Bergson, Henri (1859–1941)
Famous French philosopher whose concepts of free will, intuition,
and mental life have relevance to psychic research and
are frequently cited in that context. Born October 18, 1859, in
Paris of Anglo-Jewish parents, he became a naturalized French
citizen and studied at the École Normale Supérieure. He
taught philosophy at academies in Angers, Clermont, and
Paris, then succeeded Émile Ollivier at the Academie Française
in 1918 but soon abandoned teaching for international affairs.
Heading a mission to the United States after World War I, he
served as president of the Committee of Intellectual Cooperation.
His books, which brought him the Nobel Prize in literature
in 1928, included Matiére et mémoire (1896), L’évolution créatrice
(1907), Durée et simultanéité (1922), L’énergie spirituelle (1919),
Les Deux Sources de la morale et de la religion (1932), and La Pensée
et le mouvant (1935).
His main concept was of an eternal flux in which everything
is moving, changing, and becoming, including all matter in the
cosmos. Conscious life itself is not a succession of states but an
Berendt, H(einz) C(haim) Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
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unceasing becoming. Bergson believed that intuition could apprehend
reality independently of the limitations of intellect,
and he distinguished between the soul and mental life, the soul
being independent of, although influenced by, mental life. He
claimed that free will is the very nature of our lives and the expression
of individuality, although much of our life is largely
automatic, deriving from habits and conventions. Bergson’s
ideas were quite compatible with occult philosophies; his sister,
Mina Bergson, married ritual magician MacGregor Mathers,
who had moved to Paris in 1891. Bergson died January 4, 1941,
in Paris.
Sources
Bergson, Henri. Creative Evolution. New York Modern Library,
1944.
———. The World of Dreams. New York Philosophical Library,
1958.
Kolakowski, Leszek. Bergson. Oxford Oxford University
Press, 1989.