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.
Podcast Episodes Themed "Astrology"
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.
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.
We explore the tragic dénouement of Julian's reign and the rôle played therein by Maximus of Ephesus. Along the way we see a transfer of power to the Valentinianic dynasty, a ferocious political purge of suspected magicians and diviners, and learn of Maximus' final fate. We also get two descriptions of ancient, private divination-practices in action, but only one of them is something to try at home!
As we near the end of our Julian and his Amazing Friends series, we dive back into the text of Eunapius of Sardis to excavate Maximus of Ephesus, the wonder-worker who became Julian's closest friend and advisor. What happens when the Roman empire is guided by the insights of a theurgist, his gods, and the stars? We find out in this episode.
Episode 161: Claire Hall on Firmicus Maternus
Firmicus Maternus, a fairly prominent fourth-century intellectual from Sicily, wrote two works which survive: one is our earliest-surviving manual of astrological practice in Latin, and it shows a full-blooded belief in astral determinism, and the second is a rabid Christian polemic against traditional religious practices. Discuss.
‘With the rise of monotheism in the late Roman world, astrology became a forbidden science and began its long decline.’ Starting from this widespread, and completely false historical myth, we discuss the realities of monotheist astrologies across antiquity and beyond with Professor Kocku von Stuckrad.
In this, our last Zosimus Storytime episode, we discuss the ‘Final Accounting’ or ‘Final Quittance’, a work in which Zosimus lays out for Theosebia the most recondite and hardcore spiritual practice to be found in his oeuvre. Part Hermetic, part demonic, all alchemical.
We delve into On the Letter Omega, one of Zosimus of Panopolis' most cryptic and extraordinary texts (which is saying something). It turns out that to understand the technical implements of alchemy you need to understand the fall of the primordial human being into the materialised Thoth-Adam.
We explore the astral-demonic lore, the angelic medicine, and the many legendary stories recorded in the Testament of Solomon, and some of the manifold traditions which flow out from this legendary corpus. Come for the Testament, stay for the Pentagram!
Episode 149: Exploring the Sefer ha-Razim
We explore the earliest-known Jewish ‘magic book’, the Sefer ha-Razim or Book of Mysteries. Angel-magic meets addressative practices aimed at old friends like Helios and Hermes, while Hellenistic astral cosmology collides with fiery heavenly palace-firmaments of the apocalyptic and Hekhalotic stamp.
We keep the tape rolling and explore the fascinating byways leading off from Iamblichus' engagement with Egyptian culture, finding that the fiction égyptienne is not as fictive as Hellenophile scholarship has led us to believe. Featuring a cameo appearance from Basilides of Alexandria.
Episode 141: Brian Alt on Sacred Materials, Divine Names, and Subtle Physiology in Iamblichean Theurgy
We explore the nitty-gritty of the ritual acts lying behind the theoretical discussions in the De mysteriis. Brian Alt is our guide on a journey through Iamblichean theurgy, its many parallels in Hermetica and ‘magical’ papyri from Egypt, and its echoes in earlier and later Platonism.
We explore the wonderful world of late-antique (theurgic) Platonism through the eyes of Eunapius, second-rate Sophist and first-rate fabulist. Come for the divinations, prophecies, divine interventions, and grand narratives of kosmic decline, stay for the kung-fu.
Episode 137: The Esoteric Iamblichus
We discuss the rich strata of the esoteric in the work of the sage of Chalcis. Starting from the evidence for socially-esoteric teaching within Iamblichus' school, we move on to discuss his constructions of esoteric wisdom lineages – notably the tradition of ‘the theurgists’ – his employment of tropes of hiding and revealing, and the parameters of the Iamblichean ‘ineffable’.
We enter into the kosmic reaches of Iamblichus' universe, populated by a host of fascinating fauna, including archangels, angels, daimones, heroes, archontes, and even – weirdest of all – human beings.
We speak with Nilüfer Akçay, author of the only full-length English monograph on Porphyry's On the Cave of the Nymphs.
Storytime: A cavern pleasant, though involv’d in night. Reading Porphyry’s On the Cave of the Nymphs, Part II
We continue our read-through of Porphyry's masterwork of esoteric interpretation. Things get very astral, and we learn about the double nature of embodied life, the eschatological function of the Milky Way, and how milk and honey might come in handy in summoning up souls.
Storytime: A cavern pleasant, though involv’d in night. Reading Porphyry’s On the Cave of the Nymphs, Part I
We begin a detailed read-through of the greatest work of esoteric reading to survive from antiquity. Come for the depth-allegorical reading of the ancient wisdom, stay for the Mithraic lore, necromancy, and ghosts.
Episode 128: Porphyry and the Barbarians: Ethnicity, Religious Practice, and Esoteric Interpretation
We get into Porphyry's reception of Greek and non-Greek wisdom, and the ways in which esoteric truth is to be found in various cultural locales. We also discuss the one place where it is most definitely not to be found: Christianity.