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Magi and Maggidim

The Kabbalah in British Occultism 1840-1930

by Liz Greene
  • Series: Studies in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology, Vol. 3
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-907767-02-9
  • Paperback: 558 pages
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches

Description

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.

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

List of Illustrations

Chapter One

Introduction

The case of the missing Kabbalah

Methodologies, monomyths, and metanarratives

Literature review

Definitions of terms

Chapter Two

The ‘Great Secret’: Éliphas Lévi and the Hebrew Roots of the Victorian Occult Revival

A visit to a magus

Le petit romantique

Rescuing the divine sparks: 

the Kabbalah of Isaac Luria

Lévi’s Kabbalah and the alchemical opus

The ‘psychologisation of the sacred’

The power of the letters

Lévi and the Jews

How the Kabbalah crossed the Channel

Chapter Three

Masonic Mysteries: William Wynn Westcott and his ‘Rosicrucian’ Kabbalah

The rhizome and the flower

The creation of the SRIA

The Kabbalah and the Craft

The Kabbalah and the ‘Rosie Cross’

Hermes and the Jews

John Dee and his Jewish angels

Westcott and the goddesses: the Kabbalahs of Anna Kingsford and H. P. Blavatsky

The ‘Magical Mason’ and his Kabbalah

Westcott and the Ashkenazi

Chapter Four

In the Name of Yhvh: Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers and the Ritual Magic of the Golden Dawn

A meeting at the museum

The name of the rose

Mathers and the grimoires

The astral magic of the Golden Dawn

Close encounters of the elemental kind

The Jewish scholars and the occultists

The Kabbalah according to L. MacGregor Mathers

Chapter Five

Arthwait and the Beast: Mysticism and the Sexual ‘Magick’ in British Occultism

The mystic and the magus

Waite’s Kabbalistic ‘mysticism’

Waite’s ‘Mystery of Sex’

The Kabbalah according to A. E. Waite

The Kabbalah according to Aleister Crowley

Sex, ‘magick’, and the Jewish messiahs

The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor

The ‘man with two souls’

Crowley’s maggid and The Book of the Law

The battle of the Tarots

Chapter Six

When She was ‘Jung and Easily Freudened’: Dion Fortune’s ‘Psychological’ Kabbalah

Between the wars

The occult psychologist

Freud, the Hasidim, and the Lurianic Kabbalah

Fortune’s Jungian archetypes

The Kabbalah according to Dion Fortune

Fortune’s ‘occult novels’

Fortune’s Kabbalistic legacy

Chapter Seven

Conclusion

‘Is Kabbalah Jewish?’

Defining the Kabbalah

The ‘pluralistic hermeneutic’

 

Glossary of Hebrew Words

Bibliography

Index

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