Friday, July 15, 2016


The School of Magnetism in Lyons

Whatever caused this strange event and sudden blow to Papus’ self esteem – and we are all entitled to our own theories – psychological, occult or mystical – he was big enough to follow it up and try to find out for himself. Thus by October 1895 we find him in close association with Maître Philippe, intent on introducing him to a wider audience, to which end, he teamed up with Hector Durville, who over the last ten years had established a school of magnetism and massage in Paris, and suggested that Maître Philippe’s operation down in Lyons be incorporated with it.

This may not have seemed a likely arrangement at first sight, as Maïtre Philippe did not have much time for animal magnetism or hypnosis or even occultism for that matter, but having the backing of qualified doctors – Papus himself and another bright young spark, a protégé of Papus, Dr Emmanuel Lalande, (pen name Marc Haven) – may have caused him to feel his work was given greater legal validity. He was appointed Director of the Lyons branch of the organisation, doing his usual thing, with lectures on anatomy, physiology and the like provided by the doctors – particularly Dr Lalande who in course of time married M. Philippe’s daughter, Victoire, and helped her father in his laboratories.  

 A rough translation of the beginning of the inaugural speech by Papus gives some idea of intentions at the time.

“It is a great honour for me to open this School of Magnetism in Lyons, established by the Magnetic Society of France as a branch of a School of practical magnetism and massage that has been recognised by the University of France as a Higher Independent Establishment of Instruction.

“Moving to Lyons has the effect of providing the teaching body of a new School as I was pleased to find your beautiful town has enough devoted and trained practitioners to set up not one but three schools of magnetism if required.

“It is thus that I answer the voice of the people, a powerful voice whose echoes ring through the centuries, while that of academics is barely heard after a few months. Along with the thanks of the poor and the humble, and the blessing of mothers whose children have been condemned by official science, yet are elevated to glory by a simple name for those who do not know him,  and great one for those who understand the mystery of his work – that of PHILIPPE!

“When I first met this strange man who knows the essence of such great things I asked ‘Who are you to possess such powers?’

“He replied: ‘I assure you I am less than a stone, and all the merit comes from God who sometimes deigns to listen to the prayers of the least of his children, for, I tell you the truth, I am nothing, I am less than nothing’.

I have known many men. I have lived in the company of many ambitious egos and have always heard said around me: ‘I am this’ or, ‘I am that...’ And for the first time in my life I heard the strange words: ‘Me? I am nothing, why do you address me when there are so many who are wiser?’

“I had found my MASTER. After a long time looking for someone who was nothing in the midst of those who seemed great. However I had much trouble making the modest M. Philippe accept the official title of Professor of the Clinic of Magnetism to which he had such right. {With all due respect it was probably the word ‘magnetism’ that caused M.Philippe to seem reluctant, although he did later compromise by speaking of a ‘higher’ magnetism in relation to his powers. GK}

“Around him, as around all those who defend the Truth by example, are raised many enemies, as powerful as they are ignorant of the greatness of the work they attack. They who dare condemn ‘love of money’ in one who leaves his house wearing a warm coat in winter and returns without it because he has met a shivering unfortunate on the way.

“But the voice of the people replied in simple words greater than any fine phrases: Monsieur Philippe is the father of the poor!

“They wanted to accuse this man, who cures the incurable by praying to God for them, of the illegal practice of medicine. And it required a new law on the practice of medicine and the judgment of the Court of Appeal at Angers to show the doctors that there exists a medicine of the soul, and that this medicine is at the disposal of the pure in heart and has nothing to do with pharmaceutical formulae.

“I am a doctor of medicine, which is to say that I can perhaps speak of how a sick person is progressing , but in ten years, please God, I hope to be conscious enough of the practice of high theurgy to cure a sick person whom I can, at best, relieve a little at the moment.”

To which we might add a couple of paragraphs of a letter from M. Philippe to one of his intimate friends:

“Do not worry about me for, believe me, I have come to carry the Light into confusion, and I have not come unarmed, without a good escort. Armed with Truth and Light I will triumph, be sure of that. If I could not bear the struggle I would only have to desire rest and I would have it immediately.

“If I have not asked for your support here, it is to leave it for later, when I pass before a greater Tribunal. For that I will need witnesses to speak for me, for Truth and for Heaven.  Fight also by praying for your wicked brothers, asking forgiveness from God for those who spit in your face saying – “If you are God, come down from the cross.”


Thursday, July 07, 2016


Papus and Maïtre Philippe

Gérard Encausse, or ‘Papus’, was feeling very confident towards the end of 1894 and had good cause to be in view of his record over the past few years as a populariser of occult theory and practice.

He had qualified as Doctor of Medicine a week before his 29th birthday, and as if in confirmation of his change of status had put aside his girlfriend of the past five years, the feminist Anna Wolska, and was engaged to marry a relatively wealthy widow, Mathilde Ignard Theuriet. She had however brought with her what Gérard regarded as a particularly tiresome obsession. 

Mathilde’s family came from near Lyons, where, like many in that city, they had been much impressed by a local healer, Monsieur Nizier Philippe, whom many referred to as Maïtre (or ‘Master’).  In fact so impressed was Mathilde that she was for ever talking about him, presumably assuming that Gérard, with his magical and medical interests, would be impressed and interested as well.

But Gérard was more disturbed by the fascination the old fellow had made on Mathilde and suspected he might have established some kind of magnetic link with her; indeed he had proved himself a very successful social climber. Born into conditions of extreme poverty in a little village in Savoy on 25th April, 1849, his parents, Joseph and Marie Philippe lived with their five children lived in a tiny cottage adjoining a stable, with one room below and two above, subsisting off a small plot of land, a few sheep and some vines.

Nizier’s early life was no doubt much the same as that of other village children, helping to look after younger siblings, working in the fields and herding the sheep – a task that could be eased by expression of his unusual powers. According to his younger brother Auguste his brother could draw a ring round a flock of sheep with a piece of wood and none would cross the invisible barrier.

Such tales began to worry the village curé, who wondered whether the child had become subject to demonic powers through having been ineffectively baptised. At the age of seven he astonished everyone by reviving a child who had fallen from a roof and lay unconscious, and he was also said to have cured another child of double vision. Whilst at ten years of age he told a sick woman that she could only expect a recovery if she returned a sum of stolen money – and so it proved.

He was bright enough to learn to read and write and as he showed some interest in religious matters might perhaps have found a future in the priesthood.  There was even talk of a bright light having being seen in his vicinity on 31st May 1862, when at the age of thirteen, he took his first communion. And after this it was realised that he could perform cures, and thus perhaps not surprising that it was felt best that he leave the village, along with his strange powers, and where the old curé wondered if the whole family ought to be put on the papal index.

Fortunately his mother had a brother who ran a butcher’s shop in the city of Lyons, and he went to live there with his uncle’s family, earning 30 francs a month for helping in the shop and making deliveries.

His uncle found him to be hard working, energetic and keen to learn, and a good example to his son. He attended a school each afternoon run by two Marist fathers who prepared students for various examinations, and from whom he obtained a ‘certificate of grammar’ along with some instruction in chemistry.

As he grew older he spent his nights reading, and his room was full of books about animal magnetism, which was widely practised in France, although he did not follow these methods in later life. “I don’t know much about animal magnetism or occultism”  he later told a journalist, “I liked to study books in which learned theorists wrote of hypnosis and spiritism, but was never successful in repeating their experiments. Although this did not prevent me from accomplishing my mission to help and to cure the poor as well as the great in this world.”

He seems to have started very early on this. A man, a Monsieur Grandjean, who was later to become a relation by marriage, had been suffering from pains in his neck which, his doctor decided, needed an operation. He had gone to Lyons for this and was sitting on a seat near the hospital feeling very depressed when a young boy came up, who sat beside him and asked why he was looking so sad. After at first trying to get rid of him, the man relented and told him, whereupon the boy went into a nearby shop and came out with an old book which he gave to him, telling him to burn a few pages and rub the painful part with the ashes. Which he did and was cured. 

A big city like Lyons provided an ideal location for Philippe to develop his powers and to practise them openly, and when he was 22 years old, in 1869, he enjoyed a reputation as a healer, from which date we begin to find attestations of cures signed by the sick, legally witnessed with postage stamp, name and address and signature. And when in August 1870, after the declaration of the Franco-Prussian war, he was called up for the army, 500 people protested at the prospect of losing his services.

Nonetheless he was still drafted, only to be soon discharged on account of an old hand injury. Whatever curative powers he had did not seem to apply to himself, because cutting up some meat in his early days in the butcher’s shop, the knife slipped and cut the tendons between the thumb and fore finger of his left hand, leaving him with a permanent stiffness - which proved something of a blessing when war broke out and he was considered unfit to fire a gun.

His reputation now became a concern to the local medical profession, and he was put under police surveillance, whereupon he decided to study medicine formally and seek qualification as an ‘Officier de Santé’ or Officer of Health. From the beginning of the 19th century medicine was practised at two levels in France. Doctors could practise medicine and surgery anywhere but Officers of Health, after a shorter course, could practise in a more limited way in country districts. To this end Nizier Philippe enrolled on a series of courses at the Lyons Faculty of Medicine between November 1874 and July 1975, attending the clinics of Professor B. Teissier at the Hôtel-Dieu hospital.

Here he was much admired for comforting the sick, but profoundly irritated others,    particularly when advising qualified surgeons not to operate. One day, on discovering a patient weeping because he was about to have his leg amputated, he effected a cure before the operation could take place. This was too much for the surgeon to tolerate, with the result that, after a formal complaint, he was barred from the hospital and refused further enrolment on the grounds of being “a charlatan practising occult medicine”. 

This did not however stop him from continuing to practise and cure people privately however, including the grand daughter of a wealthy widow, Jeanne Julie Landar, “of irreproachable morals but delicate health”, who attended his clinics and was apparently cured by him of tuberculosis. As a consequence the two were married in 1877, she aged 18, he 28.

The marriage made him comfortably well off, the family having several town houses in Lyons, and a country château on the heights of Arbresle, with a vast terrace and beautiful plane trees. The couple went to live in one of the town houses and produced a daughter Jeanne Marie Victoire on 11th November 1878. A son Albert-Benoit was born on 10th November 1880 but died in a small pox epidemic at the age of three months. Infant death was not uncommon in those days, nor did Nizier Philippe seem able to cure nearest and dearest or, in later years, himself.

From the date of his marriage Nizier Philippe set up as a chemist and from 1879 had a laboratory where he produced various products of his own devising –  such as Philippine, a hair restorer, and Dentifrice Philippe, a powdered or liquid dentifrice, and a blood cleansing tonic called Rubathier (named after the hamlet of his birth). Or again huile viperine for the relief of growths or tumours. His reputation began to extend beyond France and into high society, particularly to Tunisia and Italy, and a number national and foreign distinctions came his way, including, in January 1885, a diploma from the Red Cross.

When not travelling he spent a full social life at home. He was elected town councillor from 1882 to 1888, deputy mayor from 1882 to 1884 and made head of the fire brigade (capitaine des pompiers) from 6th March 1884, an important civic post in French society, that included an impressive official uniform!

From 1885 he opened a regular clinic at 35 rue Tête-d’Or, Lyons, consisting of several floors, separated from the road by a little garden and a high wall, where every day, Saturdays and holidays excepted, he held a healing session from two oclock until four in the presence of up to eighty people of all social classes, addressing each person  in turn, who told him their problem, either privately or to the general assembly. He answered questions, or would simply say, “Heaven will grant what you desire,” when apparently miraculous cures might occur. He might tell an unfortunate cripple to stand, and immediately they would walk round the hall, cured, tears streaming from their eyes. As for payment, he typically asked only that they say nothing spiteful against a neighbour for an hour, a day, or a week, or that they abandon a legal action or reconcile a quarrel.

Regarding him as a charlatan who deprived them of a good part of their clientel, the doctors of the town had him summonsed several times for “illegal use of medicine”. He was found guilty on 3rd November 1887 and fined 15 francs. In 1890 he was again prosecuted and ordered to pay 46 fines of 15 francs each. Then in 1892 brought before the court twice, acquitted the first time, and on the second 29 fines of 15 francs. 

Eventually the doctors gave up pursuing him in this way, there were even some who passed their more difficult cases on to him.  As for official recognition as a “doctor of medicine” he did obtain, by correspondence, some kind of qualification from the University of Cincinnati in America for a thesis on “Principles of hygiene to be applied in pregnancy and child birth”. But it was only after the turn of the century, in Russia, that he was awarded qualifications that had any value in the eyes of some of the French medical profession, after the Tsar had commissioned him with the rank of general in the Russian army and assigned him an important mission in the sanitary inspection of ports.

This was the individual against whom, in the latter part of 1894, Papus found himself ranged in the regard of his wife. And determined to sort things out by magical means!  


Papus had a small magical cabinet set up in his lodgings – albeit, according to his friend Paul Sédir, a somewhat untidy and dusty one, with a second hand looking glass to serve as a magic mirror (rather than an elaborate concave or convex one) and an old naval sabre (the kind popularly known as a ‘pot stirrer’) as a magic sword.

Having traced a magic circle and lit the incense, he baptised a strip of wood (apparently in gypsy rather than ecclesiastical fashion) with the name of Maître Nizier Philippe. Chanting a conjuration he took up his sabre with the intention to hack the lath to pieces and Monsieur Philippe’s assumed powers along with it.

But as he raised his arm so he felt the weapon wrenched from his hand!

Despite his strength, for he was an athletic young man and a keen swordsman, he was forced to drop the weapon, and after a short struggle fell to the floor himself, mortified and in tears.

Which is how his friend Paul Sédir found him when he happened to call half an hour later.

From that day forward it appears that Gérard Encausse decided to meet Maïtre Philippe and continue to see him a great deal, recognising him to be his “spiritual master”, as opposed to his “intellectual master” (who was the highly regarded reclusive sage Saint-Yves d’Alveydre  - of whom more later).

Eventually Papus introduced his two favourite young associates Marc Haven and Paul Sédir to Maïtre Philippe and his family, on a hastily convened meeting on a platform at a Parisian rail terminus. An event that proved to be something of a life changer for them.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016


A meditation for those wishing to take part in a commemoration of the Battle of the Somme 30th June - 1st July 1916-2016
Start by seeing yourself/selves at the outer gate of an ancient abbey. Beyond its frame of ornate ironwork a wide stone paved path leads to the porch of its north door, flanked on either side by mature yew trees. Enter upon that path and as you make your way between the trees be aware of the presence of any Masters of the Western Tradition known to you; they are always here, ready to provide advice, encouragement and assistance to any who come here seeking to give service. Entering the abbey porch approach the guardian at the inner door and give your mystery name to him. He salutes each of you in turn as you pass into the abbey.
As your eyes grow accustomed to the low light inside your attention is drawn to a large white tablet set into the wall in the south side of the building, directly opposite where  you are standing. Make your way over to it, crossing the nave and passing the great baptismal font, and as you draw nearer you see that the vast white tablet is a war memorial, and engraved over its entire surface countless names, of those slain in the Great War. This elegant roll call is so enormous that it is only possible to read a tiny proportion of the names at one time, and most of them are unfamiliar to you, although you may see a few that you recognise. Underneath the tablet is a marble shelf, thickly strewn with poppies, and to one side is a rough wooden cross, salvaged from a soldier's makeshift grave on the battlefield. Although this memorial is ostensibly dedicated to those who fell in the Great War, it is implicitly honouring the victims of all wars. Stand before it for a moment, respectfully contemplating all that it represents.
Then become aware of a figure standing nearby looking up at the marble tablet. He is a short, dark haired young man wearing the uniform of an officer of the First World War. As if sensing your presence he turns round with a shy smile and you recognise him to be the poet Wilfred Owen. It is now his duty and honour to guard the entrance to the Chapel of Remembrance, where he stands as an archetype of the pity of war, and serves as a guide.
He indicates a dark alcove to the right of the war memorial, and you see that it is a small doorway sealed off by a crimson curtain. This is the entrance to the Chapel of Remembrance and he invites you to enter. When you agree to do so he draws the curtain aside and you pass through the little doorway to take your place within, amongst the inner company of the Light of the Somme.
The rest is up to you and to your vision.

Monday, June 27, 2016




Issued as an antepenultimate reminder of the Dion Fortune seminar at Glastonbury on 24th September 2016.

For programme and booking details see Company of Avalon website.

The following text is taken from  letters to students by Dion Fortune in 1942/3. Also published as part of ‘Principles of Hermetic Philosophy’ by Dion Fortune & Gareth Knight (Thoth Publications 1999).

We will take it, then, that in competent hands, astrology can diagnose the psychic atmosphere of any given spot on the earth’s surface at any given moment, past, present or future. Let us next enquire in what manner such conditions can affect mundane affairs, and human destiny in particular. Dane Rudhyar, the well-known American writer on astrology, whose work I esteem very highly, explains the interaction of macrocosm and microcosm on the same lines as the early psychologists tried to explain the inter-relations of mind and body by the hypothesis of psychological parallelism, an explanation which speedily gave way in the face of greater knowledge of physiology.

Parallelism has been compared to two clocks which strike the hours at the same time because the hands are moving at the same pace, but they are only moving at the same pace because they are set to keep time with a third factor – the chronometer at Greenwich. To apply this hypothesis to astrology we must postulate a third and absolute system to which both man and the cosmos are attuned. But if we do this, the law of logic known as Occham’s Razor descends on us and cuts short our argument – we are not justified in postulating something to exist in order to explain something else unless its existence is absolutely necessary, such as is the case concerning the ether of physics.

We might possibly say that man and the solar system keep time with God, and we are probably right in so doing, but we must then define and explain God, and in the absence of any such definition and explanation we are no further forward. Moreover we are rash in deciding that any two things so intimately related as man and the solar system are without influence upon each other, and the scientific maxim that hypotheses should not be needlessly multiplied further gives us pause in this direction. So altogether we are on sounder ground, and faced with a simpler problem, if we decide that the universe in which he lives has an effect upon man than if we decide that the relationship is simply that of two sets of symbols saying the same thing in different languages. To change the geocentric into the heliocentric theory of astrology may be impossible if we consider the matter from the exoteric point of view.

According to esoteric philosophy, there are several planes of existence, each of which developed during a phase of evolution which might be likened to a wave rushing up the beach at the head of the rising tide. Each such phase of evolution, it is held, took place on a different planet of the solar system, and in consequence each planet has a psychic atmosphere which is characterised by the type of evolution which developed there. Each such phase of evolution gave rise to substance of a particular type – spirit-substance, thought-stuff, the astral light – according to the terminology used. The substance of each planetary phase of evolution spreads through the solar system, interpenetrating the substance of every other planetary evolution in the same way as the water particles and soot particles float in the air in a London fog, their particular concentration at a particular spot determining whether we have a white fog or one of the old-fashioned ‘pea-soup’ variety.

Out of the subtle substances thus spread through space every living entity builds up the subtler aspects of its organisation in the same way that the physical body is built up out of the mineral substances of the Earth. Each such type of substance has emanated from a particular planet, and continues to centre about that planet, partaking of its nature and responding to its conditions. Such modicum of the general substance as is organised into the organism of any entity likewise responds to the influence of the planet that emanated it. Consequently if Mars enters an active phase, the Martian element in those exposed to its influence is energised unless there are other factors present which inhibit it; and in proportion to the amount of the Martian factor in our makeup will be the amount of influence it exerts on our state as a whole. We can therefore conceive the planetary influences working along the lines of the sympathetic induction of vibration, even as a note struck on a piano will set the corresponding string on any other stringed instrument vibrating, but will not activate any other string, nor will it activate a string against which the damper is pressing at the moment.

The complex psychic atmosphere of a given place at a given moment will call out sympathetic vibrations in the complex human soul, or in any organism or unit that has a psychic side to it, using that term in its broadest aspect. According to esoteric philosophy, there is nothing in existence that has not got a psychic side to it, though there are many things that have not got a physical form, for all existence begins on the subtle planes and therefore has a psychic  or soul side, but not all existence progresses as far as the physical plane, and therefore may not have a physical side – or, equally, having progressed so far, has begun to return on the evolutionary arc that leads it back to spirit again, and has sloughed off its material sheath. We may take it, however, that every human being has all the aspects of manifestation represented in him, and that many things not suspected of having souls, such as the earth itself, or a nation, may not be so ill equipped in that aspect as the orthodoxly materialistic believe.

If we agree this, and of course we cannot continue the argument if we do not, we must then ask ourselves how different men come by such widely varying proportions of the different elements in their composition, and why we are not all made from the same mixture.

This can only be explained logically if the doctrine of reincarnation be accepted, failing which we have to fall back on the doctrine of special creation in the psychological sphere, a doctrine which in the biological one died with Darwin. We might therefore do well to relegate the doctrine of special creation to the same limbo of historical curiosities as the doctrine of psycho-physical parallelism, both having been revealed as groundless in the light of greater knowledge.

According to the doctrine of reincarnation, the immortal spirit of man progresses throughout an evolution by means of alternating periods of objective life on the physical plane and subjective life on the inner planes. In the course of such age-long evolution, different experiences cause greater and greater cumulative divergence of individuals from each other though they remain basically true to the original type; the longer they have been evolving, and the richer the experience of which they have partaken, the greater the divergation, till at last we get beings that are so far removed from the simple uniformity of the primal type that they are said to be individualised. This implies that instead of reacting in the manner common to the basic stock from which they derived, they will deal with circumstances in a way peculiar to themselves, being conditioned by past experience not shared by others. Their reactions are thus original and singular, and though if we know a person’s nature we shall be able to predict accurately what he will do in a given set of circumstances, what he will do throws no light on what another individualised person will do in similar circumstances. The way William Penn dealt with the Indians in founding Pennsylvania gives us no guide to what Himmler will do in pacifying the Poles.

If we know the record of a person from his youth upwards, we can generally make a pretty good guess at his behaviour in all ordinary circumstances, or so we think when we ask for ‘references’. These ‘references’ are based on experience of what he is, but they do not tell us how he came to be what he is. That is a question to which no one save the esotericists have hitherto given any kind of an answer, biologists and genealogists having failed lamentably. Mendel has told us something of the simply biological factors in the simple organisms, but nothing at all of the infinite variety which marks the more highly evolved specimens of humankind.

It is a man’s experiences and reactions to experiences in past incarnations that make him what he is in his present incarnation, each life adding its quota of differentiation and acquired faculty. Man is what he is by virtue of having been what he was. He learns by experience in the course of the evolution of the soul, just as in a single life he can hardly fail to profit to some extent at least by the vicissitudes that life brings to him. ‘A burnt child dreads fire,’ and ‘Once bit, twice shy,’ are folk wisdom enshrining this truth, and though most proverbs have their opposites, and ‘All is not gold that glitters,’ is balanced by ‘Fine feathers make fine bird,’ I know of no proverb that denies the educational value of experience, and it is universally held that only a fool fails to profit by it and that the man who cannot so profit is sub-standard. It was said in derogation of the Bourbons that they learnt nothing and forgot nothing.

The essence of life experience is absorbed by the immortal spirit from each incarnation just as essential nutriment is absorbed by the body from food; thus is the immortal spirit built up from formless unity into organised consciousness. This organised and differentiated immortal self forms the basis on which the personality of each incarnation is built up, and accounts for all innate or congenital traits. The experiences undergone in a given incarnation develop, repress or modify these innate characteristics, and the innate characteristics with which our past evolution has furnished us determine the manner of our reaction to the experiences that come our way. In view of the predetermining basic temperament and the apparently random nature of earthly affairs, we may well ask what scope there is for free will and whether by any planning, however wise, man can alter his fate? We may even ask whether he has any fate to alter, or is but the football of circumstances?

There are but two sciences which offer an answer to these questions, psychology and astrology, but each gives only half an answer. Psychology deals with the personality’s reactions to experience; astrology deals with the nature of experience to which is will be required to react. Despite the desire of their more fanatical exponents to prove them to be self-contained systems giving a complete answer to all the problems of life, the disinterested unlooker, while obliged in honesty to concede certain of their claims, cannot be unaware of their respective limits. Any unprejudiced person can see, however, that the two systems actually complement and complete each other, and it is only ignorance and fanaticism that keep them apart. If it were possible to bring them together and make them complementary to each other, a big step forward in human knowledge would be taken.



Thursday, June 23, 2016


Enchantment at a distance

After the journalistic brouhaha leading to drawn pistols and rapiers and the apparent spooking of horses in early 1893 a more or less rational discussion began as to whether enchantment at a distance was, in any case, possible.  An early brochure by Papus, now virtually unobtainable,  seemed by its title, (Peut-on envoûter? – ‘Is enchantment possible?’), to cast doubt on this. Scientific experiments along these lines were difficult to set up but such as had been conducted by Dr Luys, Colonel de Rochas and himself at la Charité hospital had found it possible to achieve results only with deeply hypnotised people. Any attempt to influence anyone not hypnotised proved negative.

However, as it is not possible to draw valid conclusions by arguing from the particular to the general, this lack of success did not prove that the practice was impossible, so some traditional methods of dealing with such matters might well be worth considering. Some were therefore described in a short book that followed,  Pour Combattre l’Envoutement (Fighting against Enchantment), and replicated in subsequent editions of the popular instruction manual Traité Methodique de Magie Pratique.

At the same time Papus stressed the need to proceed with great caution, for many who thought they were being attacked were actually mentally ill, requiring professional medical or psychological expertise rather than amateur magic making or do it yourself exorcism. Nonetheless he was willing to describe various traditional means of defence, such as charcoal or sharp metal or magnetic devices.

As carbon, particularly wood charcoal, has the property of absorbing physical odours, so is it said to have the same effect with any astral plane emanation. It can thus be used to purify material objects suspected of being impregnated with any bad ‘astral fluid’ or atmosphere. To demagnetise a letter, for example, or any form of writing, it was enough to place it in a metal box full of charcoal. In those days the charcoal used in bakers’ ovens was recommended, of the type that gave intense glowing heat without flame. Probably that used for barbecues would be the modern equivalent.

Large objects, such as furniture, might best be dealt with by being placed in a magic circle and having a little charcoal placed upon them. Then after processing three times around it, burning incense, the charcoal could be buried at the foot of a tree.

Sharp metal points were considered act on astral forces in much the same way as electricity. The analogy of lightning conductors to protect buildings was suggested, and a house could be astrally defended by placing points at its doors. Or in individual cases a crown of points placed around the forehead could be effective, and at night the bed surrounded with sharp implements.   

On the other hand many who thought they were victims of enchantment were simply short of astral force; a quite common condition,  similar to anaemia, but unknown to most doctors,  despite devices being available such as the Vitalometer, invented by Louis Lucas in 1863,  or a similar Biometer by the abbé Fortin and a Dr Baraduc. The movement of the instrument’s needle under the influence of the left hand and then the right gave a measure of the astral fluid circulating in the organism,  or of any dispersion causing nervous anaemia. In such cases the application of one of the ‘magnetic crowns’ of Dr Luys, or the ‘electro-magnetic crown’ of Dr Gérard Encausse, or the magnetised plaques of Henri Durville and others were means of obtaining a cure.  

Modern sorcerers had begun to make use of the recent invention of photography, with the traditional wax dummy (or ‘volt’ to use its technical term) being replaced by a photograph of the victim. A number of disappointed lovers had been known to tear the eyes out of an image of the beloved, although this practice had no kind of repercussion on the astral and thus had no physical effect. There was, nonetheless, a secret way to give a photograph an astral vitality, but was of no use to most sorcerers who, happily, were “more boasters than initiates, even when they modestly called themselves Magi”. Astral attacks by means of a photograph were possible, “but the method of defence was reserved to the Rose Cross Kabbalists who were invested with a mission to destroy such works by whatever means” – {if one assumes that such magi were indeed initiates rather than boasters!  Some of this is on a par with the Grimoire or recipe book of a country sorcerer muddled with that of a snake oil salesman. Not Papus at his best. G.K. }  

But then there came a radical change in the level and type of advice, and the assertion that it is better to rely on spiritual rather than occult means in dealing with such matters. For instance, after a lengthy description in the booklet of the making of magic mirrors with different metals according to planetary correspondences, largely taken from Paracelsus, comes the bald statement that better than all these practices, prayer is the sovereign guard against all ill doing. That if one has enemies capable of using astral forces one should pray for them and ask heaven to enlighten them and bring them to the right way. If one did not know who they were it was necessary to ask for their invisible protection rather than overwhelm them with hatred and curses, which was the common procedure of sorcery.  

Against all astral action Psalm 31 is particularly efficient. And the recitation of the Gospel of St. John a remarkable ritual in all actions of astral defence. Whilst the practice of charity was indispensible for avoiding all attack. Particularly personal acts of help to individuals rather than general donations to organisations.

All of which seems to stem from a banishing ritual by Papus himself that went wrong, and led to his association with a mystical thaumaturge, Maître Philippe, whom he referred to thereafter as his ‘spiritual master’ after first assuming him to be an occult enemy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


The Boullan affair

Despite its monolithic appearance the Roman Catholic church has never lacked for would-be  reformers, one of whom was the Abbé Roca responsible for the initial coming together of Stanislas de Guaita and Oswald Wirth. He was one of the more responsible ones, with a mission for a kind of Christian socialism that attained a small respectable following before being formally examined and rejected by the papal authorities.

Not that all such maverick theologians were as personable. In 1879 an unfrocked priest by the name of Boullan, who claimed to be a reincarnation of John the Baptist, had taken over a breakaway group in Châlons-sur-Marne. His mission was to renew the church by means of a novel approach to sex in the cosmic scheme of things, which he taught was dual – one ‘generational’ for animals and the common herd of humanity – and the other ‘inspirational’ and ‘sacramental’ for high adepts. This involved intimate relations with angels and saints, as well as each other, at first remotely by animal magnetism but leading on to sacramental physical encounters either before the altar or in bed.

In short, Boullan was a sexually obsessed fantasist eager to increase his circle. However, he picked the wrong man when, in August 1885, he approached Oswald Wirth as a likely “Fils du Ciel” or Son of Heaven. On discovering that the sage had served a three year prison term for embezzlement of a religious society’s funds, Wirth duly lured him into a sequence of self incriminating correspondence along with evidence of his preying upon the lonely and vulnerable.

Two years later, on their meeting, he showed the bulky dossier to Stanislas de Guaita, who was horrified and sought some way whereby Boullan might be stopped. The method chosen was somewhat convoluted. It was to send the self styled saint a formal warning from the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose Cross,  with the threat that if he did not mend his ways he would be dealt with by ‘exposure to the light’.

What they meant by “exposure to the light” was revelation to the public in the first volume of de Guaita’s planned trilogy, Le Serpent de la Genèse. But as this was not likely to be published until 1891 Boullan was told that, as an act of clemency, he was being allowed three years grace before suffering the threatened consequences. Dictated by Stanislas de Guaita to Oswald Wirth, and purportedly coming from an esoteric tribunal of high initiates, the lengthy letter concluded: Thus you stand condemned. But concerned with Christian charity rather than strict justice, the initiatory tribunal agrees to a period of grace. Thus the sentence will remain suspended over your head until the day when, by default of these most merciful arrangements, its application becomes inevitable...”.

It was confidently expected that this would inspire such fear in the pontiff as to bring about full contrition and conversion on his part.

This turned out to be a false hope, for the letter served only to exalt Boullan’s pride. He claimed, that jealous of his mystical powers, a powerful organisation of Parisian necromancers had declared war on him! But having God on his side, he braved all these threats. His enemies could mobilise all the legions of hell against him but he would defend himself with prayer and holy liturgical sacrifice, certain of victory.

Nonetheless the threat must have worried Boullan to some extent by reason of the alarming speculations of a female member of his group known as the holy mother Thibault, doubling as his housekeeper, who was accorded the status of a divine oracle. She claimed to be able to perceive the secret intentions of the Paris Rosicrucians, and saw them activating larvae on the astral plane each night that would come to assail Father Boullan, and although the fierce struggle might tire the worthy old man, criminally deprived of sleep, there was nothing to fear as he had command of heavenly legions.

Nor did the eventual publication of de Guaita’s book containing sixty pages condemning Boullan have the expected result upon him. He simply refused to accept the copy sent to him and warned his followers that it contained such malevolent poison that it could prove fatal to any who read it.

It was, however, eagerly devoured by the novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans, who wanted to describe Satanic worship in his next novel – La-Bàs (The Damned) – but knew nothing about the subject. What a godsend it was therefore to find a contemporary sorcerer anonymously described! (For rather than use Boullan's actual name, de Guaita had sarcastically referred to him throughout as 'the Baptist')

Discovering Boullan's identity (via Oswald Wirth) he sought more information from him, who, flattered at receiving a letter from a well known author, invited Huysmans to visit. Thereafter Huysmans took from Boullan whatever he was told, notwithstanding the fact that Boullan, convinced he was on the side of the angels, knew nothing of Satanic worship or the so-called Black Mass. What Huysmans received, and wrote up in his book, were in fact the fantasies of Mother Thibault.

The novel was eventually published in 1891, and achieved success as the first of a series describing  the moral quest of its hero, who, like the author himself, eventually finds salvation as an oblate in the Roman Catholic church. (The sequels are En Route (1895), La Cathédrale (1898) and l’Oblat 1903).

And so things might have rested had not, in January 1893, Father Boullan died!

Although his age and natural causes were quite sufficient to have carried him off, this seemed too much of an opportunity for a 23 year old graduate of literature by the name of Jules Bois. Fresh out of college, he was looking to make his way in journalism, specialising in the esoteric. He was at one point an acolyte of the veteran poet Catulle Mendès, who, it may be remembered, had first gifted Stanislas de Guaita with the works of Eliphas Levi.  

Huysman’s book enjoying great success, Jules Bois published an interview with the author in the national papers Le Figaro and Gils Blas, in the course of which it was suggested that the old priest from Châlons-sur-Marne had been threatened by Stanislas de Guaita and feared being killed by enchantment in a magical feud!

There was only one possible response to this in the eyes of Stanislas de Guatia, which was to challenge both author and journalist to a duel. Seconds were appointed, who called upon them both.
Huysmans, a middle aged civil servant, was naturally terrified on receiving the letter they bore:

To Monsieur J.-K Huysmans
Paris, 13th January 1893
Infamous and ridiculous gossip has been appearing about me in the press for several days, and you have been the propagator in the midst of it.
I call upon you to give satisfaction, not with occult weapons of this sorcery that you claim to fear and which I do not practise, but honestly with sword in hand.
This notice will be presented to you by my seconds whom you should put in touch with your own.
I have the honour, sir, to present my regards,
Stanislas de Guaita

 However, on the advice of Victor-Émile Michelet and Maurice Barrès, (de Guaita’s seconds, who were really a bit embarrassed by all this) Huysmans published a contrite apology and retraction that was duly accepted by de Guaita.

However, such was not the case with the young Jules Bois, who did not want to let a good story die, even if at some physical risk to himself. All of which suggests that he had no intention of apology or retraction and was determined to milk the situation for what it was worth. It was thus arranged that he should meet Stanislas de Guaita with pistols on 10th April and, (for some reason which remains obscure) Papus on 13th April with swords.

And as if this were not enough, there was the added spice of a suggestion of enchantments at a distance playing their part against him on his journey to each event.

At the first, on the way to meet Stanislas de Guaita, one of the horses in the equipage suddenly stopped and stood shivering for twenty minutes before it could be induced to continue. And in the second, three days later, against Papus, travelling by cab, the horse shied, upsetting the vehicle so that Bois arrived at the duelling ground some minutes late, bloodied and bruised. Nonetheless the duel went ahead, and he was easily wounded, twice in the forearm, by Papus, who was a skilled swordsman. It was thereupon agreed that honour had been satisfied and the two went off arm in arm, the greatest of friends. A not un-typical Papus scenario!

Neither participant was wounded in the pistol duel between Bois and de Guaita. Presumably both missed, either by incompetence or intention. One suspects that de Guaita would have deliberately missed, who although generally contemptuous of Bois, particularly as a writer, grudgingly acknowledged his courage in turning up for the affair.

In much of this, there is an ambience of someone trying to cast as much mystery over the proceedings as possible. Jules Bois would seem to be the likely candidate. He followed up  with writing a couple of occult interest books with a popular slant, L’au Dela et les Forces Inconnus (The Other World and Unknown Forces) and Le Satanisme et la Magie (Satanism and Magic), the first being paragraphs from newspaper columns to which he contributed.    

Ironically, Stanislas de Guaita came off worst in terms of reputation, and long remained the subject of rumours as to his magical activities, some of them bordering on the ridiculous, such as the tale of a familiar spirit kept in a cupboard in his apartments in the avenue Trudaine, a demon that was let out to execute at a distance sentences of death. The prison of this redoubtable entity did actually exist and, de Guaita remaining a keen amateur chemist, was no more esoteric than a fume cupboard and depository for dangerous chemicals. For safety’s sake his old domestic servant was warned of catastrophe if she risked opening it, which frightened the old countrywoman into believing the cupboard to be haunted, a line of gossip eagerly taken up by the press and casual visitors.  

The sequence of events may also have played a part in the transformation of the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose Cross, perhaps rather too high minded for its own good as an esoteric fraternity, taking on a more academic function, and awarding degrees at Bachelor, Master and Doctorate levels in Kabbalistic and associated studies. There was no shortage of other initiatory bodies to join.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


Oswald Wirth, Stanislas de Guaita and animal magnetism

When François Jollivet Castelot was initiated into the Martinist Order, one of those to whom he was introduced was Oswald Wirth, a German Swiss, who, as companion and secretary to Stanislas de Guaita, played an important role on the Parisian esoteric scene.  Born and brought up in the German speaking part of Switzerland he had begun his occult studies early, back in 1873 at the age of 13.

These beginnings were modest, stimulated by reading an article, Der Wunderdoktor, in a popular journal, that described how cures had been obtained by the use of willpower and  ‘animal magnetism’. Thinking there might be something in it, when he found a friend suffering from a troublesome insect bite he offered to try to cure it. Kneeling face to face on the grass, he took the boy’s hands in his own and instructed him to look into his eyes whilst strongly wishing to be healed. Then freeing one hand to stroke the sensitive spot for a couple of minutes the itching was reduced, the bite looked less inflamed, and his friend said he felt is if some force had passed into him.

Whatever the truth of the matter, all were impressed. Another boy declared himself cured of a headache, and others with minor ailments over the next few days confirmed this early success. But the situation did not last and failures began to occur as well. So fearing he might be using up reserves of his energy he gave up further experiment.

Then at the age of twenty he came across the Société magnétique de France which practised a system of animal magnetism developed by Jules-Denis, Baron du Potet de Sennevoy (1796-1881).  Du Potet was one of the most successful 19th century practitioners, whose career had begun in spectacular fashion when, as a medical student in 1820,  he took up  a challenge issued by the head of the Hotel-Dieu hospital to effect a cure by animal magnetism.

A young woman was brought in on a stretcher, reduced to a state of exhaustion by constant vomiting, was ‘magnetised’ by du Potet, and after about twenty minutes the vomiting stopped. The doctors were still not convinced but agreed to further experiment and four weeks later, after several more treatments, she showed appreciable improvement and was able to be discharged. [Théories et procédés du Magnétisme – Hector Durville,  5th edition, pp129-180. ]

Those who believed in the existence of animal magnetism considered it to come from two different causes, one material and the other mental. Most favoured an unseen fluid transmitted under direction of the will, whilst others claimed that all was achieved through action of the mind. Du Potet, tried to reconcile these two positions, leaning towards a material explanation at the beginning of his career but later placing more importance upon the action of the mind. Which is rather how attitudes generally changed over the century from Mesmerism through to Hypnosis.

Whatever de Potet’s theories, he seems to have been a remarkably gifted practitioner, with a high degree of medical intuition and instinct for diagnosis and prognosis. As far as he was concerned, magnetism was a fact of nature, long misunderstood, which ought by now to be generally accepted and he was ready to take on any doctor or clergyman in defence of it. He wrote a major work on magnetic therapy and twenty volumes of a Journal of Magnetism, was a great advocate of the somnambulistic state and the remarkable faculties sometimes developed under it. Indeed, much the same as Papus as an extern at La Charité hospital sought with Dr Luys and Stanislas de Guaita with Dr Antoine Liebault at Nancy.

But before Oswald Wirth was able to take up with de Potet’s society, he had, for personal reasons, to spend some time in England and was recommended to seek personal tuition from Adolphe Didier, a successful practitioner in London. Didier claimed to be sensitive to animal magnetism and liked to demonstrate this by leaving a visitor in his library with instructions to select a book, hold it for half a minute and then replace it. On his return, moving his hand in front of the shelves, with eyes closed, he would pick out the chosen volume. He taught that whilst it was not possible to see the current of force, that is what it was and could be felt at the end of one’s fingers. The sensation was very faint but could be developed by practice.

On Oswald Wirth’s return to France, the army allowed him, during his national service, to practise as a magnetic healer throughout  the regiment and with the local civilian community, although this led to an unfortunate but instructive experience. A volunteer claimed that he would like to experience being magnetically entranced but had so far found no one able to put him under. Wirth was challenged to try. Whilst far from claiming to be an expert he made the attempt but with no signs of success, eventually gave up.

Nonetheless, he ought to have gone through a process of ‘demagnetising’ the subject, but convinced that he had failed to make any impression whatever upon him, did not bother to do so. Three months later he heard some disquieting news. After he had left, the subject had become passive and fallen into a deep sleep that lasted for almost twenty four hours, including bouts of delirium. Those about him lost their heads and did not dream of notifying Wirth, terrified of assumed devilry.  The man never recovered his mental equilibrium and some regarded Wirth’s experiment as responsible for his death, which eventually was due to alcoholism. Whatever the truth of the matter,Wirth realised how dangerous the practice could be and determined never to perform any demonstrations simply to convince the curious.

He continued to practise however in what he felt was a responsible way, which led him to stumble upon a prophetic element in the entranced mind, forecasting his meeting with Stanislas de Guaita.

At the beginning of 1887 he was practising curative magnetism on a woman patient and, with her course of treatment almost complete, she was running through subjective impressions in a relatively routine way. When suddenly she startled them both with a vivid vision, and announced she saw a very important letter coming for him, with a red seal and coat of arms.

He asked from whom it was likely to be.

She described a young man of his age, not quite so tall, fair haired and with blue eyes; who was very knowledgeable and interested in much the same things.  

He asked when the letter would arrive.

She replied, very soon, within a couple of weeks.

Wirth waited without any great expectations, having heard too many trance predictions to place much reliance upon them, and after some weeks had almost forgotten the incident.  Then one day a letter sealed in red with a coat of arms duly arrived.

Good Friday, 7 p.m.

Sir, my good friend Canon Roca has spoken about you in terms that cause me to wish to meet you. If you would like to call tomorrow, Saturday, at 6 o’clock, we could dine informally, giving  me the opportunity to make your acquaintance.

 Stanislas de Guaita, 24, rue de Pigalle.

One must say, that whilst the timing of the predicted receipt of the letter was somewhat wide of the mark, one feels quite amazed at the speed and apparently reliability of the French postal service in those days! Another surprising effect is that the letter, with its red armorial seal of the Guaita family, had been described weeks before it physically existed!

Wirth was surprised in his turn to find Stanislas de Guaita as had been predicted, physically and mentally and close to his own age. The two got on extremely well. His host immediately put him at ease by talking about curative magnetism and revealing that he had been investigating the matter himself in conjunction with a Dr Antoine Liébault during the previous year, in which an entranced subject had been shown able to answer questions put  telepathically.

This was the beginning of a close association between the two young men which lasted for the ten remaining years of de Guaita’s short life. A relationship that had a very wide remit, including helping Wirth to master the French language as well as act as companion and secretary; and utilising his interest in symbolism and talent for drawing.   

Wirth had been a Freemason for some five years, fascinated with the possible esoteric significance of its symbolism. A fact that seemed lost or was even strenuously denied by many in French Masonry as Papus and Eliphas Levi pointed out.

Ironically, Wirth was quite familiar with the Tarot, having played it as a card game back home in Switzerland, but had never realised its esoteric implications!

As a skilled draughtsman, encouraged and informed by de Guaita’s formidable erudition, he  produced a set of designs of the Tarot Trumps, emphasising their possible esoteric significance. These first appeared as illustrations to the first edition of Papus’ Tarot de Bohèmiens, although replaced in later editions for reasons that remain obscure by a set called Le Tarot de Papus credited to a Gabriel Goulinat. Wirth’s designs still appear however in reprints of the English translation of the book, and over the years various designs of his appeared with a Germanic kind of formality that is not to everyone’s taste, and his interests tending to concentrate upon freemasonry and astrology rather than the magic of the de Guaita years. He outlived most of his contemporaries, born in 1860 and passing on at the age of 83 in 1943 as compared with Stanislas de Guaita (1860-1897),  Papus (1865-1916),  Joséphin Péledan (1858-1918),  Marc Haven (1868-1926),  Paul Sédir (1871-1926).