VII - The French Rosicrucian Movement

The French Rosicrucian Movement was if anything, the main thrust of Western Occultism, of which the Golden Dawn in England was a footnote.  Ultimately the G.D. would excercise influence disproportionate to its size, largely because it was the literature most accessible to English speaking Americans from 1970 onward.  On the other hand, the largest existing American Rosicrucian Organization AMORC is descended from Encausse's Martinist Order, and the American OTO is descended from the French and German organizaitons consolidated by Encausse and Theodor Reuss.

1. Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin

During his lifetime (1743 to 1803), Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin founded no group or fraternity for the study of the higher mysteries of religious experience. As a nobleman, he was imprisoned for a short period during the Revolution, but released upon the intercession of local officials who sought to employ him as a public school teacher.  He set out his inspirational thoughts in several books.  The greatest self-admitted influence upon Saint-Martin were the books of the German mystical philosopher Jacob Boehme. Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin was the first to translate Boehme's works from German into French. There is evidence in his published letters, that he was acquainted with occult subjects of his time like spiritualism, magnetic treatments, magical evocation and the works of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). Saint-Martin did not marry and did not have any children. 

Both before and after his death, circles of admirers of Saint-Martin's works spontaneously formed for the purpose of discussing and perhaps practicing his philosophy. These were generically called "Friends of Saint-Martin. “  This would give rise to the Martinist Order which was important in France at around the same time as the Golden Dawn.

2. Joséphin Péladan and the “War of the Roses.”

Joséphin Péladan was born in 1858, in Lyon. His father, Louis-Adrien, and his brother, were impassioned by alchemy, magnetism, arts, sciences, literature and Christian mysticism. 
Joséphin’s brother Adrien (1815-1890), was one of the first French homeopaths, and had become a Rosicrucian of the order of  Firmin Boissin (1835-1893), who was Commander of the Rosicrucian Temple of Toulouse, Prieur of Toulouse and senior of the Council of Fourteen.  Another member of the Toulouse Command had Viscount Louis-Charles-Edouard de Lapasse (1792-1867), a pupil of prince Balbiani of Palermo, who had been a pupil of Cagliostro.

In 1884, Péladan published a novel with strong Rosicrucian and occult themes, probably in the same vein as Bulwer-Lytton’s Zanoni.  It was a success and he became a celebrity, involved in many art reviews.  He also did studies of painters such as Rembrandt, Dürer, Herbert, Frans Hals.  Be became a member of l'Académie Française.

In Paris, Péladan became acquainted with the Marquis Stanislas de Guaita, who had become interested in Occultism after reading Péladan’s novel.  The two determined to rebuild the Command of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood.  To this end they recruited Gerard Encausse, “Papus.”  Within a short time there were problems.  Papus wanted to dramatically extend the membership of the organization, which Péladan was against. Péladan felt that Papus was too interested in occultism and magic, and they also disagreed with his doctrines, clearly modeled on the Theosophical teachings of Mme. Blavatsky, which suggested that Christianity was on a par with the other great religions. 

In November of 1890, Péladan split with de Guaita and Papus. Péladan created the "Rose+Croix Catholique,” which almost immediately changed it’s name to  "Ordre of Rose+Croix of the Temple and Graal"   De Guaita and Papus published invectives against Péladan, and the whole fiasco was known as the “War of the Roses.”

Péladan’s Rose+Croix organized its first Salons (art shows) March 10  through April 10, 1892, and were quite popular with the public, drawing heavily on the Pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist schools, and heavily opposing realist art. The first show opened at the gallery During-Ruel, on the Rue de Lepelletier, in Paris. Sixty artists presented 250 works. The Salon good good notices in the "La Mercuire de France.”  The lines were so long that the prefecture of police had to post men to keep the street from being blocked, as the gallery could only hold about 200 people at a time.  By some counts, the final total of visitors was over 22,600.  The show involved presentations of music and Rosicrucian ritual as well as art.  There would be six Salons between then and 1897, all of them quite successful. 

The last show in 1897 at the luxurious gallery Georges-Petite, one of the most prestigious in Paris, had 15,000 visitors the first day.  De Guaita died from a drug overdose in 1897, and after the last show, Péladan announced that he was putting his order into abeyance.  There are strong rumors that the authorities did everything they could to prevent further Rosicrucian shows, because their success was a strain on the Prefecture of Police, and they incurred the opposition of the Director of Public Buildings.  In 1898 the Symbolist movement began to decline, with the death of several of its leading artists.  Though some of the most prestigious artists never displayed at the Rosicrucian Salons, it is notable that the decline of the movement followed the end of the Salons. 

Following the Collapse of the "Ordre of Rose+Croix of the Temple and Graal,” Papus tried to reunify Péladan’s order with his own, but was largely unsuccessful.  An offshoot order operated in Belgium for some time, under the leadership of one of Péladan’s disciples.

3. Gérard Encausse “Papus” and The Martinists

Gérard Encausse, usually known by his pseudonym "Papus," was a Spanish-born French physician and occultist.  Encausse's pseudonym "Papus" was taken from Eliphas Lévi's "Nuctemeron of Apollonius of Tyana" (supplement to Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie) and means "physician." 

Papus was an author of books on magic, Qabalah and the Tarot. He joined the French Theosophical Society shortly after it was founded by Madame Blavatsky in 1884-85, but he resigned shortly after joining because he disliked the Theosophical Society's emphasis on Eastern occultism.  In 1888, he and his friend Lucien Chamuel founded the monthly Resocrucian magazine L'Initiation, which remained in publication until 1914. 

Papus claimed as his "spiritual master" the mysterious magician and healer known as "le Maitre Philippe" (Philippe Nizier).   In 1888, Papus, and de Guaita joined with Joséphin Péladan and Oswald Wirth to found the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose-Croix. 

In 1891, after the “War of the Roses,” Papus formed an organization called l'Ordre des Supérieurs Inconnus of three degrees, commonly known as the Order of the Martinists,  Papus claimed to have come into the possession of the original papers of an extinct Rosicrucian Organization, and to have been given authority in the Rite of Saint-Martin by his friend Henri Viscount Delaage. 

In 1893, Papus was consecrated a bishop of  The Gnostic Catholic Church by  Jules Doinel, who had founded this Church as an attempt to revive the Cathar religion in 1890. In 1895, Doinel abdicated as Primate of the French Gnostic Church leaving control of the Church to a synod of three of his former bishops, one of whom was Papus. In March of the same year, Papus joined the Ahathoor Temple of the Golden Dawn in Paris. 

4. Boulan, De Guiata and the “Magical War”

Abbe Boullan was a defrocked Catholic Priest, and the head of a schismatic branch of the “Work of Mercy,” called the “Church of the Carmel.”  In the late 1880’s Boullan became involved in a “magical war” with the Marquis Stanislas de Guiata. 

On Boullan’s side was the French realistic novelist Joris K. Huysmans, and the writer Jules Bois.  His primary assistant was Julie Thibaut, his Priestess, housekeeper, and lover.   Guiata was attacked in “La Bas,” a sensationalized novel by Huysmans, which portrayed him as a Satanic sorcerer.  Bois launched similar attacks. 

It was clear within the larger Rosicrucian movement that Boullan was a decadent, and probably a Satanist, who taught sexual magic pratices, and engaged in fornication and black rites with his housekeeper.   Papus urged that Péladan and de Guiata show restraint, and this was one of the tensions that broke the new Martinist Council. 

Bois challeneged de Guiata  to a pistol duel.  Bois had expected sinister magical influences to be exerted on the outcome of the duel; and indeed, his horse suffered fit of unexplained terror on the way to the dueling ground. Neither de Guaita nor Bois were hurt during the duel, but later, it was discovered that one of the guns (it was never determined whose gun it was) had misfired, and its bullet had never left the chamber. 

Not long after, Bois challeneged Papus with sabers. This time, Bois' carriage collapsed twice on the way to the duelling ground. Papus and Bois were both only slightly wounded in the duel and they later became friends. 

5. Leo Taxil

In 1881, a young anti-clericalist named Gabriel-Antoine Jogand-Pages was made a Freemason. Within a year, he resigned from Masonry, converted to Catholicism, and began one of the most notorious propaganda campaigns in the history of Occultism. 

Under the pseudonym of Leo Taxil, Jogand published a number of books and articles in which he "proved" that Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Martinism and other similar organizations were utterly satanic in nature, and posed a dire threat to Christian European civilization.  All such organizations were secretly controlled by the mysterious "Order of the Palladium," a ruthless, terrible and extremely secretive body within the heart of Freemasonry which worshipped the Devil with inhuman rites and received commands directly from the Prince of Darkness himself. The Palladists were allegedly headed by Albert Pike, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, and a High Priestess named Diana Vaughan. Miss Vaughan, a direct descendant of the 17th century Rosicrucian and Alchemist Thomas Vaughan, had been corresponding with Taxil. Her heart had evidently been softened by one too many child sacrifices, and she had secretly written to Taxil to inquire about how she might be saved. Her correspondence also revealed many shocking secrets of the devilish world of the Masonic Inner Circle: luciferian symbolism contained in seemingly innocent emblems and phrases; gruesome human sacrifices and obscene phallic orgies conducted in hidden chambers of infernal worship carved beneath the Rock of Gibraltar; and terrifying conspiracies for world satanic domination. 
Needless to say, Jogand/Taxil's works became quite popular. They rapidly gained him the notice and smug patronage of the Roman Catholic Church, and he even obtained an official audience with Pope Leo XIII in 1887. 

Ultimately, Miss Vaughan, by then world-famous, decided once and for all to renounce Satan and convert to Catholicism. The Church eagerly anticipated her public introduction, which Jogand/Taxil scheduled for April 19, 1897. To a lecture hall filled with Catholic Clergy and Freemasons, Jogand revealed that Diana Vaughan was none other than his secretary, but that there was no point in introducing her, because she had never been a High Priestess of the Palladists. In fact, there had never been an Order of the Palladium. He, Gabriel Jogand, had fabricated the entire story as a monumental joke at the expense of the Church. He had remained a faithful anti-clericalist all along. The Masons present found this revelation intensely amusing. The Catholic clergy present did not. Fortunately for the proprietors of the lecture hall, the police were summoned before a full-scale riot had broken out. 

Jogand's success had been due, primarily, to his journalistic flair and to the credibility he enjoyed as a result of his enormous erudition; however, another significant factor in his success was his shrewd recruitment of a number of strategic, and totally unwitting, collaborators. 

6.  Jules Doinel and The Gnostic Church of France 

The founder of the Gnostic Church was Jules-Benoît Stanislas Doinel du Val-Michel (1842-1903). Doinel was a librarian, a Grand Orient Freemason, an antiquarian and a practicing Spiritist.  In 1888, while working as archivist for the Library of Orléans, he discovered an original charter dated 1022 which had been written by Canon Stephan of Orléans, a school master and forerunner of the Cathars who taught gnostic doctrines. Stephan was burned later the same year for heresy. 

Doinel became fascinated by the drama of the Cathars and their heroic and tragic resistance against the forces of the Pope. He began to study their doctrines and those of their predecessors, the Bogomils, the Paulicians, the Manichaeans and the Gnostics.As his studies progressed, he became increasingly convinced that Gnosticism was the true religion behind Freemasonry. 

One night in 1888, the "Aeon  Jesus" appeared to Doinel in a vision and charged him with the work of establishing a new church. He spiritually consecrated Doinel as "Bishop of Montségur and Primate of the Albigenses." After his vision of the Eon Jesus, Doinel began attempting to contact Cathar and Gnostic spirits in seances in the salon of Maria de Mariategui, Lady Caithness, Duchesse de Medina Pomar. 

Doinel had long been associated with Lady Caithness, who was a prominent figure in the French Spiritist circles of the time, a disciple of Anna Kingsford, and leader of the French branch of the Theosophical Society. She considered herself a reincarnation of Mary Stuart; and interestingly, a Spiritist communication in 1881 had foreshadowed to her a revolution in religion at the turn of the century which would result in a "New Age of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit."  Doinel proclaimed the year 1890 as the beginning of the "Era of the Gnosis Restored." He assumed the office of Patriarch of the Gnostic Church under the mystic name of Valentin II. 

Gérard Encausse, also known as "Papus"  was consecrated early on as Tau Vincent, Bishop of Toulouse.  Later in 1890, Doinel joined the Martinist Order of Papus and swiftly became a member of its Supreme Council.  A Gnostic Mass, called the Fraction du pain or "Breaking of the Bread" was composed. This is the ancestor of the O.T.O. Gnostic Mass, which is still performed in America, after it’s near extinction in the 1950s.

In 1895, Jules Doinel suddenly abdicated as Patriarch of the Gnostic Church, resigned from his Masonic Lodge, and converted to Roman Catholicism. Under the pseudonym "Jean Kostka," he attacked the Gnostic Church, Masonry and Martinism in a book called Lucifer Unmasked. For the next two years, Doinel collaborated with Leo Taxil in articles denouncing the organizations that were formerly so much a part of his life. "Lucifer Unmasked" itself was probably a collaborative effort; its style betrays Jogand/Taxil's hand. 

Doinel's defection was a devastating blow to the Gnostic Church, but it managed to survive. Interim control of the Church was assumed by the Synod of Bishops including Papus, and at a High Synod in 1896, they elected one of their bishops, Léonce-Eugène Fabre des Essarts as patriarch. 

Essarts was a Parisian occultist, a Symbolist poet and a scholar of the Gnosis and Esoteric Christianity. He and another Gnostic Bishop, Louis-Sophrone Fugairon (Tau Sophronius), a physician who was also a scholar of the Cathars and the Knights Templar, entered into a collaborative relationship to continue the development of the Gnostic Church. Together, they began to shift the emphasis of the teachings of the Gnostic Church away from Gnostic theology and towards a more general view of "occult science.”

Source notes – from various essays in French.

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