Bengali Tantra, Orthodoxy, and Nationalism by The British Library published on 2018-03-07T13:51:17Z The writings of Sir John Woodroffe (1865-1936) were instrumental in the shaping of modern understandings of Tantra. At least until the 1970s, his editions and studies of Tantric texts have informed both academic scholars and a wider readership. Having worked for decades as a judge in Kolkata, Woodroffe is an exemplar of a globally entangled history of religions. His pseudonym “Arthur Avalon” represented a group of collaborators, mostly learned Bengalis, who acted as his informants. Scholars have consequently examined Woodroffe’s role as a nodal point between Indian and Western thought but payed relatively little attention to the Bengali context. This talk will discuss how Woodroffe’s understanding of Tantra was less dependent on Western ideas than on a specific Bengali reform Tantra that has developed since the eighteenth century. It is against this background that Woodroffe juxtaposed Tantric “orthodoxy” with “Hindu reformers” and proclaimed that Tantra should function as the driving “power” behind an Indian national revival. At the same time, he drew parallels to the struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism and hailed the recent discoveries of occultism as the proof of Indian wisdom. These notions express an ambiguous struggle for the “modern” meaning of religion and national identity. Julian Strube is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Heidelberg. He focuses on the relationship between religion and politics, most specifically in the context of esotericism. In 2015, he received his PhD for a study about French socialism, Catholicism, and occultism, after having worked about völkisch movement, National Socialism, and present-day far-right extremism. He currently works on a project about Tantra in the context of a global religious history of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.