In this episode we sit down with Keith Cantú for a wide ranging conversation on the language and categories of esotericism, the occult, and yoga. We learn about Keith's background, travels, and language training as well as unique experience learning from the Bauls of Bengal. Listeners/viewers are treated to a live rendition of a Baul song. Keith shares with us his fascinating dissertation research on Sri Sabhapati Swami, lesser-known Tamil yogi who had a substantial impact on nineteenth- and twentieth-century South Asian and Western occult movements. We close out by previewing Keith's upcoming online course, YS 119 | Yoga and Esotericism.
Dr. Keith Edward Cantú is an Assistant Professor (postdoctoral research associate) at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, where his current research focuses on the political patronage of yogic “meditation halls” (maṭālayams) and “tumuli” (jīva-camātis) in Tamil Nadu. He recently completed his doctoral dissertation at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the focus of which was the Tamil, pan-Indian, and international reception of the early modern yogi Sabhapati Swami’s system of Śivarājayoga.
In addition to his dissertation, which is soon set to be published with an academic press, Keith was the co-editor with Saymon Zakaria of City of Mirrors: Songs of Lālan Sā̃i (Oxford University Press, South Asia Research series, 2017), a volume of nineteenth-century Bengali Bāul Fakiri songs translated by Carol Salomon. He also has published several articles and chapters relating to topics as varied as yoga and cultural authenticity, theosophical orientalism and yoga, the ethnography of Tantra, and Islamic esotericism, and has translated a Sanskrit chapter of the Rasāyanakhaṇḍa on the alchemical wonders of Śrīśailam (forthcoming via the Ayuryog project). When not researching he is also working with the Bengali community at a non-profit clinic as a health education and outreach specialist.