Archive for August, 2010


Casanova – part 3

Giacomo Casanova

The following day,  Giacomo Casanova arrives at the old man’s house with the sheath of the knife used by Saint Peter to cut off Malek’s ear, when he came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Olives.  He had made it overnight from an old shoe-sole that he had boiled.  The old man admires it and accepts to pay him one thousand Roman ecus, after they have found the treasure.

At Cesena, Giacomo and his friend Capitani are warmly welcomed by the rich peasant Franzia, who sees Casanova as a distinguished magician.  Casanova has his eyes fixed on Javotte, the family’s eldest daughter.  She is fourteen with quite a good figure.  He recites:

“In the night of the full moon, a wise philosopher will be able to raise the treasure to the ground’s surface while standing in the great circle”.

He starts by setting his conditions, among which is the acquisition of one hundred new candles by the farmer, along with three torches, some Saint-Jeveze wine and the supplying of a virgin of fourteen to eighteen years old, who can keep a secret, so that the Holy Inquisition does not stick its nose in this business.  The farmer soon proposes Javotte, which fully satisfies Casanova.  He then goes about a lot of complicated preparations:  diverse ablutions by all of the family; a new list of objects to be bought:  thirty aunes [1 aune = 120 cms approx.] of white canvas, storax, camphor, myrrh, sulphur and an olive branch one-and-a-half feet long.

He then orders that a bath be placed in his antechamber where Javotte is to lie down and wash herself completely before each meal.  He begins by making the whole family take a bath, and by the time he gets to Javotte, her father is sleeping soundly, gorged on Saint-Jeveze wine.  Casanova subjects the young girl to many ablutions

“in all directions and in all postures”

and appreciates her docility.  He writes:

“I got her out of the bath and, being obliged to dry her in all positions, I was very close to forgetting Magic to deliver myself up to Nature, but Nature, much faster to act, having relieved itself on its own, I was able to finish this scene without touching the end of the play!”

that is to say, her virginity.

Javotte greatly appreciates these intimacies over all of the following days, and spends the rest of her time sewing the robe which is to serve in the final ceremony.  As well as a crown, on which Casanova, himself, paints

“frightening figures and characters”.

He also proposes that they sleep together, which she accepts with enthusiasm.  Casanova more or less respects her virginity, for he obscurely believes that it is necessary for the rest of his action.  He starts by conjuring up the spirits which are now manifesting themselves underneath the house.  At regular intervals, enormous blows echo, while doors bang and disturbing shadows wander around in the courtyard.  Our hero is quick to explain:

“Those are the spirits who protect the treasure”.

When at last the crucial moment arrives, he asks Javotte to be ready at midnight “ready for anything”.  He dresses in the robe sewn by Javotte, asks Franzia to hide on the balcony and, his crown on his head, and the famous knife in his hand, jumps inside the magic circle that he has just drawn while making false invocations.  He crouches down under his robe, and then, almost immediately, a terrible storm erupts.

Lightning strikes to the left, then to the right, the thunder is deafening, and our man, who is trembling with cold and fear, starts to believe in the Satanic virtues of his theatrical staging.  Driving rain pours down, which reassures him a bit, but his fear has been so strong that he swears to leave the next day, leaving Javotte her virginity.  Persuaded that she is protected by Heaven and that if he dares to take it from her, he will immediately succumb to a terrible death.

He gently consoles Javotte who would have been quite willing to cross that Rubicon, and swindles another thousand ecus from Capitani for the price of the sheath.  Capitani finds this deal very advantageous.  Casanova finds the following moral in this story:

“I understood how easy it must have been for the ancient pagan priests to abuse the credulity of an ignorant Humanity”.

He is aged twenty-three at the time.  He has about the same number of years yet to live.  Not because he dies before he’s fifty, but because physical decline announces itself and his wandering road stretches endlessly before him,

“everything will be only sadness”

as he writes in his Memoires.  For another quarter of a century, he will cultivate his astonishing dispositions for an easy, fast and wealthy life.  At the end of his life, he will write:

“Happy the men who, to profit from life, have no need of hope nor of foresight.”

For the moment, the most senseless hopes drive him forward, and the downfalls due to his lack of foresight, which is, with inconstancy, the dominant trait of his character, appear to stimulate his extraordinary appetite for life.

Let us try to look inside the heart of this unusual person.  His heart and his body, for no-one has better succeeded in the synthesis of the mind and the body necessary for the fragile alchemy of happiness.  He submits his body to hard work, putting it in situations where his very particular sensitivity is delected.  He says:

“Enjoyment is only great in proportion to the privations you suffer.”

Hard on himself, he is also hard on naive people whom he is always ready to swindle to teach them a lesson.  He is after all the money he can get, of course, because women are deaf to the appeals of the poor.  But he is also very generous.

To be continued.

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Giacomo Casanova

One evening, leaving the Soranzo Palace after a marriage, carrying his violin, Giacomo Casanova picks up a letter that a Senator in a red robe had just dropped.  He gives it back to him, and to reward him, the Senator takes him home in a gondola.

Casanova is twenty-one years old.  This is a piece of decisive luck for him, which will durably mark his destiny.  The Senator is Bragadin, a Venitian famous for his eloquence and his Statesman qualities.

During the trip home, Bragadin suddenly collapses onto the bottom of the gondola.  He complains about his back, his arm is becoming numb, classical symptoms of an infarctus of the myocardium, which is called at this epoch, apoplexia.

Without panicking, Giacomo leaps out of the gondola, gets a surgeon out of bed, and obliges him to follow him.  Bragadin is bled, spread with mercury and weighed down with a cataplasm which would have surely suffocated him if Casanova hadn’t been there.  The illustrious patient comes through the ordeal, and our young man goes from violinist to the Bragadins’ family doctor.  Luckily, he doesn’t have to do anything else, which allows him to enchant his host with his stories, his knowledge, true or invented, and his dispositions for the occult sciences.

Bragadin finds that he has so much knowledge that he suspects him of getting his science from some supernatural souce.  Casanova ends up telling him that their meeting was not by chance, that it is due to the revelations of an oracle.  Thanks to an arithmetical procedure, he says that he is capable of answering all sorts of questions, and his answers could not be made by any other person in the world but himself.  He says:

“It is a hermit who taught me this calculation.  But if I communicated it to you, I would die within three days.”

As he is not in a hurry to lose such an agreeable friend, Bragadin and his two best friends, Dandolo and Barbaro, exhort him not to reveal it.  They content themselves with asking all sorts of questions that Casanova transforms into a numbered language.  Decrypted, this language delivers rather confused answers which everyone finds divine.  Soon, the four men estime each other to the point of swearing eternal brotherhood.  Bragadin goes even further and, before disappearing, makes this speech to our hero:

“Whoever you are, I owe you my life.  Your protectors, who wanted to make you a priest, doctor, lawyer, soldier, and violinist, were only fools who didn’t know you.  It is God who ordered your angel to lead you into my arms.  I have known you, I know how to appreciate you:  if you want to be my son, you only have to recognize me as your father, and from then on, in my house, I would treat you as such until my death.”

Very touched by this faith in him, Casanova immediately starts gambling again.  He leaves for Milano and Mantua with a well-filled purse.  This trip appears necessary to him after a complaint was laid against him for a tomb violation.  To play a joke on a man who had ridiculed him, he had cut off a dead man’s arm and inflicted such fear on his persecutor that the man lost his mind.

In Mantua, the lure of easy money pushes him to his first real swindle.  A new friend takes him to his parents’ home to show him their “natural history cabinet”.  He discovers a pile of Cabalistic objects of the worst taste and of no value.  His friend’s father shows him a rusty knife which has a strange form, and assures him that it is the same one that Saint Peter used to cut off Malek’s ear, when he came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Olives.  Smothering his laughter, Casanova exclaims:

“You possess this knife and you aren’t a millionaire?”

The old man wants to know more.  Casanova tells him that it is a magic knife, and that the Pope was sure to make his son a Cardinal to obtain it.  He explains to him that the knife permits the discovery of all of the treasures hidden in the lands owned by the Church, on condition, of course that you also possessed the sheath.  Hadn’t God said to Saint Peter:

Mitte gladium tuum in vaginam.”?

Luckily, Casanova knows the owner of the sheath.  It would cost one thousand sequins.  His friend’s father suggests that, as he has the knife, and Casanova knows the owner of the sheath, they could find the treasures together, and share them.  Casanova assures him that that wouldn’t work:  it has to be the same person who owns both the knife and the sheath.  The gentleman wants to know who will give him the thousand sequins to buy the sheath.  Casanova says that he will.  He also volunteers to give them to the magician in charge of the operation.  They agree to meet the next day to eat a plate of macaroni.

During the dinner, the son takes a letter from his pocket.  In the letter, it is written that a very rich man living in the Pope’s States is persuaded that he has a treasure in his cellar.  During the reading of this letter, our hero manages to read the name of the village where this person lives:  Cesena.  He then organizes his mathematical “oracle” which reveals that the treasure is buried near the Rubicon.

The father grabs a dictionary and is able to read that the Rubicon passes at Cesena.  Father and son are instantly convinced of his divination skills.  Casanova explains that he is the magician and, if they want to share the treasure, they should start by giving him five hundred sequins.

Of course, the old man refuses, in spite of the menace of seeing appear at his home at midnight an “elementary spirit”, paid by Casanova, who would take away the knife.  He tells Casanova that he will discuss it when he has seen the sheath.

To be continued.

Casanova

Giacomo Casanova

Giacomo Casanova was born in Venice on 2 April 1725, Easter Day.  He is the son of an untalented actor, but will pass himself off as the bastard son of one of the Most Serene Republic’s highest patricians, Sebastien Grimani.

His mother, Zanetta, has more talent than his father.  Her son later says of her that she was a

“perfect beauty at the age of sixteen”.

She shines on stages all over Europe and, if we can believe Giacomo, she brings a bastard back from London, son of the future George III.

Francois, Casanova’s brother, is a painter of famous battles, but is covered in debt.  His prodigality is such that only Giacomo will surpass it.  Although, it is true that Jean, born in 1730, comes in a close second, and is also a very good painter.  His needs oblige him to paint a few fakes, but he ends up as a real Director of the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Dresden, having escaped ten years of penal servitude on the galleys.  There is a sister who dances remarkably, and another brother, a subdeacon, who swindles better than he preaches, to complete the family photo of this tribe of strolling players.

The least gifted of them all seems, at first glance, to be Giacomo.  Until the age of eight-and-a-half, he passes for “clearly retarded”, as he says, himself.  His jaw hangs down a bit, probably because his nose bleeds all the time.  To cure him, an old witch locks him in a coffer, deafens him with incantations, caresses him all over, using mysterious balms, and promises him the apparition of a fairy for the following night, as the price of his silence.  He is, however, cured of his nose-bleeds.

His love life starts very early.  In those days, love follows an obligatory pathway via mature-age people –  mothers, confidantes, protectors – who are the only ones who can give access to the distant chambers where young beauties sit embroidering.

Mr de Malipiero is one of these.  He no longer has any teeth, but his appetite for young virgins is still intact.  This shocks no-one in the libertine XVIIIth Century.  Casanova, who is now fifteen and has quite a good talent for preaching, quickly becomes his confidant.  The palace is well-frequented, and soon the young Lucia partly abandons herself, while Angela resists, soon to be followed by two sisters, Nanette and Marton, who prove for the first time to our young seminarist that pleasure is greater in a threesome.

Theresa, who is presented to Mr de Malipiero by her mother, is a virgin.  As is the custom, he has to pay a few sequins for the pleasure of embracing her.

Malipiero, who pays immediately, goes into furious rages each time that the young lady refuses herself to him, encouraged by her mother, even though she has been paid.  Casanova gives advice to the old man, and some caresses to Theresa.  He writes that, one day:

“we had the idea of verifying the fundamental differences in our conformations”.

At the most interesting part of the exercise, while they are seated next to each other at a little table, blows from Malipiero’s cane start to rain down heavily, and Casanova, thrown out, loses his protector.

This is the beginning of a flight that will last as long as his life, and the beginning of adventures rich in mystery.  Necessity then gives this little low-born Venitian a mind so lively that, soon, he will find himself propulsed into the company of ministers and financiers, princes and kings.  Into the beds of marquises and duchesses as well, without neglecting scullery-maids and prostitutes.

His intelligence does not explain everything.  He also has a physique, and luck, which are so extraordinary that they are almost like fairy spells.  For example, after going to Rome, then Naples, on foot, he comes across a dupe who gives him his first fortune in payment for a fairly worthless secret:  how to increase mercury by adding lead and bismuth.

Protected by Cardinal Acquaviva, appreciated by the Pope, he compromises himself – for the last time through inexperience – by serving the interests of a young mistress disguised as an abbot.  Acquaviva has to get rid of him.  When he is asked his destination, so as to facilitate his trip, he answers the first thing that comes into his head:  Constantinople.

He then becomes a soldier, and experiences at Corfua one of the only great, unconsummated love affairs of his life.  Madame F., whom he doesn’t name out of discretion, inspires him with waves of sincere love.  His passion lasts, and is so strong that it gives him nausea.  When Madame F. asks him to wait longer, the waves crash down one night into froth, and land him on the couch of the impure Mellula.

He curses his weakness, but it is too late.  The seductress has innoculated him with a disease which keeps him in bed for two months, with no solid foods, drinking herbal teas.  Worse, the next day, he only has to look at Madame F. to read his betrayal in her eyes.

He returns sadly to Venice, has himself demobilised, and for the first time, tries his hand at cards.  But luck is against him, and he is obliged to find employment in an orchestra, playing the violin.

For consolation, he teases his compatriots, having the bells tolled at two o’clock in the morning, untying all the gondolas on the Grand Canal.  One Carnaval night, he even kidnaps a lady – with the help of eight companions – for they had to debark the husband and one of his friends on an island, and row back to a safe hiding-place.  Silencing her scrupules and fears, like a true Venitian, the lady consents to allow herself to be deliciously outraged by the band.  Fury of the husband.  The Grand Inquisitor intervenes, and the little band has to disperse.

To be continued.

The Count of Saint-Germain

The day after the Count of Saint-Germain’s revelations to Louis XV of France, the King, prodded by Madame de Pompadour who was intrigued by this story, asked the Lieutenant of Criminal Police to search the former hotel of Prosecutor Dumas.

Firstly, the mobile planks were discovered;  then the winding staircase;  then the underground room, and inside it, in the middle of a great number of astrological and chemical instruments, the body of Maitre Dumas, still fully-clothed.  It had been there for fifty-eight years, lying on the floor, with, beside it, an agate drinking cup and a broken crystal bottle.  One of the pieces of crystal still contained a fragment of opium.

***

The Count of Saint-Germain’s country of origin, his real name and his age are all unknown.  All that is known of him is that he lived in London around 1743, that he came to France in 1758, that, thanks to Madame de Pompadour whose friend he had become, he was received by Louis XV.  The King held him in such high estime that he used him as a secret agent.  We also know that he dealt in magic and alchemy, and that he officially ended his life in 1784, at the home of the Landgrave de Hesse.  I use the word “officially”, because, dead and buried in 1784, he participated in a Masonic meeting the following year, in 1785.

***

The Count of Saint-Germain did not actually claim, but let it be believed, that he had found the elixir of longevity.  He talked of Pontius Pilate and of Julius Caesar as if he had intimately known them.  He described in detail different feasts organised by Francois I of France, or Charlemagne’s meals.  After which, he would add, with a wink:

“You know, I read a lot of History books and I have an excellent memory!… “

***

The Count of Saint-Germain was certainly a Rose-Croix, and probably had a very high grade in the Order.  It has even been said that he was none other than Christian Rosenkreutz, the fraternity’s founder who, after having discovered the philosopher’s stone, had acquired immortality and had reappeared in History under different identities.  This seems a little far-fetched.

***

The Count of Saint-Germain possessed a real gift of clairvoyancy and knowledge which allowed him to accomplish wonderful things.  Madame de Hausset, lady-in-waiting to Madame de Pompadour, affirms, in her Memoires, that he succeeded in making enormous diamonds with several small ones, and that he could make fine pearls grow bigger.  As for Casanova, who met the Count several times, he recounts a strange story.

One day, Saint-Germain, at whose home he was, asked him for a 12 sols coin.  He put a sort of black seed on it, placed the coin on a hot coal, blew on it through a glass straw, making it incandescent, and said:

“Wait until it cools!… “

When it had done so, he smiled, saying:

“Take it now, and put it in your pocket.  It’s yours.”

Casanova took the coin.  It was in gold.

***

Modern specialists in alchemy, who have studied the Count of Saint-Germain, affirm that he wasn’t an imposter.  According to them, he knew the art of chemically reproducing precious stones (which would explain his colossal fortune), and that he was in possession of a “philosophical tincture” and, perhaps, of this famous elixir which bestows immortality.  The Countess de Vergy, who remembered having known the Count in Venice in 1700, was astounded to see him again, 58 years later, with exactly the same appearance.

***

The Count of Saint-Germain was a man of refined elegance.  His clothes were covered in stones.  He was of astounding culture.  It was said of him that he was the man who knew everything about everything.  As well as French, he spoke Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Arab, Chinese, German, English, Italian, Portugese and Spanish.  He could write with both hands at the same time without there being any difference in the two handwritings.  One day, the Count de Lamberg amused himself by dictating a scene from Zaire to him.  Saint-Germain wrote it on two sheets of paper at the same time.

***

No-one knew the Count of Saint-Germain intimately.  He didn’t attach himself to people, either men or women.  He refused invitations to lunch and dinner, and never received guests.  Sometimes, he disappeared for several years without anyone knowing where he was.  One day, he would reappear, as young as ever, just as elegant, just as smiling, and just as enigmatic.  From 1773 to 1776, for example, no-one knew what had become of him.  It is thought that he was in India and had stayed for a while in Tibet.

***

His tomb, from his official death and burial in 1784, is empty.  His “returns” have been signalled in 1785, as we have seen then, in 1790, he met Rudolph Graffier in Germany and made himself known to him.  In 1798, he reappeared in Vienna.  In 1835, a friend of Jules Janin affirms having met him in Paris.  In 1837, he was at Sceaux, etc…  In 1939, an American aviator whose aeroplane had crashed near a Tibetan monastery, recounted on his return to America that he had met, amongst the monks, a strange man who had said to him:

“I am the Count of Saint-Germain.  I will soon come back to Europe… “

Today, some people say that he is still alive and living in a palace in Venice, near the Grand Canal.

In the year 1700, at 22 rue de l’Hirondelle, in Paris, there lived a strange old man, a former Chatelet Prosecutor.  His name was Maitre Dumas.  Twenty years before, Maitre Dumas, who did not appear to be very rich, had suddenly displayed all of the external signs of immense riches.  He had had marvellous clothes made for himself, he had bought paintings, tapisteries, precious books for his home, and it was said that he only ate from gold dishes.

This sudden change in his way of living had caused a lot of talk over the past twenty years.  It was murmured that the old man, who attended no church and lived like a non-believer, indulged in magic and was given his gold by the Devil, whom he secretly worshipped.  This was founded on an indiscretion by someone from the former Prosecutor’s household who had revealed that he locked himself up every night in the highest room in his house to observe the stars and perform Cabalistic operations.

As well as this, the local merchants, who were keeping an eye on him, had noticed that, every Friday, around three o’clock in the afternoon, a man, riding a black mule with a horrible wound on its rump, stopped in front of Maitre Dumas’ hotel.  Having attached his mule, this man entered through a little door and climbed directly up to the attic where he locked himself up for several hours with the former Prosecutor.  No-one had ever succeeded in finding out who the mysterious visitor was, nor what he came to do Rue de l’Hirondelle.

Then, on 31 December 1700, the rider arrives, unusually, around ten o’clock in the morning.  He climbs up to the attic, and almost immediately, Madame Dumas hears her husband let out a dreadful cry.  She rushes up and finds the former Prosecutor, a greatly distressed expression on his face, in discussion with his visitor.  Maitre Dumas tells her not to worry, and to leave him with his friend.  Obediently, the wife goes back down to her own apartments.

Around midday, the mysterious rider leaves the house, and Maitre Dumas lets his wife know, via a servant, that he will not be having lunch.  The afternoon goes by.  Around five o’clock, Madame Dumas, who is used to hearing her husband moving around in the attic, is suddenly worried.  No sound is coming from the upper floor.  Accompanied by her son, she climbs up to the observatory.  The room is empty.  Maitre Dumas has disappeared.

The police, masons, carpenters are all called.  The walls are sounded, the chimneys are searched.  In vain.  The former Prosecutor is nowhere to be found.

For weeks, this disappearance intrigues the locals who occupy their evening hours making the wildest suppositions.  It is even mentioned at the Court, and Louis XV hears about it as a child, from the Marquis de Villeret.  Deeply impressed by this enigma, the young King will talk about it throughout his adolescence.

The Count of Saint-Germain

Then time passes and, in 1758, a strange person, presented by the Marquis de Marigny, Superintendent of the Beaux-Arts and brother of Madame de Pompadour, is received at Versailles.  This gentleman, of whom it is said that he possesses an extraordinary gift of clairvoyance, that he has succeeded in performing the Great Work of the alchemists, and found the secrets of both the philosophical stone and of immortality, is called, or rather calls himself, for his real name is unknown, the Count of Saint-Germain.

Louis XV, having asked a few questions of this curious person, suddenly has the idea of submitting the problem of the disappearance of Maitre Dumas to him.  The King starts by asking him if he would be able to tell him what had happened to someone who had disappeared 58 years before.  The Count says:

“Do you mean Maitre Dumas who lived Rue de l’Hirondelle?”

The King is astounded that a man who has just arrived in France should know about this old story more than half a century old.  He asks the Count if he can tell him what happened to Maitre Dumas.  The Count says that he can, but that he is reluctant to do so bccause this revelation could expose the King to certain dangers.  The King insists.  The Count accepts.

Then, the Count of Saint-Germain asks for a map of Paris.  He finds the former hotel of Maitre Dumas, places a piece of the map on his forehead, closes his eyes, appears to empty his mind, and remains silent for a long moment.  At last, he murmurs:

“I see… “

Then, he opens his eyes and speaks:

“Sire, I have just watched the last few moments of Maitre Dumas.  Either the workmen who looked for the Prosecutor were paid so that this case would never be cleared up, or they had only mediocre knowledge of their trade.  This is what happened:  in an angle of the laboratory, near the entrance door, several planks in the floor are mobile.  They cover the start of a staircase which descends through the floor and the wall.  At the end of this staircase, you go up again to an underground room.  It is in this place that Prosecutor Dumas took refuge.  Very weak, he absorbed a strong narcotic and did not wake up.”

The King asks if it really was the Devil who came to visit him.  Saint-Germain replies:

“I rather think that it was Maitre Dumas who visited the Devil.  If Your Majesty becomes a Rose-Croix, I will lift the last veil that covers this mystery.  At the moment, it is not possible for me to answer His question, for, by doing that, I would expose myself to the greatest dangers.”

To be continued.

As soon as he awakes, the young soldier, Rene Descartes, starts looking for the interpretation of his three dreams.  The verse Quod vitae sectabor iter? (Which path in life will I choose?)  clearly indicates to him that he is at a capital moment of his existence.  The poem Est et non (What is and is not) signifies that he must separate the true from the false in human knowledge.  Knowledge, which is represented by the dictionary.  All this seems so clear that he is persuaded that the Spirit of Truth wanted to open up the treasures of all of the sciences by this dream, and he exults.

Then he goes to the interpretation of the first two dreams.  These, too, seem evident to him.  The wind which pushed him towards the college church seems to him to be nothing more than a bad genie.  He thinks:

“That is why God did not allow me to be blown away, even towards a holy place, by this demon spirit.”

The melon that someone wanted to give him seems to him to represent “the charms of solitude”.  As for the thunder that he heard, it represents the sign of the Spirit of Truth which had just descended into him to possess him…

***

These three dreams would play a determining role in the life of this young soldier.  The very next day, he decides to engage himself in the path which has been indicated to him and to study everything with method to separate the true from the false in human knowledge.

Rene Descartes in his study. This XVIIth Century engraving is full of symbols.

This young soldier of the Bavarian Army who will found his whole life, his whole work, and all of his philosophy on the interpretation of three dreams, like any other adept of occult sciences, is the same Rene Descartes, from whose name, the word “Cartesian” has been derived.  It is rather amusing to think that, all of the world’s rationalists claim to base their thinking on him, and with the greatest gravity…

***

Descartes, himself, relates these three dreams and the signification that he gives to them in Les Olympiques.  The original work has been lost, but it was published by Adrien Baillet, in 1691.  Descartes clearly indicates that he saw a divine sign in these three dreams.  To the point that he immediately makes the vow to go on a pilgrimage to Notre-Dame de Lorette, in Italy.  He accomplished this vow a few years later.

***

In 1928, a writer, Maxime Leroy, author of Descartes, le philosophe au masque, showed these three dreams to Freud.  Freud mostly confirmed Descartes’ interpretation and added that the difficulty in walking, in the first dream, indicated an internal conflict, that the left side represented evil, sin, and that the melon did not represent the charms of solitude, but a clear sexual repression.  He also added that, if Descartes had had a mistress at Neubourg, he would not have dreamed of melon…

***

After this 10 November night, Descartes started his research, scrupulously respecting the rules which had been given to him in his third dream – separate the true from the false.  From then on, according to his famous formula

“he received as true only that which he knew to be so”.

Basically, he became Cartesian because he had believed in a dream…

***

Although Descartes does not seem to have been interested in occult things, he had been very much attracted to the Rose-Croix.  While he was in Germany, he tried many times to enter into relation with this esoteric movement.  We don’t know whether or not he succeeded.  Some historians think, and even affirm, that he had received Rosicrucian initiation.  It is surprising to see that Descartes was interested in an esoteric doctrine, and in people who, it was said, communicated mentally, in other words, by telepathy.  Descartes held the Rose-Croix in such great estime that he dedicated one of his works on mathematics to them.

***

Descartes gave the name Les Olympiques to the description of his dreams because he believed, on the one hand, that he had received a sign from Heaven;  and because he thought, on the other hand, that Man possessed unused faculties which could allow him to be the equal of the Olympian gods.  This is very, very close to the parapsychology so mocked by the rationalists who call themselves Cartesians.

The three dreams of Rene Descartes were at the origin of the philosophy known as "Cartesianism"

On 10 November 1619, at Neubourg, in Saxe-Wurtemberg, on the banks of the Danube, it is a bitterly cold evening.  Freezing rain, driven by a violent wind, smashes against the window-panes.  Trees are torn up, draughts rush down chimneys, and swinging metal signs creak loudly.

Inside an over-heated bedroom, curled up in an armchair at a table, next to a big, earthenware stove, is a young man of twenty-three.  Oblivious to the weather outside, he is reading by the bright light of a candelabrum.

The young man does not come from Neubourg.  He is a soldier of the Duke of Bavaria, whose armies have just taken up their Winter quarters.  Like his army colleagues, he is lodged with a town inhabitant, and is living a gentle, comfortable life while waiting to leave, in Spring, to fight the Protestant troops of the Palatine Elector Frederic V.

The young soldier rarely leaves the house where he is billeted. Tonight, he is reading a treatise on music.  But, perhaps due to the excessive heat of the stove, he keeps nodding off.  So, he puts away the book, undresses, blows out the candles, and goes to bed.  And, in spite of the tempest which continues to rattle the house, blowing away weather-vanes and whistling through the roof, the young soldier quickly goes to sleep.

He immediately has a strange dream:  he is walking in an unknown street, when suddenly ghosts appear in front of him.  Terrified, he wants to flee, but he feels a great weakness on his right side, and he is obliged to lean on his left to be able to advance.  Ashamed of walking in this grotesque position, he makes an immense effort to stand upright, but an impetuous wind suddenly makes him spin three or four times on his left foot, like a top.

Then, he stops spinning and forces himself to continue to advance.  But his body’s position makes walking difficult, and he thinks that he is going to fall with each step that he takes.  A college, whose door is open, then appears in his path.  He enters it, thinking to find refuge there, and perhaps a remedy for what is ailing him.  Then he sees the college church and wants to go there to pray, but he notices that he has passed a man whom he knows, without greeting him.  So, he wants to turn back to say something agreeable to him.  But he is violently pushed back by the wind which is blowing against the church and stopping him from advancing.  At the same time, he sees, in the middle of the college courtyard, another person who calls him by his name and says to him:

“Would you be kind enough to carry something to one of our friends?”

The young man asks what he is to carry.  He receives no answer, but imagines, we don’t know why, that it is a melon brought from some foreign country.

He continues walking, dragging himself along and tottering, while the people whom he meets are walking firmly on their feet, and the wind has dropped.  He is so unhappy that he wakes up.

The dream, from which he emerges with difficulty, has anguished him so much that he thinks that a bad genie has come to torment him.  So, he makes a long prayer to secure himself against the bad effects of his vision.

After two hours of unhappy thoughts, he goes back to sleep.  He is immediately transported into another dream where he hears a sharp, explosive noise, which he takes for thunder.  Fear wakes him.  Opening his eyes, he sees sparks from the fire scattered in his bedroom.  But this doesn’t worry him, for it has happened several times before.  On some nights, the sparks are so bright that they allow him to see the objects around him.

After a short time, he goes back to sleep once more, and finds himself in a third dream.  In front of him, on a table, is a book.  Having opened it, he sees that it is a dictionary.  Then he notices a second book.  This one is a poetry anthology.  He flicks through it and immediately comes upon the latin verse:  “Quod vitae sectabor iter?”:  “Which path in life will I choose?”.

At the same time, an unknown man appears and presents him with a poem which starts with Est et non (what is and is not).  He adds that it is an excellent work.  The young soldier says:

“I know.  It is in this book of poems.  Look!”

But he flicks through the anthology in vain.  He can’t find the poem.  So, he takes up the dictionary and notices that some of the pages are missing.  He is exchanging a few more words with the stranger when, suddenly, the books and the man disappear.

When he wakes up, the young soldier, very troubled by these three dreams, thinks that they have been sent to him by Heaven and starts to try to find out what they mean.

To be continued.

Today, I might disappoint a few of my subscribers, and other regular visitors.  However, a new Canadian Email subscriber, who goes by the name of PJB, left a short, inspirational poem in the Comment section of my post entitled John of Jerusalem – Prophecy Number 40, and this has prompted me to post a poem of my own, which I wrote a few years ago in August 2002.  Thank you PJB.

***

Truth’s Light

 

The truth is within us but its light is blinding.

We keep our eyes closed while we search without finding

This elusive truth, in the dark we’ve created.

 

We trip over things without opening our eyes,

When gradual opening would acclimatize

Our vision to light and to all things related.

 

We continue to shuffle around in the dark:

Just collecting more bruises;  refusing the spark

Of truth that’s within us, as formerly stated.

 

The avoidance of obstacles, sparing us pain

(And the anguish that surges again and again)

Is certain improvement and should be updated.

 

We must open our eyes and start living in light.

All the shadows dissolving give us back our sight

And leave us in light, with the truth once more mated.

 

Our life can change now because all is not fated!

 

***

Nicolas Flamel – part 2

In 1378, the public writer, who still thinks that the Kabbala will allow him to decipher Abraham’s book, decides to go to Spain where there is an important Jewish colony.  He leaves, on foot, explaining to his entourage that he is making a pilgrimage to Saint James of Compostella.

In the province of Leon, he meets an old Jewish doctor called Canches.  Canches is an alchemist.  Flamel shows him a copy of Abraham’s book which he has sewn into his clothes.  Canches is amazed.  Flamel explains to him that the original is in Paris, and invites him to go back with him to see it.  Canches accepts, and, in spite of the Winter weather, they take to the road.

The trip is long and difficult but, while they walk, Nicolas Flamel learns the recipes and secrets that he needs for the Great Work.  In Orleans, Canches dies, exhausted.  The public writer buries him and returns to Paris, where he is reunited with Dame Pernelle.  Immediately, they both set to work.  And, on 17 January 1382, around midday, they at last succeed in changing half a pound of lead into pure silver…

Stunned, amazed, radiant, they prepare the second step of the operation and, on 25 April, they obtain an ingot of pure gold.  From then on, they will repeat their experiment and collect a considerable fortune, from which the poor in the Saint-Jacques de la Boucherie neighbourhood will be the first to profit.

***

Nicolas Flamel wrote down the principal episodes of his life and his research in a work called Le Livre des figures hieroglyphiques.

***

It is difficult to evaluate exactly the fortune of Nicolas Flamel.  It was considerable, because, according to notaried Acts which have been found, Flamel built four big houses and bought seventy-three others, in Paris and its surroundings.  As well as that, he covered all of his neighbourhood poor in gold, and even became banker for the Royal Treasury.  He also, at his wife’s request, endowed nine tradesmen’s fraternities, as well as fourteen churches or hospitals, including the Quinze-Vingts.  In memory of this gesture, every year until the Revolution, the blind went in procession from their hospital to the Saint-Jacques de la Boucherie Church, in Nicolas Flamel’s parish.  Today, the Saint-Jacques Tower is all that is left of it.

***

People have said that his profession of public writer would have been enough to have made him rich.  For anyone with any knowledge of the living standards of small tradespeople in the Middle Ages, this is absurd.  It has also been said that he was an usurer and that he took the gold deposited with him by the Jews.  These accusations have no foundation.  Plus, such acts would be in total contradiction with everything that we know about the character of Nicolas Flamel – his goodness and his generosity.

***

Notre-Dame de Paris is a book of alchemy that the initiated are able to read.  Its first bishop, author of an Epitre sur l’alchimie, resumed this secret science in some of its sculptures.  For example, at the Sainte-Anne door, there is a statue of Bishop Marcel plunging his crozier into the mouth of a winged dragon.  This dragon is leaving a space where a man is lying.  Above, an upside-down royal head and Byzantine gold pieces are sculpted.  All of this is symbolic and constitutes, for those who are able to read it, a real instruction in hermetic language.

Detail of the Virgin's door in Notre-Dame de Paris. The seven circles represent the metals necessary for the Great Work.

There are two signs which indicate the alchemical vocation of Notre-Dame de Paris.  At the Virgin’s door, you first see a sarcophage decorated with seven circles representing the seven planetary metals necessary for the acccomplishment of the Great Work.  And, if you take the stairs which lead to the second gallery, you will discover, among the statues of chimera, an old stone man wearing the Phrygian bonnet of the Adepts.  It is the Alchemist watching over Paris, as he would watch over his athanor or alchemist’s furnace.

The alchemist watches over Paris from amongst the chimera of Notre-Dame de Paris

***

Like Notre-Dame, the Sainte-Chapelle is a book of hermetic images.  There, it is not the statues which contain the teachings, but the stained-glass windows.  They are so rich and so “readable” that Fulcanelli says that

“it would be difficult to find anywhere else a more considerable collection on alchemical esoteric formulae.”

Of course, you need to have the key.

***

The transmutation of metals – which is accompanied by the personal transmutation of the Adept – is only one step in alchemical research.  One step in the accession to semi-mortality.  It should be noted that Nicolas Flamel was nearly one hundred years old when he died in 1418, which is stupefying in a time when men rarely arrived at fifty.

Of course, some authors are not happy with this great age.  A few have gone as far as saying that the sworn-writer, and Dame Pernelle, did not die in the XVth Century.  After a fake funeral, they are both supposed to have left France and gone to India to live a happy life, thanks to the elixir of longevity.  These same authors affirm that a traveller by the name of Paul Lucas met them in the XVIIth Century, gaily spending their prodigious fortune.

Nicolas Flamel

Nicolas Flamel

In 1357, in Paris, on the corner of the Rue des Ecrivains and the Rue des Marivaux (or Marais), there was a house bearing the sign of the Fleur de Lys.  A young man lived there.  A young man who was to intrigue his neighbours.  Six hundred years after his death, he still intrigues us.

The young man’s name was Nicolas Flamel.  He was twenty-seven-years-old.  He was fairly tall, dark-haired, and well-liked.  We are told that he was sharp-eyed, and had a kind mouth.  His profession was that of sworn writer.  That is to say that, at this time, when printing did not yet exist, he was one of those men who copied onto parchment, letters, documents, and even books destined for scholars.

Bachelor of Arts, he wrote Latin just as well as French.  However, his activity was not limited to calligraphy:  he was also an illuminator, a painter, a drawer, a writer of epitaphs and a librarian.  He received, as well, a few pupils to whom he gave writing lessons.

Nicolas Flamel had a beautiful house, a faithful clientele, and work that he loved.  He considered himself to be a happy man.  However, an apparently ordinary event will slightly trouble the course of this peaceful existence.  One night, Nicolas Flamel dreams that an angel dressed in white, holding in its hands a thick book with a copper cover, says to him:

“See this book that you do not understand, neither you, nor others.  One day you will see in it that which others are unable to see… “

Intrigued, the young man holds out his hands to take the volume, but the Angel retreats with a smile, and disappears in an sea of light…

For some time, this curious dream obsesses Nicolas Flamel who tries to discover what it means.  Unsuccessful, he stops thinking any more about it.  However, a few months later, a man with a brown, tanned skin enters his shop.  He is dirty, seems very tired, and expresses himself with difficulty.  Nicolas sees that he must have travelled far, and sits him down on a bench.  Then, he asks how he can help him.

The man explains in a stammer that he has something to sell.  He pulls a packet, wrapped in a piece of cloth, from his sack.  He studies the writer-librarian intently.  Then, he removes the cloth, and holds out the book.

Nicolas Flamel is astounded to recognise the volume shown to him by the Angel in his dream.  It has the same copper binding, the same mysterious inscriptions, the same strange diagrams.  The librarian is troubled.  He asks the man where he had found the book.  The man says that he doesn’t know.  Nicolas wants to know if the man had bought the book from someone.  He receives no answer, so he asks how much he wants for it.  The stranger says two florins.  Nicolas pays him, and the man leaves.

Nicolas examines his acquisition.  It is a very old gilded book whose pages are made from diverse barks of different bushes.  Most of them are decorated with strange illuminated images representing dragons, griffons, snakes nailed to crosses, men with winged heels, or suns bathing in a sea of blood.  On the first page, Nicolas Flamel discovers an inscription in big, golden letters:

“Abraham, Jew, Prince, Priest, Levite, Astrologist, Philosopher, to the nation of Jews by God’s wrath dispersed in the countries of the Gauls, salutations.  D.I.”

Underneath, the mysterious author pronounces a curse on any person who dares to read his book without being a sacrificer or a scribe.

Nicolas Flamel is certainly not a sacrificer, but he is a public writer, that is to say, a scribe.  Therefore, he can plunge without fear into the study of this coded book.  Besides, would the Angel have come to show it to him in a dream if he didn’t have the right to read it?  He turns the pages, and soon finds a few fascinating lines.  The author explains that, to help the Jewish people, he is giving, in this work, all of the secrets of the transmutation of metals, except for the name of the first agent, represented only by a series of allegories.  So, the book is a manual of alchemy.

For days, then weeks, then months, Nicolas Flamel will try to understand the signification of the hermetic images and Hebrew characters which accompany them.  He knows that, within these bizarre diagrams, the secrets of the philosophical stone are hidden;  but he can scrutinize them, analyse them, turn them around in all directions, the key escapes him.  Three years pass by, almost entirely consecrated to this passionate research.

Then, in 1360, Nicolas Flamel marries a lovely widow, Dame Pernelle, to whom he divulges the story of the Angel, and his research.  From then on, night after night, behind closed shutters and barricaded door, they will huddle over Abraham’s book, by the light of a candle.  At the same time, they pray, they meditate, they read other manuals, they consult the stained-glass windows of the Sainte-Chapelle, they interrogate certain sculptures of Notre-Dame de Paris which contain, they know, an alchemical message;  without ever finding what they are seeking.

One day, Dame Pernelle exclaims:

“To understand this book of Abraham, you would have to be a Kabbalist!”

So, Nicolas goes to see some Jews that he knows;  but in this Paris of the XIVth Century, where they are only just tolerated, the poor things shake with fear at the idea of being suspected of sorcery, and declare that they know nothing about the Kabbala.

Eighteen years pass by.  But neither Flamel, nor Pernelle, shows any sign of impatience.  Not the slightest discouragement.  They both know that the quest for the philosophical stone is not only for finding out how to make gold.  Its aim is to voyage into the most precious part of themselves.  And these eighteen years of research have already given them smiling serenity, if not the key that they are searching.

To be continued.

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