“Art is a Religion”: an Aesthetic-Esoteric Manifesto by Joseph Péladan

Sasha Chaitow, founding director of the Phoenix Rising Academy, and PhD candidate at the Centre for the Study of Myth at Essex College in the UK, has recently shared a fine selection of translated writings from the 19th century French Symbolist, artist and novelist Joseph Péladan. Aside from the beautiful translation, it reads like a hymn to creativity; and for you magickal artists out there, I think it might strike a resonant chord with the arguably hidden meaning and occult purpose behind creative our endeavors.

Here’s an excerpt from her translation:

EXHORTATION

Artist, you are a priest: Art is the great mystery and, if your effort results in a masterpiece, a ray of divinity will descend as on an altar. Artist, you are a king: Art is the true empire, if your hand draws a perfect line, the cherubim themselves will descend to revel in their reflection. Spiritual design, a line of the soul, form of understanding, you make our dreams flesh. Artist, you are a mage: Art is the great mystery, it only proves our immortality.

[This is] the absolute rejoinder to pedantic quibbles : we doubt Moses, but here is Michaelangelo; we misunderstand Jesus, but here is Leonardo; we secularize everything, but immutable, sacred Art continues its prayer.

[21]

You may one day close the Church, but [what about] the Museum? If Notre-Dame is profaned, the Louvre will officiate… Humanity, oh citizens, will always go to mass, when the priest will be Bach, Beethoven, Palestrina: one cannot make the sublime organ an atheist! Brothers in all the arts, I am sounding a battle cry: let us form a holy militia for the salvation of idealism. We are a few against many, but the angels are ours. We have no leaders, but the old masters, up there in Paradise, guide us towards Montsalvat… This precious Church, the last august thing in this world, banished the Rose and believes its perfume to be dangerous. Next to it then, we will build the Temple of Beauty; we will work to the echoes of prayers, followers, not rivals, different,

[22]

not divergent, for the artist is a priest, a king, a mage, for art is a mystery, the only true empire, the great miracle… Jesus has not cursed this world. Jesus receives the adoration of art. The noble enthusiasm of the artist will survive beyond extinct, erstwhile piety.

Continue reading here.

Related Links:

Sasha Chaitow is a terrific artist herself. See her Homepage, Twitter and Facebook, showcasing some of her sublime creations.

Who Was Joseph Péladan?

- A paper Sasha presented to the 2011 3rd ESSWE conference at the University of Szeged, Hungary, July 2-4 2011

The Péladan Project

Joseph Péladan Wiki

Symbolism Wiki

 

 

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  • Hocketeer

    Art has indeed become a Religion over the past millennia, just another subtle, but pompous way of preaching a self-inflated ego, hidden (yet mostly empty) meaning being it’s only justification… too bad. The word isolated comes to mind.

    ” if your effort results in a masterpiece, a ray of divinity will descend as on an altar.” OMFG, masterpiece, shmasterpiece. “Art” is a mere tool for experience, meditation or trance, not something you force upon passive others so they can have something to talk about. Why not make a nice sand mandala/music/anything with some buddies, enjoy the company and the moment instead of producing some immortalized dust catching commodity.

    • http://www.evolutionarylandscapes.net/ Jeremy Johnson

      Well I think that depends. I don’t have anything *against longer lasting works of art. Our sense of art has evolved, or at the very least transformed over the centuries, don’t you think? Don’t we have room for both sand mandalas (which, mind you, is a very OLD / traditional practice, so in that sense it’s just as old as the art in the Louvre), and the statues? Isn’t our sensibility more complex now, considering the postmodern turn where anything can be art.

      I guess I’m wondering, @hocketeer:disqus, if you feel there’s any spiritual connotation to creativity?

      • Hocketeer

        I brought up mandalas to emphasize experiencing by doing in contrast to experiencing by watching. I believe the doing is where the therapeutical & spiritual experience is stronger. Watching can be great, if the artist is actually showing you how the whole process is done, in that way passing on inspiration in a very effective way. This comes closer to the oral tradition, which of course is very ancient.

        • Sasha Chaitow

          I’d suggest taking a quick peek at the idea underlying the definition of “masterpiece” before dismissing it out of hand. The idea is pretty much what you say (a tool for experience). There is also a context to the views Péladan expressed, and Jeremy is quite right to say that it could be recontextualised – which is precisely what I hope to achieve when the time comes. The article Jeremy’s linked to above offers some of the context, and funnily enough, I’ve just finished an article in which I talk about how Péladan’s work can be meaningful to modern artists. In short, Péladan’s priority was that art should not simply exist as a hollow imitation of reality, or as a
          tool for the self-aggrandisement of the artist. Rather, he saw its potential as a tool for a constant dialogue between artist and viewer on the “big” human questions, forcing them both to think, not literally, but insightfully – since symbolism is a visual language game, after all, and the “big questions” of today are the same as they always were. It also makes artist and viewer co-creators of meaning. All that changes with the times is the imagery and the forms that we use to communicate. I don’t think that that’s either dusty, or decadent… but then again, there’s no accounting for taste :)

          • Hocketeer

            Thats all fine, inspiration is a good thing, but that’s about all it is. What I am trying to convey is that it is more important to do than to consume and directly engage with people to create a living tradition. Art nowadys does not encourage this, everyone seems tucked away working and then presenting a finished product. I want to create together and have a dialogue with real people not a monologue with paintings. Like music nowadays is very competetive, a very long time ago it was about community and participation, a reflection of the current situation of society. The ratio of active vs passive is just not good enough.

          • Sasha Chaitow

            Ah, that’s certainly a fair point. I would only partially disagree that it is a monologue (when it comes to Symbolist art specifically), but that’s a minor detail. If you’re talking about art in general, then I’d pretty much agree (and on the music point as well).

          • Hocketeer

            Symbolist art (fantastical realism to mention one, its everywhere) of course is interesting to gaze at, especially when you know whats going on. But honestly, I’ve seen enough platonic solids, snakes, ladders etc. already. In the end it all comes down to the same thing, the alchemical marriage, knowing thyself. And one will only know oneself when one finds the suitable technique of doing. Mental masturbation and logic (of the consuming kind) only takes you so far…

          • Sasha Chaitow

            You’ve got me chuckling now because I do know what you mean, but your critical thinking skills are well honed and you “get it”. Sure it’s simple enough to you and me by the sound of it. The trouble is, there’s a heck of a lot of folks out there who are absolutely petrified at the idea of looking in a mirror or really, truly exploring their own mind. It’s like saying that those little alphabet magnets we put on the fridge are useless because we all know the alphabet. Sure – we do, toddlers don’t, and that’s who they exist for. All things being equal, it’s the same idea – some people need a helping hand, or an intermediary of some sort, to get them resonating with a given idea, and while it may come easy to some of us, that isn’t the case across the board (speaking specifically about esoteric and abstract philosophical concepts here). If art, as a creative process, can help with that, then this kind of art (or art designed for this express reason) has a purpose and a very significant role to play. Passive it may be to those who don’t need it, but there are many who do. It’s like meditation – some need a mantra, some need complex exercises, music, conscious breathing, etc, others can just slip into it. And Péladan was specifically targeting the artists who did “get it” so they could express these ideas symbolically to help those who didn’t.

          • Hocketeer

            I guess like with religion and symbolism, the danger is to get stuck in the logical mind (to become dogmatic) and not to cultivate a technique, to become intellectual but not ecstatic (thinking causes more problems than it solves, hehe) . My request to all artists is to encourage people to do and to find participatory ways of experiencing art in a community setting. Rather than producing culture I would really like to see more of a vibrant living tradition, where individuals can directly experience the wonders of their own and shared creativity.

          • Sasha Chaitow

            Couldn’t agree more, and I’m in the process of trying to design workshops around that exact idea – where people (not necessarily professional artists) can learn these modes of expression and get something out of them. It’s in the pipeline, and I’ve seen others (at Esalen and elsewhere – check out the Vienna Academy of Visionary Art, just opening this year) doing similar work. It’ll never make it into the mainstream “popular” art scene, but as far as I’m concerned that’s probably a good thing!

  • BuzzCoastin

    today
    Art is anything you can pass as art and get away with
    as to that old shit
    I doubt even 1% of aMerka knows the Louvre from the Loo

    • Hocketeer

      Both smell repugnant, the Loovre, a dunny of decaying decadence… about as exciting as going to church, way too many zombies, just like in 798, especially the curators…

      • BuzzCoastin

        798 is more bourgeois than the Loove
        but the Vinny collection at Musee d’Orsay
        is not to be missed neither
        Dali Museum in St. Pete & Dali at the Sofia

        but most museemumz are shite

        • Hocketeer

          Did you ever check out that bizarre new mall, the female pig with make-up, a dress,
          her tits hanging out at the entrance? Furthermore a farting bull
          propelling itself skyward, impaling a banker with demon’s horns, quite absurd…

          • BuzzCoastin

            a farting bull propelling itself skyward,
            impaling a banker with demon’s horns
            too literal

        • http://www.evolutionarylandscapes.net/ Jeremy Johnson

          Need to visit the Dali Museum sometime – I’m in FL for right now. He had a great exhibit at the MoMa for one summer.

          • BuzzCoastin

            the collection in St. Pete is exceptional
            several giant masterworks on display there

      • http://www.evolutionarylandscapes.net/ Jeremy Johnson

        Sure, for our time. I still wonder if there’s room to re-contextualize Peladan’s manifesto as appropriate for our time – of digital creativity, remix art, etc.?

    • http://www.evolutionarylandscapes.net/ Jeremy Johnson

      Indeed. But I wonder what you think about the crux of Peladan’s thesis?
      That creativity is nearer to divinity?

      He’s not the only one to have said this, for sure, and yes, his sense of art is different than ours – how couldn’t it be? Considering his time and historical context.

      Wonder if you were referencing Duchamp: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fountain_(Duchamp) – Which strikes quite a different ‘spiritual’ chord than the Louvre.

  • Guest

    I’d suggest taking a quick peek at the idea underlying the definition of “masterpiece” before dismissing it out of hand. The idea is pretty much what you say (a tool for experience). There is also a context to the views Péladan expressed, and Jeremy is quite right to say that it could be recontextualised – which is precisely what I hope to achieve when the time comes. The article Jeremy’s linked to above offers some of the context, and funnily enough, I’ve just finished an article in which I talk about how Péladan’s work can be meaningful to modern artists. In short, Péladan’s priority was that art should not simply exist as a hollow imitation of reality, or as a
    tool for the self-aggrandisement of the artist. Rather, he saw its potential as a tool for a constant dialogue between artist and viewer on the “big” human questions, forcing them both to think, not literally, but insightfully – since symbolism is a visual language game, after all, and the “big questions” of today are the same as they always were. It also makes artist and viewer co-creators of meaning. And unless I’m very much mistaken, that is anything but a passive process. All that changes with the times is the imagery and the forms that we use to communicate. I don’t think that that’s either dusty, or decadent… but then again, there’s no accounting for taste :)

  • Andrew

    I’d rather write a poem or make a planter than argue about art.

  • Iuwus

    You know I was reading this manifesto, and one thought lead to another and I ended up reading the whole thing like it was describing a sexual act, and then I thought about art being an extension of communication/intimacy/love whatever so it occurs to me that maybe we should all just drop all this art and science bullcrap and just have sex until the sun explodes.

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