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New Dawn & the Tradition of Alternative Publishing - Solve et Coagula - 05-10-2011

New Dawn & the Tradition of Alternative Publishing

May 1, 2011

By Richard Smoley

The origins and influences for a publication as rich and manifold as New Dawn are difficult to trace in any simplistic way, particularly for someone who has come to write for it comparatively late in its development, but all the same a few things can be said.

There has always been a market for publications that cater to the human need to explore the unknown and reach beyond the categories of conventional knowledge and experience. The Theosophist, founded by the noted occultist H.P. Blavatsky in 1879 and dedicated to exploring a wide range of esoteric traditions, is an example from the nineteenth century. In London in 1887, Blavatsky, with fellow Theosophist Mabel Collins, founded another journal, Lucifer, which survived for ten years and whose provocative title has ensured Blavatsky’s notoriety among conservative Christians to this day. Another London-based publication – and one of the most distinguished and fascinating specimens from the early twentieth century – was the monthly Occult Review. Published intermittently between 1905 and 1951, it featured contributors like magus Aleister Crowley; Arthur Edward Waite, co-creator of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck; and Paul Brunton, author of works such as The Hidden Teaching behind Yoga.

A noted predecessor on the European continent was the French review Planète (“Planet”), published by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier as a follow-up to the sensational success of their 1959 book Morning of the Magicians (first published in English as The Dawn of the Magicians in 1962). The spirit of Pauwels’ and Bergier’s venture could be summed up by this quote from Morning of the Magicians:

Trends of thought that escape the notice of the trained observer; writings and works to which the sociologist pays scant attention, together with social phenomena that he considers too insignificant or too odd to worry about, are perhaps a sure indication of events to come than facts that are there for all to see and the openly expressed opinions and general trend of thinking which cause him serious concern.

And so it has turned out to be, not only for the general public but even for those who are supposed to be in the know. American readers are by now used to reading headlines that say “US Surprised by Developments in [insert nation],” and Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA tells an uninterrupted story of bungling and incompetence in practically every area that much-feared organisation has touched. The good news: if you’re worried about it, it’s probably not that important. The bad news: watch out for things you never even thought of worrying about. One could argue that the role of a genuine alternative press is precisely to register and discuss these things we have never heard of.

In any event, the reach of Planète, which was published between 1961 and 1972, extended into fields such as sociology, futurology, and even literary fiction: Planète was the magazine that first brought the Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges to a wide public.

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