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Posts tagged ‘nineteenth century’

  1. Lecture Notes: On Edward Sellon – I

    When I’m researching material for lectures, I often find myself poking into a variety of fascinating areas and characters, which unfortunately time often precludes me from doing anything more than briefly summarising their relationship to the main topic at hand. So a lot of material ends up on “the cutting room floor” as it were. What follows is the first of two posts (expanded from the preparation for my forthcoming Treadwells lecture) focusing on Edward Sellon (1816-66). Sellon is noteworthy as his his writings can be located as emerging out of the blurred zone between “serious scholarship” and erotica (sometimes referred to as “ethnopornography”). Sellon wrote both pornographic books and more sober, scholarly works, both of which provide a window into the period’s attitudes to India, sexuality, and Tantra. This first post will look at Sellon’s pornographic writing in the context of the nineteenth-century demand for pornography and Imperial attitudes to India & sexuality, and I will follow up with an examination of his “scholarly” works – the papers he delivered to the Anthropological Society of London and his book Annotation to the Sacred Writings of the Hindus. Continue reading »

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  2. Occult gender regimes: Polarity and Thermodynamic bodies – II

    “…there is no word in any language I know which is an exact synonym for vril. I should call it electricity, except that it comprehends in its manifold branches other forces of nature, to which, in our scientific nomenclature, differing names are assigned, such as magnetism, galvanism, &c. These people consider that in vril they have arrived at the unity in natural energetic agencies, which has been conjectured by many philosophers above ground…”
    Bulwer-Lytton, 1871, The Coming Race

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  3. Occult gender regimes: Polarity and Thermodynamic bodies – I

    “Star and nerve-tissue are parts of the system-stellar and nervous forces are correlated. Nay more; sensation awakens thought and kindles emotion, so that this wondrous dynamic chain binds into living unity the realms of matter and mind through measureless amplitudes of space and time.”
    Edward Youmans, 1869, The Correlation and Conservation of Force

    This post will examine the arrival of thermodynamics in the nineteenth century and consider its wider cultural impact – in particular how it was used to reinforce gender regimes. Continue reading »

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  4. Occult gender regimes: Polarity and the spirited body – II

    In my last post in this series I examined the relationship between spiritualism and the rapid growth of communications technology in the nineteenth century. This time round, I’m going to focus on the notion of “female passivity” in terms of Spiritualism, and its relationship to wider cultural discourses of the period. Just as spiritualism took off at the same time as the rise of the telegraph, it also was contemporaneous with the growing tensions over women’s role and influence – the so-called “Woman Question”. Continue reading »

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  5. Occult gender regimes: Polarity and the spirited body – I

    In the early part of the nineteenth century, electricity was thought to be the force most likely to prove the existence of the elan vitale or life force of Naturalphilosophie. Schelling, at the turn of the century, for example, proposed that heat, light, magnetism and electricity were all byproducts of a single universal life force. The arising of electrical models allowed polarities to be discovered within organisms – and between discrete classes of persons. Thus maleness or masculinity was assigned to the positive pole, and femininity to the negative. The gendering of electricity and energy continued in the nineteenth century, particularly in respect to medical theories and the notion of “nervous energy”, and the rise in popularity of Spiritualism. Continue reading »

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  6. Tantra’s Metahistory III: The Left-hand Path – II

    The Tantrists do not seem to go higher than the six visible and known plexuses, with each of which they connect the tattvas; and the great stress they place on the chief of these, the Muladhara Chakra (the sacral plexus) shows the material and selfish bent of their efforts towards the acquisition of powers.The Mahatma Letters (Letter CXIV, p480)

    In the last post I reviewed how the notion of the “left-hand path” and much of the themes which relate to it emerged out of nineteenth century Indology. I will now turn to how the concept of the left-hand path” was used by Madame Blavatsky and other early Theosophists. Continue reading »

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  7. Tantra’s Metahistory III: The Left-hand Path – I

    In popular occult discourse, the concept of the “Left-hand Path” is often stated as originating within the tantric traditions, and sometimes, its popularisation within western occultism is laid at the door of Madame Blavatsky and other popular Theosophical pundits of the late nineteenth century – to the extent that the conceptualisation of the idea of the LHP in wholly negative terms (as can be seen in the writings of successive western occultists – Dion Fortune for example) is something that begins with Madame Blavatsky. However, although she may have been one of the first occultists to write extensively about the Left Hand Path, its identification with moral (and spiritual) degeneracy certainly did not begin with Blavatsky. Continue reading »

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  8. Occult gender regimes: reincarnation and ‘Uranian’ souls in the Nineteenth century

    It often seems to me that many occult representations of gender are rooted in nineteenth century formations, so I thought, for this post, it’d be interesting to examine some occult theories that emerged in this period – such as representations of the connection made between reincarnation, masculinity & femininity & the soul’s evolution, and the so-called “Uranian” temperament which emerged from various Theosophical sources in the late nineteenth & early twentieth century. Continue reading »

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  9. Must we love the Golden Bough?

    What is it about Pagans and The Golden Bough? It seems like every time I open a book written by a Pagan or Magician, there it is, casting an inescapable shadow over the text, like the monolith in 2001. Continue reading »

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