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By Joy Dixon

In 1891, newspapers around the world carried reviews of the dying of H. P. Blavatsky, the mysterious Russian lady who used to be the religious founding father of the Theosophical Society. With assistance from the both mysterious Mahatmas who have been her lecturers, Blavatsky claimed to have introduced the "ancient knowledge of the East" to the rescue of a materialistic West. In England, Blavatsky's earliest fans have been normally males, yet a iteration later the Theosophical Society was once ruled by way of ladies, and theosophy had turn into a vital a part of feminist political tradition. Divine female is the 1st full-length research of the connection among replacement or esoteric spirituality and the feminist circulate in England. Historian pleasure Dixon examines the Theosophical Society's claims that ladies and the East have been the repositories of religious forces which English males had forfeited of their scramble for cloth and imperial energy. Theosophists produced arguments that grew to become key instruments in lots of feminist campaigns. many girls of the Theosophical Society grew to become suffragists to advertise the spiritualizing of politics, trying to create a political function for girls with a view to "sacralize the general public sphere." Dixon additionally indicates that theosophy offers a lot of the framework and the vocabulary for modern New Age stream. the various assumptions approximately category, race, and gender which marked the emergence of esoteric religions on the finish of the 19th century proceed to form replacement spiritualities at the present time.

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Extra info for Divine Feminine: Theosophy and Feminism in England

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36 Many of KH and M’s notes were actually annotations on Sinnett’s own letters, which were returned to him with marginal commentary in blue and red pencil. The Mahatma Letters themselves were transcribed and compiled by the theosophist A. T. Barker, who published them in 1923, two years after Sinnett’s death. The Mahatma Letters are curious documents. Their origin and provenance are, of course, open to dispute. Based on his study of the handwriting in the letters, and of their peculiarities of spelling and idiom, Richard Hodgson of the Society for Psychical Research concluded that the letters were forgeries, produced by Blavatsky and her confederates in response to Sinnett’s request for direct contact with the Masters.

11 If we add to this number those women in Banks’s study whose lives included a substantial engagement with unorthodox forms of spirituality more broadly defined, such as Emily Wilding Davison, Mary Gawthorpe, and Dora Marsden, the percentage climbs even higher. One might also include Eleanor Sidgwick, who devoted many years of her life to the Society for Psychical Research, founded to explore the scientific evidence for spiritual claims. Of the other women Banks lists, many devoted considerable time and energy to creative and original religious work.

31 Since claims about spirituality are so often aligned with claims about the absolute or transcendent, an appeal to the spiritual can become a powerful cultural and political resource. The image of the mystic East, for example, played an important role in the arguments of many Hindu reformers and Indian nationalists. 32 In many histories of feminist political culture, however, the continuing significance of these spiritual claims is ignored. Historians tend to employ a hierarchy of explanation that assumes, rather than demonstrates, the analytic priority of the political or the economic over the spiritual.

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