One of the best known French and international authors of esoterica, Robert Amadou (1924-2006), died in Paris this week. Amadou was born on February 16, 1924 in Bois-Colombes (France). He earned a doctorate in Ethnology at the Paris VII University and one “ès lettres (d’Etat)” with a thesis on Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin and Martinism, and held several positions in academic institutions, but never regarded himself as an academic and in fact was quite skeptical about the possibilities for the academia to truly understand esotericism. He was never a mere observer, always a participant. He was the life and soul of branches of the Martinist Order, the traditionalist wing of Freemasonry, and several Gnostic groups, although he also fiercely preserved his independence and tried to avoid any formal role as leader. He was also ordained as a Syrian Orthodox priest, and passionately defended the legitimacy of this ordination against critics who never ceased to question it. In 1955 he was instrumental in the foundation of the journal La Tour Saint Jacques, which presented a number of esoteric and mystical authors to a larger public of intellectuals.
Amadou regarded himself as a Christian esotericist, and was critical both of “traditionalist”, guénonian and neo-guénonian trends and of the idea that true esotericism was to be found only in the “Mystic East”. If anything, he looked at the Eastern Christian traditions, who appeared to him to have preserved esoteric elements lost in both the Catholic Church and mainline Freemasonry. But he was quite ecumenical in his interests, and published about almost any conceivable subject in the domain of esoterica. His position at the edge, or the intersection, of the academic and the esoteric worlds earned him many friends and an almost equally significant number of enemies. He maintained a typically French taste for scandalizing academic audiences, teasing them as incapable of understanding the real world of initiatic societies, and esoteric audiences by blaming them as unscholarly and gullible. Behind the façade as an enfant terrible, he was however a very compassionate human being, with a very French sense of humour, and certainly no hour spent discussing with him was wasted. His esoteric erudition was immense. Although he only participated in one conference of CESNUR, we surely learned from him information we would never have found elsewhere. He was particularly generous in sharing rare documents and information. May his soul rest in peace.