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 "Theurgy"
We discuss Martianus Capella and his extraordinary and vexing philological ascent-account, the Marriage of Philology and Mercury. Ↄ. Martiana guides us through a geocentric kosmos where liberal arts are planetary spheres, gods are physical elements, the planets are daimones, but absolutely nothing is as it seems.
Episode 174: Noble Lies and Philosophic Silence: Hypatia, Synesius, and the New Esotericism in the Fourth Century
Fear, loathing, violence, and persecution. How does the philosopher operate under such circumstances? We look at the case-studies of Hypatia of Alexandria and her student Synesius of Cyrene, for some pointers.
We explore the tragic dénouement of Julian's reign and the rôle played therein by Maximus of Ephesus. Along the way we see a transfer of power to the Valentinianic dynasty, a ferocious political purge of suspected magicians and diviners, and learn of Maximus' final fate. We also get two descriptions of ancient, private divination-practices in action, but only one of them is something to try at home!
As we near the end of our Julian and his Amazing Friends series, we dive back into the text of Eunapius of Sardis to excavate Maximus of Ephesus, the wonder-worker who became Julian's closest friend and advisor. What happens when the Roman empire is guided by the insights of a theurgist, his gods, and the stars? We find out in this episode.
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.
Episode 169: Strategies of the Esoteric in the Hellenism of the Emperor Julian: Exclusion and Pluralism in a Late-Antique Polytheism
We discuss the dynamics of Julian's esoteric religious/political formulation of Hellenism, and reflect on some of the very strange things that happen when esoteric religions like Iamblichean theurgy (and Christianity) are taken out of the small conclave and projected onto the corridors of power.
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.
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.
Episode 152: Prolegomena to Christian Magic
We set the stage for an examination of early Christian magical traditions, starting from the authoritative writings of the church fathers, who deny that there is such a thing as Christian magic, and insist that polytheist religion is the real sorcery. Then it turns out that there is lots and lots of Christian magic from late antiquity.
In this special episode we continue the conversations we started earlier, digging into the relations between magic, religion, and philosophy in the Græco-Roman world.
Episode 141: Brian Alt on Sacred Materials, Divine Names, and Subtle Physiology in Iamblichean Theurgy
We explore the nitty-gritty of the ritual acts lying behind the theoretical discussions in the De mysteriis. Brian Alt is our guide on a journey through Iamblichean theurgy, its many parallels in Hermetica and ‘magical’ papyri from Egypt, and its echoes in earlier and later Platonism.
We have a few more minutes of conversation with Professor Shaw, starting from the perennial Late Platonist problem of why there isn't only the One (or is there?).
We discuss the practices lying behind the descriptions in the De mysteriis, and the theory behind the practices. Professor John Finamore is our guide through the labyrinth of evidence about theurgy.
Episode 138: The Great Theurgy Debate: Porphyry’s Letter to Anebo, Iamblichus’ Response, and the Question(s) of Ritual
In a digression-filled survey, we attempt to give some idea of Porphyry's Letter to Anebo, of Iamblichus' responses to that Letter, and the general theological/practical approach found in the De mysteriis, antiquity's greatest philosophic manifesto for addressative ritual practice.
We explore the wonderful world of late-antique (theurgic) Platonism through the eyes of Eunapius, second-rate Sophist and first-rate fabulist. Come for the divinations, prophecies, divine interventions, and grand narratives of kosmic decline, stay for the kung-fu.
Episode 137: The Esoteric Iamblichus
We discuss the rich strata of the esoteric in the work of the sage of Chalcis. Starting from the evidence for socially-esoteric teaching within Iamblichus' school, we move on to discuss his constructions of esoteric wisdom lineages – notably the tradition of ‘the theurgists’ – his employment of tropes of hiding and revealing, and the parameters of the Iamblichean ‘ineffable’.
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.
Episode 134: Introducing Iamblichus of Chalcis
We introduce Iamblichus, known to later Platonists as ‘the Divine’, ‘the Great Iamblichus’, Platonist philosopher and wonder-working holy-man. Come for the basic biographical summary and discussion of the Iamblichean corpus of writings, stay for the levitation and miraculous apparitions.
We talk about theurgy: what, where, when, and, indeed, how? It's more complicated than we thought. Come for the Chaldæan Oracles, stay for the Technical Brutal Death Metal.