The On Dreams of Synesius of Cyrene is one of the finest pieces of esoteric writing to survive from antiquity. It preserves fragments of the Chaldæan Oracles, conveys fully fleshed-out theories of veridical imagination, dream-divination, and magic based on kosmic correspondence, and gives us other valuable details of antique occult lore. It is also self-consciously an esoteric piece of writing, and seems to be suggesting that it is a polytheist message-in-a-bottle to be read by future generations, once the dark times of Christian persecution have passed. So we read it.
Podcast Episodes Themed "Dreams"
Episode 175: Jay Bregman on Synesius of Cyrene
We dive into the fascinating life and thought of Synesius of Cyrene, Platonist philosopher and student of Hypatia of Alexandria, and Orthodox bishop of Ptolemaïs. Committed Christian or pagan bishop? We'll see ....
In this episode we look at the collection of short texts often called ‘The Visions of Zosimus’, hallucinatory dream-narratives which Zosimus relates and then interprets for us. This is the earliest extant visionary alchemical allegory, and it's serious stuff.
We continue our discussion of the great Zosimus, with anecdotes from the laboratory, discussion of the rhetorics of secrecy and the esoteric in Zosimus' works, and of Zosimus' Nachleben as one of the great alchemical authorities down the ages.
Episode 157: Matteo Martelli Introduces Zosimus of Panopolis
We discuss the life, work, and thought of Zosimus of Panopolis, greatest alchemist of late antiquity, with Professor Matteo Martelli. All is One!
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.
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.
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.
Frances Flannery explores the problems of interpreting ancient accounts of visionary dreams. A wide-ranging interview featuring the first Book of Enoch, imaginal trees, and the platypus.
Episode 54: Frances Flannery on Jewish Dreams in Antiquity
In an interview bringing together both the visionary narratives of apocalyptic and the practical side of the Hekhalot traditions, Professor Frances Flannery leads us through the corridors of dreaming and the esoteric in antique Judaism.
Dreams are perhaps the most important point of access to the otherworlds, and everyone has them. But they are especially important for the history of western esotericism. In this episode we talk about dreams, their relation to myths, and ancient theories about dreaming.