Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gibbons summarizes Douglas on Ecstatic Religion

Mary Douglas has argued that ecstatic religions are not simply a resonse to "strain, deprivation, or tension", and Lewis' compensation theory has a problem explaining "the throng of well-to-do women who so often predominate in these movements. The Behmenists are a good example of this. They certainly accorded women a high place, and the Philadelphian Society may well have provided an empowering environment for them; in this sense, the sociological profile conforms to Lewis's theory. But the Behmenists were not for the most part "dispossessed" or "oppressed" members of society, but respectable and prosperous people. So alse were the Familists, an earlier movement permeated by occult mentalities. The same might be said of the Romantics, who modernised and partly secularised the occult tradition. At the end of the nineteenth century the Order of the Golden Dawn consisted mostly of middle-class intellectuals. If we want to find occultists in our own society, we would be advised to look among the middle classes. The occult is not a phenomenon peculiar to the ignorant poor; its adherents today are most likely to be young, well-educated professionals. The occult philosophy, in fact, has been characteristic of the culture of the "middling sort" since the Renaissance. It expresses one of the ways in which members of this sector of society perceive themselves and their position in the society as a whole... Since the eighteenth century occultism has become decidedly marginalised; but its marginality is perhaps the secret of its social function rather than the badge of its social irrelevance. (B.J. Gibbons, Spirituality and the Occult, p.135-6)

No comments:

Post a Comment