We turn to the final flowering of polytheist Platonist philosophy, centred on Athens (and Alexandria). We review some useful historical data, discuss the history of ‘the Academy’ as a notional ‘school’ in antiquity, and introduce Plutarch of Athens and Syrianus, teachers of the great Proclus.
Podcast Episodes Themed "Soul"
Episode 181: Macrobius and the Commentary on Scipio’s Dream
We explore the rich seam of late-antique esoteric lore that is Macrobius' Commentary on the Dream of Scipio. We discuss who Macrobius was, what he wrote, what he wrote about, and introduce who read him later on. He emerges as a crucial transmitter of astrologised, arithmologically-informed Platonism to the Latin west in the middle ages.
Episode 177: Gretchen Reydams-Schils on Calcidius and the Timæus
We discuss the Latin translation and commentary of Calcidius with Gretchen Reydams-Schils. Who was Calcidius, where did he get his interpretations of what Plato meant, and, best of all, how did his anti-esotericist approach to Plato feed into western Christian esotericisms? We find out.
Episode 167: Jeremy Swist on the Emperor Julian, Part I: the Political Background and Political Project of the Emperor
Jeremy Swist, specialist on Late Platonism, late antiquity, and the great Julian the Faithful, lays out the political background and political project of The Emperor. Part I of a two-part discussion of late antiquity's greatest statesman. No bias here.
We enter into the kosmic reaches of Iamblichus' universe, populated by a host of fascinating fauna, including archangels, angels, daimones, heroes, archontes, and even – weirdest of all – human beings.
A paper on the late-antique Platonist pneumatic soul-vehicle, delivered to an academic workshop on medieval Islamicate medicine. A typical Monday, in other words.
We discuss other subtle-body theories in antique esoteric literature from the Hermetica, the Platonists, Basilides, Origen, and other esoteric Christians, looking at theories of astral accretions, counterfeit spirits, resurrection-bodies, and more.
Episode 130: Methodologies for Studying the Subtle Body
We formally introduce the ‘subtle body’, the mysterious tertium quid which, alongside the soul and the physical body, occupies a central place in the anthropologies of many esoteric traditions. Featuring the triumphant return of Doctor Strange to the podcast.
We speak with Nilüfer Akçay, author of the only full-length English monograph on Porphyry's On the Cave of the Nymphs.
A leading scholar of the interconnections between Plotinus' thought and the thought of the Gnostics whom he disliked so much, Jean-Marc Narbonne discusses some of the Plotinian texts and ideas which make more sense if we see them in dialogue with the Gnostics.
We further explore matters astrological, Plotinian, Platonist, scientific, divinatory, symbolic, and more, and address the problem of astrologers getting it right when that shouldn't really be possible.
Episode 116: Plotinus on Astrology with Marilynn Lawrence
We speak with Marilynn Lawrence, authority on Platonism, Hellenistic astrology, and the intersection of the two, about Plotinus' theoretical writings on the science of the stars.
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.
We discuss Plotinus' controversial doctrine that some aspect of the human being never descends into the materialised kosmos, but remains eternally in the noetic. More importantly, we discuss Plotinus' descriptions of what it is like to be that higher aspect of the human being. Dig eternity!
We continue reading, with C.H. VI-X posing all manner of baffling interpretive questions, as well as some of the most inspiring and gorgeous religious ideas from antiquity. Come for god as the hyperessential good, stay for the noetic garments of fire.
In this special episode we delve into the Corpus Hermeticum, seeking commonalities, differences, and the elusive threads which might help us figure out what is special about the theoretical Hermetic tradition in antiquity.
Episode 105: Other Hermetic Worlds: The Asclepius and Korê Kosmou
We discuss two world-building Hermetic texts from antiquity, the Latin Asclepius and the Korê Kosmou. We have seen Hermes as visionary pupil of the divine consciousness; now we see him as ancient esoteric sage, prophet of doom, and cosmic planetary deity.
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.
It may be that it is possible to have too much serious metaphysics, highbrow esoteric science, and all that sort of thing. Before entering late antiquity in full earnest, listeners may wish to pause for a moment with Lucian, antiquity's great debunker. We are guided by Professor Karen ní Mheallaigh, a great lover of the great lover of lies.
We discuss Clement's endgame, where the Gnostic encounters god face-to-face after a lengthy transformative evolution into higher and higher spiritual forms. Things get seriously esoteric.