Preface to Mystery of the Cathedrals
For a disciple it is an ungrateful and difficult task to introduce a work written by his own Master. It is, therefore, not my intention to analyse here Le Mystere des Cathedrales, nor to underline its high tone and its profound teaching. I most humbly acknowledge my incapacity and prefer to give the reader the task of evaluating it and the Brothers of Heliopolis the pleasure of receiving this synthesis made so superbly by one themselves. Time and truth will do the rest.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
When Le Mystère des Cathédrales was written down in 1922, Fulcanelli had not yet received the Gift of God, but he was so close to supreme Illumination that he judged it necessary to wait and to keep the anonymity, which he had always observed -- more, perhaps, from natural inclination than from strict regard for the rule of secrecy. We must say, certainly, that this man of another age, with his strange appearance, his old-fashioned manners and his unusual occupations, involuntarily attracted the attention of the idle, the curious and the foolish. Much greater, however, was the attention he was to attract a little later by the complete disappearance of his common presence.
Indeed right from the time that his first writings were compiled, the Master expressed his absolute and unshakeable resolve to keep his real identity in the background and to insist that the label given him by society should be unequivocally exchanged for the pseudonym -- already familiar in his case -- required by Tradition. This celebrated name is so firmly secured, even to the remotest future, that it would be absolutely impossible for any patronymic, even the most brilliant or most highly esteemed, to be substituted for it.
One should at least realize that the author of a work of such high quality would not abandon it the moment it came into the world, unless he had pertinent and compelling reasons, long pondered, for so doing. These reasons, on a very different plane, led to the renunciation at which we cannot but wonder, since even the loftiest authors are susceptible to the fame that comes from the printed word. It should be said that the case of Fulcanelli is unique in the realm of Letters in our day, since it derives from an infinitely superior code of ethics. In obedience to this, the new Adept attunes his destiny to that of his exalted predecessors, who, like himself, appeared at their appointed time on the great highway like beacons of hope and mercy. What perfect filial duty, carried to the ultimate degree, in order that the eternal, universal and indivisible Truth might continually be reaffirmed in its double aspect, the spiritual and the scientific. Fulcanelli, like most of the Adepts of old, in casting off the worn-out husk of his former self, left nothing in the road but the phantom trace of his signature -- a signature, whose aristocratic nature is amply shown by his visiting card.
Anyone with knowledge of the alchemical books of the past will accept as a basic premise that oral instruction from master to pupil is the most valuable of all. Fulcanelli received his own initiation in this way, as I myself received mine from him, although I owe it to myself to state that Cyliani had already opened wide for me the great door of the labyrinth that week in 1915, when the new edition of his little work was published.
In my introduction to the Douze Clefs de la Philosophie, I repeated deliberately that Basil Valentine was my Master's initiator, partly because this gave me an opportunity to change the epithet: that is to say substitute -- for the sake of accuracy -- first initiator for true initiator, which I had used before in my Preface to Demeures Philosophales. At the time I did not know of the very moving letter, which I shall quote a little later, which owes its striking effect to the warm enthusiasm and fervent expression of the writer. Both writer and recipient remain anonymous, because the signature has been scratched out and there is no superscription. The recipient was undoubtedly Fulcanelli's master and Fulcanelli left this revealing letter among his own papers. It bears two crossed brown lines at the folds, from having been kept for a long time in his pocket book, which did not, however, protect it from the fine, greasy dust of the enormous stove going all the time. So, for many years, the author of Le Mystère des Cathédrales kept as a talisman the written proof of the triumph of his true initiator, which nothing any longer prevents me from publishing; especially since it provides us with a powerful and correct idea of the sublime level at which the Great Work takes place. I do not think that anyone will object to the length of this strange epistle, and it would certainly be a pity to shorten it by single word:
'My old friend,
'This time you have really had the Gift of God; it is a great blessing and, for the first time, I understand how rare this favour is. Indeed, I believe that, ini its unfathomable depth of simplicity, the arcanum cannot be found by the force of reason alone, however subtle and well trained it may be. At last you posess the Treasure of Treasures. Let us give thanks to the Divine Light which made you a participant in it. Moreover, you have richly deserved it on account of your unshakeable belief in Truth, the constancy of your effort, your perseverence in sacrifice and also, let us not forget ... your good works.
'When my wife told me the good news, I was stunned with surprise and joy and was so happy that I could hardly contain myself. So much so, that I said to myself: let us hope that we shall not have to pay for this hour of intoxication with some terrible aftermath. But, although I was only briefly informed about the matter, I believed that I understood it, and what confirms me in my certainty is that the fire goes out only when the Work is accomplished and the whole tictorial mass impregnates the glass, which, from decantation to decantation, remains absolutely saturated and becomes luminous like the sun.
'You have extended generosity to the point of associating us with this high and occult knowledge, to which you have full right and which is entirely personal to you. We, more than any, can appreciate its worth and we, more than any, are capable of being eternally grateful to you for it. You know that the finest phrases, the most eloquent protestations, are not worth as much as the moving simplicity of this single utterance: you are good, and it is for this great virtue that God has crowned you with the diadem of true royalty. He knows that you will make noble use of the sceptre and of the priceless endowment which it provides. We have for a long time known you as the blue mantle of your friends in trouble. This charitable cloak has suddenly grown larger and your noble shoulders are now covered by the whole azure of the sky and its great sun. May you long enjoy this great and rare good fortune, to the joy and consolation of your friends, and even of your enemies, for misfortune cancels out everything. From henceforth you will have at your disposal the magic ring which works all miracles.
'My wife, with the inexplicable intuition of sensitives, had a really strange dream. She saw a man enveloped in all the colours of the rainbow and raised up to the sun. We did not have long to wait for the explanation. What a miracle! What a beautiful and triumphant reply to my letter, so crammed with arguments and --theoretically-- so exact; but yet how far from the Truth, from Reality. Ah! One can almost say that he, who has greeted the morning star has for ever lost the use of his sight and his reason, because he is fascinated by this false light and cast into the abyss . . . . Unless, as in your case, a great stroke of fate comes to pull him unexpectedly from the edge of the precipice.
'I am longing to see you , my old friend, to hear you tell me about the last hours of anguish and of triumph. But be assured that I shall never be able to express in words the great joy that we have felt and all the gratitude we have at the bottom of our hearts. Alleluia!
'I send you my love and congratulations'
'Your old . . . .
'He who knows how to do the Work by the one and only mercury has found the most perfect thing -- that is to say he has received the light and accomplished the Magistery.'
One passage may perhaps have disconcerted the attentive reader, who is already familiar with the main ideas of the hermetic problem. This was when the intimate and wise correspondent exclaimed: 'Ah! One can almost say that he, who has greeted the morning star has forever lost the use of his sight and his reason, because he is fascinated by their false light and cast into the abyss.'
Does not this phrase apparently contradict what I stated twenty years ago, in a study of the Golden Fleece¹, namely that the star is the great sign of the Work; that it sets its seal on the philosophic matter; that it teaches the alchemist that he has found not the light of fools but the light of the wise; that it is the crown of wisdom; and that it is called the morning star?
It may have been noted that I specified briefly that the hermetic star is admired first of all in the mirror of the art or mercury, before being discovered in the chemical sky, where it shines in an infinitely more discreet manner. Torn between my charitable duty to the reader and the need for preserving secrecy, I might have made a virtue of paradox, and , pleading arcane wonders, could then have recopied some lines written in a very old exercise book, after one of those learned talks by Fulcanelli. Those talks, accompanied by cold sweet coffee, were the delight of my assiduous and studious adolescence, when I was greedy for priceless knowledge:
Our star is single and yet it is double. Know how to distinguish its true imprint from its image and you will observe that it shines with more intensity in the light of day than in the darkness of night.
This statement corroborates and completes the no less categorical and solemn one made by Basil Valentine (Douze Clefs):
'Two stars have been granted to man by the Gods, in order to lead him to the great Wisdom: observe them. Oh man! and follow their light with constancy, because it is Wisdom.'
Are they not the two stars shown in one of the little alchemical paintings in the Franciscan convent of Cimiez, accompanied by the Latin inscription expressing the saving virtue inherent in the night shining of the star?:
'Cum luce salutem; with light, salvation.'
At any rate, if you have the slightest philosophic sense and take the trouble to meditate on the words of the undoubted Adepts quoted above, you will have the key with which Cyliani unlocks the door of the temple. But if you do not understand, then read the words of Fulcanelli again and do not go looking elsewhere for a teaching, which no other book could give so precisely.
There are, then, two stars which, improbably as it may seem, are really only one star. The star shining on the mystic Virgin -- who is at one and the same time our mother (mère) and the hermetic sea (mer) -- announces the conception and is but the reflection of that other, which precedes the miraculous advent of the Son. For though the celestial Virgin is also called stella matutina, the morning star; though the recognition of this source of blessings brings joy to the heart of the artist; yet it is no more than a simple image, reflected by the mirror of Wisdom. In spite of its importance and the space given to it by the authors, this visible but intangible star bears witness to that other, which crowned the divine Child at his birth. The star which led the Magi to the cave at Bethlehem, as St. Chrysostom tells us, came to rest, before dispersing, on the Saviour's head and surrounded him with luminous glory.
I will stress this point, although I am sure that few will thank me for it: we are truly concerned with a nocturnal star, whose light shines without great brightness at the pole of the hermetic sky. It is, therefore, important, without allowing oneself to be led astray by appearances, to enquire about this terrestrial sky mentioned by Vinceslas Lavinius of Moravia and dwelt on at length by Jacobus Tollius:
'You will have understood what this Sky is, from the following little commentary of mine and by which the alchemical sky will have been disclosed. For:
'This sky is immense and clothes the fields in purple light,
'In which one has recognised one's stars and one's sun.'
It is essential to consider well that the sky and the earth, although they are confused in the original cosmic Chaos, differ neither in substance nor in essence, but become different in quality, quantity and virtue. Does not the alchemical earth, which is chaotic, inert and sterile, contain nevertheless the philosophic sky? Would it then be impossible for the artist, the imitator of Nature and of the divine Great Work, with the help of the secret fire and the universal spirit, to separate in his little world the luminous, clear, crystalline parts from the dark, coarse and dense parts? Further, this separation must be made, consisting in the extraction of light from darkness and accomplishing the work of the first of the Great Days of Solomon. It is by means of this process that we are able to know what the philosophic earth is and what the Adepts have named the sky of the wise.
Philalethes, who in his Entrée ouverte au Palais fermé du Roi has dealt at greatest length on the practice of the Work, mentions the hermetic star and infers the cosmic magic of its appearance.
'It is the miracle of the world, the assembly of superior virtues in the inferior ones. That is why the Almighty has marked it with an extraordinary sign. The Wise Men saw it in the east, were struck with amazement and knew at once that a King most pure had been born into the world.
'As for you, as soon as you see his star, follow it to the Cradle, where you will see the lovely Child.'
Then the Adept reveals the manner of operating:
'Let four parts be taken of our fiery dragon, which hides our magic steel in its belly, and nine parts of our lodestone; mix them together, by burning Vulcan, in the form of mineral water, on which the scum will float which must be removed. Throw away the crust, take the inner part, purge three times, by fire and by salt, which will be done easily if Saturn has seen his image in the mirror of Mars.'
Finally Philalethes adds:
'And the Almighty sets his royal seal on the Work and adorns it specially therewith.'
The star is not truly a sign peculiar to the labour of the Great Work. It may be met with a number of alchemical combinations, special procedures and spyragic operations of comparatively little importance. Nevertheless, it always has the same meaning, showing the partial or total transformation of the bodies on which it is fixed. A typical example is given us by Johann Friedrich Helvetius in an extract from his Golden Calf (Vitulus Aureus) which I translate:
'A certain goldsmith of La Hay (whose name is Grillus), a practised disciple of alchemy, but a very poor man according to the nature of this science, some years ago² asked my greatest friend, that is to say Johann Kaspar Knottner the dyer of cloths, for some spirits of salt prepared not in the ordinary manner. When Knottner asked whether this special spirits of salt was to be used for metal or not, Gril replied for metals. He then poured this spirits of salt on some lead, which he had placed in a glass receptacle used for preserves or food. Now, after a period of two weeks, there appeared, floating, a very strange and resplendent silvery Star, as though drawn with a compass by a very skilful artist, whereupon Gril, filled with immense joy, told us that he had already seen the visible star of the Philosophers, which he had probably read about in Basil (Valentine). I, myself, and many other honourable men looked with extreme amazment at this star floating on the spirits of salt, while, at the bottom, the lead remained the colour of ashes and swollen like a sponge. However, after an interval of seven or nine days, this moisture of the spirits of salt, absorbed by the great heat of the July air, disappeared and the star went down to the bottom and rested on this spongy and earthy lead. This result caused amazement to no small number of witnesses. Finally Gril assayed the part of the same ash-coloured lead which had the star adhering to it and he obtained from one pound of lead twelve ounces of assayed silver and from these two ounces, besides, two ounces of excellent gold.'
This is Helvetius' story. I quote it in order to illustrate the presence of the sign of the star on all the internal modifications of bodies treated philosophically. However, I would not like to be the cause of any fruitless and disappointing work which might be undertaken by some enthusiastic readers, based on the reputation of Helvetius, the probity of the eye-witnesses and, perhaps too, on my constant concern for truth. That is why I draw the attention of those, wishing to repeat the process, to the fact that two essential pieces of data are missing in this account: namely, the exact chemical composition of the hydrochloric acid and the preliminary operations carried out on the metal. No chemist will contradict me when I say that ordinary lead, whatever it may be, will never take on the appearance of pumice stone by being subjected, cold, to the action of muriatic acid. Several preparatory actions are, therefore, necessary to cause the dilation of the metal, to separate out from it the coarsest impurities and its perishable elements, in order to bring it finally, by means of the requisite fermentation, to that state of swelling which obliges it to assume a soft spongy structure, already showing a very marked tendency towards a profound change in its specific properties.
Blaise de Vigenère and Naxagoras, for example, have spoken at length of the expediency of a long preliminary cooking process. For if it is true that common lead is dead -- because it has suffered reduction and because, as Basil Valentine says, a great flame will consume a little fire -- it is none the less true that the same metal, patiently fed a fiery substance, will be reanimated; will little by little regain its lost activity and, from being an inert chemical mass, will become a living philosophic body.
The reader may be surprised that I have spent so much time on a single point of the Doctrine, even devoting the greater part of this preface to it, and, in so doing, I fear that I may have exceeded the usual aim of writing of this kind. However, it must be obvious how logical it was for me to dilate on this subject which, I maintain, leads us straight into Fulcanelli's text . Indeed, right from the beginning my Master has dwelt on the primary role of the star, this mineral Theophany which announces with certainty the tangible solution of a great secret concealed in religious buildings. This is Mystère des Cathédrales, the very title of the work which -- after the 1926 printing, consisting of only 300 copies -- we are bringing out in a second edition, augmented by three drawings by Julien Champagne and by Fulcanelli's original notes, collected just as they were without the least addition or alteration. The latter refer to a very agonizing question, with which the Master was concerned for a long time, and on which I shall say a few words in connection with the Demeures Philosophales.
However, if Le Mystère des Cathédrales needed any justification, it would be enough to point out that this book has restored to light the phonetic cabala, whose principles and application had been completely lost. After this detailed and precise elucidation and after the brief treatment of it, which I gave in connection with the centaur, the man-horse of Plessis-Bourré, in Deux Logis Alchimiques, this mother tongue need never be confused with the Jewish Kabbala. Though never spoken, the phonetic cabala, this forceful idiom, is easily understood and it is -- at least according to Cyrano de Bergerac -- the instinct or voice of Nature. By contrast, the Jewish Kabbala is full of transpositions, inversions, substitutions and calculations, as arbitrary as they are abstruse. This is why it is important to distinguish between the two words cabala and kabbala, in order to use them knowledgeably. Cabala derives from χαδάλλης or from the Latin caballus, a horse; kabbala is from the Hebrew Kabbalah, which means tradition. Finally, figurative meanings like coterie, underhand dealing or intrigue, developed in modern usage by analogy, should be ignored so as to reserve for the noun cabala the only significance which can be assured for it. This is the one which Fulcanelli himself confirmed in such a masterly way by rediscovering the lost key to the Gay Science, the Language of the Gods, the Language of the Birds. It is the language with which Jonathan Swift, that strange Dean of St. Patrick's, was so familiar and which he used with so much knowledge and virtuosity.
Savignies, August 1957
¹Cf. Alchimie, p. 137. Published by J-J. Pauvert, Paris.
²About 1664, the year of the matchless first edition of the Vitulus Aureus.
INTRODUCTION BY WALTER LANG
TWO UNIVERSES: the universe of science and the universe of alchemy.
To the scientist, alchemy is a farrago of medieval nonsense which enlightened materialist method has rightly consigned to the discard.
To the alchemist, the scientific universe is no more than an abstraction from a much greater whole.
Behind science, says the alchemist, there is Science. All unsuspected, except by a negligible few in every age, there exists a technology of noumena as superior to the technology of phenomena as a supernova is to a candle flame.
To the alchemist, all the phenomena of the universe are combinations of a single prime energy inaccessible to the ordinary senses. Only a minute cross section of the total cosmic spectrum is 'bent' by the senses and so rendered tangible. Science has defined this minute abstraction as its total return and is therefore condemned to turn endlessly inside a nutshell of its own making, learning ever more and more about less and less.
Since alchemists are popularly regarded as at best deluded and at worst deranged, a claim that alchemy is not only science but Science, not only a religion but Religion, is apt to be dismissed out of hand as derisory.
The scientific standpoint begins by being consistent. Man has certain senses and he has developed extensions of his senses which he calls instruments. So equipped, he investigates the universe around him -- and occasionally -- the universe inside himself.
As there is no sensory evidence for any other kind of universe, why drag one in? Dragging in hypotheses which are unnecessary to explain encountered facts is an affront to the principle of Occam's Razor and therefore to scientific good sense.
In so far as any discipline is entitled to define its own concerns, this is entirely legitimate. What is not so tenable is to imply that because science has selected one possible universe, the universe of fact, and has been superbly successful in charting it, no other universe can possibly exist. Science, to be fair, does not exactly say this but it is very happy to see this implication accepted.
The situation is really the Plato's cave allegory one stage up. In Plato's cave, the shadow men live in a seemingly logical world. To them, a more solid world, and one inhabited by men with real eyesight, is a hypothesis unnecessary to explain the shadow world they live in. The shadow men say in effect: 'We know nothing of this superior world you talk about and we don't want to know. We have our own terms of reference and we find them satisfactory. Please go away.'
This is precisely the attitude of modern materialist science to alchemy: ' In terms of the universe we measure and know, your supposed universe is nonsense. Therefore we have no hesitation in asserting with complete confidence that your ideas are delusional.'
In effect: 'No case, abuse the plaintiff's counsel.'
But is there no case? For some thousands of years, some of the best intellects of all cultures have been occupied with the ideas of alchemy. Weighed solely on statistical probability, does it seem likely that an entirely imaginary philosophy should attract ceaseless generations of men?
The impasse is worse than it need be because of an almost accidental factor. Alchemy, so far as science has heard, is concerned with making gold and such an activity is so associated with human credulity, cupidity and unscience generally that ordinary philosophy begs to be excused from involvement in anything so obviously puerile.
Is alchemy concerned with making gold? Only in a specific case within a total situation. Alchemists are concerned with gold in much the same way that Mesmer was concerned with hypnotism. The twentieth century took a single aspect of 'Mesmerism', truncated even that, and used the fragment for its own egoistic ends. It declared that it had investigated Mesmerism, exposed its ridiculous pretentions and rendered what was left 'scientific'.
Goethe has a word for this process:
Wer will das Lebendiges beschreiben und erkennen,
Sucht erst den Geist hinaus zu treiben.
Dann hat er, zwar, die Teile in der Hand,
Fehlt leider nur das geistige Band.
Truly science drives out the spirit from the whole and proudly displays separate bits. Dead, all dead.
If alchemy isn't gold making, what is it? Wilmshurst has defined it as 'the exact science of the regeneration of the human soul from its present sense-immersed state into the perfection and nobility of that divine condition in which it was originally created'.
However, he immediately goes on to offer a second definition which clearly implies that, as with gold making, soul-making is again only a specific case. By inference, a general theory of alchemy might be ventured. Alchemy is a total science of energy transformation.
The action of an Absolute in differentiating a prime-source substance into a phenomenal universe is an operation in alchemy. The creation of galactic matter from energy and creating of energy from matter is alchemy. God is an alchemist.
The decay of radium into lead with the release of radioactivity is alchemy. Nature is an alchemist.
The explosion of a nuclear bomb is alchemy. The scientist is now an alchemist.
All such energy transformations are fraught with great danger and the secrecy which has always surrounded Hermeticism is concerned with this aspect among others.
Nuclear energy was undoubtedly foreseen thousands of years ago. Chinese alchemists are said to have told their pupils that not even a fly on the wall should be allowed to witness an operation. 'Woe unto the world,' they said, 'if the military every learn the Great Secret.'
The Military have learned the great secret -- or at any rate one specific aspect of it -- and woe indeed to the world, for in the arrogant alchemy of nuclear science there is no place for Goethe's gestiges Band.
But it has taken Western technology so long to uncover a single aspect of the subject, how is it that Bronze Age Egypt and Pythagorean Greece reputedly knew the whole science? Here even the most guarded speculation must seem outrageous.
Materialist science is content -- or was until very recently -- to suppose that life began as an accident and that once the accident happened, all subsequent steps in evolution would, or at any rate could, follow as the mechanical consequence of the factors initially and subsequently present. Perhaps the process was improbably but it was possible.
Recent consideration however, appears to show that by its intrinsic nature, chance expressly excludes such a possibility.
For evolution to take place, there is required at every step a shift away from less-organization towards more-organization. The mechanistic view asserts that this enhancement of organization, this negative entropy, could be progressively established from the mechanical consolidation of 'favourable' variations. Recent work in applying mathematical theory to biology suggests that there is a very big hole indeed in this particular bucket.
Even if an increase in order arises fortuitously, this accidental shift must survive if it is to be built upon by the next similar accident. But its survival is by no means assured. Indeed it appears to be vulnerable to collapse in proportion to its achievement.
Even in the case of primitive life forms and certainly in higher life forms, the number of possible combinations present at every stage is erroneous -- so enormous as to require that entropy must always increase at the expense of chance arisings in the contrary direction.¹
Statistically, evolution could not happen. As it demonstrably did happen, it must have done so not merely against probability but actually against the possibilities present in a closed system. The conclusion seems unavoidable: the evolutionary process was not a closed system.
By extension, evolution and its present end-product, man, must have been contrived by forces outside the system (the biosphere) in which it occurred. Such an operation, involving the conscious manipulation of energy levels, may be taken as an operation in alchemy.
Whether the 'artist' who accomplished this great work was a single Intelligence or a consortium of Intelligences seems immaterial: but the myths and classical traditions of demigods is in the highest degree suggestive.
It is an acceptable proposition that man was the result of a carefully contrived alchemical operation by Higher Powers is it not at least possible that he was given, in addition to consciousness, an insight into the transformation technique that produced him? On this assumption, modern man might have, in his own subconscious, fragmentary data which exceptional individuals could recover and assemble into a technology of alchemy. Inevitably such men would be aware of other men who had made the same immense leap and such groups would combine to create schools of alchemy.
There are other theories. One of the most arcane of human traditions suggests that the humanity of our Adam was not the earth's first human race. Some very advanced alchemists have hinted at a range of previous humanities in excess of thirty. If this is the true but wholly unsuspected history of our planet, much knowledge may have been selectively accumulated in a span of existence which imagination is inadequate even to visualize.
At each successive apocalypse, an ark would go out, encapsuling not only the germ plasm necessary to found the next humanity but with it also, some vehicle, some psychological micro-dot, containing the totality of accumulated knowledge.
On this assumption the technique of alchemy would have reached us as a transmission from ancestors whose existence we do not even suspect.
A third possibility is that the Master Alchemists who made man in a solar laboratory have an interest in yet another transformation: the alchemization of man into planetary spirit. Their work may not yet be done. On this assumption, isolated scraps of suitable material would be from time to time be selected for further processing in a solar alembic.
The base metal in this case would consist of exceptional human beings and since they would be at the level of incipient conscious energy, they would co-operate in their own transformation.
Whether any, or a combination of all of these possibilities is the explanation of the presence of alchemy throughout human history, it is clear that alchemy existed at the dawn of the human story we know.
The material of the Egyptian Book of the Dead was said to be old already when it was assembled by Semti in the first Dynasty some five thousand years ago.
Perhaps due to the second law of thermodynamics (which may be as relevant in biology and psychology as it is in dynamics) the evolutionary ferment of Egyptian alchemy began to involve. Maybe the mechanism of its degeneration was a shift in the level of will from which it proceeded. An evolutionary technique would thus become increasingly englisted for involutionary ends. Alchemy, God-orientated, would become magic, self-dedicated. Such would be the dying Egypt against which Moses inveighed.
As always, however, knowledge of the technique was compressed; a torch was lit; an ark was launched. Before Egypt became totally submerged in idolatry the Great Secret was transmitted.
The seeds of alchemy were scattered. Some fell on good ground and flourished; some fell on stony ground and died.
Egypt seems to have sown chiefly in Greece and Israel, perhaps also in China.
Strange as the idea may be, Greece appears to have made less of her chances than she might. The Glory That Was Greece may have been a poor shadow of the Glory That Might Have Been.
Also, Greece stood to Rome as parent to offspring, and Rome proved to be a delinquent child and a degenerate adult in the community of human cultures. The plant of alchemy flowered only briefly in Greece and the seeds that blew to Rome never germinated at all.
The transmission from Egypt to Israel was initially one of great promise but again the promise was not realized. Whether wilting of the plant in Israel was due to the Dispersion or whether the Dispersion was a consequence of the Jewish failure to manage their alchemical inheritance, is not known. The Elders of Jewry at any rate were unable to find conditions within which their inheritance could be brought to its full actualization.
To ensure its survival in some measure, they were obliged to compromise dangerously. They externalized some of it in the Zohar and maintained a small initiated inner circle. It may be that this circle, very greatly depleted, survived in Europe in isolated pockets like Cracow until the thirties of the present century.
While Greece sowed abortively in Rome during her lifetime, she also sowed posthumously -- and successfully in Arabia. Here the alchemical energy chanelled through the esoteric schools of Islam and through exceptional individuals like Jabir externalized in the veritable explosion of Mohammedan art and science of the eighth to twelfth centuries.
The wave of Islam's expansion reached Spain where two streams appeared to have joined up. In Seville and Granada there were initiated Jews who carried the Egyptian transmission. They met Arab initiates who carried the Greek transmission and the latter were perhaps reinforced from a permanent powerhouse from which all evolutionary operations are directed.
If it is true that some 'beads of mercury' were reunited through Mohammed, two more were reunited in Spain. Out of this confluence grew a very large part of the whole of Western civilization which we have inherited and whose origin hardly one man in a million has ever suspected in seven centuries.
The current which flowed from the beads of mercury which were reunited in Spain flowed into an immense invisible force shield over Europe. The nature of this noumenal structure can never be glimpsed and its functions in a higher dimension cannot even be imagined. It externalized into the common life in a series of culture components which in aggregate constitute a large part of Western civilization.
A selection of these factors at random would include the Christian pilgrimage (based on the form established by the Cluniacs to St. James of Compostella); the Crusades; Heraldry; the orders of chivalry (cheval-ry: from the horse as a glyph of the alchemical 'volatile'?); castle architecture; the Gothic cathedrals; illumination and embroidery; the Troubadours, Albigenses, Cathars and Minnesänger; the Courtly Romances; the Arthurian Quest Theme (reuniting the Celtic pre-Christian Grail Quest); the Cult of the Virgin in Catholicism; the theolgical philosophy of Albertus Magnus and St. Thomas Aquinas; the Cosmology of Bacon; the devotional systems of St. Francis, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa; the Wandering Players, Jester, harlequinades and Mystery Plays; specialized dancing; falconry and certain ball games; Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism; gardening (the Spanish Gardens); playing cards; the Language of the Birds concept; the Craft Guilds; archery; some medicine like immunology (Paracelsus) and homoeopathy; and cybernetics (Raymond Lully).
All the foregoing were the externalized forms of a major alchemical operation at an invisible level. Only one aspect however, that of chemical alchemy, used the terminology which has been subsequently identified with the word.
For some hundreds of years alchemy existed in Europe as a real science of transformation at many levels. At one level it was concerned with the transformation of human souls.
Perhaps because Christianity had rejected the wisdom component of its total revelation -- a discussion in which Constantine was probably crucial -- alchemy, being concerned with the totality, had to operate in disguise. Precisely because orthodox religion was defective in the wisdom component, any modality which contained it was, ipso facto, heresy.
The genuine Christian alchemists -- estimated to number four thousand between 1200 and 1656 -- readopted a chemical code which had served in similar circumstances in the past. A certain principle of nature (rendered in the codex attributed to Hermes, 'as above, so below') ensured that the alchemical process at its hidden level could be represented with full integrity by the terminology of a lower discipline. This lower discipline -- metallic chemistry -- was all that the common life of Europe ever understood by the word alchemy.
Since Jung's work in alchemy began to infiltrate modern psychology, alchemy as a 'mental' or at any rate a non-physical process, has become a fashionable acceptance. Typical of the 'reductionist' attitudes of the twentieth century is the current belief that alchemy has now been explained. It is 'nothing but' an early and crude study of psychology and perhaps of ESP. Dazzled by the success of science in providing a label for everything, few have bothered to inquire whether the aphorism of Hermes 'as above, so below' might not require a process valid at mental level to be equally valid at physical level.
A label has been affixed, and therefore the mystery is no more. No-one, it seems, notices any conflict between the Jungian 'psychological interpretation' and the documented historical record of men like Helvetius and the Cosmopolite (Alexander Seton?) who demonstrably did make tangible yellow twenty-two carat gold. 'That which is above is as that which is below' might never have been written.
Throughout the whole European record of Alchemy, its genuine practitioners appear to have been under certain obligations which may in fact apply to 'artists' in the Work of every age. It seems that they are required to leave behind them some thread which those who come after may use as a guide line across the web of Ariadne. The indications provided must be in code and the code must be self cancelling; that is, an inquirer who does not possess the first secret must be infallibly prevented from discovering the second. 'Unto him that hath . . .' is nowhere better exemplified than in the attempt to study alchemical texts.
Given that the inquirer knows the first secret, search and unceasing labour may wrest from the code, the next step following but the searcher will need to have made progress in his own personal practice before he is able to unravel a further step. Thus the secret protects itself.
In the course of his work the alchemist may come to understand that certain familiar legends have a wholly new, practical and unsuspected meaning. He may suddenly discover that Abraham was required to sacrifice and why; what the star in the East really heralds; what the Cross may symbolize; and why the veil of the Temple was rent.
The strictly alchemical aspect of The Great Work has been quiescent in Europe for about three centuries but rare and exceptional individuals still find their way through the maze -- perhaps by making contact with a source outside Europe -- and achieve one or other of the degrees of the Magnum Opus.
Few such instances come to the knowledge of the outside world but one exception to the general rule is the case of the modern alchemist who has come to be known as Fulcanelli.
In the early 'twenties, a French student of alchemy, Eugene Canseliet was studying under the man now known as Fulcanelli. One day the latter charged Canseliet with the task of publishing a manuscript -- and then disappeared.
The manuscript was the now famous Mystère des Cathédrales and its publication caused a sensation in esoteric circles in Europe. From internal evidence the author was a man who had either completed, or was on the brink of completing, the Magnum Opus. Interest in such an individual, among those who knew what was involved, was enormous.
For nearly half a century, painstaking research has gone on in an effort to trace the vanished Master. Repeated attempts by private individuals to pick up the trail -- and on at least one occasion by an international Intelligence agency -- have all ended in a blank wall of silence.
To most the conclusion seems inescapable: Fulcanelli, if he ever existed, must be dead.
One man knew better -- Fulcanelli's former pupil Canseliet. After a lapse of many years, Canseliet received a message from the alchemist and met him at a pre-arranged rendezvous. The reunion was brief for Fulcanelli once again severed contacts and once again disappeared without leaving a trace of his whereabouts.
One circumstance of the reunion was very remarkable -- and in an alchemical sense of the highest significance. Fulcanelli had grown younger. Canseliet has told the present writer: 'The Master' (when Canseliet had worked with him) 'was already a very old man, but he carried his eighty years lightly. Thirty years later, I was to see him again, as I have mentioned, and he appeared to be a man of fifty. That is to say, he appeared to be no older than I was myself'.
One other possible appearance of the mysterious master alchemist is reported by the French researcher Jacques Bergier.
While working as assistant to André Helbronner, the noted physicist who was later to be killed by the Nazis, Bergier was approached one day by an impressive individual who asked Bergier to pass on to Helbronner a strange -- and highly knowledgeable -- warning. This was to the effect that orthodox science was on the brink of manipulating nuclear energy.
The stranger said it was his duty to warn that this same abyss had been crossed by humanity in the past with disastrous consequences. Knowing human nature, he had no hope that such a warning would have any effect but it was his duty to give it. The mysterious stranger then left. Bergier is convinced to this day that he was in the presence of Fulcanelli.
Treatises have been written to prove that Fulcanelli was a member of the former French Royal Family, the Valois; that he was the painter Julien Champagne; that he was this or that occultist.
Not a few were driven to the conclusion that Fulcanelli was a myth and that no such person had ever existed. The theory is a little difficult ot sustain in view of the existence of Mystère des Cathédrales. This work is authoritatively accepted as the work of a man who had gone far -- very far -- in the practice of alchemy.
The myth theory is also untenable against the testimony of Canseliet. In September 1922, in a laboratory at Sarcelles and in the presence of the painter Julien Champagne and the chemist Gaston Sauvage, Canseliet himself made an alchemical transmutation of 100 grammes of gold using a minute quantity of the Powder of Projection given to him by his teacher. Thus there is a European alive at the present time, who personally testifies not only to the existence of Fulcanelli but to the veridical nature of an even which modern science regards as an absurd myth. Legend has it that this transmutation took place 'in a gasworks'. The account seems the plainest possible statement of a purely physical event. Alchemist however, warn repeatedly that when their descriptions seem plainest the camouflage factor is highest. The alerted reader will certainly consider here that a gasworks is a site where a volatile substance is produced from a heavy mineral and will recall that alchemy is a process of 'separating the fine from the gross'.
In being allowed to perform an alchemical operation with energy lent him by another, Canseliet thus joins a remarkable band of privileged -- and perhaps bewildered -- people who through history have recorded the same experience. These include Johann Schweitzer (whose experience was investigated by Spinoza) Professor Dienheim of Fribourg in 1602 and Christian II Elector of Saxony, in the following year.
But for all practical purposes Fulcanelli has vanished as though he never existed. Only his contributions to the literature of alchemy remains, Mystère des Cathédrales.
It has long been believed that the Gothic cathedrals were secret textbooks of hidden knowledge; that behind the gargoyles and the glyphs, the rose windows and the flying buttresses, a mighty secret lay, all but openly displayed.
This is no longer a theory. Given that the reader of Mystère des Cathédrales has even begun to suspect the first secret, Fulcanelli's legacy is at once seen as an exposition of incredible fact: that, wholly unsuspected by the profane, the Gothic cathedrals have for seven hundred years offered European man a course of instruction in his own possible evolution.
About one thing it seems impossible to have any doubt. The unknown who wrote Mystère des Cathédrales KNEW. Fulcanelli speaks as one having authority. By pointing to a glyph in Notre Dame or a statue in Amiens and relating an unknown sculptor's works to some ancient or modern text, Fulcanelli is indicating the steps in a process he has himself been through.
Like all who truly KNEW, from Hermes through Geber and the Greek and Arab artists to Lully, Paracelsus and Flamel, Fulcanelli masks and reveals in equal measure and like all before him, he is wholly silent on the initial step of the practice.
But in his method of repeatedly underlining certain words and perhaps in some curious sentences on the rose windows, he suggest, as explicity as he dares, the mightiest secret that man may ever discover.
'Behold,' said Boehme, 'he will show it to you plain enough if you be a Magus and worthy, else you shall remain blind still.'
¹The difficulties inherent in any theory of 'fortuitous' evolution have been indicated by a number of distinguished specialists, among them Professor H.E. Blum (Form and Structure in Science, 1964 and in Nature Vol. 206, 1965) and by Maurice Vernet (The Great Illusion of Teilhard de Chardin). The mathematical and philosophical arguments against the arising of man by the accumulation of accidental increases in order -- that is, by mechanical evolution -- are developed with great power by J.G. Bennett in The Dramatic Universe (London 1966). These arguments contribute to his unified theory in which man is seen as the work of high (but limited) Intelligences.