Sunday, November 06, 2016


Maïtre Philippe and the Tsar of Russia

On his initial visit to Russia Papus referred in glowing terms to his own “spiritual master” but without saying who it was. However, somewhat to mutual embarrassment, it was revealed by a local Martinist and not long before a couple of aristocratic ladies of the Court made it their business to call on Maïtre Philippe down in Lyons. They in turn were considerably impressed by his powers, which led to him receiving, at the end of 1900, an invitation from Grand-Duke Vladimir to visit Russia.  

He stayed on for two months and gained such a reputation that on his departure the Tsar, who must have felt a bit upstaged, let it be known that he and the Tsarina wished to meet M. Philippe themselves on their forthcoming state visit to France.

This was all highly irregular, but the Tsar could not be gainsaid, and on the official visit, in September 1901, a private meeting was arranged between the three of them in the grounds of the ancient palace of Compiègne, north of Paris, under the tightest security, in the far off presence, at a very respectful distance, of a small number of security guards.

Such was the impression Philippe made on the royal couple that they invited him to visit Russia again, this time as their personal guest. In view of his extraordinary powers, it is not surprising that within a very short time, his influence over the ruling family was becoming such that that no important decision could be taken without consulting him.

His ability to effect some amazing cures led the Tsar to ask why he was not recognised as a qualified doctor of medicine in France, and insisting that he should become one. This caused considerable embarrassment in French official circles, where he was considered to be some kind of dangerous political adventurer. From the 1880’s  his powers  had brought him in touch with other foreign courts and their aristocracy, including the Bey of Tunis; the Sultan of Turkey; Kaiser Wilhelm, King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany; Franz-Josef, Emperor of Austria; Leopold, King of the Belgians; Edward, Prince of Wales; the royal families of Italy and Montenegro, and even Pope Leo XIII whom Philippe urged to sell some of the Church’s treasures in aid of the poor, and melt down the gold statues hoarded in the Vatican cellars.

In the end the Tsar insisted he be recognised as a doctor of medicine in Russia, with a practical examination to show that his elevation was not merely a result of the Tsar’s whim. Part of the examination involved diagnosing half a dozen difficult hospital cases, which he not only did with accuracy but brought about cures for them as well! As a result he was given an important position in public health, with the rank of general – all official positions in Tsarist Russia carrying a military rank in those days. And no doubt the uniform rivalled that of Head of the Fire Brigade at Arbresle even if the latter did include a ceremonial sword!

He was loaded with gifts by the Tsar, including a couple of new fangled horseless carriages, one of which he drove occasionally, of which there exists a charming photograph – an open three wheeler, like a cross between a motorcycle and an invalid carriage, with the driver at the rear and two passengers, side by side, at the front.

Although the other vehicle was so grand that it was quite useless, being on the scale of a six seater presidential limousine, suitable only for great occasions of state. It was last heard of as unsalable in an auctioneer’s warehouse. His favourite gift from Russia however looks to have been an enormous sheep dog – standing on its hind legs it is fully his own height. {This along with about 80 other pictures of the time appear in a souvenir album Monsieur Philippe de Lyon 1905-2005 compiled by Philippe Collin for Editions Le Mercure Dauphinois, Grenoble. And well worth the price, currently 17 Euros, even if you don’t read French.}