Monday, April 24, 2017



We casually remarked, in a masterpiece of understatement in SH17 that back in 1890 Paul Sédir  made himself extremely useful to Papus and his associates.  It is perhaps time we filled in some of the details of the following years until his death in 1926. For the first  decade he played a major part in helping  to build up the Faculty of Hermetic Sciences, overseeing its three year course on subjects that included alchemy, hypnosis, curative magnetism and divinatory arts. Then having met and been astounded by Maïtre Philippe, he developed a mystical equivalent to the traditional occult arts, including a five volume commentary upon the Gospels. This we recently mentioned, regretting its unavailability in English. The least we can do now is to give our version of a short example of his take on the all important subject, the dynamics of faith.

Anyway, here goes:

‘Ancient beliefs, still popular today, that affirm the existence of spirits of the elements in vegetable and mineral forms are true. In the invisible, everything possesses not only an aura and an etheric double, but a spiritual type, soul, intelligence, sensibility and free will.

‘An alchemist working on a mineral affects its aura; a magnetiser affects its etheric double; a magician works with its spirit, whether by force or ingenuity. Although only a ‘spiritually free’ man does so legitimately.

‘A mountain, a rock, a field  – a state, a province, a village   a spring, a stream, a river –  grass,  grain, or forest   gulf,  ocean, or lake – house, room, or furniture –  tool, book, or letter – all have a physical existence and an invisible being. Polytheistic belief  is the recognition of these agents and their power, and research into the right way to contact or conciliate them.

‘Theoretically, a polytheist has to master a very complex science and animistic disrupting force, and in practice, may work a little good with fragmentary knowledge and a fragile will.

‘Calming a storm can be effected in various ways. There are physical means such as oil or explosive. There are fluidic ways, given a knowledge of electro-telluric currents, to discern the poles of the perturbing whirlwind, and annul them by producing artificial ones in a contrary fashion. There are what could be called idolatrous ways, when a sailor makes a promise or a threat to his god, to a saint, or to a sanctuary in his country. The magician may determine the type of daimonic originators of a meteorological disturbance and send other agents to fight them, as they do on barbarous coasts or in the China seas.  There is also prayer pure and simple to God or to the Virgin. And finally there is the procedure of the Christ, the effortless command, a method possible only to a ‘free’ soul.

‘It is toward this last attitude that His disciples inclined, with one single method – the culture of faith. “Fear and doubt exist,” it has been said, “to prevent us over-reaching ourselves” and fear can be surmounted by pride or humility. But it is necessary to have confidence in God. Nothing comes to us without His permission; and so, as we are all His children, altruism tends to make us happy if trials come upon us more than upon our siblings.

‘But such self abandon is difficult, even the primitive protozoa in stagnant water fear for their ephemeral existence! As for ourselves, our whole life can be a succession of unjustified fears. That is what we must fight against. We have within us the seed of faith. For it to grow, we must first understand the all powerful Divinity. In the second place, throw ourselves completely into the effort. In the third place, know that, even when we seem to have done all that is possible, there remains the  supreme attempt to try.

‘Faith is a substance that exists only in Heaven. Its ‘biological mode’ is supernatural. Intelligence,  muscular or magnetic force, and reason are nothing. Among the powers of the human spirit, only passion and will have points of contact with it. It may seem ignorant, illogical, measureless, but it is light in a dark night; it is life where there was none; it is the impossible incarnating at our insistance.

‘But the Christ does not command only storms at sea. In all being there is a hydrological function; with man it is the circulatory system; in society it is commerce; in religion it is edificying doctrine. In physiology the Christ is the heart (although in present society its place may be taken by Mammon). In the Church, it is the celebration of the Mass. In mathematics it is called Number; in physical nature the Brahmans call it the dark sun; in philosophy it is truth; in art it is expression. In life the storms that it calms include anything undefined, sick, wrong or insignificant. And everywhere, for all and in all – is the Faith that we can employ to re-establish harmony.

‘Several times the evangelists affirm the power that Jesus exercised over the forces of Nature. Let us take the miracles on Lake Tiberiad.

 ‘Travellers tell many tales of this type, and, to confirm their numerous accounts it seems that over the whole world men can be met who can command the clouds, the winds, the rain, the storm, the hail. Enchanters in all races appear to possess this power. But there is an essential difference between their procedures and that of the Christ. They operate by means of a pact, expressed or tacit. Most give something to such spirits and, in return, the spirit performs a service – it is what popular legend calls selling one’s soul to the devil. Even those wonder workers who believe they obtain their power by rational culture of their own psychic forces, unconsciously conclude a pact with daimons on the mental plane.

 ‘Only mystics, whatever their religion, who limit themselves to a single accomplishment of charity by private prayer perform legitimate miracles. They ask, and the form of the Word of God particular to their race grants it. The Christ, being the supreme Master, knowing the language of all categories of creatures, commands and they obey. ...

`...For the being who has received the Holy Spirit, a miracle is a very simple act, such as a sentence, like “take up your bed and walk”. That being lives on the first plane, and has not, like the great poets and great thinkers, its feet on earth and head in the heavens. It is completely on the earth and at the same time completely in the heavens; it carries the heavens with it wherever it goes and anything it undertakes. Thus Jesus needed no great effort to heal, to resuscitate, to change the way of the worlds, to calm a storm or to multiply fishes or loaves. He ordered and His creatures obeyed.

‘What did He say to his terrified disciples?  “Why are you frightened, O ye of little faith?” In fact the only cause of our fears is a lack of faith. This is not a matter of theological faith, which  may be a belief in the Trinity, or the Immaculate Conception, and other dogmas because they have been told they are true.  But if these same sources affirm that the Christ can cure them, or save them from ruin, they no longer believe it. The dogmas do not touch us, do not move our terrestrial sensibilities, do not affect us much, so we accept them. But when it is a matter of our health we see nothing  but menacing catastrophe – and faith evaporates.

‘In fact, acceptance of certain truths incomprehensible to understanding but that are admitted by authorised witness – such as the great church councils  – do not penetrate to the depths of our being. The only true faith is to realise as far as the material sense the affirmations of the Apostles. “I believe in God, the Father Almighty.”

‘If He is almighty, He can cure me, save me from fire, from bankruptcy; if I believe He is my Father, He will heal me and save me; if I am not convinced that He can do these things I have no faith. Now the only sign of my conviction will be the serenity whereby I find the true perspective of suffering, ruin and death; if these eventualities worry me, it is because I have no faith.

‘To adhere then with all the strength of our will, all the fervour of our love, to the words of the Christ, that central adhesion will gently illuminate our intelligence, and we will understand little by little that which at first appeared obscure. If, what is more, we come to oblige our body and its instincts to obey these words, then our faith will begin to live. Mental belief alone is not enough; for faith to work miracles it needs to live in our corporeal being. Faith without works is a dead faith. True faith is susceptible to unlimited growth.

‘It gives us peace of heart, knowledge of the mysteries, thaumaturgic power. But do not confuse these divine powers with its caricatures: of auto-suggestion, mentalism, artificial development of will power. An American religion proclaims “Believe that evil does not exist and you will be cured.” That is philosophic sophistry and a volatile illusion. Another, Belgian, religion proclaims “Anything exists only because we believe it”.   More sophistry; of oriental origin, and another illusion.

 'I hope I have been clear enough for you to see what antinomy exists between the faith the Christ proposes and its human imitation. May the length and minutiae of the necessary training necessary to render our personality capable of receiving this divine force not discourage us; consider how it needs the constancy of the athlete to develop muscles, cell by cell; or the musician to render fingers or larynx supple; or the business entrepreneur to amass a fortune coin by coin. Let us put ourselves to work. And not stop, once begun.’  Paul Sedir


Friday, April 14, 2017


Paul Sédir and the ‘Inconnu’

Yves le Loup (1871-1926) better known by his mystery name of Paul Sédir, one of the most erudite and experienced occultists in the circle of Papus and Stanislas de Guaita, and member of a number of initiatory societies, abandoned them to follow the mystical teaching of Maïtre Philippe, founding the Société des Amitiés Spirituelles (Society of Spiritual Friends) which still exists and publishes a number of his works. One of them, with the significant title of Quelques Amis de Dieu (Some Friends of  God), under the rubric of Un Inconnu (An Unknown) describes his Maïtre Philippe as follows.

“I affirm that I have had over a long period, the good fortune to see a living man who, without apparent effort, realised the perfection of the Gospels...Perhaps some anxious souls will be encouraged if one of their companions affirms that the promises of Christ are real because he has seen and touched experimental proof  of them. That Christ, our Lord, said that one day He would give his Friends the power to perform miracles greater than his own; I have seen these accomplished.  The Christ also said to his Friends that He would be with them until the end of the world; I have seen this hidden presence.

“The life of my Unknown one provides a series of such proofs...You will recognise in him, I hope, one of these mysterious ‘brothers’ of the Lord, one of the greatest, the greatest perhaps, of the heralds of the Absolute...His doctrine was entirely that of the Gospels and he valued books in proportion to their agreement with their teaching. He accepted the writings of the Apostles to the letter and regarded modern exegesis as superfluous.

“If one could love one’s neighbour like oneself, Heaven would reveal the true meaning of these texts. He showed little interest in argument, placing brotherly love before all, before prayer and even before faith. He called pride and egoism the greatest obstacles to our advancement. This man without any higher qualifications could reveal the errors of experts...He explained his powers and knowledge by saying “A child of God, (a being pure enough to sacrifice self for others and immediately forget it), knows all things without need of study...

“Now this Christian, this philosopher, was, above all, the most extraordinary wonder worker.  I have seen all the marvels performed by saints accomplished by him. Miracles flourished at his feet, they seemed natural, inevitable, and nothing but prayer evoked them...He exercised the same power in the same way over animals, plants, events and even the elements.”

(His causing a lightning strike and thunder bolt close to Papus was a particularly spectacular way of endorsing a conversion! And his daughter in law remarked that the expression on the face of Papus after the experience was enough to convince anyone that it had really happened!)

On many occasions Maïtre Philippe, Sédir’s ‘Inconnu’ demonstrated his powers to experts,  although it could happen that an ‘expert witness’ would refuse to bear witness to having seen facts deemed to be ‘inexplicable!’ That is to say, could not believe his eyes! {See ‘The  professor’s dilemma’ – Sons of Hermes 29 – for an example.}

Just who or what Monsieur Philippe was, remains the subject of intense debate in France.  Sédir, in a series of lectures at the end of 1920, recently discovered and published by Le Mercure Dauphinois as La vie inconnue de Jésus-Christ (The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ)  all but divinised him, whilst our old friend Victor-Émile Michelet, in his memoirs of 1938  felt this view to be greatly exaggerated.  However, Sédir was capable of flights of metaphysical realisation far beyond the worthy commonsense Michelet, who put down what he called such ‘deliquescent pseudo-mysticism’ to Sédir’s Breton and German background – although influences such as Boehme and Goethe are hardly to be sneezed at!

A few paragraphs taken almost at random from La vie inconnue de Jésus-Christ can demonstrate this.

“The birth of the Word did not take place at a certain moment in a certain place, but everywhere at once. Neither the works of Christ, nor the events of the Gospels can be situated in history. If we wish to make it food for our soul, we must remember that spiritual truths are always happening. The Christ was not only born at Bethlehem but everywhere a stable is willing to receive him.

“He did not cure this or that individual, 2000  years ago, but also now; this difficult action requires the healed to be joined with the healer in his domain, and the means for this joining is that power called Faith. For there is more than one Bethlehem, more than one Tabor, more than one Golgotha; they existed already, before they were given those names, and will continue to be until the end of the world. They are there today,  and the same events occur even more gloriously, because more hidden.

“A storm on the Pacific Ocean can be calmed because the waves were pacified one day on the Sea of Galilee. A criminal can find pardon because a certain thief was forgiven 2000 years ago on Golgotha

“The things we find in the Gospel, the drachma, the fig tree, the unleavened bread, the foolish virgins, the prodigal son....are living beings, virtues, on which our immortal being can feed if we wish it so. You would understand me if you had felt a little of the essential presence of these things in your secret life”

And apart from some small handbooks on the mystical life the five volumes of Sédir’s commentary on the  Gospels L’Enfance du Christ; Le Sermon sur la Montagne, Les Guérisons du Christ, Le Royaume de Dieu, and Le Couronnement de L’Oeuvre  surely deserve translation.

There is little information readily available in English, although we have done our best to throw a little light into what the French, with a Gallic shrug, call ‘the Anglo-Saxon world’ by translating Initiations  for Skylight Press, a series of essays written by Sédir over the years that present  Monsieur Philippe in semi-fictional form, something after the way Marc Haven mirrored aspects of his character in his biography of Cagliostro.

Upon which we wish everyone a fruitful Easter and gentle reminder to think what it was and is and ever will be all about!  The future is in eggs.

Sunday, April 09, 2017


 Marc Haven, Cagliostro and ‘Monsieur Philippe’

One evening the occult bookshop in the rue de Trévise, La Librairie du Merveilleux, attracted two serious minded young men, a medical student, Emmanuel Lalande, (1868-1926), and his friend, a student of pharmacy (and astrology) named Thomas.

Lalande would become widely known as Marc Haven, having followed the example of Papus by choosing a pseudonym from the list of spirits of the planetary hours in the Nuctémeron of Apollonius of Tyana. In his case ‘the spirit of dignity’. He was indeed a dignified character and became particularly influential after marrying Victoire, (1878-1904) the 19 year old daughter of Monsieur Philippe in 1897.

This close association with the family led him to write what was ostensibly a biography of an 18th century thaumaturge Le Maïtre inconnu: Cagliostro. (Cagliostro – the unknown Master), parts of which can be read between the lines, for under cover of presenting Cagliostro, he provided insights into the wonder working contemporary figure of his father-in-law Monsieur Philippe!

Who – or indeed what – was Monsieur (or Maïtre) Philippe? A saint, many people thought, and some, such as Paul Sédir, a form of the ‘second coming’ of Christ. Or, in the official view, a potentially dangerous charlatan? (One reason we have such detailed records of him is thanks to contemporary police reports!).

Papus, on the other hand, found in him a ‘spiritual’ guide who drew him, over the latter part of his life, from materialistically minded occult populariser towards a form of Christian mysticism. Some saw this as a weakness, although to my mind it was a broadening of his appreciation of the invisible world(s).

Ironically, Papus was responsible for Philippe’s involvement in Russian politics by introducing him to the royal family, over whom he developed an extraordinary influence – which was only to be expected given the couple’s personal and dynastic problems and Philippe’s ability to do something to relieve them. After which it came to be assumed by the brokers of power and their agents, rightly or wrongly, that no political initiative could be pursued without the assent of Philippe. Also that he had obtained his powerful influence by corrupting the court with beliefs of the most credulous kind, as in the example of a lady in waiting who joyfully told the tsarina “I have seen Monsieur Philippe!” only to be cut down by the reply “Nobody can see Monsieur Philippe, he is a pure spirit!”

In the end the combined efforts of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Imperial court and the French diplomatic corps, to say nothing of the Russian secret police in Paris, succeeded in having Philippe return to France, but which only led to him being replaced by the sinister Raspoutin, a staretz or wandering ‘holy man’, who lasted until he was murdered in 1916, a decade after Monsieur Philippe had passed away from natural causes at home in Arbresle, shattered by the early death of his beloved daughter. In accordance with what many believed at the time – he could save others, but his own he could not save. Or indeed himself.

This is how Dr. Lalande described his father-in-law. (Note also the capitalisation of references !) “He was so different from us, so much greater in knowledge, so free, that none of our limitations applied to Him. Logic, morals, relationships, all for Him was not what it was for us, since the whole of life was present to Him, with past and future united in a single spirituality whose nature, essence, reasons, laws, ways of working, he knew.”

 Marc Haven’s brother, the philosopher André Lalande, also wrote how closely Emmanuel was attached to Philippe by friendship and admiration as well as relationship. That he was not simply a gifted healer due to some psycho-physiological faculty not yet understood, but that it went beyond that to a contact with divine power and inspiration. His moral authority over casual on-lookers or the afflicted who came in search of healing was indeed like a prophet surrounded by disciples, or even like Christ in the midst of the Apostles.

It was largely in celebration of Maïtre Philippe that Dr Lalande wrote his biography of Cagliostro although there was no direct parallel between the very different circumstances of Cagliostro’s 18th century life and times and those of Maïtre Philippe. It was rather a perceived similarity of character, as described in the following extracts that give the gist of Marc Haven’s vision of both men.

As for the sick, the unfortunate, who came to lay their troubles at his breast, they found in him a totally tested patience and miraculous help and their voice was unanimous in the attics of the poor and the mansions of the great in proclaiming his power and above all his kindness.

He was not only a lone dignity to be boasted about but a Friend of God and faithful soldier.

Always kindly, he refused no request; he listened, observed; his face receptive, his eye often took on a strange expression as if absorbed by the interior life for the moment and after he had replied, promising his intervention, his face resumed smiling.

When a being of light comes to you, and offers you, with proofs of great power, the witness of a good will without equal, is it admissible to harbour  a feeling of mistrust?

He overcame abuse, but always showed respect for the government and institutions of the country receiving him. But it is written in the laws of heaven that evil has a limit and that, when its tooth, after having savaged great and small, moves on to a friend of God and wounds him, it finally breaks itself there.

When asked where his knowledge and persuasive power came from he replied that, by a special favour, God inspired him and gave him the power.

He appears drying their tears, lifting those wounded by life, giving the lost traveller the strength and courage to walk until dawn, sowing joy and beauty in the shadows, illuminating the heavens, bringing the glorious beverage of immortality. That is what is important to humanity, which the earth remembers. These are the diamonds of nature preciously revealed at its breast which eternally mark the acts of its life. These letters of light  can be read; these voices of the earth can be heard; they speak of him. If our eyes are still greatly troubled and our ears unused to hear the witness, at least it is not in the phrases of a gazetteer or in police reports that we will seek his name, his titles or his face ... we evoke the kneeling crowds, the great and small of the earth before him; seeing again this being, so sublime in love within wisdom....

“I  am of no time and no place. Outside time and space, my spiritual  being lives its eternal existence, and if I plunge my thoughts into remounting the course of ages, if I bear my spirit towards a mode of existence far from that which you perceive, I become that which I desire. Consciously participating in absolute being, I rule my actions according to the milieu that surrounds me. My name is that of my function and I chose it, and thus my function, because I am free. My country is where I direct for the moment my steps. Identify yourself with yesterday, if you wish, by evoking the years lived by ancestors who are strangers to you; or of tomorrow, in illusory pride in a grandeur that will perhaps never be yours. As for me, I am that which is....

“Here I am: I am noble and a traveller; I speak and your soul trembles in recognition of ancient words; a voice within you which was killed a long time ago responds to the appeal of mine. I act, and peace returns to your hearts, and health into your bodies, hope and courage into your souls. All men are my brothers, all countries are dear to me; I cross them so that, everywhere, the Spirit can descend and find a way towards you....

“Like the South wind, like the brilliant light of the South that characterises the full knowledge of things and active communion with God,  I come towards the North, towards the fog and the cold, abandoning everywhere in my passage some parts of myself, dispensing me, diminishing me at each point, but leaving you a little clarity, a little warmth, a little strength, until I am finally stopped and definitively fixed at the end of my career, at the time when the rose blooms upon the cross...

“Why do you want anything more?  If you were children of God, if your soul was not so vain and curious, you would already have understood!...

“The progressive experience of my forces, of their sphere of action, of their scope and their limits, was the struggle I had to hold against the powers of this world. I was abandoned and tempted in the desert; I fought with the angel like Jacob, with men and with demons, and these, vanquished, have taught me the secrets that concern the empire of shadows, so that I can never lose myself in any of the routes from which no one returns. ..

“From then on I received, with a new name, a unique mission. Free and master of life, I only dreamed more to employ it for the work of God. I knew it would confirm my acts and my words, as I would confirm His name and His kingdom on Earth. There are beings who no longer have guardian angels; I am one of those.”

These citations from Cagliostro, selected by others and somewhat approximately translated by me, characterise the being and comportment of one ‘sent from Heaven’ applicable to both Cagliostro and Maïtre Philippe according to Mark Haven’s vision and observation.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017



The name “Barlet” crops up in many places in Parisian esoteric circles during the Papus period, and is the pseudonym for Albert Faucheux (1838-1921) derived from an anagram of  his Christian name. He had been a civil servant before his retirement, a registrar of births, marriages and deaths at Boulogne sur Mer and later at Abbeville, after which he seems to have maintained a toe hold in Paris in a tiny apartment down by the river. A modest and reclusive figure, dedicated and knowledgeable, never known to refuse a service to anyone, he was welcome as a senior member of esoteric groups of the time. Not only the Martinists and Rosicrucians but as a local representative for foreign organisations, such as the Anglo-American H.B.L. (Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor), who welcomed his reputation for a squeaky clean respectability.

            His name is found at the head of a number of articles in magazines or books of the period, particularly on astrology but not exclusively so, as for example 25 pages of ‘Notes on the Astral’ in the middle of Papus’ Traité Éleméntaire de Science Occulte. Michelet, as a dedicated gentleman of letters, considered Barlet’s style hardly an easy read, (and regretfully we would not quarrel with that) but the young Papus was obviously grateful, calling the notes remarkable extracts from a longer piece that he had published before in early issues of his journal l’Initiation.

            When it came to knowledge and wisdom, it is not difficult to rank Barlet alongside the likes of Saint Yves d’Alveydre, although completely different characters in temperament and social background. Barlet was certainly more modest and approachable. “Please,” he was heard to say to one enquirer, “Do not call me ‘master’ – I am just an old student.” And it was thought that, probably because of his innate modesty, he had never bothered to record his studies in any collected and systematic way, apart from a rumoured and unpublished work on the Zodiac and Planetary Spirits.  

Michelet, who met most leading occultists of his time, thought highly of him, and reckoned that Barlet was not only familiar with all myths and legends but had the ability to draw out their deeper significance, “rather like reducing fractions to a common denominator”. And even to verge on the prophetic, as he records a meeting with him in the middle of Paris in first days of July 1918.

It was easy to remember the date, for the situation was extremely worrying, as the populace expected the imminent bombardment of the city following the final desperate advance of the German army.

“Well,” he asked Barlet, “have you looked at the way things are going and worked them out?”

“Yes,” the old initiate replied, “the aspects are very good. Venus, who is our protector, is entering a favourable position. The second fortnight in July will be good for us and mark the point of the beginning of success.  In August the situation will be better and in September even better, and in October better still. I see the end of the war before the end of the year.”

As we know, this came in November 1918.

“There is one point though,” he added, “on which I am doubtful: Russia. Instead of finding guidance on that, I found myself concerned with Nicolas II and the death of the Tsar.”  (Who, in fact, with his family, had already been murdered although nobody in the west yet knew it.)

For an hour, Barlet elaborated on astrological concordances with physical events on the planet, and that day, after he left Barlet, Michelet felt convinced of the favourable process of events.

One regret bothered him though: it was that most of the knowledge and wisdom possessed by Barlet would never be presented in a coherent body of work, but simply scattered in occasional articles or conversations.

Which caused him to reflect that, although there are some people too busy teaching to be able to learn very much, Barlet was too concerned with learning to find time to teach!

A problem for actual or aspiring initiates everywhere?