There are times when I languidly linger and times when I awaken and hurry in search of my goal; but cruelly thou hidest thyself from before me.
Rabindranath Tagore Gitanjali Poem #14
1. to remain or stay in a place longer than is usual or expected, as if from reluctance to leave
2. to remain alive; continue or persist, although gradually dying, ceasing, disappearing, etc.
3. to dwell in contemplation, thought, or enjoyment.
4. to be tardy in action; delay; dawdle
5. to walk slowly; saunter along
Last year, on my birthday, we went to the Whitechapel Gallery in London, where we experienced Zarina Bhimji’s haunting film – Yellow Patch. There was one sequence – where the camera zooms slowly towards the crumbling facade of an old Indian palace, revealing a world of untold richness and depth. Afterwards, I was struck by the thought that it is when we slow down – even momentarily – that the world – in particularly the everyday or mundane world that so much of contemporary magical writing tends to disdain – becomes wondrous. Continue reading »
Back in December, I ran into a friend who asked me what I was occupying myself with, and I told him that – amongst other things – I was struggling with my series on the Saundaryalahari and that my original estimation of how long it would to take me to write a commentary on its verses had become mired in difficulties – because, as one might appreciate, it was opening up questions – and avenues – that I hadn’t expected to have to deal with or traverse. He was sympathetic, but asserted “Well, Pagans don’t have sacred texts”. Looking around us – we were having this conversation in one of London’s largest esoteric bookshops – I pointed past him to the shelves and replied – “no, Pagans have an abundance of texts”. Continue reading »
This essay started off as a lecture presented at Treadwells Bookshop of London in February 2008, as part of LGBT History Month.
The Theosophical Society was one of the most influential esoteric movements of the Twentieth Century, not only in terms of its role in formulating many concepts that remain popular in contemporary occult and new age ideology, but also in shaping the modern world as we know it. In this series of posts, I will examine the sex scandals that dogged the career of one of the Society’s most infamous members, Charles Webster Leadbeater, a prolific author and lecturer, who was hailed by his followers as one of humanity’s most advanced adepts, yet at the same time, denounced by others as “a sex-pervert.” Continue reading »
In my recent post on syncretism I made mention of two books that I had recently read concerning the Baul tradition. I found both of these books helpful in relation to their attempts to understand religious difference and the negotiation of Identity, and what follows is a brief review of each. Continue reading »
I’ve recently been digging into the “Yogis, Heros and Poets” anthology on the Nath tradition that Phil recently reviewed. The article that I found most striking was reflection by David N. Lorenzen on the similarities between the perspectives of Gorakhnath and the mystical poet Kabir in relation to their perceptions of religious difference. For Lorenzen the inspired intellectualism of these two teacher/poets allowed them to express a sense of liberty from religious division that seemed in contrast to mere folksy syncretism. Continue reading »
Here is a treat for anyone who has wandered round a historic site, bored by the expected and provided routes and interpretations. Counter-Tourism by Crab Man (Triarchy Press 2012) is a challenge, an invitation and a license for the gentle naughtiness of doing the unexpected thing. Continue reading »
The Bauls of West Bengal and Bangladesh are a religious group renown for wandering the countryside, begging for alms, singing and performing their music. In practice and belief, they combine elements from the wider Vaishnava community and unorthodox esoteric elements from tantric-oriented groups such as the Sahajiyas and Sufism. Bauls are opposed to the caste system, sectarianism and argue that truth cannot be found in texts, rituals, or temples. They hold women in high regard and view them as gurus in relation to their male partners. This “ideal” image of Bauls, as nonconformist mystics dominates both academic and popular representations, but says little of their actual lives, and in particular, the lives of women Bauls. Continue reading »
“Religion becomes queer when it breaks up the desiring self, when it refuses to confess an identity, when it refuses to say who we are, and acknowledges a plural self with polymorphous desires. To queer religion is to queer the foundations of theology, its monotheism, its monosexuality and its monopoly of truth”.
Jeremy R Carette, Michael Foucault and Theology: The Politics of Religious Experience
Not long after my post on queering deity I received an email inviting me to participate in a “Queer Pagan Mysteries” workshop (that’s “participate” with a price tag, of course). My answer was that I wasn’t sure what constituted “Queer Pagan Mysteries” but that I’d be interested in finding out what was being referred to here. Continue reading »
How do we approach the sex lives of our forebears? In much of contemporary esoteric literature, there’s a tendency to assume that the identity categories we are so familiar with nowadays are universal and can be applied unreflexively to premodern cultures in Europe and beyond. Indeed, there is a trend towards looking for evidence for the existence of those same sexual identities in the past, in order to legitimise them – and to argue that “the ancients” for example, were really, just like us. There has been a considerable amount of scholarship contesting such assumptions of course, but its not always accessible to a non-academic reader. Sex before sexuality: A Premodern History (Polity Press, 2011, 200pp, p/bk) provides a useful introduction to contemporary theories on the interpretation of attitudes to sex in the premodern period. Continue reading »