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  1. “A thousand kisses darling”: Sex, scandal and spirituality in the life of Charles Webster Leadbeater – III

    This post examines Leadbeater’s return to the Theosophical Society, problems with the press and the “second scandal” – the court case over Krishnamurti. Continue reading »

  2. “A thousand kisses darling”: Sex, scandal and spirituality in the life of Charles Webster Leadbeater – II

    For this post, I will further explore the unfolding of the 1906 scandal, the Theosophical Society’s response and the efforts to contain it. Continue reading »

  3. Practice notes: On lingering

    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

    lin-ger

      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

    dictionary.com

    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 »

  4. Jottings: On the sacredness of text

    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 »

  5. “A thousand kisses darling”: Sex, scandal and spirituality in the life of Charles Webster Leadbeater – I

    This essay started off as a lecture presented at Treadwells Bookshop of London in February 2008, as part of LGBT History Month.

    Introduction
    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 »

  6. Review: Two books on Bauls

    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 »

  7. Some Thoughts on Syncretism…..

    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 »

  8. Book review: Counter-Tourism: the Handbook

    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 »

  9. Book review: Contradictory Lives

    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 »

  10. Dialogue III: On the pleasures of initiation

    “Initiation is of three kinds: Initiation by touch (Sparsa), Initiation by sight (Drksamjna) and Initiation by thought (Manasa) – all these three are done without Rituals and without exertions. O My Beloved! Initiation and instruction by touch is likened to the slow nourishing of its young with the warmth of its wings. O Paramesvari! Initiation and instruction by sight is like the nourishing of its young by the fish through its seeing alone. Initiation and instruction by thought is like the nourishing of its young by the tortoise by only thinking of them.”
    Kulanarva Tantra, transl. R.K Rai

    “Now I am going to reveal to you this devotion to the Guru, give me your undivided attention. Just as the river Ganges joins the sea with its wealth of water, or the Vedas enter the abode of the Supreme or a chaste wife dedicates her life with its good and bad points to her husband, so he dedicates his heart along with his senses to the family of his Guru and becomes verily the temple of devotion to him. Just as a wife keeps on thinking of her absent husband, the thoughts of the place where his Guru dwells crowd his mind….”
    Jnaneshvari (13, 371-375) transl.M.R. Yardi

    Continue reading »