Blurb from Amazon:
How fin-de-siècle Paris became the locus for the most intense revival of magical practices and doctrines since the Renaissance
• Examines the remarkable lives of occult practitioners Joséphin Peladan, Papus, Stanislas de Guaïta, Saint-Yves d’Alveydre, Jules Doinel, and others
• Reveals how occult activity deeply influenced many well-known cultural movements, such as Symbolism, the Decadents, modern music, and the “psychedelic 60s”
During Paris’s Belle Époque (1871-1914), many cultural movements and artistic styles flourished–Symbolism, Impressionism, Art Nouveau, the Decadents–all of which profoundly shaped modern culture. Inseparable from this cultural advancement was the explosion of occult activity taking place in the City of Light at the same time.
Exploring the magical, artistic, and intellectual world of the Belle Époque, Tobias Churton shows how a wide variety of Theosophists, Rosicrucians, Martinists, Freemasons, Gnostics, and neo-Cathars called fin-de-siècle Paris home. He examines the precise interplay of occultists Joséphin Peladan, Papus, Stanislas de Guaïta, and founder of the modern Gnostic Church Jules Doinel, along with lesser known figures such as Saint-Yves d’Alveydre, Paul Sédir, Charles Barlet, Edmond Bailly, Albert Jounet, Abbé Lacuria, and Lady Caithness. He reveals how the work of many masters of modern culture such as composers Claude Debussy and Erik Satie, writers Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire, and painters Georges Seurat and Alphonse Osbert bear signs of immersion in the esoteric circles that were thriving in Paris at the time. The author demonstrates how the creative hermetic ferment that animated the City of Light in the decades leading up to World War I remains an enduring presence and powerful influence today. Where, he asks, would Aleister Crowley and all the magicians of today be without the Parisian source of so much creativity in this field?
Conveying the living energy of Paris in this richly artistic period of history, Churton brings into full perspective the characters, personalities, and forces that made Paris a global magnet and which allowed later cultural movements, such as the “psychedelic 60s,” to rise from the ashes of post-war Europe.
Less than 100 years after the Renaissance movement in Paris France there was an
intellectual boom that had endured an otherwise time of discretion by secretively
moving “underground”. The evolution of things considered Artistic, revolutionary,
noteworthy, philosophical; Blaspheme and in more ways than one. Easily defined by the eclectic fringe of France’s delicate symbolic balance between “the powers of good and evil”. However, what the establishment considered “evil” was merely what I did not understand.
At the center of this misunderstood world, would be congregations where shops with high shelves laden with tomes of prose, pamphlets, papers, and periodical documentation of all things “creative” , being generated on a nightly basis by composers who composed not only music core , but methods of score, lyric verse, poetry, and along side of Poetic philosophers whom reveled in a sense that prose must not be separated from the music , and painters and sculptors who contemplated works un-matched by any modern means. These are the places like the “Chat Noir” where the manuscripts of genius exchanged hands. And no bookstore mind you, but exclusivity in the shape of a library. Where young seekers of the occult matters may find comfort in pontificate of concepts they would later exploit in his works. Even “Salons” like conventions , gathering to expose both art and the “Magnus” to the general public in attendance.
Each character’s special gifts explored and exposed on the pages of this great chronicle of history. The intertwining evolution of Paris’ underbelly society explained by the relationships, and personalities that shared tables at seances and with painstaking attention to notation in which the reader and find the reader scrounging (in my case Web Surfing) for more.
Shining illustrative light into backgrounds of the events which painted the narrow alleys of Paris’ nightlife, while at the same time setting the stage for the reader to better understand the cryptic and sometimes overwhelming imagery that, to some would otherwise be considered no more than fanciful artwork .
Tobias Churton seems to have set the table for a proper understanding of the relationships between each individual in a garden that genius bloomed. Another reason I am drawn to read this book is that it is few and far between that as westerners we are able to factually connect the dots in the many shapes of belief in historic Europe. From Kabbalists , to Israelite, Masons, and even Catholic Clergy from Gypsies to Symbolism, and on to the post war French/Asia exchange, this is the unheard , rarely spoke of European history not in text book , to the impact and shroud cast upon Paris in the wake of the power of the Catholic Church, and all the while in constant political turmoil, experiencing an environment of ever-changing roles completely dependent on whom is the audience. The “Fears” that are perpetuated by a lack of understanding is more often than not misconstrued as “a darker side” . And so be it, the Author agrees that “This fish isn’t for everybody…” as it is inscribed in Latin before a Sphinx-like image of an ancient Chimera being. This is quite a deluge of historic material and in some ways can alter the readers perception of the past. I personally ate it up like a bag of chips. Characters Such as Erik Satie , Josephin Peladan, De Guaita , and many more terrific persons of the era that really come alive with the interpretations of their works and relationships, even the addresses of their homes at points in time to define the surroundings. May I suggest to the reader wishing to explore this book to take advantage of the seemingly tedious work that the author has done providing you names of artwork and music , prose etc. as I found myself constantly referring to google to decide my own opinions, and I took so much more away from this with that being done. The bottom line is that by way of Facts, and reference you may find that the book shares some secrets to “gnosis” much like most history , has been somewhat skewed by fear of the unknown.
*I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!