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Kabbalah Symbolism And Art

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

Symbolism was a late 19th-century art movement of French and Belgian origin in paintings and other arts seeking to represent absolute truths symbolically through language and metaphorical images.

The Case Of Symbolism

Symbolism represented the increasing interest in religion and spirituality. One of Symbolism's most remarkable promoters in Paris was art and literary critic and occultist Joséphin Péladan, who established the Salon de la Rose + Croix.

The Salon hosted a series of six presentations of avant-garde art, writing, and music during the 1890s, to give a presentation space for a number of Symbolist artists associated with the Salon embracing spiritualism, mysticism, and idealism in their work.

Symbolism's representations of nature, human activities, and real-life events are veiled reflections of the senses pointing to ideal meanings and esoteric connections.

Symbolism... Philosophy Or Art Style

Schopenhauer's aesthetics represented shared concerns with the symbolist movement, they both tended to consider Art as a refuge from the real world of strife and will.

The symbolists used characteristic themes of mysticism and otherworldliness, a sense of mortality, and a sense of the malign power of sexuality.

The symbolist poets liberated techniques of versification in order to gain more "fluidity", whilst, in painting, symbolism evoked mystical tendencies in the Romantic tradition.

Symbolism was more a philosophy than an actual art style, a philosophy that influenced a wide spectrum of art styles. The symbolist painters were an important influence on expressionism and surrealism in painting.

In Belgium, symbolism became so popular that it came to be known as a national style, particularly in landscape painting, the static strangeness of painters like René Magritte can be considered as a direct continuation of symbolism.

Among English-speaking artists, the closest counterpart to symbolism was aestheticism. The Pre-Raphaelites were contemporaries of the earlier symbolists, and they have much in common.

Symbolism was largely a reaction against naturalism and realism, on the other hand, it was a reaction in favor of spirituality, imagination, and dreams.

Symbolism was hostile to plain meanings, declamations, false sentimentality, and matter-of-fact description. Symbolism's goal instead was to "clothe the Ideal in a perceptible form" and to depict not the thing but the effect it produces.

Kabbalah And Art

Joséphin Péladan (28 March 1858 in Lyon – 27 June 1918 in Neuilly-sur-Seine) was born into a family that was devoutly Roman Catholic. Péladan's father was a journalist who had written on prophecies and professed Rosicrucianism and universalist Catholicism.

In 1882 Joséphin Péladan came to Paris where Arsène Houssaye (28 March 1815 – 26 February 1896) the French novelist and poet gave him a job on his artistic review, L'Artiste.

Péladan was somewhat influenced by the French esotericist and poet Éliphas Lévi Zahed (8 February 1810 – 31 May 1875) books on magic, Kabbalah, alchemical studies, and occultism, but Joséphin Péladan main focus drew on the Rosicrucian tenets derived from the order of Toulouse Rosicrucians.

Péladan's novels are interwoven with Rosicrucian and occult themes. In 1884 Péladan published his first novel, "Le vice suprême", which recommended the salvation of man through the ancient East's occult magic. "Le vice suprême" went through several printings and sounded in the French community which was experiencing a revived interest in spirituality and mysticism.

In 1888, led by the French physician and occultist Papus Gérard Encausse, Péladan and the French poet Stanislas De Guaita (6 April 1861 – 19 December 1897) founded the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose-Croix. the OKRC provided teachings of a syncretic form of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism.

The OKRC also conducted examinations and provided university degrees on esoteric topics. By the 1890s, De Guaita and Papus lost Péladan's support, who left to start an order closer to his own vision.

Promotional poster for the Salon de la Rose + Croix
Promotional poster for the Salon de la Rose + Croix

In June 1890, Péladan created a quasi-Catholic Ordre du Temple de la Rose + Croix. Péladan designated himself a Grand Master and planned to establish an international order utilizing the best of human talent for an illuminated approach to life.

Sworn members of the Péladan's order could serve according to their inclination and talents through the arts and sciences, through a reformed version of the Catholic faith, or through a more mystical approach to communion with the Holy Spirit.

The Ordre du Temple de la Rose + Croix became Péladan's outlet for his beliefs concerning the role of spirituality in art and declared Péladan's perspective in critiquing the dominant trends in French art.

Encoded Spiritual Messages And Symbols By Joséphin Péladan

Joséphin Péladan believed that art with encoded spiritual messages and symbols could act as a method for awakening the general public to spiritual ascent. Joséphin Péladan wrote L'art idéaliste et mystique, Doctrine de l'ordre, and du salon annuel des Roses-Croix (1894), to present his doctrine and explain his vision.

Between 1892-1897 he organized a series of six exhibits of Symbolist painters, writers, and musicians at the Salons de la Rose + Croix. Péladan had a strong impact on many well-known literary figures, such as August Strindberg and Ezra Pound.

Péladan's esoteric ideas were absorbed into other 20th-century esoteric movements. Péladan wrote over a hundred books, novels, and plays, His novels have been considered symbolic works designed to spark an esoteric awakening in the reader.

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