We are delighted to speak with David Hernández de la Fuente on Nonnus of Panopolis, one of the last great epic poets of the Græco-Roman tradition, and a man with a lot to tell us about the interplay between Christianity and ‘paganism’ in late antiquity. Come for the indeterminate religiosity, stay for the esoteric Orphic lore.
Podcast Episodes Themed "Mystery-Cult"
The sacking of Rome by Alaric and his Visigoths in the year 410 was an ideologically-charged event that left a permanent imprint on the culture of the west. We discuss two contemporary readings of what this event meant – one a polytheist and one a Christian – and, starting from these case-studies, a few of the crucial themes set in motion by the ‘Fall of Rome’ in the history of western esotericism.
We speak with Nilüfer Akçay, author of the only full-length English monograph on Porphyry's On the Cave of the Nymphs.
We discuss all the amazing astral imagery associated with Mithraic temples, the extraordinary testimonies to ascent of the Mithraic soul given by Celsus and Porphyry, and ask what it all means. Salvation, astral ascent, initiatory mysteries, and weird planetary orderings abound.
We introduce the enigmatic evidence for an innovative initiatory cult of the Roman empire, the mysteries of Mithras. Come for the underground cave-temples, stay for the mysterious ravens and uncomfortably-placed scorpions.
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 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.
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.
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.
We discuss the crucial figure and thought of Paul, Jesus' weirdest apostle. Revelations, visions of cosmic ascent, exorcisms, divine mysteria, and a surprising amount of classically ‘Gnostic’ material abound.
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.