Iamblichus, Orientalism and Peer Review

The latest issue of the Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies was released this week. Quick scale-up: The Pomegranate is a peer-review academic journal, and features articles by scholars who study paganism and esotericism. It is one of the pillars which support the academic study of paganism and magic. Other journals that also come to mind here are Aries and Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft.

This issue is a special issue. For regular readers, they will notice that it is super-sized and features double the articles. But on a more personal note, this issue also features my first peer-review journal article.

This is a weird feeling for me because it’s certainly not the first time I’ve been published. As someone who spent several years as a professional writer, getting published isn’t new to me. I’ve had hundreds of by-lines in newspapers and magazines, and logged plenty of cover stories in my brief career. And those are great memories. Quite honestly they’re pretty awesome memories.

But this is peer review, and that’s a totally different beast with wildly different standards. It helped that I had Chas Clifton on my side to help guide me though the process, but I still wasn’t sure what to expect.

The peer review process is a blind process where one’s work is judged anonymously. The author is anonymous and the reviewers are anonymous. This doesn’t necessarily make it any easier.

Basically you strip your paper of any indication of who the author is, so the reviewer can judge the work on its merits without any sort of personal biases getting in the way. It then goes out anonymously to reviewers. Obviously, it’s the reviewers hold all the power here, and they determine whether your article will see the light of day. A good review will point out areas for improvement, and suggest changes to be made for publication. But you could also be on the receiving end of a flat-out “no.” At which point you drown your sorrows in cheesecake, the umbrage of tears smearing the ink on your carefully wrought paper that you worked so, so hard on.

The take-away here? Peer review is a bit of a crapshoot. It’s also a bit nerve-wracking.

Anyway, my paper made it through (Hooray! Celebration—not sadness—cheesecake!). So now what?

Now you read it! This paper is a fresh version of a paper I posted a couple of years ago called “Orientalism in Iamblichus’ The Mysteries” (which was removed long ago for copyright reasons, etc.). This version features some additional discussion about the perception of magic in the Greco-Roman world, and is tightened up a bit more than the original

Here is the abstract:

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.

I would like to thank my reviewers for pointing out valuable ways to broaden my discussion, and providing a relatively smooth transition into academic publishing. Of course, I would like to thank Chas Clifton for all his help in making this happen, but more importantly, for his patience with my lousy footnoting (despite my best efforts!). Thanks are also due to my Professor, Phil Harland, for toughening me up and challenging my thinking about these issues—without his advice I wouldn’t have written such a good paper in the first place. And thank you to The Husband for being The Husband and generally supporting me, even when it means turning-in late to bed. Anyway, this is a really special experience for me, and I am very grateful and thankful for everyone who helped me get here. Huzzah!

Photo by nomadic lass.

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About Sarah Veale

Former journalist, current student of ancient religion. My first peer-review article, "Orientalism in Iamblichus' The Mysteries," was recently published in The Pomegranate:The International Journal of Pagan Studies.
This entry was posted in Academic, Hermetica, Magic, mysticism, Theurgy. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Iamblichus, Orientalism and Peer Review

  1. Congratulations on your first peer-reviewed article!

  2. easprem says:

    Congratulations, Sarah! It looks a truly useful contribution as well.

  3. dmb93 says:

    Looking forward to reading this!,,,Omedetou!

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