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By William Dalrymple

From the writer of The final Mughal ("A compulsively readable masterpiece" -The long island overview of Books), an attractive, enchanting publication that illuminates the striking ways that conventional kinds of spiritual existence in India were remodeled within the vortex of the region's swift change-a publication that distills the author's twenty-five years of shuttle in India, taking us deep into methods of existence that we would in a different way by no means have recognized exist.

A Buddhist monk takes up palms to withstand the chinese language invasion of Tibet-and spends the remainder of his existence atoning for the violence via hand printing the best prayer flags in India . . . A Jain nun assessments her powers of detachment as she watches her closest buddy ritually starve herself to demise . . . a lady leaves her middle-class existence in Calcutta and reveals unforeseen success dwelling as a Tantric in an remoted, skull-filled cremation floor . . . a jail warder from Kerala is worshipped as an incarnate deity for 3 months of each 12 months . . . An idol carver, the twenty-third in an extended line of sculptors, needs to reconcile himself to his son's wish to learn laptop engineering . . . An illiterate goatherd from Rajasthan retains alive in his reminiscence an old four-thousand-stanza sacred epic . . . A temple prostitute, who before everything resisted her personal initiation into intercourse paintings, pushes either her daughters right into a alternate she still regards as a sacred calling.

William Dalrymple chronicles those lives with expansive perception and a spellbinding evocation of condition. And whereas the tales demonstrate the energetic resilience of people within the face of the relentless onslaught of modernity, they demonstrate to boot the continuity of old traditions that undergo to today. a blinding travelogue of either position and spirit.

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The origin of Rosicrucianism may stand as a clear example of this from the field of esotericism: in contemporary esoteric orders which claim a Rosicrucian heritage, such as the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC) or the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, one typically 23. See especially Lewis & Hammer, The Invention of Sacred Tradition, which explicitly forms an expansion of Hobsbawm and Ranger’s project – thematically to the field of religion, and historically beyond the modern period.

23 As Olav Hammer and James R. Lewis note, every single known religious system cultivates invented traditions of one sort or another. g. Siddhartha, L. g. g. 24 As we shall see later in this chapter, this kind of attribution has been a central part in the making of esoteric genealogies of higher knowledge, emphasizing prisci theologi (whether mythical or real) like Hermes and Zoroaster, or referring to entirely fictitious “secret traditions”, such as in Rosicrucianism. While Hobsbawm focused on how invented traditions “inculcate certain values and norms of behaviour by repetition”, analyses of such inventions in esotericism have typically focused on the function they play in legitimating authority and establishing an aura of unique authenticity.

The recent proceedings of the inaugural conference of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE), entitled Constructing Tradition,29 may serve as an example. Despite its title, and with a few notable exceptions,30 this volume focuses more on the internal (emic) conceptualizations of tradition, their related philosophies, theologies and mythologies, than on attempts to develop the critical analysis of appeals to “tradition” in esotericism vis-à-vis etic historiography. 31 Knowing more about the social and material basis for actual transmissions of knowledge is obviously of value, but the continued neglect of a clear critical stance to the invention of tradition is regrettable.

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