We explore the fascinating world of early Christian asceticism in the Syriac-speaking world of late antiquity. Paul Pasquesi is our guide to everything from the basic historical context to the extreme forms of practice engaged in by these eastern Christians in search of divine revelations.
Podcast Episodes Themed "Late Antiquity"
Episode 153: Korshi Dosoo on Early Christian Magic
With papyrologist Korshi Dosoo as our guide, we explore the world of first-millennium Christian magic as it is found in the papyrus-records, both published and unpublished. Along the way we learn more about Christianity than we expected.
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.
Episode 148: Curses! Sarah Veale on Roman ‘Curse-Tablets’
We turn from the far-eastern, Jewish magic of the incantation-bowls to the far-western, polytheist magic of the Roman ‘curse-tablets’. Expect intriguing similarities across cultural divides, along with important differences. Featuring the Great Mother goddess, Isis, and a number of supporting players.
We explore a few minority cases among the incantation bowls: the aggressive use of a bowl to curse an enemy, and the iconography (mostly demonic) which we find in some bowls. Come for the demons, stay for the demonic chickens.
Episode 147: Daniel James Waller on the Jewish Incantation-Bowls
We dive more deeply into the enigmatic corpus of late-antique Jewish ‘incantation bowls’ from Mesopotamia with the help of researcher Daniel Waller. We discuss the bowls as material objects, functional technology, and their place in late-antique Jewish culture.
Episode 146: Gideon Bohak on Late-Antique Jewish Magic
Gideon Bohak provides us with a superb introduction to the evidence for late-antique Jewish magic and to what that evidence tells us. Introducing the essential book of Jewish magic, the Sefer ha-Razim.
Episode 143: Politics and Religion in Late Antiquity, Part I: Geopolitics, Empire, and Rabbinic Judaism
At the end of the the third century, the podcast dives back into the realm where politics meets religion. In Part I, we discuss the geopolitical balance of the Roman and Sassanian states, the position of the Jews in late antiquity, and the basics of the future of Jewry, a new form of Jewish life and religion known as Rabbinic Judaism.
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’.
Episode 134: Introducing Iamblichus of Chalcis
We introduce Iamblichus, known to later Platonists as ‘the Divine’, ‘the Great Iamblichus’, Platonist philosopher and wonder-working holy-man. Come for the basic biographical summary and discussion of the Iamblichean corpus of writings, stay for the levitation and miraculous apparitions.
We ask Jason BeDuhn some responsible and irresponsible questions about Mani and Manichæism, in which it emerges that the Religion of Light was a much more positive, even world-affirming faith than is commonly thought.
A leading scholar of the interconnections between Plotinus' thought and the thought of the Gnostics whom he disliked so much, Jean-Marc Narbonne discusses some of the Plotinian texts and ideas which make more sense if we see them in dialogue with the Gnostics.
We talk about how Plotinus defined himself and his lineage, versus how modern scholars tend to define these things. We discuss Plotinus' unusual esoteric perennialism, his allegiance to the Ancients, and why, though he may have been a Platonist, he didn't think so.
Episode 111: ‘The Philosopher of our Time’: Introducing Plotinus
Plotinus was the greatest philosopher of late antiquity, and one of the most crucial thinkers for the long story of western esotericism. We introduce his amazing philosophy and the basics of his biography.
Episode 110: Matthew Neujahr on the Sibylline Oracles
We discuss the Sibylline Oracles, a strange, sprawling, extremely complex collection of oracular hexameters from antiquity. Matthew Neujahr is our guide through a textual and prophetic labyrinth of ancient woman sages, Hellenic, Jewish, and Christian prophetic concerns, and the high uncanny.
Episode 107: M. David Litwa on Deification in the Hermetica
We discuss the important Hermetic idea (or should that be ‘practice’?) of becoming divine with Dr M. David Litwa, who has devoted considerable thought to the matter of deification. A fascinating conversation emerges, and Litwa blows our mind.
We discuss the (poor) state of the texts collected in the Corpus Hermeticum with Professor Christian Wildberg, a man who proposes to do something about it.
Episode 100: Thrice-Greatest Hermes
We introduce the sage of sages, the barbarian philosopher of philosophers, the one and only (unless there were more of him) Thrice-Greatest Hermes. We also introduce his copious literary output, the Hermetica, and discuss these writings in an introductory way.
We explore the difficulties inherent in interpreting apophatic language if we take it really seriously. Expect roughly half an hour of complete silence.
Episode 95: The Third Century and (the Long) Late Antiquity
As the podcast enters the third century, we discuss the parameters of ‘late antiquity’, and what makes something ‘late-antique’. Special bonus material: the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire!