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Fulcanelli (1877-1932)

Julien Champagne in His Laboratory ca. 1927

Sketch of Fulcanelli made by R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz in February 1930

Self Portrait of Julien Champagne made in the year 1930

 

Fulcanelli was a mysterious 20th century French alchemist and hermeticist. He was a confidant of R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz and collaborated with him in several alchemical experiments. The name Fulcanelli was a nom de plume.  His true identity has been a topic of much controversy.  However, based on information given to Andre Vandenbroeck by Schwaller de Lubicz in 1959-1960, it is my opinion that this man was a Parisian painter and illustrator named Julien Champagne (1877-1932).

 

True Identity of Fulcanelli

Schwaller de Lubicz never specifically identified Fulcanelli by his true name; however, the information he gave to Vandenbroeck concerning the date and circumstances of Fulcanelli's death in 1932 strongly indicate that this man was Julien Champagne.  Also, a comparison of de Lubicz's sketch of Fulcanelli with known images of Champagne (see above) confirm that these men were one and the same. Concerning the sketch de Lubicz made of Fulcanelli, in February 1930, Vandenbroeck provides the following when describing the de Lubicz country estate of Lou-Mas-de-Coucagno, located in the town of Plan-de-Grasse in southeastern France:

The upper stories of the house could be reached in two ways. ... There was ... a broad staircase rising directly to the second floor where Isha [de Lubicz's wife] had her quarters and Dr. Lamy [de Lubicz's stepson] his clinic. ... Mounting these stairs to the doctor's office, there was a stately wooden balustrade on the right.  On the left, the stairway ran along a wall hung with prints, photographs, and drawings.  One drawing in particular, one drawing alone, I should say, of all the graphic work that was closely hung there, had attracted my attention from the very first.  It was a pencil sketch of a man in his forties perhaps, or older, a small intellectual face with delicate features, a high forehead and deep-set eyes, long sparse hair combed backward and falling somewhat untidily toward the sides.  It was a Gallic physiognomy which reminded me of photographs I had seen of Paul Valéry.  The most characteristic feature was the dense, drooping mustache, so typically French that it is called "a la gauloise." ... I found myself climbing this staircase in Aor's [de Lubicz's] company.  It was the only time I found myself alone with him in front of this drawing. ... he turned when he felt me lagging, stopped and saw what I was contemplating:  "Its Fulcanelli," he said.  "I did the sketch when he was here."

Al-Kemi A Memoir by Andre Vandenbroeck, published 1987, pages 138-139.

 

Le Vaisseau du Grand Oeuvre

Julien Champagne's most famous painting, Le Vaisseau du Grand Oeuvre (Vessel of the Great Work), was completed in the year 1910. The painting was a great favorite among the Parisian occultists during the first third of the 20th Century.

The voluptuous model for the painting was purported to be the young female alchemist, Louise Barbe (ca. 1879-1919); she was the wife of the infamous Russian "monkey gland" surgeon, Serge Voronoff (1866-1951).  Louise was a member of the occult circle which gathered at the salon of the de Lesseps family (children of the great Ferdinand de Lesseps) in Paris.

Of course, the "Great Work" is Alchemy, and the painting is filled with alchemical symbolism.  The nude female figure is a personification of the philosopher's stone; she stands within a glass flask and is surrounded by myriad blazing flames. Off the right shoulder of the young woman is the word "POTERE" meaning "power" in English; off of her left shoulder is the word "AVDERE" meaning "to dare" in English. The background on the left and right sides of the flask contain the names of certain philosophers and alchemists written in Latin letters. 

The names on the left side are as follows: Artephius, Albert le Grand, Synesius, Th. d'Aquin, R. Lulle, Flamel, Rhazes, and Geber.  The names on the right side are as follows: Roger Bacon, A. de Villeneuve, Basile Valentin, Van Helmont, Paracelse, Philalethe, Trevisan, and Ripley.

In the darkened sky behind the female figure are depictions of the Moon and four planets that are visible to the naked eye:  above her right shoulder are Saturn and Jupiter; on her lower right side is a crescent Venus (Morning Star); above her left shoulder is a crescent Moon; and to her lower left is the planet Mars.  On her forehead the woman wears a sparkling diamond of the Queen of Heaven, Isis, the Goddess of magic and the occult arts.  The diamond represents the "Great Eye," which Isis is purported to have stolen from Ra, the supreme God of Pharaonic Egypt.

Eugène Canseliet used a representation of this painting as the frontispiece in the 1979 reprint of his book entitled Deux logis alchimiques, en marge de la science et de l'histoire (originally published in 1945).

Le Vaisseau du Grand Oeuvre by Julien Champagne (1910)

 

Books Published Under the Name of Fulcanelli

In 1926 and 1930, respectively, Eugène Canseliet (1899-1982), published two books using the pen name of Fulcanelli. Canseliet stated that these books were based upon detailed notes given to him by Fulcanelli.  They are:

1)  Le Mystère des Cathédrales (The Mystery of the Cathedrals), first published in 1926; and

2)  Les Demeures Philosophales (Dwellings of the Philosophers), first published in 1930.

 

Unpublished Third Book - Finis Gloriae Mundi

Purportedly, Fulcanelli also provided notes to Canseliet for a third book tentatively entitled Finis Gloriae Mundi (End of the Glory of the World) but had the work withdrawn from publication for unknown reasons.  The proposed title of this book is also the title of a painting preserved at the Church of San Jorge, Hospital de la Santa Caridad in Séville, Spain. This work, an oil on wood panel measuring 220 x 216 centimeters, was created by the Spanish artist Juàn de Valdès Léal in 1672. It is believed that the painting was a favorite of Fulcanelli hence the proposed book title. 

This painting, of the interior of a crypt, is filled with hermetic symbolism. The skeleton of a bishop lies within his open coffin; large black insects crawl over him. Next to the bishop, the relatively undecomposed corpse of a knight lies juxta-positioned in his open coffin; the emblem on his shield suggests an association with the Order of the Knights Templers. At the top of the painting, the rather effeminate hand of Christ, bearing the mark of crucifixion, descends from the clouds carrying a scale.  Presumably the scale represents the role of Christ, like Osiris before him, in judging the quick and the dead. The plates of the scale are weighing the lifeworks of the bishop against the knight; each plate contain a heart and various other objects associated with each man. The left-hand plate of the scale is inscribed with the Latin word nimas (neither more) and the right-hand plate is inscribed with the word nimenos (nor less).

On the left side of the painting, at the entry to the crypt, an owl (symbol of wisdom to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks) is perched in a watchful posture, seeming to "weigh" the situation seriously. To the rear of the painting, lies another skeleton and several scattered bones which add to the macabre nature of the scene. 

Finis Gloriae Mundi  by Juàn de Valdès Léal (1672)

 

Schwaller de Lubicz Meets Fulcanelli

Schwaller de Lubicz explained to Andre Vandenbroeck the circumstances surrounding his first meetings with Fulcanelli and why he decided to work with him:

I came in touch with the man quite naturally, as we were frequenting the same café, the Closerie des Lilas, in Montparnasse.  This was before the First World War. ... I never took a liking to Fulcanelli, but he was the only one in Paris I could talk to about the Oeuvre [Alchemical Work].  He had a few disciples of sorts, a fellow named Boucher, I remember, and Eugène Canseliet, of course, who never left his side. ... He knew what he was doing, from a practical point of view.  He was about ten years older than I, and rather well connected in the publishing world, or so he told me.  But there were aspects he did not understand, theoretical aspects, what I call doctrine. ... He had made a technique of the proper gesture needed in the work, instead of leaving  it to be divinely inspired, but what a technique!  An unbelievable manipulator!  This is valuable, of course, it is what makes the artist, but it does not make the philosopher. I guess he himself realized to what degree we complemented each other.  He was a very strange fellow, a prankster, and he lived the Fulcanelli intrigue in all its details.  ... He did not have the symbolique to express himself.  He was still speaking in terms of Basil Valentine and Flamel or Jabir, but he himself had no specific form.  And that was what I was able to give him.

Ibid., pages 76-77.

 

Was Fulcanelli a Plagiarist?

In his 1926 book entitled Le Mystère des Cathédrales, Fulcanelli provided detailed analyses of the Notre Dame Cathedrals of Paris, Amiens, Bourges and several other sites in France.  Schwaller de Lubicz told Vandenbroeck that most of the book was based on a draft manuscript that he had previously loaned to Fulcanelli.  Thus, most of the Fulcanelli book had been plagiarized!  Schwaller stated the following:

I showed him [Fulcanelli] the documentation I had gathered of cathedral symbolism.  He got very excited and assured me he would give me a hand in publishing it.  I was at that time thinking about moving away from Paris; the whole social affair was taking too much of my time.  But I had been working on a book with detailed proof through the structural elements of the cathedrals, and through the sculpture and ornaments, that they were a Christian expression of the Hermetic Oeuvre. ... I did talk to him about all the material I had gathered concerning the symbolism of cathedrals.  At that time I intended to publish something on the subject, and he made me believe he could help me; he had connections.  He really was most interested when I showed him the manuscript, and asked to borrow it for a few days, to look at it more closely in view of presenting it to a publisher.  It took me a long time to get the manuscript back, and when he did return it, his opinion was that this material should not get published, that it revealed too much, and publication was bound to lead me to adverse consequences.  A regular confidence man he was, that one!  But I admit I had had thoughts in that direction myself, and he merely confirmed them.  Well I had other things on my mind.  I was at that time preparing to move up to Suhalia [in Switzerland], and that was an enormous undertaking.  We left shortly thereafter and I gave no further thought to the matter.  I didn't stay in touch with the Paris people, wanted to get away from all that social involvement.  Then in 1926 I find out about the publication of Le Mystère des Cathédrales!  It was completely based on my work.

Ibid., pages 80-81.

 

Death of Fulcanelli

According to Schwaller de Lubicz, the man known as Fulcanelli died in 1932.  Several months before his death, Fulcanelli had indicated his desire to tell the world about the successful alchemical experiments that had been conducted at the de Lubicz estate in Plan-de-Grasse in 1930.  Schwaller was strongly against this course of action and, was initially able to dissuade Fulcanelli.  However, several weeks later, the already ailing Fulcanelli sent a him a note saying that he had scheduled a meeting with several adept friends to tell them of the experiment.  Upon receipt of this note, De Lubicz immediately left for Paris and visited Fulcanelli at his lodgings; it turned out to be on the day before he died.  In his book, Vandenbroeck writes that de Lubicz told him the following:

"He [Fulcanelli] was already sick when he came here last time, limping somewhat and complaining of circulatory problems. And he persisted in this insane desire to come forth with whatever he thought he had understood.  I reminded him again of his vow of secrecy and warned him that no good could come from breaking it.  It was useless.  Six weeks later he wrote me a line announcing a meeting he had scheduled for a limited group of adept friends:  he was going to talk about our experiment." ...

He [de Lubicz] had gone to Paris a few days before the scheduled event, had gone straight up to Fulcanelli's mansarde and been aghast at what he found.  Fulcanelli was deathly ill.  Gangrene had set in on his leg, and his complexion was dark gray.

"He was turning black," Aor said almost inaudibly, all harmonics gone from the timbre of his voice, "and he could barely speak.  Imagine he could no longer speak!  We looked at each other for a long while, and then he shook his head.  I think he understood.  He pointed to a pile of papers on a bookshelf and had me look through them.  I found the six pages of manuscript he had stolen and that we had been working with, the manuscript, I am convinced, that had brought us both to this moment.  He made me understand that he wanted me to have it, and that no copy existed.  I put it in my pocket and left.  He was dead the next morning."

Ibid., page 232.

 

Burial Site of Fulcanelli

Julien Champagne, alias Fulcanelli, died on 26 August 1932.  He was buried in the cemetery at Arnouville-les-Gonesse, a northern suburb of Paris; Schwaller de Lubicz paid to have a tombstone placed over the gravesite with the following inscription:

ICI REPOSE

JEAN-JULIEN

CHAMPAGNE

APOSTOLUS HERMETICAE SCIENTIAE

1877-1932

 

Tombstone of Julien Champagne

Gravesite of Julien Champagne

 

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