We turn to the final flowering of polytheist Platonist philosophy, centred on Athens (and Alexandria). We review some useful historical data, discuss the history of ‘the Academy’ as a notional ‘school’ in antiquity, and introduce Plutarch of Athens and Syrianus, teachers of the great Proclus.
Podcast Episodes Themed "Iamblichus"
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.
Episode 174: Noble Lies and Philosophic Silence: Hypatia, Synesius, and the New Esotericism in the Fourth Century
Fear, loathing, violence, and persecution. How does the philosopher operate under such circumstances? We look at the case-studies of Hypatia of Alexandria and her student Synesius of Cyrene, for some pointers.
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.
We discuss Sosipatra of Pergamum, an otherwise-unknown late polytheist holy woman and philosopher, depicted by her biographer Eunapius as a living goddess as well as a philosophic teacher in the lineage of Iamblichus. Come for the Late Platonist resistance to Christianity in the fourth century, stay for the mysterious Chaldæan strangers.
We are delighted to speak with Frederico Fidler about Sallustius' On the Gods and the World, a short manual of a popular nature outlining how Platonist metaphysics work, how traditional Hellenistic religion is thought to mirror those metaphysical realities, and how esoteric hermeneutics are the key to unlocking the truth in the vast tradition of myth, ritual, and philosophy claimed by Julian, Sallustius, and other late-antique Hellenes. Come for the esoteric myths, stay for the kosmos as esoteric myth.
Episode 169: Strategies of the Esoteric in the Hellenism of the Emperor Julian: Exclusion and Pluralism in a Late-Antique Polytheism
We discuss the dynamics of Julian's esoteric religious/political formulation of Hellenism, and reflect on some of the very strange things that happen when esoteric religions like Iamblichean theurgy (and Christianity) are taken out of the small conclave and projected onto the corridors of power.
Our discussion with Jeremy Swist on The Emperor turns metaphysical, theurgic, and religious, as we discuss Julian's incredible synthesis of Iamblichean theology and metaphysics, traditional religions, and politics. Come for the pagan counter-church, stay for the transcendent solar metaphysics.
Episode 167: Jeremy Swist on the Emperor Julian, Part I: the Political Background and Political Project of the Emperor
Jeremy Swist, specialist on Late Platonism, late antiquity, and the great Julian the Faithful, lays out the political background and political project of The Emperor. Part I of a two-part discussion of late antiquity's greatest statesman. No bias here.
Having introduced the Cappadocians, we must of course explore the thought of the Divine Gregory of Nyssa. Michæl Motia is our expert guide through the territories both of late-antique religious politics and the illuminated darkness of divine unknowing at the heart of Christian mysticism.
In this special episode we continue the conversations we started earlier, digging into the relations between magic, religion, and philosophy in the Græco-Roman world.
Episode 142: Run the Numbers: The Theology of Arithmetic
We explore the Theolegoumena arithmeticæ, the ‘Theology of Arithmetic’, our most complete extant arithmological treatise from antiquity. It tells us a lot about Neopythagorean theory of number in the Greek ‘alphanumeric age’, it may be by Iamblichus, and it informs us that the Dyad is ‘Daring’.
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.
In a very special episode, we dive into the parameters of Weird Platonism with Danielle Layne. Come for the Iamblichean divine signatures, stay for the erotology of the Indefinite Dyad.
We have a few more minutes of conversation with Professor Shaw, starting from the perennial Late Platonist problem of why there isn't only the One (or is there?).
We discuss the phenomenology and meaning of theurgy with Professor Gregory Shaw, whose many publications on the Sage of Chalcis have helped to free his religious ideas from the opprobrium of a century of scholarship and reposition them where they belong: as spiritual practices of late-antique philosophy.
In a further discussion with Professor Finamore, we explore Iamblichean geocentrism and mathematical (meta)physics, the experiential dimension of the noetic reality, and the phenomenology of calling gods and daimones to visible appearance through ritual.
We discuss the practices lying behind the descriptions in the De mysteriis, and the theory behind the practices. Professor John Finamore is our guide through the labyrinth of evidence about theurgy.
Episode 138: The Great Theurgy Debate: Porphyry’s Letter to Anebo, Iamblichus’ Response, and the Question(s) of Ritual
In a digression-filled survey, we attempt to give some idea of Porphyry's Letter to Anebo, of Iamblichus' responses to that Letter, and the general theological/practical approach found in the De mysteriis, antiquity's greatest philosophic manifesto for addressative ritual practice.