By Alex Owen
Through the tip of the 19th century, Victorians have been looking rational causes for the area during which they lived. the novel principles of Charles Darwin had shaken conventional spiritual ideals. Sigmund Freud used to be constructing his leading edge versions of the wide awake and subconscious brain. And anthropologist James George Frazer was once subjecting magic, fable, and formality to systematic inquiry. Why, then, during this quintessentially sleek second, did late-Victorian and Edwardian women and men turn into absorbed by way of metaphysical quests, heterodox non secular encounters, and occult experimentation?
In answering this question for the 1st time, where of appeal breaks new flooring in its attention of the position of occultism in British tradition sooner than international conflict I. Rescuing occultism from its prestige as an "irrational indulgence" and situating it on the heart of British highbrow lifestyles, Owen argues that an involvement with the occult used to be a leitmotif of the highbrow avant-garde. conscientiously putting a major engagement with esotericism squarely along innovative understandings of rationality and attention, Owen demonstrates how a newly psychologized magic operated at the side of the constructing styles of recent existence. She information such attention-grabbing examples of occult perform because the intercourse magic of Aleister Crowley, the pharmacological experimentation of W. B. Yeats, and complicated varieties of astral clairvoyance as taught in mystery and hierarchical magical societies just like the airtight Order of the Golden Dawn.
Through a impressive mixture of theoretical dialogue and highbrow historical past, Owen has produced a piece that strikes a ways past a attention of occultists and their international. Bearing without delay on our realizing of modernity, her conclusions will strength us to reconsider where of the irrational in smooth culture.
“An clever, well-argued and richly precise paintings of cultural historical past that provides a considerable contribution to our realizing of Britain.”—Nick Freeman, Washington instances
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Via the tip of the 19th century, Victorians have been looking rational motives for the area during which they lived. the unconventional rules of Charles Darwin had shaken conventional spiritual ideals. Sigmund Freud used to be constructing his leading edge types of the awake and subconscious brain. And anthropologist James George Frazer used to be subjecting magic, fable, and formality to systematic inquiry.
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Extra info for The Place of Enchantment: British Occultism and the Culture of the Modern
The social and political agitation surrounding questions of democracy, suffrage, women’s rights, organized labor, and the complex amalgam of issues arising from late-Victorian economic and industrial change, was shot through with seemingly quite different considerations about the place of “spirit” in modern society. Committed advocates of social transformation during this period were often as concerned with the idea of spiritual regeneration as political change, and socialism itself was by no means the strictly secular movement that some of its late-Victorian and subsequent proponents claimed.
Some groups promoted an unmediated experience of the divine. Much of this found its way into a nondenominational (often non-Christian) “esoteric philosophy” or occultism that often incorporated elements of each of these practices. The effect was to blur the distinction between what was occult and what was not, a trend perhaps most clearly illustrated in orthodox terms by William Ralph Inge’s famous lectures at Oxford in . In these lectures, fondly known as “Inge’s Bamptons,” Inge (later to be appointed dean of St.
Theosophists and other occultists nevertheless spoke of themselves as “scientists,” believing that they were engaged in the true mission of science—a thorough and open-minded investigation of the mysteries of the universe. ” What Theosophists and scientists meant by “science” and the “laws of Nature,” however, were not necessarily the same thing. ” For Victorian occultists, science and metaphysics were one and the same and found expression in the ancient wisdom. They used phrases like “occult philosophy” and “occult science” coterminously, and when they spoke of the latter they were referring not only to a science dedicated to knowledge of natural law but also the “true” constitution of the human entity and the Absolute.