The Occult Imagination in Britain, 1875-1947: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Occult Imagination in Britain, 1875-1947

1st Edition

Edited by Christine Ferguson, Andrew Radford


278 pages | 11 B/W Illus.

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Between 1875 and 1947, a period bookended, respectively, by the founding of the Theosophical Society and the death of notorious occultist celebrity Aleister Crowley, Britain experienced an unparalleled efflorescence of engagement with unusual occult schema and supernatural phenomena such as astral travel, ritual magic, and reincarnationism. Reflecting the signal array of responses by authors, artists, actors, impresarios and popular entertainers to questions of esoteric spirituality and belief, this interdisciplinary collection demonstrates the enormous interest in the occult during a time typically associated with the rise of secularization and scientific innovation. The contributors describe how the occult realm functions as a turbulent conceptual and affective space, shifting between poles of faith and doubt, the sacrosanct and the profane, the endemic and the exotic, the forensic and the fetishistic. Here, occultism emerges as a practice and epistemology that decisively shapes the literary enterprises of writers such as Dion Fortune and Arthur Machen, artists such as Pamela Colman Smith, and revivalists such as Rolf Gardiner


"Ultimately, this is an important and well-assembled contribution that warrants wide reading among scholars of British esotericism, par-ticularly those specializing in Theosophy."

- Ethan Doyle White, University College London

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Christine Ferguson: Introduction

Occulture Beyond the Metropole 

Chapter 1: Michael Shaw, "Theosophy in Scotland: Oriental Occultism and National Identity"

Chapter 2: Nick Daly, "The Everyday Occult on Stage: The Play of Lord Dunsany"

Chapter 3: Clare Button, " ‘A very perfect form of discipline’: Rolf Gardiner, folk dance and occult landscapes"

Occulting the Public Sphere

Chapter 4: Jake Poller, " ‘Under a Glamour’: Annie Besant, Charles Leadbeater and Neo-Theosophy"

Chapter 5: Nick Freeman, "The Black Magic Bogeyman 1908-1935"

Chapter 6: Elsa Richardson, "Stemming the Black Tide of Mud: Psychoanalysis and the Occult Periodical, 1910-1924"

Women’s Occulture

Chapter 7: Caroline Tully, "Egyptosophy in the British Museum: Florence Farr, the Egyptian Adept and the Ka"

Chapter 8: Dennis Denisoff, "Occult Synaesthetics and Pamela Colman Smith’s The Green Sheaf"

Chapter 9: Andrew Radford, "Anxieties of Mystic Influence: Dion Fortune’s The Winged Bull and Aleister Crowley"

Art, Fiction and Occult Intermediation

Chapter 10: Aren Roukema, "Naturalists in Ghost Land: Victorian Occultism and Science Fiction"

Chapter 11: Massimo Introvigne, "Painting the Masters in Britain: From Schmiechen to Scott"

Chapter 12: Steven Sutcliffe, " ‘Beating on Your Heart’: The Novels of David Lindsay and the Cultic Milieu in the 1920s"

About the Editors

Christine C. Ferguson is Senior Lecturer in English in the School of Criticial Studies and Andrew Radford is Lecturer in English in the School of Critical Studies at the University of Glasgow, UK.

About the Series

Among the Victorians and Modernists

Among the Victorians and Modernists

This series publishes monographs and essay collections on literature, art, and culture in the context of the diverse aesthetic, political, social, technological, and scientific innovations that arose among the Victorians and Modernists. Viable topics include, but are not limited to, artistic and cultural debates and movements; influential figures and communities; and agitations and developments regarding subjects such as animals, commodification, decadence, degeneracy, democracy, desire, ecology, gender, nationalism, the paranormal, performance, public art, sex, socialism, spiritualities, transnationalism, and the urban. Studies that address continuities between the Victorians and Modernists are welcome. Work on recent responses to the periods such as NeoVictorian novels, graphic novels, and film will also be considered.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Modern / 19th Century
LITERARY CRITICISM / Modern / 20th Century
LITERARY CRITICISM / Subjects & Themes / General
LITERARY CRITICISM / Subjects & Themes / Religion
BODY, MIND & SPIRIT / Occultism
RELIGION / General
RELIGION / Theosophy