Blavatsky the Satanist: Luciferianism in Theosophy, and its Feminist Implications
H. P. Blavatsky’s influential The Secret Doctrine (1888), one of the foundation texts of Theosophy, contains chapters propagating an unembarrassed Satanism. Theosophical sympathy for the Devil also extended to the name of their journal Lucifer, and discussions conducted in it. To Blavatsky, Satan is a cultural hero akin to Pro- metheus. According to her reinterpretation of the Christian myth of the Fall in Genesis 3, Satan in the shape of the serpent brings gnosis and liberates mankind. The present article situates these ideas in a wider nineteenth-century context, where some poets and socialist thinkers held similar ideas and a counter-hegemonic reading of the Fall had far-reaching feminist implications. Additionally, influences on Blavatsky from French occultism and research on Gnosticism are discussed, and the instrumental value of Satanist shock tactics is con- sidered. The article concludes that esoteric ideas cannot be viewed in isolation from politics and the world at large. Rather, they should be analyzed both as part of a religious cosmology and as having strategic polemical and didactic functions related to political debates, or, at the very least, carrying potential entailments for the latter.
Keywords: Theosophy, Blavatsky, Satanism, Feminism, Socialism, Romanticism.
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