Is ‘free will’ a given, a constant of the human condition? It might seem that way, but as Dylan Burns argues in this interview, the idea that humans possess a faculty of un-coerced decision-making actually arises at a specific time – late antiquity – and in a specific context – early Christian philosophy.
The SHWEP podcast is basically chronological, but there’s only so much chronology that anyone can take. The Oddcast features interviews from the whole historical scope of western esotericism. When the chronology catches up with episodes here, they migrate to the main podcast, but there’s no reason to wait years to listen to an interview we have now.
There are also interviews here which take in such a broad sweep of chronology that they belong in more general context, and here they shall remain.
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In Part I of a two-part series, we interview Dr Dylan Burns of the Universiteit van Amsterdam on the subjects of providence and fate in Greek philosophy, early Christian philosophy, and a number of esoteric currents partaking of both in late antiquity.
We continue our interview with Gyrus, starting from Copernicus' demolition of the polar cosmos and exploring the aftermath of this radical decentering of the cosmic structure of the west.
We talk cosmology with Gyrus, a man who has looked deeply into the patterning of space across time and culture. Moving from ‘horizontal’, landscape-base cosmologies to ‘vertical’, abstracted constructions of space, we discuss the human patterning of location and movement across a fairly mind-blowing swathe of history. You are where you are.
Professor Dillon returns to the SHWEP to talk about the life and times of Stephen MacKenna – Irish radical, Modernist literateur, amateur of the concertina, and the first and greatest translator of Plotinus into English.
Members only: Peter Grey on Magic(k) in Theory and Practice
Further discussion with Peter Grey, looking at aspects of the Crowley/Parsons/Hubbard story from magickal and scholarly perspectives.
We discuss the magickal activities of Jack Parsons, (Marjorie) Cameron, and L. Ron Hubbard in 1940's California with Peter Grey. Rockets fly, yachts set sail, and very, very strange things happen.
Members only: Bink Hallum Circles the Square
We continue our conversation with Dr Hallum, exploring some fascinating manuscript detective work revealing some unsolved mysteries of transmission, the Jewish and East Roman medieval magic-square traditions, early-modern translations and adaptations of the material, and much more.
We discuss those ‘magic squares’ that we find in esoteric texts from Indonesia to London, curious grids of numbers often used as astral-magical talismans with integrated alphanumeric mysteries. Bink Hallum has done the research, and lays out the story of the magic square from China to Agrippa.
Members only: Michael Noble Ascends to the Perfect Nature
We continue our interview with Michael Noble, exploring magical, exegetical, soteriological, prophetological, and other aspects of Rāzī's thought. Things get seriously esoteric, and you know that we do not say things like that lightly.
Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī was a Persian universal scholar and theologian, particularly well-known for his tafsīr or work of Qur'ānic interpretation, a mainstay of Sunni Islam to this day. Less well-known is his work of addressative, astral, talismanic ritual, The Hidden Secret. Michael Noble has published a study of this work in the context of Rāzī's thought and of the larger intellectual currents in which he swam. Come for the enduring legacy of staunch, but philosophically-rich, Sunni theology, stay for the orgies and severed heads.
We speak with an expert on the (religious) use of automata in the classical world, in an attempt to enter into the thought-world and technological practice of the ancient theurgists. Come for the living statues, stay for the giant snail-robot.
Members only: Salon and On: More Péladan with Sasha Chaitow
We continue our discussion of the Sâr Merodac, speaking of his influence, his sympathy for the Devil, his place in esoteric thought, and more.
We discuss the life and work of Joséphin Péladan (1858-1918), art-critic, Occultist, playwright, and generally creative freak. Dr Sasha Chaitow is our guide to the fascinating life of nineteenth-century Paris' most prominent avant-garde Rosicrucian trend-setter. Welcome to the salon rosicrucien.
Members only: HPB Unveiled with Marina Alexandrova
We continue our discussion of the life and thought of HPB, talking about fraud and enchantment, messiahs and holy fools, and sex, drugs, and theosophy.
We discuss the life and adventures of Yelena Petrovna Blavatskaya, co-founder of the Theosophical Society and one of the most (in)famous and influential spiritual thinkers of the modern age, whose life and thought changed the course of western esotericism (and western history) forever.
Members only: Into the Chapel Perilous with Erik Davis
In this continuing conversation with Dr Davis we explore conspiracy (as a state of mind, religious practice, and self-fulfilling quasi-reality), the current state of ‘the archons’ (and why q-anon may be a helpful model for thinking through late-antique ‘Gnosticism’), and Philip K. Dick's work in light of the cultural moment underway in America and beyond.
We introduce Robert Anton Wilson under the guidance of Erik Davis, whose recent book High Weirdness is the most important fnord scholarly approach to the man's life and thought. Occasional insights are interjected by Eddie Nix, friend and collaborator of R.A.W.
Allegra Baggio-Corradi of the Warburg Institute guides us through the life and thought of a leading figure of the forgotten esoteric Renaissance, the Paduan Niccolo Toméo. Come for the pagan-Christian metaphysics, stay for the oracular pelican.
Firmicus Maternus, a fairly prominent fourth-century intellectual from Sicily, wrote two works which survive: one is our earliest-surviving manual of astrological practice in Latin, and it shows a full-blooded belief in astral determinism, and the second is a rabid Christian polemic against traditional religious practices. Discuss.