Skip to navigation | Skip to content



Posts tagged ‘nineteenth century’

  1. 2016 Lectures in London

    A quick post to announce two forthcoming lectures:

    Firstly, On Monday October 24, I will be presenting A Phallic (K)night for the London Fortean Society at Conway Hall (7.30-9.30pm).

    Richard Payne Knight by Thomas LawrenceA Phallic (K)night: will examine the life of Richard Payne Knight – collector, arbiter of taste and gentleman scholar whose book A Discourse on the Worship of Priapus proposes that all mythology and religion (including Christianity) is derived from primitive fertility cults. In such cults, he asserted, the male and female genitalia symbolise procreative power, and the primal life force is worshipped through this seemingly obscene imagery. “Priapus” caused scandal in the eighteenth century, but cast an influence that is still with us today – from psychoanalysis to contemporary Paganism. I will explore the key themes of “A Discourse on the Worship of Priapus” and its republication in the nineteenth century as both erotic and ethnographic text.

    Tickets available here: via Eventbrite and for more information about the London Fortean Society visit their website or the event’s Facebook page.

    My second lecture for 2016 is entitled Yogis Behaving Badly and will be held at Treadwells Bookshop on Monday November 21 (7.30-9.15pm). For more information and booking visit the Treadwells Bookshop website.

    Yogis Behaving Badly will examine the case of Raja Man Singh who, in the early nineteenth century, shared his kingdom with a group of Nath ascetics, to the extent that they became, effectively, “state-sponsored holy men”. It is not only a tale of political intrigue, assassination and poison, but also one which destabilises popular representations of Indian Yogis as being detached from the world and the state.

    Event Facebook Page

    Share
  2. Book Review: Fanny & Stella

    The arrest of Ernest “Stella” Boulton and Frederick “Fanny” Park in drag, at London’s Strand Theatre on 28th April 1870 led to one of the most sensational trials of the Nineteenth century. Charged with not only “the abominable crime of buggery” but also conspiracy to commit “said crime” and – “to disguise themselves as women and to frequent places of public resort, so disguised, and to thereby openly and scandalously outrage public decency and corrupt public morals.” The arrest of Fanny & Stella is the opening act in Neil McKenna’s uproarious account of the affair in Fanny & Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England (Faber & Faber, 2014). Continue reading »

    Share
  3. Group Book Review: Modern Yoga Studies – I

    “Whether a Brahmin, an ascetic, a Buddhist, a Jain, a Skull-Bearer or a materialist, the wise man who is endowed with faith and constantly devoted to the practice of yoga will attain complete success.”
    Dattātreyayogaśāstra (transl. James Mallinson)

    Modern Yoga has been going through some “interesting times” of late. There has been a wave of sex scandals – most recently in Australia and there are growing calls for a Decolonisation of Yoga Practice, including some strident claims that Yoga was banned under the Raj. I thought it’d be timely, then, to review some of the scholarly works on Modern Yoga. Continue reading »

    Share
  4. Krishna in the dock: the 1862 Maharaja libel case and its consequences – III

    “Through a long night of superstition and darkness, vile creatures like this Maharaj have been able to make their dens of vice and debauchery seem to their spell-bound followers to be the holy temples of God. But as soon as the morning light comes, the place is found in full corruption and uncleanness; magical spells lose all effect; and men of a better sort rise disgusted, and at any cost break loose from such a haunt.”
    Times of India May 2, 1862

    Some recent correspondence has reminded me that I had more to say about the Maharaja libel case. For this post, I’m going to examine some of the intersecting factors which allowed Gujurati social reformers to enter into a strategic alliance with Imperial law, with far-reaching effects. Continue reading »

    Share
  5. Krishna in the dock: the 1862 Maharaja libel case and its consequences – II

    “Amongst other articles of the new creed, Vallabha introduced one, which is rather singular for a Hindu religious innovator or reformer: he taught, that privation formed no part of sanctity, and that it was the duty of the teachers and his disciples to worship their Deity, not in nudity and hunger, but in costly apparel and choice food; not in solitude and mortification, but in the pleasures of society, and the enjoyment of the world.”
    Horace H. Wilson Sketch of the religious sects of the Hindus (1846, pp76-78)

    Before I get down to examining the 1862 Maharaja libel case in detail, I thought it would be useful to take a brief look at the particular sampradaya – at the heart of the case – the Vallabhacharyas – and examine aspects of its doctrines, practices, and historical development. Continue reading »

    Share
  6. Krishna in the dock: the 1862 Maharaja libel case and its consequences – I

    The cardinal idea of the doctrine of Vallabhacharya is the incarnation in his person and in that of his descendents of Krishna, and the enjoyment for that reason, of the right to confer upon the faithful the privilege upon this earth of a personal union with the deity of their worship. Theoretically speaking, were this personal union to be regarded spiritually and held to elevate the mind to an intimate union with the highest moral principle; were it to hold forth by meditation and isolation some incentive to a consideration of self-annihilation and self-denial, this doctrine might have claims upon our attention as doing some, however limited, a good. But preached to a people who, from climatic influences and early conditions of puberty are peculiarly lascivious and prurient, the evil grows more and more enormous with the progress of the sect. …Gloomy faiths, bound to asceticism, have no real hold on the moral conduct of the professors of them, but a religion which rushes into an opposite extreme, and stimulates an evil too great already for the patience of mankind and civilisation, deserves to be trodden out.
    Anthropological Review, Vol.4, No.14, 1866

    Continue reading »

    Share
  7. Group Book Review: Esoteric Studies

    For this post I’m going to briefly review four scholarly texts dealing with various aspects of esoteric studies which I’ve read over the last year or so. Continue reading »

    Share
  8. Lecture Notes: On the Kamasutra – I

    Following on from the last post in this series in which I examined William Ward and his contribution to the assciation between tantra and sex, I now want to turn to the second of the three texts I examined in my Treadwells lecture – the Kamasutra. I selected the Kamasutra specifically because it is so frequently assumed to be a “tantric” text, and because I wanted to use it as a “lens” through which to examine the period it was first published in – the late nineteenth century and in addition, its later influence in the 1960s and beyond. For this first post, I will discuss the Kamasutra and the cultural context in which it was published, and follow up with a discussion of the Kamasutra’s wider reception in the twentieth century. Continue reading »

    Share
  9. Lecture Notes: On William Ward

    “The Tuntrus are fabulously attributed by the Hindoos to Shiva and Doorga; and are said to have been compiled from conversations between these two deities; the words of Shiva being called Agumu, and those of Doorga, Nigumu. Narudu is said to have communicated these conversations to the sages. Through the inability of men to obtain abstraction of mind in religious austerities, yogu, &c. the ceremonies enjoined in the veda could not be performed; in compassion to the people, therefore, say the learned Hindoos, the Tuntras were written, which prescribe an easier way to heaven, viz by incantations, repeating the names of the gods, ceremonial worship, &c. &c.
    At present a few of the original tuntrus, as well as compilations from them, are read in Bengal. Those who study them are called tantriku pundits.”
    William Ward, A view of the history, literature, and mythology of the Hindoos

    For this post I’m going to examine the work of the Reverend William Ward (1769-1823), who provided one of the earliest European accounts of tantric beliefs and practices, and was one of the most widely-read and influential observers of Indian life and religion throughout the nineteenth century. Continue reading »

    Share
  10. Lecture Notes: On Edward Sellon – II

    In the previous post on Edward Sellon I took a look at Sellon’s pornographic writings within the wider of context of nineteenth century attitudes to India & sexuality. For this post, I’m going to take a look at some of Sellon’s scholarly work, it’s reception, and its role in the representation of tantra. Continue reading »

    Share