We discuss arguably the greatest magical book of the Islamicate tradition, the Shams al-maʿārif al-kubrā or Great Sun of Knowledge. Turns out it isn't by al-Būnī as everyone thought, though there is some Būnī in there; but it has so much to tell us about Islamicate culture, Sufism, and the ‘project of forgetting’ of esoteric Islām among both Muslims and scholars.
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.
We introduce Aḥmad al-Būnī, master sūfī and alphanumeric speculator, but most famous in the Islamicate world as an authority on magic. We sift the wheat from the chaff and get to the bottom of who al-Būnī was, what he really wrote, and what kind of reception he has had, both within and outside of Islam.
We discuss universal salvation, a perennial idea within Christianity – that all of humanity, or maybe even everything in the universe, will be saved through Christ's salvific atonement – with Morwenna Ludlow of the University of Exeter. Starting from Clement of Alexandria and ending with the current state of play in sometimes-unlikely Christian circles, we explore the long history of an esoteric (and sometimes not so esoteric) Christian idea.
Members only: On est enchanté encore avec Jason Josephson Storm
We continue our conversation with J.Ā.J. Storm, talking science, magic, religion, and the interrelations between the three of them, the question of assessing advancement in a given context (technological, epistemological, or whatever), and whether modern applied science is really natural magic with a new label (spoiler alert: it is).
We discuss the widespread idea of the ‘disenchantment’ of the modern world – the idea that ‘we don't believe in magic any more’ – with Jason Josephson-Storm. It turns out that the idea is a myth, that the myth is actually a number of complex, interacting myths, and that none of them is empirically-accurate.
We discuss Philippe-Jacques (or ‘Philip James’) de Loutherbourgh, accomplished eighteenth-century painter, polyglot socialite, alchemist, Occultist, healer, and inventor of the cinema.
We speak about illusion, magic, and reality with magical experience designer Ferdinando Buscema. He can make stuff disappear, find your card anywhere in the deck, and read your mind. He is, in short, a magician. But he is also, like Apuleius, Iamblichus, Ficino, and Crowley before him, a philosopher of magic.
We discuss the extraordinary reception-history of the extraordinary text known as Sefer Yetsirah, the ‘Book of Formation‘. The Sefer Yetsirah would eventually become a foundational text for the Kabbalist movements of the high middle ages, but it was (and is) much more than that. Professor Langermann lays out the evolutions in reading this text from Sa‘adia Gaon to Aryeh Kaplan.
We let the tape roll and discuss some more fascinating byways of dualist Christianity in the middle ages. Come for the Cathar connections, stay for the addressative magic and visionary ascent practices.
We speak with Dr Bojana Radovanović on the Bogomils, a widespread Christian ‘heresy’ – dualist, demiurgic, docetist, ascetic, and esoterically-structured – arising in the tenth-century Balkans and spreading into such unlikely places as Constantinople and even the monastery of Mt Athos. We discuss the who, what, and when of Bogomilism, animadvert as to the why, and even speculate intriguingly on the how.
Members only: Juan Acevedo Neither Speaks nor Hides, but Signifies
Our conversation with Doctor Acevedo evolves into a long and, some might say, esoteric hermeneutical tour of linguistic theory and western ontology illuminated by the riddling wisdom of Heraclitus.
One of the most fundamental and intriguing questions in the philosophy of language is that of the relation between signs and the realities they signify. But what if the signs are letters and numbers simultaneously? And what if these are in fact the constitutive elements of reality itself? Juan Acevedo is our guide in an overview of the history and dynamics of alphanumeric cosmology in the western tradition.
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.
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.