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 OneTwo 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 87: Numerical Mysteries: Nichomachus of Gerasa, Arithmology, and Second-Century Neopythagoreanism

Speculations about the properties of number have been a major constituent of some western esoteric traditions. In this episode we examine the most important source of much of this tradition of arithmological thought, first- and second-century Neopythagoreanism, and the writings of one crucial thinker in particular: Nicomachus of Gerasa.

Episode 86: Matteo Martelli on the Pseudo-Democritus

In the previous episode we surveyed alchemy from its beginnings to the present day; in this episode we go back to the roots. Matteo Martelli has produced the first critical edition of the fragments of the Pseudo-Democritus, our earliest-known work of alchemy. We discuss the secrets found within its pages.

Episode 85: Introducing Alchemy with Lawrence Principe

Here it finally is: Alchemy! This interview is a superb introduction to the Hermetick Art from Lawrence Principe, a man who knows how to ‘read, read, read’, but also how to practice.

Episode 84: Other Gospels and Alien Gods: Marcion of Sinope

We look at Marcion of Sinope, the final arch-heretic in our ‘unholy trinity’. Marcion compiled the first Christian textual canon – he wrote the first Bible – but this was not your grandma's Bible. Demiurgy, transcendence, and some interesting questions of textual hermeneutics abound.

Members only: Geoffrey Smith Valentinicates Further

In a further conversation with Geoffrey Smith we try to imagine what Valentinus' circle at Rome might have looked like, we discuss the esoteric in early Christianity, and we delve into the further horizons of future research on Valentinianism.

Episode 83: Geoffrey Smith on Valentinus and Valentinianism

Under the expert guidance of Geoffrey Smith, we explore the world-view of Valentinus – an elite intellectual Christian thinker of the second century – and his legacy – a reputation for the blackest heresy and a demiurgical Christian movement known nowadays as Valentinianism.

Episode 82: I Got Soul, And I’m Super Bad: Basilides of Alexandria

Basilides of Alexandria, one of the first Christian philosophers and scriptural exegetes, is known as one of the great Gnostic heresiarchs of the second century. But what did he actually teach? It's mind-blowing and it's esoteric.

Episode 81: Warfaring Strangers: Prolegomena to Second-Century Christianity

We take a deep breath before diving into detailed discussions of early esoteric Christianities to consider a few key terms and their historical development. What was orthodoxy? What was heresy? Who were the heresiologists, and what were they doing?

Members only: Michael Williams on Early Christian Heterodoxies

We put a number of impossible-to-answer questions about ancient demiurgic traditions in proto-Christianity to Professor Williams, and receive some fascinating answers.

Episode 80: Michael Williams on the Trouble with ‘Gnosticism’

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’.

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.

Episode 78: Inter philosophos occultorum curiosior: Numenius of Apamea

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!

Episode 77: Korshi Dosoo on the Papyri Græcæ Magicæ and Western Esotericism

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.

Episode 73: Ineffable Initiations and Golden Asses: Apuleius of Madauros and the Metamorphoses

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.

Episode 72: Hypochondria and Epiphany: The Strange Case of Ælius Aristides

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.