Theosophy, cultural nationalism, and home rule

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


This chapter examines the role of Theosophists in mobilizing Indian politics or the home rule movement, especially in the form of “cultural nationalism.” The first section shows how Western Theosophists simplified and appropriated Indian thought, deploying it to resolve dilemmas confronting occult and other religious traditions. The second section explores the ways in which Theosophical ideas then provided inspiration for a tradition of cultural nationalism within India itself. The third section briefly shows how this cultural nationalism transformed Congress in the years immediately surrounding Gandhi’s return from South Africa. It is argued that Theosophy was one strand feeding into cultural nationalism, as Theosophy introduced important and largely novel themes to cultural nationalism, including a principled commitment to non-violence and an alternative to liberal subjectivities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationImagining the East
Subtitle of host publicationThe Early Theosophical Society
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9780190853884
Publication statusPublished - 2021

JEL classifications

  • f50 - International Relations and International Political Economy: General


  • Cultural nationalism
  • Gandhi
  • Home rule
  • Indian politics
  • Theosophical society
  • Theosophy

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