The central collective myth of surrealism, Les grands transparents, was designed by André Breton in 1947 as a means for imagining a desirable society through effecting a vitalizing sense of the unknown and a “decentering of man”. As a contribution to the recent re-examination of surrealism in view of theoretical developments in the field of Western esotericism, this article argues that Breton utilizes his mythic narrative to articulate a transformative knowledge, a surreality, that in certain ways correspond to the concepts of gnosis and clairvoyance in esoteric discourse. To substantiate this, similar mythic narratives about great imperceptible entities in texts of Anthroposophy (Rudolf Steiner) and Rosicrucianism (Lectorium Rosicrucianum) are examined. A comparativist model for describing popular approaches (or mythemes) to ineffable experience is applied. An underlying “gnostic” approach of considering such experiences as incomplete and as being co-created is discerned, highlighting each actor’s endeavours to validate imaginative perception.
This article follows the development of a genre of eighteenth-century texts, explicitly self-designated as ‘cabbalistic’, initially intended for fortune telling by use of a number-alphabet. Such texts were found in Latin and German and eventually emerged from clandestinity into print, though initially they were often anonymous and with false places of printing. As these texts attracted the attention of those interested in promoting the German vernacular and demonstrating the poetic capacity of that language, they were increasingly identified as ‘paragrams’, lost much of their mantic purpose and increasingly became an inventive technique for the stimulation of the composition of honorific verse.