Suite Dreams Seconded Six Times To Come Almost Full Circle

Max Ernst-La Femme 100 têtes-1929
Max Ernst-La Femme 100 têtes-1929

My elder sister, perturbation,
indulge me,
heedless and headless
rushing towards paradise,
sinister utopia, blissed out
burning hell.

We call to St. Satan Esq: among others,
Prince of Liars, Lord of this World and all its Works,
louche lounger, adolescent rebel par excellence,
horny old goat stroking your neatly trimmed beard,
He who comes and goes, ever toing and froing:
to grant us a show of a little sympathy.

Walking down the avenue,
only a few more
blocks to cross:
but these streets are constantly changing,
losing my bearings,
I call out, where have you gone?

There is a way if you have the requisite will,
dive deep, immerse yourself in the elements,
there is freedom in surrendering to immensity,
being your virgin canvas, empty page, tabula rasa
onto which you scrawl all your needs, wants and desires,
fill the void inside with a phantom of substance.

Swamp of dreams,
Paris, Rome, Toyko, maybe London,
shimmering visions
of eternal decadence:
what a rotten tooth is to love are
you to me.

Parabolas, delirious paranoid constructions,
the sweep and curve of vast cosmic conspiracies.
Something’s not right, something is askew and aslant,
counterfeit currency passed along in a dream,
unveiling the secrets of a banal mystery
ultimate truth is vicious, yet deeply inane.

A Heresy for the 21st Century: The Cathars

Dominic Guzmán and the Albigenses, 1480, Pedro Berruguete
Dominic Guzmán and the Albigenses, 1480, Pedro Berruguete

Around the mid 12th Century the Catholic Church reported on the emergence of a new heresy: Catharism. Although Catharism shared many similarities in beliefs and organisational structures that it appears to be a descendant of other Gnostic heretical sects such as the Bogomils, Paulicians and others, all the way back to the Manichaeans in the 3rd Century, it would become for the Catholic Church the Great Heresy.

Although the first reports of Catharism was from Cologne, the heartlands of the heresy was the Languedoc, ruled at the time by  independent Counts. By the early 13th Century adherents of Catharism were said to outnumber Catholics in the region, a development that Pope Innocent III tried to combat by sending missionaries to debate with the leaders of the Cathars, the perfecti. Faced with the embarrassment of educated churchmen out-debated by humble, illiterate weavers (who formed the bulk of the perfecti), the Pope resorted to putting pressure on the Languedoc nobility, However the nobility were sympathetic to the Cathars and defied papal authority. Things came to a head when the Pope sent his legate Pierre de Castelnau to excommunicate Count Raymond VI of Toulouse for his leniency towards the Cathars. Pierre de Castelnau never made it back to Rome as he was murdered after leaving Toulouse. The Pope swiftly declared the Albigensian Crusade to obliterate all traces of the heresy and its adherents.

But before we tackle the brutal crime against humanity that is the Albigensian Crusade and the following Inquisition, lets undertake a brief survey of the beliefs of the Cathars.

  • The Cathars were Dualists. There are Two Principles, the Good God of the New Testament, God of Spirit and Light and there is the Evil God of the Old Testament, the Creator of the World, the God of Matter and Darkness.
  • The Creator of the World is expressly stated as being Satan.
  • Human are gender-less angels of light who have been encased in a material shell.
  • There is no other hell than the hell on earth.
  • The soul is doomed to be re-incarnated in either human or animal form until it can escape back to Heaven by achieving perfection and receiving the one sacrament of the Cathars, the Consolamentium.
  • There were only two levels of Cathar society; Believers and the Perfecti. The Perfecti could be both male or female.
  • Perfecti were vegetarians and also abstained from all diary products because of its tainted nature as a product of procreation.
  • Sexual intercourse, but especially reproductive sex, is to be avoided as it involves further spirits and more light being trapped in the evil realm of matter.
  • They refused to take oaths or pay tithes to the Church.

The Albigensian Crusade is one of the most violent and blood-stained chapters of all medieval history. It was nothing less than a war of extermination.  The qualms expressed by the Languedoc Knight as to why he didn’t hunt down the heretics more avidly in the following quote were certainly not shared by Northern French Lords eager to seize lands and property, “We cannot. We have been reared in their midst. We have relatives among them and we see them living lives of perfection.”  Nor where they shared by the Arnaud-Amaury, the Cistercian abbot, who on being questioned on how to tell Cathars from Catholics responded, “Kill them all, the Lord will recognise His own”. In the town of  Béziers, the entire population of twenty thousand men, women and children was put to the sword.

Overall around half a million people were massacred. By the time that 200 perfecti were symbolically burnt at the castle of Montsegur in 1244, the Cathars as a force was spent, though it would take the Inquisition around a hundred years to root out the remnants of the Cathars in the Languedoc and Northern Italy.

The Cathars and their heresy were gone, but certainly not forgotten. Their mysteries would become part of the lore of the Occult Revival of the 19th and 20th Centuries.



Les Diaboliques

At a  Dinner of Atheists-Les Diaboliques- Barbey d’Aurevilly-Illustration Felicien Rops
After the scandal and subsequent prosecution that attended the publication of Les Fleurs Du Mal (see The Flowers of Evil: Litanies Of Satan)the decadent writer and theorist of Dandyism, Barbey D’Aurevilly told his friend Charles Baudelaire that after such a book it only remains for him to choose between the muzzle of the pistol and the foot of the cross.

It was nicely put and neatly summarized the dilemma facing the true decadent. D’Aurevilly, like many other decadents, including J.K Huysmans, Leon Bloy (see The Captives of Longjumeau) and Villers de l’isle Adam (see To the Dreamers, To the Deriders) opted for the cross. However the Catholicism re-adopted by the decadents retained more than a whiff of sulphur about it. Often it seems as if they decided to pledge their devotion to God just in order to celebrate Satan and all his works, revelling all the more in the sins of the flesh. Sin gives sensuality an additional flavour. It is no exaggeration to say that the French Symbolists invented  the modern conception of Satanism.

D’Aurevilly’s masterpiece is the  short story collection Les Diaboliques, a celebration of crime and immorality. No matter how much the bored gentleman dandies try to excel in evil in Les Diaboliques they are no match for the Devil’s representatives on earth, all of whom wear petticoats. Containing such bon-mots as “The Devil teaches women what they are – or they would teach it to the Devil if he did not know” and “Next to the wound, what a woman makes best is the bandage”, D’Aurevilly encapsulated the misogyny of  the decadents in glittering, cynical one-liners. The book was illustrated by the Decadent artist par excellence Felicien Rops who also illustrated Les Fleurs Du Mal and whose entire artistic production was dedicated to an expose of the grip that Sin, Death and The Devil holds over the world.

The Flowers of Evil: Litanies Of Satan

Eliphas Levi-Baphomet Goat-1856

As well as containing erotic poems that led to Baudelaire being prosecuted for insulting public decency, Les Fleurs du Mal contained the blasphemous Les Litanies de Satan (The Litanies of Satan). The English Pre-Raphaelite poet and pornographic writer Algernon Charles Swinburne cited it as the key to Les Fleurs du mal.

Ever since John Milton had cast Satan as the sombre, brooding, archetypal rebel in Paradise Lost, writers had begun to show more than a little sympathy for the devil. Blake had shrewdly remarked ‘The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devils party without knowing it.’  Gothic novels and the Romantic writers, in particular Lord Byron, produced one Satanic hero after another to great popular demand. The apotheosis of this trend can be seen in the unforgettable character of Heathcliff in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.

What is remarkable in Baudelaire’s poem is the presentation of Satan as the Lord of the despised and oppressed, or to use Marx’s memorable phrase in The Communist Manifesto (published in 1848), ‘the wretched of the earth.’

The above illustration is from Dogme et Rituel la Haute Magic (Dogmas and Rituals of High Magic) by the French occultist Eliphas Levi, a contemporary of Baudelaire who is justifiably known as the father of modern occultism. It is not known, though it is often rumoured, whether they ever met. They certainly shared affinities and both would greatly influence the Symbolist and Decadent movements.

Litanies of Satan

Wisest of Angels, whom your fate betrays,
And, fairest of them all, deprives of praise,

Satan have pity on my long despair!

O Prince of exiles, who have suffered wrong,
Yet, vanquished, rise from every fall more strong,

Satan have pity on my long despair!

All-knowing lord of subterranean things,
Who remedy our human sufferings,

Satan have pity on my long despair!

To lepers and lost beggars full of lice,
You teach, through love, the taste of Paradise.

Satan have pity on my long despair!

You who on Death, your old and sturdy wife,
Engendered Hope — sweet folly of this life —

Satan have pity on my long despair!

You give to the doomed man that calm, unbaffled
Gaze that rebukes the mob around the scaffold,

Satan have pity on my long despair!

You know in what closed corners of the earth
A jealous God has hidden gems of worth.

Satan have pity on my long despair!

You know the deepest arsenals, where slumber
The breeds of buried metals without number.

Satan have pity on my long despair!

You whose huge hand has hidden the abyss
From sleepwalkers that skirt the precipice,

Satan have pity on my long despair!

You who give suppleness to drunkards’ bones
When trampled down by horses on the stones,

Satan have pity on my long despair!

You who, to make his sufferings the lighter,
Taught man to mix the sulphur with the nitre,

Satan have pity on my long despair!

You fix your mask, accomplice full of guile,
On rich men’s foreheads, pitiless and vile.

Satan have pity on my long despair!

You who fill the hearts and eyes of whores
With love of trifles and the cult of sores,

Satan have pity on my long despair!

The exile’s staff, inventor’s lamp, caresser
Of hanged men, and of plotters the confessor,

Satan have pity on my long despair!

Step-father of all those who, robbed of pardon,
God drove in anger out of Eden’s garden

Satan have pity on my long despair!


Praise to you, Satan! in the heights you lit,
And also in the deeps where now you sit,
Vanquished, in Hell, and dream in hushed defiance
O that my soul, beneath the Tree of Science
Might rest near you, while shadowing your brows,
It spreads a second Temple with its boughs.