIIuminationist philosopher, like other great mystics, has magical, or rather, spiritual powers by virtue of his spiritual attainments.

  • The cosmos is driven by the interactions of the opposing forces Love and Strife.

Suhrawardi agrees, explicitly drawing from Empedocles on this, but - citing the tendency for figures from the Presocratics down to the Neopythagorians to obscure their true meanings in riddles (how very Criamonic) - claims that the usual interpretation of what Empedocles meant by Love and Strife is misunderstood.

Suhrawardi uses the core Empedoclean idea of love and strife, but in a different way from Empedocles. Empedocles had used the concepts to explain the interactions of the physical elements, and Suhrawardi uses them to explain the relations among the hierarchies of immaterial lights/intellects. This difference is not as great as might at first appear, especially from Suhrawardi's point of view. He holds that Empedocles' writings were symbolic-which, of course, they were.

  • There is a refuge outside of time and this world.

Suhrawardi agrees, probably elated to see someone else also came to his conception of the World of Images' role for the sage philosopher. The idea that Criamon himself is holding up this refuge would seem odd and maybe impossible to Suhrawardi himself but the second generation Ishraqis might have a better handle on it. Shahrazuri is familiar with the concept of the insan al-kamil, the perfected man that stands as bridge between the World of Matter and the World of Images in the way souls do, from his discussions with Sadr al-Din Qunawi in Seljuk Konya. Qutb al-Din Shirazi is Twelver Shi'i and could likely draw from Imami concepts to understand this. The concept of a qutb in more classical Sufi thought also has resonance with the idea of Criamon holding open the passage.

The ‘world of images’ provides the material for mystical visions and the miraculous. It is where those “who have attained an intermediate bliss and the ascetics […] may escape”..

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Could one studying with arab philosophers, orb reading their texts, come up with a philosophy of using living as animal to shed imperfections, and thus be purified? As sort of an beast Craimon path?

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Arab philosophers would consider animals as less pure than humans, so living as an animal would not (according to their philosophies) help getting rid of imperfections. At least that is my understanding.

Such a Criamon path could be possible, but the idea would likely have to come from some other source.

Also, Criamon mages will have met too many Bjornaer mages to automatically assume that living as an animal brings purity, no matter the philosophy. For them it isn't a spiritual or mystical activity, just another day with a "y" in it.

This passage made me think that. And while most Criamon would consider Bjornaer not the epitome of purity, they might just thing that the Bjornaer are doing it all wrong. After all, Bjornaer do not have their deep insight into how the world actually works.

Suhrawardi himself would find the thought a little perplexing, I believe, since obviously you don't want to have to be purified through punishment by taking an animal form. The Criamon magus might argue that punishing purification now is better than the agonizing purification that those laden with sins will have to undergo in the Hypostasis (what Suhrawardi would understand as part of the World of Images) but I think both Suhrawardi and the majority of the Criamon would agree that a much simpler and more effective way to do that is just to start living your life in an apt manner.

Perhaps a few adherents of the (possible) Illuminationist trend in House Criamon might recommend stretches of time in animal form as a way to expedite the process of spiritual purification for those who come to the path of right action late in life, that's within reason, but even then I feel like most Criamon would point out that the good one could do (especially someone as powerful as an elder magus) by living aptly in the usual manner probably helps your case more than the punishment of animal form.

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(Attempts to picture a Criamon magus telling a Bjornaer maga that they are doing the whole living as an animal thing wrong, fails. Too horrible.)

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I had to stop lurking and make an account for this, I LOVE House Criamon in their 5e form and this series is so cool! I'm also learning a lot about later Islamic philosophy, I never read much on the topic beyond Averroes.

Quite shocked and pleased both to see just how similar and yet so different Suhrawardi is from Criamon, the Criamon probably will flip out (in a good way) when they find out.

How will they find out, in fact? Arab Criamon take back their own knowledge?

I like the quotes at the start, maybe in Mythic Europe he really was talking to Aristotle's ghost!

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I also made my account for this! Thanks for reading, HoH: MC Criamon rock.

Not just you, honestly. There's this tendency for people to assume nothing interesting happens in Islamic philosophy after the Sack of Baghdad, which is baffling, but part of that whole "End of the Golden Age" paradigm that is rejected by modern historians of the Islamicate.

They're definitely kindred spirits, IMO - Suhrawardi and Criamon the Founder even share a similar sense of humor judging from the latter's description in HoH: MC. I think the most interesting thing is that they each present to the other a fresh take from many shared points of agreement.

Quick note first, these early luminaries (heh) of the Ishraqi school are pretty much all non Arab. Suhrawardi and Qutb al-Din Shirazi were Persian, Shahrazuri was Turkic/Kurdish, and Ibn Kammuna was Jewish. It's certainly Islamicate, but not Arab, although there are later Arab Ishraqis.

The obvious point of contact for the Criamon as far as Ishraqiyya is concerned is the Path of Walking Backwards, but in 1220 they certainly aren't going to be learning it from books. The first collection and production of Ishraqi books following the execution of Suhrawardi happens a little later than that and they probably aren't going to be getting those books immediately.

Now I have to admit, the reason I started thinking about this at all was because of a character I was making for a game set in the 1260s Ilkhanate - I bring it up because I think my dude Mu'hibb al-Din Hasan ibn Sayf al-Din Abu Bakr ibn Hokkabaz Yağıbasan al-Tuqadi presents a pretty reasonable early introduction of the Criamon to Ishraqiyya. His parens is a Criamon maga on the Path of Walking Backwards from the Levant Tribunal - a more conventional Criamon Sufi of the type discussed in the initial post - but he's born and raised in Seljuk Konya and spends a lot of time fostered with Criamon from the Thebes Tribunal (he primarily lives well outside the realm of either Tribunal by game start, in modern day Iranian Azerbaijan, but is legally part of Thebes.) He studied with Shahrazuri, who already has a relatively small circle of students in Konya at this time, thanks to his mater doing the old trick of getting him time with a mundane scholar as a supplementary tutor. By game start a little past his Gauntlet, Mu'hibb al-Din has already worked out the basics of a Criamonized Illuminationism to share with other members of his clutch, giving the Criamon access to the new scholarship about as soon as it is available.

My favorite part about the Dream Dialogue is that Dream Aristotle tells Suhrawardi that Plato was actually right about a number of points on which the two ancients disagreed, now that he has had time to reflect on the questions in Heaven. It's the sort of weird thing a Criamon would write.

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In Mythic Europe, Aristotle is a Daimon that can be summoned.

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The Suhrawardian Hermes

A bit of an intermission/general interest post: a short look at the "Arabic Hermes" as Suhrawardi would have understood him and how the Criamon could now have the answer to a vexing question for those so inclined in the Order.

The Islamic Hermetica seems to provide an answer for Hermetic magi interested in "The Problem of Hermes" - described in this sidebar from the tribunal book The Sundered Eagle:

Seeker magi are most interested in Hermes. His two most intriguing characteristics are as a god of invention and as a god of transition. According to myth, Hermes invented music, writing, arithmetic, and magic; this characteristic seems to make him a creature of the Magic Realm according to theorists. Other stories make him a human, whose knowledge was so great that he divined the secret of immortality, transcended his humanity, and became a god; this is a path to the Magic Realm that many aspire to emulate. However, as a god of doorways, the bringer of sleep, and the guide of souls to the Underworld, he occupies a quintessential liminal role and thus is ideally characterized as a faerie. Furthermore, he was offered worship by travelers and merchants, and his shrines often retain a Faerie aura. The most satisfactory answer to many is that there were two or more beings who went by the name of Hermes, and so all of these options — and more — are potentially true.

The Islamicate conception of Hermes (or rather the three different Hermeses) is first codified by the great astrologer Abu Ma'shar and represents a truly interesting tradition of intellectual synthesis. Abu Ma'shar drew his story of the First Hermes from a now vanished Arabic language chronographical text based on Syriac sources. Panodorus and Annianus passed down this tale of the First Hermes from Hellenic Egypt's Book of Sothis. At the same time, they make much use of apocryphal Enoch literature and combined Biblical and pagan (Greek as well as Egyptian and Babylonian) chronographic traditions. The chronicle of Annianus became an authority on ancient dates throughout Syriac chronographic literature. These chronicles were the first to identify Hermes with Enoch (Prophet Idris in the Islamic world). Abu Ma'shar drew his knowledge of the Second Hermes from the Iranian astrological tradition represented by the Middle Persian recension of Dorotheus, which told of a Hermes that was from Babylon who became king of Egypt. The chronographic works at his disposal included dates of the ancient Iranian kings, and he, or one of his sources, thereby identified the Second Hermes with mythical Iranian sage-king Hōšang, the Pēšdād. The famed philosopher-scholar Al-Kindi related an account about a Hermes of more recent times who was the author of the more mundane Hermetica in circulation - such as the books on healing, dream interpretation, and travel routes - that were perhaps unlike the great secret lore expected from the two ancient Hermeses. This report, which did not match those received from the Syriac-Persian-Egyptian chronographic tradition that the Muslims had painstakingly collected and harmonized, was included in the work of Abu Ma'shar and thus all Islamic Hermetica after - perhaps in order to fill out an idea of “Hermes Triplicate in Wisdom” (Hirmis al-mu'tallat).

The Islamic Hermetica seems to elegantly provide the multiple Hermeses answer some Seeker Magi already suspected was true, even neatly dividing into the master of science and high theurgy in the Ancient Hermeses and the more prosaic Third Hermes involved with the liminal like travel and sleep; the split corresponding to the predicted Magic/Faeire split. The Islamic Hermetica actually goes a bit farther - not only does it have three Hermeses to fit the description of a Hermes Thrice Great, Triplicate in Wisdom - one can easily connect each of the Hermeses to one of the three non-Infernal realms. The First Hermes is considered to be the same as the Prophet Enoch/Idris, an antediluvian prophet-sage who is described in the work of Ibn Gulgul (citing Abu Ma'shar) as

...the first who built temples and glorified God in them. His home was Upper Egypt; he chose that [place] and built the pyramids and cities of clay there. He feared that knowledge would pass away in the Flood, so he built the monumental temples.

The First Hermes can, from this, easily be called The Divine Hermes.

The Second Hermes is the classic concept of Hermes Thrice-Great, understood in the Islamicate as the great progenitor of the scientific tradition. Back to Ibn Gulgul:

He was skilled in the knowledge of medicine and philosophy, knew the natures of numbers, and his student was Pythagoras the Arithmetician. This Hermes renewed the knowledge of medicine, philosophy, mathematics, and magic that was lost during the Flood at Babylon.

The Second Hermes might be interpreted as The Magic Hermes.

The Third Hermes seems primarily described as a healer and wandering magician, dealing with transformations through alchemy and travel.

He was a philosopher and a physician, knowledgeable in the natures of lethal drugs and infectious animals. He traveled around in different countries, wandering in them, knowing the foundations of cities, their natures, and the natures of their peoples. He knew all the craft of transformation and dreams.

This one is less clear cut than the last two, I believe, but the discussions of wanderings, natures, transformations and sleep all lend some support to the final piece of the puzzle - the Third Hermes as The Faerie Hermes.

Now, I believe the Criamon interacting with the Islamicate Hermetica through mystically inclined Muslim members of the House might now have a very strong explanation for the Problem of Hermes, one that seems well sourced in medieval terms and is relatively rational - but honestly I'm not sure what this means for the Order at large. It's certainly very interesting to think about, however.

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I doubt you would find the God of the Dominion in the pyramids, but you may find the pagan gods, aka Faerie. Of course, I can understand that islamic theology may wish to connect those giant buildings to God of the Dominion, but I find that retro-explanation no more convincing than connecting Heracles to Samson and retconing the son of Zeus into being a servant of the abrahamic God. If you check Lands of the Nile, you'll find most egyptian pyramids have magic auras, with some faerie auras that can be found in external buildings connected to worship.

Just my two cents, if you want to give a different realm to the three Hermes, I'd make a magic hermes, a faerie hermes, and an hermes that bridge the two realms, and i would treat any suggestion that Hermes was an ancient prophet of God that was perfectly comfortable building tombs for pagan gods (pharaohs) with a grain of salt.

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This is def true, but the whole building the Pyramids part is mostly incidental to the First Hermes being Divine, the core is that writers from the Syriac chronicles on to the Islamicate saw him as the same figure as the Biblical Enoch/Idris, grandson of Adam. Annianus and Abu Ma'shar might just be wrong about the Pyramids part, of course, it's not particularly important to the synthesis of the Enochian literature and Hermetica.

From Sa'id al-Andalusi:

Abu Ma'shar said, “The Hermeses (al-Harāmis) are a group of different individuals. Among them is the Hermes who was before the Flood, who the Hebrews claim is the prophet Enoch, who is Idris, peace be upon him.

From Ibn Gulgul:

“The Hermeses are three. The first of them is Hermes who was before the Flood.  The significance of “Hermes” is a title, like saying “Caesar” and “Khusraw” . The Persians named him Wīwanghān, meaning “the Just,” in their biographies of the kings. He is the one to whose philosophy the Harrānians adhere. The Persians state that his grandfather was Gayumart, the first man who we know as Adam. The Hebrews state that he is Enoch, which, in Arabic, is Idris.”

Enoch himself, of course, is much older than even the Syriac chronicles - the earliest extant  references to him come from a few of the oldest canonical biblical texts, most notably The Book of the Generations of Adam, incorporated in the fifth chapter of Genesis (Genesis 5:18–24). More important for both the Syriac Christian and Muslim identification of Hermes (the First) with Hermes is the apocrypha, though.

Literature destined not to become canonical in the Bible had already developed in Aramaic, greatly elaborating the legend of Enoch and how he was “taken by God.” These Books of Enoch, subsequently translated into many languages, describe Enoch as a prophet who was raised to the heavenly heights and given visions of the shape of the cosmos, of the distant past, and of the future redemption and judgment before God.

This is reflected in the Qu'ran as well, particularly in Qu'ran 19:56-57:

And mention Idris in the Book. He was true, a prophet. We raised him to a high place.

Hermes and Idris are swiftly connected by İslamicate writers, even outside of the work of Syriac translators working within elite circles. Ibn al-Haytam al-Isma'ili wrote that the prophet Idris revealed astrology and arithmetic, and that his name in Greek was Hermes (btw he mentions it as the first point in an argument for the legitimacy of ancient Greek philosophy alongside revelation. He says that the Greek philosophers were “the followers of prophets” such as Hermes.) Once Hermes-Idris’ heavenly ascent, as recorded through the Biblical apocrypha, was also accepted, this was evidently soon understood as the means by which he had  discovered astrology.

The Greek Corpus Hermeticum does refer in different ways to a kind of heavenly ascent of Hermes, but there is no definite evidence at present for  the transmission of these particular Greek passages into Arabic. Rather, the idea of Hermes’ heavenly ascent came about more probably though the identification of Hermes with Idrīs-Enoch. This explains, among other things, the regular association of Hermes with heavenly angels, from whom he learned the sciences and high magics, as seen in  the traditions reported by al-Maqdisī, İbn al Haytam the Ismā'ili, and others.

So the first Hermes in the Islamic tradition - while still being a prophet of science, as the good doctor puts it - is certainly something a magus would look at and go "yeah that's Divine." The whole Pyramids deal would probably be seen as more like the error of Abu Ma'shar since it doesn't even appear in most other narratives.

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Ancient Magic is interesting when paired with this, because it takes the Book of Enoch (central to the concept of the First Hermes simply being the way people understood Enoch) as canonically true in Mythic Europe, since we know that from the section in the book on Grigori Magic. The Grigori imparting magical knowledge also has strong connections with the descriptions above of Hermes getting knowledge from angels.

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This is a great catch! Yeah, that definitely does help solidify some of the threads being drawn. That chapter is even more interesting, upon re-reading. The holy Watcher described rests on the summit of Mount Ararat in Eastern Anatolia, exactly where Suhrawardi's disciples are working - descriptions indicate that the legends of the Watchers, counter to the Sethite interpretation of Western canon, are regionally well known. It's not at all unfeasible that the monks of the mount, historically connected to the wandering dervishes of Ahlat, shared those legends with them.

Even cooler to me is that the Criamon are yet again the guys involved. St. Nerius is described as the sole Latinate transmitter of the Book of the Watchers from 1 Enoch and travelled to Ararat himself.

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"'Gabriel has two wings...the right wing is pure light, the totality of which is an abstraction of the relation between his being and God. The left wing has traces of darkness, like the dark spots on the surface of the moon that resemble peacock's feet. That is a sign that his being has one side toward not being. If you look at the relation of his being to God's being, it has the attribute of His being. When you look at the realization of his essence, it is the realization of nonexistence and a concomitant to possible existence. These two intrinsic meanings stand on the level of two wings: the relation to God on the right and the mental positing of the realization in the soul on the left. - The Chant of Gabriel's Wing, Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi

Is there anything the Ishraqis can teach the Criamon about Empedocles?

That's the question I'd like to look at briefly here - I think it's a valid one to ask. House Criamon as described in HoH: MC adheres to a cosmology that we as modern observers would consider more or less "accurately" Empedoclean, according to what we've managed to reconstruct of Empedocles' cosmology. Not only is it a lot closer to the fragments of Empedoclean texts we have than most of what was ascribed to the man in 1220 Europe historically, it's also closer than a lot of modern Presocratic Studies work done before 90s - unlike that, which relied almost entirely on post-Socratics to create an image of Empedoclean philosophy as simply a stumbling attempt towards the glorious heights of later Greek philosophy, the Criamon seem to have kept alive the more authentic concept of Empedocles as mystery cultist, magician, and theurgist as well as philosopher, which now has become the dominant understanding of him in academia. If we're starting from a foundation this impressive, what could a bunch of Muslim upstarts raised on a steady diet of Neoplatonism, logic textbooks, and Sufism possibly have to offer the Criamon in interpreting their own master?

In a word, context. The Criamon orthodox cosmology is an admirable and (as far as we know today) authentic representation of the systems implicit in the surviving texts of Empedocles, but it is strikingly bare of any other influences. Iamblichus and Porphyry, Hierocles and Syrianus, Proclus and Damascinus - all massively important to our understanding of the Presocratics and all nowhere to be seen in HoH: MC's Criamon either explicitly or implicitly.

You might ask "Hey, TYO, isn't that a good thing? Adding that would just amount to corrupting their existing corpus of well-preserved Empedoclean lore." It's more complicated than that, though. Empedocles is known from fragments at the end of the day, and as important returning to the text and reading it faithfully was in the radical reshaping of our modern understanding of his work, much can only be discerned by looking at later Empedoclean scholarship. This is true for Presocratics in general, particularly those that wrote in verse like Empedocles did - Parmenides is a great example. See, Suhrawardi wasn't exactly wrong when he wrote excitedly about the leaven of the ancients, the so called Golden Chain of philosophy-as-theurgy was understood as a real element of the enterprise of knowledge by Neoplatonists and others who preserved non-fragmentary Empedoclean information. This in particular is what Suhrawardi's students can bring to light for the Criamon.

Now let's provide an example!

In his book The Philosophy of Illumination, Suhrawardi discusses three fundamental realms - the higher level is the World of Lights (‘alam al-anwar.), the lower level is the Shadowed or Corporeal World (‘alam al-ajsam), and the middle level is the World of Images (‘alam al-suwar). The world of lights is also known as the realm of Light Refined, flowing from the Light of Lights (God) and containing those subsidiary lights which emanate from the Light of Lights such as the Platonic Forms and the planetary + stellar intelligences (keep this in mind). He maintained that those who refined themselves within their own lives, combining mastery of rational discursive knowledge and attainment of mystic spiritual purification, would pass into this realm after death into mystic union with the Light of Lights.

...those who are intellectually and morally perfect (i.e., the mystics) will abide in the intellectual world as pure intellect; thus, their being in the hereafter and all its functions are spiritual, and speaking about the role of material or celestial bodies is meaningless.

Suhrawardi was the first Muslim philosopher to discuss the intermediate world - the world of images, even before Ibn Arabi. To quote the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

This independent ‘world of immaterial shapes’ (ashbah murajjada) or images (suwar) operates like an ‘isthmus’ or an ‘intermediary realm’ of “dark and illuminated suspended images (suwar mu‘allaqa)”. It lies somewhere between the physical world of darkness and the world of the ‘Lords of the species’ (arbab al-anwa‘), i.e. the world of the Platonic Forms of ‘pure Lights’ (horizontal lights). This ‘world of images’ is where new entities – the ‘suspended forms’ (muthul mu‘allaqa) – exist and which post-mortem souls grasp with their imagination.

For those who attain a lesser level of perfection in their intellectual and spiritual characters, the world of images would be their abode after death. This class includes both pious individuals and sinners. Therefore, it is necessary for them all to have bodies so that they realize the nature of their future life. These bodies, however, are not their physical bodies that they have left after death. This is because Suhrawardi, following Avicenna, believed that it is impossible for a material body to resume its existence after it ceases to be. Since those individuals who attained only an intermediate level of their intellectual and practical potentials are not completely free from their attachments with matter, and their physical bodies cannot be returned, their lives in the hereafter must be in virtue of other bodies. As an answer to this question - Suhrawardi developed the concept of an astral body which is created for the person to receive judgement and move further towards purification in the World of Images - also fulfilling the concept of resurrection. Although punishment occurs in the World of Images for those who merit it, eventually all pass the stage of purification through punishment and enter a stage of purification through enlightenment until they achieve universal states of happiness - the immortal afterlife in the World of Images, although below the grand union available to the mystic-philosopher, is seen unequivocally in blissful positive terms. The quoted passage from The Philosophy of Illumination below is a good example:

Those who have attained an intermediate bliss … may escape to the world of suspending images whose locus is some of the celestial barriers. There they can and do bring images [from their minds] into being. They can call forth such tastes, forms, pleasant sound, and the like as they desire. Those forms are more perfect than those that we have; for the loci of ours and their bearers are deficient while those of the former are perfected. There they abide forever...

Suhrawardi’s core argument in Hikmat al-Ishraq supporting the existence of a “World of Suspended Images” is a combination of logical deduction, Qur’anic exegesis, and his own mystical experiences, but he also invoked the experiences of ancient philosophers and prophets, viewing them as authentic testimonies for the presence of the World of Images. He thus urged the reader not to hasten to denounce this world, writing in its defense in his book The Intimations:

“When you learn from the writing of ancient sages that there exists a world with dimensions and extension, other than the world of intellect, and other than the world governed by the souls of the spheres … do not hasten to proclaim it a lie, for there are pilgrims of the spirit who come to see with their own eyes and in it find their hearts’ desires.”

Importantly for us, Suhrawardi explained that Empedocles was among the ancients that developed this three realm concept which he now revived and refined. This seems surprising at first - the initial thought of the Criamon who hear this might be that Suhrawardi had learned from Pseudo-Empedoclean texts. Until very recently, modern scholars of Presocratic studies would have almost certainly agreed or - more uncharitably - argued that Suhrawardi was intentionally lying to grant his own theories an ancient air. However, several leading scholars of Empedocles today would likely agree with Suhrawardi today! In his watershed study From Hades to the Stars: Empedocles on the Cosmic Habitats of Soul, Dr. Simon Trépanier argues

The positive case for a three-level cosmic-eschatological scheme in Empedocles: life in earthly Hades, a happier “daimonic” life in the atmosphere, and, for a select elite, final passage to astral divinity.

Shockingly close to Suhrawardi's system - including a representation of the mortal world as deeply associated with the concept of darkness, a superior life of spirit intermediate between the mortal and supernal realms, and a highest life associated with light, the stars (remember the planetary and stellar ıntelligences?), and a divine transformation accessible only to a rare elite of philosopher-theurgists. Just so you know I'm not punking you, here's the whole abstract of the paper:

This study reconstructs Empedocles’ eschatology and cosmology, arguing that they presuppose one another. Part one surveys body and soul in Empedocles and argues that the transmigrating daimon is a long-lived compound made of the elements air and fire. Part two shows that Empedocles situates our current life in Hades, then considers the testimonies concerning different cosmic levels in Empedocles and compares them with the afterlife schemes in Pindar’s Second Olympian Ode and Plato’s Phaedo myth. Part three offers a new edition of section d, lines 5–10 of the Strasbourg papyrus of Empedocles that reinforces the connection between transmigration and different cosmic locations for souls. Part four reconstructs Empedocles’ cosmology, identifies three different levels or habitats of soul, and, more tentatively, suggests that Empedoclean “long-lived gods” are best understood as stars.

This isn't limited to one (albeit esteemed) Empedoclean studies scholar either, other figures including Dr. Xavier Gheerbrant and pillar of the field Dr. André Laks have made use of and expanded on the work presented in Trépanier's 2014 paper.

There we have it: a major insight into the cosmo-eschatology of Empedocles - one foreign to Criamonic Empedoclean orthodoxy as presented in HoH: MC (reasonable, as it is exceedingly hard to tease out this understanding from the texts as Dr Trépanier did without a broader context to work off) - that was correctly understood and accurately attributed to Empedocles by Suhrawardi. Even this alone presents all sorts of new directions for House Criamon thought - the Ishraqis do indeed have things to teach the Criamon about Empedocles.

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This thread continues to impress! Not only talking Islamic philosophy but also contemporary Empedocles studies. A few comments:

Had to look up all of these guys - I imagine they will feature more prominently in a saga where the Path of Walking Backwards absorbs Illuminationist thought like you've outlined? That's an intriguing prospect, a more source diverse Criamon orthodoxy.

Hmm, it reminds me of Daimonic spirits in lore. How does the idea of planetary intelliegences work in an Islamic framework?

Honestly mind blowing, I didn't even know Empedocles studies was a live field. Suhrawardi was really a sharp fellow.

Doesn't this change a lot for the Criamon - I mean, that there is the answer to the Enigma no? Even if not, it's still huge for them.

Any other interesting examples? What about the reverse, what can the Criamon teach the Ishraqis?

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Wow I thought I had responded to this, came to write a new post and saw I had left these unanswered! How rude, my apologies. :sweat_smile:

Yeah, that's partially the point. A lot of Suhrawardi's insights into Empedocles discussed above come from the fact that he's using a lot more than just the actual fragments of Empedocles. Doxographical writings are more useful guides than were once thought, if used with caution.

Walbridge's The Devotional and Occult Works of Suhrawardī the Illuminationist discusses exactly this question:

Most of Suhrawardi's texts relating to the celestial spirits are strictly devotional, addressing praise to them as exalted beings with nearer access to God. These texts are, to use his term, sanctifications. What al-Suhrawardi is really interested in is talking to the spirits of the planets, an exercise that makes perfet sense given the structure of his philosophical system, in which mystical apprehension of the celestial lights is a tool for understanding the metaphysical structure of the universe. It is, to be sure, a rather strange thing for a Muslim to be doing, since it borders on polytheism, but Suhrawardi, like the Late Antique pagan Neoplatonists, would surely protest that he was simply giving due reverence to the greatest of God's servants, doing something little different than the formal greeting given to Muslim saints at their shrines. In tact, he is doing theurgy, something with very deep and continuing roots in the Platonic tradition. His prayers are very similar to those of Proclus addressed to the celestial bodies.

So he is talking to higher beings from the realm of images when talking to the spirits of the planets, although not the angelic lights of the highest tier. Interestingly it does further indicate that the Magic Realm is the same as the World of Images in Mythic Europe if Suhrawardi's planetary ıntelligences are indeed the Astra Planeta. The first indication to me at least was that the World of Images contains

Formlike spaces or existences distinct from the actual Forms of Plato

which sounds strikingly like the Form Provinces in the Twilight Void.

Well the Criamon are already not strictly "orthodox" Empedocleans, even for what they currently think is the "correct" take on Empedocles. As mentioned in HoH: MC...

Criamon believed Empedocles’s cosmology, but thought his goal of becoming an immortal again was naive. Empedocles’s contrition and suffering cannot change the cyclical nature of time.

...so it's not an immediate radical change for the House if/when Illuminationists revise the understanding of Empedoclean cosmology. It'll almost certainly be of interest, though.

That's the upcoming section!

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This is a good connection to draw, I think another might be that the Hypostasis in the Magic Realm is an escape from cycle just like the World of Suspended Images is for the average soul in Suhrawardi as you've mentioned.

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