As musicologists are quick to note, Satie liked this piece so much he dedicated it to himself. It is among his so-call Rose-Croix works; that is, music composed while Satie was under the influence of Joseph-Aime Peladan and his anti-realist, "Rosicrucian" esthetics. While many historians consider this to be the best of Satie's otherwise esoteric and inaccessible Rose-Croix pieces, it nonetheless did not attract much attention nor praise when it first appeared. The Prelude is music to accompany a play by Jules Bois, a Satanist, occultist, and member of the Ahathoor temple. Bois was also a follower of Peladan, and an admirer of his dramatic works. Both Satie and Debussy were drawn into Bois' "sacrilegious world," as Robert Orledge describes it, though ultimately Debussy turned down a project that would have had him supplying music for another of Bois' dramatic works, Les Noces de Sathan. The story of La Porte heroique du ciel involves Christ, a poet, the Virgin Mary, and the cult of Isis. The poet is sent on a mission by Christ, to undermine the Virgin Mary, and to replace her by force with the cult of Isis. This strange mix of Egyptology and Christian myth, decried as sacrilegious by some, is regarded by Eric Gillmor as "an ironic study of religious sentimentality."
The accessibility of Satie's music for this "esoteric drama" may be attributed to a number of factors. It is motivically integrated, with seventeen discrete yet similar motives used. There is an overall tonal plan, with sequential modal harmonies as well as triads and sevenths chords employed. Satie uses a strongly tonal cadential formula throughout the work, a series of similar cadences appearing on different "tonal levels," in Gillmor's words. Prelude de La Porte heroique du ciel appears to have been the only work Satie composed in 1894.