5. Religion and the 'Simple Life': Dugald Semple and Translocal ‘Life Reform’ Networks
Translocal Lives and Religion - Connections between Asia and Europe in the Late Modern World - Philippe Bornet
Steven J. Sutcliffe [+]
University of Edinburgh
This chapter presents a case study of a Scottish exponent of the “simple life”, Dugald Semple (1884−1964), within early 20th-century networks of life reform or Lebensreform. It argues that the underlying thread in Semple’s “life reform” is a non-conformist, anti-clerical religious individualism which incorporated Transcendentalism with a Tolstoyan and Gandhian pacifism. A case study of Semple’s career in dialogue with his English and continental interlocutors demonstrates the value of empirically based transnational enquiry at the level of individuals and networks for understanding the varied inflections of “life reform”, particularly the religious roots of the phenomenon. It also contributes to the historiography of important currents in “alternative religion” which fed the post-world-war-two “new age”, “eco” and commune movements.