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Music and the Occult

To: alt.occult.methods,alt.magick
From: (Robert Scott Martin)
Subject: Re: Music and the Occult
Date: 25 Mar 2002 22:16:39 -0500

In article ,
Robert Scott Martin  wrote:

I've been told that the following post could benefit from a few footnotes.
Part of the problem is that this field of occult history has barely been
scratched by English-language scholars, and my eagerness to see something
on the topic pushed me to new depths of gnomic inscrutability (and a few 
typographical errors). 

I apologize for my exuberance.


>He's a funny character. It's relatively common knowledge [A] that he was
in a blue-ribbon Rosicrucian lodge [B] in the 1890s that included such
luminaries as Stanislas de Guita [C]; however, he left the group after a
few years to become something of a freelancer -- as founder, leader and
sole member of the Eglise Metropolitaine d'Art de Jesus Conducteur [D], he
amused himself with absurdist games that the surrealists would later look
back at and laugh [E].

[A] Capsule biographies of Satie usually mention the Rosicrucian
connection largely as a curiosity, without elaboration. Likewise, he is
often cited as a "famous Rosicrucian" in the marketing materials of groups
like AMORC -- but again without much consideration for the details of his
association with that sometimes nebulous movement.

[B] The Catholic (and Aesthetic) Order of the Rose-Croix (CRC).  
Descendants of the group reportedly survive in various configurations. See

[C] This is somewhat misleading, since evidence that Satie and de Guaita
(note spelling) belonged to the same Rosicrucian order is lacking. In the
absence of such evidence, it would be more accurate to call the two men
fraternal "cousins" because the CRC was (and is) a splinter from the
Cabalistic Order of the Rose Croix (OKRC), which de Guaita founded.

Who is Stanislas de Guaita (1861-1897), you ask? A bona fide marquis from
Lombardy, a poet and child prodigy of the esoteric who founded the OKRC
before he was out of his 20s. See

[D] After quitting the CRC, Satie anticipated Monty Python by forming "the
Metropolitan Aesthetic Church of Jesus the Maestro" as a one-man esoteric
splinter group. In this group, he literally wore all the hats, filling a
large number of lodge offices singlehandedly. Musicologists tend to 
consider this "organization" a joke, but was it a "serious joke?" Only the 
historians of the future can say.

[E] Satie's influence on the early surrealist movement is well-discussed
-- I seem to recall him being represented in a few of the surrealist
"family portraits" by Max Ernst (one of the few composers so pictured, the
surrealists weren't big music fans), and Andre Breton appears especially 
impressed. Nonetheless, Satie was really a man of an earlier generation, 
and reportedly had little time for his youthful admirers.

>Unless musicology has pulled a fast one on me since I stopped running
with the chordspotters (quite possible given my advanced age and the
resourcefulness of youth), the literature fails to reconcile the split
between the early "liturgical" phase of his career [F] and the dada [G]
experimentation that followed [H]. Instead, the boilerplate bio tends to
focus either on the "serious Rosicrucian" (making "Esot"erik [I] into
something of a proto-Messiaen [J]) or the "original surrealist" who wore
all those funny hats [K].


[G] Many class the "naughty" Satie (see note H below) with the dadas, but 
this is more a convenience of lumping him in with other "unclassifiable" 
figures of the time than a sign of actual influence. The self-proclaimed 
dada figures do not appear to have run in the same crowd as Satie 
(understandable, since most had come from Germany or Switzerland, and only 
really made it to Paris after Satie's heyday), and reportedly does not 
appear often in their memoirs.


[I] When in "Rosicrucian" mode, Satie would call himself "Esoterik Satie",
an obvious pun on his name and occult interests. The fact that here he
identifies himself with an esoteric persona -- but in a whimsical or even
satiric fashion -- may be the key to bridging the gap between the "sacred"
and the "profane" sides of Satie.

[J] Those concentrating on the "liturgical" works tend to remind me of 
Messiaen scholars. I haven't yet put my finger on why exactly.

[K] We joked around as boys that Satie's private cult must have involved a
stack of hats that, as part of his lodge regalia, he would put on or take
off according to which role in lodge proceedings he was playing at the
time. Sadly, this may be a fantasy of slightly demented schoolboys with
too much time on their hands.

He was quite a dapper gent, however, given to wearing grey velvet suits.

>One white magician, one Rabelaisian joker. One comes to heal, the 
>other to tear down. And the man himself slips back into the shadows...

[This paragraph is entirely rhetorical with the exception of the 
"rabelaisian" comment -- see below under "pantagruelian".]

>It's a shame, because there's a very interesting synthesis lurking in
that seemingly unbridgeable life. He was an associate of Debussy [L], for
example, and hung around at the notorious Black Cat Club [M] in Montmartre
of which Fulcanelli speaks so fondly [N] as a hub of "occult" bohemia. He
was active in the earliest phases of the French film industry [O], and so
likely knew Irene Hillel-Erlanger [P]and her alchemicodada associates.

[L] Claude Debussy needs no introduction. The two men were longtime 
friends, cohorts in the CRC, and habitues of the Black Cat Club [see 
below]. Debussy is also notorious in contemporary occult circles as a 
potential "grand master of the priory" [see below under "Saint Sulpice"].

[M] is the best overview of 
this wrinkle in Satie's life (and the occult history of Paris) I have 
found so far.

[N] Fulcanelli is of course the infamous "master alchemist" who wrote a 
couple of books and, they say, lives forever. He is also the subject of at 
least one Frank Zappa solo, but is unrelated to the spicy sauce of the 
same name.

A full citation of Fulcanelli's discussion of the Black Cat Club or Le 
Chat Noir is forthcoming.

[O] Satie composed music for Rene Clair's early fusion of cinema with 
ballet, "Entr'acte" (1924) [], a truly 
unique production in which Francis Picabia and Pablo Picasso were also 

[P] Irene Hillel-Erlanger: one of the first female screenwriters (usually
in collaboration with equally pioneering Germaine Dulac, see and something of an
alchemical devotee. She is traditionally considered to be the patron of
the strange little book "Voyages en Kaleidoscope" (now back in print --
check for details) and is nowadays credited as the author of
that text. Very little is known about her, apparently even in French. I'll 
transcribe the editorial material in my copy of "Kaleidoscope" if there is 

She ran with the dadas, reported. Fulcanelli was also a fan.

>Through Debussy and Cocteau [Q], he may have been acquainted with those
sinister Saint Sulpice people [R], which would go with his later burlesque
("pantagruelian" [S]) tone.

[Q] Cocteau was the literary saint of the Black Cat crowd and Satie set at 
least one Cocteau text to music. In this context, it is relevant to note 
that both Debussy and Cocteau are often cited as grand masters of the 
Priory of Sion [see next note] by contemporary conspiracists.

[R] This is a somewhat flippant reference to that strange Abbe Sauniere 
and his cul-de-sac of French occult history. If one is not familiar with 
"the grail bloodline," "the Priory of Sion", "Rennes le Chateau" and so 
forth, should contain more than enough 

Whether we buy into the Rennes le Chateau mythology or not, it is 
definitely one of the most robust currents to emerge out of the esoteric 
underground at the end of the last century, and should be monitored 
phenomenologically, if not for its own value and/or import.

[S] This is actually a reference to Alfred Jarry's UBU ROI, for which I
have a vague boyhood recollection of reading that Satie did the music. 
While documentation is pending, Jarry and Satie definitely knew one 
another's work and shared a common interest in Rabelaisian heroes -- big 
talking dicks and other lunatic marionettes.

>And that's just the biographical side of things -- who knows what an 
>illuminated researcher could turn up in his work. 

[Again, this paragraph is largely rhetorical]

And then there's Scriabin.

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