Friday, July 29, 2016


The High Magic of Dr Fernand Rozier

Around the year 2000, a hundred years after Papus and his friends were coming to terms with the powers of Monsieur Philippe, a smart little publishing house – Le Mercure Dauphinois of Grenoble – came upon a lost Cours de Haute Magie (Course in High Magic) by a Dr Fernand Rozier (1839-1922). Dating from 1905 it took on board the mystical element that tended to be overshadowed by the scientific and intellectual approach of the early Papus and his G.I.E.E. lecturers and pamphleteers. They duly published it, with an introduction by the occult historian Serge Caillet (to whom the following biographical notes are indebted).

Gilbert Louis Fernand Rozier, the son of a lawyer, was born in 1822 in the small town of Ebreuil in central France. He was sent to Paris to go to school where he gained a baccalaureate in both science and letters plus a diploma in pharmacy, before qualifying first as a doctor of medicine and then of physical sciences. He was later taken on as secretary to the director of the Paris Observatory, the astronomer Urbain Le Verrier (discoverer of the planet Neptune in 1846) but feeling the call for more worldly experience, left to become ship’s doctor on a transatlantic liner until, after seven years at sea, settling down to a medical practice in Paris.

Along with his scientific career he was interested in occultism and as a seventeen year old met the great magical pioneer Éliphas Lévi, becoming one of his students from 1859 to 1870. At the height of the occult renaissance of the 1880’s he was familiar with Papus and his friends, mostly only half his age. At his home he played host to the producers of l’Initiation and Voile d’Isis, where he had installed a ‘laboratory’ in which, it was recalled, they performed some very curious experiments.

 Contributing to various occult journals, including the alchemical Rosa Alchemica  of  the ‘hyperchemist’ Jollivet-Castellot, from 1900 to 1910, as well as running his course, he produced a series of publications on Curses and Enchantment; Prayer; The Astral Plane; Elemental Spirits; The Invisible Powers; Gods, Angels, Saints and Egregores; Saint Philomena; Inundations and Prophecies; and the Theory of Prophecies, including foretelling the great flood that swamped Paris in 1910.

Some of these titles suggest an interest in mystical well as occult dynamics, and it is significant that he claimed to teach ‘High Magic’ – an echo of Eliphas Levi’s choice of title for his main work Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magic (Dogma and Rituel of High Magic).

 At his death in 1922, at the age of 83, Fernand Rozier had outlived most of the youngsters, and his obituary in Voile d’Isis regretted that he had not had time to write a great work on magic. He had however at least produced this Course, which was however lost until after many adventures, including confiscation by the Gestapo during the war, a copy was discovered among the post mortem papers of Papus’ son, Philippe Encausse (1906-1984), now safely lodged in the archives of Lyons Public Library.

The 200 page course begins conventionally enough, with a recap, largely based on Eliphas Levi, of suggested correspondences of Hebrew letters and Tarot Trumps with Paths on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. This is followed by a rundown of ways of categorising the inner planes of the universe and their correspondence in human and other forms of consciousness, from the simplistic duality of conventional church teaching, through the three circle system of the Druids and the four worlds of the Kabbalists, to the seven principles of Theosophy. He prefers a six-fold system himself, of Divine, Celestial, Mental, Kamic (i.e. feelings and forces), Astral and Physical.

The Divine plane he considered unique, the consciousness of God, beyond the created universe and arguably inaccessible to any created beings.

He regarded The Celestial or Heavenly as the highest of the created planes, formed before any of the lower ones, the realm of the most exalted forms of consciousness, such as the Christ and the Blessed Virgin, and including the angelic realms and also ‘evolved humanity’. The latter indicating that the whole scheme implies the evolution of consciousness through a process of reincarnation in time and space.

In the view of Serge Caillet this is a questionable point, on the grounds that reincarnation is a comparatively recent introduction to western esotericism, largely through the channels of the Theosophical Society. Classics of Western esotericism before the 19th century make little or no mention of it. In conventional Christian teaching there is no need for it, although some Christians seem to find no difficulty with it. Whether it is non-existent, or a universal phenomenon, or a special vocation taken only by some, remains a keen debating point that we will take a close look at later.

This aside, Fernand Rozier found no problem with it, and as his Course goes on to show, he was very much at ease with the dynamics of practical occultism, including different forms of consciousness, whether angelic or elemental, other than the human. And he nails his colours firmly to the mast in insisting upon a Christian approach to occultism – or occult approach to Christianity if one prefers.

But because he found himself the object of attacks from certain theological quarters he felt the need to explain himself, much along the following lines:

“If it is appropriate for me to say to which school I belong, I will willingly say that I belong to my own school, but I prefer a title that will astonish many theologians, who do not realise that in firing at me they fire on their own troops. I call my school Christian occultism – two words that may appear to clash when found linked together, but nothing could be more true.

“I am Christian because I believe completely in the Christian teaching, and I am an occultist because, instead of contenting myself with practising my religion, I study its hidden mysteries and seek to explain what priests perform but fail to understand. I study the invisible as it presents itself to me, just as when studying physics or chemistry, without concerning myself with other factors.

“I am a Christian occultist because I have studied much, have compared various initiations with each other, and have reached the certainty that all truth is founded on Christian doctrine. I know very well that what I say here may seem excessive and that I would have difficulty in making you accept it, or at least some of you. But if you like to take hold of an important fact: that which I call Christian doctrine corresponds exclusively with the teaching of Christ, you may perhaps believe me more easily.

“Does this mean that all other religions are a tissue of errors? That is what some fanatics claim but it is not true. What is more, I claim that it is impossible to understand Christianity completely if one does not know other religions. Paganism, Mazdaism, Hinduism for example contain precious keys. A day will come when our adversaries know us better and may bitterly regret the war they made on us, and understand what precious auxiliaries we have been for them – or rather, for Religion.

“We study hidden things and are accused of hiding our studies. We describe the nature of occult traps to warn the public of its dangers, and are accused of setting traps ourselves. We bring men to God and show the works of God in hidden things and are accused of limiting the powers of God or even of denying them. But there is no antagonism between religion and occultism; on the contrary, one completes the other. And as I find security only in Christianity, and only find complete truth in the words of Christ, the occultism I teach is Christian occultism.”

And as his course progresses we find it eminently practical with a dual approach of “the penetration of the invisible worlds onto the physical plane” in one direction and “ways of penetrating the invisible worlds from the physical plane”– concluding with different types of vision – imaginal, corporeal, intellectual and prophetic.

In the Spring of 1900, upon inner direction, he formed a group, La Fraternité de sainte Philomène (The Fraternity of St Philomena) insisting that it was not a secret society, had no statutes and required no oaths. It was a society whose foundation rested in the invisible, for which St Philomena herself (an early saint and martyr of obscure and evocative origin) chose the members. Those who had complete faith in her stood most chance of being admitted, the physical members of the Fraternity providing an etheric egregore of which the saint might be called the soul.

In my view a pattern that might be regarded as that of any valid ‘contacted group’ whoever the principal inner plane contact might happen to be, or claim to be, whether ancient philosopher or respected historical or legendary figure. In all of which there applies the acid test of “by their fruits shall ye know them.”

Thursday, July 28, 2016




Issued as a penultimate reminder for 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).

There is a factor which neither astrology nor psychology have taken into account, and that is the question of reincarnation. Without some doctrine as to the whence and whither of the soul, psychology is a descriptive science and no more, and this lack is particularly felt in its application as psychotherapy. Astrology equally, though one of the occult sciences, has in its modern form nothing to tell us concerning the relationship of its findings to the doctrine of reincarnation. Nevertheless it is in this particular concept that we must seek the link between the two sciences which deal with man’s soul and its fate. I cannot in these pages go deeply into the doctrine or reincarnation; its outlines can be found in many excellent books published by the Theosophical and Anthroposophical Societies and by independent writers, and to these I refer my readers who want exact and detailed information on this subject. If the doctrine of reincarnation is disputed, my argument can go no further, so I do not propose to discuss the matter, but to leave those who dispute it to drop out at this stage of the argument and proceed to show how the astrological concepts would be affected if  reincarnation were a fact.

It has often been pointed out that the exact moment of the birth of an infant is dependent upon many factors, not least among which are the previous engagements of the doctor, who may expedite the birth by instrumental means or leave it to take its natural course, thus profoundly modifying the natal horoscope which may subsequently be cast. How can the doctrine of karma or the laws of heredity be correlated with astrological findings in such circumstances? What shall we say of divine justice if the future life of a human being is determined by the fact that the doctor got tired of waiting and applied the forceps?

Matters become clear, however, if certain esoteric concepts are taken into consideration. Let us grant that conception takes place exactly as described by the biologists through the union of germ and sperm, each bringing with it the characteristics of their respective stocks to express themselves or inhibit each other along Mendelian lines. These physical factors determine the physical organism through which the incoming soul will have to express itself, and in view of what we know nowadays of the ductless glands, it is obvious that its temperament and the reactions based thereon are closely conditioned by heredity, and that only a will and intelligence of a very high type can control the emotional reactions due to a defective thyroid. Let us accept all these biological data, as we cannot very well refuse to do in the face of the evidence, but let us nevertheless continue our enquiry into the scope of free will and the means of determining the destiny of the soul.

These are the conditions, then, under which the newly originating body is conceived and formed; its nature being biologically determined and conditioned within very narrow limits; some modification, but not a great deal, being brought about by the health of the mother during her pregnancy, and the exact birth moment being determined partly by Nature and partly by the doctor. Now let us conceive of an innumerable host of discarnate human souls of all types and degrees of development awaiting upon the Inner Planes their chance to incarnate and continue their evolution. These souls will be of many and varied types, and at widely different stages of evolution, and will require an equally wide range of conditions to afford them scope for development. When conditions are present that fit a soul, might we not conceive that it slips into incarnation in the same way that a key slips into a Yale lock, and that it is not the condition of the psychic atmosphere at birth that puts its stamp on the blank page of the new-born soul, but a soul of a corresponding type that incarnates under given conditions. This is a more rational, and also a more ethical concept of astrological determinism than that which ascribes our fate to our stars.

Let us see how this method of incarnation works out in detail. At the end of an incarnation the soul enters into a subjective state of consciousness on the Inner Planes, for it possesses no senses or muscles through which to lead an objective existence. In this state it contemplates its past life, and this contemplation constitutes its heaven and hell. If it is a soul of an undeveloped type it profits by its experience to the same simple and direct extent as a burnt child dreads fire; if it is an evolved soul, its contemplation may extend itself into meditation and the work of the creative imagination. In due course it will have absorbed all the nutriment of experience that its past life can yield, and will need to gather fresh experience in order to make further progress. Having lain down in the byre of heaven to chew the cud of earthly experience, it must now return to the fields of earth to graze again.

Time and space on the Inner Planes bear no relation to time and space on the physical plane save insofar as they are anchored thereto by means of symbolism and the association of ideas. On the physical plane, time is measured by the revolution of the earth on its axis and its circuit round the Sun, and space is measured in relation to the earth’s surface. On the Inner Planes, time and space are modes of consciousness, as modern philosophy is beginning to realise. To consciousness unconditioned by matter, time present is that of which it is conscious; time past is that of which it is not thinking at the moment; and the future is that of which it is unaware. Space likewise is near or far according to its occupancy of the focus or fringe of consciousness. What we are thinking of is present, and what we are not thinking of its absent. We can demonstrate this by working up a state of terror by imagining ourselves to be in a place of danger, the degree of terror being determined b y the degree of vividness of the picture thus built up.

We can therefore conceive that souls awaiting incarnation are not hovering at some particular spot on the earth’s surface, but are abiding in the state of consciousness to which their evolution has brought them, and that whenever and wherever the astrological influences produce that condition in the earth’s atmosphere, a relationship is established with souls of a corresponding type, and if a new-born body is available, one or another of them will enter it. We can thus see why it is that horoscopes are cast for the moment of birth and not for the moment of conception, which seems the more rational method, for it may be that, despite tradition to the contrary, the soul enters the body with the first breath. We know what importance is attached to the breath in Eastern occultism, and the philological relationship between ‘breath’ and ‘spirit’ in all languages, and may well take a hint from the testimony of such independent witnesses that enables us to explain one of the greatest anomalies of astrological doctrine.

We can also see in the light of this explanation why horoscopes are seldom the exact fit astrologers would like to believe them to be. “The stars cannot lie,” they say, when the subject protests at some obvious discrepancy between him and his horoscope; but if we realise that unborn souls are coming into incarnation as best they can in the circumstances available to them, and that the unevolved have little choice or discretion, we can see that during the earlier phases of its evolution, life is apt to be a little haphazard and that it is only the more highly evolved souls who have the power to exercise any discrimination in the choice of a vehicle or an environment, or have the patience to do so. We are dragged back into matter by the urge of unfulfilled desires just as a thirsty horse seeks water. In consequence our environment often presents us with difficulties which have to be overcome before we can start on our life work, for it is our lower nature that has most to say about the manner of our incarnation, and only a very highly evolved soul has the knowledge and power necessary to overrule its own urges.

It will thus be seen that the state of the psychic atmosphere during which a soul incarnates is a very useful guide to the spiritual condition of that soul, though it has no influence whatsoever on that condition, which is the product of past evolutionary experiences. The lock does not affect the key, but the key can only enter the lock it fits: thus while key and lock are not causally related, they are nevertheless functionally related. Upon this analogy is astrology justified of its wisdom.

The spiritual entity that thus takes flesh will also require vehicles of mental and astral substance as its subtle sheaths. Are these sheaths built up by the incarnating entity on a spiritual basis, or do they build up around the nucleus of the physical germ, so that the immortal spirit takes over its astral and mental vehicles ready made along with its physical body, all three being determined by the astrological conditions of the earth atmosphere? In view of the fact that endocrine conditions so closely influence emotional and mental states, and also influence not only closely but precisely the physical type and rate of growth, it is probable that the physical germ is the nucleus for the organisation of all the vehicles of manifestation; but in view also of the fact that emotion immediately influences the functioning of all glands, it is not only probable but certain that the incarnating entity exercises an influence upon the subsequent development of its vehicles in proportion to its own development. That is to say, if it is self-conscious and self-directive it will exercise control over its vehicles extending even into the functional activities of its most dense. Evidence of this is afforded by the various forms of mental healing, which are dependent upon the power of the subtle vehicles to influence the dense, whether by the influx of spiritual power, mental suggestion, or the emotional manipulation of the astral through the imagination. But equally, because the spiritual self is congruous to the conditions in which it incarnates, it is improbable, unless extraneous influences are brought to bear upon it, that it will cause its vehicles to deviate widely from their natural type because that type represents its condition. When such influences are brought to bear, as in the case of religious conversion, hypnotic influence, spiritual healing, or the training of an initiate, then we may expect wide and even startling divergations from the original condition and line of development of both mind and body.

It is clear in the light of such experience that the vehicles of man are not so many mass-produced machines, incapable of alteration or adaptation. We know that they are capable of a wide range of adaptation, and consequently would be capable of alteration if we knew how to set about the process and where to open up the sealed controls. Even the physical body, the densest and most set in its ways of all the vehicles, is capable of profound modification of function, if not of organic structure, under the influence of mental healers as well as of environment and disease; the subtler vehicles are malleable in proportion to their subtlety. All depends upon the influences brought to bear upon them. In the case of the highly evolved being, self conscious and self-directing, strong and direct spiritual influences can be brought to bear; but as the spiritual philosophy of the more highly evolved cultures is an ascetic philosophy, a turning away from matter to spirit, such influence is seldom brought to bear, and in consequence the vehicles of the more highly evolved are often grievously mismanaged, their sensitivity being blown about by all the winds of emotion prevailing on the astral, and it is left to the more primitive cultural type to exhibit the spectacular phenomena which certain yogis and fakirs have displayed as evidence of spiritual powers.

Unevolved types of souls have little or no self consciousness in the earlier stages of their development, and consequently no insight into their condition or power of self determination based thereon. Only in proportion as man acquires power of thought control can he become master of his fate, ruler of his stars and healer of his body. The direction taken by such control, however, will always be determined by the fact that a character is congruous to the stars under which it incarnates, and to its own physical type, else it would not have incarnated thus and then; consequently as has been pointed out in another context, it will tend to work along the lines it laid down for itself when it incarnated, and drastic changes are unlikely in the absence of drastic stimuli. Nevertheless, we must not overlook what can be effected by drastic stimuli in the case of the more highly evolved types of souls.

It might then be said that man’s subservience to the stellar influences is in proportion to his primitiveness, but this would be incorrect, for the unevolved are insensitive, and the less individualised they are, the more they are at the mercy of psychological type and environment. The average man shares in the unmodified fate of the society in which he is born. He starves in its depressions and prospers when it booms. The evolved type may struggle out of the rut into relative freedom. It must never be forgotten, however, that all freedom is relative, and can only operate within the fixed laws of its nature, whether these be astral or social, for each plane and mode of existence has its own laws, which are simply the limitations of its nature that determines its type.

We can see, then, that people react to astrological influences according to their degree of development, but not in a steadily rising line of sensitivity. The unevolved are relatively insensitive; the psychically evolved are highly sensitive; the spiritually evolved are sensitive, but can control and direct their functioning, reactions and development by virtue of the power to react which their sensitivity confers when directed by a controlled and purposive intelligence. Not enough has been made of this fact in popular astrology. We can perhaps sum all this up by saying that the unevolved are influenced predominantly by earth conditions; the psychically evolved by lunar or emotional conditions, and the spiritually evolved by solar conditions; or translated into less esoteric language, the unevolved react blindly and helplessly to the physical conditions of their environment and the physiological laws of their being, not realising the possibilities of modification and control that can be exerted by the mind; the minds of the psychically evolved influence their bodies and environments powerfully but blindly, there being no directing intelligence to guide their activities; the highly evolved, through auto-suggestion and mind control are able to guide their own processes on all planes.

The wide range and development of mental healing in all its aspects, from the most spiritual to the most superstitious, has made us familiar with the powers the mind can exercise over the body when it gives itself seriously to the task, as it very seldom does owing to the bondage of habit and the inhibiting power of negative auto-suggestions due to incredulity. Such experience encourages us to ask whether the astrological influences which cause the various factors in our being to react in sympathy can also be controlled by the power of the self-directive mind possessed of insight. The initiate answers this question in the affirmative. He does not ignore the power of the stars, as does the sceptic, but he believes that the proper way to use a birth chart of a progressed horoscope is for diagnostic purposes and that it should never be regarded as a blueprint of Fate. To the unevolved, unable to cope with stellar influences, the revelation of the significance of a horoscope can do little good and much harm, and for this reason astrology should rightly be an occult or hidden wisdom, reserved for initiates.

The initiate is as averse to its indiscriminate and unenlightened use as any magistrate fining a fortune teller because he knows the power of auto-suggestion to reinforce the influences of the stars and make bad influences an excuse for inertia or rashness. Moreover, although the casting of a horoscope is a matter of arithmetic about which there can be no two opinions, the reading of it is a very different affair, and the old saying – “So many men, so many minds” necessarily applies, especially in view of the fact that but few people know their exact birth moment. It is well known that the unanalysed psychoanalyst invariably projects his own complexes on to his patient, and the same is true of the astrologer. He is a creature of his age and his inhibitions, and he will regard the planets as malefic or catalysts, benefices or karma according to taste. A bad aspect will be regarded as an evil fate or an abreaction of repressions and a good aspect will be regarded as a stroke of luck or a release of inner power according to the degree of enlightenment of the mind that studies it.

To assess the influence of the planets in terms of good or bad luck of various types is a gambler’s way of making a living as distinguished from honest and creative work. Folk watch their aspects to learn their fate in the same way that the stock gambler watches the market reports; and as the stock gambler is worthless as a citizen, contributing nothing to the wealth of nations,  a mere unproductive parasite, so the superstitious believer in astrology will mark time on the evolutionary path because his fatalistic attitude prevents him from assuming mastery over his fate and denies him the power to learn by experience and become a bigger and better man as the result of battling with the storms of life.



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.