ISSN / EISSN : 1567-9896 / 1570-0593
Published by: Brill Academic Publishers (10.1163)
Total articles ≅ 412
Latest articles in this journal
Aries, Volume -1, pp 1-27; https://doi.org/10.1163/15700593-20211008
The article argues that “esotericism” can usefully be applied to a number of religious currents in Southern Africa. With a focus on Botswana, we survey a range of practices, from traditional “shamanic” healing to Pentecostal NRM s to New Age spiritualities and neoshamanism, some presented here for the first time. The term esotericism is useful for analysing the religious situation in Southern African contexts for three reasons. First, through a typological understanding of esotericism as initiation-based knowledge systems, we define one part of the landscape (usually termed “shamanism”) as constituting a form of “indigenous esotericism”. Second, through the European colonial expansion, this indigenous esotericism faced a violent rejection campaign that parallels the construction of “rejected knowledge” in Europe. While this forced many practices underground, they have resurfaced within Southern African Christianity. Third, “western” esoteric currents have recently been imported to Southern Africa and enter into dialogues with the “indigenous” forms.
Aries, Volume -1, pp 1-25; https://doi.org/10.1163/15700593-02201004
The Ghost Club was founded to discuss matters spiritual, psychic and occult in 1882 by Spiritualist William Stainton Moses and mystic Alfred Alaric Watts. It was intended as a club ruled by a gentleman’s code of honour—with all matters discussed kept strictly confidential. While maintaining secrecy, it also obsessively minuted and documented its discussions, leaving behind thousands of pages of records that have yet to be properly investigated, owing to conditions around their use. This essay is an attempt to examine the importance of the Club, and how it might readjust our understanding of the networks of the London occult in the late-Victorian and Edwardian eras.
Aries, Volume -1, pp 1-27; https://doi.org/10.1163/15700593-20211005
Carlos Castaneda has been studied mostly as a fraud anthropologist, novelist/philosopher and a contributor to the emerging phenomenon of neo-shamanism. Instead, this article focuses on Castaneda’s individual philosophy and religious system as developed in his written works. A threefold classification is proposed—early, transitional, and late works, complete with chief characteristics of each. The analysis shows how Castaneda slowly drifted from the scholarly style through stress on the narrative to full-fledged religious texts. These changes also reflect on Castaneda’s personal life; from academic ambition through public scandal ‘debunking’ his counterfeit works to the formation of a little new religious movement, of which Castaneda was a charismatic leader. Unlike most scholarly analyses of Castaneda that focus mainly on the early writings, this article takes into serious consideration his late works and shows that it was here that the author fully developed as a religious thinker and guru.
Aries, Volume -1, pp 1-4; https://doi.org/10.1163/15700593-02201009
Aries, Volume -1, pp 1-22; https://doi.org/10.1163/15700593-02201003
The backbone of Victorian spirit investigations rested with the credibility of the witnesses who attended spiritualist events such as séances. But how did someone become a credible witness of spirit or psychic phenomena? What were the processes by which their testimonies became trustworthy representations of genuine experiences? This paper explores these questions by examining the visual epistemology of the scientific naturalist and sceptic John Tyndall (1820–1893), as a way of understanding the politics of constructing scientific testimony during the late Victorian period. Visual epistemology can be defined as an embodied practice of observation that moves beyond merely being the physical act of looking at things to include a range of skilled activities. Key to this paper is an attempt to challenge earlier whiggish accounts in the historiography that have perpetuated the myth that science conquered spiritualism in the nineteenth century. Instead, it exposes a more complicated narrative about Victorian science’s uneasy relationship with spirit and psychic phenomena, and raises important questions about the authority and limit of scientific naturalism.
Aries, Volume -1, pp 1-25; https://doi.org/10.1163/15700593-02201005
William Fletcher Barrett (1844–1925) has long been recognised for his key role in the foundation of the Society for Psychical Research in 1882, but this came after years of working as a physicist and psychical researcher between Ireland and Britain, conducting mesmeric experiments, maintaining correspondence, and sharing research ideas at forums like the British Association for the Advancement of Science. This article re-evaluates Barrett’s career by focusing on his networks, projects, and organisations in Ireland. These acted as bridges connecting his work as a teacher of physics with his work as a psychical researcher and investigator of spiritualism. In doing so, this article also contributes to the history of spiritualism in Ireland by demonstrating the rich connections which existed between scientists, intellectuals, and amateur investigators in the area of spiritualism and psychical research.
Aries, Volume -1, pp 1-11; https://doi.org/10.1163/15700593-02201001
Aries, Volume -1, pp 1-19; https://doi.org/10.1163/15700593-02201007
On 15 July 1908 The Times advertised a talk on ‘personal experiences in spirit-photography and the scientific aspect of spiritualism’, due to take place that night at the Eustace Miles Restaurant. Attendees could look forward to not only ‘exhibitions of spirit writing’, but also to enjoying a ‘flesh-free’ meal afterwards. This entertainment speaks to confluence of spiritualist belief and vegetarian ideals that was played out elsewhere in societies, private seances and public demonstrations. Beyond a shared commitment to progressive causes, they held in common a belief in the purity of vegetable foods and the corrupting nature of flesh. Mediums were encouraged to avoid meat and disputes over the proper diet for believers raged through the movement’s periodicals. This article examines how the language of dietetics and the science of nutrition functioned in the séance, and what this reveals of the tricky negotiation of immateriality and corporality in spiritualist discourse.
Aries, Volume -1, pp 1-4; https://doi.org/10.1163/15700593-02201008
Aries, Volume -1, pp 1-29; https://doi.org/10.1163/15700593-02201002
This article considers the way chemist William Crookes utilized the editorship of the Quarterly Journal of Science to promote the scientific importance of spirit phenomena. It explores the publishing of Crookes’s series of sensational articles that investigated the ‘Psychic Force’, a purported force of nature that Crookes discovered during experiments with the medium Daniel Dunglas Home. Crookes thus used the platform afforded to him in the journal to describe his experiments and present his evidence within the framework of an orthodox scientific discourse. While Crookes endured much criticism from certain scientific men, the serial format of his investigation meant that he was able to generate a great deal of interest. It also meant that his subsequent articles in the series could respond to critics by adjusting his experiments, overcoming perceived difficulties, and providing his readers with new and exciting details concerning his ongoing investigation as it was being conducted.