“Reason vs. Truth: How the Enlightenment and Romanticism Effected the Victorian Occult.”
By: Jessica Brazinski
This research project is a historical analysis of occult secret societies and organizations during and soon after the reign of Queen Victoria. In particular, this research focuses on the impact of Romanticism and the Enlightenment on the Victorian occult. By examining the founding myths, practices, and core beliefs of these organizations this study found that Enlightenment, Romanticist, and Neoclassical ideas all played a part in the adoption of foreign ideas into these societies. The Freemasons, for instance, were very much influenced by Enlightenment ideas. Similarly, Theosophy included both ideas from Romanticism ideas and Neoclassicism.
This research was conducted using secondary sources about the occult, the Enlightenment, and Romanticism, but also closely studied primary documents like books and articles written by the members of these secret societies. The works of Alex Owen and Edward Said served as inspirations for this research project and provided a basis of historiological understanding. Alex Owen provided pioneering understanding of Enlightenment ideas in the occult in her book The Place of Enchantment: British Occultism and the Culture of the Modern published in 2004. In his book Orientalism, Said argued for a created myth of the “mystical east” which informed the author’s interpretation of Theosophy. While both historians provided important understanding for this project, this author provides a new argument towards the impact of Romanticism and Neoclassicism on the Victorian occult. This research project also explores how these ideas have larger implications on both European and Eastern societies by studying the effect of Colonialism in these societies.
Romanticism, Enlightenment, Theosophy, Freemasons, Colonialism, Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Helena P. Blavatsky, Max Weber, Alex Owen, Edward Said.
- Event location
- Event date
3 November 2018
- Date submitted
19 July 2022