We discuss Sosipatra of Pergamum, an otherwise-unknown late polytheist holy woman and philosopher, depicted by her biographer Eunapius as a living goddess as well as a philosophic teacher in the lineage of Iamblichus. Come for the Late Platonist resistance to Christianity in the fourth century, stay for the mysterious Chaldæan strangers.
Podcast Episodes Themed "Philosophy"
Our discussion with Jeremy Swist on The Emperor turns metaphysical, theurgic, and religious, as we discuss Julian's incredible synthesis of Iamblichean theology and metaphysics, traditional religions, and politics. Come for the pagan counter-church, stay for the transcendent solar metaphysics.
We discuss the great theologians, ascetics, and philosophers of fourth-century Christianity, the Cappadocian Fathers with Father Sergey Trostyanskiy. Come for the Philokalia, the collection which smuggles Origenistic and other anathematised ideas into the very bosom of orthodoxy, stay for the presence of divine darkness to the soul.
Episode 142: Run the Numbers: The Theology of Arithmetic
We explore the Theolegoumena arithmeticæ, the ‘Theology of Arithmetic’, our most complete extant arithmological treatise from antiquity. It tells us a lot about Neopythagorean theory of number in the Greek ‘alphanumeric age’, it may be by Iamblichus, and it informs us that the Dyad is ‘Daring’.
Episode 131: Soul-Flight, Noetic Bodies, and Pneumatic Vehicles: Toward a History of the Platonist Subtle Body
We discuss the soul-flight practices found in our testimonies to the ancient Greek iatromanteis, Middle-Platonist and other early testimony to the theory of a soul-vehicle, and the subtle-body theories of Plotinus and Porphyry.
We discuss the universe of Porphyry, which is crawling with gods, powers, and daimones, and some of the ways a human being might expect to navigate such a place. The episode features a long discursus on the theory of metempsychosis and a brief discursus on divine possession.
Episode 117: The Esoteric Plotinus, Part II: Unsaying the Real
We discuss the ineffable in Plotinus: how it is deployed, how it is esoteric, how scholars have tried to deal with it, and how not least among its paradoxical functions is to call us to the highest initiation.
We discuss Plotinian anthropology and spiritual practices with Mateusz Stróżyński. Come for the stripping away of the illusory, bodily self, stay for the luminous, all-encompassing sphere of the higher reality.
Episode 112: We are the One: Plotinus’ Participatory Metaphysics
Plotinus' universe is uniquely full of the human self, which extends all the way from the sucking mud of matter's non-existence to the ultimate profundity of the One's non-existence, and all the existent bits in-between. We discuss some of the ways in which this human metaphysical terrain is explored in the Enneads.
We discuss the unbelievably-baffling evidence concerning the identity of Origen, student of Ammonius, and his relationship with Plotinus. Two Ammoniuses and two Origens? One Ammonius, two Origens? Or one of each, meaning that the famous father of Christian esotericism was in fact the philosophic colleague of the greatest Platonist of antiquity? We try to present the main evidence and let the gentle listener decide (or decide that we can't decide).
We talk about how Plotinus defined himself and his lineage, versus how modern scholars tend to define these things. We discuss Plotinus' unusual esoteric perennialism, his allegiance to the Ancients, and why, though he may have been a Platonist, he didn't think so.
Episode 111: ‘The Philosopher of our Time’: Introducing Plotinus
Plotinus was the greatest philosopher of late antiquity, and one of the most crucial thinkers for the long story of western esotericism. We introduce his amazing philosophy and the basics of his biography.
We ask Anna van den Kerchove some seriously irresponsible questions about ancient Hermetism, the fate of the Hermetica, and the intellectual milieu of late antiquity (and even the second century). She answers with both scholarly care and aplomb.
We speak with Anna van den Kerchove, a leading voice in the scholarly trend ‘reclaiming’ ancient Hermetism from its long sojourn outside the realms of respectability. We discuss Hermetic texts and the kinds of milieux in which they may have circulated in antiquity.
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 101: Brian Copenhaver on the Hermetica
We speak with Brian Copenhaver, translator of the Corpus Hermeticum and general man of parts vis á vis all things hermetic, to get some orientation on the ancient Hermetica and what they are all about.
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.
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.
We continue our reading of Clement's Stromateis, Book V, and continue to have our minds blown. Come for the esoteric reading methodologies, stay for the very first appearance of the actual Greek word esôterikos on the podcast!