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The War of the Magicians: Part 2, Abbé Boullan

Updated on October 07, 2012

On the night of 4 January 1893, Joseph-Antoine Boullan was beaten by the invisible hands of fearsome hidden forces. He wrote about his presentiments to the author Joris-Karl Huysmans, who had just finished his book "Là-Bas", which was something like a history of satanism...

Joseph-Antoine Boullan
Joseph-Antoine Boullan

Some fragments of letters Antoine Boullan wrote to Joris-Karl Huysmans:

Quis est Deus? Lyon, 2 January 1893.

Dear friend J.-K. Huysmans,

We received your letter and wish you all the best for this new year that opens, however, with sad presentiments, because of the terrible and fateful numbers 8-9-3...

January 3. This night a terrible accident took place. At three o'clock in the morning, I cried out: "Madame Thibault, I am suffocating!" - Twice. She heard me, and found me unconscious. I was between life and death for more than three hours. Ms. Thibault has dreamed of the Rosicrucian Guaita, you know... and this morning, a bird of death has shouted to me and announced an attack...

Dr J.-A. Boullan

Here are some fragments from the report by Mrs. Thibault of Boullan's death, in a letter she wrote to J.-K. Huysmans:

Four hours after drinking a cup of tea, he sweated a lot. I turned the heat and warmed his shirt and everything seemed normal again. He got up as usual, and he began to write an article and then a letter to a friend. He wanted to bring it to the post itself, but I said it was too cold for him. (...)

After dinner, he asked me if I would join him in a prayer. We prayed a few minutes together and he suddenly felt uncomfortable. "What is this?" he exlaimed.

While he was sitting in his chair, his chest became oppressed and he was also breathing very diffcult now. "I will die soon," he said. "Adieu."

"You will not die, father!" I answered. "You have a book to write, remember?"

He asked me for the Water of Salvation and after sipping from it, he said: "This is what can save me..."

I wasn't scared anymore. We had been so many times at the gates of death. I was sure he would recover again in a few hours.

We talked for some time and then he threw me this strange farewell look. The following moment he entered into an agony that lasted barely two minutes. He died as the martyr or the saint he had been his whole life.

Six years ago, his death had been shown while I took the train to Saint-Maximin. A bird came to me several times, screaming. It was six o'clock in the morning and I said it out loud to the people who were with me: "Ah, my God! This bird was announcing the death of our poor Father!"

The mysterious death of Abbé Boullan was the occasion for a lively polemic between writers and occultists: Jules Bois and J.K. Huysmans on the one hand, Stanislas de Guaita on the other. Jules Bois formally accused Guaita and his colleagues of the Rose-Croix that they had bewitched Father Boullan. In Gil Blas of 9 January 1893 he published an article, stating he felt it to be his duty to recount the facts in this case: the strange attacks of Boullan directed by the Rosicrucians and the prophetic visions of Mrs. Thibault.

"I have been assured that the Marquis de Guaita lives alone and that he works with poisons, that he commands them and directs them in space, that he even is able to enchain a spirit in a cupboard... What I ask, without incriminating a single person, is that we clarify the causes of the death of the Abbé Boullan. The liver and the heart through which Boullan was struck are the points where the astral forces enter. Now that famous scientists have recognised the power of magic, we have to think about the possibility of homicide, and need clear explanations!"

The day after the publication of this article, Huysmans confirmed the charges in an interview in Le Figaro: "It is indisputable that Guaita and Péladan have practiced black magic on a daily basis. The abbé Boullan was in a perpetual struggle with the evil spirits they've sent him for more than two years from Paris. Nothing is more vague than the issues of magic, but it is quite possible that my poor friend has died because of a Supreme Invocation, a dead spell."

On 11 January, Jules Bois returned to the subject in Gil Blas: "I want to say that I am not the enemy of M. de Guaita. Until now, I had with the magus of the avenue Trudaine only the most courteous relations, but with the major assumptions that have been provided, I thought it to be my duty, and every honest man would have done the same in my place, to declare that Mr. de Guaita repeatedly and for several years has threatened Dr. Boullan, who has died in a very swift and mysterious way."

Stanislas de Guaita protested in a note published in Le Figaro against the accusations of bewitchment, and Jules Bois replied: "M. Stanislas de Guaita claims that spells are not at all his domain and that this condemnation of the abbé Boullan only was a Platonic condemnation. Now, one of three conclusions can be drawn: 1. M. de Guaita was joking...2. M. de Guaita is foolish, condemning someone in a vacuum, without effectiveness, and there is no sanction resulting from his words... 3. M. de Guaita wrote, in full knowledge of cause and effect, a sentence which he understood the extent of, the disastrous applications of which he could direct."

This time, Guaita reacted. "For several days, the press hawks gossip upon me," he replied in Gil Blas, "in the most ridiculous and defamatory manner. Everybody knows now that I deliver myself to the practices of the most odious witchcraft; that I am at the head of a College of Rosicrucians and Satanists who devote their spare time to evoke the Black Spirit; that those who disturb us fall, one after another, victim of our evil spells; that I, personally and from a distance have set many spells upon my enemies... And this is not all! It is agreed, I manipulate the most subtle poisons with an infernal art; I spread this toxic vapors with a particular happiness and make them flow over a distrance of hundreds of miles towards the nostrils of those whose face I dislike... And all of these beautiful informations are but a preface to the incident of the former abbé Boullan - a thaumaturge from Lyon, whose recent death has created some noise - who has succumbed to my infamous practices, combined with those of my Black Brothers of the Rosy Cross. One even goes as far to make it understood that it should be expedient to perform an autopsy of the defrocked, of whom certain letters have been made public with the approval of their recipient J.-K. Huysmans. They are positively denouncing me as the Magician of the Heart Attack, the King of Exorcists who has charmed the world of the demons. M. Boullan is dead: may he rest in peace!..."

Guaita stated that the allegations made in the newspapers would be abominable, if they did not breathe the most intense buffoonery. How to defend himself against such accusations, now? "My first idea was to stick to the most perfect silence of disdain. I thought, let us drop these bad tasting jokes and no one will republish. I was wrong. The papers reproduce these poverties daily... and seriously! Even my patience has limits and now it's getting definitely too ridiculous. I was asked to explain myself... The best, in such a case, is to give one. But do I really have to take that? So, to M. Huysmans I say: honour to whom honour is due! M. Huysmans, who, in his novel 'Là-Bas', and since the publication of this book, has continued this unbelievable slander. Then, to M. Jules Bois, who has taken me apart three times in Gil Blas, I have sent witnesses too..."

Jules Bois wasn't impressed. "M. Stanislas de Guaita was caught in the traps he had set himself," he wrote in Gil Blas. "He described with full knowledge the facts of his own evil spells, and when it comes to defending himself against the suspicion of Satanism, he backs off and changes subjects - and the pen for the sword, with which he is more sure. Well, I can answer him that if I have attacked him frontly, I again will stand before him now, with the same audacity."

On January 13, Guaita sent his seconds to J.K. Huysmans to demand satisfaction from him. The writer instructed his seconds to try and reach an agreement with Guaita: "If this is impossible, than we shall just have to fight. We'll exchange a few sword-thrusts or bullets which will be sure of achieving at least one result - that of making people laugh. "

However, all were eager to avoid the scandal which would surround this duel and the consequence was that a statement was published in which Huysmans said that he had "never dreamed of trying to discuss the character of a perfect noble man like M. de Guaita.''

As for Jules Bois, he kept his word. The two opponents went to the lawn of the Tower of Villebon. Paul Foucher, the nephew of Victor Hugo, was one of the witnesses of Jules Bois. "Something peculiar had to happen," he said later. "Both sides were praying and engaging in all sorts of conjurations."

And indeed, a strange event occurred on the road to Versailles. The horse carriage stopped suddenly and the horse began to tremble as if the devil himself was on the road. The horse had to be changed, and this time it went down, the vehicle was overturned and Jules Bois arrived at the Tower of Villebon all bruised and bloody.

"The devil really seemed to be involved!" Paul Foucher stated.

Fortunately, the devil wasn't involved in the duel itself. The two opponents exchanged two bullets and went home, satisfied.


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    • kirwing profile image

      kirwing 7 years ago

      A very interesting piece of history. You are so versed in the occult and relative experieces of so many. I will have to unlock the vault within my mind regarding The order of The Golden Dawn, and The Rosicrucian society that Charles Dietrich was a part of on Daheim within the many pictures I posted on triond.

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