(University of Vienna, Austria)


Yoga and the Viennese Occult Revival

The flourishing of occultism in Vienna between 1880 and 1914 is connected with the popularity of theosophy, psychical research and spiritism. It also comprises activities of masonic lodges, magical orders and esoteric völkisch groups. Many occultists shared a deep interest in the teachings and practices of Eastern religions and especially in yoga, which was understood as a practice to cultivate occult powers. Some of these occultists not only studied translations of Indian works on yoga, but also experimented with practical exercises. Furthermore, at least two Indians who at that time were considered to be yoga experts were in contact with members of the Viennese occult scene: Bheema Sena Pratapa and Sri Agamya Guru Paramahamsa.. This paper will explore the role of yoga within the occult milieu of the period by investigating the biography and work of important protagonists such as Franz Hartmann, Friedrich Eckstein, and Karl Kellner. Particular emphasis will be laid on the relation between the occultistic discourse on yoga, academic psychology and psychoanalysis.