We continue our discussion with Dr Litwa, following a few irresponsible, speculative alleyways, and learning a lot about the incredible reception of Hermetic literature outside of Hermetism in the process.
Podcast Episodes Themed "Middle Platonism"
Episode 103: Corpus Hermeticum I, the Poimandres
We discuss the Poimandres, perhaps the most extraordinary Hermetic document surviving from antiquity. It's an apocalyptic vision granting gnôsis of how the world was created, how humanity came to be the way we are, and what we can do about it. Essential reading.
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 polemics and counter-polemics of Origen's Contra Celsum, with a particular eye toward the use (and abuse) of the esoteric as a strategy of tradition-building, exclusion, and totalising interpretation.
An almost-unknown Middle Platonist philosopher named Celsus wrote the first-known anti-Christian polemical pamphlet some time in the later second century. This is The True Account. It is esoteric.
We explore the difficulties inherent in interpreting apophatic language if we take it really seriously. Expect roughly half an hour of complete silence.
As antiquity progressed, certain esoteric religious thinkers and philosophers came increasingly to doubt whether the nature of the highest reality could be expressed in words. They developed a new form of language to deal with the problem of talking about the ineffable: apophasis. We discuss speaking the silence in late antiquity.
We discuss Clement's endgame, where the Gnostic encounters god face-to-face after a lengthy transformative evolution into higher and higher spiritual forms. Things get seriously esoteric.
Episode 93: Henny Fiskå Hägg on Clement’s Apophatic Writing
We speak with Professor Henny Fiskå Hägg about the apophatic theory and writing-practice of Clement of Alexandria, one of antiquity's finest exponents of the art of writing about that-about-which-nothing-can-be-written.
In the first of a two-part episode, we read through Book V of Clement's Stromateis, which contains, among other things, perhaps the fullest surviving exposition on types of esoteric discourse from antiquity. Come for the ainigmata and symbola, stay for Abraham the astrologer.
We explore the esoteric writing methodologies of Clement's Stromateis – the innovative ‘public secrecy’, the reasons for Clement's esotericism, and the evocation of the mysteries and of the ineffable as aspects of esoteric rhetoric.
We introduce the life and thought of Orthodox Christianity's favourite in-house Gnostic, the great Clement of Alexandria. Come for the philosophical, esoteric Christianity, stay for the progressive postmortem deification.
Episode 87: Numerical Mysteries: Nichomachus of Gerasa, Arithmology, and Second-Century Neopythagoreanism
Speculations about the properties of number have been a major constituent of some western esoteric traditions. In this episode we examine the most important source of much of this tradition of arithmological thought, first- and second-century Neopythagoreanism, and the writings of one crucial thinker in particular: Nicomachus of Gerasa.
Episode 83: Geoffrey Smith on Valentinus and Valentinianism
Under the expert guidance of Geoffrey Smith, we explore the world-view of Valentinus – an elite intellectual Christian thinker of the second century – and his legacy – a reputation for the blackest heresy and a demiurgical Christian movement known nowadays as Valentinianism.
We investigate the esoteric practice of one of Middle Platonism's most enigmatic figures, the great Numenius of Apamea.
In a special interview with Sarah Iles Johnston, expert on ancient Græco-Roman religion, relations between the living and dead, and theurgy, we discuss Hekatē, a fascinating goddess at the centre of the theurgic theory and practice of the Chaldæan Oracles and beyond.
Episode 76: The Chaldæan Oracles and Theurgy
We have looked at what kind of world the Chaldæan Oracles set forth. We turn now to the ways in which the adept navigates that world – through ritual, epiphanic visions, cognitive disciplines, talismans, and by leaving the body through breathing. This is theurgy, and esoteric religion in antiquity would never be the same again.
Episode 75: The Chaldæan Oracles
We introduce one of the most extraordinary and influential texts of antiquity for the history of western esotericism: the Chaldæan Oracles. We discuss questions of authorship (Julian the Theurge, the Gods, or the Soul of Plato?) and the mythic metaphysics found in the text.
Episode 74: I’m Not Sorry: The Apology of Apuleius
In this episode we discuss the defense-speech of Apuleius against charges of having used magic to make a wealthy widow fall in love with him. Roman law, sorcery, and philosophy collide in a rhetorical tour-de-force, and we discuss whether fish are magical or not.
At the heart of Apuleius' occult novel, the Metamorphoses, is one of the most influential esoteric allegories of the western tradition, the Tale of Cupid and Psyche. Join us in the wonderful literary place where fairy-tales meet metaphysical allegory.