Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the SHWEP about?
The Secret History of Western Esotericism Podcast is a chronological history-of-ideas narrative documenting the development of a central, but often-overlooked, collection of intellectual currents in the western world. The exact parameters of what constitutes western esotericism are an ongoing debate in academe, but they certainly include esoteric Platonism through history, alchemy, astrology, traditions of learned magic, occultism, and many types of thought usually considered under the imprecise term ‘mysticism’.
- What inspired you to do this insane project?
I love this stuff.
- Why is the SHWEP chronological/why does it start so much earlier than most books on western esotericism?
The idea behind doing a from-the-beginning chronological treatment was partly inspired by the current flourishing of long-form, take-your-time historical podcasts, and partly to fill a gap. Every general book on western esotericism mentions Neoplatonism as an essential forerunner and ingredient of the western esoteric traditions proper, but most scholars of western esotericism know little about said Neoplatonism in its natural habitat; indeed, the currents of western esotericism are really born in late antiquity, and that’s the earliest point from which we can start to discuss these movements if we want to be thoroughgoing. And if you want to discuss Neoplatonism, you need to start with Plato. And to discuss Plato, you need to discuss Parmenides and Pythagoras. And you can’t skip Heraclitus, because he’s too cool … and so on.
- When will the podcast cover Aleister Crowley/The Illuminati/(insert favorite subject here)?
When we get to it. That’s what we mean by chronological.
But do check out the SHWEP Oddcast, and you might find we’ve covered your favourite subject already.
- What the heck is the intro/outro music in the main episodes?
It’s a short section of Alexander Scriabin’s Opus 60, Prométhée, le poème du feu. The intro version is reversed, and the outro version is the right way ‘round. Scriabin was a seriously esoteric cat, and we look forward to covering him on the podcast.
- Why should I become a member of the SHWEP?
You might want to get at all the extra episodes for members only. Or you might want to support an innovative academic outreach project which is pretty unique and contributes something valuable to civilisational conversations going on right now about the history of ideas. Or you might just want to contribute a little bit toward supporting me in my quest to do this podcast full-time; at less than a pound per episode, it’s damn good value-for-money. Or you might want all of these things, in which case, you’re in luck!
SHWEP members also can contribute to the comments section for each episode, and we plan to create some beautiful esoteric presents to give to our members.
- Why can only members leave comments?
We would love to have an unmediated, fully open comments forum, in theory. The reality is that every such forum gets swamped with automatically-generated bullshit of various kinds, and going through and picking out the occasional meaningful comment quickly develops into a full-time job. By limiting the comments to members, we put up a basic filter against the tidal wave of spam.
We also sort of ensure that the people commenting are invested in the subject enough to want to contribute to the project, which ideally maintains a minimum level of seriousness. We don’t want to filter out heretical opinion or otherwise censor comments on ideological grounds, but we do want to filter out silliness which just clutters up the website.
- How does becoming a member work?
You pay £50 (which is about 58 euros, 71 American petrodollars, at time of writing) for a year’s membership. That’s LESS THAN ONE POUND PER EPISODE. It’s really easy to pay, and we use the payment service Stripe, which takes a smaller cut than its more famous competitor. You then get an email, which you can use to log in and access all the members’ stuff on the SHWEP site.
Meanwhile, I appreciate it big-time, and am able to support my family and my western esotericism habit, and hopefully travel to conferences and face-to-face interviews. Maybe even buy some books, one day ….
- I don’t live in the UK. Can I become a member with US dollars/Euros/Ethiopian Birr?
Yes (please). The currency exchange is dealt with automatically by the donate page. If you would like to pay in an unorthodox fashion (e.g. bitcoin, Islamic dinars, sophick gold) please get in touch, and perhaps we can work something out.
- Can my member’s password be something cool and esoteric like Rubedo666 or AdocentynApocalypse?
Go for it. The most esoteric password wins. (But please don’t use these two examples!)
- Why don’t you have advertising on the SHWEP site? Surely that would be a way to pay for your western esotericism habit without having to ask for money from your audience?
The internet has powerful light and dark sides. Advertising has always been a scam, and online advertising is a scam too. It ‘pays’ creative internet users just like casinos pay gamblers: the house always wins. Plus, if you, as a listener, think you’re getting something ‘for free’, while gazing at the control-glyphs of the mind-control archons, you are kidding yourself.
Listener-supported academic outreach, on the other hand, is a wonderful model for supporting innovative, high-quality work, freely available to everyone, voluntarily supported by those with the means to contribute. Nothing to decide, really.
- £50 is an awful lot of money. Is there a student/low income bracket?
Think of it as less than £1 per week. And keep in mind that £50 is an awful lot of money for me, too! But, okay, if you can’t afford a membership but are genuinely desperate to hear those extra episodes and join the online community, get in touch through the contact page and we’ll talk.
- Can I get gift-memberships/group memberships? Are there group discounts?
Yes to all three. For a gift-membership, the simplest thing is to buy an annual membership, but fill in the sign-up form with your friend’s information; they will receive the ‘change your password’ email, and you will receive their undying gratitude.
Group memberships work differently; contact us through the contact form, we discuss how many people are signing up, what level of discount we are providing, and so forth. You transfer us the agreed-upon amount, and we then create a coupon, which is basically a password that your group can all use to sign up as a member, skipping the whole ‘give us money’ part.
- What do I get for contributing an interview to the SHWEP?
Our eternal gratitude, the opportunity to educate the general public about your work, and a free lifetime membership to the podcast. Once we have recorded our interview, we will contact you with a password, and thenceforth you will be able to log into the SHWEP website, access all the extra episodes, and participate in the online discussion.
- I am a scholar of western esotericism with a totally obscure specialist expertise. Can I contact you about doing an interview for the podcast?
- I am a scholar of western esotericism, and appreciate the lifetime membership, but I still want to support the SHWEP financially. Can I?
Yes indeed! Feel free to become a fully paid-up member, but equally free not to. We appreciate your contribution hugely either way.
- What if my specialism falls totally outside the chronological framework off the podcast? Will I have to wait ten years to hear my interview published?
No problem. The SHWEP Oddcast exists to publish interviews that fall outside the chronology of the main podcast. If and when we reach the right point in the narrative, the interview can slide over to the podcast proper and become part of the grand narrative if appropriate.
- I have published a book on a facet of western esotericism. Will you review it in the SHWEP blog?
We would love to see your work! Please get in touch with details. We cannot promise anything, but we are absolutely delighted to review new works in our field, time permitting, provided that
- They are written to a high standard of scholarly rigour – books without a proper bibliography or falsifiable substantiation need not apply.
- They adhere to a certain methodological agnosticism – books written from the perspective of practitioners of esoteric arts or ‘believers’ of any stripe are not what we review. We have nothing whatsoever against them, but they aren’t what we do.