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A prophet in his own country.

Alexandre Deulofeu. La matematica de la historia.

Avui. Wednesday, 11th January 2006. Catalonia. Cultural insert. Adolf Beltran.


Alexandre Deulofeu. La matemàtica de la història.

Juli Gutièrrez.

Publisher: Llibres de l’Índex, Barcelona 2005.

A prophet in his own country.

Adolf Beltran.

In his pleasant memoirs, written by Artur Bladé, the philosopher, writer and humorist Francesc Pujols, in exile at Montpellier, defended the prophet of positivism, Auguste Comte, against the criticism of a newspaper which had called him a «constant neurotic and an intermittent madman». «In spite of his madness accesses, he was a genius who, like all geniuses, often raved». As we have said, Pujols was talking about Comte, who was from Montpellier, but he could also have spoken about himself as an example of raving genius. And also about Alexandre Deulofeu, who was from Empordà (1903-1978), his companion in their gatherings, a pharmacist, chemist, republican politician and «mathematician of history». We can imagine both of them in exile, in their misfortune, among so many fellow countrymen devoted to pull to pieces each other: one of them, Pujols, thinking over the universal Catalan science; the other, Deulofeu, in search of the formula which would explain once and for all the history of mankind. Both of them with something Olympian, titanic, and at the same time touching, because of the gulf between what they were after and what they finally achieved.

In the case of Deulofeu, what was saved out of his theories? If we take into account the answer he received from the majority of the academic historians, there is no doubt: the mathematics of history is pure delusion. If we listen to his grandson, Juli Gutièrrez, who has now made an abstract of La matemàtica de la història (The mathematics of history), we find ourselves in face of a momentous work for the course of mankind, and of an author who is, in short, a leading light of which there have been very few in the 20th century.

In Catalonia, as a philosopher of history or macrohistorian, Deulofeu is an unusual character. We must go back in time to find those who tried to apply a standard to human history, from Augustine of Hippo and Giambattista Vico to Hegel, Marx and Spengler, among those who thought that history moves forward and those who saw a swaying of periods of growth and decline: those which are lineal and those which are cyclical. Deulofeu belongs to the latter. Nobody of those belonging to any group has gone so far in his attempt to bring the fabulous human diversity down to a pattern, a template, a diagram.

Each civilization, according to him, lasts exactly 5,100 years, distributed in three equal phases which match the formation, maturity, and decline periods. Each phase goes through two cycles: one of demographic breaking-up and one of imperial unification. It doesn’t matter which civilization it is: Chinese, Indian. Egyptian, classical or Western, every cycle is the same. All empires, for example, start by being federal, become absolutist, suffer a military disaster, recover and reach their plenitude, then they decline and disintegrate. Altogether, 550 years. Which is the reason for this? The same which makes a human embryo to push out after nine months pregnancy, now and one thousand years ago. History makes no progress, says Deulofeu: it tilts. In its swinging there are more or less brilliant moments: it fell to Catalonia to be the cradle of European culture, the very origin of Romanesque art… The centre of the world, which Salvador Dalí located at Perpignan, and Fages de Climent at Vila-sacra, for Alexandre Deulofeu was in the plains of Empordà and Roussillon.

The Pythagorean craze of Deulofeu is the most delirious of his theories and also the most pretentious, because it is projected as an oracle. As a prophet, Deulofeu is really an unusual case: he does not hide behind obscure versicles, like Nostradamus, which depending on the interpreter could be anything, the same an ox than a cow… On the contrary, he explains things so clearly and with such accuracy, that the reader stays speechless. If all the empires last 550 years, and the Spanish one started to count in 1479, with the ascension of the Catholic king and queen to their respective thrones, the date of its unavoidable downfall will be in 2029. Spain will disintegrate like a sugar lump, writes Juli Gutièrrez, who shows a great taste for his grandfather’s prophetic streak. Catalonia will become a province of the fourth Reich, England and France will go to pieces, the USA will undergo a revolution, China will suffer a catastrophe…

The reader’s perplexity grows and reaches a degree of amazement when he learns that in the ‘40s of the last century Deulofeu announced that at the end of the 20th century the USSR would collapse and Germany would be unified!.. «God made him (the meaning of Deulofeu) and God tells him / that Germany will be unconquerable», Fages de Climent ridiculed him. Josep Pla used to lose his patience with the «Figueres pharmacist», and called him primary. Secluded in his back shop or in his farm, with frequent trips through Europe, Deulofeu carried on his impressive work, in the hope that the powerful of the world would, one day, learn the law of history. They say he had no need to read the papers: he already knew which news would come in them.