Maybe Advanced Wicca Isn’t Wicca After All?

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.

Done.

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.

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    I’ve been meaning to get to the neoplatonists properly one of these days…From what I can tell, there’s a lot there to like, but I also know I wouldn’t sign on for the full course, as it were, either.  That doesn’t make it any less appealing, or useful to know about…

    So much of the writing of late antiquity that was occurring in pagan contexts just adds considerably to one’s picture of polytheism, I think.  The same is true of hermetic writings, and even a good bit of gnosticism…On the latter, it’s like imagining if Christianity was done in a way that didn’t necessarily invalidate anything outside of the Trinity, even though it does have some of its own problems and difficulties…But anyway, good stuff!

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    I’ve been meaning to get to the neoplatonists properly one of these days…From what I can tell, there’s a lot there to like, but I also know I wouldn’t sign on for the full course, as it were, either.  That doesn’t make it any less appealing, or useful to know about…

    So much of the writing of late antiquity that was occurring in pagan contexts just adds considerably to one’s picture of polytheism, I think.  The same is true of hermetic writings, and even a good bit of gnosticism…On the latter, it’s like imagining if Christianity was done in a way that didn’t necessarily invalidate anything outside of the Trinity, even though it does have some of its own problems and difficulties…But anyway, good stuff!

  • sindarintech

    Iamblichus is certainly a far-better read than anything written by Starhawk… unless you’re really looking for something to put you to sleep quickly. :-)

    I wish more of our Universities went back to introducing students to the real classics of Western Civilization. Yes, they can be difficult to get through… but there’s so much good thinking in them! Something that is in short supply in modern ‘culture’.

  • Anonymous

    Iamblichus is certainly a far-better read than anything written by Starhawk… unless you’re really looking for something to put you to sleep quickly. :-)

    I wish more of our Universities went back to introducing students to the real classics of Western Civilization. Yes, they can be difficult to get through… but there’s so much good thinking in them! Something that is in short supply in modern ‘culture’.

  • sindarintech

    I hope you post more about your impressions. And, btw, the Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels (or, for that matter, *anything* by Pagels) is well worth the time.

  • Anonymous

    I hope you post more about your impressions. And, btw, the Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels (or, for that matter, *anything* by Pagels) is well worth the time.

  • LezlieKinyon

    Victoria Nelson in “The secret Life of Puppets” (2001, Harvard Univ. Press) says modern SF & F writers are Neo-Platonistits, too. I’m *also* still arguing with that idea.  If you see the world in a dualist way: Aristotelian vs. Platonic (or, Neo-Platonistits) this notion is bound to come up over and over again…

  • Anonymous

    Victoria Nelson in “The secret Life of Puppets” (2001, Harvard Univ. Press) says modern SF & F writers are Neo-Platonistits, too. I’m *also* still arguing with that idea.  If you see the world in a dualist way: Aristotelian vs. Platonic (or, Neo-Platonistits) this notion is bound to come up over and over again…

  • val bobincheck

    Just a thought..since many of Plato’s teachings were based on Socrates, it would be nice to revisit some of his Dialogs again..(even if they were handed down thru Plato…)

  • val bobincheck

    Just a thought..since many of Plato’s teachings were based on Socrates, it would be nice to revisit some of his Dialogs again..(even if they were handed down thru Plato…)

  • http://twitter.com/Kyoshin Kyōshin Samuels

    Hey Star, If you are not already familiar with him I recommend the work of Pierre Hadot especially ‘Plotinus or the Simplicity of Vision’ and ‘Veil of Isis: An Essay on the History of the Idea of Nature’. Best wishes, K

  • http://twitter.com/Kyoshin Kyōshin Samuels

    Hey Star, If you are not already familiar with him I recommend the work of Pierre Hadot especially ‘Plotinus or the Simplicity of Vision’ and ‘Veil of Isis: An Essay on the History of the Idea of Nature’. Best wishes, K


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