Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Brouillards: French Surrealism and Secret Societies

Apparently, these musicians, writer-poets, dramatists, and painters were interested in common themes, and in the Rabelaisian technique of using Grasset D'Orcet's "language of the birds"... creating puns, rebuses, and riddles for the purposes of satire, social criticism, and concealing knowledge. In the works of disparate creative people such as Honore de Balzac, Maurice Leblanc, Jules Verne, Raymond Roussel, Erik Satie, Pablo Picasso, Max Jacob, Valentine Gross Hugo, Marc Chagall, Gerard de Nerval, Maurice Barres, Josephin Peladan, Claude Debussy and "Les Six," Comte Robert de Montesquiou, Victor Hugo, Jean Cocteau, Charles Nodier, Stephane Mallarme, Maurice Maeterlinck, Jean-Julian Champagne (Fulcanelli), and perhaps even Pataphysician Alfred Jarry, can be found the techniques and interests we today associate with the "Priory of Sion". Lamy says that many of these people belonged to a group he calls The Brouillards (The Clouds) or the Angelic Society, of which the Priory Of Sion is a modern manifestation. They are descended from the Gouliards, or medieval clerks and print-makers, whose mystical and heretical Cathar watermarks so fascinated Harold Bayley. Robert Anton Wilson also feels that a number of these people may have also belonged to the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor.

Some interesting facts: Balzac's Unknown Masterpiece is about a secret known to only two painters, Poussin and Pourbus; and appears to have been the inspiration for an occult masterpiece by Picasso. "Croise" Andre Malraux appears to have been part of an aerial expedition to discover the palace of the Queen of Sheba in Yemen, a feat which he was congratulated for by Haile Selassie of Ethiopia; as Minister of Cultural Affairs, he helped organize an archaeological expedition to Gisors in 1964. Leblanc's work The Triangle of Gold has the same name as a "prieure document" created by Jean-Luc Chaumeil in 1979. Satie left a strange note behind saying he was part of a society descended from the Knights Templar and the Protectors of the Holy Sepulchre. Barres' most famous work is La Colline Inspiree, about Sion-Vaudemont and the Baillard Brothers. In one of de Nerval's works, he said that he saw a star rising from the sea, and written on it was the name "Merovee".

Henry Lincoln first pointed out that Cocteau's Mural in Notre Dame de France seems to have a pentagram centered on Cocteau's forehead. My research suggests that this pentagram is a reference to Cocteau's surrealist colleagues, Guillaume Apollinaire, who had a star-shaped wound on his head, and Raymond Roussel, who wrote a play, The Star in the Forehead. The Mural also contains a Blue Rose, which is an apparent allusion to a Russian Symbolist art group that influenced Marc Chagall and other painters. According to Simon Miles, the Surrealist poem Le Serpent Rouge contains symbolism from Jung's _Mysterium Coniunctionis_, which was of key interest to Surrealists. Most importantly, Gerard de Sede in the 1940s belonged to two Surrealist groups, Les Reverberes and La Main a Plume. Members of these groups would go on later to form the Workshop for Potential Literature (Oulipo) in the 1960s. Oulipo was interested in cryptograms, ciphers, textual reversals and inversions, geometric figures in paintings (Oupeinpo), and one key Oulipo text even used the Knight's Tour of the Chessboard as a organizing device. Jean-Pierre Deloux seems to be connected to Oupolipo, the offshoot of Oulipo devoted to creating detective police fictions. And Philippe de Cherisey seems to have written several articles on Alfred Jarry, the founder of the Surrealist College de Pataphysique.

Foucault On The Death Of Raymond Roussel

"In a way Roussel's attitude is the reverse of Kafka's, but as difficult to interpret. Kafka had entrusted his manuscripts to Max Brod to be destroyed after his death - to Max Brod, who had said he would never destroy them. Around his death Roussel organised a simple explanatory essay which is made suspect by the text, his other books, and even the circumstances of his death." Roussel, in a tragic state of barbiturate dependency, with all his money gone, surrounded by empty pill bottles was found on a mattress at the threshold of his pretend mistress' adjoining bedroom. This for Foucault becomes a metaphor, a rebus-like suicide note: "Whatever is understandable in his language speaks to us from a threshold where access is inseparable from what constitutes its barrier..."

Huysman's Fear Over La Bas

Perhaps as fascinating as the novel itself is the story behind it: Huysmans was a thorough researcher when writing novels, and La-Bas was no exception. Huysmans began a relationship with Henrietta Maillat, a woman who claimed to have had experiences with incubi and succubi, and through her he met Berthe Courriere, Louis Van Haecke, and ultimately the famous occultist Joseph-Antoine Boullain. Boullain supplied Huysmans with rare documentation on rites, sexual rituals, and Satanic belief. After the publication of La-Bas, Huysmans worried for his own safety, firmly believing that the Rosicrucians, who were angered by his novel, were casting evil spells on him (Boullain had died around this time, playing further on Huysmans' paranoia).