Leiden University Late Antique and Medieval Studies inaugural lecture: "The Neo-platonists on Theurgy: Making Philosophical Sense of Religion and Magic in Late Antiquity”
- Wednesday 20 November 2019
2311 BD Leiden
The Leiden University Late Antique and Medieval Studies - is pleased to announce the inaugural lecture by
Bert van den Berg
The Neo-platonists on Theurgy: Making Philosophical Sense of Religion and Magic in Late Antiquity
From Iamblichus (ca. 242–ca. 325) onwards, many Neo-platonists assume that the rational study of philosophy does not suffice for the salvation of the human soul but that it has to be supplemented with the non-rational performance of rituals, known as theurgy. Because of its non-rational nature, scholars of Neo-platonism often find theurgy problematic and tend to view it in isolation from Neoplatonic philosophy as a somewhat regrettably eccentric feature that is best ignored. However, whereas the practice of theurgy may be non-rational, this did not prevent the Neo-platonists from reflecting philosophically on theurgy. In my talk, I shall argue that for this reason theurgy deserves it to be taken seriously by students of Late Ancient philosophy. I shall do so by discussing a few examples of Neo-platonic philosophical reflections on theurgical practices, mostly drawn from Proclus’ little treatise known under the title De Sacrificio et Magia(On Sacrifice and Magic).