We turn to the final flowering of polytheist Platonist philosophy, centred on Athens (and Alexandria). We review some useful historical data, discuss the history of ‘the Academy’ as a notional ‘school’ in antiquity, and introduce Plutarch of Athens and Syrianus, teachers of the great Proclus.
The main SHWEP podcast 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.
If you want to explore further, be sure to check out the SHWEP Oddcast, which features interviews with specialists that have not yet been integrated into the main SHWEP chronology.
Members only: Ↄ. Martiana Rises to the Occasion
We let the tape roll, and engage Ↄ. Martiana in further reflections on Capella, along with guest-appearances from some other (even crazier) late-antique Latin writers. Also, we deconstruct the whole idea of late antiquity.
We discuss Martianus Capella and his extraordinary and vexing philological ascent-account, the Marriage of Philology and Mercury. Ↄ. Martiana guides us through a geocentric kosmos where liberal arts are planetary spheres, gods are physical elements, the planets are daimones, but absolutely nothing is as it seems.
We continue our read-through of Macrobius through a major section on arithmology, a palate-cleansing taxonomy of the virtues, and a detail-rich discussion of the descent of the soul, her acquisition of planetary subtle bodies, and a host of astrological lore both eschatological and indeed psychological.
We begin to read through Macrobius' Commentary with an eye for the esoteric. A whole world of literary/discursive theory opens before our eyes, wherein fictions hide the truth, the truth may be ineffable, and dreams are a weird kind of esoteric text. So what does that make a fictional dream which tells the genuine truth?
Episode 181: Macrobius and the Commentary on Scipio’s Dream
We explore the rich seam of late-antique esoteric lore that is Macrobius' Commentary on the Dream of Scipio. We discuss who Macrobius was, what he wrote, what he wrote about, and introduce who read him later on. He emerges as a crucial transmitter of astrologised, arithmologically-informed Platonism to the Latin west in the middle ages.
Members only: Mateusz Stróżyński on Spiritual Practices in Augustine
We continue our discussion of Augustine, turning to Prof Stróżyński's fruitful approach to spiritual practices as recorded (but often ignored) in the texts of Plotinus and Augustine. It emerges that there is a quiet but insistent thread of divinisation ‘hiding’ in the text of the Confessions, and that the human self may be, in a sense, god.
Members only: Mateusz Stróżyński on Augustine and Platonism
We are delighted to welcome Prof Stróżyński back to the podcast to deepen our understanding of Augustine's engagement with Platonist philosophy. The saint emerges as, in some ways, a model Plotinian thinker, in other ways something totally different from that, and, above all, as a philosophic thinker struggling with the reality of daily life in the collapsing western Roman empire.
Episode 180: Augustine of Hippo: Saint of the Exoteric
We discuss Augustine the anti-esotericist, who denies that Christianity has any esoteric dimensions. He employs the esoteric to do so. Can you trust a guy who does that?
Episode 179: The Manichæan Catholic: Augustine of Hippo
We turn to one of the most difficult, fascinating, and ultimately consequential thinkers of late antiquity, Augustine of Hippo. In this episode we discuss his relationship with Manichæism and Platonist philosophy, and a few of his important philosophical conclusions.
Members only: Stephen Cooper on Marius Victorinus, Philosophy, Panpsychism, and a Modern Religious Platonism
We keep the tape running and continue our discussion with Prof Cooper, asking him how Victorinus' thought might provide useful tools for thinking toward a philosophically-satisfying Christianity today. Things get psychedelic, philosophic, and Platonistic.
We discuss Marius Victorinus, a fascinating character from the tumultuous Roman scene in the mid fourth century who converted from Platonism to Platonism-plus-Christianity. His life and thought give us a valuable window onto the cultural scene in fourth-century Rome, as well, as some crucial data for the transmission of Platonist ideas into the Latinate middle ages.
Episode 177: Gretchen Reydams-Schils on Calcidius and the Timæus
We discuss the Latin translation and commentary of Calcidius with Gretchen Reydams-Schils. Who was Calcidius, where did he get his interpretations of what Plato meant, and, best of all, how did his anti-esotericist approach to Plato feed into western Christian esotericisms? We find out.
Episode 176: Plato Latinus
The podcast turns from the eastern Roman empire to its western reaches, now falling into strife and decline as we move into the fifth century. In this episode we look at languages, especially Latin and Greek, and discuss how their intelligibility declined in the respective halves of the now-sundered empire. And we discuss the fate of Plato and Platonism in western Europe as we move into a series of episodes discussing late-antique esotericism in Latin.
Members only: David Hernández de la Fuente on Nonnus of Panopolis
We are delighted to speak with David Hernández de la Fuente on Nonnus of Panopolis, one of the last great epic poets of the Græco-Roman tradition, and a man with a lot to tell us about the interplay between Christianity and ‘paganism’ in late antiquity. Come for the indeterminate religiosity, stay for the esoteric Orphic lore.
Members only: Storytime: Reading Synesius On Dreams
The On Dreams of Synesius of Cyrene is one of the finest pieces of esoteric writing to survive from antiquity. It preserves fragments of the Chaldæan Oracles, conveys fully fleshed-out theories of veridical imagination, dream-divination, and magic based on kosmic correspondence, and gives us other valuable details of antique occult lore. It is also self-consciously an esoteric piece of writing, and seems to be suggesting that it is a polytheist message-in-a-bottle to be read by future generations, once the dark times of Christian persecution have passed. So we read it.
Episode 175: Jay Bregman on Synesius of Cyrene
We dive into the fascinating life and thought of Synesius of Cyrene, Platonist philosopher and student of Hypatia of Alexandria, and Orthodox bishop of Ptolemaïs. Committed Christian or pagan bishop? We'll see ....
Episode 174: Noble Lies and Philosophic Silence: Hypatia, Synesius, and the New Esotericism in the Fourth Century
Fear, loathing, violence, and persecution. How does the philosopher operate under such circumstances? We look at the case-studies of Hypatia of Alexandria and her student Synesius of Cyrene, for some pointers.
In Part I of a two-part-series centred around the great Hypatia of Alexandria, we introduce the life, and the notorious death, of the Late Platonist philosopher Hypatia, one of late antiquity's most evocative enigmas. Plus, a Christian mob didn't destroy the Great Library at Alexandria, but that doesn't mean there weren't some scabrous goings-on.
The sacking of Rome by Alaric and his Visigoths in the year 410 was an ideologically-charged event that left a permanent imprint on the culture of the west. We discuss two contemporary readings of what this event meant – one a polytheist and one a Christian – and, starting from these case-studies, a few of the crucial themes set in motion by the ‘Fall of Rome’ in the history of western esotericism.