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Hellenic Tantra

Hellenic Tantra

The Theurgic Platonism of Iamblichus

By Gregory Shaw

278 pp

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About the Book

Hellenic Tantra argues that scholarship on later Platonism has been misled by a dualist worldview. The theurgic Platonists in the school of Iamblichus (4th century CE) did not ascend out of their bodies to be united with the gods—as is the common belief—but allowed the gods to descend into their bodies. By comparing embodied deification in theurgy to Tantric traditions of embodied deification, Gregory Shaw allows us to understand the power and charisma of the last Platonic teachers. Hellenic Tantra reveals a living Platonism that has been hidden from us.


“To say that Gregory Shaw has written the best synthetic study of Iamblichus’s theurgy would scarcely do justice to his work. This book is a pharmakon, a purgative medicine of the soul. By

expelling a host of ‘self-evident’ delusions about reality and reason, it induces light into the world’s body so that we can see what is really there.”—WOUTER J. HANEGRAAFF, University of Amsterdam, author of Hermetic Spirituality and the Historical Imagination: Altered States of Knowledge in Late Antiquity

“Theurgy was the Neoplatonic art of embodying the gods in human form: the human as superhuman, the god incarnate. Significantly, this was realized through ritual—the ‘work of the gods’—and involved all the paranormal phenomena we know today, including precognition, telepathy, trance mediumship, possession, and levitation. It is impossible not to see comparisons with Christian models of incarnation, more so with the deified humans, nondualities, and subtle bodies of the Tantric traditions. Gregory Shaw draws richly on these exact Neoplatonic and Tantric resonances. The result is a marvel of comparison, a kind of visionary thinking that both illuminates and mutates what we might yet become.”—JEFFREY J. KRIPAL, Rice University, author of How to Think Impossibly: About Souls, UFOs, Time, Belief, and Everything Else

“One of the most explosively original books on

Neoplatonism, Hellenic Tantra takes us on an unforgettable journey through the spiritual and ritual practices of Iamblichean theurgy. Shaw presents a cross between a how-to book for aspiring theurgists and an expert scholar’s guide on studying late antique polytheism. For Shaw, this philosophy reveals a living practice, its texts more like grimoires than Aristotelean treatises, and its most savvy students a brave Dionysian band of spiritual revelers, not just learned academics. Covering topics such as phōtagōgia, the astral body, divinization, and ritual practices with breath, divine names, and visualization, Hellenic Tantra is an immersive and deeply authentic encounter with an ancient path of self-realization.”—SARA AHBEL-RAPPE, University of Michigan; author of Reading Neoplatonism: Non-discursive Thinking in the Texts of Plotinus, Proclus, and Damascius 

About the Author

GREGORY SHAW is Professor of Religious Studies at Stonehill College, Massachusetts. He is the author of Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus and several articles on the later Neoplatonists.

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