Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, Vol 15, No 1-2 (2013)

Orientalism in Iamblichus' The Mysteries

Sarah Lynn Veale


Iamblichus' On the Mysteries of the Egyptians is part of a larger Neoplatonic debate over the soundness of theurgical practices and Eastern ritual. The discussion of Egyptian practices in The Mysteries reveals the legitimating structures which underlie Iamblichus' argument, specifically, an Orientalizing discourse which contributes to a larger esoteric market of knowledge. This is figured both through stereotypes of Egypt as a site of ancient mysteries, but also from a very real inaccessibility of Egyptian religion to the Greeks. This emphasis on timeless, secret knowledge converts Iamblichan theurgy, a disputed new system of Platonic thought, into a unit of social currency which confers worth, prestige and power upon its creator and sets it apart from the dominant mode of philosophical rationalism.

DOI: 10.1558/pome.v15i1-2.202


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