dimanche 6 juin 2010

Le Matin des Magiciens

 Strange things happen on a blog.   Commenting on Wagner I happened to mention the this book and it led to a discussion in a different direction.  Sledpress's comment reminded me of an essay I wrote 5 years ago for a litterary study group that I was moderating at the McGill Institute for Learning in Retirement.  I figured it could be of interest to some people who read the book.  So here goes.


                        " ln the Province of Québec nothing has changed and nothing should change" (Maurice Duplessis, former prime 
Ministerfrom 1936-1944 and 1946-1959).
Growing up in French Canadian Cathotic and Union Nationale Québec from 1931 to
1960 was not conducive to introspection or to innovation. One was expected to tag along
without questioning or seeking to understand. One had to have faith, both mystical and political
Troublemakers were promptly dealt with and neutralized.
However, having inherited, from my immigrant father and rebellious anticlerical French-
Canadian mother, a strange disposition to question things 1 never felt easy in that set-up. While
going through my Humanities 1 almost got kicked out of school for having dared read outside
authorized works and having written a short text on how other faiths, even pagans, shared some
of our beliefs and feasts. Later on 1 was denied a Service Medal by Les Scouts Catholiques du
Québec for having criticized our Diocesan Chaplain. ln 1954 entering the Public Service 1 had to
get a letter from my Union Nationale member of the th en Legislative Assembly who made sure
that 1 was not compromised morally (a letter from my parish priest) nor politically (not suspected
of Liberal sympathies).
By 1960, my reputation as a troublemaker was weil entrenched and 1 was beginning ta
wonder whether a behavioural change was desirable if 1 wished ta go somewhere in this Society.
Then two events happened: the liberais were elected and launched the so ca lied Quiet
and 1 chanced upon a book: Le Matin des Magiciens, translated in England as The
of Magic (1963) and in the U.S.A
. as The Moming of the Magicians. For the French critics
it was an initiation to fantastic realism, an invitation ta use imagination in a Cartesian logical
society through a look at various esoterical teachings and teachers. To the American critics it
was a quixotic dialectical metaphysical manifesto. To me it opened a vista to uncharted
territories that 1 had glimpsed in the past, timidly explored but never really entered
This book raised ail the questions 1 had asked myself but never dared utter aloud. What
was it that the Church feared about the Oriental philosophers and their teachings, what about
the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail? Why did 1 feel Adam and Eve ta be a nice fable, but
just that
. .. a fable. Why were the Vedras, Gilgamesh and the Bible so close under many aspects
if the other two were untrue? Then what about the Bible? Were the Rosicrucians and other
iritual Societies as bad as the Fathers said they were? 
Others were asking them and attempting some answers outside of normal channels.
Wow! The book spawned an offshoot: Planète. 1 promptly subscribed to the magazine.
Although 1 never adhered to ail it contained and was a bit sceptical of Mme Blavatsky's
, 1 enjoyed the fresh air brought in by ail those highflying philosophies and musings
about the origins of the Nazca Unes and the possible visits of Aliens.
What was even more remarkable than the book are the authors. It is often said
that politics make for strange bedfellows
. Weil this applies to these two authors: Louis Pauwels
and Jacques Bergier. Born in 1920 Pauwels was a rightist intellectual
, writer and journalist who
was a resistance guerrillero against the Germans. Arrested, he was sent to Mauthausen. He
survived and went on to become an extreme rightist before he died in 1997.
Bergier, born in Odessa in 1912 was Jewish. His family fled Russia in 1925. He became
a chemist
, an anti-nazi and a Communist. Spying on the Germans, he was arrested in 1943. ln
1944 he ends up in Mauthausen
. After a visit to Russia he renounces Communism but remains
a staunch Socialist
. Bergier died in 1978.
These two men had nothing in common when they met in the mid fifties. Yet they joined
forces to write an astonishing review of fantastic realism and to launch a movement that lasted
several years until Pauwels's steady drift to the far right eventually created su ch a gap between
them that it caused the destruction of their friendship and of the movement they had
Their approach was simple enough; nothing should be excluded or rejected because it is
unexplainable or unbelievable. Maybe some day our sciences and our knowledge will have
expanded enough to encompass the yet unfathomab
le. ln the sixties this was revolutionary in
the French traditional culture where logic prevailed and dominated everything else. They
blamed the inte
llectual morass of the times on those Men in Black who roamed the world
spreading gloom and paralysis of the mind. (ln the Lexus and the Olive Tree, the very serious
Thomas Freedman writes about those few men with their portable computers in their black
attaché case who travel the world wreaking havoc at the flick of a switch with the economy of
whole countries by speculating on their currency to foster their own selfish pursuits)
they were opposed by the Men in White who proposed the rebirth of abandoned ideas about our
origins and our destination
. A kind of natural spirituality based on an open mind and the
acceptance that even the unexplainable could be NORMAL AND NATURAL

,-------- -------_ .. _-----
ln other words, if it has not been proven false it can be true. That simple concept
allowed for an openness of mind that paved the way for research and exploration
, for
acceptance of differences unheard of in those years
. Thus "Le Matin des Magiciens" and its
« Planète» had an influence far beyond the scope of the book or of its writers's intents.
Is it not funny that the hottest book currently on sale and at the top of the bestseller list
since its publicat
ion deals with Secret Societies, Knights Templar, The Priory of Sion, Opus Dei
and the quest for the Holy Grail and the Truth: The Da Vinci Code!
Paul Costopoulos, Friday, January 7,2005.

30 commentaires:

  1. I don't know why the signature appears as it does. Another web unexplained mystery.

  2. You Rebel you! Now, we got something else in common, my friend, our love for questioning the status quo, especially religious edicts.
    Carry On!

  3. "Carry On", that the title of an hilariuos Arthur Rank Film serie in the 1960s: Carry On Nurse, Carry On Doctor and the most hilarious of all Carry On Up the Khyber. They starred (to become Sir) Richard Attenborough.
    I've carried on all my life and in some way still am. My posts are a way of carrying on.

  4. I remember when my father said we were going to see a very funny film called, as I heard it, "Carrion Nurse" and was appalled and panicked, until I saw the poster at the theater. There is a liability in being one of these precocious language people.

  5. You did have a perilous word life I see. I hope you have since learned where not put flowers.

  6. Hello Paul,
    Great post. When in Paris, we visited the church where in Dan Brown's novel, that thug from Opus Dei killed the nun. In that church, on one of the stained glass windows, are the initials P. and S. The church had put up a sign saying that the initials had nothing to do with a recent bestseller ( or something to that effect!) I kept thinking the Priory of Scion (and then Judge Blah and I went for a drink...)

    Visiting the Louvre, along with my awe at seeing Winged Victory and the Mona Lisa, I couldn't help but think of the "murder" in Dan Brown's novel.

  7. Yes Cheri, I have heard that the guides out there spend much time explaining to tourists that the Da Vinci Code is a novel, not a history text book though a well documented novel as to physical loci.

  8. Very interesting post Paul. I will comment soon. I have just finished my new post and replied to all comments. Time for me to go to bed. Buona notte amico mio.

  9. Awaiting your comments with interest.

  10. First of all, I have bought your 'The Pagan Christ' but have not started it yet.

    I’m afraid I will buy your 'Le Matin des Magiciens' as well since you have talked about it too much for me not to buy it, although I am slow to act. It might not exert the same influence it had on you or on Sledpress, because of age difference: I am much older today than you were when you read it, but such book could be important for me to enlarge my knowledge on the said topics and to understand you people of the New World.

    I loved the elements of your personal story as usual, and especially the rebel in you! I think you had courage. It must not have been easy to face l’ambiente benpensante of those days.

    And, you really convinced me, Paul, that a comparison between religions - ie a 'compared' history of religions that can trace all possible connections – can teach us a lot.

    My angle being that of the agnostic I have no difficulty in equating Gilgamesh and the Bible. I also believe, like you, that "some day our ... knowledge will have expanded enough to encompass the yet unfathomable". After all, it is what always happen. The Greeks didn't know the existence of electro-magnetic waves, but modernity has figured them out. So many things are there for us still to be understood or even conceived.

  11. I still believe that we are rediscovering things that humans knew long ago but have forgotten due to bad times and various cataclysms. I do not exclude that, as many cultures believe, we had very learned ancestors that came or went away on "chariots of fire" as is said in the Bible about Enoch and Isaia and as depicted in Nazca.
    Maybe I'm an old delusional fogey...but hey at my age I can afford it.

  12. We are all delusional fogies after 60! I read in Plato something like that (that the Greeks had a knowledge as ancient as that of the Egyptians, but because of cataclysms they had forgotten all; and that they had knowledge of such stuff in the form of myths because too much time had passed: Timaeus, 22 onward). Not that I need the authority of Plato to deem such things possible, but Plato had knowledge of ancient texts and of memories we have lost. Plus this guy who speaks, Timaeus, was a Greek Calabrian from Locri and a Pythagorean philosopher, which is also very interesting.

    Chariots of fire ... ALL can be. I wish I had one now to jump on it and land in front of your house and say: "Jump in mon cher, let's go pay a visit to Commentator, Rosaria, Cheri, Sled, Zeus and the whole bunch of them".

    I know. I am crazy. It is the heat.

  13. Well Mor, blogland, for now, is our chariot of fire and we do visit one another, don't we?

  14. Yes, we do visit one another with imagination, quite a lot. And I'll tell you, Canada since I met you and the Commentator, is quite present in my fantasia. Not only Canada, the whole New world, the UK, Germany and India as far as I'm concerned.

    But, I have lost contact with India though a bit. I need a few more chariots to get there.

  15. By being uninterested in ghosts, UFOs, telepathy, the many unexplained mysteries and the other New Agey stuff, are scientists not being unscientific.

    I mean, isn't science supposed to follow where evidence leads, even if where it leads is outside the scientific paradigm?

    Official Science is almost like a religion in itself, and many scientists are as much in the thrall of dogma as are priests and communists.

    I was interested in your mention of the Nazca Unes, for they would appear to be similar to a crop circle.

    Crop circles. Now there's a mystery for you. While some are man-made, are they all?!! Official Science is, of course, not interested in helping find out.

  16. Nazca has been studied by such serious venues as the National Geographic Society. Many observations lead to many more questions than answers. We must all keep an open mind and accept that some things can not be explained, at least for the time being, using the cognitive tools that we master.
    Just because one does not understand something or can not establish material proof of it does not mean that it is not true. Keep on looking.

  17. Paul, I think more and more that you (and now Phil!) are natural readers for Robert Anton Wilson. "Official Science is almost like a religion in itself, and many scientists are as much in the thrall of dogma as are priests and communists" -- that's pretty much the premise of Wilson's New Inquisition, in which he takes on the dismissive "canon science" attitude that is sometimes exactly the opposite of what it pretends to be.

  18. Haven't had time to look him up, but I promise I will.

  19. OK, so I looked up Mr Wilson. While Pauwels and Bergier stayed within the philosophical essays and biography of esoteric philosophers and proponents, Wilson went into SciFi also and research on paranormal.
    I see he associated with Leary and his teachings and he seemed to be sympathetic to LSD but I can't say if he indulged it.
    He also delved in PsychoNeuroLinguistic programmation of which I am more leery. I worked several years with a PNL nuts and I did not appreciate it one bit.
    His daughter, on the Wilson website, seems to adore her father and the critics are either mesmerized or very antagonistic depending, I guess, on what ocean shore they are from or wether American or European.
    Bergier and Pauwels had the same experience: lauded in Europe and vilified in the U.S.

  20. Wilson was soppily fond of his children (one of the few things about him that I find a little irritating) so I dont' marvel that his daughter returned the favor.

    I think he experimented with most of the psychoactive drugs, and actually wrote a book called, baldly, Sex And Drugs, about the effects of one on the other. The PNL stuff he discussed very little up until the autobiography, and as someone who loves the song of language I admit it gets a little tiresome.

    To me his brilliance combined a keen talent for showing how we are all programmed with biases (Prometheus Rising, which uses the Leary circuit model of the psyche) and a poet's love of the human spirit, though he probably would have winced to hear me call it that. His Earth Will Shake is among the best coming of age novels ever written.

  21. My work brought me, both as a field worker and later on as a manager, in very close contact with drugs and their consequences on individuals, families even work places. I fail to be impressed by the likes of Leary and other intellectual "experimenters".
    When you have been for 40 years in almost daily contact with moral and physical ruin of human beings it becomes virulently impossible to condone the Learys and others. Heck I even had a field worker who became so addicted that he became a dealer to sustain his addiction, fortunately he had enough decency left not to peddle his ware to his co-workers or the kids he had in charge.
    He was put on sick leave...for 6 or 7 years. In our unionized context you could not fire him.

  22. Well, Leary was not an advocate for the use of any old drug, particularly not physically addicting drugs, nor did he start out with the notion of proselytizing for the kind of random drug use that became associated with his name. His autobiography is worth a read. It seems apparent that he went high profile as a 'drug guru" after a bald attempt by the US Department of Defense to recruit him and his fellow researchers to design mind-control and interrogation experiments using the psychoactive substances he was researching. The idea horrified him and he refused. His idea of preaching that people ought to learn to use those drugs as free agents may seem ill advised in retrospect but I can see some of what motivated it. And he lived a long and apparently happy life; died of prostate cancer, the same thing that kills lots of men, not of any consequence of drug abuse.

    I often wonder what would be different about our world if he and his Harvard colleagues had been allowed to continue investigating the use of psychoactives under controlled conditions, with introspection and awareness, without outside interference. I think it is likely that there is a place for them in therapy, for example, but it would be hard to know after decades of pro and con rhetoric and the thoughtlessness involved in street sale and "recreational" use.

  23. PS. Did you know that Leary designed the personality test used in the U.S. prison system for many years? In that context it was meant to determine how an inmate should be handled, if he would be contrarian or cooperative, and other traits important to people handling people in large groups. When Leary was convicted of marijuana possession and sent to prison the test was produced during his induction interview. He told them they probably ought to skip that part because he already knew the answers.

  24. The test part figures the guys likely did not who he was anyway and the rules said it had to be administered. Usual stupid bureaucrats.
    Our actions often have unforeseen and not desired consequences but we are still responsible. I have no doubt he was a decent man and a good husband and fataher nonetheless.

  25. Mm, from everything I've heard he was a panic as a spouse (to a series of women) but his third wife Rosemary was devoted to him and made fools of the narcotics agents -- masterminded by G. Gordon Liddy, no less -- who raided their New York residence. She acted so protective of a plant pot full of peat moss that they seized that as their critical evidence.

    As you say, bureaucrats can be abysmally dumb.

    Scientists often find that the pursuit of knowledge leads them into sins which call for atonement; think of Edward Teller.

  26. Teller, Fermi, even Einstein felt guilt for the part he played, indirectly toward creating the A bomb.
    So many people say:"had I known, I would not have...".
    It does not detract from their genius but it shows how, like Werner von Braun, scientists can become so absorbed by their work that they become totally disconnected from reality and consequences.

  27. And Leary's intellect, while considerable, was probably not in their league. I think it's unfair to hang the feckless use of drugs by disturbed people solely around his neck, but I admit to wondering how he looked back on that flare of notoriety during which he iconically wore love-beads and encouraged people to turn on and "drop out." He was a guy from Harvard suddenly negotiating a much more rough and tumble landscape, siding with the counter-culture largely because it seemed like the only place left where he wouldn't be coerced, and he made some weird judgment calls.

    Still, I come down on the side of respecting his lifetime message: people are the owners of their own consciousness and laws intended to prevent people from changing their consciousness usually increase exactly the harm they're intended to avoid.

  28. Some people need those laws to avoid those pitfalls. For others they are a dare.
    Those who become addicted have a dependant personality, if not on drugs, then alcool or tobacco or something else. Of course some dependancies are less damaging than others. But they still indicate a personality flaw.

  29. Flaw? I'm not sure I want to say that about the scads of people who self-medicate as a result of post traumatic stress. Here in the US, alas, we have this in our faces in the form of soldiers returning from multiple tours in Iraq and survivors of Katrina -- people who never had any interest in substances until they watched their neighborhoods swept away or their buddies killed in front of them. I'm not prepared to call them flawed.

    Even the most sorry-assed drug user I know personally, who's spent a lot of her adult life stoned to the detriment of her kids, suffered wretched psychological abuse as a child. I would call her flawed more readily, but she was helped along.

    What concerns me most about prohibition is the way that it drives the black market. Without the Reagan-era zero-tolerance policy about marijuana, there would have been no incentive for the development of the high-THC weed out there now.

  30. Yes, one must distinguish between a post-traumatic reaction and self-indulgence.
    Prohibition creates a kind of vicious circle that brings some people to create more potent drugs to get people to take the risk and because some take the risk it stimulates the production, development and sale of ever more potent stuff.
    A controled market like some places such as Québec and much of Canada has for alcool can help. At least it cuts criminality.