The Podcast

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 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.

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.

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Plato disembodied head

Episode 33: Nowhere to Go But Up: Philosophic Ascent in Plato

Plato looked up with his intellect; the world of eternal truths he fixed his inner gaze on was located above the earthly realm. In this episode we examine the accounts which he gives us of the journey there.

Episode 32: Maya Alapin on Mathematical Structures in Plato’s Republic

We return to the mathematical structures within the text of Plato’s masterwork, guided by a scholar who has looked deeply into the question. Maya Alapin discusses how harmonic theory, music, ratios and proportions intertwine with textual meaning in the Republic.

Members only: Adam Tetlow on Mathematics Useful for Understanding Plato

In a conversation ranging from neolithic Scotland to avant-garde Europe in the 1920s, with many stops along the way , geometer and philosopher Adam Tetlow discusses some of the crucial, and oft-ignored, arithmetical and geometrical concepts from Plato’s dialogues.

Episode 31: Sun, Line, Cave: Plato’s Inner Republic

In this episode we explore three beautiful, linked passages in Plato’s masterwork, among the most influential Platonic texts for the history of western esotericism, which describe a world of transcendent truth accessed through the human mind.

Episode 30: Introducing Plato’s Republic

Plato’s Republic is widely regarded as his masterwork. It is complex and sly. We introduce the dialogue and try to come to grips with it in a general way, noting the intricate structure of the text itself.

Episode 29: Otherworlds, Inner Worlds, and Utopias

Plato’s Republic is the world’s first utopia. But what is a utopia, exactly, and how does it differ from the other invisible worlds we encounter in western esoteric traditions, the otherworlds and inner worlds? We survey types of esoteric space.

Members only: Further Travels in Atlantis with Christopher Gill

In this extended interview, Professor Gill takes us further into the imagined territory of Plato's Atlantis, noting possible historical influences and discussing attempts down the ages to interpret the strange story.

Episode 28: Christopher Gill on Plato’s Atlantis

Christopher Gill, Emeritus Professor of Ancient Thought at the University of Exeter, takes us deep into the territory of Atlantis, one of Plato’s most puzzling creations.

Episode 27: Plato’s Timæus

In this episode we introduce Plato’s Timæus, the father of western esotericism’s single most influential dialogue. With this work Plato set the scene for pretty much all subsequent esoteric thought. Dig infinity!

Episode 26: The Birth of the Symbol: Peter Struck on Ancient Greek Esoteric Hermeneutics

When looking for esoteric wisdom in a text, you need esoteric hermeneutics to find it. We discuss ancient techniques of esoteric reading with Professor Peter Struck, and along the way we learn some fundamental things about esoteric hermeneutics more generally.

Episode 25: The Esoteric Plato

Plato was long considered an esoteric author who hid his true doctrines within his dialogues. We look at some of the reasons for his reputation as the esoteric author par excellence, and discuss modern academic debates around the ‘esoteric question’.

Episode 24: Introducing the Father of Western Esotericism: Plato

The greatest philosopher of the western world was a trickster. In this episode we introduce Plato, the father of western esotericism, and discuss his importance to the esoteric traditions.

Episode 23: Miguel Herrero de Jauregui on Ancient ‘Orphism’

The elusive 'Orphics' of antiquity continue to present a puzzle to scholars after several centuries of debate and the discovery of amazing new evidence. Dr Miguel Herrero helps us to navigate the fascinating question of ancient 'Orphism'.

Episode 22: Severed Heads and Cosmic Eggs: Orpheus and Esotericism

The greatest musician of antiquity was also the founder of mystery-rites, the author of curious theological poetry, and the most famous man to make the journey to the underworld while still alive. In this episode we examine the myth of Orpheus and the Orphic myths.

Episode 21: Elementary: Empedocles and the Secret History of the Elements

Empedocles: the last great poetic philosopher of antiquity, and a cosmic thinker of mind-blowing ambition. This episode looks at his influential theory of the four elements – earth, air, fire, and water – but magic, reincarnation, exiled gods, and cosmic catastrophe come into the discussion as well.

Episode 20: All for One, and One for All: Parmenides of Elea

Parmenides is the original philosopher of pure Being. And he learned all about Being from a goddess on a trip through the underworld. Philosophy used to be really interesting.

Episode 19: Riddle Me This: Heraclitus of Ephesus

Heraclitus was a combative, obscure, grumpy philosopher who thought everyone was stupid. He was also a pioneer in esoteric modes of discourse, being the earliest philosopher to write in 'riddles', and made several crucial contributions to western esotericism.

Episode 18: Don’t Spill the Beans: Pythagorean Silence

One of the key legacies of ancient Pythagoreanism is its mystique of esoteric silence. We examine the figure of the late-antique 'Pythagorean' philosopher, whose silence is a higher form of speech, and the dynamics of esoteric discourse which cannot, by definition, be revealed.

Episode 17: The Enigma of Pythagoreanism

The historical journey from a holy man specialising in soul-manipulation to a fertile philosophic movement innovating in advanced mathematics, astronomy, and harmonic theory is one of the stranger stories of western intellectual history. In this episode we tell it.

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 examine the ancient mystagogue and psychagogue who may have founded philosophy.