In this episode, I talk with Dr. Justin Sledge, a professor of philosophy focusing on the intersection of philosophy and esotericism. He studied at the University of Amsterdam’s Center for the Study of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents and on top of that, he has a Ph.D. in philosophy. Our discussion focuses on the Zohar and how to study it. The Zohar is a massive text – the Pritzker edition is twelve volumes – and it is a complicated and difficult thing to study.
Dr. Sledge takes us on a journey through the history of Kabbalah and the Zohar’s place in it. Our conversation includes discussion of Abraham Abulafia, Sabbatai Zevi, the Mandaeans, Moses Cordovero, Daniel Matt, and even some John Dee and Johannes Trithemius. It’s a long episode and it is full of stuff!
Thaumaturgy and theurgy are old concepts in the Western mystery tradition, and they find new relevance and importance for today’s magicians, occultists, and practitioners. Though they are sometimes treated as competing ideas or even opposites, their definitions aren’t as cut-and-dried as you might hope. In this article, we will briefly explore these two concepts, where they came from, and how they are treated by today’s practitioners. (more…)
This particular meeting of minds has been a really long time in coming. Greg Stewart joins me for a discussion about postmodernism, Freemasonry, Hermeticism, and the role of sacredness in everyday life. Greg and I have both been Freemasons for a really long time, and we’ve both been active on the Internet talking about Freemasonry, esotericism, and the Western mystery tradition for ages. Amazingly, though our paths may have come close to intersecting, somehow we have never talked before. In this episode, we change that.
Our conversation explores the early connection between Renaissance Hermeticism, Rosicrucianism, and the roots of modern Freemasonry. We discuss religious threads in Freemasonry and how the Masonic approach can help us be accepting of other faiths, beliefs, and approaches to life. We follow every tangent we can get our hands on, too. Expect a wide array of related topics in this lively conversation!
I’m on the Alexxcast again! Alexx and I talk about productivity, emergency champagne, staying creative during the pandemic, and then we listen to some surprising voicemail. Here’s his description of the episode:
> Welcome friends to episode 338. Tonight Erik Arneson (@arnemancy) rejoins the show to listen to voicemails, answer questions, and finally unravel the mystery of breakfast cereal.
Back in the good old days of My Alchemical Bromance, we had our good friend Aaron Epperson on for a reverse interview. It was a delightful experience pretty early in my days as a podcaster. Now that I am a seasoned, salty veteran of the podcasting world, Aaron has returned to lift our spirits with another extra special appearance. Please join me, Reverend Erik, as I give Aaron his first ever Tarot reading, live on this episode!
For this reading, I used the Miniature Rider-Waite Tarot Deck from U.S. Games. I linked to the exact deck I use – it looks like there are some low-quality knock-offs of the miniature deck available, but mine is pretty nice. Since I had all of my podcasting equipment on the table, I had to use the tiny cards or there wouldn’t have been any room!
Please excuse the color correction on this photo. The Hermit was in a shadow and being the masterful photo toucher-upper that I am, I did what I could to make that card more visible.
Ted Hand is public school teacher and independent scholar of Renaissance Magic. In this episode, he discusses the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and Atalanta Fugiens as influential Renaissance texts and the culture of images. Ted discusses in particular the concept of using these image-heavy texts as vehicles for esoteric or mystical play. He discusses in particular the Atalanta Fugiens as a multimedia text and the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili as almost an architectural handbook.
This conversation ends up being a deep exploration of the historical culture of the imagination. We discuss alchemy, the Rosicrucians, early Freemasonry, Robert Fludd, Giulio Camillo, image magic, forbidden knowledge, the Art of Memory, and building a relationship with meaningful texts.
One key bit in this episode is Ted’s explanation of why well-known Renaissance man and architect Leon Battisti Aberti was considered as a potential author of the Hypnerotomachia before scholars seemed to settle on Francisco Colonna.
Along the way, Ted and I discuss different definitions and approaches to meditation in the history of Western esotericism, and we talk about the role of imagination and visions in meditative practice. This in particular might be one of the greatest lesson
This episode is the second in a series on the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and serves to help introduce the audience to the thinking, culture, and scholarship around this remarkable book and its lasting effect on our culture. Check below for show notes and for Ted’s recommended reading list.
Szonyi, György E. “Architectural Symbolism and Fantasy Landscapes in Alchemical and Occult Discourse: Revelatory Images”, in Emblems & Alchemy, Alison Adams, and Stanton J. Linden, (eds.), (Glasgow Emblem Studies, 1998).
Bolzoni, Lina. “The Memory Theatre of Giulio Camillo: Alchemy, Rhetoric, and Deification in the Renaissance”, in Lux in Tenebris: The Visual and the Symbolic in Western Esotericism, (Brill, Aries Book Series, Volume: 23, 2018).
The work of a magician is imaginal, taking place in a realm of phantasy and imagination. The Astral Temple is one of the core works of the magician. It is akin to a spiritual home base, a palace of memory, and an ever-present ritual space enabling the practitioner to perform ritual without physical tools and implements. The method of constructing and building an Astral Temple is powerful and something that every magician should begin developing early in their practice. This is a space created entirely in the imagination. From a magical perspective, it can be seen as existing in the realm of Yetzirah, the Kabbalistic world of formation. (more…)
Magician, fortune teller, and notorious swamp wizard Allen Drake joins me in this episode. We open with a discussion of various forms of divination and fortune telling, focusing primarily on Tarot and astrology. It doesn’t take long for us to dive into the Hellenistic astrology of Dorotheus of Sidon. Allen takes us on a wild exploration of really early approaches to astrological symbols, images, and meanings before we dive into the meanings of fate and fortune and why those words scare the heck out of people.
Dorotheus of Sidon was a 1st century CE astrologer, who probably lived in Alexandria and may have been from what is today Lebanon. His works are our oldest, best source for Hellenistic astrology and provide a fascinating window into the ancient practices that evolved into today’s astrology. By exploring the works of Dorotheus, Allen has developed a rich and rewarding approach to the stars that I think you will find fascinating and enlightening.
A note on audio quality: The COVID-19 shelter-in-place situation has forced me to make a lot of changes in how I record lately, so Allen’s conversation happened over the phone. I’m working hard to make sure audio quality is better in future episodes.
This is a solo episode about the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, the most beautiful book in Venice. This mysterious volume was printed in Venice in 1499 by Aldus Manutius, with a typeface created by master punchcutter Francesco Griffo. Illustrated with 172 amazing woodcuts, it was written in a strange combination of Latin, Greek, and Italian. The illustrations also contain Hebrew, Arabic, and invented hieroglyphs. Nobody knows who the illustrator was, nor who wrote the book, but most scholars agree that it was Venetian Franciscian monk and priest Francesco Colonna.
In this episode, I discuss the history of events leading up to the book, the nature of the book itself, and also possible influences the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili may have had on later European art, literature, and occult currents. Some of the topics I touch on are the 17th century Rosicrucian movement, the Renaissance Art of Memory, and 18th century Freemasonry.
My research in this episode relies heavily on the previous work of two people. First, Joscelyn Godwin, musicologist, author, historian, and translator. He translated the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili into English for the first time in 1999, and was the translator and commentator of The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, which I reference in the show. Second is Efthymia Priki, Ph.D. in Byzantine Studies from University of Cyprus, who did extensive work researching the influences of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili on works that came after it.
In this episode, we’re joined by The Word Witch, Claire Burgess! Claire (pronouns they/them) is a queer and non-binary Tarot reader, teacher, writer, and illustrator. They’re the host of The Word Witch podcast and the creator of the Fifth Spirit Tarot deck, both of which explore and re-imagine Tarot through a queer and intersectional lens. They teach Tarot at Portland Community College and, soon, online!
We discuss how gender works in Tarot and how modern Tarot creators are working to introduce non-binary ideas into new decks and artwork. We also have a great conversation about Claire’s creative process with the Fifth Spirit Tarot. This is a great deep dive into deck creation and we can all learn a lot from their experience and learning process!
The Fifth Spirit Tarot is being featured in the online course, Tarot for the Wild Soul. Make sure to check it out and use Claire’s affiliate code FIFTHSPIRIT in the “Add Coupon” spot at checkout to get a complimentary Fifth Spirit Tarot deck/altar cloth!