Robert Beveridge's Reviews > The Morning of the Magicians

The Morning of the Magicians by Louis Pauwels
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's review
Jul 15, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: owned-and-still-own, finished
Recommended to Robert by: Nazi zombies
Recommended for: conspiracy theorists, hollow-earth believers, etc.
Read from May 15, 2010 to May 07, 2012 , read count: 1

Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier, The Morning of the Magicians (Stein and Day, 1960)

The Morning of the Magicians, Pauwels and Bergier's Charles Fort-inspired catalogue of absoulte nutterdom circa mid-twentieth-century, has long been forgotten by pretty much everyone. (Given some of the predictions made in this book, many of which had been conclusively disproved within the decade, this is not a surprise.) I read it for the same reason pretty much anyone else who seeks it out these days does—there's a section, actually a single sentence, on page 131 that inspired the 1977 reviatlization of a movie subgenre that has persisted, on and off, to this day—the Nazi Zombie movie. “When he had recovered his speech he declared that he had just seen a phantom array of German soldiers in uniform lying on the bottom of the lake, together with a caravan of chariots and horses in their harness standing upright...”, the authors report. In the DVD extras for the 1977 movie Shock Waves, which kicked the subgenre off again after almost thirty years of dormancy, one of the screenwriters (I think it was John Kent Harrison, but don't quote me) mentions that he got the idea for the movie from this book. Having been a rabid Shock Waves fan since I first saw it in the late seventies, my destiny was pretty much sealed at the moment I heard that. It took me some five years to track down a copy of this book. It then took me another year and a half to read it. And I can guarantee you, since if you've even heard of this book at this point in time you, too, are probably a fan of Nazi Zombie movies, the quote above is the only part of the book you need to read.

After a relatively brief introduction that acquaints us with some of the foundations of Pauwels and Bergier's thinking (and an intro, of course, to the work of Charles Fort), the book is divided into two sections, which had the authors been a bit less flowery could have been entitled “The Past” and “The Future”. The former examines the supernatural/new-agey/totally insane ideas and beliefs behind the Nazi movement, including such wonders as Hollow Earth and the Doctrine of Eternal Ice. (Interestingly, there's not a single mention of the obsessive quest for the Spear of Destiny...) If you're going to read the book, this is the section to read it for; the stuff you will find here is fascinating, in a batshit-crazy sort of way, and it's sobering indeed in today's culture to remember that it is, in fact, possible for a country of people who have no idea what their leaders are actually thinking to be controlled by a handful of wingnuts who have much more of a place in the asylum than in Parliament. The latter is where things get crazy, and to be fair, reading Pauwels and Bergier's catalogue of silliness is really no different than, these days, reading Alvin Toffler's The Third Wave or Rachel Carson's Silent Spring or even those MTV adverts thrown around by environmentaist groups back in the eighties (remember when the rainforests would be denuded altogether by 1985 and the ozone layer would be entirely depleted by 1990?). The difference, for which I have to give Pauwels and Bergier grudging props, is that these guys never offer up any of this stuff, save the stories of what has come before, as documented fact. Pauwels even says, a number of times, that he expects much of the conjecture in the book to be proven wrong as time goes on, but that the authors hope someone will take some of the threads they have gathered and run with them, in a scientific sense.

But this conjures up some questions, the most obvious of which is this: when you have just spent a hundred pages or so making fun of the Nazis for believing the crazy stuff they believed, and then you spend the next hundred pages cataloguing things that are, at base, just as nuts, how can you expect to have any of it taken seriously? **
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