I have less time than I used to for pleasure reading.Starhawk’s The Fifth Sacred Thing has been by my bed for months and I’ve barely made a dent. Yet I treated myself to a lie-in this morning reading a book I was super-excited to get my hands on: Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus.
I know. You were hoping for Jackie Collins right? I will be thoroughly ashamed of my nerdiness for one moment in atonement.
I was thrilled to get this book because a few months ago Don Frew brought a fascinating idea to my attention: maybe Wicca is just theurgic NeoPlatonism married to Witchcraft. Well that blew my mind, and right before initiation too!
So I have been pondering this, chewing it over like a cow with her cud. I honestly haven’t read Platonic philosophers beyond excerpts and quotes since I was a teenager. I don’t think I ever delved deeply into NeoPlatonism, mainly focusing on Aristotle to better come to terms with a Christianity that ill-suited me. Not having a great deal of time, I looked for the best entry-point, and decided on Iamblichus, Julian’s philosophical hero. Gregory Shaw’s well-reviewed book on his philosophy was to be my guide before I tackled the philosopher himself.
I’ve always had a rather vague unfounded dislike of Neo-Platonism because I associated it with Gnosticism. I don’t have anything against Gnosticism, in fact I love some of the allegories, but it’s not my cup of tea. The Iamblichean Platonism Shaw presents is not Gnostic but really resonates with me as a Wiccan, showing me a pathway in which to deepen my understanding without abdicating my polytheistic worldview. I’m still processing, and it may take a few read-throughs to really “get it,” but I really see this as a possible theological foundation for Wicca.
I don’t think NeoPlatonism is Wicca, or vice versa, but there’s certainly some common ground there worth exploring. At the very least, NeoPlatonism is a very Pagan way of stating “we can haz theologiez too.”
One thing that really strikes me, is that Iamblichus is writing at a point when Christianity is taking over the Empire, and his complaints sound very familiar to modern ears. At times he could be describing the state of Paganism today, sounding a bit stodgy in his moaning over eclecticism and innovation.
So you can expect a bit of NeoPlatonic explorations from me in the future. It’s going to get nerdy. I may balance it out with lolcatz.
For now, I’m off. I need to clean before family descends on me at Thanksgiving, and I have a Hephaestus devotional to finish editing before my hair turns grey.