The Dark Side of the Enlightenment


For many Britons, the period when Britain rose to global pre-eminence (c1700-1950) has transformed in recent decades from a source of patriotic pride to a font of national shame. In this, the third of Gavin Baddeley’s provocative online talks on the history of the Devil, we examine the role the outwardly demonic – and covertly Satanic – played in this Age of Empire, with a particular focus on the English. After all, as any Hollywood casting director will tell you, we still make the best villains!

Empire is now synonymous in many minds with Evil. So too, increasingly, is the intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment once seen as the triumph of reason, its critics now charge it as an expression of European arrogance or even racism. Even the era’s elegance has been targeted as a symptom of the inequalities of the aristocracy and colonial exploitation. Indeed, as Gavin reveals, there were dissolute aristocrats at the heart of the British Empire who, it was whispered, had dedicated themselves to the Devil. Meanwhile, the most celebrated poets of the early-1800s – the rock stars of their day – subscribed to a “Satanic School” of poetry.

By the end of the 19th century, Europe was gripped by an Occult Revival, which saw the most fashionable figures in Victorian society flirting with the black arts. But how much of this was mere play acting and theatre, and how much serious diabolism? And to what extent did this set the stage for our own Occult Revival, which kicked off in the Swinging Sixties?…

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Gavin Baddeley is an author, journalist, and occult historian, whose works include LUCIFER RISING, SAUCY JACK, and THE GOSPEL OF FILTH. He’s worked for every major television network as a consultant or interviewee, and is in demand as a public speaker, addressing both academic and popular audiences on a broad range of topics, from vampirism in England, to the history of counterculture.

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