Book

The Place of Enchantment

Alex Owen

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2004 | ISBN: 9780226642017
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226642031 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226642031.001.0001
The Place of Enchantment

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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By the end of the nineteenth century, Victorians were seeking rational explanations for the world in which they lived. The radical ideas of Charles Darwin had shaken traditional religious beliefs. Sigmund Freud was developing his innovative models of the conscious and unconscious mind. And anthropologist James George Frazer was subjecting magic, myth, and ritual to systematic inquiry. Why, then, in this quintessentially modern moment, did late Victorian and Edwardian men and women become absorbed by metaphysical quests, heterodox spiritual encounters, and occult experimentation? In answering this question, this book breaks new ground in its consideration of the role of occultism in British culture prior to World War I. Rescuing occultism from its status as an “irrational indulgence” and situating it at the center of British intellectual life, the author argues that an involvement with the occult was a leitmotif of the intellectual avant-garde. Carefully placing a serious engagement with esotericism squarely alongside revolutionary understandings of rationality and consciousness, she demonstrates how a newly psychologized magic operated in conjunction with the developing patterns of modern life. The author details such examples of occult practice as the sex magic of Aleister Crowley, the pharmacological experimentation of W. B. Yeats, and complex forms of astral clairvoyance as taught in secret and hierarchical magical societies such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

Keywords: occultism; Victorian Britain; esotericism; modern life; pharmacology; astral clairvoyance; magical societies; British culture; sex magic

Book.  378 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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Table of Contents

Magicians of the New Dawn in The Place of Enchantment

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Sexual Politics in The Place of Enchantment

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After Armageddon in The Place of Enchantment

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