by R. T. Gault
was written over 10 years ago, and reflects the state of
my knowledge and opinions at the time. A good deal has
changed since then, including the death of Louis Pauwels
in 1997. The reader may well be thankful that I have
chosen not to revise and expand this essay or it’s dark
companion. Above, the marvelously trippy cover of the
1968 Avon paperback edition of Morning of the Magicians.
There is only one work, that I know of, that contains almost all of
the themes that typify the fantastic and visionary ideals now
associated with the 60’s and 70’s. And it does so with such an
amazing percussive force that the work takes on an uncanny
prophetic aura, when it is read today.
The book, Le Matin des Magiciens,
appeared in Paris, in 1960. A translation, by Rollo May, was
published in Britain, in 1963, under the title The Dawn of Magic,
and made its way to the US a year later as
Morning of the Magicians.
[I will refer to the book by its US
title or abbreviation MOTM]
The authors were esoteric writer
Louis Pauwels, and physicist Jacques Bergier. The book
was written as a kind of manifesto for "fantastic realism" and was
meant to evoke, or harken back to, the spirit of the surrealistic
manifestos of the 1920’s.
From Sept/Oct 1964 The title was quite successful in France,
creating controversy and discussion within Gallic intellectual
circles. Pauwels and Bergier founded a periodical
Planete to continue the work begun with Morning of the
Magicians. According to Mircea Eliade in Occultism,
Witchcraft and Cultural Fashions (1976 entry), Planete
had 80, 000 subscribers and 100,000 buyers, which was amazing
because the journal was expensive. They followed MOTM with
Impossible Possibilities in 1968 and The Eternal Man in
Bergier continued to publish
titles, mostly on the subject of UFOs and "extraterrestrial genesis"
throughout the 70’s. MOTM is usually remembered today for one
section entitled "A Few Years in the Absolute Elsewhere,"
which deals with Nazi "fringe" and occult ideas (And the obvious
inspiration for my title for this bibliography). It is also
remembered, with ambiguous feelings, for first presenting the germ
of the "extraterrestrial genesis" thesis, later
exploited to extremes by Robert Charroux and Erich von
MOTM is unique from the beginning. The book opens with an
extremely personal preface from Louis Pauwels:
"Physically I am a clumsy person and
I deplore the fact."
With this opening, suited more for a
personal confession or autobiography, Pauwels sets a personal
tone for the work that remains throughout. This aspect of MOTM can
be easily overlooked in the onrush of ideas which follows. MOTM is a
personal work, on the evolution of their ideas of the dynamics of
life on earth.
The structure of the books is really
based on an evolutionary dialectic, rather than traditional logical
arguments. This allows the book to move through a vast amount of
material, often pitting one anomalistic event or fact against
another, aiming toward a new synthesis within the reader. For this
reason the book is very difficult to summarize or review in an
objective manner. It does not hammer home an argument, as is the
usual case, but is constantly moving towards an argument.
Pauwels writes that MOTM is the result of,
"five years of questing, through all
regions of consciousness, to the frontiers of science and
tradition. I flung myself into this enterprise -- and, without
adequate equipment-- because I could no longer deny this world
of ours and its future, to which I so clearly belong."
Pauwels then chronicles his
search, which takes him from the existential malaise of current
intellectualism, through his involvement with Hinduism and
Gurdjieff, to a new excitement. Here, as the perceptive Jim
Hougan noticed in Decadence, is one of the hallmarks of
the early "counterculture" -- a rejection of pessimism, and a belief
that change and evolution will bring something positive and
superior. The difference between this new idea and traditional 19th
century "progressivism" is that new thought (or heresy) suggests
that evolutionary process can be accelerated.
Pauwels tells how he and Bergier embarked on five
years of study to arrive,
...at a point of view which I
believe is rich in its possibilities. This is how the
surrealists worked thirty years ago. But unlike them we were
exploring not the regions of sleep and the subconscious but
their very opposites: We call our point of view fantastic
Pauwels’ choice of words
"ultra-consciousness" and "awakened state" are well worth noticing
as he will return to these ideas, again and again. Fantastic
realism, according to Pauwels, has nothing to do with the
bizarre, the exotic, the merely picturesque. There was no attempt on
our part to escape the times in which we live. We are not interested
in the "outer suburbs" of reality: on the contrary we have tried to
take up a position at its hub. There alone we believe, is the
fantastic to be discovered--and not a fantastic leading to escapism
but rather to a deeper participation in life.
So, Pauwels explains, asking the reader to look at reality
with new eyes or to be accurate, with "awakened eyes."
I think that Pauwels’ involvement with Gurdjieff is showing itself.
Pauwels is best known, outside of France, for a book he wrote
criticizing the Gurdjieff circle.
Pauwels continues his
criticism of Gurdjieff in MOTM, but it is obvious to me that he
has accepted the central Gurdjieffian notion that man is asleep,
and must be shocked into an awakened state in order to perceive true
reality. Gurdjieff’s ideas and doctrines loom large in MOTM, and he
is one of the first personalities mentioned in the work.
This is perhaps the best time to mention one of the uncanny aspects
Morning of the Magicians. Any
prominent mention in its pages seems to guarantee a revival of some
significance in the 60’s and 70’s. This is especially true when it
comes to some of the writers singled out for discussions in MOTM.
Many of them were totally forgotten in 1960. For example, I suspect
that MOTM had a large part in the rediscovery of G. I.
Morning of the Magicians is divided into three parts. Part
One, almost the first half of the book, is subdivided into four long
sections, "The Future Perfect," "The Open Conspiracy," "The Example
of Alchemy," and "Vanished Civilizations." It has much in common
with books by Charles Fort and his later imitators. During
the 50’s, writers like Frank Edwards had taken up the mantle
of Charles Fort and had begun producing books on anomalistic,
unexpected, and impossible events, which defied logical scientific
Edwards’ Stranger than Science
(1959 entry) is a good example of these popular titles, which told
about steel nails found in rocks, spontaneous human combustion, and
strange things falling from the skies. Most of them were made up of
many short chapters, suitable for reading in the bathroom, written
in breathlessly sensational rhetoric.
Many of these books were little more
than catalogues of bizarre events. Pauwels and Bergier
were familiar with this genre and certainly exploited their readers
Part One of MOTM is no
catalogue of the curious and unexplained. There is a calculated
dialectic at work. In this, Pauwels and Bergier are more
indebted to the father of the study of anomalies, Charles Fort,
than they are to his somewhat uninspired imitators. Fort is the
subject of a whole chapter in Part One, and it is obvious that
his writings have had great impact on the authors, and upon the
structure of MOTM. Pauwels had "instigated" the first
translation of Fort’s The Book of the Damned (1917) in a
French edition in 1955.
And I suggest that Fort’s quixotic
dialectic used throughout the book forms the central mode of
argument of MOTM. Martin Gardner had pointed out, in
Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science(1957), that "Fort
was an Hegelian. In the last analysis, existence--not the
universe we observe but everything that is--is a unity. There is
an ’underlying oneness’ and ’inter-continuous nexus’ which holds
everything... Fort was not a religious man, but he granted that
the totality of things might be an organism with intelligence."
Thus, each anomalous fact recorded in MOTM is no bizarre
tidbit to tweak our fancy, but part of a careful dialectical
Part Two, "A Few Years in
the Absolute Elsewhere," follows hard upon these four "Fortean"
essays. To be properly understood, it must be taken as part of
the dialectic set up in Part One. For this reason, "A Few Years
in the Absolute Elsewhere" is the most misunderstood part of
MOTM. It is not an expose of crack-pot science, of the satanic
influences on Hitler, or of the occult origins of Nazism. The
essay is really about how we view history. One of Pauwels’
themes is that the people of ancient civilizations are really
alien to us--as alien as creatures from another planet.
Their plunge into the dark corners
of physical Nazism is an object lesson in recent history. Here
are people who came from the same European intellectual and
cultural traditions as you and I, but they appear in hindsight
to be totally alien--as though they were from another planet, or
an "absolute elsewhere." Far from being a catalogue of Nazi
weirdness, it is a long antithesis to the thesis that says that
because the Nazis were a recent phenomenon, we understand them
Part Three, "That Infinity
Called Man," consists of ten chapters, each of which has its
own title. [That each part is organized along different lines,
suggests that ex-Gurdjieffite Pauwels may have had musical forms
in mind as a structure.] Much of Part Three are long quotes, or
synopsis blocks, placed in juxtaposition to each other, to
illustrate the problems of man’s future potential. Finally,
Pauwels and Bergier arrive at the final chapter entitled "Some
Reflections on the Mutants," and the idea that mankind is
already at the point where it is mutating into a "perfected
man," perhaps in the "awakened state."
This is not new idea. Neitzsche also
postulated such a "new man" (also through use of the dialectic),
and Hitler forever stigmatized it with negative meanings when he
took Neitzsche literally (always a mistake). To speculate about
things in post-war France must have taken more than the usual
amount of guts.
I have tried to cover some of the main
points of Morning of the Magicians because they are often
overlooked within the rich field of secondary information and
digressions that abound throughout the work.
MOTM was both
blessed and cursed by being full of tantalizing mysteries and
enigmas, with enough throw-away ideas to inspire a library of
speculation. In terms of MOTM’s long term influence, the marginal
information often came to outweigh the authors’ original intent. It
is important to look at some of that material.
One of the first concepts that the authors explore is the idea of an
"open conspiracy" to change society in a positive way. The
term comes from a book written by H. G. Wells in his later
years. Wells thought it was time (1928) for small groups to
engage in an "open conspiracy" to bring about positive global
change. Naturally, Wells saw the "open conspiracy" as being
stimulated by the best scientific brains of the day. Pauwels
and Bergier then tell of several examples of such an "open
conspiracy" in the past.
The first example is that of the Rosecrucians of the
17th century and
their mysterious manifestos. These
claimed to be from a secret brotherhood of men who sought to unify
Europe along ideological and mystical lines.
The authors wonder if
the Rosecrucians might be the model for a modern,
"...secret international society of
men of the highest intelligence, spiritually transformed by the
profundity of their knowledge..."
The authors think the answer is "yes."
"...we have every reason to believe
that a society of this nature is being formed today by the
pressure of events, and that there is bound to be one in the
The second example of an "open
conspiracy" cited is that of the "nine
unknown men" who are reputed to watch over the destiny of
India (maybe the world). The version of the "nine unknown"
used in MOTM is from
novel The Nine Unknown. Pauwels and Bergier use fiction
throughout the work. Fiction writers have always had a gift for
seeing through the veil of reality, and MOTM makes great use of
these fictional visions. Mundy is a good choice, as his own mystical
vision is close to those of the authors.
There is a long excerpt from a John
Buchan tale, The Power House, in which the hero has an
unnerving conversation with a conspirator in a group of
"extra-social intelligences" -- idealists who are going to make a
new world. The story is from 1910, and the ideas expressed sound
uncomfortably like Nazism.
[Buchan is best known as the
father of the modern spy novel, but was a loyal servant of the late
British Empire, serving as Governor General of Canada for a while.
He expressed some of the same fear of new fascist groups in his
The Three Hostages, 1924.]
Pauwels and Bergier call this "rule by cryptology."
These early thoughts predate the esoteric conspiracy theories
popular in the 60’s and 70’s. The conspiratorial view of history was
common in France, and the authors may have been following some ideas
current at the time. There isn’t any doubt that MOTM is source for
much of the material used by Shea and Wilson in
The Illuminatus! Trilogy.
I think it is also an inspiration for
the W.A.S.T.E. conspiracy in Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot
49. MOTM may also be a factor in the sudden revival of Talbot
Mundy’s novels in the 60’s. Later, Marilyn Ferguson would
list MOTM among her precursor in The Aquarian Conspiracy,
which is an unabashed call for an "open conspiracy" along New Age
One of the most important sections in
Morning of the Magicians is the speculation on a possible
connection between the ancient art of alchemy and modern atomic
physics. Pauwels and Bergier suggest that some of the practitioners
of alchemy may have understood the nature of matter, and wrote about
it in their special symbolic language. I’m sure that this is one of
Pauwels and Bergier’s contributions to the literature of the 60’s
and 70’s. Alchemy became one of the "buzz words" in certain
intellectual circles, during this period. New surveys were written
on alchemy, and the classic studies were reprinted.
It is well known that Morning of the Magicians inspired a
whole genre of "mysteries of ancient civilization" titles. The germ
for most of them can be found in "Vanished Civilizations," in
Part One. It’s all here, from the
Piri Reis map to
pyramidology. The authors are
frankly fascinated by the idea that ancient peoples may have been
more advanced in some of their technologies than we generally
believe. "Anthropology is awaiting its Copernicus," they declare.
Many of us who have studied in the
discipline would tend to agree. But this fascination with
possibilities does not lead them too far from reality. "We must
avoid falling into the trap of paying too much attention to
legends," they caution. The speculation on "advanced wisdom of the
ancients" was already a topic of French fringe literature before
Pauwels and Bergier came along. They just seem to have
reshaped it, and given it a more concrete direction.
The authors may be responsible for creating interest in Arthur
Machen, and his biggest fan, H.P.Lovecraft. Like Talbot
Mundy, Machen and Lovecraft were writers from the pre-war age who
were in eclipse in the 50’s. In 1945, that ultimate snob of American
letters, Edmund Wilson, had declared Lovecraft, and by
implication most "genre fiction," to be "hack work." It is also
likely that MOTM and Colin Wilson’s The Strength to Dream are
responsible for the revival of Lovecraft in the mid 60’s.
MOTM sings the praises of
Arthur Machen, calling him a "neglected genius," and rightly
identifying him as a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn.
It is really the Golden Dawn that interests Pauwels and
Bergier, and Machen allows them a literary entrance to the
discussion of that brand of occultism. I think it quite unlikely
that Machen would have been rediscovered in the late 60s had not
Pawels and Bergier shown a light on his work.
Pauwels and Bergier’s discussion of the Golden Dawn is one of
the most curious passages in MOTM. The discussion of Machen and the
Golden Dawn falls in "A Few Years in the Absolute Elsewhere,"
which is concerned with Nazism. According to the authors, the
"...was in contact with similar
German society, some of whose members were later associated with
Rudolf Steiner’s famous Anthroposophical movement and other
influential sects during the pre-Nazi period."
Then a few pages later they write,
"This neo-pagan society... was an
offshoot of the English Rosecrucian Society, founded by
Wentworth Little in 1967. Little was in contact with
They then go on to connect Rosecrucian
Coming Race with the proto-Nazi
Vril Society. The Coming Race
is about a race of men who have become "supermen." According to the
the "nine unknown" of India
the mahatmas of Theosophy
the "secret chiefs" of the
the "new man" of Hitler...
...are all chips off the same block.
Here the reader is at the birth of a persistent modern "myth": That
Nazism is the product of occult doctrine. To be fair, the
authors were not saying that the Order of the Golden Dawn was a
proto-Nazi group. Nor were they suggesting a positive link.
"Looking for affiliations is a game,
like looking for ’influences’ in literature," they warn. "When
the game is over, the problem is still there."
This hasn’t stopped writers who followed
from trying to make affiliations stick. None of them have been able
to come up with much evidence that would convince an exacting
The final part of Morning of the Magicians deals with the
idea of the "perfected man." This theme weaves its way through the
work, and would come to intrigue a whole generation of writers from
Colin Wilson to Marilyn Ferguson. The tool for
perfecting man is the brain. There is little doubt among most of the
later writers about this. It is a persistent theme of MOTM that some
so-called magicians and alchemists may have actually been seeking
the "perfected man," or the state of perfection, and that their
writings may offer clues to modern man.
This is why MOTM deals in such great
lengths with "open conspiracies," Rosecrucians, and
secret societies. These groups all claimed some clue to the
perfection of man--even had planned agendas. Even the book’s long
digression on Nazi Germany is really a look at an "open conspiracy"
that went horribly wrong. Eventually, all of MOTM’s special topics
amplify these speculations about the "perfected man."
All this sounds very similar to Colin Wilson’s "faculty X"
theory of a decade later. Wilson would search the annals of the
mystical and the occult with the suspicion adepts had experimented
with "man’s untapped potential," which he called "faculty X."
Wilson’s highly influential The Occult covers a lot of the
same ground that MOTM covers, but in a more structured and detailed
way. If Pauwels and Bergier had any inspiration for
Wilson, then they were truly influential beyond a limited circle of
In the next 20 years, this theme of the "perfected man," with
different names, would run through a whole sub-strata of literature,
from serious studies in the paranormal to the "human potential"
pundits, to the silliest of self-books. In a way, it is here that
MOTM saw its greatest impact. The oblique call for an "open
conspiracy" was heeded.
Before leaving this discussion of Morning of the Magicians, a
few other observations should be made. First, I must complain about
the lack of information about Pauwels, Bergier,
Planete, or on "fantastic realism" in English. Maybe some
social historian with a background in French cultural and political
trends might take the bait, and lift the veil of obscurity from this
subject. The following example may illustrate the problem. In 1965,
Mircea Eliade mentioned the success of Planete in a
lecture given at the University of Chicago.
He noted that MOTM
"...has not made a considerable
impact on the Anglo-American public," which suggests that MOTM’s
impact in the US may have come with the paperback edition.
But then Eliade says,
"In 1961, they published a
voluminous book, Le Matin des Sorciers..." [Reprinted in his
Occultism, Witchcraft, and Cultural Fashion]
All the facts in that statement are
wrong. It was published in 1960, the title was Le Matin des
Magiciens, and was a volume of rather average length! Eliade’s
major sources seemed to have been two unspecified articles in Le
Monde. Gaffs like that, from highly respected scholars, tended
to be repeated as fact, for decades.
It is obvious that the dominant personality in the team is Louis
Pauwels. In some works, which cite MOTM, the work is considered
Pauwels’ work alone! It is his style and personal voice which drives
the book’s engines. When comparing MOTM with later books by the
team, this fact becomes clearer. Impossible Possibilities (1968,
1971, and 1973 entries) is a series of essays, each signed by each
of the authors.
Following two opening essays by Pauwels,
the bulk of the text is by Bergier. Bergier comes up clearly prosaic
in comparison. The Eternal Man (1972 and 1973) is also a
series of essays, this time unsigned, but the noticeable uneven
quality betrays that much the same is going on. Bergier without
Pauwels is much less exciting.
Bergier is the scientist fascinated by all sorts of fringe
material, from UFO’s to the "advanced technologies" of ancient
civilizations. It is Bergier who is most excited by the theories of
extraterrestrial genesis. One can see how the team must have worked.
It was surely Bergier who collected the examples of Nazi fringe
science, while Pauwels collected information on the esoteric
connections with Nazism. But the later books lack the cohesive
vision so dynamic in Morning of the Magicians. I can only assume
that cohesive vision came from Louis Pauwels.
Pauwels worked for the conservative Le Figaro, and
from vague hints, I assume him to be a figure of the French right.
Peter Partner, in Murdered Magicians, described him,
for English readers, as an anti-Catholic G. K. Chesterton!
Partner also suggested that he began to distance himself from some
of his earlier writings, in the early 80’s. Pauwels’ views, as
articulated in MOTM. would not be welcome in the mainstream of the
American right in the 80’s, while libertarian and objectivist
circles might enjoy them.
There is some evidence that the popularity of MOTM caught the
authors by surprise. Pauwels said as much in Impossible
"The impact of the book, we thought,
would be more one of depth than one of numbers--hopefully
shaking its readers to the very core. We simply could not
imagine that it would attract the general public," he wrote.
MOTM was written with a more
esoteric audience in mind. Whatever limited audience the authors of
MOTM envisioned for their work, the ideas caught the imaginations of
readers on two continents.
It would be easy to dismiss Morning of the Magicians as an
artifact--a dated piece of late 50’s fringe literature which
managed to attract some notoriety. To do so would be to ignore the
totality of the work’s subject matter. That is the reason that I
have suggested it to be treated as a manifesto for much of the
esoteric intellectual interests of the 60’s and the 70’s. Pauwels
and Bergier were willing to ask questions--not just prosaic
ones, either--but outrageous questions.
Their dialectic suggested a whole range
of outrageous and exciting solutions to these questions. This
excitement and its quixotic spirit gave it appeal to an emerging
generation that came to value these qualities highly. Even today, it
still retains a peculiar ability to stimulate creative
contemplation, and it is still fun to read. It would not surprise me
if a new edition should appear soon to challenge a new generation.