Fernando Pessoa - Literature and Occultism

Literature and Occultism

The night my body makes of me were torn
Away from being, and my unbodied shape
Would, like a ship doubling the final cape,
Come to that sight of port and shiver of coming
That God allows to those whose bliss of roaming
Is no more than the wish to find His peace
And mingle with it as a scent with the breeze.
Fernando Pessoa, "To One Singing",
in The Mad Fiddler.

Pessoa translated into English some Portuguese books and from English The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and the poems "The Raven", "Annabel Lee" and "Ulalume" by Edgar Allan Poe who, along with Walt Whitman, strongly influenced him. He also translated into Portuguese a number of books by leading theosophists such as C. W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant.

In 1912-1914, while living with his aunt "Anica" and cousins, Pessoa took part in "semi-spiritualist sessions" that were carried out at home. But he was considered a "delaying element" by the other members of the session. Pessoa's interest in spiritualism was truly awakened in the second half of 1915, when he translated a series of esoteric books. This was further deepened in the end of March 1916, when he suddenly started having experiences where he became a medium. The experiences were revealed through automatic writing. In June, 24, Pessoa wrote an impressive letter to his aunt, then living in Switzerland with her daughter and son in law, in which he describes this "mystery case" that surprised him.

Besides automatic writing, Pessoa also had "astral" or "etherial visions" and was able to see "magnetic auras" similar to radiographic images. He felt "more curiosity than scare", but was respectful towards this phenomenon and asked secrecy, because "there is no advantage, but a lot of disadvantages" in speaking about this. Mediumship exerted a strong influence in Pessoa writings, who felt "sometimes suddenly being owned by something else" or having a "very curious sensation" in the right arm that "was lifted into the air without my will". Looking in the mirror, Pessoa saw several times the heteronyms, his "face fading out" and being replaced by the one of "a bearded man", or another one, four men in total.

Pessoa also developed a strong interest in astrology, becoming a competent astrologist. He elaborated more than 1,500 astrological charts, of well-known people like William Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Maximilien Robespierre, Napoleon I, Wilhelm II, Leopold II of Belgium, Victor Emmanuel III, Benito Mussolini, Alfonso XIII, or the Kings Sebastian and Carlos of Portugal and Salazar. In 1915, Pessoa created the heteronym Raphael Baldaya, who was an astrologist, and planned to write in his name "System of Astrology" and "Introduction to the Study of Occultism". Pessoa established the pricing of his astrological services from 500 to 5,000 réis and made horoscopes of costumers, friends and also himself and, astonishingly, of the heteronyms.

Born on June, 13, Pessoa was native of Gemini and had scorpio as rising sign. The characters of the main heteronyms were inspired by the four astral elements: air, fire, water and earth. It means that Pessoa and his heteronyms altogether comprised the full principles of ancient knowledge. Those heteronyms were designed according to their horoscopes, all include Mercury, the planet of literature. Astrology was part of his everyday life and Pessoa kept that interest until his death, which he was able to predict with a certain degree of accuracy.

As a mysticist, Pessoa was an enthusiast of esotericism, occultism, hermetism and alchemy. Along with spiritualism and astrology, he also paid attention to rosicrucianism, neopaganism and freemasonry, which strongly influenced his work. His interest in occultism led Pessoa to correspond with Aleister Crowley. Later he helped Crowley plan an elaborate fake suicide when he visited Portugal in 1930. Pessoa translated Crowley's poem "Hymn To Pan" into Portuguese, and the catalogue of Pessoa's library shows that he possessed Crowley's books Magick in Theory and Practice and Confessions. Pessoa also wrote on Crowley's doctrine of Thelema in several fragments, including Moral.

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