Saturday, May 14, 2016

Addey, Divination and Theurgy in Neoplatonism

Crystal Addey, Divination and Theurgy in Neoplatonism: Oracles of the Gods. Ashgate studies in philosophy and theology in late antiquity. Farnham; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014. Pp. xv, 335. ISBN 9781409451525. $134.95.

Reviewed by Ilinca Tanaseanu-Doebler, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (


In the last decades, the religious and ritual side of Neoplatonism has attracted growing scholarly interest. Crystal Addey’s study is part of this discourse. It explores divination as a central facet of the rituals that were subsumed in Neoplatonic circles under the label “theurgy”. The focus lies on two major figures whose debate shaped the Neoplatonic discourse about rituals: Porphyry and Iamblichus. The book aims to demonstrate the basic harmony between the two philosophers as far as divination and rituals are concerned. In so doing, it inserts itself into a strand of research that emphasises the fundamental unity of the Porphyrian oeuvre, also as far as rituals are concerned (e.g. Smith 2007 and 2011, Busine 2004 or 2005, Johnson 2013).

Neoplatonism was an important philosophical — and in some ways religious —movement in the late antique world where Judaism and Christianity also lived. Related post here.