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Maeterlinck, Maurice (1862-1949)

Maeterlinck, Maurice (1862-1949)

Famous Belgian writer and poet and winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1911. He was born in Ghent, Belgium, on August 29, 1862, and educated at the Collège Sainte-Barbe and the University of Ghent. For a time he lived in Paris, where he became associated with the symbolist school of French poetry. His first publication was Serres Chaudes, a volume of poems, in 1889. His play La Princesse Maleine, which appeared the following year, was praised by novelist Octave Mirbeau. Although Maeterlinck had already qualified for the legal profession, he decided to follow a literary life.

From the very beginning of his great literary career, he was attracted by the problems of the inner life. His early plays were dominated by the grim specter of death as the destroyer of life. In his later works, his interest in psychic phenomena developed, and the fearful mystery gave place to wondrous fascination.

The Unknown Guest, Our Eternity and The Wrack of the Storm disclosed a familiarity with all the prevailing ideas on the paranormal, and he showed no doubt whatever as to the genuineness of phenomena. He wrote:

"The question of fraud and imposture are naturally the first that suggest themselves when we begin the study of these phenomena. But the slightest acquaintance with the life, habits and proceedings of the three or four leading mediums is enough to remove even the faintest shadow of suspicion. Of all the explanations conceivable, the one which attributes everything to im-posture and trickery is unquestionably the most extraordinary and the least probable. From the moment that one enters upon this study, all suspicions are dispelled without leaving a trace behind them; and we are soon convinced that the key to the riddle is not to be found in imposture. Less than fifty years ago most of the hypnotic phenomena which are now scientifically classified were likewise looked upon as fraudulent. It seems that man is loathe to admit that there lie within him many more things than he imagined."

Maeterlinck considered survival proved but was uncertain as to the possibility of communication with the dead. Between the telepathic and spirit hypotheses, he could not make a choice in favor of the latter. He admitted that:

"the survival of the spirit is no more improbable than the prodigious faculties which we are obliged to attribute to the medium if we deny them to the dead; but the existence of the medium, contrary to that of the spirit, is unquestionable, and therefore it is for the spirit, or for those who make use of its name, first to prove that it exists."

He added that in his view there were five imaginable solutions of the great problem: the religious solution, annihilation, survival with our consciousness of today, survival without any sort of consciousness, and survival with a modified consciousness.

The religious solution he ruled out definitely, because it occupied "a citadel without doors or windows into which human reason does not penetrate." Annihilation he considered unthinkable and impossible: "We are the prisoners of an infinity without outlet, wherein nothing perishes, wherein everything is dispersed but nothing lost." Survival without consciousness of today is inconceivable, as the change of death and the casting aside of the body must bring about an enlarged understanding and an expansion of the intellectual horizon. Survival without any consciousness amounted to the same thing as annihilation.

The only solution that appealed to him was survival with a modified consciousness. He argued that since we have been able to acquire our present consciousness, why should it be impossible for us to acquire another in which our present consciousness is a mere speck, a negligible quantity: "Let us accustom ourselves to regard death as a form of life which we do not as yet understand; let us learn to look upon it with the same eye that looks upon birth; and soon our minds will be accompanied to the steps of the tomb with the same glad expectation that greets a birth."

Maeterlinck died May 6, 1949.

Sources:

Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.

Ebon, Martin. They Knew the Unknown. New York: New American Library, 1971.

Maeterlinck, Maurice. The Great Secret. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1969.

. The Unknown Guest. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1975.

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Maeterlinck, Maurice

Maurice Maeterlinck (môrēs´ mätĕrlăNk´), 1862–1949, Belgian author who wrote in French. After practicing law unsuccessfully for several years, he went to Paris in 1897. He had already been touched by the influence of the symbolists and the mystical thought of Novalis and Emerson; his eventual 60-odd volumes can be read as a symbolist manifesto. Their suggestion of universal mystery, their insistence on ennui and impending doom affected the mood of a whole generation before World War I. Maeterlinck was awarded the 1911 Nobel Prize in Literature, but after 1920 his creative powers declined. His works include the short story "Le Massacre des innocents" (1886); the plays Les Aveugles (1891, tr. The Blind), Pelléas et Mélisande (1892), which inspired Debussy's opera (1902), Monna Vanna (1902), and L'Oiseau bleu (1909, tr. The Blue Bird), an allegorical fantasy for children that denies the reality of death; the essays La Vie des abeilles (1901, tr. The Life of the Bee) and L'Intelligence des fleurs (1907, tr. Life and Flowers); and poems.

See studies by A. Bailly (tr. 1974) and L. B. Konrad (1986).

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Maeterlinck, Maurice

Maeterlinck, Maurice (1862–1949) Belgian playwright. His plays include The Princess Maleine (1889), Pelléas and Mélisande (1892), and The Blue Bird (1908), first produced in Moscow by Stanislavsky. Maeterlinck received the 1911 Nobel Prize in literature.

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"Maeterlinck, Maurice." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/maeterlinck-maurice