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.}

Sunday, October 30, 2016


Papus and the Russian court

When the Tsar and Tsarina of Russia paid a state visit to France in 1896 Papus seized the opportunity to present them with a message of welcome and self introduction, encouraged by the fact that there had ever been a keen interest in mystical traditions by the Romanov family throughout the 19th century, ranging from Martinism with Alexander I, through astrology with Alexander II, and spiritualism with Alexander III. Not forgetting Nicolas I’s patronage (for a time) of the legendary Wronski. The present Tsar had more intimate and immediate problems, including the need to produce a son and heir and to cope with a budding revolution, which led him to cultivate in turn Papus, Maïtre Philippe, and finally, in desperation,  the ‘mad monk’ Rasputin. 

The tone of Papus’ letter (too tedious to quote) can be judged by the concluding two paragraphs:  

 “It is because your Majesty rules a Western Empire, most truly religious and closest to the ways of Providence, that we salute his arrival to the land of France, which itself, amongst other interventions of Divine Providence, has merited Charles Martel, who began the work that Holy Russia is called upon to conclude, and Joan of Arc, who re-established our Country in the name of Heaven.

“May your Majesty deign benevolently to accept our welcome and may his Empire be immortalised  by total union with divine Providence. Such is the dearest wish of those who pray your Majesty to accept our homage and deepest respect.

Director of  ‘Initiation’ – Gérard ENCAUSSE (Papus) Doctor of Medicine of the Faculty of Paris, President of the Independent Group of Esoteric Studies, President of the Supreme Council of the Martinist Order, Delegate General of the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose Cross.  

Papus certainly knew how to lay it on!  And accompanied his message with presentation copies of l’Initiation; le Voile d’Isis; la Paix Universelle; l’Hyperchimie; Le Journal du Magnétisme; La Chaine Magnétique; Le Progrès spirite; Le Groupe indépendant d’études ésoteriques; L’Ordre Martiniste; L’École secondaire de Massage de Lyon.

And it brought its fruits.  Helped by the influence of some Russian Martinists he was presented to Nicolas II in 1901 by the Tsar’s uncle, Grand Duke Nicolas, on the first of three visits to Russia, in 1901, 1905 and 1906. And until his death he remained in touch with the imperial family and the Court.

As President of the Supreme Council of his own Ordre Martiniste he founded a lodge at St Petersbourg of high dignitaries, of which the Tsar himself was probably President. Papus became greatly esteemed by members of the royal family, who gave him many presents, and even published a Russian language edition of his Traité élémentaire de Science occulte.

Indeed such was his prestige that the French ambassador to Russia, Maurice Paléologue, revealed in his memoirs an intriguing situation that almost beggars belief.  

At the beginning of October, 1905, Papus was called to St Petersbourg by some of his highly placed supporters, who begged him to throw some light on a serious political situation. Military setbacks in Manchuria (possibly including sending truckloads icons to troops instead of weapons) had provoked civil unrest in many parts. The Tsar lived in a state of anxiety, harassed by conflicting and passionate advice from family, ministers, dignitaries, generals, and unable to choose between them. Some declared he had no right to renounce his ancient ancestral powers and must rigorously defend the status quo. Others urged him to recognise that the time had come to introduce a new constitution.

The very day that Papus arrived in St Petersbourg, terror spread in Moscow where a revolutionary syndicate proclaimed a general strike on the railways. (Film buffs may also recall events on the Odessa steps and at sea in Griffith’s early classic Battleship Potemkin.)

Papus was immediately summoned to the imperial palace at Tsarskoie-Sélo where, after a hurried consultation with the Emperor and Empress he set up a magical ritual for the next day. Apart from the royal couple no one else was present, apart from a young aide de camp,  an army captain who later became governor of Tiflis. Allegedly by intense concentration of willpower and magnetic exaltation Papus was able to evoke the spirit of Alexander III, a keen spiritualist and father of the present Tsar.

Despite the fear that seized him in addressing this invisible being, Nicolas II asked his late father how he should deal with the new current of liberalism that menaced Russia.

The reply was unequivocal: “Whatever the cost, you must crush this present Revolution, even though it will rise again one day, more violent than its repression today must be. No matter! Take courage, my son! Do not give up the fight!”

While the royal couple tried to take on board this fearsome prediction Papus assured them that by his magical powers he could put off the predicted catastrophe as long as he remained ‘on the physical plane.’ He then performed the necessary rites.

As things turned out, Papus died at the end of October 1916 and the 1917 Revolution, that ultimately saw the end of the old Russia, broke out within three months. One can play about with various dates concerning all of this if one likes to play such mind games; it is made rather more numerologicaly complex by the fact that Russia still used the old Julian calendar, so all recorded dates of the period are 13 days behind the rest of the world.

At a more personal, perhaps cynical, level one might even consider Papus’ prediction to have been a form of insurance policy for his own safety, for along with Maïtre Philippe, he came under the close and hostile attention of both Russian and French secret police, who had no understanding of what this magical stuff was all about, and suspected the worst. After all, the Elizabethan magus Dr John Dee had had a reputation for combining occultism with espionage. And one hesitates to think what a combination of Harry Potter and James Bond might be like!

At another level, the wisdom of the advice of the deceased Alexander III might be questioned, if its first result was ‘Bloody Sunday’, on 9th January 1905 (old style), when a peaceful demonstration that tried to present a deputation to the palace was fired upon by the Imperial Guard, resulting in a thousand casualties, including two hundred deaths.

The event became of huge symbolic significance in that it was in commemoration of ‘Bloody Sunday’ that, twelve years later, the 1917 Revolution broke out that finally put paid to the Tsarist regime, with the murder of the Tsar and Tsarina and their four children a year later.


Friday, October 21, 2016



Stanislas de Guaita  and Spiritualism

 Following his reservations about the use of animal magnetism and hypnosis Stanislas de Guaita turned his attention to Spiritualism, which is more logically called Spiritism in France. With his somewhat jaundiced aristocratic eye he considered its contacts to be, at best  primitive and useless,  and at worst parasitic and harmful. This despite its following by some respected writers such as Allan Kardec and the distinguished astronomer  Camille Flammarion.

He did not deny that it was possible to establish relations with superior intelligences, but believed that such contacts could be safely pursued only in a hierarchical context, using procedures that only initiation could confer, and that the problem with spiritualists was that they lacked reliable discernment of the identity and nature of their contacts.

Contemporary popular spiritualism caught the public imagination in America in 1848 and by 1853 had successfully crossed the Atlantic. Not that there was anything particularly new about it, he said. It had been practised in various forms in ancient times, as in Chinese ancestor worship, and even in the classical period – mensae divinatoriae, (divinatory tables)were mentioned by Tertullian.

Once established in Europe it was not long before phenomena became increasingly sensational. Tables not only tilted under the impress of hands but moved without physical contact. Other objects, from chairs to musical instruments, soon joined in the show. And when all this began to seem commonplace there was further diversion into self writing pencils and chalks, luminous hands and eventually complete phantoms.

The common denominator in all of this was the presence of a medium, one who could act as a link between the planes, as a consequence – in Stanislas de Guaita’s view – of a pathological condition, an incontinence of vitality that energised the phenomena.

Disembodied hands appeared, which might be luminous or flesh coloured, their shape clearly seen but becoming cloudy around the area of the wrist. They were palpable, and those who touched them described them as being like skin gloves filled with warm air. No bones could be felt, and if they were firmly grasped they became a vague mass of problematic substance that gave way under further pressure.

That these exteriorisations emanated from the medium was suggested by the fact that the more they increased, the more depleted the medium became. To the point that if, to replenish a sudden loss of nervous force, the medium grasped the hands of another, (preferably a young person in good health), the one so seized would experience a sensation of languor, perhaps accompanied by shivering, when in contact with the parlour vampire.

The room temperature might also drop by several degrees and cold draughts blow at the precise moment that any major phenomena  took place.

There was also the phenomenon of ‘repercussion’. If any apparition was struck by a physical object, the medium might physically suffer a counterpart of the injury.

De Guaita cites the case of a public séance in New York recounted to him by an eye witness, when a spectator drew a hand gun and shot a phantom. There was an immediately cry of distress from the medium, who fell unconscious to the floor, chest marked with a deep bruise, and who afterwards lay between life and death for more than a month. Yet he had not been struck by the bullet, which was found in the wall opposite to where he had been located.

This could be likened to the case of the shepherd Thorel, whose face was covered in scratches from the sword blows struck the day before on his astral form. And on another occasion when two slugs from a small calibre pistol for shooting sparrows had been fired by the curé Tirel in the direction of a ghostly commotion, the young boy who was the only one able to see the astral form of the shepherd, declared it had been struck twice in the face. And two equivalent bruises  were indeed later to be seen on Thorel’s physical face.

Stanislas de Guaita goes on to point out that there are mediums of different kinds apart from  materialising ones and in particular cites those he describes as ‘incarnatory’ mediums, who offer up their bodies for other beings to take over. He has, he says, witnessed strange and stupefying scenes, when, in a few seconds the medium was transformed in posture, voice, looks, and gestures, in a sudden metamorphosis of the whole person.

His graphic account suggests that he himself was the amazed witness on such an occasion, leaving  him to wonder if he had been deceived by some inner impersonator, whether human, elemental or larval, when this equivocal being, using him as a kind of  ‘psychic mirror’, had reflected the image of his friend stored in the depths of his memory. That is to say, reflecting the contents of his own soul back to him!

There is room for endless speculation in all of this, but it seems likely that some form of telepathic communication plays a part. In my own experience, such an explanation cannot be discounted in any form of psychism – with the pooled consciousness of all participants forming a kind of group mind that can tap into individual and group memories or assumptions.

After beginning to drift into speculations on the possible abuse of psychical contacts, each seedier than the last, Stanislas de Guaita suddenly breaks off to conclude with an account of an experiment in telepathic communication.

STATEMENT relating three instances of MENTAL SUGGESTION obtained by Messieurs  Liébeault (Antoine) and de Guaita (Stanislas) at the residence of Dr. Liébeault, 4, rue de Bellevue (Nancy).

We, the undersigned, Liébeault (Antoine), doctor of medicine, and de Guaita (Stanislas) man of letters, both currently living at Nancy, attest and certify having obtained the results that follow.

Mlle Louise L..., put into a magnetic sleep, was informed that she would have to reply to a question put to her mentally without the use of any word or sign.

Dr. Liébeault, his hand pressed to the forehead of the subject, collected his thoughts for an instant, concentrating his attention on the question:- “When will you be cured?” which was his intention. The lips of the somnambule suddenly moved: “Soon”, she murmured distinctly.

She was then asked to repeat, before all persons present, the question she had intuitively perceived. She repeated it, in the same words that the question had been formulated in the mind of the experimenter.

This first experiment, undertaken by Dr. Liébeault at the instigation of Mr. De Guaita, was thus plainly successful. A second test gave less rigorous results, but perhaps more curious.

Mr. de Guaita, being put in rapport with the magnetised, mentally posed another question:- “Will you come back next week?” “Perhaps,” was the subject’s reply; but invited to tell everyone present what the mental question was, replied “You asked me if you would come back next week.”

This confusion, over a word in the sentence, is very significant, it seems, in that the young lady had erred through reading the mind of the magnetiser.

So that no indicative phrase be pronounced, even in a low voice, Dr. Liébeault wrote on a piece of paper: - “Mademoiselle, on waking, see your black hat changed into a red one.”

The note was passed in advance to all witnesses, then Messrs. Liébeault and de Guaita, in silence, placed a hand on the forehead of the subject while mentally formulating the agreed sentence. Then the young lady, told that she would see something unusual in the room, was awakened.

Without hesitation she looked at her hat and with a great burst of laughter cried “That’s not my hat,” and did not want it. It had just the same shape, but the situation became rather embarrassing, as it was necessary she take her own...

But at last, “What do you think is different about it?”

“You know very well. You’ve got eyes as well as me!”

“But what?”

It was a long time before she agreed to say what was different about her hat.

“You are teasing me...”

Pressed with more questions she finally said,: “You can see very well that it‘s red!”

As she still refused to take it, to put an end to the hallucination, they persuaded her that it would return to its original colour. The doctor blew on it, and in her eyes it became her own again, and she agreed to take it.

These are the facts that we certify have obtained together, in confirmation of which we have signed the present statement.

Dr. A.A.Liébeault – Stanislas de Guaita – Nancy, June 9th 1886.

It goes without saying, added Stanislas, that Dr Liébeault, extremely sceptical on the matter of thought transference, did not agree on the success of any other experiment.   

Monday, October 10, 2016


Stanislas de Guaita – on the use and abuse of animal magnetism.

In the second volume of his Serpent of Genesis, Stanislas de Guaita reports the strange court case of a priest being sued by a magician for physically attacking him. It was heard at the beginning of 1851 before a magistrate at Yerville (Seine-Inférieure) in which a shepherd named Thorel sought damages from the curé of Cideville.

 The origin of the dispute concerned a village sorcerer, referred to as G**, renowned  for the practice of occult healing, but who liked to treat his clients in the cemetery of the local church. When the abbé Tirel, the curé, attempted to stop this practice G** threatened him with vengeance so violently  that he was duly imprisoned.

The events described were sworn under oath by a score of witnesses, including the Marquis de Mirville, a recognised expert in these matters and author of Des Ésprits et de leurs manifestations fluidique, (Spirits and their fluidic manifestations).

Two young boys of twelve and fourteen, studying for the priesthood, were being brought up in the presbytery of Cideville by the curé. And it was upon these two that the vengeful fury of G** fell, through the action of one of his acolytes, the shepherd Thorel, who established a fluidic link with the younger boy by approaching him at a local sale. Thereafter, a storm of phenomena descended on the presbytery, which was shaken to its foundations by knocks within the walls, on many occasions lasting for hours, and attracting hundreds of curious visitors.

Then the mysterious agent began to show a form of intelligence by means of a dialogue of knocks: one knock for yes, two for no, and several knocks corresponding to the letters of the alphabet.  Thanks to this procedure the Devil – for so Monsieur de Mirville chose to call it – replied with infallible correctness regarding the name, age, place of domicile, and social standing  of a number of visitors who were unknown locally. Was ever a demon so obliging?

Then inert objects began to dance – tables to turn, chairs to walk through the rooms, and knives, brushes, and breviaries to fly out of one window and back through another. Windows flew open, heavy furniture rose up and remained suspended. A large desk covered in books threw itself at one distinguished visitor but abruptly stopped within a few millimetres of his forehead before dropping at his feet as lightly as a feather. All these things were witnessed and confirmed by a growing number of reliable witnesses.

Meanwhile the boy that Thorel had touched began to see an unknown shadow behind him dressed in a peasant’s smock. And some days later, on being shown Thorel, he cried without hesitation “That’s the man!”

One of the priests saw a column of grey vapour moving and undulating behind the obsessed child and several others also saw this serpent like vapour alternately condensing and dilating before disappearing, whistling, through cracks in the door.

The child was terrified into a state of nerves that developed into convulsions, causing great anxiety, and one day saw a black hairy hand come out of the fireplace – whilst all heard the sound of heavy breathing. The child cried out – and all were astonished to see the imprint of five fingers, perfectly marked, on his cheek. Meanwhile the child ran outside in the vain hope of seeing the hand, which had disappeared back up the chimney, come out of the smoke stack on the roof!

Then one of the ecclesiastics who lived at the presbytery put forward a daring proposal.  He confessed to once having read a book on sorcery that said that invisible beings feared sword points.  So why not try that?

No sooner said than done, and after several unsuccessful attempts (the magical agent was quite adept at hiding itself!) it produced an incident of great importance. They were on the point of giving up when a last thrust of a sword point  brought a flash of crackling flame accompanied by a high pitched whistling. A white smoke spread everywhere, so thick and foetid that they had to open the windows to clear it.

This unexpected result gave them confidence in this duel with the invisible, and the experiment was repeated with good results. Suddenly a word resounded through the room, weakly, but distinctly articulated.

It said “Pardon”; clearly heard by all.

They lay down their swords to continue the dialogue. “Pardon?” they replied, “ yes certainly we will pardon you, and better than that: we will spend the night in prayer to ask God to pardon you as well...but on one condition, that tomorrow, whoever you are, you come to ask pardon from this child.”

“You will pardon us all?”

“How many are you?”

“Five, including the shepherd.”

“We pardon you all.” 

As soon as this was said all phenomena ceased! They returned to the presbytery in silence, and prayed on their knees until dawn.

In the afternoon a man presented himself at the presbytery. It was Thorel, his eyes downcast, and in an apparently contrite attitude. His face, which he failed to conceal under his cap, was covered with scratches, bleeding in several places.

“That’s the man!” cried the child, beginning to tremble.

Asked by the curé why he had come Thorel replied that his master had sent him in order to find a little organ.

“No, Thorel, you came for something else....And how did you get all those scratches?”

The shepherd tried to evade the question.

The abbé Tinel continued “Be honest! You have come to ask pardon of this child. That is why you are here. On your knees, Thorel!”

“Oh well... Pardon! Yes...pardon!” the creature cried, falling on his knees before the child, on whom he put his hands, at which the state of the poor child became worse and doubled in intensity.

A second confrontation took place later, in the town hall, between the priest and the shepherd, who, before several witnesses, fell on his knees as before, saying “Pardon, I ask your pardon,”  but this time it was towards the curé that he crawled.

“For what do you ask pardon, Thorel? Explain yourself!”

However, Thorel continued to advance, and reached out to grab the priest’s cassock.

“Do not touch me, or in Heaven’s name I will strike you!”

It was then that the curé of Cideville rushed forward and struck the sorcerer three times with a stick, which became the basis of the court case for physical assault.

The justice of the peace at Yerville was stupefied, never have come upon such allegations before. His summing up, although quite vague and obscure, at least acknowledged the unanimity of the witnesses. The case against the curé was dismissed  and Thorel was ordered to pay costs.

For Stanislas de Guaita, a sorcerer could be defined as one who puts occult forces of nature to work for malevolent purposes, as demonstrated in such a graphic way in the above account, which has been considerably shortened in Stanislas de Guaita’s account, who in keeping with his high principles asks if any use of animal magnetism could fall under this definition?

 For what is it but the subjection of a thinking being to the will of another – or the annihilation of their free will? That a state of magnetic subjection (which would include hypnosis) is nothing but the temporary alienation of a being originally free but now possessed. Such possession is more or less despotic and more or less durable, and in de Guaita’s view stems from the imposition of a vampiric and parasitic existence (or daimon) over the personality of the subject.

 If the suggestion is limited to constraining the subject in a precise way to accomplish an isolated fact, the daimon remains potential until the required hour and perishes at a stroke when its power has passed into action. But if the suggestion is prolonged with a view to determining a series of similar acts, often at long intervals, the daimon that forms the living substratum of these acts stretches into the future, that is to say takes hold of the subject and forms the latent life of these actions, necessarily to come.

Is this, one wonders, a reason for Maïtre Philippe’s reluctance to endorse the normal run of magnetic healing – claiming his own to be of a superior kind?  Divinely inspired rather than psychologically based. Even if the result sought seems beneficial – giving up smoking or some other addiction by these means for example?   

Tuesday, October 04, 2016


How to become an alchemist

François Jollivet Castelot, (whom we have met before {in SH16} being initiated by Papus into the Martinist Order), published a book in 1897 called Comment on devient alchemiste: traité d’hermétism et d’art spagyrique (How to become an alchemist: treatise on hermeticism and the spagyric art). The  spagyric art according to the book concerns alchemical principles applied to the vegetable rather than the mineral world. On the title page we learn that the author is Secretary General of l’Association Alchimique de France and editor of the magazine L’Hyperchimie as well as being Special Delegate to the Supreme Council of the Martinist Order.

 Papus provides a lengthy Preface welcoming this pioneering work, claiming that Science once had a metaphysical side, recognising a Spirit and a Soul behind the Physical. So alchemy was as much a religious as an intellectual pursuit, with the Oratory playing as important a part as the Laboratory. A fact incomprehensible to those who think that alchemy is simply the first childish babblings of an adult modern chemistry.

In older times Nature was studied in its aspects of Body, Life and Spirit, united in one unique science. The study of the Body of Nature taught the laws of universal organisation, social as well as natural. The study of the Life side of Nature brought understanding of the laws of transformation,  such as crude ore into refined metals and wild flora and fauna into cultivated species. And study of the Spirit inspired knowledge of the laws of creation and the power, not only to transform, but to create.

During the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries a reaction developed whereby the metaphysical part (Soul and Spirit) was rejected and only the physical remained, a post mortem on the corpse of Nature.

Then Papus makes a startling claim! That he received an alchemical initiation in July 1883.  Startling because he would have been only 18 years old at the time, just a year after his  private initiation into Martinism. Did this come from a fellow Martinist? Who knows? However, he considers it sufficiently important to quote in full a document concerning it, our translation of which runs as follows.


You desire to know our faith; and wish to become one of us. Our door is not closed but is open to all who know how to enter the temple. We have no priests, and you can arrive at the faith on your own, with the help of an adept whose duty is limited to showing you the way. You must pursue it alone after that.

Hear ye!

You know nothing and you want to learn. Why? You are discontented and want to be happy, thinking that science will bring the happiness you desire; you think that by work you can overcome the ennui that oppresses you.

Hear ye!

All that is true. You could be happy; but you should not think that Science, the true Science, will make you happy through money. Nor should you come to us if you seek a knowledge that will bring you honours.

If you count on Science to ‘arrive’ – go to the University Faculties. There you will learn all that is needed to be many things if you work at it. By that you may achieve respect, but never  happiness. Jealousy, ambition will overcome you and you will pass your life in continual irritation, not knowing who or what opposes you.

You will suffer as much as can be suffered in your spirit by what you teach. For if you are independent you will feel that what they make you say is wrong. Or if you are submissive you will find that after gaining the highest honours you are as discontented as before, starved of the happiness you sought. You may try again, but being old and lost in the maze of modern Science, you will always feel, regarding Nature, that you lack something.

Hear ye!

The true adept must be independent.

Alchemy will not make you a physical fortune. It will give you a more lasting one, a spiritual fortune, that misfortune cannot weaken.

Whatever you suffer, you will be happier than any savant, eaten up with jealousy or pride; or  the wealthy, eaten up by boredom. Boredom, ambition and pride will fly far from you, and through that you will be superior to all men.

If you are not wealthy, you will live by working, but will never reveal the secrets you have found. Each day will bring another load of intellectual riches, and your work will seem easier each day.

Soon you will come to work less for men and more for Faith, and your tastes will be quite modest in a happiness that contents you with little.

Do not think that my words are without foundation. In support of what I say I can cite the example of more than two thousand of our own who have lived peacefully and modestly in the midst of the cruellest wars in the most turbulent centuries, and always good fortune smiled upon them. When, come to the height of intellectual happiness, you find God revealed to you. When, just and wise, however modest your employment among men; you will be superior to the official expert.

Both ways are open: it is for you to choose.  I repeat that we cannot grant you any material well being; we can only bring you spiritual happiness.

Hear ye!

Before entering into the book of God, you will need to look at men.

Look at the friend who sells his friend for gold; look at those men who destroy each other for gold, look at those priests who are eaten with ambition for honours; look at the doctor who kills men to earn more and does not admit that he is powerless; look around you: you will only see everywhere the hunt for gold.

You who have come to us aiming to become rich more quickly. Do you think that we too dementedly struggle in the current that drives to despair? Do you think that alchemists are as unhappy as other men? I tell you that we are happy in the midst of all the fevered mishaps of today; do not believe that we think only of gold.

True adepts who found this secret, as witness the pieces of gold exposed today in foreign museums, these adepts, I say, died without revealing their secret for they knew men too well. If transmutation exists, the adept does not dream of the riches it can procure him. He dreams of it because it is one more occasion for him to find himself near to God and to prayer.

If you study Nature, never forget that your discoveries must not be told to anyone indiscriminately.

Realise that the adepts distrust men, and as soon they have given advice to any who appear worthy, they leave things to Nature.

The adept must be alone in his work with just a few students.

If you wish to leave your work to descendents, follow the advice of our Masters.

Hermes Trismegistus, who knew the story of the Moon and the Sun: John of London, who could explain the hermetic signs, and all our other great masters recommend speaking only in parables.

The proud cannot understand our language; they can laugh at it, and that is their punishment.

The ambitious cannot be ours, for in so far as a man is ambitious he is linked to the condition of human beings and cannot understand Hermes.

Do not be concerned when the ignorant laugh at our masters, when they treat them as fools or mystagogues. Watch, Pray and be Silent.

Finally, once you have known the great law of God, if some misfortune comes to you on the part of men, you will know how to endure it. The first flash of pure gold will make you forget all the injustices. And if some day you have your heart broken by the ingratitude of a friend, the exaltation of the air by the fire will show you the way to wisdom.

My son you have heard. Reflect carefully, and if you so decide, enter resolutely into the way of God.

We have kept our promises my son, our counsel has shown you the way to happiness, it is for you to follow it, by which we will see if you are worthy to be an adept.

If after studying nature you find the true way, be assured that we will open your eyes and then I will be happy for I will have found an adept with whom to share our discoveries.

Then, confident in the law of nature, we will see men gather round us and we will happily await the moment when we join in the sublime concert of Divinity.”

+ + +

So much for the document which, while making a case for the pursuit of alchemy, may not give very much detailed information, as tends to be the way with alchemical literature.

However,  François Jollivet-Castelot does his best in the text of his book, which is divided into three parts, structured closely on the Tarot, following the sequence favoured by Eliphas Levi. As we will see in French occultism of the period, with the exception of a few mavericks and fortune tellers, Eliphas Levi, is regarded as an infallible rock upon which to start. 

However, the Emerald Tablet of Hermes is perhaps the best preliminary for an understanding of multi-dimensional reality – and following Papus’s preface – is given pride of place in François Jollivet-Castelot’s book.

We append his list of contents, which may give some hints to the general drift of his lines of thought. 

 Alchemy and the Kabbala or the Septenary of Principles. 1. Juggler:  Force, Absolute, God, Male. 2. Popess: Matter, Nature, Feminine. 3. Empress: Energy, Movement, Holy Spirit, Neuter. 4. Emperor: Life, Birth, Symbolic Cross. 5. Pope: Universal intelligence. 6. Lovers: Equilibrium, Analogy of Contraries. 7. Chariot: Astral light; Realisation.

How to become an Adept or the Septenary of  Laws. 8. Justice: Harmony, Balance, Equilibrium of Forces and Faculties. 9. Hermit: Isolation, Power on the Astral. 10. Wheel of Fortune: the Future, orientation of the Life of the Adept. 11. Strength: Strength of the Will, Energy of Thought. 12. Hanged Man: Voluntary Sacrifice, Abnegation. 13. Death: Death of the Passions, Regeneration,  Deprivation. 14. Temperance: Changing, many Exchanges, Adaptation, Mutations, the Adept knows how to make the Stone and to use it.

Practical or the Septenary of Actions. 15. Devil: Astral Light in circulation, dynamised. 16. House of God: Adamic Fall of Matter, Destruction. 17. Stars: ‘involuted’ Physical forces in the Work made to evolve. 18. Moon: Chaos – the matter of the Work in travail. 19. Sun: Elements, Nutrition, Mineral kingdom. 20. Judgement: own Movement, Respiration, Vegetable kingdom (2nd degree evolution). 21. Fool: Innervation, Animal kingdom (3rd degree evolution), Matter is living. 22. World: Great Work realised, Return to Unity. [The third ‘septenary’ (although containing eight Trumps with the inclusion of the Fool) is said to correspond to the transformations of evolved Matter in the Great Work – to the operations of Alchemy itself.]

Jollivet-Castelot “respectfully and fraternally dedicated” his book to the memory of Albert Poisson, (1868-1893) founder of the Societé Hermetique, who had written three books on alchemy before his death at the tender age of 24, including a much sought Théories et Symboles des Alchimistes. Victor-Émile Michelet evoked him in his memoirs, recalling an evening spent at Stanislas de Guaita’s apartment when Albert Poisson triumphantly brought in a beautiful old alchemical book he had found in a bookseller’s bin on the Quays, great joy lighting his face as they pored over the engravings, from the marriage of the mystical King and Queen in the Egg within the athenor up to the birth of the Royal Child. 

If ever the face of a man revealed his personality, he said, it was certainly that of Albert Poisson. During his short life an alchemist was an unlikely person to meet but no one, on seeing him, could be surprised to learn that he was an alchemist, for he had the look of a legendary “puffer”, with his long thin face emerging from a dark cloak, framed in intense black hair and beard, from which projected a great nose reddened and dilated by the fire of the athanor.

His brief life was filled with the ardent haste of one who was destined to die young. From the age of twelve all his pocket money was devoted to buying books on alchemy, and at eighteen he threw himself into continual research. The morning was devoted to personal study in his room in the rue Saint-Denis, part library, part laboratory. The afternoon was spent studying and working in the laboratory of the Faculty of Medicine, and on leaving there he was off to the Quays in the hunt for books. Thus he built up a precious library that he left to Papus and Marc Haven.

But he was not a solitary enclosed in an introverted prison of study. He could be seen, affable and discrete, in all groups where those in quest of esoteric knowledge met to study, and at these meetings he never despaired of finding some interesting proposition or some ardent spirit capable of becoming a study companion.

Was it Poisson who discovered Rémi Pierret? He was certainly one of the familiar visitors of this curious man who lived on the hill of Ménilmontant, concierge at a house that certainly did not appear luxurious. Like the great mystic Jacob Boehme, he scratched a living as a shoe repairer. And there, surrounded by sheets of leather and mended shoes, was one of the finest alchemical libraries of the 19th century.

How did this humble man acquire it, and develop such a passion for the art of Hermes? Nonetheless the likes of Albert Poisson, Stanislas de Guaita, Papus, Marc Haven and Victor-Émile Michelet might be found here as study companions of the friendly cobbler. Nonetheless the impoverished Rémi Pierret was forced over time, with heavy heart, to sell his beloved books. Most of which ended up with Papus and Stanislas de Guaita.

Another noted alchemist and friend of Jolivet-Castelot was the stormy Swedish playwright Strindberg whom we can perhaps take a look at, from a safe distance, at a later date.


Monday, September 26, 2016


Back in the 1980’s on one of my first trips to France I was invited to give a talk at the Pompidou Centre in Paris by an outfit called Les Philosophes de la Nature the brain child of  a charismatic character called Jean Dubuis, a scientist by profession but also an esoteric teacher with an emphasis on alchemy in theory and practice. I was quite amazed by what I saw and heard and regretted that my French at that time was not quite equal to learning all I would have liked.

Jean Dubuis has since passed on at the age of 90 but I have heard that much of his work, translated into English, has just been made available free on the internet courtesy of an organisation called Portae Lucis.

For details go to

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


The cabinet maker’s story

Henri Ravier was a 28 year old cabinet maker and joiner in 1870 when he was called to measure up a coffin for a seven year old boy. As he bustled about with his mate in the courtyard a couple of doctors emerged from the house discussing the death certificate.  

“Nothing could have been done to save the child.”

“Not even if we’d been called earlier. Do you agree with my diagnosis of meningitis?”

“I’m sure you’re right.”

“Anyway, the little glass of eau-de-vie that father Chapas gave us wasn’t bad was it!”

And so without further thought to child or grieving parents they left. No sooner had they done so than two young men hurried up.

“It took ages to find you. He must be dead by now. The doctor said he’d been in a coma. Do you know what that is?”

“It’s nothing, nothing! But we must hurry!”

They knocked at the door and a man opened up who obviously knew them.  

“Monsieur Claude, we’ve just heard the news and have come to offer our condolences.”

“That’s very good of you, Nizier. Come on in. He’s on the bed.”

Nizier Philippe also greeted Madame Chapas, who did not speak.

They mounted the stairs.  The mother passed them in the passageway and opened the bedroom door for them.

The 21 year old Nizier Philippe crossed himself and indicated the others to sit.  Then he presented Madame Chapas with a strange question:

“Are you willing to give me your son now?”

She answered “Yes” almost automatically.

Nizier stood before the child’s bed in contemplation for a few moments, and then said in a clear voice: “Jean, I bring  your soul back to you!”

Amazingly, the chalk white face of the body began to regain colour,  looked up at Nizier Philippe, and smiled.

The strange question Philippe directed at the child’s mother harked back a few years to when she had asked his help when her husband fell ill. On that occasion he had simply said “Go home and make him some soup and he will be all right.” And so it had occurred. But when asked how much she owed him he replied: “Nothing, but you can give me your son if I ask for him.” An enigmatic remark, all the more strange coming from a young Nizier Philippe who could have been no more than a teenager at the time.

No more was said until little Jean Chapas grew up. Like his father and grandfather before him, he sought the life of a waterman on the great rivers of the Rhône and  Saône. But having passed the necessary examinations – he would then have been aged about 20 and the year 1883 –  his mother received a message from Monsieur Philippe: “Tell your son to come and see me tomorrow, I need him.”

The informal apprenticeship he had thus begun as a spiritual healer was not an easy one. The boy put himself completely at the disposal of Monsieur Philippe but the first day passed with nothing for him to do. The same thing happened next day. Then on the third day he was sent on a few errands, to buy tobacco, some postage stamps, and deliver a prescription. Then little by little he was admitted to minor jobs at public meetings.

For several years he diligently performed all the tasks set him by Monsieur Philippe, some of which involved some kind of testing.  One day, for instance, Monsieur Philippe received word from a lady who was very upset by the loss of her hair. He told Jean Chapas to buy some lotion at a pharmacy and take it to her, and then meet him at a café where he would be waiting.

Jean Chapas found on his arrival that the woman was in complete despair and threatening to throw herself from the sixth floor of the building. For a whole hour he tried to reason with her, far beyond the time fixed for meeting Monsieur Philippe. Eventually he arrived, very late, to find his master still there, smoking his pipe but frowning heavily. Jean Chapas tried to explain what had happened but Monsieur Philippe cut him short and reprimanded him. He should have realised it would have been quite easy for him to have stopped the woman’s hysterics from a distance if he had been informed of them. So...“When I give you a time to meet me, be there!”

Eventually Monsieur Philippe, in the presence of his girl friend, gave him a kind of rosary he had fashioned, a cord full of knots, with the instruction “Take this for an hour each day to your room; and when you reach this knot here, you will be in the presence of the Holy Spirit.”  Presumably he did so, but he never spoke about it to anyone.

Eventually, in February 1894, after a decade of gradually increasing responsibility, Monsieur Philippe presented him at a public meeting with the words, “From now on Monsieur Chapas is charged to do what I have done up to now ...We are fishermen come to fish for those that would escape”. And the following year he announced that “from now on great powers are granted to Monsieur Chapas. Whom, however, he always referred to his as“the corporal!”  By all accounts – no light rank!

From Thursday 13th December 1894, Henri Ravier began to fulfil his mission of taking notes of  meetings and carried on through until 31st March 1903. They are not as comprehensive or systematic we might wish but the random jottings of a retired carpenter and joiner. There are about a hundred of them altogether, the first taken at typical public meetings but later moving on to events at practitioner classes laid on at the recently founded School of Magnetism. His sense of their importance is however revealed by his referring to himself as Jean-Baptiste Ravier.  He was one of a growing band who tended to regard Maïtre Philippe as a second coming of Christ.  Not a view that was shared by the man himself – although he had occasional apparent lapses as when he reportedly said that it had taken him several years to find a mother and father who had the single forenames of Marie and Joseph. I suspect a certain sense of irony in his make-up. But raising people from the dead was not in the gift of any old spiritual healer! And Jean Chapas died a second time in the typhoid fever epidemic of 1899 and was once again resuscitated by Nizier Philippe after a death certificate had been issued. Which led Jean Chapas, who also had an ironic sense of humour, to refer to himself ever after as “a dead man on leave”.

After a lifetime of continuing healing ministry, increasingly haunted by precognition of the coming 2nd World War, he eventually died a third and last time in September 1932, whilst fishing beside the Rhône. His master, also a keen fisherman,  had once predicted “Jean, you will just have time to get your coat and rod and follow me.” He arguably chose a good time to do it as the Holocaust gathered strength in Europe!

References: Confirmation de l’Évangile par les actes et les paroles de Maïtre Philippe de Lyon by Jean-Baptiste Ravier (Le Mercure Dauphinois 2005) and Vie et Enseignement de Jean Chapas, le disciple de Maïtre Philippe de Lyon by Philippe Collin (Le Mercure Dauphinoise 2006).