Deulofeu, the wise man who had been kept in the dark.

El Triangle. Year 16. No. 745. 19th to 25th september 2005. Page 1.

Deulofeu, the wise man who had been kept in the dark.

Historian, philosopher, scientist and republican politician, Alexandre Deulofeu has left his theories explained in his works which are now being recovered.

Camp Obert (Open Field). Pages 36 & 37.

A study by different historians rescues from oblivion the theoretician from Empordà.

Deulofeu, the outcast reclaimed.

A chemist and a pharmacist, republican activist, designer of a theory of progress based on the study of historical cycles, an honest man, Alexandre Deulofeu is another link in the chain of scholars who are being rescued from the oblivion which has been a mark of our historiography. Thanks to Enric Pujol, Jordi Casassas, Juli Gutièrrez, Francesc Roca and many others, now we know a bit more about this unique character.

Alexandre Deulofeu, un personatge fins ara en l'obscuritat, revisitat pels historiadors.
Alexandre Deulofeu, a forgotten character now summoned up by historians
.

Pep Martí. Barcelona.

Few people can show such an overpowering, multifaceted nature in the different areas of learning as Alexandre Deulofeu (1903-1978). A scientist, philosopher, politician with forward-looking ideas, a historian, the father of unconventional theories and professor, his name is reclaimed in a book coordinated by historian Enric Pujol. This work, La matemàtica de la història. La teoria cíclica d’Alexandre Deulofeu (published by Brau Edicions), recaptures a lost page of Catalan historiography. Under this title are included essays by Pujol, Jordi Casassas, Francesc Roca and Juli Gutièrrez Deulofeu.

Alexandre Deulofeu was always a restless mind who kept away from the limitations of specialization. His father was a pharmacist and in the ‘40s he ended up having a pharmacy himself. But as a young man Deulofeu was a professor in the settings of the local republican groups. It could be said that Deulofeu is the result of a liberal town —even if he was born at Armentera— where trade and federalism played a crucial role.

A Republican of Empordà.

 

He went into politics and his name is closely linked to institutions emerged from the region’s progressivism, such as the Joventut Nacionalista Republicana (Republican Nationalist Youth), Empordà Federal (a weekly periodical whose contributor he was with others), and ERC (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, the political party). Under this party he was town councillor in the city council of Figueres and, in the middle of the Civil War, he was the mayor. From that time he left a commendable book, Memòries de la revolució, de la guerra i de l’exili (Memories of the revolution, the war and exile), published by Editorial Emporitana, 1974.

The tradition of the Figueres’ republicanism is very rich, and a further expression of a background current, linked to the town growth and to a very well defined feeling of pride (see link). The politician and tradesman Puig Pujades (1883-1943), an example of the local, advanced middle-class, is perhaps the most representative name of the generation of young idealists which defines the history of the town of Empordà starting from the beginning of the century.

When the Civil War started, Deulofeu was temporarily the mayor at Figueres (the regular mayor, Marià Pujolà, was away), and he had to face the rebel military who were in garrison in the Sant Ferran castle. He also confronted the action of uncontrolled groups. A short time later he became again mayor.

As many other republicans he suffered exile in France and couldn’t go back to his country until 1947.

Marginalization.

Deulofeu had little luck with the dominant learned streams. His participation in historiographic currents, which upheld the thesis (a questionable one) that humanity’s history repeated itself with mathematical regularity, cost him the opposition and contempt from many areas. An extra value in the work published by Brau Edicions is that it has avoided making an acritical homage. This work does not try to show that the theories of the scholar from Empordà are endowed with truth, but to show their value as tool for analysis and perspective.

Juli Gutièrrez Deulofeu is the philosopher’s grandchild, and has worked very hard to recover his grandfather’s character. He already had done it in his book Alexandre Deulofeu, la matemàtica de la història (Alexandre Deulofeu, the mathematics of history), published by Llibres de l’Índex, 2004. In El Triangle he gives some clues to understand his thought. He agrees with Enric Pujol in that, even if he was a defender of the cyclic theories of progress, he cannot be put into the same bunch with Spengler and Toynbee, which were very conservative scholars. For Gutiérrez «Deulofeu did no share Spengler’s pessimism (see link) on humankind’s progress: he was optimistic and used to say that there was no shock of civilizations but rather a succession of them».

The historian’s grandchild further explains: «He used to say that civilizations used to last about 5,100 years in three phases of about 1,500 — 1,700 years. In a first cycle the emerging civilization copied many things from the previous one. This happened in Greece, which was heavily influenced by Egypt, which had preceded it. After this there was a settling cycle, as it happened in classical Greece with Aristotle, Plato and the Parthenon. Later there would be a third phase, a renaissance one».

According to Deulofeu’s calculations, we should be in full in the second phase of western culture, which started about the year 1000, and which should last until the year 2500 or 2700. This phase includes the middle Age, which he did not judge completely negative, the creation of modern states and the vigour of the German empire.

We must point out that in Deulofeu’s «forecasts» there are surprising facts which show, if not that his theories were right, at least the insight of his analyses. He stated that Germany would become the strongest power in Europe and that it would overcome the defeat of World War II. He forecast the fall of the Soviet empire, a regime which he considered to be proper only for slaves. His idea of communism, as an alternative for peoples still little conscious of their freedom, made Deulofeu hated by a sector of Marxist historiography.

Juli Gutièrrez says: «My grandfather was an outlaw which became the blank of fierce criticism and even of derision, but he always left out of play all those who approached him expecting to find a «simple village chemist». As a matter of fact he was a scholar who could translate the writings of the classics, and who had a very deep philosophical and scientific knowledge».

In order to explain the disasters produced by Franco’s regime, and at the same time the oblivion into which his peers cast Deulofeu, we must point out that it was an Argentin philosopher and military man, Abelardo Gabancho (a liberal man who had problems with the dictatorial regimes in his country), who had read Deulofeu works, and who visited him in Figueres shortly before his death. Ill with a bone cancer, he still had the energy to fly to Argentina, where Gabancho introduced him to the intellectual circles.


The Empordà, the region who could show itself as a centre of modernity.

To a certain extent, there is a myth of Empordà, which is modern, avant-garde, assertive, which becomes strong at the beginning of the 20th century. This can be attributed to several factors, which have been very well explained by the University of Barcelona professor Jordi Casassas, and expert in the cultural history of Catalonia. Among these factors there are the archaeological excavations at Empúries, encouraged by Puig i Cadafalch; the statement made by Deulofeu himself that Empordà and Rosselló were the original cradle of the Romanesque style; the look of  Figueres, its capital, a frontier town, and the changes in its sociology, with an important immigration which makes it a dynamic city.

The case of Figueres is clear: the centre of a deep town-planning reform which re-creates it, and the nucleus of a republican movement, with federalist roots, which knows how to bring together patriotic feelings and social policies. The town-planning changes may be symbolized by the inauguration of the Rambla, with a monument to a man who is also a symbol of modernity, Narcís Monturiol, inventor and utopian socialist. Casassas speaks, somehow wittily, of the federalavantguard movement at Figueres. The roll of names which sprout from this world is very long: Fagues de Climent, Salvador Dalí, Carles Pi i Sunyer, the novelist Maria Àngels Vayreda, Joaquim Xirau, Víctor Català…


Theories. Influences on Deulofeu.

«Cyclics» of right and left.

There have appeared many theories, which have inferred possible mathematical laws which would explain man’s progress, but they cannot all be bundled up together. Friedrich Nietzsche spoke about an eternal recurrence to explain the recurrence of events an infinite number of times. Another German, Oswald Spengler (1830-1936), also worked out a theory with a similar approach.

To historian Enric Pujol, «Deulofeu is a theoretician of historical cycles moved by Oswald Spengler’s work, but I think there are a great many differences between them». The author of The decadence of the western world could not conceal his great pessimism, besides a reactionary will on behalf of elites, which should be the natural holders of power in society. Spengler mentioned eight great civilizations: the Egyptian, the Babylonian, the Greco-Roman, the Indian, the Chinese, the Mexican, the Arab and the Western civilizations. According to him, all of them followed some sort of biological process which took them to death. Pujol believes that, to a certain extent, Deulofeu was a disciple and indebted to Spengler, keeping however a great distance with his ideology. While the German was a militarist, Deulofeu was a pacifist and acknowledged the idea of progress. Knowing the laws of History was to be used to modify it.


El llibre coordinat per Enric Pujol (Brau Edicions).

The book which Enric Pujol coordinated (Brau Edicions).

Nietzsche ja va parlar d'un 'etern retorn'.

Nietzsche had already spoken about an «eternal recurrence».

Alexandre Deulofeu, a punt de tallar malesa, al seu mas d'Ordis.

Alexandre Deulofeu, about to cut the underbrush in his farm at Ordis.

Enric Pujol. Historian.

There was an injustice made against Deulofeu which must now be righted.

Historian Enric Pujol explains that the book they have published «wants to keep out of (stand aside of) both hagiography and of biting criticism: we have recovered the character and the works of Alexandre Deulofeu in an unprejudiced way, and in so doing we have set him in the important place he deserves». According to Pujol, «there was a historical injustice made against Deulofeu and now we must put things right. The injustice came from the university world, but also from challenging the cyclic theories of history, which he advocated, and from the absence in our country of a history of historiography. As we move forward in the comprehension of our own historiographic tradition, we shall recover important authors and scholars as he».


Figueres.

At the turn of the century in Figueres there appeared a whole generation of intellectuals, in the wake of the town growth and a dynamic society.

Heterodox Tramontane.

Federalist Empordà has given birth to characters, without which Catalan culture would not be the same: Narcís Monturiol, Víctor Català, Carles Pi i Sunyer, Puig Pujades, Maria Àngels Vayreda, the brothers Xirau,…

The orthodox from all parts did never forgive Deulofeu for his imaginative and unconventional theories. Time however put back in their place the false scholars of the hypothetical end of the story.