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Gloriae Mundi, a work that was withdrawn before publication.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, 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".
From the Master's Succession
to the "Strange Manor"
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", 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:
[...] 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.
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!
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....
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":
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
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
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:
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.
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 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...
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:
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 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.