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Spirituality and mysticism


The Symbolists were also influenced by the third-century philosopher Plotinus, whose neo-Platonism connected Platonic thinking with Eastern mysticism and the tradition of Christian mysticism. Similarly, the Symbolists embraced through Baudelaire the mystical ideas of Emanuel Swedenborg regarding the connection between Man and God. They believed that artists had the ability to recall and understand the high spheres of the Golden Age when the human soul walked with God.

Like Plotinus, Swedenborg envisioned God as a spiritual sun that radiated pure love, whereas human love after the Fall and the expulsion from Paradise was impure and incomplete. Man nevertheless felt an incessant yearning for divine love. Accordingly, an important theme in Symbolist art in different variations is man reaching out towards light and the heights.

Joséphin Péladan played a major role in stimulating interest in the mystical and esoteric conception of art. He was a critic, novelist and occultist who hosted six spectacular and widely publicised Rose + Croix salons in Paris between 1892 and 1897. Among Finnish artists, Ville Vallgren and Sigurd Wetterhoff-Asp participated in the first two of these salons.