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.
Podcast Episodes Themed "Philosophy"
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!
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.