Surrealism and the Occult

Occultism and Western Esotericism in the Work and Movement of André Breton

Tessel M. Bauduin

Surrealism and the Occult

Tessel M. Bauduin

Distributed for Amsterdam University Press

278 pages | 36 color plates, 14 halftones | 6 x 9
Cloth $155.00 ISBN: 9789089646361 Published January 2015 For sale only in the United States, its dependencies, the Philippines, and Canada
This book offers a new perspective on a long-debated issue: the role of the occult in surrealism, in particular under the leadership of French writer André Breton. Based on thorough source analysis, this study details how our understanding of occultism and esotericism, as well as of their function in Bretonian surrealism, changed significantly over time from the early 1920s to the late 1950s.

Introduction: The Occultation of Surrealism


Staking out positions

Occult traces in romantic and symbolist precursors

Further sources

Some final comments on Bretonian Surrealism’s occult sources

Occultism and brief outline of this study

1. The Time of Slumbers: Psychic automatism and surrealist research


Surrealism, psychiatry, automatism

The sleeping sessions: Lucid dreaming

The sleeping sessions: The psychical research-connection

Surrealist psychical research

(Auto-)suggestion and the conflation of subject and object

Simulation and the reality of thought

2. The Period of Reason: Mediums and seers

Introduction: Nadja

Mad, mediumistic, clairvoyant

Surrealist painting and the medium-painters

I say one must be a seer

Seeing Nadja

Surrealist vision

Schaulust, psychic voyeurism, or woman as seen

Visionary alchemy

The Automatic Message: The state of grace

3. The ‘Golden Age’ of the omnipotent mind


To conceal, to distinguish, to occult

Agrippa, Flamel and Abraham the Jew

Bringing about the ‘occultation’

Prophecies, premonitions, predictions – surrealist correspondences

Correspondences: Objective chance

Magical thinking and Surrealism as myth

Paranoia, analogy, the uncanny

4. Magic in exile

Occultism in Surrealism on the eve of the Second World War

The Marseille Game

Magus of love: Novalis

In exile abroad: The artist as magician

Surrealist myth ‒ primitives, magicians, fools

Arcanum 17: Magical woman

In conclusion and the Ode to Fourier

5. Arcanum 1947: Poetry, liberty, love


The exhibition: First stage

Second and third stage

The beginning of the end? Or initiation into… liberty

Going backwards

L’Art magique ‒ magic art

One in the other: Analogical metaphors and other games

The language of birds and phonetic cabala: Alchemy’s prime




List of plates


Primary sources

Secondary sources


Index of names

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