The news that this talk sold out days before the actual event came as a surprise to me, especially as Péladan is a little-known figure even in esoteric study circles. I was more than a little daunted about meeting the audience’s expectations, and even more nervous because my PhD viva was due to take place the day after my talk, but I couldn’t have received a warmer welcome.
I gave a brief account of Péladan’s story and the reasons for his obscurity – which boil down to the fact that he effectively did away with the notion of esoteric secrecy and used the media available to him to try to share esoteric knowledge with the general public, using a variety of “mass media” of the day. This was anathema to his esoteric contemporaries, since it pulled the proverbial carpet of power and influence out from under them. Péladan was no fan of ritual and mystery – for him esoteric “enlightenment” was an inner process that could be attained by anyone with enough willpower and self-discipline, and art was the supreme communication medium that could bridge intellectual and spiritual processes.
He used a curious synthesis of myth and Platonic philosophy as a vehicle for his teachings, unfurled in over a hundred books and hundreds of articles and pamphlets he produced throughout his lifetime. Although, thanks to the meticulous efforts of his contemporaries, his name sank into oblivion after his death and his work was plagiarised by better known occultists, his legacy survived both in the art produced by those artists in his circle, and in the influence it had on many authors, artists, and other creatives, including August Strindberg, Ezra Pound, Salvador Dali, Le Corbusier, and a number of South American writers and poets. It appears that Péladan’s message and work does have a place in our era, and is just waiting to be rediscovered.
The lecture was not recorded, but after the warm response from the audience, and the evident interest in Péladan’s work, I shall at some point put together an online version of this talk. Stay tuned for details! In the meantime, for friends who were unable to attend, here’s a handful of images from the powerpoint presentation, and a few photos from the Treadwell’s evening. Hover your mouse over the images to see the descriptions or click any of the images to view them as a slide show complete with captions.
My warmest thanks go to Christina and the rest of the Treadwell’s team, as well as the fantastic audience for their hearty reception! More info on Péladan at my dedicated website: www.peladan.net. For my creative project inspired by Péladan and a bit of background on my research, click here.