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Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Manifesto of the Salons de la Rose+Croix Catholique, by Josephin Peladan

There is a fine line between mysticism and occultism, a line which has been blurred or crossed many times.  The confusion - or ambiguity - was less known in the Ages of Faith, where the authority of orthodoxy kept a firm check on deviation, and where history - written by the victors - has quietly forgotten the magi.  (A few scattered records of spurious credibility grounded in polemical motives remain - Coptic monks were accused of witchcraft by their Orthodox opponents during the first generations of the Christological controversies, the Templars were accused of magical practices, etc.)  With the resurgence in pagan learning brought by the Renaissance, the Qabbalah was re-introduced in a Christianized form (in the Kabbalah denudata of Christian von Rosenroth), and Hermeticism (the legacy of Hermes Trismegistus, venerated as a prophet by Lactantius and other Fathers of the Church) was restored in the form of alchemy.  The religious chaos brought by the Protestant Revolt opened the door for further developments, as Protestant theosophy - propagated by the likes of Jacob Boehme, John Pordage, and Emmanuel Swedenborg among many others - could be classified either as occultism or mysticism.  Together with the philosophical currents of German idealism, these theosophers were strong influences on the Romantic movement, which sought a return to medieval Catholicism, mediated through the universal magic of art (cf. Novalis, Tieck, Brentano, Lamartine, Chateaubriand, Wackenroder, von Schlegel, and others).  Romanticism took a quick turn to the chthonic (cf. Praz, The Romantic Agony), while preserving its attachment to Catholicism - and two developments served to fuse the attachment between the seemingly contrary currents.  Symbolism reliably explored the dark and satanic sides of human nature and of the psyche, always with a latent Catholic undercurrent, especially in Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Verlaine, all of whom died at peace with the Church after living long lives of sin.  Joris-Karl Huysmans and Villiers de L'Isle-Adam were both openly Catholic Symbolists, with strong occultist undercurrents running through their work.  The painter Vassily Kandinsky and the composer Alexander Scriabin were both members of Madame Blavatsky's Theosophical Society, with strong artistic commonalities to the Symbolist movement.

The second tie forged between mysticism and occultism was the turn towards ritual in the Anglican Church, a turn away from Protestantism and toward Catholic mysticism.  One of the seminal works on mysticism, read and respected by orthodox Catholics as well as by Protestants, by was by the Anglican Evelyn Underhill, a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn which maintained a temple in London.  (She was also the author of a biography of Bl. Jacopone da Todi, and a spiritual daughter of the Catholic modernist Baron Friedrich von Hugel.)  The Golden Dawn also counted among its members the novelist Arthur Machen (notorious for his definition, in the essay Hieroglyphics, that "literature is the expression, through the aesthetic medium of words, of the dogmas of the Catholic Church, and that which in any way is out of harmony with these dogmas is not literature"), and the Inkling theologian Charles Williams, companion to C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, and J. R. R. Tolkien.  The Golden Dawn was also the home to the non-Christian occultist Arthur Edward Waite, author of studies on the old Martinist Order, a mystical Jewish-Christian movement which kept the core of Catholic dogma (the Incarnation of Christ and theosis through divine love) but replacing the Catholic sacraments with theurgic rituals.  (The Martinists were jeered at as being "Jesuits" at a pan-Masonic conference in the 18th-century heyday of Masonry.)  Finally, the Golden Order was eventually headed by a rather unsavory character - the satanist Aleister Crowley.

The past two paragraphs were given by way of introduction to the common heritage shared uneasily between Catholicism and the occult.  Occultism is certainly dangerous ground for a Catholic to be treading on - but this does not a priori rule out all similarities to the occult as automatically evil, or as being examples of prelest.  The occult touches on both the psychic and spiritual realms, which can be either good or evil.  Evil by its nature is only a perversion of good, so especially in its more mystical and less satanic forms occultism is capable of redemption - of transfiguration into true sacramentality.  One must approach the phenomenon of occultism free of both a fundamentalist hostility to "the work of Satan" and also a gullible susceptibility to spiritual delusion. 

In this post I shall present a manifesto by a little-known occultist, the writer and novelist Sar Josephin Peladan, who lived from 1858-1918.  He lived within the context of French occultism, which tended towards the silly - the "Sar" was laughed at for his outragous robes and costumes - and towards the practice of magic (a product of the same environment that produced Papus, born Gerard Encausse, as well as Rene Guenon and Eliphas Levi, the former Abbe Adolphe Constant).  This manifesto is found as Appendix I in a dissertation on Peladan, Occult Symbolism in France:  Josephin Peladan and the Salons de la Rose-Croix, submitted by Robert Pincus-Witten to the University of Chicago Department of Art in 1968.  It is presented with neither the intention of endorsement nor rejection by this blogger, but rather as food for thought and exposure to a movement the revival of which - albeit one would hope in a modified or more purified form - would serve the renaissance and restoration of all things in Christ called for by the Holy Catholic Church.  This movement was a French fraternity of artists similar to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in England, championing abstract Symbolist art against the photographic perversions of the Realists (who reduced art to imitation), and one with the specific intention of being a Christian academy of the arts, wedding beauty to the institutional Church and its Faith.  No claims are made to any superior literary quality here; Sar Josephin Peladan is not, after all, a bestselling novelist.  But it is something interesting and rare to find.

In a subsequent post, I shall print Appendix II from the same dissertation, the twenty-seven Rules of the Salon de la Rose+Croix.




The Manifesto of the Rose+Croix

Le Figaro, September 2, 1891

How could an insertion in the Petites Affiches so arouse the press?  Why does teh annoucnement of a third Salon excite such streams of malevolence?  By what obscure foreboding did the press, more clamoring than the Cassanire of Berlioz, denounce to the public as inauspicious a work of peace worthy of Pallias?

The Rose+Croix du Temple.  For a week these simple words have been counterpointed and fugued by the kappelmeisters of journalism.  Such a fuss bears witness that our Will, blessed by Providence, will polarize Necessity with Destiny.

The Salon de la Rose+Croix will be the first realization of an intellectual order which originates, by theocratic principle, with Hugh of the Pagans; with Rosenkreutz by the idea of individualistic perfection.

The infidel today, he who profanes the Holy Sepulchre, is not the Turk, but the sceptic; and the militant monk with his motto "ut leo feriatur" can no longer find a place for his effort.

On the black and white standard, sign of theocracy, we inscribe the Rose+Croix, Symbol of Beauty manifesting Charity.

For ten years we have awaited a comrade in arms who burned with the same artistic piety and at last we have met such a one impatient to undertake the same crusade:  Antoine de La Rochefoucauld.

In only citing after the Grand Prior the Commanders Elemir Bourges, that admirable spirit, Count de Larmandie, that valiant knight, Gary de Lacroze, that subtle esthete, and the three others still pseudonymous, one can predict that, transposed to its intellectual meaning, the proud thought of Saint Bernard will be justified.

The Politicians and clergy who have accepted the constitution can be reassured:  until next Spring the entire order will be exclusively esthetic.

The artist and the public need not ponder on what the Temple meditates, what the Rose+Croix prepares: simply the victorious manifestation of the Norms of Beauty which for twelve years we have offered.

The Salon de la Rose+Croix will be a temple dedicated to Art-God, with masterpieces for dogma and for saints, geniuses.

In all periods, the arts reflect letters.  Delacroix, the greatest French master, incarnates Romanticism.  Now for twenty years the arts have reflected the hackwork of Medan.  Through his ignorance and base instinct, the author of La Terre has cast a spell on Manet; and Seurat, near death cried:  "Huysmans led me astray!"  [As an admirer of Manet, Seurat, and Huysman, I must respectfully disagree - but this was quite a common sentiment back then, and they should only be taken as intermediate stages in the development of art, since they were precursors to greater artists. - Seraphim]  Imagine making a picture after Un coeur simple by Flaubert!  one would fall into the inanity of Bastien Lepage and under the terrible judgement of Blaise Pascal:  "What vanity that painting would have us admire the representation of what one disdains in reality."

The sentiment of Pascal is that of the Rose+Croix.  We said in our last Salon:  "I believe that the aim of all arts is the beautiful... I will defend the cause of Art against the palette workers and the sculpture practitioners."

"The Jury of the Champ-de-Mars is as hostile to abstract, religious, or simply artistic ideas, as that of the Champ-Elysees.

"Whosoever is practitioner, whosoever is mystical has nothing to hope for, neither from Carolus Duran nor from Bougeureau.  [Though it is still fashionable to scoff at Bougeareau's bondage to the Academy, this really is unfair to Bougeureau - there is much mysticism in his works, and his Birth of Venus remains unparalleled by any other female figure in art. - Seraphim]  Officially, the Ideal is vanquished!  Oh well!  sed victo Catoni, next Spring will witness a manifestation of Art against the arts, of the beautiful against the ugly, of the Dream against the real, of the Past against the infamous present, of Tradition against the hoax!"

Above all schools, without technical preference, admitting optical mixture as well as the Italian method of Desboutin, the Rose+Croix only insists upon the ideality of its works.

Among the eighty artsits already elected and practically all adherents at this hour, it suffices to name the following: the great Puvis de Chavannes, Dagnan-Bouveret, Merson, Henri Martin, Aman-Jean, Odilon Redon, Khnopff, Point, Seon, Filiger, de Egusquiza, Anquetin, the sculptors Dampt, Marquest de Vasselot, Pezieux, Astruc and the composer Erik Satie.

We will go to London to invite Burne-Jones, Watts and the five other Pre-Raphaelites; we will invite the Germans Lehnbach and Boecklin.

The Order grows through invitation and the invited only have to observe the rule of ideality.

It banishes all contemporary, rustic or military representation; flowers [had he known Monet he should have changed his mind about this - Seraphim], animals, genre treated like history-painting, and portraiture like landscape [Caspar David Friedrich should be enough of a refutation here].

It accepts all allegory, legend, mysticism and myth and even the expressive head if it is noble of the nude study if it is beautiful.

You have to create BEAUTY to get into the Salon de la Rose+Croix.  [Yes, but not all beauty is delightful to behold.  Picasso's Guernica contains some of the deepest beauty known to art.]

One may wonder, in view of the small number of confirmed idealists as Lagarde [?], de Egusquiza, Antoine de La Rochefoucauld, how we will recruit our exhibitors.

In selecting ideal work, frequent in the production of the realists themselves, like the triptych of Saint Cuthbert of a Duez or the Meneuse de Cygnes and the Charmeuse d'Etoiles by Besnard.

As for landscape, it must be in teh manner of Poussin, composed and subordinated to the figures [No! Caspar David Friedrich!]; as to portraiture, excellence of execution will not suffice - the Order must also desire to honor the sitter.  The 10th of March 1892, Paris will be able to contemplate, at the Durand-Ruel Gallery, the masters of which it is unaware; it will not find one vulgarity.

The Rose+Croix does not limit its sollicitude to painting and sculpture; the Soirees de la Rose+Croix, held in the same place as the Salon, will be devoted to the fugues of Bach and Porpora, the quartets of Beethoven to recitations of Parsifal.  An evening will be set aside to the glorification of Cesar Franck, the greatest French musician since Berlioz.

Among the idealist composers that the Rose+Croix will shed light on, it is proper to mention Erik Satie again, of whose work one will hear the harmonic suites for le Fils des Etoiles and the preludes to the Prince de Byzance.

Certain radical Leftist newspapers, believing in obligatory calumny against Christian artists, have denounced the Salon de la Rose+Croix as a speculative venture.

Should there be profits they will be used for reedition - so necessary to artists - of the Treatise on Painting by Leonardo da Vinci, the divine Leonardo.

It has been proposed to the Council that the Order buy works to make gifts of them to provincial museums; but this point, like several others, must remain in abeyance until October whne the Regle esthetique des Rose+Croix will appear.

Opinion forestalls our preparations and forces us to more immediate declarations which were unforeseen.  Contrary to what one reads in the Papers, no work by a woman will be accepted because in our renovation of esthetic laws we faithfully observe magical laws.  [Silly superstitions.]

In 1886 we wrote:  "Merodack, Nebo, Alta, Tammuz, these Orphic figures, I have raised them in my work to foretell of the solemn day when the Rose+Croix, cleansed of Masonic contamination, purified of all heresy and blessed by the Pope, will be welded to the key of Peter, urbi et orbi."  [Emphasis mine.  This is the heart of the project - to promulgate the arts, wedded to the Faith, preaching the Faith through Beauty, and claiming Beauty as our spiritual inheritance.]

This solemn day will be the 10th of March, 1892:  The day will begin with festivals of the mind as noble as those celebrated at Bayreuth; this day the Ideal will have its temple and knights and we, the Maccabeans of Beauty, will bring to Our Lady, lay at the feet of our Suzerain Jesus, the homage of the Temple and the genuflection of the Rose+Croix.

We believe neither in progress nor salvation.  For the Latin race which is about to die, we prepare a last splendor, in order to dazzle and soften the barbarians who are coming.

We desire to add some statues and frescoes to its Latin cathedral before it crumbles.  Last enthusiasts, we arrive, amidst the braying of the Marsellaise and the cabarets, to entone a supreme hymn to Beauty, which is God, and thus one day earn the right to contemplate the mystical Rose through the achievements of Our Lord's Passion.

Ad Rosem per Crucem.  Ad Crucem per Rosam.  In ea, in eis, gemmatus resurgam.

-Sar Peladan

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