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.
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
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.
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 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’ 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The authors wonder if the Rosecrucians might be the model for a modern,
The authors think the answer is "yes." They write,
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.]
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
Then a few pages later they write,
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,
...are all chips off the same block.
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
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."
He noted that MOTM
But then Eliade says,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.