The Esoteric Secrets of Surrealism: Origins, Magic, and Secret Societies, by Patrick Lepetitt
Inner Traditions, 9781620551752, 544 pp. (incl. bibliography and notes), 2014
The Esoteric Secrets of Surrealism symbolizes a reuniting of art, science, and mysticism: the head, body, and heart, all working together.
As an artistic movement surrealism seeks to “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality” as a revolutionary act. From the outset, the surrealists declared war on rationality, which had allowed for the atrocities of two world wars to take place, causing French novelist Albert Camus to proclaim that “surrealism’s essential enemy is rationalism.” Devoted anarchists, the surrealists felt that “so long as revolutionaries confine themselves to certain specific aspects of social life without attacking the spiritual structure of society directly,” then they were doomed to failure. This caused poet Tristan Tzara to claim that “the love of ghosts, witchcraft, occultism, magic, vice, dream, madness, passions, true or invented folklore, mythology (or even mystification), social or other kinds of utopias, real or imagined journeys, bric-a-brac, marvels, the adventures and mores of primitive peoples and generally everything that did not fit into the rigid frameworks in which beauty had been placed to identify itself with the mind.”
The surrealists were interested in occult and metaphysical currents from the very beginning — as seen with the Vodou-ispired works of Cuban painter Wifredo Lam, or the explicitly Pagan paintings of Leonora Carrington — although often not in so many words, as they “ventured onto the terrain of mediumship stripped of its spiritualist clutter.” In the process the surrealists would become a kind of secret society and take a similar role to that of the Freemasons or Rosicrucians in the Enlightenment, illuminating and updating the age old mysteries with emerging schools of thought like psychoanalysis, quantum physics, and relativity. Continue reading