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.