The groundbreaking and classic study that first popularized occultism, alchemy, and paranormal phenomena in the 1960s * Provides profound insights into our perceptions of reality, telepathy, mutants, and parallel universes * Reveals the occult influences on the Nazis and introduces the alchemist Fulcanelli and the work of Charles Fort and Gurdjieff * Over Half a Million Copies Sold This groundbreaking, international bestseller, first published in 1960, couples profound insights into the hidden history of humanity and our perceptions of reality with the scientific evidence that supports the existence of paranormal activity, telepathy, and extraterrestrial communications. The first book to explore in depth the Nazi fascination with the occult, Pauwels and Bergier also broke new ground with their study of pyramidology, alchemy and its close kinship with atomic energy, and the possibility of a widespread mutation of humanity that would herald the dawn of a new age for the earth. Their study of secret societies, starting with the Rosicrucians, suggests that such changes are actively being pursued in the present day by a “conspiracy” of the most spiritually and intellectually advanced members of the human race. The Morning of the Magicians also explores the anomalous events collected by Charles Fort, the work of Gurdjieff, and the history of the mysterious Fulcanelli, who was widely believed to have manufactured the philosopher’s stone–which provided the Nazis the motive for mounting an intensive search for him during their occupation of Paris. Much more than a collection of strange facts defying conventional wisdom, this book remains a sophisticated philosophical exploration of repressed phenomena and hidden histories that asks its readers to look at reality with ever “awakened eyes.”
from OrderOfTheTwilightStar Website
This essay 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 The 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 the 70’s.
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 Daniken.
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 realism.
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 of 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. Gurdjieff.
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 explanation.
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 expectations.
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 progression.
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 better.
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.” They write,
“…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 future.”
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 Talbot Mundy’s 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 lines.
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 Golden Dawn,
“…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 German Rosecrucians.”
They then go on to connect Rosecrucian Bulwer-Lytton’s novel The Coming Race with the proto-Nazi Vril Society. The Coming Race is about a race of men who have become “supermen.” According to the authors,
the “nine unknown” of India
the mahatmas of Theosophy
the “secret chiefs” of the Golden Dawn
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 historian.
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 occult readers.
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 Possibilities.
“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.