Magi and Maggidim: The Kabbalah in British Occultism 1860-1940.
Studies in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology Vol. 3
Sophia Centre Press 2012
The growth of the occult ‘underground’ is one of the most fascinating features of late 19th and early 20th century British society. After decades of neglect, a growing body of scholarship is now dedicated to various aspects of Victorian and Edwardian magical practices and personalities, in an effort to understand why such a powerful cultural current could emerge simultaneously with the rise of modern science, and why it continues to exercise such a pervasive influence in many contemporary spiritualities. The books, articles, letters, and diaries produced by major figures in the occult revival, such as Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune, reveal the centrality of the Jewish Kabbalah in occultist thought and practice. However, the ways in which these individuals, and the secret societies they founded, sourced and utilised Jewish esoteric lore are largely ignored in current research. Current scholarship generally assumes that ‘occultist’ Kabbalah is a modernreinvention of older traditions,with little relationship to its Jewish roots. This assumption ignores the documented contributions of Jewish scholars and Kabbalists to the occultists’ work, and there is little, if any, in-depth comparison of the ideas expressed by British occultists and the Jewish Kabbalistic literature of the medieval and early modern periods. And why was the Jewish Kabbalah was so compellingly attractive to non-Jewish occultists at a time of turbulent social and scientific change, when religious, political, and racial antisemitism constituted a normative attitude in many circles of British society? This book provides a new, exciting, and penetrating analysis of how and why the Jewish Kabbalah was adopted and integrated, rather than reinvented or recreated, by important figures in the British occult revival, and why it remains a dominant theme in the spiritual currents of the twenty-first century.
Praise for Magi and Maggidim: The Kabbalah in British Occultism 1860-1940.
A fascinating and erudite exploration of the development of modern Kabbalah. Liz Greene’s knowledge of the subject is wide and deep, and this book is masterful in its nuanced unpicking and re-weaving of the history of an occult tradition often marred by poor research and generalisations.
Professor Owen Davies, University of Hertfordshire
Liz Greene is a tutor for the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology in the School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology at the University of Wales Trinity St David, and an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of History at the University of Bristol. She received a PhD in History from the University of Bristol in 2010, an MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology from Bath Spa University in 2007 and a PhD in Psychology from Los Angeles University in 1971. She is a qualified analytical psychologist (Association of Jungian Analysts, London, 1983) and a member of the International Association of Analytical Psychology. Her research interests include the Kabbalah, the British occult revival of the late 19th century and its links with modern dynamic psychology and psychiatry, and Orphic, Gnostic, early Jewish, and Hermetic astrologies and cosmologies from late antiquity.