Divination, Religious History, Philosophy
Theurgy, Neoplatonism, Spiritualism

Divination and Theurgy in Neoplatonism

Oracles of the Gods

by Crystal Addey

ISBN: 9780367882198
18 Dec 2019
£33.29 – £107.07
Paperback, Hardcover, Ebook; 352 pages

Why did ancient philosophers consult oracles, write about them, and consider them to be an important part of philosophical thought and practice? This book explores the extensive links between oracles and philosophy in Late Antiquity, particularly focusing on the roles of oracles and other forms of divination in third and fourth century CE Neoplatonism. Examining some of the most significant debates between pagan philosophers and Christian intellectuals on the nature of oracles as a central yet contested element of religious tradition, Addey focuses particularly on Porphyry’s Philosophy from Oracles and Iamblichus’ De Mysteriis – two works which deal extensively with oracles and other forms of divination. This book argues for the significance of divination within Neoplatonism and offers a substantial reassessment of oracles and philosophical works and their relationship to one another. With a broad interdisciplinary approach, encompassing Classics, Ancient Philosophy, Theology, Religious Studies and Ancient History, Addey draws on recent anthropological and religious studies research which has challenged and re-evaluated the relationship between rationality and ritual.


Table of Contents

  • Oracles and philosophy
  • Oracles, allegory and mystery cults
  • Debating oracles: pagan and Christian perspectives
  • Debating oracles: Porphyry’s Letter to Anebo and Iamblichus’ De Mysteriis
  • Divination, rationality and ritual in Neoplatonism
  • Divine inspiration, possession and contact with the gods in Iamblichus’ De Mysterii
  • Divination and theurgy in Iamblichus’ De Mysterii
  • Manifesting the gods: oracles as symbola
  • Bibliography
  • Index


“[T]he book offers a good interpretation of Iamblichus’ De mysteriis and a wealth of important observations on various details of the material. The new approach it proposes to the study of Neoplatonic rituals promises insights in the field of Neoplatonic religiosity well beyond Porphyry and Iamblichus. This is an important contribution to research on theurgy.”
~ Bryn Mawr Classical Review


I graduated with a first class BA (Hons) degree from the University of Liverpool in 2000 and then completed a Masters degree in Ancient Philosophy and Mythology in the Department of Classics, University of Wales, Lampeter in 2002. I obtained my PhD in 2009 from the University of Bristol for my thesis ‘The Roles of Divination and Theurgy in the Philosophy of Porphyry and Iamblichus’ (under the supervision of Professor Gillian Clark). After teaching for several years at Cardiff University (2009-11) and the University of Wales, Trinity St. David (2011-13), I was appointed as the Classics Centre Co-ordinator (2013-14) for the newly established East End Classics Centre under the aegis of the Capital Classics project, established to encourage and promote the teaching of Classics and related subjects in state schools across East and North London. I then taught at the University of St Andrews (2014-17) and was subsequently appointed as a Research Associate at the University of Glasgow (2018) to work on the AHRC-funded project ‘The Reception of Aristotle in Byzantium.’ In September 2019, I was appointed as a permanent Lecturer in Classics at UCC.

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