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Posts tagged ‘Orientalism’

  1. 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 »

  2. 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 »

  3. Lecture notes: Omar Garrison – I

    Back in 2012 I started a series of posts entitled “Lecture Notes” which related – in various ways – to the lecture I did at Treadwells Bookshop that year examining the widespread view that tantra is fundamentally, about sex. More specifically, I wanted to present the idea that this identification is the end-product of particular historical processes and cultural ping-ponging, and chose to do so by looking at three different textual representations of tantra & sexuality – the writing of William Ward at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Richard Burton’s translation of the Kamasutra at the other end of the nineteenth century, and finally Omar Garrison’s Tantra: the yoga of sex which was published in 1964. (there were also two posts on Edward Sellon which was an initial dive into the fuzzy boundaries between anthropology and pornography). But I never actually got around to writing up some of my thoughts on Omar Garrison until now, having become sidetracked into looking into early sexological writing on the subject of “sacred sex” (Marie Stopes and Havelock Ellis) and some futher work on the Kamasutra. Continue reading »

  4. Lecture notes: On the Kamasutra – II

    Having discussed the “discovery” and publication of the Kamasutra, I will now examine some aspects of its history and influence beyond the confines of Burton’s closed circle of gentleman erotophiles. For this post, I will discuss the some of changes in representation of the Kamasutra in the West throughout the twentieth century. Continue reading »

  5. 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 »

  6. Tantra’s metahistory -I

    One of the many ways in which Tantra fascinates me is the way that it is represented, be it by practitioners, scholars, historians, occultists or any combination thereof – and how those representations change over time. It was my interest in how tantra (and other forms of South Asian religious practice) is represented in popular occult discourse which led me to become interested in both Orientalism and the influence on contemporary occultism of the Theosophical Society. So with a nod in the direction of Hayden White, this is the first of a series of posts examining the way in which Tantra’s history has been, and continues to be represented, particularly in occult texts. This opening shot is concerned with origin theories of Tantra which relate to the so-called Aryan Invasion Theory. Continue reading »