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43 internautes sur 43 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
The Devils You Say21 mai 2006
Douglas S. Wood
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One of the joys of reading is how one subject can lead to a serendipitous find. Having recently come across a brief reference to the early 17th century barking nuns of Loudon I went in search of a more detailed exploration. In Aldous Huxley's book I found all that I sought and much more.
Urbain Grandier, the local parson of Loudon, is a very naughty cleric who partakes much too much of the sensual world. One morsel happens to be the daughter of his best friend. She becomes pregnant with unhappy consequences for many people. Grandier manages in this way of behavior to alienate nearly every important Catholic in Loudon as well as make an enemey of Richelieu.
When Grandier spurns the local prioress, Sister Jeanne, she claims demonic possession at the hand of Grandier as do 2 of her nuns. Grandier may have been guilty of many sins, but demonic possession was not among them. Exorcists are brought in as much too destroy Grandier as to throw out the devils (7 specific ones inhabit Sister Jeanne alone). The exorcists produce devils in 14 more nuns. The public exorcisms provide great entertainment, reviving the local tourist industry, but eventually produce the trial of Grandier, who in due turn is burned at the stake. The story continues when the Jesuit Surin arrives to finally successfully exorcise Sister Jeanne's demons.
Huxley's 1952 work explores the psychological aspects of demonic possession and exorcism, sometimes brilliantly against the backdrop of the madnesses of his own time. Liberal rationalists had "fondly imagined" an end to persecutions of 'heretics'. Instead, as he observes "from our vantage point on the descending road of modern history, we now see that all the evils of religion can flourish without any belief in the supernatural, that convinced materialists are ready to worship their own jerry-built creations as though they were the Absolute, and that self-styled humanists will persecute their adversaries with all the zeal of Inquisitors exterminating the devotees of a personal and transcendant Satan...In order to justify their behavior, they turn their theories into dogmas, their bylaws into First Principles, their political bosses into Gods and all those who disagree with them into incarnate devils. This idolatrous transformation of the relative into the Absolute and the all too human into the Divine, makes it possible for them to indulge their ugliest passions with a clear conscience and in the certainty that they are working for the Highest Good."
In the last third of the book he explores the nature of Sister Jeanne's possession, the possession of her exorcist Surin, and the manner of her recovery. The modern mind has some difficulty here. Clearly Surin and possibly Jeanne believed in the reality of demonic possessions (it is worth noting that many learned men, including those behind Grandier's fall and most Jesuits did not believe in the authenticity of these possessions). At the same, Jeanne is also play-acting at times as she concedes in her own subsequent writings. They believed in the Devil, they believed in possession, but understood that the Devil could not overcome the will of the possessed. Huxley paints a poignant, if oddly amusing, scene when he describes how Surin ordered Jeanne's devils to discipline themselves - in other words to flagellate Jeanne. Two of the devils lay on the whip with gusto, but Balaam and Isacaaron abhorring pain, would barely swing the whip and yet the possessed Jeanne would scream in agonized suffering.
An absolutlely fascinating read by one of the great minds of the 20th century.
40 internautes sur 43 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
A Lesser-Known, but Important Addition to the Huxley Cannon30 mai 2000
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This book received some attention when Ken Russel's movie came out in the early 70's. Before and since it's been pretty much neglected, which is a shame. In my estimation, Huxley is one of the foremost masters of prose writing in the English language. Those who are unfamiliar with his essays should seek them out. His was a mind that ranged far and probed deeply. The incidents portrayed in this book are indeed bizarre. It will remind some of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, in that a group of young women, in this case nuns, fall victim to mass hysteria. A local priest, Father Grandet, becomes the fall-guy and the true victim of a superstition-riddled Inquisition. I'm sorry to see that this book is currently unavailable. It's really one of the most interesting historical accounts that I've ever read. Actually, Whiting's play, based on the same incident, is also excellent. I have mixed feelings about Russell's film. I thought Vanessa Redgrave was remarkable and Oliver Reed was very good, but Russell went too often over the top as is his wont. If you can't find this book online, perhaps you will come across it in a used-bookstore or, if you are luckier than I am and have a well-stocked library, you can find it there. You shouldn't pass up the opportunity if you want to have a satisfying and unusual reading experience.
31 internautes sur 34 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
HELL ON EARTH: THE MARTYRDOM OF A POLITICAL SINNER16 décembre 2002
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This is a very well researched historical account of hell in this world, by the author of the better known opus Brave New World and The Doors of Perception of Heaven and Hell. The historical situation of the Catholic Church and the Jesuits, the politics in France during the 17th Century, the downfall of the Huguenots, all constitute the fabric were the personal drama and martyrdom of father Urbain Grandier are sewn. POLITICAL BACKGROUND: Cardinal Richelieu is directing the policy of France, during the reign of Louis XIII. After Richelieu convinces the King that self-government of small provincial towns must end, the feudal nobility lose their independence by an edict calling for the destruction of their castles and walls, whilst the Hughenots are being crushed by force. One of these towns is Loudun, where the priest (a Jesuit) is Urbain Grandier, an intellectual priest of 35, that knows the meaning and consequences of the edict calling for the destruction of the fortified walls of Loudun. Consequently, when Laubardemont, an agent of the Cardinal Richelieu arrives in the town, he is confronted and stopped by Grandier. GRANDIER'S VICES: Father Grandier is strikingly handsome and a sensualist. His vows of celibacy have not prevented him from fathering a bastard child with the daughter of Trincant, the town magistrate, and performing an illegal marriage with Madeleine, a young lady with whom he has fallen in love. THE ANGELICAL DEVIL: The Convent of the Ursulines in Loudun is ruled by Sister Jeanne of the Angels, a young humped back noun, with a beautiful face. She develops an obsession with Grandier and has sensual visions which involve the young priest. When she hears about the illicit marriage, she gets mad and falsely accuses the priest of sorcery and lewdness. THE CONSPIRACY: Grandier's enemies (Laubardemont, Trincant, Father Mignon and others) grasp the false accusation as the means with which the destruction of the priest can be achieved. They accuse Grandier of sorcery and sent for an exorcist, Father Barre, who starts performing a series of exorcisms never seen before in France. The methods used by him and his assistants to extract the devils reputedly within the bodies of the nuns are base and sadistic. From Sister Jeanne's altered mind come the screams and the behavior that affect the other nuns. From there, collective hysteria spreads and as the nouns bask in their notoriety, their fantasies become more and more unreal. Those who oppose this infernal circus, on the grounds that the exorcists are the ones depraved, deliberately provoking the nouns, are arrested by Laubardemont, who wants to see the matter through. Both Richelieu and his agent are well aware of Grandier's innocence but the raison d' Etat calls for the destruction of the young priest. THE TRIAL AND MARTYRDOM: Not surprisingly, based on the hysterical accusations of the nouns, Grandier and Madeleine are arrested. Grandier is brought to trial and found guilty of sorcery. He is viciously tortured, vainly, in order to extract a confession of his guilt. When Grandier is burnt alive at the stake, in the public square of Loudun, finally the walls of Loudun can be demolished. BALANCE: A very stirring and moving account of these tragic events, dotted with a psychological analysis of the protagonists of the drama and some insightful reflections about the ruthless workings of politics, this is my favorite Huxley's book. UNFORTUNATELY OUT OF PRINT, BUT NOT A NOVEL, A SAD INQUIRY INTO EVIL
8 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
The urge to self-transcendence24 janvier 2008
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I was fascinated by Huxley's use of this story as a way of trying to explain his thoughts on "man's deep-seated urge to self-transcedence, of his very natural reluctance to take the hard, ascending way, and of his search for some bogus liberation either below or to one side of his personality" - as revealed by our dependecies on religion and in joining mass movements like fascism or communism, as well as sexuality and substance use and abuse. In Chapter Three he focuses on the religious aspects of these tendencies to "desire - and desire, very often, with irresistable violence - the consciousness of being someone else." In the Epilogue ["In amplification of material in Chapter Three)"], he expands on these ideas by discussing substance use and abuse: "Alcohol is but one of the many drugs employed by human beings as avenues of escape from the insulated self." He adds to this the use of "From poppy to curare, from Andean coca to Indian hemp and Siberian agaric, every plant or bush or fungus capable, when ingested, of stupifying or exciting or evoking visions....seems to prove that, always and everywhere, human beings have felt the radical inadequacy of their personal existence, the misery of being their insulate selves and not something else.." He then continues with the "crowd delirium" of mass movements: "The professional moralists who inveigh against drunkeness are strangely silent about the equally disgusting vice of herd-intoxication - of downward transcendence into subhumanity by the process of getting together in a mob." leading to "The final symptom of herd-intoxication is a manical violence. Instances of crowd-delirium culminating in gratuitous destructiveness, in ferocious self-mutilation, in fratracidal savagery without purpose and against the elementary interests of all concerned, are to be met with on almost every page of the anthropologists'textbooks and - a little less frequently, but still with dismal regularity - in the histories of even the most highly civilized peoples." His concluding sentence: "Every idol, however exalted, turns out, in the long run, to be a Moloch, hungry for human sacrifice."
This book is not merely an historical essay describing the lurid details of the events at Loudun [other books on the subject do that job], Huxley covers far more ground and delves far deeper into the experience of being human than that; it can be disturbing at times, but also illuminating. Huxley's own later use of psychedelic drugs [mescaline, and, as has been said, LSD while on his death-bed] - which he describes in "The Doors of Perception"  - indicates that he was still trying to reach an understanding of self-transcendence - in a more positive light.
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
More than one Martyr here25 février 2006
Steven W. Cooper
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I found a Vintage Classics paperback version of this book in the Warsaw airport a couple of weeks ago, and reading it caused me to immediately buy several more of Huxley's books. The story and characters are well-explained in other reviews here, and each stage of the story is bookended by Huxley's very useful thoughts on the big-picture religious, political, and philosophical context.
However; if you focus only on the story of Grandier's martyrdom, presented in (perhaps too) realistic shades of grey, you may wonder why the author continues for so many pages afterwards. Is it an exercize in revenge as Grandier's persecutors go mad one by one? Not at all, you realize as you read on. The second story of this book for me is the most interesting, and I believe it may have been what drew Huxley to write the book in the first place.
Sister Jeanne des Anges and Joseph Surin both allowed themselves to be 'possessed by devils' for very different reasons. Their decision, the mechanism they thus set in motion, and the karmic fallout are all carefully detailed; and Huxley dwells in a very caring way on this Jesuit mystic who was lucid and capable of profound insight, yet at the same time considered mad by all his colleagues.
Like Hesse, Huxley uses Jungian concepts to open a vibrant speculative world that, in this book, provide an extended postscript with more of a feeling of reality than the sensationalistic, impossibly literal 'main' story of Grandier.