The Chapel of the Abyss

Blessèd be thine hands, for they are unclean!
At every joint lie secret sins unseen,
Their white nails beneath the lamp
Evoke hosts stolen beneath the white shadow of the lamp,
And upon thy finger, the captive opal’s gloss
Is the last sigh of Jesus on the cross.

- Remy de Gourmont, from Oraisons Mauvaises.

The Chapel of the Abyss is a virtual reliquary, a cenotaph devoted to the extravagant saints and angels who have fallen out of fashion and elsewhere. The kernel of this group is in the decadent and occult-themed literature of the 1890s and early 20th century. The focus, along with the theme, will continue to expand or metastasize as the mysteries of decay, of sickness, and of the wound, and their link to an original sin, perhaps one of omission, but nevertheless mortal and without appeal, are enduring and may be pursued at any point in time.

"And perhaps it was not perceptible to him in the midst of his tumultuous agitation, how much higher than all the voices of nature resounded here with a dissonant clamour the glaring disappropriation of all things - of the altar all the more majestic for being abandoned, of the useless lance, of the tomb as perturbing as a cenotaph, of the clock ticking for nothing outside of time, on which its gears had no more grip than a mill-wheel in a dried-up stream, of the lamp burning in full daylight, of the windows palpably made to be looked into from outside...."

- Julien Gracq, Chateau d'Argol

"Such is the nature of this place.... Horror and ecstasy abide here together."

- Fyodor Sologub, The Created Legend

"This life is a hospital where every patient is possessed with the desire to change beds; one man would like to suffer in front of the stove, and another believes that he would recover his health beside the window. It always seems to me that I should feel well in the place where I am not, and this question of removal is one which I discuss incessantly with my soul."

- Charles Baudelaire

"It is always Autumn at Bruges.... The sameness of this terribly constant old city seems to intensify the change that has come to oneself."

- Ernest Dowson

In his classic novel of the occult, Là-Bas, Joris Huysmans wrote “Now from lofty Mysticism to base Satanism there is but one step. In the Beyond all things touch.” Essence becomes the surface of things: the priesthood of art and the cult of the senses. By piety or perversion- through prayer, or by "the rational derangement of all the senses" -one must obtain to the Beyond.

The decadent is concerned with the mysteries of the artificial, the urban, masks, the passion play of the self. The city is the pool of Narcissus, a black mirror in which to scry one’s own voluptuous postures of decay.

"Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things."

- Kakuzo Okakura

Over-refined, faithless and morbidly self-observant, the decadent is a mystic guided by "desire without light, curiosity without wisdom, seeking God by strange ways, by ways traced by the hands of men; offering rash incense upon the high places to an unknown God, who is the God of darkness." (Ernest Hello)

"The decadence is fundamentally a literature of deep religious concern."

- George Ross Ridge

One can keep to the well-worn way and aver that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, but entry demands devious routes. Christ thus advised the elect: go against nature, "Love one another as you love yourself."

For less hardy souls, sensual indulgence and depravity serve as stations of the cross. Severin’s journey into the dark and Durtal’s return to the Church indicate that the underlying theme is pilgrimage, quest (the dead end?)- if not for spiritual transcendence, then for moral transformation - for a new order of existence: to undertake oneself, "to create one's own aesthetic." The fate of Narcissus is henosis.

"Let everyone be his own lover...."

- Emile Hennequin

"I do not like inaccessible grandeur in mountains, nor in persons, nor in nature. I prefer, in all things, an honest moderation. Should one aspire to the ... sublime... one should at least go about it with discretion!"

- Auguste Villiers de L'Isle-Adam

"We hate the Crowd, the Law, the World."

- Renée Vivien

“I like the word ‘decadent,’ all shimmering with purple and gold … it throws out the brilliance of flames and the gleam of precious stones. It is made up of carnal spirit and unhappy flesh and of all the violent splendors of the Lower Empire; it conjures up the paint of the courtesans, the sports of the circus, the breath of the tamers of animals, the bounding of wild beasts, the collapse among the flames of races exhausted by the power of feeling, to the invading sound of enemy trumpets. The decadence is Sardanapalus lighting the fire in the midst of his women, it is Seneca declaiming poetry as he opens his veins, it is Petronius masking his agony with flowers.”

- Paul Verlaine

"The eternal retribution of God exists. And everything that lives is flogged to death for its secret sin, committed in the darkness of eternity. Blessed is the one who breathes his last after the first few blows."

- Ladislav Klíma

TopicTopicMessagesLast Message 
Samalio Pardulus6 unread / 6PhilOPosia, Monday 8:05pm
The Craft of Invective63 unread / 63PhilOPosia, June 7
some re-fresh research on Beckett10 unread / 10PhilOPosia, June 7
Music from the abyss, tres215 unread / 215PhilOPosia, March 25
Books I would like to see available in English translation166 unread / 166MASK1970, February 8
Film124 unread / 124tros, January 30
Instagram?6 unread / 6kswolff, November 2020
Current Reads #357 unread / 57CharlesFerdinand, October 2020
Tales of the occult and the supernatural102 unread / 102PhilOPosia, October 2020
Dandys, fops and swells102 unread / 102kswolff, October 2020
Texts of 19th century occultism, magic and Satanism24 unread / 24kswolff, September 2020
Illustrators of Decadence156 unread / 156housefulofpaper, September 2020
Odds and ends339 unread / 339vaniamk13, July 2020
The art of Ann van der Linden2 unread / 2PhilOPosia, June 2020
Carl Van Vechten17 unread / 17PhilOPosia, May 2020
Decadent women writers125 unread / 125vaniamk13, April 2020
El Modernismo72 unread / 72PhilOPosia, March 2020
too many books1 unread / 1bookstopshere, February 2020
Book s for sale.5 unread / 5bookstopshere, February 2020
old favorites9 unread / 9PhilOPosia, January 2020
East Euro Symbolists59 unread / 59PhilOPosia, November 2019
Hanns Heinz Ewers100 unread / 100PhilOPosia, October 2019
Count Stenbock, the decadents' decadent1 unread / 1CharlesFerdinand, September 2019
The Nightwatches of Bonaventura8 unread / 8LiminalSister, August 2019
Gustave Le Rouge (1867-1938)1 unread / 1LolaWalser, July 2019
The Blue Jade Library18 unread / 18PhilOPosia, July 2019
Artificial Paradise16 unread / 16kswolff, July 2019
À la mémoire de l'anniversaire de J.K. Huysmans:16 unread / 16LiminalSister, June 2019
Essential Machen9 unread / 9Crypto-Willobie, June 2019
Museum Félicien Rops3 unread / 3LolaWalser, May 2019
Presses of the Abyss108 unread / 108vaniamk13, April 2019
Schwob13 unread / 13CharlesFerdinand, March 2019
Thomas Lovell Beddoes (1803 - 1849)7 unread / 7PhilOPosia, February 2019
Collections in decadence7 unread / 7PhilOPosia, February 2019
La haut ou notre dame de la salette by J K Huysmans2 unread / 2PhilOPosia, February 2019
Sex48 unread / 48kswolff, January 2019
Robert Ziegler, scholar of the French decadents9 unread / 9vaniamk13, January 2019
Death21 unread / 21kswolff, November 2018
Cannibalism41 unread / 41kswolff, October 2018
The Blind Owl80 unread / 80PhilOPosia, July 2018
John Glassco and Philip Core1 unread / 1PhilOPosia, July 2018
Volupté: Interdisciplinary Journal of Decadence Studies10 unread / 10PhilOPosia, July 2018
The Press of Nichols and Smithers1 unread / 1PhilOPosia, July 2018
The Return of Enoch Soames3 unread / 3CharlesFerdinand, May 2018
Graphic Arts7 unread / 7PhilOPosia, May 2018
sex and horror13 unread / 13kswolff, May 2018
Louisa May Alcott and psychotropic drugs7 unread / 7tros, May 2018
Gabrielle Wittkop24 unread / 24kswolff, April 2018
Confessions of an English Opium-Eater11 unread / 11kswolff, April 2018
The Century Guilds22 unread / 22LolaWalser, April 2018
Mel Gordon2 unread / 2PhilOPosia, March 2018
Music from the abyss, et tu212 unread / 212PhilOPosia, February 2018
recent acquisitions63 unread / 63kswolff, February 2018
It's Paul Leppin's birthday...6 unread / 6PhilOPosia, January 2018
Golem City: The arts and literature of Prague1 unread / 1kswolff, December 2017
Boring shit!80 unread / 80kswolff, November 2017
(Neo)fascist literary trends9 unread / 9kswolff, November 2017
The uncrowned King of Bohemia: George Sterling13 unread / 13PhilOPosia, November 2017
Poetry, quotes, etc.42 unread / 42PhilOPosia, November 2017
fleurs du mal, or, the costive gardener7 unread / 7PhilOPosia, September 2017
Eastern decadents40 unread / 40kswolff, July 2017
Parisian Satanism and Berthe de Courrière10 unread / 10LiminalSister, June 2017
Encounters with the Green Fairy48 unread / 48PhilOPosia, June 2017
Luisa Casati, Queen of the Night4 unread / 4PhilOPosia, June 2017
The King in the Golden Mask by Marcel Schwob1 unread / 1LiminalSister, June 2017
Artistic representations of Hermes, graphic and plastic17 unread / 17PhilOPosia, March 2017
LeeRoy J. Tappan, The Meditations of Ali Ben Háfiz1 unread / 1PhilOPosia, March 2017
Sadakichi Hartmann, American decadent7 unread / 7PhilOPosia, March 2017
Beaux Monstres7 unread / 7PhilOPosia, March 2017
Taxidermy and other hobbies ...8 unread / 8kswolff, February 2017
The burning eyes38 unread / 38DavidX, January 2017
Modernisme Catala in literature3 unread / 3PhilOPosia, January 2017
Decadence and Catholicism14 unread / 14kswolff, December 2016
Pics from the abyss131 unread / 131kswolff, December 2016
Opium Eaters28 unread / 28kswolff, December 2016
Our man in Paris: Vincent O'Sullivan44 unread / 44PhilOPosia, November 2016
Citations Infernales74 unread / 74kswolff, November 2016
Remy de Gourmont10 unread / 10PhilOPosia, November 2016
Parisian Satanism and Catholicism8 unread / 8LiminalSister, November 2016
Leonid Andreyev: Author, painter, photographer16 unread / 16DavidX, October 2016
Emil Cioran: Philosopher of the Abyss14 unread / 14elenchus, August 2016
Alfred Kubin14 unread / 14CharlesFerdinand, August 2016
Anarchist World8 unread / 8LiminalSister, July 2016
Ernst Jünger20 unread / 20kswolff, June 2016
Eliphas Levi and the French Occult Revival4 unread / 4paradoxosalpha, May 2016
Le Miasme d'Amour21 unread / 21PhilOPosia, May 2016
Baltic decadents9 unread / 9PhilOPosia, May 2016
William Theodore Peters3 unread / 3PhilOPosia, May 2016
Literary Podcasts?5 unread / 5timwtheov, April 2016
The Scapigliatura movement41 unread / 41bluepiano, February 2016
Blackstar: The Shrine to David Bowie6 unread / 6PhilOPosia, January 2016
Algernon Charles Swinburne6 unread / 6paradoxosalpha, November 2015
Kirsten Lodge: Scholar and Translator of Russian and Eastern European Decadents21 unread / 21kswolff, November 2015
seeking le Fantome by Remy de Gourmont in English transaltion4 unread / 4PhilOPosia, November 2015
Decadence and the Great War6 unread / 6kswolff, October 2015
Dedalus Books24 unread / 24PhilOPosia, September 2015
tobacco and it's many forms8 unread / 8tros, September 2015
Hermann Hesse16 unread / 16paradoxosalpha, September 2015
Patriotism and Decadence -- Junger, Mishima, D'Annunzio, and Spengler17 unread / 17kswolff, August 2015
Munch1 unread / 1tros, August 2015
This is a feature balloon