Podcast Episodes Themed "Middle Platonism"

Litwa Expands on the Hermetic Reception

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.

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.

Episode 99: Total War: Polemical Esotericism in the Contra Celsum.

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.

Episode 98: The True Account: Celsus, Origen, and Ideological Esotericism in Late Antiquity

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.

The Darkness of God before the creation (detail, Fludd, Utriusque cosmi historia ... 1617-21). A picture's worth a thousand words? Or maybe a picture demands we keep silent in the face of the nothingness of the divine reality ....

Speaking the Silence: On Reading Apophatic Language

We explore the difficulties inherent in interpreting apophatic language if we take it really seriously. Expect roughly half an hour of complete silence.

Episode 96: From Word to Silence: The Rise of the Apophatic in Late Antiquity

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.

Episode 94: Becoming Gods: Divinisation and Angelomorphic Transformation in Clement

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.

Storytime: Exploring Book V of the Stromateis, Part I

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.

Episode 91: Mystagogic Patchwork: Esoteric Writing in Clement’s Stromateis

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.

Episode 90: The Orthodox Gnostic: Introducing Clement of Alexandria

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.

Episode 78: Inter philosophos occultorum curiosior: Numenius of Apamea

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.

Storytime: The Tale of Cupid and Psyche

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.

Episode 73: Ineffable Initiations and Golden Asses: Apuleius of Madauros and the Metamorphoses

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.