Podcast episode

Episode 140: Gregory Shaw on the Phenomenology of Iamblichean Theurgy

In a very interesting and wide-ranging interview with Professor Gregory Shaw, we explore Iamblichean theurgy from a number of angles. What emerges is a programme for spiritual practice aimed at the salvation of the soul in the embodied life here on earth.

Topics discussed include:

  • How Gregory Shaw got interested in Iamblichus and theurgy in the first place,
  • The fundamental importance of a phenomenological reading of thinkers like Plotinus and Iamblichus,
  • The status of the Eros and Anteros miracle produced by Iamblichus at the hot-springs at Gadara,
  • Discussion of the question of dualism and monism in Plotinus and Iamblichus,
  • The limits imposed by language when we attempt to talk about non-duality,
  • The ways in which the impassible, changeless soul in Iamblichus in fact undergoes change, and we realise our immortality through our mortality,
  • Iamblichus’ project as a synthesis of phenomenology, traditional religious/magical ritual practices, and Pythagoreanising Platonist theory,
  • The similarities between Iamblichus’ approach in this regard and early Christian intellectual accounts of the eucharist, and
  • Some final thoughts on what Iamblichus is doing, in theory and practice, with his theurgy.

Interview Bio:

Gregory Shaw is Professor of Religious Studies at Stonehill College, where he lectures on ancient religions, dreams, the phenomenology of transcendence, and other interesting subjects. He has published widely on Iamblichus, with special reference to theurgy.

Works Cited in this Episode:

  • Polymnia Athanassiadi. Dreams, Theurgy, and Freelance Divination: The Testimony of Iamblichus. The Journal of Roman Studies, 83:155–30, 1993.
  • E. R. Dodds. The Greeks and the Irrational. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 1968.
  • Gregory Shaw 1995 (see below).
  • Carlos Steel 1978 (see below).

Recommended Reading:

  • G. Shaw. Theurgy: Rituals of Unification in the Neoplatonism of Iamblichus. Traditio, 41:1–28, 1985.
  • Idem. Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus. Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, PA, 1995.
  • Idem. Eros and Arithmos: Pythagorean Theurgy in Iamblichus and Plotinus. Ancient Philosophy, 19:121–143, 1999a.
  • Idem. Neoplatonic Theurgy and Dionysius the Areopagite. Journal of Early Christian Studies, 7:573–599, 1999b.
  • Carlos G. Steel. The Changing Self. A Study of the Soul in Later Neoplatonism: Iamblichus, Damascius and Priscianus. Koninklijke Academie voor Wetenschappen, Letteren en Schone Kunsten van België, Brussel, 1978.
  • J. Trouillard. La mediation du verbe selon Plotin. Revue Philosophique de la France et de l’Étranger, pages 65–73, 1956.



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