The 2nd International Prof. Dr. Fuat Sezgin Symposium on History of Science in Islam Proceedings Book
The Corpus Alchemicum Arabicum (CALA) Project. A Swiss Research Project Honours Prof. Dr Fuat SezginTheodor Abt
Science in Islam is traditionally rooted in a basic union of two opposites: revelation and knowledge received from our ancestors and the application of the human mind, or naql and ‘aql, respectively. The root of the word Islam, aslama, means to surrender to a higher power, while the application of mind makes us human. The union of these two dimensions was and is the huge contribution of Islam to the history of science. This also becomes evident in the meaning of the Arabic word for science ‘ilm, which means both religious knowledge and science. My paper will emphasise the merit of Prof. Dr Fuat Sezgin’s immense life and work to make evident what the world of modern science owes to the development of science in the Islamic world. For us in Switzerland, a segment of that goal was reached by Fuat Sezgin Hoca’s bold support – since 1988 – of our research project on Arabic alchemy, named CORPUS ALCHEMICUM ARABICUM (CALA). This project was initiated by Dr Marie-Louise von Franz in Switzerland some 50 years ago and later found the support of Prof. Dr Wilferd Madelung in Oxford and Dr Peter Starr. Meanwhile, nine volumes of the CALASeries have been published, all of them laid out and printed in Istanbul, at the recommendation of Fuat Sezgin. Among the first volumes of the CALA-Series, one finds the texts of the alchemist Muḥammad ibn Umail, who entered later Latin alchemy under the name of Senior (from the word “Sheikh”), a title which shows the highest respect for his personality. To have solid scientific editions of some of his basic texts and poems, together with an English translation, allows for a modern revising of some basic misunderstandings with regard to the significance of this great master of the Art. In general, the results of this CALA-project provide important proof that the religious dimension of alchemy – as developed in Arabic alchemy – is not only the forerunner of chemistry, but also of modern depth-psychology. The poems of Ibn Umail and his explanations of them particularly confirm the ability of symbols to unite revelations from the unconscious with the realm of the human mind.