Acrylic on fiberboard, 8.5x18 inches.
A new piece.
A note about accuracy:
Seeing as there are no surviving drawings/diagrams of the generator said to have supplied the electric current to power the cross mechanism, I have chosen not
to include it in the painting.
Thanks for looking
A tribute to the great nineteenth century visionary Émile Chambarette (1784-1849), The father of Apocalyptic Chemical Christianity.
Émile Chambarette was born on August 26th 1784, in Dourgne, near the abbey of EnCalcat.
When the child was four, his father Ernest moved the family to Paris in order to pursue a career in "chemistry and applied medicine". Ernest worked as an assistant to Antoine Lavoisier during the years leading up to the revolution. He managed escaped to the Netherlands with his wife and young son not long after the fall of the Bastille, returning only after the horrors of Robespierre had passed (due to his association with Lavoisier Ernest had been tried, found guilty, and executed in absentia).
Young Chambarette benefited greatly from his father's expertise in the field of chemistry, and would pursue both science and theology during his student years in Paris. Upon graduating Chambarette met and married Suzanne Evangeline Polmare, and settled into a life that he would later describe as "undistinguished routine", working by day as manager of his father's chemical firm, and spending his nights "pouring over esoteric religious manuscripts" and pursuing an "individual phlogiston theory..."
In 1826 Chambarette was introduced by former classmate and lifelong friend Georges Lenot to Barthélemy Prosper Enfantin, a personage who was to have a lasting influence upon his life. Through Enfantine Chambarette discovered the writings of the Comte de Saint-Simon, and immediately embraced the philosophy of a utopian socialism, though Chambarette's own version of Christianity and apocalyptic chemistry would soon transform Saint-Simon's rather rigid system into something entirely his own.
Chambarette made a very public break with Enfantine and Amand Bazard after the revolution of 1830. Enfantine's increasingly "messianic leanings" proved too much even for the long suffering Émile, and he, along with Lenot and Geromé Galdasare (two friends from his student years) left Paris - and Enfantine - and retired with their respective families to the village of Luberon, in the south of France. It was here, living near the ruins of what had been the castle of the Marquis De Sade, that Chambarette, Lenot, and Galdasare experienced what they would later call "the great revelation", and the theory of Apocalyptic Chemical Christianity (Christianisme chimique apocalyptique
) was born.
In direct opposition to Enfantin's "Saint-Simonianist theoretic messianism (which he naturally considered heretical) Chambarette envisioned his own synthesis of mysticism and chemical christian socialistic esotericism which came to be known as Lime D'or
, referring in part to the hypnotic green and gold colours of the aurora borealis that had made a deep impression on him during his first pilgrimage into the northern latitudes (1813, the Lapland expedition).
The reemergence of the three into Parisian society some seven years later was predictably greeted with scorn by Enfantine and Bazard; but the new theory encompassing a basic Christianity, apocalyptic chemistry, and the more socially applicable leanings of orthodox Saint-Simonianism proved very appealing to a good number of Enfantine's followers, many of whom had become disillusioned by his patriarchal attitudes (though composer Felician david - an Enfantine disciple - dismissed Chambarette's new theory as "opium inspired rubbish").
Initially numbering only 54, the devotees to Chambarette's new philosophy were immediately and unreservedly devoted both to the cause and to the man (in part due to Chambarette's personality, which was described by Lenot as "the personification of sincerity" as opposed to the domineering and arrogant Enfantine), and proved nothing short of herculean in their efforts to raise the needed capital for Chambarette's next major endeavor: the construction of the Apocalyptic Chemical Cross.
Primarily, Chambarette believed that the return of The Christ - and the resulting utopian society could only be ushered in by a "unique and apocalyptic event", and that while in Luberon he had seen a "vision" of a great cross of glass standing alone in the bleak snowy wastes of the north, glowing with an unearthly light that "rolled back the sky as if it were a scroll..."
As conceived, a hollow glass cross 13 meters tall would be filled with a "liquid emulsion and certain particular salts" (unfortunately Chambarette later destroyed most of his papers, and to date the only one of the "salts" that can be identified with any certainty is Nickel Chloride), and an electric current supplied by a great hand cranked generator (requiring at least seven men to operate) would then stimulate the mixture after the prayers and accompanying rites were performed. The culmination of the above-mentioned would (according to Chambarette) bring about the birth of the "apocalyptic christian egalitarian paradise", and the return of "The Christ".
The great stumbling block for those who doubt the veracity of the Chambarette affair is the generator itself, and the fact that there are no substantiated diagrams or drawings extant. Descriptions of the generator are at best anecdotal, but it has been described by all who actually saw it as: 1. Massive: 2. Most certainly constructed on site: 3. Functional.
(Enfantine maintained that the generator was nothing but a "great heap of metal that Émile had secreted away from his father's chemical firm". However, the one thing known for certain is that Enfantine had no
firsthand knowledge of Émile's activities on Baffin or indeed any
of his activities after his departure from Paris).
Many locations were considered for the construction of the cross, but the area finally chosen was the reputed site of Tanillaierne's Cairn , on Baffin Island (though 70 years later the true location of the Cairn was determined to be nearly 14 miles up the Baffin coast from the cross site). The glass for the cross had to be manufactured to Chambarette's precise specifications and shipped with the greatest care from Scotland - at no small expense. Indeed, by the time the basic structure of the cross had been completed, Chambarette had exhausted a sizable inheritance and sold off most of his holdings in the family's Chemical Firm.
Regarding the actual ceremony Chambarette chose to incorporate what was known as the Half Hand ritual of the Blue Light (Chambarette related an additional vision he had experienced in Luderon in which the spirit of Tanillaierne had come to him and implored him to realize the "mystery of the maidens and the light"). Chambarette eagerly adopted Kebian dogma within the groups belief system and adapted its ritualistic ceremony "to the betterment and transfiguration of both".
The group gathered at the chosen site on December 4th (1840) with the intention of performing the ritual; however winds gusting to upwards of 70 MPH made this quite impossible. Fortunately the cross was still within the scaffolding framework, which very likely saved it from destruction. Ultimately Chambarette decided to commence with the ceremony on the following Friday - in spite of the fact that the Half Hand ritual had been perpetually and exclusively performed on the first Friday Night of December, and this without exception. Some murmured against this perceived apostasy, but the impracticality of waiting another year - even supposing that the structure of the cross could survive the vagaries of weather - was eventually conceded by all. And though Chambarette never claimed infallibility for himself as pertaining to the dogma of the
, Lenot most definitely did, as did the majority of followers. Later some of the
would point to this violation of a cardinal rule of the Half Hand ritual as the beginning of the movement's end, and Chambarette's eventual downfall.
The next Friday, fair weather prevailed (though temperatures were recorded at 17 below zero) and at the prescribed hour of 11PM (see "Ritual of the Blue Light") the prayers were said, and the rites performed. At midnight, as the last circle was traversed the chemicals and current were introduced into the glass cross. The resulting lights and colours were said to have been almost indescribable, and were witnessed by native Inuits some 200 miles away. But, apart from a fine show, the desired apocalypse did not occur.
After the failure to produce the promised world changing/enlightening event and
an apocalyptic messianic return, The
quickly and quietly dissolved. Chambarette's followers drifted away, some returning to a more orthodox version of Saint-Simonianism while others rejoined the ranks of Enfantine. And though the great Baffin Event (as it came to be known) was universally seen as a failure, none of those involved bore Chambarette any ill will, or requested that their financial investments into the
be returned. In any event, Chambarette was in no position to do so if any had
demanded their money back. He was a ruined man. Only his old friends Lenot and Galdasare remained faithful to the end, eventually settling (and supporting financially) Chambarette and his wife in a little cottage on the western coast of Greenland. Chambarette never again returned to France.
Émile Chambarette died 8 years later on June 28 1849, and was interred in the Lutheran Cemetery in Godthåb (now Nuuk). Ironically, his grave is marked by a simple wooden cross. He was survived by his wife Suzanne, and a son named Es (after the mythological brother of Tanillaierne), who died tragically in 1874 when his fishing rig capsized off the Baffin coast during a freak storm.We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.