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Author archive for Phil Hine

  1. Tantra & Possession – I

    This post is the first in a series based on my May 2017 lecture at Treadwells Bookshop of London entitled “Tantra & Trance Possession” together with some additional material which had to excluded for lack of time.

    Introduction
    Chamunda by Maria StrutzWhy Tantra & Trance Possession? Possession as a magical or religious practice is not something that is commonly associated with Tantra – I’ve tended to find that occultists are surprised to hear that tantra practice has a place for possession workings – it’s something that we are far more used to hearing about in relation to traditions such as Santeria, Candomble, etc. It’s possible we don’t think of possession in relation to India due to the overwhelming trope of the “mystic east” and the related idea that Indian religions – and Indian esoteric religions in particular, are world-denying and “peaceful”. In fact, possession is very common across South Asia – there’s a great deal of ethnographic material on contemporary possession-oriented practice in India. For this lecture, however, I’ll be focusing on historical material – of which there is a great deal, so what you’ll be getting is selected highlights. Continue reading »

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  2. Jottings: on comparative demonologies

    At my May 2017 lecture at Treadwells Bookshop examining Tantra & Trance Possession, I gave a very brief outline of “afflictive possession” in both Ayurvedic & Tantric texts – and what is sometimes referred to as bhūtavidyā (‘the science of spirits’) including some remarks on how this subject is treated in the Netra Tantra – an eighth-century Kashmiri text, possibly composed in court circles, which has much to say on the subject of possession, exorcism, and related topics. Continue reading »

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  3. 2017 Lectures so far

    A quick announcement for some up-coming lectures in the UK. Continue reading »

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  4. Book Review: An Introduction to Indian Philosophy

    Not long ago, I ran into a friend who asked what I was reading at the moment. I replied that I was reading a book on the work of Kumārilabhaṭṭa, a seventh-century Indian philosopher of the Mīmāṃsā school. This led to a good deal of explanation about what the Mīmāṃsās thought, what Kumārila had to say in particular, and why I was interested in his work in the first place. After all that he said something to the effect that he thought that Tantra wasn’t a philosophy – or at least that as a “tradition” it wasn’t given over to much philosophical speculation. Continue reading »

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  5. Armed Yogis – I

    “Never have I seen such yogis, brother.
    They wander mindless and negligent, proclaiming the way of Mahadeva.
    For this they are called great mahants.
    To markets and bazaars they peddle their meditation – false siddhas, lovers of maya.
    When did Dattatreya attack a fort?
    When did Sukadeva join with gunners?
    When did Narada fire a musket?
    When did Vyasadeva sound a battle cry?
    These numbskulls make war. Are they ascetics or archers?
    They profess detachment, but greed is their mind’s resolve.
    They shame their profession by wearing gold. They collect stallions and mares,
    acquire villages, and go about as millionaires.”
    Kabira-bijaka

    For my first post for 2017 I thought I’d explore an issue that I touched on in the introduction to the lecture I gave at Treadwells Bookshop in London – “Yogis Behaving Badly” last November – armed Yogis. Continue reading »

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  6. Book Review: Rainbow Body

    Earlier this year I started a series of posts examining some of the early ‘influencers’ of the modern chakra system as it tends to be represented in the west. I’d been interested in writing about this subject for some time, and had started to think that it would make an interesting book project – examining the development of the western chakra system within the larger context of biomedical discourses. However, I must admit that I baulked somewhat at the prospect of having to read through acres and acres of ‘new age’ material. Now I don’t have to, as Kurt Leland’s Rainbow Body: A History of the Western Chakra System from Blavatsky to Brennan (Ibis Press, 2016, 516pp, Paperback) is the definitive history of the evolution of the chakra system as it is known in the West today. Continue reading »

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  7. On Beauty: the human, the divine – II

    In the first post in this series I introduced the concept of alaṅkāra – ‘ornamentation’ – an extremely wide-ranging social category which remains tremendously important in Indian culture to this day. Ornamentation is intensely communicative and relational – it is as much about looking good in order to be seen in a particular way as it is about feeling good about oneself. Continue reading »

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  8. A Phallic Knight – III

    In the previous post in this series I outlined the publishing of Richard Payne Knight’s A Discourse on the Worship of Priapus and the ensuing scandal. For this post I’m going to look at some of Knight’s other works -and his later life – post-Discourse. My aim here is to highlight the wide range of Knight’s interests and show how he continued to express, in various ways, his antipathy to Christianity. I’ll get around to examining some of the background politics and social context in the next post. Continue reading »

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  9. Chakras into the west: Early Theosophical Sources – II

    Continuing from the previous post examining early sources for western chakra models, I’m examining the influence that Indian Theosophists had on shaping early Theosophical discourse concerning the Chakras, drawing primarily on the work of Karl Baier. Continue reading »

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  10. Chakras into the west: Early Theosophical Sources – I

    In the first post in this occasional series I took a brief look at the rather novel mapping of the chakras on to the Book of Revelation as done by Theosophist James Morgan Pryse. Prsyse’s book The Apocalypse Unsealed was first published in 1910 – the same year as C.W. Leadbeater’s The Inner Life within which is Leadbeater’s first treatment of the ‘force-centres’ or ‘chakrams’. I’ll take a closer look at both The Inner Life and Leadbeater’s 1927 book The Chakras another time, but for now I want to highlight two key questions that have been bothering me for some time. Firstly, what were the sources for the Theosophical treatments of the chakras, and secondly, at what point (and by who) did the chakras first become identified with nerve plexuses and so forth?

    I have, up until recently, been eyeing up two possibilities for source texts for Theosophical discourse regarding chakras. Firstly, there is Babu Siris Chandra Basu’s 1887 translation of the Shiva Sanhita, and secondly, Pandit Rama Prasad Kasyapa’s 1889 work Occult Science, the science of breath. This latter text I am particularly interested in. Originally published as a series of articles under the name Nature’s Finer Forces between 1887-1889. Rama Prasad’s work was somewhat controversial due to his drawing on tantric sources – which Madame Blavatsky was not reticent to show her disapproval of. This text is also widely regarded as the means through which the Indian concept of Tattvas made its way into western occultism.

    So I thought I had pretty much nailed down the origins of chakras into Theosophy. I was wrong. Continue reading »

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