Wednesday, June 21, 2017

SONS OF HERMES - 50


Papus, Monsieur Philippe & Envoys of Heaven

Like his ‘Spiritual Master’, Papus was a strong partisan of reincarnation, particularly with regard to Maïtre Philippe whom he believed to be one of those exceptional beings who appear from time to time on Earth in much the same way that Jesus of Nazareth descended into the Underworld at the time of the Crucifixion. That is to say who came freely, as an Envoy of Heaven, without the compulsion of any personal karma. Such are characterised by  miraculous powers allied to great modesty.

During his own earthly life Papus felt he had had the good fortune to know one of these beings, along with the ability to make him more widely known.

In his writings on reincarnation Papus suggested  that there was a  tradition that three of these envoys of the Father were always present on Earth, sometimes incarnated together, at other times functioning on different planes. Apart from his healing gifts the one he had known and who had taught him so much, had demonstrated powers over thunder and lightning, and over air and water as manifest in the weather. Much of this is recorded in the personal testimony of those close to him, some of it in circumstances that might seem personal and trivial, but which in its spiritual parallels could be regarded as a ray of sunlight illuminating infernal darkness.

Examples at various levels have been given under guise of fiction in Paul Sédir’s remarkable sequence of tales “Initiations” which I have recently translated for Skylight Press and which reveal different facets of the secret life of Monsieur Philippe.

Such souls reincarnate voluntarily, and truly remember, but make no claims about being great  historical characters. Claimants, even quite sensible people, range from Mary Queen of Scots, through Mary Magdalen and Joan of Arc to Anne Boleyn and even Saint John (still writing at the end of his last incarnation, if with not quite such success!). One can of course speculate about others. Papus considered Joan of Arc to have been one of these Heavenly envoys. How else, he wondered, to explain the military genius of a girl who won three victories on three successive days?  

There could of course be other theories, for as Shakespeare’s great prevaricator cautioned “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, that are dreamed of in your philosophy!” The Roman church has tended to be hostile to any celestial messengers and in the case of Joan, a formidable voice of the people sought a change in the verdict of the ecclesiastical judges who, blinded by politics, had martyred an envoy of Heaven.

However, turning from historical speculation to current situations, Papus summed up his own conclusion by suggesting that our current incarnation is, for the spirit, a ‘magnetisation’ of our future physical lives. Every gift of oneself, beyond self interest, magnetises and spiritualises, which is to say generates light that will become the vehicle of the spirit on another plane. On the other hand, all contraction of the spirit, whether it is called egoism, anger, envy, dislike, materialises and generates clichés of sin that can become fatal for the Astral. Sluggishness will not get us into heaven. Whoever knows, forgives and prays. Material objects, earthly riches, honorifics, are tools conferred for the benefit of others and no one has any right to monopolise them for personal satisfaction.

As far as Papus was concerned, the law of reincarnation is not an invention of the human brain, nor the bastard creation of a delirious imagination. In the same way that the sun rises in the physical world, and banishes the darkness of night in creative light, so is the law of incarnation a sun of the invisible world; dissipating philosophical errors, illuminating souls in their missions, and showing the justice of all actions and reactions on all levels of existence.

Which is all, if one thinks about it, rather more than a divine system of cost accounting or double entry book keeping.

 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

SONS OF HERMES - 49


More Papus on Reincarnation

To  continue a little further with Papus’ book  Reincarnation:  Physical, Astral and Spiritual Evolution – the Spirit before Birth and after Death.

Those he considers to have studied reincarnation most were the ancient Egyptians, who claimed that during life the spirit controlled all acts of the body by means of forces emanating from the region of heaven where the pole star was found; which is why entry to the Pyramids always faced that direction.

After death, the Egyptians conserved the physical body by salting it for three months, then injecting spices, thus preventing by mummification the dispersal of the physical cells, and fixing all round the body the astral force that would preside over the decomposition of these cells. They went further than that with a complicated magical ceremony by which they evoked the astral forces around the pole star, infusing them in the double of the reincarnated mummy, either in the mummy itself or in little statuettes placed around the mummy.

They thus built veritable underground towns of astral lives and were able to act directly on the earthly astral, fixing for a very long time the pole of civilisation on their country, and retarding the reincarnation of human beings by employing science against the forces of destiny. It would be amazing to realise today the extent of the science of ancient Egypt.

But leaving these exceptions aside and returning to the normal processes of death, at this moment the astral splits into two parts. One section forms the ‘chariot of the soul’  enveloping the spirit, with the other enveloping the physical body that is about to decompose.

If the human being has built its ‘chariot of the soul’ well, so that images (or ‘clichés) of good, or devotion, form luminous stars in the astral matrix, then evolution of the future astral body will be assured.

Here he considers an extremely important problem. Experts have remarked that the series of living organisms on earth form a sort of well characterised hierarchy; the bodies of some living beings being little different from the bodies of immediate inferior or superior beings. This idea presides over the question of evolution of animated beings so dear to Darwinists. 

It is impossible to describe the existence of this evolution, in its general conditions, on Earth. There is certainly a transformation of organs, adaptations to the environment, but not the evolution of the body of a dog into the body of a monkey, or the body of a monkey into the body of a man. The reason is simple, it is that evolution works not during physical incarnation but during the astral state that immediately follows physical death.

 This, he claims, is the moment when the astral body evolves, or transforms, and becomes the origin of the astral body of an immediately superior being. In its turn this astral body forms the physical organs, which is how a physical being of an order immediately superior comes about on Earth, incarnating on a higher level of the spiral of development. All physical bodies in nature evolve, constituting the physical body of a human being, but this process happens on the astral plane.

Thus, when after an astral repose more or less prolonged according to the individual about to reincarnate, the moment of reincarnation arrives, the future astral body differs from the preceding one according to the conduct of the anterior life of the incarnated spirit. This is the origin of beauty or ugliness of the future physical body, of the strength or weakness of future organs, of the power of elevation of the astral forces, of the sign of the zodiac by which the forces surround the spirit, along with all the secret laws of spiritual reincarnation.

Popular stories have presented this astral influence in the form of good or bad fairies around the cradle.

At the moment of conception, the force of attraction of the future parents will be at their most intense, that is to say, the astral forces which determine the physical, moral and spiritual health. It is thus that parents protected by heaven, uniting their forces with that of the sun, will incarnate spirits with the most evolved astral bodies. Conception is thus an extremely serious act from the point of view of astral forces, so it is not surprising that social customs and laws have developed around the regulation of love, marriage and its social consequences.

Those who fall short of the high ideals so associated are likely to attract and be surrounded by inferior astral forces. And another social problem is presented due to a lack of regard to the reincarnation of spiritual principles.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

SONS OF HERMES - 48


Papus on reincarnation

In the first of his weighty occult books – Elementary Treatise on Occult Science (Traité Élémentaire de Science Occulte) of 1888 – Papus makes little mention of Reincarnation. In fact by just one word as a passing reference in a single paragraph. And it was not until 1912 that he got round to a book devoted entirely to the subject, La Réincarnation.  

His initial reluctance may have been influenced by Eliphas Levi, who in his History of Magic, apart from a brief mention of Pythagoras, was also short on the subject – as follows:

 “Pythagoras believed above all things in the soul’s immortality and in the perpetuity of life. The endless succession of summer and winter, day and night, sleeping and waking, illustrated amply for him the phenomenon of death. For him also the particular immortality of human souls consisted in persistence of memory. He is said to have been conscious of his previous incarnations, and if the report is true it was something suggested by his reminiscences, for such a man as he could have been neither imposter nor fool. It is probable that he came upon former memories in his dreams, while simple speculation and hypothesis have been constructed as positive affirmation on his part.”

(A E Waite’s translation, to which he added a typical snooty footnote: “It happens that the hypothesis of reincarnation was personally unwelcome to Eliphas Levi, and he did not know enough of Zoharic Kabalism to realise that it is of some importance therein.”

Whatever Eliphas Levi knew or did not, there was little teaching on the subject in the West until the latter half of the 19th century, via the Theosophical Society and a French version of Spiritualism promoted by Alan Kardac. Generally speaking reincarnation was not on the menu in the great traditions of Western esotericism.  

Papus shows an ironic sense of humour in his opening paragraph: “If, as we firmly believe, something of us subsists on another plane, it is a state to which we shall all be called, sooner or later, to experience. So why quarrel about it in advance?”

And goes on to say: “Physical existence is divided between the dead and the living, who are the last to solve the problem, and here the cerebral maturity of each of us comes in.

“For some, Death is the end of all that Nature has made until now. Intelligence, feelings, affections, all suddenly vanish and the body becomes vegetable, mineral or gas according to natural process.

“For others, Death is a liberation. The Soul, all light, departs from the body and flies up to the heavens, surrounded by angels and glorious spirits.

“Between these two extreme opinions all intermediary beliefs exist.

Pantheists base the Personality of the Dead in the great currents of Universal Life. Mystics teach that the liberated Spirit, freed from the chains of matter, continues to live, attempting by its sacrifice to save others who still suffer on Earth. Initiates of the various schools follow the evolution of being on diverse planes of nature up to the moment when it will return, and by its desire take on a new physical body on the Planet where it has not yet finished ‘paying’ its dues. Death for one’s country almost always frees the Spirit from a return or reincarnation.”  

A classic  patriotic sentiment (Dolce et decorum est pro patria mori) probably more popular in 1912 than after 1914 with the exploitation of mechanised slaughter which brought about Papus’s transition in 1916.   

How many opinions, disputes, polemics, remarks Papus, for a natural fact of which we are assured to see the solution!  

If asked for his opinion, Papus would say the Dead of the Earth are the Living on another plane of evolution. In his opinion Nature is a miser that loses nothing in any of its efforts. The brain of an artist or savant represents years and years of slow evolution. Why should this suddenly be lost?

 When a close relation is on a journey in a far country, you can follow them in thought when your heart is calm. He would like to give the reader the realisation that the dead have not disappeared for ever; but are travellers on another plane across a country to which we will all normally go.

“Heaven is where the heart is”, said Swedenborg. After a period of more or less long sleep without suffering, since there is no longer terrestrial matter, the Spirit awakes and begins a new existence. It attaches at first to those it has left on Earth and may seek to communicate with them by dream or some intermediary that might be found. We should not force communication between different planes, which are always delicate and could present certain dangers. When, after a sincere desire, or an ardent prayer accompanied by an act of physical, moral or intellectual charity, the Spirit is allowed to make contact, there is always a way that will not frighten an earthly personality.

On the other hand, if one tries to force communication, one  risks being tricked by the brain of the ‘medium’ who, unconsciously repeats ideas dear to the consultant, by temporary images, animated photographs floating in the astral, or via beings who serve themselves or the medium to seize a little material existence.

It is thus wise to wait for news of the traveller. It needs calm to obtain the certainty of their effective existence over there, and then think much of the traveller with the magnet of love and not of despair and tears, and then, very gently, the veil will lift, a sweet murmur fill the heart, the frisson of the presence of the beyond appear, and little by little a great mystery be revealed.

So much for Papus take on psychic communication with the departed, but what about those who have passed on further, to possible reincarnation in a different body or personality? Here he launches into a technical analysis based upon ancient Egyptian religious practice.

(To be continued)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

SONS OF HERMES - 47


Rosa Crux -  spes unica!

However, if truth were told, there is more of the ineffable about the Rosicrucian tradition than can be told in terms of rules and regulations, of committee meetings and banquets, or allegorical tales of travellers to foreign lands. Jollivet Castelot perhaps came closest to revealing the essence of the Rose Cross towards the end of his Le Destin or Fils d’Hermes.  Needless to say it can only be expressed in highly poetic language – much of it beyond the common day intellect – in images that are on the threshold of form. Make what you can of this sample, with your higher imagination.

O Rosa + Crux, spes unica!

O Rose + Cross, unique hope, our only true hope, supreme joy, triumph of the Spirit come to the fact of the joyful Knowledge!

O Rose + Cross, mysterious Church of the limitless depths, Cathedral of Nature, Tower of Gold, immaculate Tabernacle, stainless Mirror, Diamond Cup, Crown of the Magi, Diadem of the Adepti.

Our admirable Mother, most beautiful among the beautiful, pure Virgin, emerald Arch, Vase of Election, Refuge of Wisdom, limpid Source of eternal Life and immortal Love, Sun of glory and Moon of serenity!

O Rose + Cross, Star of Stars, Flower of flowers, fresher than the dew, sweeter than honey, more fragrant that the aroma of a thousand perfumes, more subtle than the breath of a young girl!

Pivot of the worlds, Axis of the Heavens, Tail of Comets, Breast of the Universe, visible and invisible, Mother, Daughter and Sister of the gods, Bride of the Lord, Queen of Olympus.

Transparent Pearl on the Amethyst Ring, divine Milk from the breast of Juno, Genitrice of Aphrodite! 

O marvellous Rose and enchantress, adorable Figure of Unity, ineffable blazing of the Sephiroth, impeccable form dressed in the essence of all Things.

Reality of Appearances, Origin of Movement, Point of union of Macrocosm and Microcosm, Alpha and Omega that dream in silence of the XXI sages.

O Rose + Cross, august crossroad of the seven mystic Cities of the flamboyant Palace of God, azured Vault of the Luminaries, Sanctuary of births and deaths, Thou who welcomes the Adept, Thou who makes participate in the harmony of the spheres, pours the inebriating beverage of immortality, of the Elysian nectars.

He has placed his confidence within your august hands and put on his forehead your own petals, to recover the purple of your satin cloak.

O Rose + Cross, what delicate kisses to savour between the coral points of your round breasts, by the audacious lover who has conquered you..................................!

But do not confuse this with sex magic – a tawdry substitute. The figure whom he has in mind is represented by Trump XXI of the Tarot – the Universe, with whom (rather than which)  he has entered into a new relationship.  

The system of initiation he uses is mapped out in the sequence of Tarot Trumps according to the system of Eliphas Levi, beginning with the Magician as candidate for initiation and working through three sevenfold stages to Trump XXI – the Universe.

In this system 0, the Fool, falls between XX and XXI the Last Judgment. And it is indeed a Last Judgment which may well be failed, identifying the initiate with the Fool, a witless victim rather than the Innocent of the Golden Dawn system. Castelot identifies Tarot Trump 0 in his own life with the experience of returning home at the end of the 1st World War to find the town burnt, smashed and desecrated.  

“Douai, the town largely burnt by the Germans, had been systematically pillaged and devastated. All objects of value had been confiscated by the officers, the rest, booty for the troops, broken or stolen...”

Castelot’s book has largely been dated by time so it is unlikely to be translated or even reprinted in its native language but we mention it as a key to what is taken for granted in a great deal of French occult thought; at least as regards the order and naming (sometimes renaming) of the Tarot Trumps as an initiation process. Something to meditate on, anyway.  

PART ONE – INITIATION

I – The Recipient or Candidate [Magician]

II – Sanctuary [High Priestess]

III – Incubation [Empress]

IV – Cubic Stone [Emperor]

V – Quintessence [High Priest]

VI – The Test [Lovers]

VII – Victory [Chariot]

PART TWO – SONS OF HERMES – ENTRY

VIII – Balance [Justice]

IX – The Hermit [Hermit]

X – Wheel of Fortune [Wheel of Fortune]

XI – Strength – [Strength]

XII – The Hanged Man – [Hanged Man]

XIII – Transmutation of Forces – [Death]

XIV – Harmony of Mixtures – [Temperance]

PART THREE – ADEPTHOOD

XV – The Devil – [Devil]

XVI – Collapse – [Lightning-struck Tower]

XVII – The Stars – [Star]

XVIII – The Moon – [Moon]

XIX – The Sun – [Sun]

XX – The Judgement – [Judgement]

0 – The Ring – [The Fool]

XXI – The Work of the Sun – [The World or Universe]

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

SONS OF HERMES - 46


Rosicrucian traditions

 In 1898, Papus, Paul Sédir and Marc Haven, confronted with the remarkable powers of Maïtre Philippe who worked without benefit of membership of any initiatory society, took the surprising step of starting another one, called the Fraternitas Thesauri Lucis (or F.T.L). It was based largely on the work of Sédir, whose research produced a book on the subject – Histoire des Rose-Croix – published in 1910, with a posthumously published expanded version (Histoire et Doctrines des Rose-Croix) in 1932, neither of which are currently easy to come by. And not terribly easy to read if one has. But are at least packed with facts.

 Rosicrucian origins extend back over centuries and many who have written about them have done so from a standpoint of ignorance and hostility or ignorance and wonder. Sédir decided to begin with remote origins and predecessors and saw the Rosicrucians as deriving from three traditional currents – the Gnostics, the Catholic church and Hermetic tradition.

Gnosticism was developed by the Cathars, Vaudois, Albigenses and Templars, and ultimately   by Dante in the Divine Comedy. The Catholic element was represented by certain monks in contemplative orders. And the Hermetic stream, from Egypt and the classical world, included alchemy and the Jewish kabbalah.

Gnostic theories contained the remnants of polytheism and Dante’s great poem was almost a declaration of war on the Papacy by a revelation of the Mysteries; an application of the figures and numbers of the kabbalah to Christian dogma by means of a journey conducted by Virgil (wisdom) and Beatrice (love) through the supernatural worlds, like an initiation into the mysteries of Eleusis or Thebes. Dante escaped the abyss over the portal of which was the despairing injunction “Abandon hope all ye who enter here!” by climbing back to the light in a topsy turvy kind of way, using the grotesque figure of the devil and his works as part of the ladder. Hell was only a barrier for those who did not know the way of return.

 Religious cloisters in the Middle Ages could be favourable to mystical and occult thought, with such great names as Thomas Aquinas, Arnold of Villeneuve, Albertus Magnus, the Lullys, St Bonaventura and others. The secular clergy and even some Popes provided help and protection as a number of royal letters in England confirm. Ripley reveals that the church (abbey?) at Westminster was a meeting place for alchemists. And in1503, Trithemius asserted that many books on magic and conjurations that he had read had affirmed his Christian faith. Whilst The Imitation of Christ by Thomas â Kempis (1604) was regarded as a Rosicrucian document and guide for neophytes, although it may not read quite like that nowadays.  

On the Hermetic side we also have recent efforts by Papus, Stanislas de Guaita and Josephin Peladan forming groups of their own under a kabbalistic and Rosicrucian banner, with varying degrees of success and failure, at which we have taken a passing glance. It will be seen that a lot depends on the spiritual and psychological maturity of its members. Those directly involved probably being the least reliable judges of that. “Man, know thyself!”  (No sexism where none intended).

Alas, we know little of the content or history of the F.T.L. Which is maybe how things should be!

Monday, April 24, 2017

SONS OF HERMES - 45


Faith

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

SONS OF HERMES - 44


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

SONS OF HERMES - 43


 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

SONS OF HERMES - 42


Barlet

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?