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.
Podcast Episodes Themed "Overview"
Episode 95: The Third Century and (the Long) Late Antiquity
As the podcast enters the third century, we discuss the parameters of ‘late antiquity’, and what makes something ‘late-antique’. Special bonus material: the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire!
Episode 85: Introducing Alchemy with Lawrence Principe
Here it finally is: Alchemy! This interview is a superb introduction to the Hermetick Art from Lawrence Principe, a man who knows how to ‘read, read, read’, but also how to practice.
Professor Michael Williams leads us on a tour of ‘Gnosticism’, both as a term (used and misused by ancient heresiologists, Reformation-era polemicists, modern scholars, and even modern ‘Gnostics’) and as a group of late-ancient religious texts which are very, very interesting, but which should probably not be called ‘Gnostic’.
Episode 70: Gil Renberg on Incubation
In antiquity the gods sometimes communicated with mortals through dreams. But sometimes the gods can be fickle; in cases like this, you need to head to the sanctuary and go see the god at home. You need ritualised dreaming, or incubation.
Episode 62: John Dillon on Middle Platonism
Under the expert guidance of Professor John Dillon, we begin our exploration of what may be antiquity’s single most crucial current for the development of western esotericism: Middle Platonism.
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.
We give an overview of the complex and fascinating Hekhalot and Merkavah texts, works not only describing the journey to God’s throne, but giving instructions on how to get there, and not merely enumerating the angelic hierarchies, but giving the tools to summon and command them.
Episode 50: John J. Collins on Apocalyptic
In this episode Professor John J. Collins introduces a fascinating product of Second Temple Judaism, and a fertile vehicle for esoteric speculation beyond the bounds of Jewry – apocalyptic literature. All will be revealed!
Judaism starts to get seriously esoteric in the time known as the Second Temple period. This episode gives some basic historical points of reference for this era of Jewish antiquity, setting the stage for the visionary journeys, apocalyptic revelations, and magic to come.
After the final Pythagorean died, all was quiet. And then, suddenly, people started going around calling themselves Pythagoreans. Growing long beards. Hailing Pythagoras as an ancient magus-sage. Positing a monad as the ultimate source of reality. Welcome to Neopythagoreanism.
Whenever anyone does something other than arithmetic with numbers, the name Pythagoras tends to crop up. Exactly how this strange situation came about is a fascinating story, and Dr Kalvesmaki has done groundbreaking work on the subject. This episode is a superb introduction to the origins of ‘gematria’ and arithmology.
Episode 43: Christopher Gill on Stoicism
Strangely enough, one of the least 'esoteric' schools of antique philosophy, the Stoics, had a profound influence on a number of aspects of western esotericism. In this episode we learn the basics of what they were about from an expert.
Episode 42: Chris Brennan on Hellenistic Astrology
Historical discussions often fail to help us 'get inside' the subject we are looking at. In this episode we talk to Chris Brennan, Hellenistic astrologer and historian, for some theoretical and practical light on the realities of ancient astrology.
We are moving with astral ineluctability toward the birth of true astrology in the Hellenistic period. But first we need to get from Mesopotamian astronomy to the Greek world. This episode bridges the gap between middle-eastern astral science and the Hellenistic flourishing of Greek astronomy.
Episode 27: Plato’s Timæus
In this episode we introduce Plato’s Timæus, the father of western esotericism’s single most influential dialogue. With this work Plato set the scene for pretty much all subsequent esoteric thought. Dig infinity!
Episode 15: For the Love of Wisdom: The Birth of Philosophy
When we look at the origins of Greek philosophy, we rightly emphasise man's desire to understand the world and his place in it. But there was much more to it than that. Western philosophy begins with revelation, myth, and poetry.
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.
The earliest known science of astrology developed in Mesopotamia as one and the same science as the first known astronomy. We chart the earliest known texts and their development.
Kocku von Stuckrad, Professor of Religious Studies at the Universiteit van Groningen, reflects on the methodological issues involved in the study of (what is called) western esotericism, and on the academic field devoted to it in the larger academic context.