Date of Award

9-2016

Degree Name

MA in History

Department

History

Advisor

Dr. Lewis Call

Abstract

The purpose of this work is to explore the interactions between occultism and scholarly Egyptology from 1875 to 1930. Within this timeframe, numerous esoteric groups formed that centered their ideologies on conceptions of ancient Egyptian knowledge. In order to legitimize their belief systems based on ancient Egyptian wisdom, esotericists attempted to become authoritative figures on Egypt. This process heavily impacted Western intellectualism not only because occult conceptions of Egypt became increasingly popular, but also because esotericists intruded into academia or attempted to overshadow it. In turn, esotericists and Egyptologists both utilized the influx of new information from Egyptological studies to shape their identities, consolidate their ideologies, and maintain authority on the value of ancient Egyptian knowledge.

This thesis follows the Egypt-centered developments of the Freemasons, the Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley's A∴A∴, the Theosophical Society, the Anthroposophical Society, and the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis to demonstrate that esotericism evolved simultaneously with academia as a body of knowledge. By examining these fraternal occult groups' interactions with Egyptology, it can be better understood how esotericism has affected Western intellectualism, how ideologies form in response to new information, and the effects of becoming an authority on bodies of knowledge (in particular Egyptological knowledge). In turn, embedded in this work is a challenge to those who have downplayed or overlooked the agency of esotericists in shaping the Western intellectual tradition and preserving the legacy of ancient Egypt.