Introducing Le Comte de Gabalis
Sourced via pierrepainblanc
I’ve just spent a good deal of hours researching Comte de Gabalis, a quest prompted by a new release on Creation Books‘ Creation Oneiros imprint and the reference I found there to occult fiction. Wikipedia has no entry on occult fiction but Googling them did bring up Gabalis.
I am not that a big a fan of occultism except when I find it represented in fiction, such as supernatural horror or le fantastique.
A recap of what I found:
The Comte De Gabalis is a 17th century grimoire (posing as a novel of ideas) by French writer Abbé N. de Montfaucon de Villars, first published anonymously in 1670. The book is dedicated to Rosicrucianis and Cabalism and based on Paracelsus‘s four elementals: Gnomes, earth elementals; Undines; water elementals, Sylphs, air elementals and Salamanders, fire elementals. It is composed of five discourses given by a Count or spiritual master to the student or aspirant. The Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology by the Gale Group notes that the work may be a satire of the writings of la Calprenède, a popular French writer of the 17th century.
David Teniers the Younger. The Alchemist
It was also very pleasant to find and wikify elements in fiction:
Shakespeare‘s plays abound in elemental beings including Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Ariel in The Tempest. Alexander Pope was influenced by the Comte de Gabalis in his Rosicrucian poem “Rape of the Lock.” Sylphs have been the favorites of the bards. The “Mahābhārata” is full of stories about beings of the elements and their heroic offspring with their human partners. Similar themes and references are found in Homer‘s The Iliad and The Odyssey in which the elemental beings appear as gods and goddesses such as the mighty Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite, Athena, Apollo, and Achilles, son of a mortal man and the goddess Nymph Thetis (see The Iliad by Robert Fagles, Penguin Classics, 1990). German writer Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué wrote about a beautiful water-nymph, “Undine,” and Sir Walter Scott endowed the White Lady of Avenel with many of the attributes of the nymphs. Other works or characters influenced include Lord Lytton‘s Zanoni, James Barrie‘s Tinker Bell; and the bowlers Rip Van Winkle encountered in the Catskill Mountains. The story of Melusina is based on the historical marriage of a gentleman and a water nymph. Charles Mackay, father of Marie Corelli, wrote “Salamandrine,” a poem about a great love between a human and a female salamander. Cabalism, in general, influenced many Mediaeval poems as well as the writings of Dante.
The most interesting aspect of The Comte De Gabalis is the sexual union of gods and mortals. I like half creatures and I like the sexual part of it. It was the work of the minor British publisher of anthropologica Robert H. Fryar who most clearly brought this link to my attention by reprinting in the late 19th century the Comte de Gabalis with its tale of the immortalization of elementals through sexual intercourse with men and supplementing the work with long citations from the recently discovered Demoniality Or Incubi and Succubi, an eighteenth-century work by Father Sinistrari on the dangers of incubi and succubi.
Posted in cult fiction, eroticism, fantastique, fiction, French culture, irrationalism, life, literature, magic, philosophy, psychology, subculture
Principes d’une esthétique de la mort by Michel Guiomar
And just when you think you’ve seen everything, a book manages to come out of nowhere and amaze you. Today, at the Antwerp book store Demian, I bought Principes d’une esthétique de la mort, les modes de présences, les présences immédiates, le seuil de l’Au-delà, a book essay by French writer Michel Guiomar, published in 1967 by French cult publisher José Corti. The book has not been translated to English, a possible translation of the title is Principles of an aesthetics of death. The book extensively references jahsonic favourite Gaston Bachelard.
Posted in culture, death, European culture, fantastique, French culture, genre, grotesque, literature, magic, philosophy, theory
or, sweet words for sweet ladies
Like willow I will be the willow on your bedside
The quote comes from an old Asian ghost tale. The photo was taken by a Wikipedian. As an afterthought: it’s very difficult to find out who at Wikipedia is responsible for which photo, it’s equally difficult to understand the intricacies of Creative Commons licences. Enjoy the photo and quote and have a nice weekend. See you on Monday.
- “I suddenly became strangely inebriated. The external world became changed as in a dream. Objects appeared to gain in relief; they assumed unusual dimensions; and colors became more glowing. Even self-perception and the sense of time were changed. When the eyes were closed, colored pictures flashed past in a quickly changing kaleidoscope. After a few hours, the not unpleasant inebriation, which had been experienced whilst I was fully conscious, disappeared. what had caused this condition?” –Albert Hofmann (Laboratory Notes, 1943)
Albert Hofmann (January 11 1906 – April 29 2008) was a Swiss scientist best known for synthesizing lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Hofmann authored more than 100 scientific articles and wrote a number of books, including LSD: My Problem Child.
Some LSD visuals:
Film poster for The Trip (1967)
The Acid Eaters (1968) – Byron Mabe
Tagline: The film of anti-social significance.
images from here.
Psych-Out (1968) – Richard Rush [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
I went to the Permeke library in the center of Antwerp yesterday evening and loaned these:
Two of these books I had already loaned, the work by Rachleff, which is excellent, and the sublime Sade / Surreal, which I’ve mentioned before here. Sade/Surreal is a pricey book (a French bookseller currently wants more than 300 EUR for it, but a German vendor is currently letting it go for less than 40 Euros, which is a bargain, if you have deep pockets, consider buying it for me as a present). For the last hour of so, I’ve been updating my wiki with the names found on the opening and closing pages of the book (pictured below), which reads like a who’s who of Sadean thought, a summa sadeica, as it were.
Opening and closing page of Sade/Surreal
There were only a couple of names I could not identify, any help is welcome: Retz (either Gilles de Rais, or the cardinal with the same name, Young (perhaps Mr. Young of Night Thoughts?), de Saint Martin, Bertrand (probably Aloysius Bertrand ?) and Constant (Constantin Meunier?). The rest is indentified.
Also in the same book is the engraving below, which I find lovely, like a cake-building or a building of collapsing blubbery wet clay.
Tomb of Pompeii by Jean-Baptiste Tierce, 1766
Posted in French culture, grotesque, irrationalism, literature, magic, miscellaneity, subculture, subversion, surrealism, transgression, uncanny, underground, visual culture
As I’ve mentioned before
, I am currently reading Umberto Eco’s On Ugliness
, the above Grien
-esque image is from chapter 8, Witchcraft, satanism and sadism
Surprising about the book, is that it is as much about literature than about visual culture. A big disappointment is that two times Eco says that “decency forbids us to reproduce such and such excerpt,” a childish remark. New authors and works discovered so far is Teofilo Folengo‘s Baldus (1517), of who Eco says that it was an important source of inspiration for Rabelais and Hieronymus Bosch.
In the beginning of the book, Eco makes a feeble attempt to come to a three-fold aesthetics of the ugly, but he never returns to his framework.
Actually, his thematics are not really the ugly, but the aestheticization of the ugly, a concept we know better as the grotesque, and which has been treated by such authors as Wolfgang Kayser in his The Grotesque in Art and Literature (which I have yet to read).
For those of you unfamiliar with the work of Salvator Rosa:
Salvator Rosa (1615 – March 15, 1673) was an Italian painter, poet and printmaker best known as an “unorthodox and extravagant” and a “perpetual rebel” proto-Romantic. His life and writings were equally colorful. Some sources claim he spent time living with roving bandits. Ann Radcliffe was greatly influenced by the Italian landscape painter and his dramatic landscapes peopled with peasants and banditti. Radcliffe managed to translate Rosa’s visual feeling of awe and the sublime to the Gothic novel popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Rosa is canonical to me despite of Huxley’s negative criticism:
- “Another more celebrated fantasist was Salvator Rosa — a man who, for reasons which are now entirely incomprehensible, was regarded by the critics of four and five generations ago as a great artist. But Salvator Rosa’s romanticism is pretty cheap and obvious. He is a melodramatist who never penetrates below the surface. If he were alive today, he would be known most probably as the indefatigable author of one of the more bloodthirsty and adventurous comic strips.” –Aldous Huxley, Prisons (1949)
Previously on Eye Candy.
Where Did You Sleep Last Night (1870s) – traditional
I wanted to let you hear the version that made this song popular to me, by my favourite Charlie Feathers (who recorded it on the French label New Rose Records in the late 1980s), but it’s not available on Youtube. The clip above mixes between Lead Belly (who made it popular in 1944) and Nirvana (who made it popular in the late 20th century). The lyrics are difficult to grasp: a girl is unfaithful, a man is decapitated, his body never found.
“Cobain started to love leadbelly after the words of his biggest hero William S. Burroughs :
(Kurt Cobain’s words) “I remember him saying in an interview, “These new rock’n'roll kids should just throw away their guitars and listen to something with real soul, like Lead Belly.”"
See previous entries in this series.
Häxan (1922) – Benjamin Christensen
Here with a wonderful Youtube-added soundtrack by Coil. (via surrealdocuments)
Related posts Nick Cave-esque, He spoke humanely about evil
Previous “World Cinema Classics” and in the Wiki format here.
Scrub to 3:30 for immediate access to Free Radicals (an instant dance music classic)
The phrase “free radical” got stuck in my head, and Googling for it brought up a 1958 film by New Zealand experimental filmmaker Len Lye, titled Free Radicals. The film features white ‘chalk’ lines constantly moving on a black background with African drums (‘a field tape of the Bagirmi tribe’) playing throughout. The film won second prize out of 400 entries in an International Experimental Film Competition judged by Man Ray, Norman McLaren, Alexander Alexeieff and others, at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels. In 1979 Lye further condensed this already very concentrated film by dropping a minute of footage. Stan Brakhage described the final version as “an almost unbelievably immense masterpiece (a brief epic)’. I could not agree more.