AngloScottish historian of the occult
James Charles Napier Webb (January 13, 1946 - May 9, 1980) was a Scottish historian and biographer. He was born in Edinburgh, was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge. He is remembered primarily for two works The Occult Underground and The Occult Establishment. Occult Underground was originally titled Flight from Reason. He also wrote an important, and somewhat debated biography of G. I. Gurdjieff, The Harmonious Circle. His theories of Gurdjieff's identity as a foreign agent, and theories on where he actually travelled before 1917, are the controversial points in this book. It is considered to be the most comprehensive Gurdjieff biography.
Webb's work challenges theories of secularism, theories of decline in organised religion and spirituality. Webb argued that the 19th and 20th centuries had also been marked by a revolt against the Enlightenment, and that the rise of irrationalism was much more marked than the rise of rationalism, especially before, during and after the First World War and the Second World War. Webb traced the influence of occult and mystical groups and writers on literature, philosophy and politics.
Webb was generally ignored in his lifetime, but with the increasing rise of New Age spirituality in later years, his work now seems increasingly prescient. After increasing mental health difficulties, Webb committed suicide in 1980.