Sunday, February 5, 2012

Modern Western Magic and Theosophy

The Volume 12, Number 1 (2012) issue of Aries, the “Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism,” publishes an article by Gregory Tillett on “Modern Western Magic and Theosophy.” Tillett argues that

The influence of the Theosophical Society on the development of modern Western esotericism can hardly be overestimated. Both directly and indirectly Theosophy functioned as a catalyst and resource for almost everything in the Western esotericism, which followed the publication of the teachings of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891) and the founding of the Theosophical Society in 1875. While the influence of theosophy on Western esotericism is well documented, it is seen less often as a precursor of western magic. Although Blavatsky who provided what might be regarded as the underlying esoteric philosophy, ritual magic yielded to Charles Webster Leadbeater's (1854-1934) more practical, and actually more popular and more palatable, explanations of how and why they might be effective. His assertion that ritual magic is not just symbolic or psychological but caused a real transformation of the participants and the outside world has influenced most modern ritual magic texts and groups, and there is clearly apparent. It is a Theosophical influence, but not one that Blavatsky, the Theosophical or organizations which are often called ‘Neo-Theosophy’, refuse to recognize, would.

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