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Seeking God by strange ways : cults and societies in fin de siècle literature

Berry, Sarah Jane


Sarah Jane Berry



The general consensus regarding the role of Christianity at the fin de siècle is that while it did not cease to exist, technological and scientific advances had eroded the faith of many educated Victorians. Here, the term “seeking” suggests a spiritual journey with the aim of attaining a true understanding of the universe, which in occult circles is called esoteric knowledge or “gnosis”. One of the purposes of this thesis is to demonstrate how “seeking God by strange ways” in fin de siècle literature is a spiritual rite of passage to locate God in man and involves “lifting the veil” between this world and the spiritual realm. The late nineteenth century traveller seeking God enters a “period of margin” or transitional phase between two fixed states. As liminality is characterized by transformation or a process of “becoming”, some liminal beings live outside their normal environment and raise questions concerning their self, the existing social order and “the new hedonism”.

The novels and authors featured here have been chosen to illustrate this thesis because they describe alternative religious cults and societies and spiritual rites of passage, while exploring social and cultural transitions. This exploration often brings with it abjection, marginalization and alienation. In addition to raising questions of “gender inversion”, sexual equality with notions of the “equalization of women and men” and “psychic androgyny”, the occult and mystical revival laid great stress on individual evolution and perfection. The novels chosen illustrate that the goal of the occult journey was to transcend humankind and to become superlative human beings endowed with higher and divine genius. This advancement of humanity is linked to social and political reform; new opinions with regard to sexual equality, and the condition of women, evidenced in the term “the New Woman”. The thesis also examines physical excess, the recognition of sin and “unorthodox sexuality” as expressions of occult, spiritual and mystical desire.


Berry, S. J. (2012). Seeking God by strange ways : cults and societies in fin de siècle literature. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Dec 4, 2012
Publicly Available Date Feb 22, 2023
Keywords English
Public URL
Additional Information Department of English, The University of Hull
Award Date Aug 1, 2012


Thesis (1.3 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2012 Berry, Sarah Jane. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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