By Kathleen Taylor

Subtitle: 'An Indian Soul in a ecu Body?'

Working with Bengali mentors, particularly his shut buddy A. B. Ghose, Sir John Woodroffe grew to become the pseudonymous orientalist Arthur Avalon, recognized for his tantric experiences initially of the 20 th century. top identified for The Serpent energy, the e-book which brought 'Kundalini Yoga' to the western international, Avalon became just like Tantra round, from that of a despised magical and orgiastic cult right into a sophisticated philosophy which tremendously superior the status of Hindu notion to later generations of westerners.

This biographical learn is in components. the 1st specializes in Woodroffe's social id in Calcutta opposed to the historical past of colonialism and nationalism - the context within which he 'was' Arthur Avalon. To a really strange measure for somebody with a excessive place less than the empire, Woodroffe the British excessive court docket pass judgement on absorbed the area of the Bengali intellectuals of his time, between whom his attractiveness used to be generally attested. His admirers have been attracted by way of his Indian nationalism, to which his tantric experiences and intended studying shaped a huge adjunct.

Woodroffe's good friend Ghose, although, used to be the executive resource of the textual wisdom during which the 'orientalist' pupil looked to be deeply versed. the second one a part of this learn assesses Woodroffe's personal courting to Sanskrit and to the texts, and highlights his very wide yet proficient use of secondary assets and the data of Ghose and different Indian humans. It examines the apologetic subject matters through which he and his collaborators made Tantra first appropriate, then fashionable.

Partly due to his mysterious pseudonym, Woodroffe received a close to mythical prestige for a time, and continues to be a desirable determine. This e-book is written in a mode that are supposed to attract the final reader in addition to to scholars of Indian religions and early 20th century Indian background, whereas being suitable to the continuing debate approximately 'orientalism'.

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Extra info for Sir John Woodroffe, Tantra and Bengal

Example text

Woodroffe's love of music, and his wide reading in several European languages in philosophy, religion and science, reflect Woburn's culture. So do his liberal, tolerant opinions on religious matters. Although we cannot guess what Lord Petre would have made of his former pupil embracing tantric Hinduism, it is likely that in every other respect, he would have seen in Sir John Woodroffe the epitome of the refined, urbane gentleman of wide culture he wanted to create. Finally, although many of the links in the chain that led Woodroffe towards Tantrism are missing to us - and especially disappointing is the absence of any clue as to his personal religious feelings in youth - there can be no doubt that Lord Petre's liberal Catholicism was one important ingredient.

So do his liberal, tolerant opinions on religious matters. Although we cannot guess what Lord Petre would have made of his former pupil embracing tantric Hinduism, it is likely that in every other respect, he would have seen in Sir John Woodroffe the epitome of the refined, urbane gentleman of wide culture he wanted to create. Finally, although many of the links in the chain that led Woodroffe towards Tantrism are missing to us - and especially disappointing is the absence of any clue as to his personal religious feelings in youth - there can be no doubt that Lord Petre's liberal Catholicism was one important ingredient.

35 It seems as if Woodroffe retained this ideal of mildness, tolerance and compromise, whatever strong views he actually possessed. A situation to which he refers in this speech also points forward to his later outlook. ' This time he was speaking, not of himself or his government, but of the school. ' 37 Perhaps the abuse directed at Woburn and its headmaster prepared Woodroffe to take up the defence of a particularly despised and reviled brand of Hinduism. Once when explaining what first drew him to Tantra, he said: 'Following the track of unmeasured abuse I have always found something good' [SS:78].

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