Skip to navigation | Skip to content



Posts tagged ‘Theosophy’

  1. Chakras into the west: Rama Prasad’s Nature’s Finer Forces – II

    For this second post on the subject of Rama Prasad’s 1890 book Nature’s Finer Forces and its relevance to the development of contemporary discourses regarding chakras, kundalini and related subjects, I’m going to examine the “controversy” over Rama Prasad’s work that I mentioned in the previous post. Continue reading »

    Share
  2. Chakras into the west: Rama Prasad’s Nature’s Finer Forces – I

    As promised at the end of the last post in this series, for this next part I’m going to take a look at the work of Rama Prasad – in particular his 1890 book, Nature’s Finer Forces, first published in Lahore under the title of Occult Science: The Science of Breath in 1884.

    Why this particular book? I find Nature’s Finer Forces interesting for a number of reasons. Although it does not have a great deal to say about chakras/kundalini – what it does say – and how Rama Prasad presents an explanation of the subjects covered using the scientific terminology of the time is of value. It is frequently assumed that scientific interpretations of chakras, etc., are a western or ‘colonial’ overlay or imposition on indigenous, premodern representations of the transmaterial body. That Rama Prasad and a number of other Indian authors of this period (some of whom I’ll be examining in future installments) did so, raises interesting questions regarding cultural intersections and the formation of knowledge. Also, Nature’s Finer Forces was to some extent, the cause of controversy within the Theosophical Society – prompting Madame Blavatsky to make some fairly unequivocal statements on the subject of Tantra. Continue reading »

    Share
  3. 2017 Lectures so far

    A quick announcement for some up-coming lectures in the UK. Continue reading »

    Share
  4. Book Review: Rainbow Body

    Earlier this year I started a series of posts examining some of the early ‘influencers’ of the modern chakra system as it tends to be represented in the west. I’d been interested in writing about this subject for some time, and had started to think that it would make an interesting book project – examining the development of the western chakra system within the larger context of biomedical discourses. However, I must admit that I baulked somewhat at the prospect of having to read through acres and acres of ‘new age’ material. Now I don’t have to, as Kurt Leland’s Rainbow Body: A History of the Western Chakra System from Blavatsky to Brennan (Ibis Press, 2016, 516pp, Paperback) is the definitive history of the evolution of the chakra system as it is known in the West today. Continue reading »

    Share
  5. 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 »

    Share
  6. 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 »

    Share
  7. Chakras into the west: James Morgan Pryse’s “The Apocalypse Unsealed”

    For some time now, I’ve been idly collecting notes for a monograph – or perhaps a lecture or two – on the early twentieth-century European authors who played a role in shaping contemporary western discourse on the chakras; in particular, it’s reification into the ubiquitous seven-chakra schema reproduced ad nauseum in hundreds of contemporary new age, occult, and yoga texts, together with its increasing medicalisation.

    The obvious sources for much of contemporary chakra discourse are Sir John Woodroffe, whose translation of the Ṣaṭ-chakra-nirūpaṇa, entitled “The Serpent Power” appeared in 1918, and Charles Webster Leadbeater’s 1927 book, The Chakras. I also thought it would be interesting to take a look at Jung’s 1932 Kundalini lectures, and how he interpreted chakras in terms of individuation. A recent blog post by scholar-practitioner Christopher Wallis: The Real Story on the Chakras has rekindled my interest in this project, and I thought that – rather than posting about the “big three” mentioned above, I’d write about a rather less well-known author with a rather novel interpretation of chakras – James Morgan Pryse. Continue reading »

    Share
  8. 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
  9. “A thousand kisses darling”: Sex, scandal and spirituality in the life of Charles Webster Leadbeater – some conclusions

    I’m going to close this series of posts on the Leadbeater scandals with some general observations. The Leadbeater scandal erupted at a time when, as Eve Sedgwick has argued, the ‘nameless abomination’ of homosexual desire was subject to increasing scrutiny – being named, pathologised, and (cautiously) celebrated through various scientific, medical, legal artistic and occult discourses. The discovery of the homosexual as a type of person was the subject of early sexological investigations, and at the same time there was an emergence of discourses which made a link between inversion and religious (in the writings of Havelock Ellis and Edward Carpenter, for example) – even mystical sensibilities – and the idea that the appearance of the invert or Uranian sensibility represented a new phase of human spiritual progress. The Leadbeater scandals emerged at a time when the many facets of the “sex question” were being hotly debated. Continue reading »

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

    This post examines the “third phase” of the Leadbeater scandal – the events in Australia and Leadbeater’s association with the Liberal Catholic Church. Continue reading »

    Share