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 "Philosophy"
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 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.
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.
Basilides of Alexandria, one of the first Christian philosophers and scriptural exegetes, is known as one of the great Gnostic heresiarchs of the second century. But what did he actually teach? It's mind-blowing and it's esoteric.
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.
With an expert guide, we enter the labyrinth of second-century divinatory dream-interpretation. Artemidorus' Oneirocritica is the west's earliest surviving manual of dream-interpretation, and it's amazing.
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.
Episode 65: Graeme Miles on Apollonius of Tyana
Apollonius of Tyana was a first-century wandering philosopher-sage, famous in later tradition as a great Pythagorean and wonder-working holy man. We look at the man himself and at his powerful myth.
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.
We continue our conversation with Professor Dillon, exploring the contours of the Middle Platonist traditions in more detail, not excluding its esoteric 'underworld'.
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.
We trace the rise of the Hellenistic divinatory art of astrology through the Roman Republic into the first century of the Empire, and investigate how an esoteric science became a matter of highest concern to the Roman state. Expect uprisings, assassinations, and executions. Astrology used to be really exciting.
In the first of a two-episode series exploring the relationship between state power and esoteric ideas in the late Roman Republic and early empire, we look at what it meant to be esoteric at Rome, and investigate some upper-class Roman esotericists.
Episode 57: The Esoteric Philo
In this episode we explore the deeply esoteric thought of Philo of Alexandria. Expect hidden ancient perennial traditions, divine revelation, esoteric philosophic truths hidden in plain sight, arithmological speculations, and much more.
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.
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.