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Signs of the Times for Thu, 16 Nov 2006

Signs of the Times
16 November 2006

Jules Violle
French physicist Jules Violle, also known as the alchemist Fulcanelli

On this day in 1841, in the French town of Langres, was born Jules Violle, celebrated French physicist, member of the French Academy of Sciences, and alchemist. Better known under his pen name Fulcanelli, Jules Violle wrote two important alchemical texts, The Mystery of the Cathedrals and The Dwellings of the Philosophers, as well as leaving the notes for a third volume, Finis Gloriae Mundi, a work that was withdrawn before publication.

Although there has been much speculation since the publication of these two books over the true identity of the Master Alchemist Fulcanelli, with answers ranging from his non-existence as an individual (according to this hypothesis, Fulcanelli was in fact a committee!), to his being a member of the Parisian occult circles of the late 19th and early 20th century, Patrick Rivière has settled the case in his book Fulcanelli: His True Identity Revealed. With painstaking research and ample evidence taken from the career of this illustrious French scientist, it is clear that not only did Fulcanelli exist, but that he was a physicist of great repute.

Violle achieved his fame via his work on solar radiation and the establishment of the unit of luminous intensity which bears his name: the Violle. His research on the solar constant and atmospheric absorption led him to consider that the Sun's temperature was much lower than thought at the time, arguing that the higher the altitude, the less dense the atmosphere and lower the temperature. And this is precisely what Fulcanelli wrote in the following terms, in The Dwellings of the Philosophers:

High mountains remain crowned with snow despite the heat of the summer. In the elevated regions of the atmosphere, when the sun reaches the zenith, the cupolas of hot air balloons are covered with frost and their passengers suffer from intense cold. So, experience demonstrates that temperature goes down as altitude increases. Even light is only visible to us in as much as we are placed in its field of radiation. If we are outside the radiant beam, its action ceases for our eyes. It is a well-known fact that an observer looking at the sky from the bottom of a well at noon sees the starry night sky.

Whence, then, do heat and light come from? From the simple shock of cold and dark vibrations against the gaseous molecules in our atmosphere. And since resistance increases in direct proportion to the density of the environment, heat and light are stronger on the surface of the earth than at great altitudes because the strata of air are also denser. Such is, at least, the physical explanation of the phenomenon. In fact, and according to hermetic theory, the opposition to the vibratory movement, the reactions are nothing more the first causes of an effect that translates into the liberation of luminous and fiery atoms from atmospheric air. Under the action of the vibratory bombardment, the spirit, freed from the body, takes on, for our senses physical qualities characteristic of its active phase: luminosity, radiance, heat. [pp. 53-54]

Violle, himself, conducted experiments at the summit of Mont Blanc to collect data for testing his theory. Rivière's book is replete with such parallels from the writings of Violle and of Fulcanelli that establish their common interests and common friends.

To celebrate the birth of this great man, we publish below Chapter 10 from Patrick Rivière's book, the account of Eugène Canseliet's mysterious meeting with his Master in Seville, thirty years after Violle's "death".

Chapter 10: From the Master's Succession to the "Strange Manor"

Patrick Rivière

After the official disappearance of Fulcanelli in 1923, his disciple, Eugène Canseliet, succeeded the Master. Nine years later, one year after Julien Champagne's death in 1932, Eugène Canseliet moved to 10 quai des Célestins in Paris. His new residence was again a garret room, but this time one which was better fitted for alchemical work. He had carried out a variety of experiments the previous year - notably on the wet path. Following in the footsteps of Irenee Philalethes, he used a glass matrass in which he achieved a long coction of gold-mercury. He depicted this in a series of forty-eight watercolours, which, alas, disappeared during the invasion in 1940.

In 1932, Canseliet also became acquainted with Paul Le Cour, the chair of the Atlantis association, headquartered in Vincennes. He collaborated with the association for half a century, publishing numerous articles of high literary quality on the subject of hermeticism with them. Curiously, Paul Le Cour revealed to Canseliet that the famous sentence that he had heard in a dream in his adolescence:

When, in your house, black ravens have begotten white doves, then you will be called The Wise...

figured "among others also seen on the lintel, jambs and threshold of a door", which was dated 1680 and integrated into the wall enclosing the public gardens at Piazza Vittorio-Emmanuele in Rome, and which was among the last remains of Marquis Massimiliano Palombara's villa. Astounded by such a "coincidence", Eugène Canseliet decided to undertake a thorough study of that new "philosopher's dwelling", and indeed included it in a book signed this time with his own name: "Deux Logis Alchimiques"[1], published by Jean Schemit in 1945. What is even more curious is that the eminent scholar through whom these inscriptions reached Eugène Canseliet was actually named Cancellieri!

In 1936, on the occasion of a party organized to celebrate the bonfire of St. John, the writer Rosny the Elder questioned Eugène Canseliet about Fulcanelli's identity. Pierre Geyraud reported this conversation in his book, L'Occultisme à Paris[2]:

[...] I am only the "prefacer", answered Eugène Canseliet to his interlocutor; Champagne is only the illustrator; and Fulcanelli is the pseudonym of a third person whom, in observance of the hermetic rule of silence, I am not allowed to designate otherwise. This Fulcanelli is still alive. He is commissioned by the White Brotherhood to help with the evolution of mankind. He is a genuine Rose-Cross[3]. He is sometimes in Argentina, sometimes traveling all over the world in the way of the Rose-Cross of old. For the time being, he is in the south of France. He is a master with wonderful powers....

Was this enlightening reply from a studious disciple an authentic testimony, or was it simply reflecting a belief? Was it a figment of the imagination of an idealist imbued with mysticism? The question remains irremediably open, even and above all, if we keep in mind the time-honoured tradition of the Adepts. Did Bertrand Russell not write:

It is good to believe certain things and bad to believe others, irrespective of the knowledge that these things are true or false! [4]

That year, Eugène Canseliet succeeded in extracting the "philosopher's sulphur", the precious rémore, embryo of the Philosopher's Stone. Two years later, he undertook the famous coction of the Third Work at Deuil-la-Barre (in the Val d'Oise area) where he had just settled with his family. When the aurora borealis arose - glowing brilliantly and exceptionally visible in the nocturnal European skies on that Monday, January 24, 1938 - the Egg hatched and the radiating energy, like a little Sun, suddenly arose from the athenor and rushed into the chimney.

Anticipated apocalyptic spectacle promised by Saint John where, radiating from the north, long, green beams hit the red coat spreading in the sky that seemed to reflect all the blood that martyred mankind was about to shed on Earth....[5]

It should be mentioned that, indeed, a few months later, the Second World War broke out!

Canseliet attempted to produce the famous coction again three times after that, but was, alas, always unsuccessful.

In the 1950s, he went on a very unusual trip to Spain, the story of which he secretly confided to his friend, writer Claude Seignolle. Seignolle wanted to publish this strange story in a compendium of more or less fantastic tales, and ultimately yielded to the temptation to do so, though he did so under conditions of the strictest anonymity. The book appeared in 1969 under the generic title "Invitation au Château de l'Etrange[6]":

By revealing this confidential adventure, I am going to betray a friend with whom there has been a strong exchange of affection going on for a long time - not only with him, but also with his two daughters. He is a simple, modest, and - this goes without saying - sincere man. His science is vast, genuine. Of course, I will keep his name secret, for he is famous and respected in esoteric circles, but I bend my head before his reproaches in advance, in case he should see these lines.

Every day, he receives a minister's correspondence and he regularly exchanges exciting letters with, among others, a rich Castilian family. This family claims to be withdrawn from Time, and writes in an old French delightfully interspersed with imperfect subjunctives, to the great joy of my friend who speaks this way on a daily basis, even with his grocer.

Two or three years ago, these Castilians sent him a plane ticket to Madrid, inviting him to spend a few days with them in order to learn more from him, and themselves pledging to teach him more about his specialty - which actually seemed to be a challenge! The adventure being tempting, my friend, although little inclined to accept that kind of invitation, felt he was on the verge of discovering interesting things. Indeed, already, the style and contents of the letters received over several years never failed to surprise him by their subtle remarks, as well as by their rich contributions.

He took the plane. At the Madrid airport, an old Hispano car was waiting for him. The chauffeur looked more like a coachman than a driver, wearing an old-fashioned livery and looking worthy of appearing in one of Goya's paintings. Nobody else came to welcome him and the chauffeur remained silent. My friend began one of his usual smiling meditations as he enjoyed the ride. They covered a long distance and at dusk arrived before the gates of a park enclosed by high walls. However, they had not yet reached their destination: a sinuous, stony road led them first to the left, then to the right, as if losing itself....At last they stopped along a platform. The driver turned off the engine, got out, and taking my friend's suitcase, invited him to follow him. There, a lane led them farther. They walked for a long time before arriving at a large, old mansion, low but stately.

Upon entering, my friend observed that there was no electricity. No bulbs. Here, the only light came from candles. Was it in his honour, to give an atmosphere of old-Spain? Or was it customary? His hosts were there waiting for him, faithful to a dressing tradition that, instead of leading him to consider it a grotesque masquerade, gave him cause to rejoice. "At last," he thought, "here are people who know how to evade this century's ever-changing and sometimes daring fashions. Here, all the ladies are wearing long dresses. Velvets and brocades. The gentlemen are wearing a kind of doublet, long stockings, buckle shoes."

All gathered around the Master come from another place and welcomed him (for an instant I place myself in that delightful man's stead when he heard old-French, peppered with old-Castilian, spoken around him).

The welcoming repast had the same old-fashioned flavour, regarding both the food, as well as the service. As for conversation, it was quite astonishing. My friend soon noticed - which he had already observed from their letters - that his hosts, while not quite sure of themselves in the field of modern alchemy, had a thorough knowledge of ancient alchemy, and spoke about it quite naturally, just as they would about things that they would normally do on a daily basis. My friend was then stupefied to hear - since he believed that he knew everything - not only of the existence of books of which he was unaware and the quoting of forgotten formulas, but also of the existence of the lost Force of ancient alchemy, which he found in these people.

Who were these characters living in 1966, but who were keeping the lifestyle of the eighteenth-century? He carefully refrained from asking. In any case, had he not seen even stranger things in his magician's life?

His sojourn there lasted one week. Not only did he learn a lot, but it was a beneficial recovery cure. He saw planes crossing the sky without the slightest noise, and on the neighbouring road, cars drove in silence, as if the present was only a figment of his imagination. There were no sounds around him other than the ones of a loving and peaceful family indefatigably and patiently repeating their daily gestures and holding the feverish conversations of an endless life.

Of course, Eugène Canseliet heard about the publication of this singular tale, and two years later in 1971, decided to speak about the strange trip that had brought him to the surroundings of Seville. Journalist Henri Rode took his statement in an interview that the good master of Savignies gave to the magazine Le Grand Albert (n°1):

As for Fulcanelli, alive, he certainly is... Time does not matter... It so happens that I saw him again in 1951 and I discovered the secret place where he is. I was traveling in Spain, not far from Seville, where I was the guest of a friend who owns a beautiful mansion with a terrace and large staircase opening on a park. I immediately felt Fulcanelli in the atmosphere. The more so as I discovered from my window - which added to the charm of the picture - the presence of a child of about 10 and a little girl, who both seemed to have originated from a painting by Velazquez. A pony and two greyhounds were at their sides. But after one of those long working nights so customary for me, my discovery seemed even more convincing: in a large lane with dense foliage, a young lady, a queen, was approaching, wearing the Collar of the Golden Fleece and was followed by a Duenna. All this very vivid, very luminous. The young lady warmly nodded to me, and I was sure that Fulcanelli whispered, "Do you recognize me?", to which I replied, "Yes". But how could such certainties be conveyed?

Edifying testimony indeed!

Let us add some excerpts from the book by Kenneth Rayner Johnson, entitled The Fulcanelli Phenomenon: The Story of a Twentieth-Century Alchemist in the Light of New Examination of the Hermetic Tradition[7]:

Eugène Canseliet, the man who was closest to Fulcanelli, all during his strange existence, affirmed that again he saw his master in Spain at a more recent date: 1954.[8]

Kenneth Rayner Johnson says he is sure of the quoted date:

Undoubtedly, Mr Canseliet was in Spain during this year. Gérard Heym, a knowledgeable esoterist, knew M. Canseliet through his friendship with his daughter and was able to see Canseliet's passport. It contained a visa for Spain only for 1954.

This checking indeed leaves no room for doubt. Later on we shall see why this is so important to us. For the time being, let us continue with the British author's story:

Mr Canseliet prepared his bags and undertook his trip to Spain. His destination was Seville. [...] Someone came to meet him - we don't know exactly who - and M. Canseliet was conduced to a manor or a large estate in the mountains. There he was received by his old master, Fulcanelli, who appeared to be about fifty. M. Canseliet was fifty-four.

M. Canseliet was taken to his rooms, on the first floor, in a tower of the manor; the window opened on a large, rectangular terrace. During his stay, he had the distinct impression that the manor was the refuge of an entire colony of distinguished alchemists-including Adepts like his master-and that it was owned by Fulcanelli. Shortly after his arrival, he was shown to a small laboratory and was told he could work there and carry on his experiments.

Returning to his rooms, M Canseliet went to his window to breathe some fresh air and observed the patio below. He saw a group of children-probably the children of other guests at the manor-who were playing. But there was something strange about them. In looking more closely, he realized it was in the clothing they were wearing. They looked like they were from the XVIth century. The children were playing some sort of game, and M. Canseliet thought they were dressed this way for a masquerade or a costume party. That night he went to bed without thinking more about the incident.

The next day, he returned to his experiments in the laboratory he had been given. From time to time his master visited him briefly to watch over his progress.

One morning, M. Canseliet, descending the staircase of the tower in which he was staying, found himself under a vaulted porch that opened onto the patio when, suddenly, he heard voices. Crossing the patio, he approached a group of three women who were talking animatedly. M. Canseliet was surprised to see that they were wearing ample and long clothes in the style of the XVIth century, just like the children he had seen two days earlier. Was it another masquerade? The women then approached him. M. Canseliet was torn between surprise at what he was seeing and embarrassment at being dressed so casually. He went to turn around and return to his rooms when, as the women passed by, one of them turned abruptly, looked at him, and gave him a smile.

All this lasted only an instant. The woman rejoined her companions and together they continued on, out of sight. [...]

M. Canseliet remained shaken because he could have sworn that the face of the woman who had given him the smile was that of Fulcanelli...

What can be concluded from the above? That she was closely related to the Adept? Or else, as Kenneth Rayner Johnson suggests, was it an initiatory phenomenon comparable to a shamanic trance, and in this case, perfectly symbolizing the archetype of the hermetic androgynous state?

In any event, the prodigious character of these experiences as reported by Eugène Canseliet certainly deserves further consideration. Indeed, he gave further details in various interviews. He revealed in Le Feu du Soleil that:

He [Fulcanelli] is no longer there. He is on the Earth, but it is the Earthly Paradise. What does he do now? I have seen nothing. I saw him upon my arrival, when he welcomed me in a three-piece suit. [...]

And then I saw him while I was working in the laboratory. He came to see me where I was working, and I saw him; I saw him twice. [...]

When they came to fetch me, they said it was to go to Italy. Upon arrival in Paris, we stopped in front of the Drouant restaurant, Gare de l'Est. At that time, it took at least three days to obtain a visa for Spain. They went to fetch my visa and brought it back at once. So, we were to travel to Spain. It was near Seville. I was walking like a king. All that was needed was there, but I always went back to my apartment and left again early every morning. There were apple and lemon trees in the garden, and a brisk stream. It was magnificent!

So, I certainly did not expect to meet Fulcanelli with my suspenders falling down on my trousers. When he saw me, he again addressed me as "tu" and "toi", as he used to do: "But then, you (tu) recognize me?"

It is difficult to recognize a child you have known when he is 25. In this case, it was the opposite. The previous times I had seen Fulcanelli in the Sarcelles gasworks, for instance, he was a handsome old man, but an old man. But I recognized him because I had drawn portraits.

And then on Jacques Chancel's Radioscopie radio programme in 1978:

It is as if he had gone backwards in Time, but one still recognizes many things in the face: ears, the shape, the hair, greying, yes, but which was black. Well, you will tell me that he could be dyeing it! No, it was him. I could not see whether or not he had new teeth, I am going far, but on the whole, what bearing!...

To this should be added a posthumous testimony, supplied this time by the late Jean Laplace. Shortly after Eugène Canseliet's demise in 1982, Laplace and Eugène Canseliet's daughter, Isabelle, discovered a cardboard folder in the family house in Savignies. This folder contained documents pertaining to the famous Finis Gloriae Mundi - Fulcanelli's unpublished third book - as well as a precious relic connected to the mysterious trip to Seville, which he alluded to as follows:

[...] A small, rectangular photographic card, serrated at the edges, as was the custom in the 1950s. I am so impressed by what this venerable relic represents that I dare not reveal its existence... What to do with it? Destroy it? It would be a shame to relegate to the ashes forever the majestic spirit fixed on a plate that is sensitive to all which irradiates.

Then in a footnote:

It must not be thought that it is the impression of an ectoplasm. I am simply talking about the face of an ordinary mortal that has kept a human shape, and that has been enriched by an indescribable expression.

And he added:

At Savignies, in the ground floor study after supper, an amazing silence suddenly settled. Taking the photograph in her hand with the greatest respect, Isabelle said: "I have no doubt".

And he concluded:

[...] I think I should make it clear that the photograph referred to is no longer in the possession of any being living in this world. That was, by the way, the indispensable condition for Isabelle Canseliet and myself to be allowed to talk about it...[9]

Would it really have been all that surprising if Fulcanelli had said to his disciple when he met him again in Seville: "Do not touch me!"... thus renewing the Easter Mystery that sees the triumph of the body of Light, the only body worthy of glorious immortality?

Further, didn't Eugène Canseliet opportunely write about Fulcanelli's first initiator, the Adept Basile Valentin, in the preface to his major work: Les Douze Clefs de la Philosophie[10]:

Of course, no more heavy-to-bear secret difficult to defend against malice and nastiness, for the Adept having shed his old human slough, who enjoys the invisibility and ubiquitousness devolved only upon the members of the Rose-Cross, as well as on those of the universal Heliopolis. Is, henceforth, oblivion not inherent in his glorified body, as it would be for the man who is freed from his very past?

It is this that the sensitive plate of the camera had caught, and which the late Jean Laplace sincerely attempted to convey to us....

To close this chapter where the fantastic is king, let us tell you that in Le Feu du Soleil Eugène Canseliet claimed that when he saw Fulcanelli again in Seville, the latter was at least 113 years of age. The reader will then understand, in view of the preceding chapters and of the evidence discovered by Gérard Heym in Eugène Canseliet's passport, verifying that Canseliet had travelled to Spain in 1954, that Fulcanelli could only have been born in 1841.... As was Jules Violle.

[1] Two Alchemical Dwellings (Tr.).

[2] Occultism in Paris, Editions Emile-Paul Fr., 1953.

[3] See my book, Saint Germain ... Les mystères de la Rose-Croix (St. Germain...The Mysteries of the Rose-Cross) , Ed. De Vecchi, 1995.

[4] Free quotation (Tr).

[5] Les Deux Logis Alchimique.

[6] Invitation to a Strange Castle (Tr), Editions Maisonneuve et Larose.

[7] Publisher, Neville Spearman, Jersey, 1980.

[8] Retranslated from the French. (Tr.)

[9] Jean Laplace, Index général des Termes spéciaux, des Expressions et des Sentences propres à l'Alchimie, se rencontrant dans l'œuvre complète d'Eugène Canseliet, Ed. J.-J. Pauvert, Paris, 1986.

[10] The Twelve Keys to Philosophy. (Tr.)

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