Professor Michael Williams leads us on a tour of ‘Gnosticism’, both as a term (used and misused by ancient heresiologists, Reformation-era polemicists, modern scholars, and even modern ‘Gnostics’) and as a group of late-ancient religious texts which are very, very interesting, but which should probably not be called ‘Gnostic’.
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.
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Episode 79: Alone with the Alone: Numenius’ Metaphysics
We explore the philosophy of Numenius, in which we see the stirrings of a new type of apophatic discourse of transcendence which will come to be definitive of late antique metaphysics and theology.
We investigate the esoteric practice of one of Middle Platonism's most enigmatic figures, the great Numenius of Apamea.
Members only: Korshi Dosoo Papyrologises Magically
We let the tape roll and get deeper into the world of ancient magic in Egypt. How secret was this stuff? And what really went on when you invoked a god to visible appearance? κρύβε!
We speak with papyrologist Korshi Dosoo about the history, interpretation, and makeup of the body of documents known nowadays as the Greek Magical Papyri. It all starts in ancient Egypt, but it doesn't stop until Aleister Crowley and the Mormons have made an appearance.
Episode 76: The Chaldæan Oracles and Theurgy
We have looked at what kind of world the Chaldæan Oracles set forth. We turn now to the ways in which the adept navigates that world – through ritual, epiphanic visions, cognitive disciplines, talismans, and by leaving the body through breathing. This is theurgy, and esoteric religion in antiquity would never be the same again.
Episode 75: The Chaldæan Oracles
We introduce one of the most extraordinary and influential texts of antiquity for the history of western esotericism: the Chaldæan Oracles. We discuss questions of authorship (Julian the Theurge, the Gods, or the Soul of Plato?) and the mythic metaphysics found in the text.
Episode 74: I’m Not Sorry: The Apology of Apuleius
In this episode we discuss the defense-speech of Apuleius against charges of having used magic to make a wealthy widow fall in love with him. Roman law, sorcery, and philosophy collide in a rhetorical tour-de-force, and we discuss whether fish are magical or not.
Members only: Storytime: The Tale of Cupid and Psyche
At the heart of Apuleius' occult novel, the Metamorphoses, is one of the most influential esoteric allegories of the western tradition, the Tale of Cupid and Psyche. Join us in the wonderful literary place where fairy-tales meet metaphysical allegory.
Apuleius was a great Latin-language Middle Platonist writer, whose works preserve some fascinating esoteric materials which had a major impact on the development of western esotericism in the Latin middle ages and beyond. We introduce the man and his famous occult novel, the Metamorphoses, or Golden Ass.
We examine one of the strangest records of personal religious experience and divine epiphany from antiquity, the Hieroi Logoi of Ælius Aristides. Come for the incubation, dream-initiations, and miraculous powers, stay for the interminable descriptions of dyspepsia.
Members only: Daniel Harris-McCoy Lives the Dream
Further discussion of Artemidorus and his dream-divination in context and in practice. We talk about Artemidorus' relationship to other forms of divination, the political implications of dreams, and much more.
With an expert guide, we enter the labyrinth of second-century divinatory dream-interpretation. Artemidorus' Oneirocritica is the west's earliest surviving manual of dream-interpretation, and it's amazing.
Episode 70: Gil Renberg on Incubation
In antiquity the gods sometimes communicated with mortals through dreams. But sometimes the gods can be fickle; in cases like this, you need to head to the sanctuary and go see the god at home. You need ritualised dreaming, or incubation.
Episode 69: Plutarch’s Myths of Cosmic Ascent
In this episode we look at three different homemade myths found in Plutarch's writings. All of them deal with the fate of the soul after death, all of them put the land of the dead in the sky, and all of them are exceedingly difficult to interpret. We have seen Plutarch interpret a myth esoterically; now we see him making his own esoteric myths.
Episode 68: Plutarch’s On Isis and Osiris
We look at Plutarch's tour de force of esoteric hermeneutics, the On Isis and Osiris. Egyptian myth meets Greek esoteric Platonism, and something new is born.
We introduce Plutarch of Chæronea: first-century man-of-letters, pioneering biographer, and transmitter of ancient esoteric Platonism to the western tradition.
We look at the fascinating figure of Thrasyllus: astrologer, power-player in the imperial Roman court of Tiberius, philosopher … and editor of the works of Plato.
Members only: Græme Miles Apollonicates Further
Apollonius of Tyana and his biographer raise fascinating questions of interpretation, both historical and esoteric. In this extended interview we explore the layered byways of interpreting the Sage of Tyana and of interpretation in Philostratus.
Episode 65: Graeme Miles on Apollonius of Tyana
Apollonius of Tyana was a first-century wandering philosopher-sage, famous in later tradition as a great Pythagorean and wonder-working holy man. We look at the man himself and at his powerful myth.