Sad Satan’s Children: Stanisław Przybyszewski and Esoteric Milieus

Karolina Maria Hess


Stanisław Przybyszewski is one of the most controversial figures in Polish literature. He was a writer, poet and playwright known for his scandalous life, who became a legendary figure already during his lifetime. He is considered to be a forerunner of modern (20th century) intellectual Satanism. One of his commentator wrote: “Przybyszewski’s Slavic Satanism manifests itself in an orgiastic lust of destruction; it is a nihilism, a boundless joy of destruction and annihilation.”
He wrote in Polish and German. After the title of a novel published first in German – Satanaskinder (1897) – a group of his followers was called Satan’s Children. They were a bohemia gathered around him, mostly during his stay in Kraków. Many young artists were fascinated with Przybyszewski and considered him to be their master. While Przybyszewski’s literature is widely known in Europe, his background in esoteric milieus is still understudied. Even though he wasn’t personally involved as a member in any group of initiatory character, we need to refer to Esoteric milieus of his time in order to understand Przybyszewski’s way of balancing on the blurry line between theorizing about and practicing occultism.
The aim of this paper is to fill to some extent the gaps in literature in the field of Western Esotericism focusing on the author, by looking at Przybyszewski primarily through the lens of his interests in and contacts with contemporary occultism. It is presented in parts including his involvement in search for the perfect platform of his ideas followed by international occult-related collaboration, his contacts with Polish esoteric milieus, and a sketch of his own occult worldview that consisted on elements that he gathered by his own research and the mentioned contacts. The parts are followed by a glance on the examples of the reception of his ideas in literally and visual arts.

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