We explore the difficulties inherent in interpreting apophatic language if we take it really seriously. Expect roughly half an hour of complete silence.
Podcast Episodes Themed "Middle Platonism"
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.
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.
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.
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.
Episode 69: Plutarch’s Myths of Cosmic Ascent
In this episode we look at three different homemade myths found in Plutarch's writings. All of them deal with the fate of the soul after death, all of them put the land of the dead in the sky, and all of them are exceedingly difficult to interpret. We have seen Plutarch interpret a myth esoterically; now we see him making his own esoteric myths.
Episode 68: Plutarch’s On Isis and Osiris
We look at Plutarch's tour de force of esoteric hermeneutics, the On Isis and Osiris. Egyptian myth meets Greek esoteric Platonism, and something new is born.
We introduce Plutarch of Chæronea: first-century man-of-letters, pioneering biographer, and transmitter of ancient esoteric Platonism to the western tradition.
We look at the fascinating figure of Thrasyllus: astrologer, power-player in the imperial Roman court of Tiberius, philosopher … and editor of the works of Plato.
Episode 63: Dylan Burns on the ‘Underworld of Platonism’
Building on our previous episode, where we introduced 'Middle Platonism', in this interview we investigate the middle Platonist 'Underworld', religio-philosophical texts of antiquity which became mainstays of later western esoteric traditions: the Chaldæan Oracles, the Hermetica, and the Gnostic tractates.