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The Place of Enchantment: British Occultism and the Culture of the Modern Paperback – 14 Apr 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 378 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; New edition edition (14 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226642046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226642048
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 548,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Present in this book are a wonderfully rich cast of characters. It is splendid to have them rescued from the past. . . . This is a fascinating study. . . . It succeeds in making its point that British occultism is a significant part of the intellectual history of modernity."--Peter Stansky "H-Albion " --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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By the end of the nineteenth century, Victorians were seeking rational explanations for the world in which they lived. The radical ideas of Charles Darwin had shaken traditional religious beliefs. Sigmund Freud was developing his innovative models of the conscious and unconscious mind. And anthropologist James George Frazer was subjecting magic, myth, and ritual to systematic inquiry. Why, then, in this quintessentially modern moment, did late-Victorian and Edwardian men and women become absorbed by metaphysical quests, heterodox spiritual encounters, and occult experimentation?
In answering this question for the first time, "The Place of Enchantment" breaks new ground in its consideration of the role of occultism in British culture prior to World War I. Rescuing occultism from its status as an "irrational indulgence" and situating it at the center of British intellectual life, Owen argues that an involvement with the occult was a leitmotif of the intellectual avant-garde. Carefully placing a serious engagement with esotericism squarely alongside revolutionary understandings of rationality and consciousness, Owen demonstrates how a newly psychologized magic operated in conjunction with the developing patterns of modern life. She details such fascinating examples of occult practice as the sex magic of Aleister Crowley, the pharmacological experimentation of W. B. Yeats, and complex forms of astral clairvoyance as taught in secret and hierarchical magical societies like the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
Through a remarkable blend of theoretical discussion and intellectual history, Owen has produced a work that moves far beyond a consideration of occultists and their world. Bearing directly on our understanding of modernity, her conclusions will force us to rethink the place of the irrational in modern culture.

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Format: Paperback
This is the first book I have encountered that seriously examines the intellectual, political and cultural influences and mileau of the practices and persons involved in the Golden Dawn and the esoteric movements at the beginning of the 20th Century. Alex Owen approaches the subject with erudition and places these movements within their context and traces the influence on the modernist conception of the self.
Be warned...this is no pot-boiler or pseudo-new age treatise on the Golden Dawn and occult but a thorough and engaging attempt to get beneath the skin of the people involved and their occult practices...fascinating...the account of Crowley in a later chapter is good and this book hopefully should set the standard for further works in this neglected and dismissed area that is over-due for critical review and evaluation. 4 stars as it took me a while to warm up to Alex Owen's approach to the subject but if you really are interested in a critical examination of these influential esoteric movements, whether Crowley, Blavatsky or the members of the Golden Dawn and their ritual magic that involved inducing OOBE's to travel the 'astral planes' dive in!!!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is essential reading for anyone wishing to study the history and philosophy of the occult and esoteric in the UK. IT is the best thing I have read on thoesophy, the hermetic order of the Golden Dawn and related occult movements. It demonstrates how thes organisations and people made a significantr contribution to modernist thought. Very highly recommended.
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