How to Become a Mage (or Fairy): Joséphin Péladan's Initiation for the Masses

Authors

  • Sasha Chaitow University of Essex

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/pome.v14i2.185

Keywords:

Aesthetics, French Occult Revival, History of Magic, Illuminism, Rosicrucianism, Self-Initiation, Symbolism

Abstract

Immensely prolific, discredited during his lifetime, Joséphin Péladan (1858–1918) constructed a vast, complex, yet coherent oeuvre with the purpose of demonstrating the transformative power of art by manifesting the highest ideals on the material plane, in response to the social decadence he perceived in fin-de-siècle French society. Central to Péladan’s vision was his conception of artists as initiates: select individuals who could bring a small part of the divine into the mundane sphere. In his cycle of novels, La Décadence Latine, his characters represent archetypal ideals facing ontological and metaphysical dilemmas against a background of a dying, corrupt, Western culture. His goal was to inspire his readers to seek a more ideal existence through a form of selfinitiation that he dubbed kaloprosopia, an art of transformation of personality through a life lived as a work of art. His theoretical esoteric works, Comment on Devient Mage and Comment on Devient Fée, respectively written for men and women, were handbooks for self-initiation representing the theory underpinning his novels. A formalized version of this process formed the basis for his Rosicrucian order. By presenting the same idea in different forms—through art, literature, and more intellectually demanding writings—Péladan's intent was to bring this call for regeneration to as wide an audience as possible, and in so doing, to spark a social renaissance.

Author Biography

Sasha Chaitow, University of Essex

Sasha Chaitow is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, University of Essex, United Kingdom

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Published

2014-01-13

How to Cite

Chaitow, S. (2014). How to Become a Mage (or Fairy): Joséphin Péladan’s Initiation for the Masses. Pomegranate, 14(2), 185–211. https://doi.org/10.1558/pome.v14i2.185

Section

Articles