The Podcast

SHWEP is a roughly-chronological historical narrative: it starts way-back-when and moves forward from there. However, Episodes 0-4 are introductory materials. If you are a newcomer to the podcast, Episode Zero introduces the concept behind it. If you are a newcomer to the history of western esotericism, check out Episodes One, Two and Three, which provide a lot of useful background. If you want to skip the intro and start exploring the nitty-gritty of the history of western esotericism, start with Episode Four and go from there.

Episode 16: The Enigma of Pythagoras

Pythagoras of Samos is revered in the western esoteric traditions as the founder of mathematical mysteries, the discoverer of musical harmony, and the esoteric philosopher par excellence. We survey the earliest evidence and uncover the ancient mystagogue and psychagogue who founded philosophy.

Episode 15: For the Love of Wisdom: The Birth of Philosophy

When we look at the origins of Greek philosophy, we rightly emphasise man's desire to understand the world and his place in it. But there was much more to it than that. Western philosophy begins with revelation, myth, and poetry.

Episode 14: Methodologies for the Study of Mysticism

How can we even talk about mysticism, if we define mysticism as a phenomenon involving ineffable experiences? This episode negotiates the mind-bending terrain of the study of mystical texts with the aim of getting our terminology straight.

Episode 13: From Mystery to ‘Mysticism’

What is the relationship between the ancient initiatory rituals known as mystery-cults and the modern concept of 'mysticism'? In this episode we survey the strange story of the conceptual development of the terms ‘mystic’, ‘mystical’, and ‘mystery’ down the ages

Episode 12: Richard Seaford on the Mysteries

With the inimitable Prof. Seaford as our mystagogue, we explore the world of the ancient Greek mystery-cults, the crucial source for western esoteric tropes of secrecy, silence, initiation, and much more.

Episode 11: The Long Secret History of Judaism, Part I

The Jews and Judaism are at the very core of western cuture and of western esotericism. This episode touches on the history of the early Jewish peoples, introduces biblical criticism, and discusses some of the key contributions of Judaism to western esotericism.

Episode 10: Prayer to the Gods of Night: The Near-Eastern Roots of Astrology

The earliest known science of astrology developed in Mesopotamia as one and the same science as the first known astronomy. We chart the earliest known texts and their development.

Episode 9: Esoteric Orientalism Part II: The Greeks are Always Children?

The ancient Greeks tell us that they acquired their knowledge of disciplines like philosophy, geometry, and astronomy from their near-eastern neighbours. Were they right? This episode examines the evidence and some of the modern debates about the evidence.

Episode 8: Esoteric Orientalism Part I: Ancient Barbarian Sages

In part one of a two-part discussion of the roots of 'esoteric orientalism', we look at what we mean by 'orientalism' and introduce some of our favorite barbarian sages, including Zoroaster, Hermes Trismegistus, and ... Moses.

Episode 7: Curses! Sarah Veale on the Cult of Magna Mater and Ancient Curse-Tablets

Roman law prescribed the death-penalty for making curses (defixiones), but there was a widespread, and seemingly open, practice of dedicating curse-tablets in some Roman temples. How do we explain this apparent contradiction? We ask the experts.