Paul Sédir’s ‘Initiations’ translated by Gareth Knight

Initiations300These savants proclaim that the material universe is perfectly organised, and that all will occur according to rule since, they say, everything is subject to laws of causation and the conservation of energy. Agreed. But they expect the moral universe to be in a state of anarchy! And the invisible universe in chaos! What inconsistency! “They can’t deny that justice operates on all levels. Why do they incite man to revolt against his destiny instead of learning how to gain from it? Why do they expect a spiritual debtor not to pay his debts? Why do they teach how to attack and to steal in the darkness?

Paul Sédir was one of the most important figures of the late 19th century occult renaissance in France, and yet he remains very little known in the English-speaking world. Born Yvon Le Loup in 1871, the young Breton moved to Paris and took up occultism as a teenager under the patronage of Papus (Gérard Encausse). Blessed with an exceptional memory and intuition, he embraced a diversity of paths and quickly rose through the ranks of a wide range of esoteric fraternities, authoring a number of books. From his home in Montmartre he held weekly open discussions on occultism and was well known for his exceptional knowledge and powerful presence. In later life, a significant mystical encounter led him to resign from his occult activities and focus solely on a Christian mystical path.

Adopting the name Sédir (an anagram of ‘désir’), he began writing his important work Initiations around 1901, and expanded it gradually over the following twenty-five years until his death in 1926. It follows the ‘initiations’, both occult and mystical, of a Paris doctor and his strange friend Andreas, nuanced by the enigmatic background presence of Theophane, the true healer. Presented in a deceptively simple narrative form, it distils and encodes a lifetime’s esoteric and mystical knowledge in a way which serves as a very real initiation for the perceptive reader.

Here is an excerpt from the book’s introductory chapter, ‘Paul Sédir and his times’:

It was not long before he became well known as a writer, lecturer and savant on the very active, not to say febrile, Parisian occult scene. He was on the Supreme Council of the Martinist Order, a Doctor of Kabbala in the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose Cross, a member of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor and of the renewed Masonry of Mizraïm, to say nothing of being appointed a Bishop in the Gnostic Church of Doinel, and on the Council of the Alchemical Society of France. In fact he ended up as a member of no less than twenty initiating bodies…

PaulSedirOther important people in the life of Sédir were Auguste Villiers de L’Isle-Adam , Barbey d’Aurevilly , Flaubert , Honoré de Balzac , Laurent Tailhade and Joséphin Péladan. Between 1894 and 1906, Sédir also published the first French translations of such luminaries as Jacob Boehme. As well as working on an esoteric and allegorical level Initiations can be read as a fascinating historical tome about Fin de siècle mysticism, presenting an era of swirling ideas and practices where new occulted knowledge synthesized with older dogmas and faiths. It is a fascinating portrait of a turn-of-the-century Parisian community full of artists and free thinkers, awash with a fresh syncretism that fused Eastern and Western ideas.

Gareth Knight’s new translation is markedly different from a mid 20th C English translation by Mouni Sadhu, which was an important but stylistically nuanced reading of Sédir’s great work. In attempting his own distinct and perhaps more direct translation he is able to fall back on the benefit of 60 years’ experience in practical occultism, as well as the fact that he has translated a number of other French esoteric texts into English. A renowned author in his own right, he warns the reader in a recent blog about the impact of this book: “Don’t expect to come out of reading it completely unchanged!!”

Skylight Press is proud to publish such an important work in addition to many wonderful titles by this acclaimed author and teacher. Paul Sédir’s Initiations is now available from various retail outlets such as, or direct from the Skylight Press website.


About Daniel

Writer & Musician
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