ART AND THE OCCULT by Paul Waldo-Schwartz


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In describing Carlo Crivelli's The Annunciation with Saint Emidius Waldo-Schwartz inadvertently reveals the Weltansicht of which Art and the Occult is a product: ""the vision of a child, still capable of direct perception unabridged by association, induction, syllogism, rationalism."" The world maybe, seen in this fashion occasionally by children, artists, saints, visionaries, and aphasics. An essay which proposes to investigate the complexities of certain artists' involvement in occult practices and symbolism and is imbued with this ""vision"" undercuts the enterprise from the outset. The result is a stream-of-consciousness pastiche of remarks about ""psi-fields"" and ""Oneness."" Certainly there are interesting and illuminating things still to be said about artists who have been inspired by Mystery--in whatever form--but Waldo-Schwartz devotes only a few sentences to Yeats, whose use of the Tarot has yet to be fully explicated, two pages to Breton, whose work is seminal to the Surrealist revival of occultism, and for the rest ranges between poeticism (on Crowley) and scientism (on the French mathematician Poincare for one) with equal slackness. The author does have a knack for choosing quotations; Cocteau appears throughout, rather charmingly, with comments like ""Victor Hugo was a madman who thought he was Victor Hugo."" The copious quotations and prints, however, illustrate very little of significance and are merely a welcome relief from the humorless, disjointed text.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Braziller