Dark star rising: The emergence of modern occultism, 1800-1950

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Title

Dark star rising: The emergence of modern occultism, 1800-1950

Description

Focusing on occultism as the active pursuit of mystical experience through ostensibly secret techniques, this study chronicles some of the changes in which the category was conceived in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Chapter One examines how research by anthropologists, philologists, and folklorists was more subtly damaging to Christian hegemony than the work of evolutionary theorists and Biblical critics, as they inadvertently offered the public a panoply of intriguing alternatives to the Church whose monopoly they challenged. The parallels these scholars drew between nonwestern subjects and more familiar topics--between ancient necromancy and modern spiritualism, for instance--generated a new religious hybrid that posited a universal basis for all forms of mystical practice from alchemy to yoga.

Chapter Two investigates the crucial role publishers played in popularizing the new occult paradigm. Although specialized books and journals began to appear by the 1830s, far greater was the influence of articles in general magazines such as All the Year Round and The North American Review, which reached people such as F. G. Irwin, whose scrapbooks testify to the universalizing conclusions middle-class readers could draw even without the help of synthesists such as F. Max Muller.

F. G. Irwin could afford the time and money required to pursue his mystical researches. Chapter Three examines the social bifurcation in occult discourse that resulted from differential access to information. The new esotericism became increasingly identified with other forms of high culture, particularly after it was embraced by fin-de-siecle aesthetes and their Bohemian offspring. In both England and America, an open-minded association with the occult became a badge of elite sophistication.

Focusing especially on the notorious figure of Aleister Crowley, Chapter Four explores the shift in the early twentieth century of occultism's reputation from morally neutral to evil as a populist mass media came to associate the practice with decadence and sexual perversity. In response, rival occult leaders such as Dion Fortune developed esoteric systems that pursued the same goals and used the same techniques as Crowley, but expressed them within normative moral frameworks.

Creator

Verter, Bradford J. M.

Source

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, http://search.proquest.com/docview/304372760

Publisher

UMI Dissertations Publishing

Date

1997-07-17

Contributor

UMI Dissertations Publishing

Rights

Copyrighted by author.

Relation

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, http://search.proquest.com/docview/304372760

Format

PDF

Language

English

Type

PhD Dissertation

Text Item Type Metadata

Text

Focusing on occultism as the active pursuit of mystical experience through ostensibly secret techniques, this study chronicles some of the changes in which the category was conceived in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Chapter One examines how research by anthropologists, philologists, and folklorists was more subtly damaging to Christian hegemony than the work of evolutionary theorists and Biblical critics, as they inadvertently offered the public a panoply of intriguing alternatives to the Church whose monopoly they challenged. The parallels these scholars drew between nonwestern subjects and more familiar topics--between ancient necromancy and modern spiritualism, for instance--generated a new religious hybrid that posited a universal basis for all forms of mystical practice from alchemy to yoga.

Chapter Two investigates the crucial role publishers played in popularizing the new occult paradigm. Although specialized books and journals began to appear by the 1830s, far greater was the influence of articles in general magazines such as All the Year Round and The North American Review, which reached people such as F. G. Irwin, whose scrapbooks testify to the universalizing conclusions middle-class readers could draw even without the help of synthesists such as F. Max Muller.

F. G. Irwin could afford the time and money required to pursue his mystical researches. Chapter Three examines the social bifurcation in occult discourse that resulted from differential access to information. The new esotericism became increasingly identified with other forms of high culture, particularly after it was embraced by fin-de-siecle aesthetes and their Bohemian offspring. In both England and America, an open-minded association with the occult became a badge of elite sophistication.

Focusing especially on the notorious figure of Aleister Crowley, Chapter Four explores the shift in the early twentieth century of occultism's reputation from morally neutral to evil as a populist mass media came to associate the practice with decadence and sexual perversity. In response, rival occult leaders such as Dion Fortune developed esoteric systems that pursued the same goals and used the same techniques as Crowley, but expressed them within normative moral frameworks.

Original Format

Paper

Files

http://www.johnlcrow.com/archive/files/original/52624056b2ee54e097a6a736da1db3d6.pdf

Citation

Verter, Bradford J. M., “Dark star rising: The emergence of modern occultism, 1800-1950,” John L. Crow's Akashic Archive, accessed July 17, 2019, http://archive.johnlcrow.com/items/show/71.

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