Meyrink, Gustav (1868–1932)
Pseudonym of German novelist Gustav Meyer, famous for
his occult fiction. He was also actively concerned with occult
and theosophical groups in Europe before and during World
War I. Meyrink was born June 19, 1868 in Vienna but was later
taken by his family to Prague, Czechoslovakia, where his mother’s
family owned a bank. As a young man Meyrink worked in
the bank, but he was attracted to occult teachings. By 1891 he
joined the Theosophical Lodge of the Blue Star, whose members
practiced various occult disciplines. Meyrink translated
Nature’s Finer Forces by Rama Prasad, one of the first works to
introduce tantra to a popular audience in the West. In 1903 he
published his first collection of short stories. Many of his writings
have themes of fantasy or occultism, with echoes of E. T.
A. Hoffmann, Edgar Allan Poe, and Franz Kafka.
His best-known novel was Der Golem (1915; translated by M.
Pemberton as The Golem, 1928). This is a brilliant and strangely
disturbing book concerned with the Kabala and the occult,
based on Prague legends of the Golem, a mysterious manmonster
said to have been created from clay by Rabbi Judah
Loew of Prague in the seventeenth century. The book had
added power in relating to the real-life background of Golem
legends, which remained popular in the Prague ghetto, the site
of Rabbi Loew’s grave. A German silent film The Golem, directed
and scripted by Paul Wegener, was produced in 1920, adapted
very loosely from Meyrink’s novel.
Meyrink converted from Protestantism to Buddhism and
spent many years in occult investigations, including experiments
in alchemy. He was present at some of the séances of
Baron Albert von Schrenck-Notzing in Munich with the medium
‘‘Eva C.’’ Meyrink also practiced yoga and claimed to have
achieved telepathic contact with the famous South Indian holy
man Sri Ramana Maharshi, guru of Paul Brunton. After a rich
and varied life, Meyrink died in December 1932 in Starnberg,
Frank, Eduard. Gustav Meyrink. Budingen-Gettenbach, Germany
Avalun Verlag, 1957.