Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, Shaw graduated from Arizona State University in 1977 as Outstanding Senior in the Fine Arts College. He earned an M.A .(1980) and Ph.D. (1987) in Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Joining Stonehill in 1987, he has enjoyed working in the Religious Studies Department and with the entire Stonehill community.
Research interests include Religions of Late Antiquity, especially Neoplatonism; history of divination with an emphasis on dreams; contemporary religious movements that draw from Hermetic and Platonic sources; Jungian psychology; UFO phenomena.
He has published several articles on Neoplatonism and religions in Late Antiquity and a book, Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus (Penn State Press, 1995). He has also co-edited a book, Practicing Gnosis: Ritual, Magic, Theurgy and Liturgy in Nag Hammadi, Manichaean and Other Ancient Literature. Essays in Honor of Birger A. Pearson (Brill, 2013).
- Guest Professor at the University of Kent, Canterbury, UK October 2007 where he was invited to give the Distinguished Lecture, “The Mortality and Anonymity of the Iamblichean Soul,” to the School of European Culture and Languages, presented an all-day workshop on dreams, and lectured in classes.
- Invited participant in Esalen Institute’s Center for Theory and Research to explore empirical evidence for human survival of bodily death, 2008-2013.
- Invited to present a paper, “The Innate Gnosis of the Iamblichean Soul” at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia on March 5, 2008.
- Has served as the co-chair of the Platonism and Neoplatonism Group at the American Academy of Religions since 2003.
- Invited to present paper, “Taking the Shape of the Gods: A Theurgic Reading of Hermetic Rebirth,” at Princeton University’s Committee for the Study of Late Antiquity Colloquium: Hermen<eu>tica: New Approaches to the Text and Interpretation of the Corpus Hermeticum, May, 2012.
- Invited to present paper, “The Chôra of the Timaeus and Iamblichean Theurgy,” at Seoul National University’s Conference: Demiurge: The World Maker in the Platonic Tradition, September, 2011.
- Invited to give the Thomas Taylor Lecture, “Platonic Tantra: the Theurgists of Late Antiquity,” at the Prometheus Trust Conference: Philosophy: restoring the soul in Wilshire, UK, June 2013.
- Directed Study
- Senior Thesis
- Dreams & the Sacred
- Mysticism: The Experience of Transcendence
- Religions in the Roman Empire
- Intro to the New Testament