Blavatsky and Monotheism: Towards the Historicisation of a Critical Category

in Journal of Religion in Europe
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Madame Blavatsky (1831–1891), the influential occultist, transvalued the category of monotheism, abandoning, in The Secret Doctrine (1888), the positive interpretation that it had been given in Isis Unveiled (1877). This reversal of the prevailing Enlightenment-based valuation of monotheism was related to Blavatsky’s construction of identity as an esotericist. Her discussions must be situated within a wider “invention” of monotheism as a category (taking place most significantly from the early-nineteenth century), and they can be contextualised in relation to the contemporaneous philological, Egyptological, and Orientalist scholarship on which she drew.

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References

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3

Kocku von Stuckrad, The Scientification of Religion: An Historical Study of Discursive Change 1800–2000 (Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter, 2014), 94–106.

5

Stephen Prothero, The White Buddhist: The Asian Odyssey of Henry Steel Olcott (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996); W. Travis Hanes iii, “On the Origins of the Indian National Congress: A Case Study of Cross-Cultural Synthesis,” Journal of World History 4/1 (1993).

6

Ronald Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); Wouter Hanegraaff, New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996).

10

Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (London: ­Tavistock, 1970); Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge (London: Tavistock, 1972).

14

MacDonald, Deuteronomy, 2.

16

David Nirenberg, Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (New York: W. W. Norton, 2013).

17

Robert Flint, “Theism,” Encyclopaedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences and General Literature ninth Edition, vol. 23 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1888). Flint was a professor of divinity at the University of Edinburgh.

18

Flint, Theism, 235.

19

Flint, Theism, 239.

20

Flint, Theism, 238.

21

Laurel Schneider, Beyond Monotheism: A Theology of Multiplicity (Abingdon: Routledge, 2008), 19.

22

Schneider, Beyond Monotheism, 17–26.

23

Boaz Huss, “The Sacred is the Profane, Spirituality is not Religion: The Decline of the ­Religion/Secular Divide and the Emergence of the Critical Discourse on Religion,” ­Method and Theory in the Study of Religion (Advance Article), (2014); Brent Nongbri, Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2013); Tomoko Masuzawa, The Invention of World Religions, Or, How European ­Universalism was Preserved in the Language of Pluralism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005); ­Timothy Fitzgerald, The Ideology of Religious Studies (Oxford and New York: Oxford ­University Press, 2000); Richard King, Orientalism and Religion: Post-Colonial Theory, India and the “Mystic East” (London: Routledge, 1999); Jonathan Z. Smith, “Religion, Religions, Religious,” Mark C. Taylor ed. Critical Terms for Religious Studies (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1998).

24

Blavatsky, Isis, 1: 24.

25

Blavatsky, Isis, 1: 287.

26

Blavatsky, Isis, 1: 613.

27

Blavatsky, Isis, 2: 413.

28

Blavatsky, Isis, 2: 142.

29

Blavatsky, Isis, 1: 23.

30

Blavatsky, Isis, 2: 219.

31

Blavatsky, Isis, 2: 37.

32

Blavatsky, Isis, 2: 9.

33

Blavatsky, Isis, 2: 302.

35

Blavatsky, Isis, 2: 438.

36

Blavatsky, Isis, 2: 471.

37

Blavatsky, Isis, 2: 45.

38

Blavatsky, Isis, 2: 526.

39

Blavatsky, Isis, 2: 129.

40

Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, 2: 526.

41

Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine 1: 575.

42

Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 1: 463.

43

Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 588.

44

Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 158. In The Secret Doctrine,Blavatsky often capitalised monotheism.

45

Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 1: 545.

48

Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 305.

50

Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 2: 554.

51

Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine, 1: xix–xx.

53

Blavatsky, Isis, 1: 24.

54

Thomas Carlyle, On Heroes, Hero Worship and the Heroic (London: James Frazer, 1841).

58

Peter La Page Renouf, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by the Religion of Ancient Egypt (London: Williams and Norgate, 1884), xv.

59

Renouf, Lectures, xxii.

60

Renouf, Lectures, 89–90.

63

Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, 1: 674–5.

64

Thomas Hyde, Veterum Persarum et Parthorum et Medorum religionis historia (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1760).

65

M. Stausberg, “Contextualising the Contexts: On the Study of Zoroastrian Rituals,” Zoroastrian Rituals in Context ed. by Michael Stausberg (Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2004), 51–52.

67

Stausberg, Contextualising the Contexts, 17.

72

Mary Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism: The Early Period (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1989), ix–x; Stausberg, Contextualising the Contexts, 17–18.

75

Blavatsky, Isis, 1: 11.

77

Blavatsky, Isis, 2: 143.

78

Blavatsky, Isis, 2: 413.

79

Blavatsky, Isis, 2: 206.

81

Helena Blavatsky, “Zoroastrianism in the Light of Occult Philosophy” The Theosophist, 4/45 (1883), 224. The article continued in vol. 4/46.

89

Blavatsky, Isis, 2: 26, 413.

91

Stefan Arvidsson, Aryan Idols: Indo-European Mythology as Ideology and Science (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 94.

95

Blavatsky, Isis, 2: 413.

97

Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, 1: 112–3.

99

Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, 2: 453.

101

Arvidsson, Aryan Idols, 88.

102

Arvidsson, Aryan Idols, 83–4. Arvidsson also observed that Müller’s model was basically a Protestant one, involving the sequence: paradise – decline – Reformation.

104

Wouter Hanegraaff, “Forbidden Knowledge: Anti-Esoteric Polemics and Academic Research,” Aries 5/2 (2005), 247.

106

As in Hanegraaff, Esotericism and the Academy, 373; Ellic Howe, The Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary History of a Magical Order 1887–1923 (York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1984); James Webb, The Occult Underground (La Salle, il: Open Court, 1974); and James Webb, The Occult Establishment (La Salle, il: Open Court, 1976).

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