Divine Feminine: Theosophy and Feminism in England

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JHU Press, Mar 9, 2001 - History - 293 pages
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In 1891, newspapers all over the world carried reports of the death of H. P. Blavatsky, the mysterious Russian woman who was the spiritual founder of the Theosophical Society. With the help of the equally mysterious Mahatmas who were her teachers, Blavatsky claimed to have brought the "ancient wisdom of the East" to the rescue of a materialistic West. In England, Blavatsky's earliest followers were mostly men, but a generation later the Theosophical Society was dominated by women, and theosophy had become a crucial part of feminist political culture.

Divine Feminine is the first full-length study of the relationship between alternative or esoteric spirituality and the feminist movement in England. Historian Joy Dixon examines the Theosophical Society's claims that women and the East were the repositories of spiritual forces which English men had forfeited in their scramble for material and imperial power. Theosophists produced arguments that became key tools in many feminist campaigns. Many women of the Theosophical Society became suffragists to promote the spiritualizing of politics, attempting to create a political role for women as a way to "sacralize the public sphere." Dixon also shows that theosophy provides much of the framework and the vocabulary for today's New Age movement. Many of the assumptions about class, race, and gender which marked the emergence of esoteric religions at the end of the nineteenth century continue to shape alternative spiritualities today.

  

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Review: Divine Feminine: Theosophy and Feminism in England

User Review  - Vivienne - Goodreads

A worthy topic but I found the presentation a little dull. I expect part of this was because in studying the history of occult movements of the late 19th century I had covered much of this territory ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
The Undomesticated Occult
17
The Mahatmas in Clubland Manliness and Scientific Spirituality
41
A Deficiency of the Male Element Gendering Spiritual Experience
67
Buggery and Humbuggery Sex Magic and Occult Authority
94
Occult Body Politics
121
The Divine Hermaphrodite and the Female Messiah Feminism and Spirituality in the 1890s
152
A New Age for Women Suffrage and the Sacred
177
Ancient Wisdom Modern Motherhood
206
Conclusion
227
Notes
235
Works Cited
265
Index
285
Copyright

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About the author (2001)

Joy Dixon is an assistant professor of history at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.