The name “Barlet” crops up in many places in Parisian esoteric circles during the Papus period, and is the pseudonym for Albert Faucheux (1838-1921) – derived from an anagram of his Christian name. He had been a civil servant before his retirement, a registrar of births, marriages and deaths at Boulogne sur Mer and later at Abbeville, after which he seems to have maintained a toe hold in Paris in a tiny apartment down by the river. A modest and reclusive figure, dedicated and knowledgeable, never known to refuse a service to anyone, he was welcome as a senior member of esoteric groups of the time. Not only the Martinists and Rosicrucians but as a local representative for foreign organisations, such as the Anglo-American H.B.L. (Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor), who welcomed his reputation for a squeaky clean respectability.
His name is found at the head of a number of articles in magazines or books of the period, particularly on astrology but not exclusively so, as for example 25 pages of ‘Notes on the Astral’ in the middle of Papus’ Traité Éleméntaire de Science Occulte. Michelet, as a dedicated gentleman of letters, considered Barlet’s style hardly an easy read, (and regretfully we would not quarrel with that) but the young Papus was obviously grateful, calling the notes remarkable extracts from a longer piece that he had published before in early issues of his journal l’Initiation.
When it came to knowledge and wisdom, it is not difficult to rank Barlet alongside the likes of Saint Yves d’Alveydre, although completely different characters in temperament and social background. Barlet was certainly more modest and approachable. “Please,” he was heard to say to one enquirer, “Do not call me ‘master’ – I am just an old student.” And it was thought that, probably because of his innate modesty, he had never bothered to record his studies in any collected and systematic way, apart from a rumoured and unpublished work on the Zodiac and Planetary Spirits.
Michelet, who met most leading occultists of his time, thought highly of him, and reckoned that Barlet was not only familiar with all myths and legends but had the ability to draw out their deeper significance, “rather like reducing fractions to a common denominator”. And even to verge on the prophetic, as he records a meeting with him in the middle of Paris in first days of July 1918.
It was easy to remember the date, for the situation was extremely worrying, as the populace expected the imminent bombardment of the city following the final desperate advance of the German army.
“Well,” he asked Barlet, “have you looked at the way things are going and worked them out?”
“Yes,” the old initiate replied, “the aspects are very good. Venus, who is our protector, is entering a favourable position. The second fortnight in July will be good for us and mark the point of the beginning of success. In August the situation will be better and in September even better, and in October better still. I see the end of the war before the end of the year.”
As we know, this came in November 1918.
“There is one point though,” he added, “on which I am doubtful: Russia. Instead of finding guidance on that, I found myself concerned with Nicolas II and the death of the Tsar.” (Who, in fact, with his family, had already been murdered although nobody in the west yet knew it.)
For an hour, Barlet elaborated on astrological concordances with physical events on the planet, and that day, after he left Barlet, Michelet felt convinced of the favourable process of events.
One regret bothered him though: it was that most of the knowledge and wisdom possessed by Barlet would never be presented in a coherent body of work, but simply scattered in occasional articles or conversations.
Which caused him to reflect that, although there are some people too busy teaching to be able to learn very much, Barlet was too concerned with learning to find time to teach!
A problem for actual or aspiring initiates everywhere?