Help with an essay question re. 19th century occult/Rosicrucianism etc.
I'm a Victorian Studies MA student and am about to start researching an essay on the 'roots' of the Golden Dawn. I'm particularly interested in investigating the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, the influence of Eliphas Levi on Bulwer-Lytton, Kenneth R. H. Mackenzie and some of the perhaps less familiar players in the pre-GD 'occult underground' in the UK.
If anyone has any pointers on particular people, societies, connections etc. relevant to this that I should investigate, I would really appreciate the help! Also, does anyone have any thoughts on whether I could make an argument that pre-GD occult acitivity in the UK was somehow uniquely British and/or uniquely Victorian?
As I say, if anyone has any thoughts or advice on this they would be willing to share with me, it would be most appreciated!
The only person I know who might point you to some sources is Mary Greer, esoteric Tarot expert and author of The Women of the Golden Dawn (Park Street Press, 1996).
She knows a lot about the personalities and the foundation of the GD itself, but I don't know how much she knows about the pre-GD esoteric scene in Britain. I'm sure she'd be happy to give you suggestions.
If you like I'll PM you her address - although I'm sure you can find it - or I'd be happy to pass your query along to her as a form of introduction.
From the sound of it you want to focus as much on anglophone influences. Leaving aside Papus, the various Rosicrucian offshoots in France, the Martinists and others; Hockley springs to mind as particularly English.
Look into Frederick Hockley, Keith at Weiser Antiquarian / Titan press has released several of his works
Im sure you have read it already but, the McIntosh book Eliphas Levi and the French Occult Revival has chapters dealing with the interactions between Levi and Bulwer-Lytton on the latter's trip to England which may be very helpful.
See also "Magicians of the Golden Dawn" as well as
"Sword of Wisdom" by Ithell Colquhoun may have some good biblographic leads.
Thank you both for such incredibly helpful advice - I really am very grateful!
If you're looking into the roots, you may wish to check up on the predecessors of Hockley et al., viz. John Dee, Elias Ashmole and Thomas Rudd. These guys certainly predate the Victorian Age, however, they are important as forming a chain of transmission which later flourished into the GD.
p.s. Cf. the books by Stephen Skinner, who has excellent introductions on these topics.
If you don't know Ronald Hutton's work, read his stuff.
That is a very interesting question. I always considered it a result of the more fertile French movement but it lacked many of the characteristically French elements, such as the relationship with Catholicism ( despite AE Waite), I'm thinking more of Peladan's occult Catholicisim, Vintras, preoccupation with aristocracy (and Synarchy), the Naundorff claim, and the lineage of the Throne of Louis.
The G.'.D.' gained particularly British elements such as Machen's faery lore and Yeats desire to create a Golden Dawn with more Irish, as opposed to Egyptian, symbolism.
You should join the Academic Magic mailing list and pose your questions there. A very fine group of academics and a deep well of knowledge. Google will open the way.
I have a book at home "Bulwer-Lytton The Rise and Fall of a Victorian Man of Letters" by Leslie Mitchell, haven't read the book myself, though, I think it might be somewhat of interest to your researching project . . . if it's not it might be of interest to other members of Lashtal.com, anyway I thought it enough worth to mention this on this site!
If you need an academic approach to the roots of the GD, I'd recommend Butler's "Victorian Occultism" and then Owen's "Place of Enchantment".
There are a series of Aquarian books, now long out of print, called 'Roots of The Golden Dawn'. They consist of a number of monographs featuring all of the main GD players.
Much of the GD seemed to grow out of English Freemasonry. Most of the main players seem to have clear links to it.
Thanks for all these suggestions - lots of intriguing avenues for me to investigate here.
I really appreciate all the help, thanks everyone!
Aquarian also published a Masonic Classics series which included selected masonic papers of Waite and Mackenzie's "idiosyncratic" Royal Masonic Cyclopedia among others.
I've got a 1 of 5 1/4 leather editon of McKenzie's Royal Masonic Cyclopedia the Hellfire Book Club put out in very limited release several years ago from some uncut & unbound Aquarian Press prints; why do you call it "Idiosyncratic"?
Personally I find the Royal Masonic Cyclopedia a marvelous read. It's also one of those rare encyclopedia's that can be read sequentially from start to finish and gives the impression that that is how it was written.
Aquarian call it "idiosyncratic" themselves in John Hamill's blurb about the Masonic Classics Series included at the front of the books (where it's also referred to as an "oddity"). It's on page iii of the 1987 Aquarian edition so might be in yours too.
It's certainly not what might be called a bog-standard Masonic reference book* so I thought the term worth quoting as an indication of this for others. Neither 'idiosyncratic' nor 'eclectic' (or indeed 'oddity') are derogatory terms in my mind. 😉
*e.g. 17 page entry on Kabbalah, 2 pages on Oannes, etc.