from the exoteric to the oc-
cult, but have exchanged the Book of Nature for that of Culture.
The Place of Enchantment has itself been conceived within the later twentieth-
century context of a broad intellectual shift within the disciplines, one that
questions Enlightenment ideals of order and rationality and promotes the
importance of the extraordinary and apparently marginal for understand-
ing cultural norms.40 These concerns have been influential for the develop-
ment of the new cultural history, but while they have certainly been a factor
‘new’ in ‘modern’ society,” together with that of
Siegfried Kracauer (–), see David Frisby, Fragments of Modernity: Theories of Modernity
in the Work of Simmel, Kracauer and Benjamin (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, ).
. This is what Marshall Berman called the classic second phase of modernity. See Mar-
shall Berman, All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity (Harmondsworth: Pen-
guin Books, Ltd., ), .
. I borrow the phrase “the project of Enlightenment” from Jürgen Habermas, “Moder-
nity: An Unfinished Project,” in Maurizio
. “Protestant Magic: W. B. Yeats and the Spell of Irish History.” Proceedings of the
British Academy (): –.
———. W. B. Yeats: A Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press, .
Foucault, Michel. “Georges Canguilhem: Philosopher of Error.” Translated by Graham
Burchell. Ideology and Consciousness (): –.
———. “Kant on Enlightenment and Revolution.” Translated by Colin Gordon. Economy and
Society , no. (February ): –.
———. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. London: Tavistock, .
———. “What Is Enlightenment?” Translated by
“people like us” that so attracted a broad swath of the middle
classes. There was a shared frame of social and often intellectual reference
that had been missing in spiritualism, while earnest students were enthralled
by the unfolding panorama of “lost” arcane traditions and the hidden wis-
dom of the ancients. As Victoria’s reign drew to a close, many looked to a re-
formulated spirituality as a vital precursor of the coming age. Thousands
were drawn to the “new” occultism with its promise of enlightenment.
Today fin-de-siècle occultism and the tremendous sense of
self as inherently
spiritual and potentially divine. Occultism as it was developed at the turn of
the century was therefore deeply involved in an elaboration of self that
worked to reconcile the secular and spiritual, just as the occult goal of per-
fect self-realization was construed in social as well as spiritual (in fact, Rosi-
crucian) terms. Similarly, the self-realization of which occultism spoke was
symptomatic of both the bourgeois self-consciousness and self-determina-
tion that have been so closely associated with post-Enlightenment subjectiv-
ity and the
rushed such tremendous force that our arms
received a sort of electric shock.20
Here we have the passage undertaken astrally from a room at Blythe
Road, London, the Second Order’s premises, to a “region of flames”—a
journey undertaken individually but in mental unison. The information
sought by the group concerning sword symbolism was acquired towards the
end of their “flight.” Servio Liberaliter concluded from all that they experi-
enced and were told on this occasion that the path of the sword “is one of
enlightenment as well as destruction.”21 In this account, as
suitably mysterious past. Born in the
Ukraine in to a family that claimed German and Russian aristocratic
lineage, she married young, and soon afterwards left her husband for a life of
bohemian adventure. Blavatsky mythologized her existence over the next
couple of decades, alleging that she traveled the world in search of spiritual
enlightenment and studied with holy men in Tibet. By the time she surfaced
in Cairo and Paris in the early s Blavatsky was already involved with
spiritualism, although she subsequently denounced it, and was apparently
deeply read in
communication with nontemporal worlds and acquire the knowledge and
special powers of the spirits and gods that inhabit them. But all this was seen
as part of the process of attaining the great gift of occult wisdom, which
presages the kind of enlightenment for which the true Adept strives. In the
final analysis, the acquisition of magical powers was all about an aspiration
to the perfections of what Anna Kingsford in her teachings had conceived of
as the Christ-spirit. As reinterpreted by the Golden Dawn, with its own dis-
tinctive Rosicrucian overtones of
up the masculinist per-
sona of late-Victorian men who sought spiritual enlightenment, and sug-
gested that women might acquire if not already possess the “masculine
temperament.” Intellect, self-assertion, knowledge, science, and power; the
“new” occultism had it all.
This “all” clearly encompassed a range of possibilities not readily avail-
able to women, and part of the appeal of the occult lay in the promise of ex-
tended vistas on several levels. These levels included the personal as well as
the spiritual and temporal. Key female occultists like Madame Helena