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Occult Paris: The Lost Magic of the Belle Époque
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Occult Paris: The Lost Magic of the Belle Époque

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  63 ratings  ·  20 reviews
How fin-de-siècle Paris became the locus for the most intense revival of magical practices and doctrines since the Renaissance

• Examines the remarkable lives of occult practitioners Joséphin Peladan, Papus, Stanislas de Guaïta, Saint-Yves d’Alveydre, Jules Doinel, and others

• Reveals how occult activity deeply influenced many well-known cultural movements, such as Symb
Hardcover, 493 pages
Published November 3rd 2016 by Inner Traditions (first published 2016)
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Mich Must Read
Nov 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
This took some time to get through. The writing is overly floral, which takes away from the work. It is frustrating, because there are some really great tidbits of history in here that are fascinating and not readily known (At least not to me). Needless to say, I found myself, bored out of my mind and entranced in an almost constant rhythm throughout this book. I do not subscribe to escoteric or any other occultish beliefs, however, I don’t think you need to regardless of the fact that this is s ...more
I wanted to enjoy this much more than I actually did, in part I feel this was due to the colossal amount of detail and info dumps throughout which detracted from the actual 'story' being told.

The sections pertaining to Symbolist art and the decadence movement were the most interesting to me and I would recommend having a flick through to those interested in those literary and artistic movements. As a whole this book is hard going to a casual reader. I don't have a huge knowledge of occult histor
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. Those French are crazy.
Originally posted on

Paris’ Belle Époque era from 1871 to 1914 gave birth to a number of cultural and artistic movements such as Impressionism, for one. During this same time was the emergence of occult activity throughout the city and this is what Charlton dives deep into in his book Occult Paris. He explores the influence that occultism had on many prominent people of that time including composers like Debussy and painters like Seurat.

This is an incredibly dense book full of in
In common with some of the other reviewers, I found this book in turns fascinating and tedious.

Some sections of the book were extremely interesting and readable; I learned a lot about such compelling characters as Peladan, de Guaita, Huysmans, Papus, etc, but other parts left me feeling overwhelmed and overloaded by unnecessary detail.

On the plus side, the author's knowledge of the period and personalities of Belle Epoque Paris was impressive but in my opinion the book would have been much bet
May 09, 2017 rated it liked it
The subject matter seemed very interesting, but the writing style was so boring it made it hard to get through the book. I would be interested in reading more written by someone else. Ultimately I am glad I read it, but it took more time than it should have.
Feb 08, 2018 rated it did not like it
Fascinating subject, overly verbose script. Did not finish.
Aug 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Blurb from Amazon:

ow fin-de-siècle Paris became the locus for the most intense revival of magical practices and doctrines since the Renaissance

• Examines the remarkable lives of occult practitioners Joséphin Peladan, Papus, Stanislas de Guaïta, Saint-Yves d’Alveydre, Jules Doinel, and others

• Reveals how occult activity deeply influenced many well-known cultural movements, such as Symbolism, the Decadents, modern music, and the “psychedelic 60s”

During Paris’s Belle Époque (1871-1914), many cultu
May 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Quick thoughts through tiredness: I've read a good number of books that cover this time period, the characters involved, the art, and the ideas that clashed and, for me, , "Occult Paris", is the strongest. It's the right book to read if what one is searching for is a well-researched and heavily-detailed accounting of this subject and all its various components. For instance, one recent example to compare: this is not as memorable or competent as Julian Barnes recent work, but it covers a lot mor ...more
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Extremely well written.

The author loves this history and its characters so much, however, that the reading can become dense. It's not quite academic but requires almost that level of concentration to appreciate.

An true joy to read that brought the times alive for me.

Thank you, Mr. Churton, for your intrigue and fascination with this history and the immense effort of sharing it with us in English.

Leah Denison
Jan 01, 2020 rated it did not like it
One of the worst works of non-fiction i have ever read. I honestly couldn't evem finish it. Tried skipping around to different chapters to see if it got any better, but it was awful throughout. Not a book, just a list of a different name every 3 words. I didn't learn anything. What a fucking let down. This guy needs to find a new profession. ...more
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was very happy to see this book published, as I have been interested in the fin-de-siecle occult revival for many years. It's great to have all this information in one place, especially because I don't read French. My biggest complaint is a stylistic one; Churton is extremely profligate with the use of exclamation points, which is one of my pet peeves. ...more
I really enjoyed it and it relates more than is obvious to Master and Margarita, if you're asking. ...more
Dec 11, 2016 rated it liked it
I really had no idea what to expect with this book, but what I didn't expect was to be overwhelmed with names and places and events, basically being plunged headfirst into Symbolism, Decadence, Impressionism, and Hermetic philosophers... among others. I'll be honest and say that this book took me a long time to read, and I still do not feel entirely certain of my knowledge of its contents. I rather feel like I should have read a Wikipedia (or other) primer of the cultural movements referenced, a ...more
Book Review originally published here:

I’m not convinced I entirely believe what Occult Paris is trying to sell, but I did learn a lot of new elements about this era, Paris’s Belle Epoque from 1871-1914, and I do believe there might be some connection. The book tries to establish how occult activity influenced cultural movements, like Symbolism, the Decadents, Impressionism, Art Nouveau. While I don’t entirely buy it, I think there might be some truth in t
Eileen Hall
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful account of Paris in the time of La Belle Epoch.
Practitioners of magic and occultism were rife in the City of Light and many diverse movements abounded.
The author takes us through this magical - in every sense of the word - city, exploring the characters that peopled it.
It is appropriate that it is published on 31st. October - just in time for Halloween!
Highly recommended.
I was given a digital copy of this book by the publisher Inner Traditions via Netgalley in return for an honest un
Sep 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
Occult Paris: The Lost Magic of the Belle Epoque by Tobias Churton is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late September.

Yeah, it's a little out there. Churton displays and describes the written and visual artwork that stemmed from the Spiritualist/Gnostic movement in France during the 1880s-1890s. It's quite fanciful, brimming with spectral & aural energy, and not afraid to turn a little gruesome and Gothic (though in an Anne Rice way, not Tim Burton one).
VERDICT: Sometimes overly detailed and possibly offering inaccurate or partial information, Occult Paris remains a note-worthy exploration of the multiplicity of occult movements in Paris during the Belle Époque, with a focus on their relationship with the artistic world.

My thorough and very detailed review is here:
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Bill Wallace
Apr 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
A convergence of cultures in fin de siecle Paris, religious mysticism, Gnostic rebels, a new view of art, and music seeking innovation, all the threads woven together well by the author. The first half of the book is occasionally slow-going, with the introductions of many persons, philosophies, and influences, but the second half is terrific as the personages interact, feud, and give birth to the new century, albeit in a manner that would scarcely survive the Great War. The best thing about a bo ...more
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Tobias Churton is a filmmaker and the founding editor of the magazine "Freemasonry Today". He studied theology at Oxford University and created the award-winning documentary series and accompanying book The Gnostics, as well as several other films on Christian doctrine, mysticism, and magical folklore, such as "A Mighty Good Man" (2002), a documentary on Elias Ashmole, his religious ideas and Maso ...more

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