The Place of Enchantment: British Occultism and the Culture of the Modern

By Alex Owen

By the top of the 19th century, Victorians have been looking rational factors for the area within which they lived. the novel principles of Charles Darwin had shaken conventional non secular ideals. Sigmund Freud was once constructing his leading edge types of the 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 develop into absorbed via metaphysical quests, heterodox non secular encounters, and occult experimentation?

In answering this query for the 1st time, The position of Enchantment breaks new flooring in its attention of the function of occultism in British tradition sooner than international warfare I. Rescuing occultism from its prestige as an "irrational indulgence" and situating it on the heart of British highbrow existence, Owen argues that an involvement with the occult used to be a leitmotif of the highbrow avant-garde. conscientiously putting a significant engagement with esotericism squarely along progressive understandings of rationality and cognizance, Owen demonstrates how a newly psychologized magic operated at the side of the constructing styles of recent lifestyles. She info such attention-grabbing examples of occult perform because the intercourse magic of Aleister Crowley, the pharmacological experimentation of W. B. Yeats, and complicated different types of astral clairvoyance as taught in mystery and hierarchical magical societies just like the airtight Order of the Golden Dawn.

Through a striking mixture of theoretical dialogue and highbrow background, Owen has produced a piece that strikes a long way past a attention of occultists and their global. Bearing at once 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 exact paintings of cultural heritage that gives a considerable contribution to our realizing of Britain.”—Nick Freeman, Washington Times

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It's important to set no worth at the flesh. ”52 there have been, although, sincerely tensions within the Order round this topic. even if there is not any sign up the Golden Dawn’s files of direct instructing on problems with sexuality, it does seem that the subject was once broached within the extra senior grades of the Order. students imminent the Golden sunrise from an occult viewpoint disagree to whether or now not the Order taught a model of intercourse magic, however it turns out transparent from references within the correspondence among Annie Horniman and the MacGregor Matherses within the mid-s that questions of human sexuality, its use inside magical perform, and the similar factor of disembodied “sex-forces” have been certainly thought of during this ultimate Magical Order. fifty three This used to be the resource of a few difficulty, which begun in  whilst Annie Horniman it seems that turned disturbed via dialogue in the Order of what used to be known as “the Elemental Theory,” most likely a connection with Elementals, or disembodied spirits, and (in this situation) their dating to human sexuality. it seems that a feminine member of the second one Order were prompt “Elemental marriage,” probably via MacGregor Mathers himself, “because of in her case the intense hazard of invoking an incubus rather than a Fay, via wish of self regulate. ”54 Given Horniman’s a bit unbending character and strict probity, as mirrored within the very identify Fortiter et Recte [Bravely and justly] that she had selected for herself, such themes have been nearly absolute to be either distasteful and alarming. Horniman grew to become to the MacGregor Matherses, who have been then dwelling in Paris and nonetheless being financially supported through her, for suggestion. Her letters to Paris should have contained a few feedback of the MacGregor Matherses’ perspectives at the topic, even if accurately what those perspectives have been we don't recognize, simply because her charm caused a long answer from her previous buddy Vestigia (Moina MacGregor Mathers) during which she rebuked Horniman for implying that S. L. MacGregor Mathers’s teachings have been in any respect “impure. ” This, she acknowledged, had harm her deeply. In her letter Vestigia made her personal place on sexuality transparent, commiserating with Horniman and reassuring her that once she had “first heard of this [Elemental] idea it gave me a surprise, yet now not the sort of terrible one as that which I had whilst i used to be younger, in regards to the human connection. ” yet Vestigia additionally lightly chided Fortiter (Horniman):  / bankruptcy 3 you assert, or anything to that impression, that you're requested to renounce your selfrespect. you recognize that you're not requested to alter your mode of lifestyles by any means, or to coach one other to take action. understanding as but simply whatever of the composition of the man or woman (as a Theor[icus] Adept), you're quite no longer able to provide an opinion on those topics; in order that if this type of uncomfortable circumstances which have been mentioned as to elemental or human sexual connection (which i feel with all different sexual connections are beastly) got here up you would need to refer the query to a member of a far better grade than Theor.

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