Sunday, December 9, 2012
Theosophical Socialism and Radical Print Culture
Such is the chapter subheading in Elizabeth Miller’s Slow Print: Literary Radicalism and Late Victorian Print Culture set for release in January 2013 from Stanford University Press. The book looks at literary culture of Britain's radical press from 1880 to 1910, and chapter 5, “Enlightenment Beyond Reason,” focuses on later figures involved in Theosophy such as Annie Besant, Herbert Burrows, and A.R. Orage who were already activists in labour movements before their joining. Miller notes:
“Theosophy was not a socialist movement, in the sense of demanding or requiring socialist principles among followers, yet in England many socialists were attracted to theosophy and found and affinity between theosophical and social ideals.” Besant, as can be expected, gets much space, but it is good to see that Alfred Richard Orage (1873-1934) and his connection with Theosophy explored, a neglected area in his career. Orage later became a disciple of G. I. Gurdjieff.
The connection between Theosophy and Socialism is an unexplored area; most claims have been with the movement’s assumed connection with Right Wing movements, though adherents of such positions seem to conveniently omit the main platform in Blavatsky’s Theosophical movement: To form the nucleus of a universal brotherhood of humanity without distinction of race, creed, caste, or colour.