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.
Podcast Episodes Themed "Mystery-Cult"
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 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 investigate the esoteric practice of one of Middle Platonism's most enigmatic figures, the great Numenius of Apamea.
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 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.
The first true western esotericist: Philo of Alexandria. In this episode we come to grips with what makes him so western, what makes him so esoteric, and introduce his fascinating life and work.
Episode 35: Mystery and Immortality: Plato’s Phædo
The Phædo depicts Socrates' final hours, spent in philosophical discussion with his circle of friends. Socrates argues that the soul is immortal, and that the philosopher should rejoice to die. But his reasons for believing this are ... mysterious.
Episode 34: Mystery and Initiation in Plato
The idea of initiation is central to western esotericism, but its origins lie in the mystery-cults of the Græco-Roman world. How do we get from ancient ritual practices to a special kind of transcendent knowledge or wisdom? Via Plato, of course.
The greatest philosopher of the western world was a trickster. In this episode we introduce Plato, the father of western esotericism, and discuss his importance to the esoteric traditions.
Episode 16: The Enigma of Pythagoras
Pythagoras of Samos is revered in the western esoteric traditions as the founder of mathematical mysteries, the discoverer of musical harmony, and the esoteric philosopher par excellence. We survey the earliest evidence and examine the ancient mystagogue and psychagogue who may have founded philosophy.
Episode 13: From Mystery to ‘Mysticism’
What is the relationship between the ancient initiatory rituals known as mystery-cults and the modern concept of 'mysticism'? In this episode we survey the strange story of the conceptual development of the terms ‘mystic’, ‘mystical’, and ‘mystery’ down the ages.
Episode 12: Richard Seaford on the Mysteries
With the inimitable Prof. Seaford as our mystagogue, we explore the world of the ancient Greek mystery-cults, the crucial source for western esoteric tropes of secrecy, silence, initiation, and much more.