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Theurgy: Theory and Practice

The Mysteries of the Ascent to the Divine

Published by Simon & Schuster/Inner Traditions
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

• Explores the many theurgic themes and events in the Odyssey and the Iliad

• Analyzes the writings of Neoplatonists Porphyry and Proclus, showing how both describe the technical ritual praxis of theurgy in Homeric terms

• Examines the methods of telestikē, a form of theurgic statue animation and technique to divinize the soul, and how theurgy is akin to shamanic soul flight

First defined by the second century Chaldean Oracles, theurgy is an ancient magic practice whereby practitioners divinized the soul and achieved mystical union with a deity, the Demiurge, or the One.

In this detailed study, P. D. Newman pushes the roots of theurgy all the way back before the time of Homer. He shows how the Chaldean Oracles were not only written in Homeric Greek but also in dactylic hexameter, the same meter as the epics of Homer. Linking the Greek shamanic practices of the late Archaic period with the theurgic rites of late antiquity, the author explains how both anabasis, soul ascent, and katabasis, soul descent, can be considered varieties of shamanic soul flight and how these practices existed in ancient Greek culture prior to the influx of shamanic influence from Thrace and the Hyperborean North.

The author explores the many theurgic themes and symbolic events in the Odyssey and the Iliad, including the famous journey of Odysseus to Hades and the incident of the funeral pyre of Patroclus. He presents a close analysis of On the Cave of the Nymphs, Porphyry’s commentary on Homer’s Odyssey, as well as a detailed look at Proclus’s symbolic reading of Homer’s Iliad, showing how both of these Neoplatonists describe the philosophical theory and the technical ritual praxis of theurgy. Using the Chaldean Oracles as a case study, Newman examines in detail the methods of telestikē, a form of theurgic statue animation, linking this practice to ancient Egyptian and Greek traditions as well as theurgic techniques to divinize the soul.

Revealing how the theurgic arts are far older than the second century, Newman’s study not only examines the philosophical theory of theurgy but also the actual ritual practices of the theurgists, as described in their own words.

About The Author

P. D. Newman has been immersed in the study and practice of alchemy, hermetism, and theurgy for more than two decades. A member of both the Masonic Fraternity and the Society of Rosicrucians, he lectures internationally and has published articles in many esoteric journals, including The Scottish Rite Journal, Knights Templar Magazine, and Ad Lucem. He is the author of Angels in Vermilion: The Philosophers’ Stone from Dee to DMT and Alchemically Stoned: The Psychedelic Secret of Freemasonry. He lives in Tupelo, Mississippi, with his son, Bacchus, and his wife, Rebecca.

About The Reader

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Inner Traditions (March 5, 2024)
  • Runtime: 6 hours and 25 minutes
  • ISBN13: 9781797166346

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Raves and Reviews

“P.D. Newman’s new book Theurgy: Theory and Practice, is one of the best and most important books I have read in a long time. He does for theurgy what Jake Stratton-Kent did for goetia, taking it back to its archaic roots, showing the development, providing excellent scholarship, and workable material. This is a great book.”

– David Rankine, author of The Grimoire Encyclopaedia

“P. D. Newman’s Theurgy: Theory and Practice is a wonderfully informed book on practical theurgy, with special emphasis on its relation to what is generally referred to as ‘shamanism.’ The text is well-referenced, making it useful for scholars, as well as very readable, making it of value to the lay reader and practitioner. Theurgy is a wonderful addition to anyone’s library, as there is ample material here for literally everyone.”

– MARK STAVISH, author of Egregores

“Theurgy is commonly thought of as a spiritual practice that began with Julian the Chaldæan in the second century CE and blended Eastern practices with rational Greek thought, primarily Neoplatonism. However, Neoplatonists such as Porphyry and Proclus pointed to theurgic elements in the archaic Homeric epics. While Eastern influences are not disputed, the author convincingly argues that they are a mere sprinkling and that the roots of theurgy are predominantly Greek, having begun at the time of Homer and practiced continuously thereafter. Readers thirsty for more knowledge about the path of theurgy will not be disappointed.”

– TONY MIERZWICKI, author of Hellenismos

“P. D. Newman tells a compelling story of the origins and development of theurgy, a fundamental spiritual practice in ancient Mediterranean religion. His argument is supported by the best contemporary scholarship on theurgy and on classical religion and philosophy. Newman has also assembled and organized a wealth of source material (in translation), which would otherwise be difficult to collect. Read this book for a fascinating exploration of theurgy over more than a millennium, from Homer to Proclus.”

– BRUCE J. MacLENNAN, PH.D., author of The Wisdom of Hypatia

“A must for those interested in ancient Greek thought about souls and soul flight. According to Newman, theurgy can be traced as early as Porphyry’s and Proclus’s para-Homeric sources that describe iatromanteia, which translates to ‘healer-seer’ who took soul flights. Tying these types of experiences to early shamanic themes reflected in works such as the Odyssey, the author weaves a compelling narrative of the early history and practical importance of theurgy. Newman’s analyses are thought-provoking and demand attention as he outlines a good case for how souls and the shamanic craft have shifted in antiquity from the early writings of authors such as Parmenides and Empedocles to the later Neoplatonists. The ideas contained in this book are sure to form a new starting point for many future analyses on how shamanic themes developed among the Greeks.”

– CHRISTINE S. VanPOOL, Ph.D., coauthor of An Anthropological Study of Spirits

“P. D. Newman’s impressive book on theurgy and Homer covers the interpretation of myth and ritual theurgy by the Neoplatonists. With references to the Pre-Socratics, Pythagoras, Plato, and even Egyptian and Mesopotamian texts, Newman correctly understands theurgy to be distinguished from other forms of magic as initiatory and anagogic. He presents detailed and critical accounts of ancient astrological and cosmological phenomena and follows the best scholarship in developing his rather original conclusion: that Proclus and company were indeed justified in seeing in Homer the esoteric meanings they teased out of his texts. The work reveals a new angle and a new dimension of the still emerging landscape of late antique thought. It will be of interest to scholars in the field and to the general reader interested in philosophical, religious and mystical ideas.”

– JAY BREGMAN, author of Synesius of Cyrene

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