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Title: Magical revival : occultism and the culture of regeneration in Britain, c. 1880-1929
Author: Walters, Jennifer
ISNI:       0000 0004 2682 7428
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2007
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This thesis is a cultural study of the Magical Revival that occurred in Britain, 1880-1929. Magical Revival denotes a period in the history of occultism, and the cultural history of Britain, during which an upsurge in interest in occult and magical ideas is marked by the emergence of newly-formed societies dedicated to the exploration of the occult, and into its bearing on life. Organisations discussed are the Theosophical Society, the Golden Dawn, and the less well known Astrum Argentum. ‘Magical Revival’ has further significance as the principal, but overlooked, aim of those societies and individuals was regeneration. Scholarship on late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century occultism is influenced by a longstanding preference for the esoteric over the exoteric aspects of occultism. It has tended to emphasise themes of abstraction, the psychological, and the esoteric, and has promulgated a view of occultism as static and impervious. From the outset, however, this thesis argues that approaching the Magical Revival from the purview of the esoteric is limiting, and that it screens its own significant themes and affinities with mainstream culture. It suggests that what needs to be prepared is a study which reads occultism with a close attention to its own terms of engagement and description. This is the aim of this thesis. The thesis offers a way of reading the occult activity of the period that privileges its exotericism. It seeks to pursue the links between an identifiable culture of occultism and conventional cultural discourses and activities towards an understanding of the movement as one actively constituting itself and producing, rather than obscuring, knowledge in relation to the social and cultural moment from which it arose. The occult topics and tendencies identified include evolution; ceremonial magic and astral travel; the body in occultism; and the nature of the occult experience. Others include the life and medical sciences; the philosophy of religion; and physical culture. The following questions underpin the thesis: In what ways did the Magical Revival connect with contemporary concerns? What does its activities, written records, literary and other material productions reveal about the nature of those connections? What does a closer attention to the textual and lived culture of the Magical Revival contribute to existing understanding of its place in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century culture? In answering those questions the thesis proposes that, in its systematic identification and addressing of cultural and social needs, general and specific, the Magical Revival should be viewed as closer to the social mainstream than is presently appreciated. Moreover, that the occultists’ efforts towards individual and cultural regeneration, take place within a broader cultural movement away from social thought dominated by degeneration, towards thinking directed towards regeneration.
Supervisor: Byron, Glennis Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Occultism ; Regeneration ; Occultism Great Britain History 19th century ; Occultism Great Britain History 20th century ; Magic Great Britain History 19th century ; Magic Great Britain History 20th century ; Culture Great Britain 19th century ; Culture Great Britain 20th century