Turning to the East, Rescuing the West: Sufism and Humanism in Ivan Aguéli’s Thought

Meir Hatina*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Ivan Aguéli became a celebrated painter in Sweden, his native country. However, his pioneering role in the rapprochement between West and East in the early twentieth century has remained largely unexplored. Aguéli’s universal humanism, with Sufism as its main lever, is analysed and located within a transnational intellectual landscape through networks of people, ideas and print media. By attracting Western pilgrims, Sufism served as a nexus of cultural transfer from the Middle East to Europe, thus casting doubts on the prevailing paradigm of Western enlightenment as the backbone of global intellectual history. Sufism was presented by Aguéli as a spiritual philosophy that dealt with the liberation of man from materialism and selfishness. The article deals with a number of issues: How did Aguéli transform Islam and Sufism into a cosmopolitan vision? To what extent was his humanism nurtured by anarchist philosophy, which promoted a just society? Did Aguéli reconcile the anarchist perception of human beings as free creatures with the Sufi perception of total submission to a Sufi master? Consideration of these questions will shed light on a moralist intellectual, whose own personal experience captured a defiant European mood, intertwining rationalism and esotericism, material progress and universal brotherhood.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)67-89
Number of pages23
JournalIslam and Christian-Muslim Relations
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 University of Birmingham.


  • Ibn ʿArabī
  • Islam
  • Orientalism
  • Sufism
  • anarchism
  • colonialism
  • esotericism
  • universalism


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