Jean Mallinger, Les secrets esotériques dans Plutarque, Paris and Brussels, 1946

The Ritman Library recently acquired the first – and only, according to Worldcat – edition of Les secrets esotériques dans Plutarque by Jean Mallinger (1904-1982), who was ‘Avocat près la cour d’appel de Bruxelles’, lawyer at the Court of Appeal in Brussels, as appears from the cover of this and another work by him which came out that same year: Notes sur les secrets ésotériques des pythagoriciens. Both works were jointly published and distributed by Editions Niclaus in Paris and by Librairie Veuve H.F. van de Graaf in Brussels. By 1946, Mallinger had already published an edition of La Table d’Emeraude, being the Latin text of The Emerald Tablet provided by Heinrich Khunrath with a French translation by Mallinger (Brussels, C. Platounoff, 1932) and Pythagore et les mystères (Paris, Editions Niclaus, 1944). A work announced in 1946, Les lumières d’Alexandrie (on PlotinusPorphyrius and Jamblichus) apparently remained unpublished.

Plutarch, Mallinger wrote, is mainly known as an historian and a moral philosopher, but this is not the Plutarch he was interested in: ‘Mais ce n’est point l’historien ni le moraliste que nous saluerons en ces pages; Plutarque est bien plus que cela pour l’occultiste’ (p. 8.) – But it’s hardly the historian or the moralist we encounter here; to the occultist, Plutarch is more than that. Plutarch was a Pythagorean initiate, according to Mallinger, who noted that some of Plutarch’s precepts were obviously inspired by Pythagoras. In the preface, Mallinger elaborates on Plutarch’s advice to his fellows to turn their gaze to the marvels of the heavens and the earth.

To know, not only to watch but to see… Know how to perceive, admire, understand… Read without errors the magnificent Book of Nature manifested, which is the first, the purest of revelations… To have eyes and not to appear like those blinded ones stigmatized in the Scripture: ‘They have eyes but they do not see’. All you have to do is turn your eyes to the Heavens. Is not this the essential secret of Plutarch? (p. 10)

The lawyer Jean Mallinger was himself also an initiate. As ‘Sar Elgrim’, he was a leading member of the neo-Pythagorean ‘Ordre Hermétiste Tetramégiste et Mystique’ which had been founded by his friend Emile Dantinne (‘Sar Hieronymus’) in 1927. The covers of Mallinger’s works mentioned above all show a typographical ornament of four small black squares, which is already to be found on the front cover of La table d’émeraude, published in 1930. The back cover of this work has a motto: ‘Savoir | Oser | Agir | Se Taire’ (‘know, dare, act, keep silent’), which according to Robert Falconnier in Les XXII lames hermétiques du tarot divine (1896) are the four forces of human will (‘les quatre forces de la volonté humaine’, p. 29). Constantin Platounoff, the publisher of La table d’éméraude, also provided a ‘symbolical woodcut’ for the work. Platounoff himself was a Grand Master of FUDOSI, a short-lived federation of mystical orders founded in Brussels in 1934 and disbanded in 1951.

La table d’éméraude was issued under the auspices of the elusive ‘Institut des Hautes Études Psychologiques’, though not Mallinger’s later works. His later works are all dedicated to fellow neo-Pythagoreans, whose portraits are included in the works: Pythagore et les Mystères to François Soetewey (‘Sar Succus’), Grand Master of the lodge of the Perfect Square in Belgium from 1926-1938 and Mallinger’s ‘instructeur et maître’; Notes sur les secrets ésotériques des pythagoriciens to Luis Fitau (‘Sar Ludovicus’), consul of Chile in Brussels and Les secrets esotériques dans Plutarque to Nicolas Wolff (‘Sar Ignis’), whom Mallinger in the caption refers to as a political prisoner who was murdered by the SS on 22 April 1945 at the age of thirty. Nicolas Wolff had been arrested by the Gestapo on 5 March 1943 and died in concentration camp Flossenbürg after lengthy tortures. Mallinger himself, though never arrested, was frequently harrassed by the Gestapo. During the occupation, the Ordre Hermétiste Tetramégiste et Mystique was banned by the Nazis along with many other occult societies. Ironically, Mallinger’s tribute to his fellow Pythagorean Nicolas Wolff was published at a time when as a lawyer and his friend, he was probably still defending Émile Dantinne (1884-1969) against charges of having collaborated with the Germans.

Source: Marcel Roggemans, Geschiedenis van de occulte en mystieke broederschappen, 2008

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