Popular Occulture in Scotland and Scottish Theosophy: Michael Shaw on “The Theosophical Press in Scotland”

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Media, Modern Occultism, Theosophy

Presented at the “Periodical Occulture and the Occult Public Sphere.” 14th July 2017.

Synopsis

“This paper discusses the Theosophical periodical press in Scotland c.1880-1920, and it argues that these periodicals reveal a particular Theosophical culture in Scotland. Focusing on two titles that were unique to Scotland, Theosophy in Scotland and Occult, Scientific and Literary Papers Read at the Scottish Lodge, I demonstrate that these Theosophical periodicals contributed to Scottish artistic movements, including the Scottish Celtic Revival, and promoted Theosophy in Scotland by consistently speaking to Scottish events and affairs. I argue that Scotland’s Theosophical press echoes the (successful) movement to establish a distinctive Scottish ‘National Section’ of the Theosophical Society, as well reflecting the intersection between Theosophy and the Home Rule movements at the turn of the century – commenting on Annie Besant’s support for Scottish Home Rule. The paper highlights the amorphous nature of Theosophy and the Theosophical press across the British Isles and reveals the deficiencies of Anglo-centric and metro-centric approaches. Michael Shaw is a lecturer in Victorian Literature at the University of Kent. He was previously a research assistant and postdoctoral tutor at the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde. His research focuses on literature and art from 1880 to 1914, with a particular emphasis on decadence and the Celtic Revival. He is currently writing a book, Cultural Revival in Fin-de-Siècle Scotland (Edinburgh University Press), which will include a chapter on occultism in Scotland. A chapter on Scottish Theosophy will also feature in Christine Ferguson and Andrew Radford’s forthcoming volume, The Occult Imagination in Britain 1875-1947 (Routledge). This paper was presented at the “Periodical Occulture and the Occult Public Sphere” workshop on Friday 14th July 2017, at Birkbeck, University of London. The workshop was part of the ‘Popular Occulture in Britain 1875-1947′ project.” (For more information, please make sure to check out Popular Occulture at http://www.stir.ac.uk/popular-occultu….)

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