While Alchemists share the same curiosity for understanding phenomena, they prefer to incorporate a broader understanding of the whole, instead of simply focusing on the matter-centered reductionist paradigm of the scientists.
The mystery of this cross is surprisingly complex and intricate, as is common in the tradition of Alchemy. To most observers, the cross simply bears a simple error; but to the astute student of the occult, it becomes apparent that an intriguing puzzle is presented in this artifact.
Fulcanelli: The Mystery, the Secret and The Man
Vincent Bridges | Wednesday, December 1st, 1999
In his masterwork, The Mystery of the Cathedrals, the anonymous author Fulcanelli poses a riddle: How does a Tree become a Stone, which then becomes a Star?
Of course, being Fulcanelli, he shies away from such blunt simplicity. It was far too much too say openly that the secret of alchemy, and of science in its broadest sense, consisted of a Tree forming a Stone and igniting into a Star. Never mind solving the riddle of how it’s done.
And yet, the careful reader will discern this very enigma at the core of Fulcanelli’s book. Why?
Because the truth is simple. The secret of alchemy is contained in the riddle of how a tree — the Tree of Life, the World Pillar, the Djed — transforms into the Precious Stone of the Wise. And then, the core of the mystery, how that Stone becomes a star, an imperishable light body or perhaps even the body of a star in Orion. However, even though the truth is simple, the secret has a way of protecting itself.
Take Le Mysterie for example. Much has been written about just who “Fulcanelli” might have been, but very little, outside of Canseliet, has been written about what Fulcanelli said. Eugene Canseliet, Fulcanelli’s pupil, took the approach in his works of expanding on Fulcanelli’s alchemical metaphors without venturing a concrete explanation of the process itself. By his own admission, he never succeeded in what he imagined the ultimate goal to be, the transmutation of lead into gold. Therefore, we might be justified to suspect Canseliet’s level of understanding.
But what did Fulcanelli say? Does he actually reveal the secret of alchemy’s riddle?
Understanding Fulcanelli’s masterpiece requires preparation, guidance and more than a little patience. Le Mystere is not literature in the normal sense. It’s an initiation document designed to instruct the reader in a new way of thinking in and about symbols. Fulcanelli is always honest. He never cheats the reader or hides behind his vows of secrecy, but he does insist that the reader do the work. Otherwise the revelation is worthless. Therefore, the initiation takes the form of a puzzle, or a riddle.
For preparation, one could do no better than to read carefully all of Book III and Chapter Two of Book V of Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Fulcanelli assumes that any intelligent reader would be aware of this perspective and would basically agree with it. Fulcanelli, in Le Mystere, is trying to provide specific examples of Hugo’s metaphors in stone. A good guide book to Notre-Dame is also valuable, as is a general history of the Gothic period and its cathedrals.
The best preparation however is to forget everything you have ever read or heard about alchemy. Let Fulcanelli explain it to you as if you had never heard the word before. In practical terms, it means skipping Canseliet’s prefaces and Walter Lang’s introduction. Or, at least, save them until last.
When we do this, we start where Fulcanelli started, with an experience, a gnosis, of the transcendent power of a Gothic Cathedral. He tells us that his first sight of a cathedral, at the age of seven, sent him into “an ecstasy, struck with wonder.” Today, the only way to recapture a little of “the magic of such splendor, such immensity, such intoxication expressed by this more divine than human work,” is to stand some quiet summer evening just in front of the railing at the Great Porch of Notre-Dame de Paris and slowly let your vision crawl heavenward over the complex universe of symbolic forms. Bathed in the golden light of sunset, thousands of forms and concepts and images struggle toward some unity of purpose that our modern mind finds all but incomprehensible. But to the child, or the child-like, it has the power of revelation.
book in stoneFulcanelli informs us that the images on the cathedrals speak more clearly than words and books. They are “simple in expression, naive and picturesque in interpretation; a sense purged of subtleties, of allusions ,of literary ambiguities.” The Gothic, he suggests, is like Gregorian chants, many voices coming together in a single note. This is important guidance for understanding the book as a whole. Fulcanelli combines images or voices all juxtaposed on a single note or theme in such a way that every voice is related to the theme as a whole. As in music, the structure that allows this inter-relatedness is based on geometry and mathematics. It is nothing less than the hermetic Grand Theme, the Music of the Spheres, which is depicted within the Gothic cathedrals.
The Grand Theme is introduced by the arrangement and subjects of the nine chapters in part one, called “Le Mystere des Cathedrals.” From its title we can supposed that it was meant to impart an overall viewpoint from which the rest of the book, the details of the pattern, can be understood. Grouping the themes of the nine chapters as presented defines an interesting symbol: the sword in the stone. The first three chapters compose the grip of the subject and the sword, whose basic theme, the hermetic wisdom of the Gothic cathedrals, continues through a stone of five inter-related symbols within the cathedrals, and on into the foundation “stone” of Notre-Dame de Paris. This device also presents the lightning flash order of creation taught by magickal cabalists such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
The next three sections fill in this revealed Tree. “Paris,” the second part of Le Mystere, completes the Tree of Life foreshadowed in the first section. This second section, reflecting the archetypal world of the cabalists, gives us the most complete rendition of the Grand Theme of ten spheres and twenty-two paths, including the gnostic Path of Return. “Amiens,” section three, fills in a portion of the developed Tree by giving the reader a deeper understanding of the planetary processes. The fourth section, “Bourges,” juxtaposes a series of mythological images on the planetary spheres, creating a fourth Tree. Therefore each of the “locations” or spheres have multiple images from which a meaning can be derived.
The added chapter from the second edition of Le Mystere, “The Cyclic Cross of Hendaye,” completes this pattern by crossing the abyss from Daat, gnosis, to Kether, the divine Crown. The key of course is that in the world of action, the fourth world or level of abstraction to the medieval cabalist, the Tree is formed in space. The Hendaye chapter completes this view by revealing the secret of an ancient astro-alchemical science based on the alignment of local events with the galactic axis.
In our book, “A Monument to the End of Time: alchemy, fulcanelli and the great cross, we examine in detail Fulcanelli’s use of this hermetic Tree of Life pattern. This introduction however is for the first time reader, or the reader who wishes to read Fulcanelli as if it were the first time. For that person, we can only admonish them to pay close attention to the images discussed and the illustrations. Fulcanelli is carefully building an inherent or implicate order by his use of patterns of images. Even the transpositions and other “mistakes” or departures from the established order are designed to impart some significance.
So who was Fulcanelli?
One of the benefits of reading Mystery of the Cathedrals without preconceptions is that the personality of Fulcanelli jumps off the page. This is the strongest evidence against the committee theory. It is hard to imagine how a committee could have arrived at such a clear sense of personality, and who among the group had the literary skills to pull it off? Canseliet? If that is the case, then literature lost one of its finest novelists when Eugene Canseliet turned to alchemy.
As we wind our way through Mystery of the Cathedrals, Fulcanelli becomes a trusted guide, always directing our attention to the key points, but always letting us make our own conclusions. As he does so, we find that a few hints and suggestions leak through concerning Fulcanelli himself. By the second or third careful reading, a profile emerges.
Fulcanelli was born in Picardy, a day’s ride or a little more from Amiens, whose cathedral he first glimpsed with such lasting effect as a seven year-old. His family was formally noble, or even royal, but had come down somewhat by his birth. At an early age, he moved to Paris, becoming a student in the Latin Quarter. His field of study seems to have been classical literature, with a side interest in medieval history. So much is clear. What’s hazy is which century it happened in.
Most commentators have assumed it was the 19th, since Fulcanelli was apparently about 80 in 1930, which makes him born around 1850. However, the personality that confronts one on the page is decidedly 18th century. There are even clues that Fulcanelli was in Paris before 1748, making him around 200 years old in 1930. However, a close reading of the first chapter of the first section reveals that Fulcanelli could have been present in the early 15th century. How old was he?
From Mystery of the Cathedrals we can discern a vague profile. He studied in Paris between 1740 and 1760, and joined some magickal lodge or society in the decades before the fall of the Ancien Regime in 1789. He seems to have spent the 19th century traveling across France collecting evidence of the existence of his order and its predecessors. After the Great War, he decided to publish an initiatory document, The Mystery of the Cathedrals, an examination of the order’s symbolism, Dwellings of the Philosophers, and a revelation, The Final Glory of the World, of which all that remains may be the Hendaye chapter.
Of course, this profile raises more questions than it answers. But we are left with the feeling that Fulcanelli was a real person, with a message to deliver.
Perhaps the only way to truly understand Fulcanelli and his masterpiece is to take your now well-thumbed copy of Mystery of the Cathedrals and go to France. The major locations can all be visited in a week or more, and a month or so of vagabondage will allow you to cover everything mentioned in Mystery. It is well worth the experience.
Two examples should give the reader the flavor. Nothing in the literature of either alchemy or eschatology describes so eloquently their inter-relationship as does the Great Porch of the Last Judgment at Notre-Dame de Paris. We come looking for Fulcanelli’s Path of Return images and find them on the supports for the pillars of the Last Judgment. The quintessential image of Alchemy occupies the base of the central pillar which leads to Christ in Judgment. This says so much more clearly than any words can that the End of the World has for its foundation the science of Alchemy.
templar churchAnother example is Fulcanelli’s use of clever side comments. Twice, in significant places, he mentions a church at Luz in the Pyrennes. In his only use of the word Templar in the entire book, Fulcanelli labels the church as Templar in his second mention. This should grab our attention. And if it does, and we make the long trek to the High Pyrennes, we will find that someone knew the key to the mystery right down to the 19th century. Fulcanelli doesn’t tell you it’s there, he merely assumes that you will find it if you look.
The houses in Bourges are not to be missed, both are open to the public. Tours in English are held in Notre-Dame de Paris on Saturday at 2 PM, and are essential. Everything closes for lunch, except Notre-Dame. Be sure to visit Hendaye on Wednesday mornings when the town square is full of vendors. Go looking for the Saint Marcellus statue on the south side of Notre-Dame de Paris. Demand that the guide in Jacques Coeur’s house show you the pentagonal treasure room. Seek and ye shall find!
How does a Tree become a Stone and then a Star?
Simple. The eternal polar axis of our celestial sphere, whose equator is the sun’s apparent motion against the stars, or the zodiac, forms the middle pillar of a cosmic Tree of Life. This Tree is also found within our bodies, and when we align these Trees and project them outward on the celestial sphere we create a jeweled sphere, The Precious Stone of the Wise, in which forms the Cube of Space. The Tree has become a Stone.
The next step, from Stone to Star, requires the transformation of light. Aligned properly, the Precious Stone can tell us the quality of time and the physics of creation. Internalized, this projected alignment leads to bursts of light, flashes of kundalini. If the process is supported by dark retreat and sudden light immersion, then it is possible that the entire body could be transformed. Something similar seems to have happened in the case of Padmasambhava, the Tantric master who brought Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century.
But, given the information in the Hendaye chapter, then it is just possible that our species is on the verge of a mass initiation experience triggered by the “new” light from the center of the galaxy. Perhaps Fulcanelli’s “double catastrophe” is both physical and mental. When the Light of the Star shines into our souls, will we be ready for the change?
The Tree of Life unites our universe across vast scales of existence. When we identify with that immensity, we expand as we try to encompass it all. The flash of gnosis is the result, and from that, if we are lucky, comes the science of alchemy.
Fulcanelli has given us excellent guidance on the process. He shows us how the initiation worked in the past, and points toward the mass initiation that may be unavoidable in our future. When Isis, the Great Cosmic Womb of the Galaxy gives birth to the new Horus Light of transformation, let us hope that we have all solved the riddle of becoming a star.
Omnia quia sunt, lumina sunt. “All that is, is Light.”