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The Call of Fire: The Hermetic Quest of René Schwaller de Lubicz

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The Call of Fire: The Hermetic Quest of René Schwaller de Lubicz

Aaron Cheak

By Aaron Cheak, PhD



Originally published in
Clavis: Journal of  Occult Arts, Letters and Experience 
Volume 3: Cipher and Stone (2014).  

 

RENÉ ‘AOR’ SCHWALLER DE LUBICZ (1887-1961) was an Alsatian artist, alchemist, Egyptologist, Neopythagorean, and philosopher. His life’s work encompassed a surprisingly diverse spectrum of activity, from the creation of alchemically stained glass to the archaeology, architectonics and symbolic analysis of Egyptian temples. Taken in its entirety, however, the esotericism of de Lubicz is nothing less than a science of consciousness. The perception of all phenomenal things, ‘from mineral to man’, as arrested phases of a living cosmic alchemical reaction was, for Schwaller, the cornerstone of his panentheistic Weltanschauung. Herein, everything that exists—the phenomenal world as a whole—was seen precisely as a reaction to a metaphysical action. ‘Life’ for Schwaller was ‘the faculty of reacting’,[1]and this included the mineral and metallic kingdoms. ‘The Universe is nothing but consciousness’, he remarks, ‘and through its appearances presents nothing but an evolution of consciousness, from its origin to its end, the end being a return to its cause’. [2]



DOUBLE NATURE
 

René Adolphe Schwaller was born on 30 December 1887 in Strasbourg—the vignoble region of France that straddles the border of Rhineland Germany. [3] Schwaller would acquire two more names in the course of his life: the chivalric title « de Lubicz » and the initiatic appellation « Aor ». The story of these names will reveal much. For now, however, it is important to realise that he was first and foremost Alsatian. His nature is a precise reflection of the land—or rather, borderland—into which he was born: Alsace, the longitudinal strip of land defined by the Vosges in the West and by the Rhine in the East. Since Julius Caesar first wrested the region from the Germanic tribes in the first century CE, its history has been one of repeated oscillation between Gallic and Germanic rule. In early modern times, Louis XIV annexed Alsace to the French crown (1648), while the French Revolution (1789) divided it into the Haut and Bas regions. At the end of the Franco-Prussian war (1871–72), France gave up most of the region to Germany, and it was here, in Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen (Imperial German Alsace-Lorraine) that Schwaller was born. In spite of its Germanic character, the region remains defiantly French, as did René Schwaller. Indeed, his part-French, part-German name reflects the bi-fold lineage of not only the territory but its people: his father, Joseph Schwaller (a pharmacist), was of Swiss-German origin while his mother, Marie Bernard (originally from Asnières), was French.[4] And yet while the bilingual milieu into which Schwaller was born would give him fluency in two languages, he spoke and wrote in his mother’s tongue. As Christopher Bamford remarks in his introduction to the English translation of Schwaller’s first book, A Study of Numbers: ‘All his life he wrestled with this inheritance, continuing, as it were, to “think in German” but write in French’.[5] ‘From the stylistic point of view’, remarks Emmanuel Dufour-Kowalski (commenting in a similar vein), ‘one must not neglect to mention the formal approach of the author, allergic to all Romanesque or poetic expressions, never hesitating to supplement his philosophical vocabulary with technical neologisms’.[6] Ultimately, like the wine of the region, the close yet uneasy confluence of the Romance and Germanic simultaneously pervaded his nature.

The dual inheritance of the Strasbourgeois borderland is further mirrored in the double affinity for art and science that would play an integral role in the alchemist’s upbringing. According to his wife’s 1963 biography, the young René divided the leisures of his youth between ‘reveries in the forest, painting, and chemical experiments in the laboratory of his father’.[7] These past-times would prove critical to his mature work, an alchemy engaged both as a sacred science and a royal art. At root of both endeavours lies a metaphysics of perception that embraces both the intuitive and empirical faculties. This desire to comprehend the transcendent levels of reality through concrete phenomena remains a hallmark of Schwaller’s earliest experiences.

Deeply Pythagorean, Schwaller saw the human lifespan governed by a series of seven-year cycles that correspond to phases of organic and initiatic development. He identified key moments in his early years as formative experiences that crystallised his abiding quest into the nature of origin. His first experience occurred at the age of seven. Holding a simple coin in his hand, he was struck by a concrete experience of the connection between unity and duality. The two sides of the coin sparked the metaphysical perception of number as form, and with this came an insight into the nature of God that coloured his entire life and work.[8] The opening of his second cycle at the age of seven was thus stamped with the realisation of the simultaneously dual yet non-dual nature of divinity revealed in a simple, everyday object. Following from this, at the same age, he formulated the question that would guide his entire philosophical quest into the mystery of existence—Quelle est l’origine de la matière‘what is the origin of matter?’[9]

At the age of fourteen, the experience inaugurating his third cycle—the entry into intellectual development—concerned light and fire. This experience centred on an experiment conducted in the laboratory of his father involving the production of hydrochloric acid, a common but impressive experiment proceeding from the fact that the two components of the acid—hydrogen gas and chlorine—are so photosensitive that diffuse light will produce a reaction and direct sunlight an explosion.[10] For reasons that will become clearer in due course, the following description of the process, reproduced from Fulcanelli’s Les Demeures philosophales (Philosophical Mansions, 1931), must be taken as representative of Schwaller’s own formative experience:

Light—rarefied and spiritualised fire—possesses the same virtues and the same chemical power as crude, elementary fire. An experiment aimed at the synthetic realisation of hydrochloric acid (HCl) from its components is enough to demonstrate this. If one encloses equal volumes of chlorine and hydrogen gas in a glass flask, the two gasses will retain their own individuality as long as the flask that contains them is kept in darkness. Already, with diffused light, little by little, their combination begins to occur. But if one exposes the vessel to direct solar rays, it shatters under the pressure of a violent explosion.[11] 

This chemical experiment crystallises the creative, catalytic role of light and fire in alchemy. André VandenBroeck, to whom Schwaller would confide a wealth of information in the years before his death, comments: 

This experiment made an enormous impression on the young man, and his interest in color phenomena dated from that day. It had become evident to him that for the objects of perception, light ceases to exist as such, as it diffuses into the color phenomenon. A part of knowledge concerning light would have to be gathered through color: color had become a form of perception. He instantly felt that the state of consciousness which accompanied this intellectual opening was connected to another decisive moment in his life, the moment of his “metaphysical” discovery of number through the two-sided coin. Number was present again, the unity of light fracturing into the ordered multiplicity of the spectrum. The revelation of one becoming two had been fleshed out by the analysis of the space between one and two. And that space was the scale of color.[12]

Here, in their inception, are the formative keys Schwaller would use to understand the origin of matter: number and light. Through the coin, Schwaller understood the unity underlying apparent duality; number would lead him to understand phi as the harmonic function of scission by which one divides itself into two. This would become a core principle of his mature cosmology: the golden proportion as an activity of unity that simultaneously engenders the mystery of duality (creation and fall). Through fire, Schwaller came to see metaphysical light as ‘non-polarised energy’, a term he would use interchangeably with ‘the Absolute’, ‘God’ and the primordial ‘One’. For Schwaller, the origin of matter was generated through the polarisation of this primordial energy into an active and a passive aspect (sulphur and mercury; acid and alkaline), conceived together as the agent and patient of one creative inter-reaction of which the material cosmos—visible and tangible—was the neutralisation (cinnabar; salt). Through this process, the phenomenal world of colour appeared, bringing into being the characteristic seven-fold signature of light. With this, the septenaries of the natural cosmos, from the colour spectrum through to the intervals of musical harmony, would reveal the laws of manifestation underpinning all things, from the structure of the atom to the organisation of the solar system.

In 1904, at the age of seventeen, René Schwaller left his home town of Strasbourg to evade military service in the German Empire. Fleeing on foot by night, he crossed the French border via the Vosges to arrive in Paris, where he was received by his maternal aunt.[13] In Paris, Schwaller would be exposed to a number of formative influences: the colour theories of Henri Matisse (of whom he would become a student); key figures in the Parisian alchemical revival, notably Fulcanelli (with whom he would collaborate); and the esoteric milieu of the Parisian Theosophical Society (of which he would become a member). He would also inaugurate his first esoteric group, Les Veilleurs (The Watchers).

 

MATISSE, THEOSOPHY,
AND THE PARISIAN ALCHEMICAL REVIVAL

 

L’Académie Matisse was opened in Paris in 1908 and by 1910, Schwaller was closely tied to a woman by the name of Marthe Essig, a German speaking élève of Matisse who was in charge of the latter’s studio. Essig became Schwaller’s first wife and gave birth to Schwaller’s only child, Guy.[14] During this period, there was a liberal degree of cross-fertilisation between L’Académie Matisse and Henri Bergson’s lectures in philosophy at the Sorbonne. As a consequence, Schwaller was deeply informed not only by Matisse’s experiments in colour as a pure phenomenon, which sought to convey the life beyond the mere appearance, but also by Bergson’s concept of the élan vital (the vital spark or impulse).[15] In Matisse’s studio, Schwaller learned that the physical world—the world of colour—traces the invisible ‘movements’ of the metaphysical world. The aim of the true artist was not to capture visible phenomena, but to convey its spiritual impulse or élan. Because the metaphysical is unable to be perceived without this physical trace, and because the physical cannot exist without its metaphysical underpinning, any strict demarcation between the two is therefore impossible. For Schwaller, metaphysical cause and physical effect were ultimately poles of one continuum.

Between 1913 and 1916, Schwaller frequented the French branch of the Theosophical Society and, in a much more clandestine manner, participated in the then-flourishing Parisian alchemical revival. In 1913, an artist, alchemist and inventor by the name of Jean-Julien Champagne (1877–1932) approached the young Alsatian in the Café Closerie des Lilas in Montparnasse.[16] After Champagne made initial contact with Schwaller, a more covert meeting was arranged during which Champagne revealed that he was in fact ‘Fulcanelli’, insisting that this double identity (and Schwaller’s subsequent contact with him) remain an absolute secret. The two agreed to begin collaborating on alchemical matters, and before long, they formed a working relationship that would span almost twenty years. The exclusive focus of this alliance was the secret technique behind the blues and reds of Chartres and the earliest Gothic cathedrals—the creation of alchemically stained glass. In Parisian alchemical circles, this endeavour was regarded as an experimentum crucis of the alchemical opus itself, tantamount to the realisation of the philosopher’s stone.


Jean-Julien Champagne (1887-1932). Artist, alchemist, inventor, and the foremost name behind the mystery of Fulcanelli. Champagne was Schwaller’s closest Hermetic collaborator on the operative alchemical opus for almost twenty years. Image source: Christian Dumoulard (www.hermetism.free.fr).


Title page of Le Mystère des cathédrales et l’interprétation ésotérique des symboles hermétiques du grand-œuvre. Paris: Jean Schmidt, 1926.

It is in this context that Schwaller’s earliest research must be situated. He had been working on a Hermetic reading of the Gothic cathedrals as didactic edifices—alchemical texts in stone. In 1913, he lent his unpublished notes to Champagne; thirteen years later, without Schwaller’s permission, Champagne would publish Schwaller’s ideas in an elaborated and embellished form.[17] This work, still revered in spagyrics circles to this day, was Le Mystère des cathédrales (The Mystery of the Cathedrals, 1926). The final form of the text, which bears encrypted insights into the practical alchemical opus, can be recognised as a fluid amalgam of (1) Schwaller’s material on the alchemicalsymbolique of the cathedrals; (2) numerous symbolic digressions on the ‘phonetic kabbalah’ adapted from the work of the deeply erudite classicist and Hermetic philosopher, Pierre Dujols (1862-1926); and (3) the overall synthesis and presentation of Champagne himself, who also furnished the illustrations.[18] Despite this ‘Hermetic theft’ of his work, Schwaller continued to financially support Champagne, working with him on the stained glass opus right through to the end of the latter’s life.

Beyond its stated mission, the French branch of the Theosophical Society acted in many respects as a de facto nexus for the myriad occult and esoteric currents active in Paris at the time; through these intersecting milieux, Schwaller met many important figures from French esotericism, some of whom would become his close collaborators in the sociopolitical, artisanal, and initiatic work that he would undertake during the coming decade. The Theosophical Society not only gave Schwaller a forum in which to develop his early understanding of sacred science, it also provided the ideological and social fabric from which his first foray into esoteric politics would depart.

Of the French Theosophical Society, Schwaller later remarked: ‘I was infinitely grateful to this movement for having opened my eyes to certain aspects of Buddhism, but later I had to follow my proper path’,[19] and in this sense he has been compared to Rudolf Steiner, who similarly began his occult career in Theosophy before departing on his own spiritual course. ‘Steiner’, comments Dufour-Kowalski, ‘by knowing how to liberate himself from the Theosophical grasp in order to follow his proper path, would therefore have a determining influence upon the future choices of René Schwaller’.[20]

Before Schwaller could take the first steps along his proper path, however, the First World War broke out, and in 1914 he was mobilised into the French army as a stretcher-bearer. Upon the recommendation of his father and some influential Theosophists, however, he found a post in the army chemical service Sarcelles; here, with some ‘eminent chemists’, he made ‘systematic analyses of military supplies, from canned food to the colourants of uniforms’.[21] This position not only establishes Schwaller’s credentials as an accomplished chemist, more importantly, it highlights the fact that facility with the methods of rationalised science was not necessarily antithetical to the adoption of spiritually integrative empirical methodologies.

 

THE VEILLEURS AND THE NAME ‘DE LUBICZ’

 

In the aftermath of the war, Schwaller grouped together associates and collaborators to form Les Veilleurs (The Watchers, named after the apocryphal egregoroi who bequeathed the arts and sciences to humankind in the Book of Enoch). The Veilleurs were dedicated to the revitalisation of war-torn, industrialised society by preserving the qualitative role of the artisan, which Schwaller regarded as the soul of civilisation. According to Schwaller, one of the aims of the Veilleurs ‘was to assist demobilised artisans in finding the opportunity to readapt to a new life guided by a sense that was mystical rather than purely economic’.[22] During this period Schwaller published essays in Le Theosophe (The Theosopher) and L’Affranchi (The Awakened, an organ of Les Veilleurs), and produced a small monograph on Pythagorean arithmosophy entitled Étude sur les nombres (A Study of Numbers, 1916).

The Veilleurs would cause controversy. Seeking to reverse the gains of the French Revolution, they adopted ‘Liberty! Fraternity! Hierarchy!’ as their catch-cry.[23] Not only did their journals feature a vibrant attitude of anti-egalitarianism, such attitudes appeared alongside the kinds of anti-Semitic sentiments rife in French culture at the time. As a reaction against caprices in contemporary fashion, Schwaller and his cadre adopted a simple uniform of dark shirts, pants, and riding boots. He later confided that this inspired the Nazi Sturmabteilung uniform.[24] While originating a Nazi uniform is no more damning to Schwaller’s wider œuvre than it is to Hugo Boss’s, French author Pierre Mariel has suggested that Rudolf Hess was a one-time member of the Veilleurs.[25] This alleged link between the Veilleurs and the early Nazi party has predictably lead to much alarmist speculation in conspiratorial literature, however the idea that the Veilleurs were a proto-Nazi group cannot be supported with anything approaching logical fidelity. The hierarchy avowed by the Veilleurs was based on qualitative spiritual praxis, and not on a biologically conceived hierarchy of races.

 That having been said, a detailed analysis of Schwaller’s remarks on Jews during this period, and throughout his life, suggests that he did, indeed, struggle with the so-called ‘Jewish question’.[26] He was divided. While he disdained the perceived materialism of Jewish cultural habitudes, it must be emphasised that his views on race were shaped not by biological ideologies, but by an esotericism of race inherited from Theosophy. He also regarded Judaic religious themes, especially the cosmology and anthropogony of Genesis, as integral to his esoteric philosophy. In 1943, before the end of the Second World War, Schwaller remarked: ‘the Jew has been persecuted, horribly. This merits reparation’,[27] while in a 1950 text, he severely reprimanded himself for his earlier anti-Semitic views, and affirmed an elitism based on pure altruism.[28] 

O. W. de Lubicz Milozs (1877-1939). Poet, noble, and diplomat, in 1919 Milosz bequeathed the chivalric title « de Lubicz » to René Schwaller, officially adopting him into his clan. Image source: www.archerjulienchampagne.com.  

On 10 January 1919, the Lithuanian poet Oskar Wladislas de Lubicz Milosz (1877-1939) bequeathed to René Schwaller, then aged 31, the right to bear the noble title and arms of the clan Bozawola (‘will of god’), also known as de Lubicz.[29] Milosz, a noble and diplomat, was one of Schwaller’s closest friends; together the two formed the Centre apostolique within the Veilleurs to give expression to an apocalyptic form of mysticism; Milosz was also one of the few people to whom Schwaller conveyed his Hermetic philosophy at the time, reflections of which would surface in the poem Milosz dedicated to Schwaller: Le Cantique de la connaissance (The Canticle of Gnosis).[30] However, it was Schwaller’s efforts in assisting Milosz in securing Lithuanian independence that most deeply indebted the diplomat to Schwaller. In the aftermath of the First World War, Milosz was deeply affected by the post-war plight of his fatherland, then in danger of being subsumed by the encroaching Bolshevik state. Schwaller assisted Milosz in devising the diplomatic strategy that successfully convinced the allied forces to restore the country’s former borders, thereby securing the continued political and cultural identity of Lithuania.[31] In a moving ceremonial gesture, Milosz officially adopted Schwaller into the clan de Lubicz and granted him the imprimatur to use the royal name and arms of his family: 

Bearing a right which belongs to my ancestors, it is a pleasure to bequeath unto my brother René Schwaller a mark of my esteem and a testimony of my love by receiving him into the clan and therefore making him a part of my family, and to confer to him the right to bear the arms entitled Lubicz, with the variant Bozawola, or ‘Will of God’.[32] 



SIX-THOUSAND FEET BEYOND MAN AND TIME


Station Scientifique de Suhalia, St. Moritz, Switzerland. Complete with laboratory, forge, looms, printing press, and observatory, Suhalia provided the ‘philosophical mansions’ of Schwaller and his entourage throughout the 1920s. Photograph, A. Cheak, St. Moritz, 2005.

In 1922 Schwaller and his closest associates abandoned their hopes of social revolution and moved to the Suvretta district above the Alpine town of St. Moritz, Switzerland. Friedrich Nietzsche, who made St. Moritz his summer residence between 1881 and 1888, aptly described the region as ‘6000 feet beyond man and time’.[33] ‘Here one can live well’, he said, ‘in this strong, bright atmosphere, here where nature is amazingly mild and solemn and mysterious all at once’.[34] Above St. Moritz, Schwaller and his entourage established the ‘Station Scientifique de Suhalia’ (Suhalia Laboratories), conceived as an initiatic retreat and workstation. ‘Why have I created Suhalia?’ he asks in a series of lectures delivered in the winter of 1926. ‘Is it not to create a centre where people who desire to travel this path can find the necessary isolation? And by isolation I mean exclusion from the world of banality that reduces everything to its own level.’[35]

Complete with laboratory, forge, looms, printing press, and observatory, Suhalia was a hive of artisanal, alchemical, artistic, homeopathic, and mystical activity. Schwaller published a handful of rare works here, to include an Egyptian Tarot deck illustrated by his soon-to-be step-daughter, Lucy Lamy, who would go on to furnish the elegant, geometrically exacting illustrations to Schwaller’s Egyptological works. In addition to alchemical and homeopathic preparations, he is said to have invented a hydrodynamic yacht and a motor that ran on vegetable oil.[36]

The immense, transcendent beauty of St. Moritz proved inspiring not only for Nietzsche, who conceived his concept of Eternal Return on the shores of Lake Silvaplana, but also for Schwaller, who encountered a cold, fiery presence in the amber-rose hues that bathed the mountains at sunset. Over five nights in the winter of 1925, ‘from the height of a frozen, flame-red peak’, Schwaller received an apocalyptic revelation from a mysterious presence called ‘Aor’—a name that Schwaller would henceforth be known by among his closest associates.


View from Suhalia. ‘What is Aor? Aor is that which, one night at sunset, from high atop a frozen, flame red peak, said to me—listen!’ (Schwaller de Lubicz, L’Appel du feu, 1926). Photograph, A. Cheak, St. Moritz, 2005.

This revelation was published the following year as L’Appel du feu (The Call of Fire, 1926). Although Schwaller did not indulge in the Parisian alchemists’ penchant for the ‘phonetic kabbalah’, a deep note of resonance would nevertheless have been struck for him between the name Aor (the Hebrew word for ‘light’) and the French word for ‘gold’ (or, from Latin aurum). Indeed, in one text, gold is considered precisely by Schwaller as ‘metallic Light’ (Lumière métallique).[37] Aor is best understood as a tutelary intelligence—a daimon in the Socratic sense—with which Schwaller communed. Among other things, Aor’s ‘call of fire’ exhorted Schwaller to go beyond dualistic consciousness, casting the seeds for what he would later call ‘the intelligence of the heart’ (l’intelligence du cœur). Perhaps most revealingly, ‘Aor’ articulated a particular motif that would pervade Schwaller’s entire alchemical metaphysics. Specifically, he used the language of light and colour to express how the visible world of appearance emerges from a primordial invisible unity, just like light broken through a prism:

A thing is always triple in its nature: it exists in and of itself by virtue of its appearance, but it is also caused by a complementation of two states of the same nature. You yourself, by being in principle a man, human, result from the complementation of two states of the same nature: that which affirms and that which denies, that which gives and that which receives, that which expresses and that which is “impressed”, i.e. that which receives the impression; this double state is your primordial, spiritual androgyny—and you have recollection of this duality in unity. Can you say that white light is composed of green and red light? No, and yet when it is broken through a prism it gives rise to two complementary colours, and the white light no longer exists. The colours are a transformation of white light, a transformation that imparts different vibrations to the same substance. The differences in vibration do not change the light, but their impressions appear differently to the eye, giving rise to diverse colours that are always complementary, two by two. Now remember: you are light, white light, and you will find your dimly remembered androgyny. You are light, but light broken through the prism of life, that is to say, through experiences and necessities.[38]

The idea that complementary duality is a transformation of primordial unity was also applied to his understanding of embodied sexuality. This formed the topic of his most infamous book, Adam l’homme rouge (Adam, The Red Man, 1926), a work on the conjugal mystery and the metaphysics of eros. The extended title of the work gives a good indication of its contents:

Title page of Schwaller’s 1926 work, Adam l’homme rouge (Adam the Red Man).

Adam: The Red Man, or the elements of a gnosis for perfect marriage; A work divided into two parts of which the first examines the moral situation and the vital crisis created in human society by the domination of Catholicism, and the second part of which presents the fundamental notions of an occult teaching in order to enable the human couple to discover a basis which is philosophical and conformed to evolution in marriage, the goal of which is to attain spiritual union.[39]  

 

The Adam text would prove controversial. André Breton called it ‘Luciferian’, and Schwaller himself later claimed to have ‘burned’ it. Whether he meant this literally or figuratively, editions of the 1926 work are in fact rare.[40] What elicited such reactions? Schwaller interprets Judaic anthropogony (Genesis 2:4-3:24) in a fashion similar to the Platonic motif of the gendered human as divided whole.[41] His interpretation bears a pronounced gnostic resonance distinctly evocative of the Gospel According to Philip (which wouldn’t be discovered for another thirty years): ‘When Eve was still in Adam death did not exist. When she was separated from him death came into being. If he enters again and attains his former self, death will be no more’ (68.23-6).[42] For Schwaller, the mystical union of male and female forms a conjunctio by which the complementary poles combine to dissolve their duality through reentry into their preexisting unity, i.e. the primordial Adamic (or adamantine) state:

As to woman, she guards in herself the memory of her decline (déchéance) from man into woman. She can become man only by fusing herself with him. Then the two will no longer be two, but an animated body.[43]

As Fulcanelli’s amanuensis, Eugène Canseliet, later recognised, the subtext of this book pertains specifically to the alchemical work on metals. The motif of marriage presented here is a veiled account of the ultimate Hermetic cohabation: after the reanimation, separation and purification comes the recombination of the volatile and the fixed—the intensifying reanimation of the body. Although there are specific referents to material processes, it is also important to recognise that the symbolism employed here was ultimately polyvalent. Because Schwaller’s alchemy was distinctly, but not solely, metallurgical, and because the alchemical process was conceived integrally and applied to all phenomena, it is no coincidence that this most intriguing of texts coincided not only with Schwaller’s attempt with Champagne to marry the volatile spirit of metals to a body of molten glass, but also with René Schwaller’s actual marriage to Isha. That this was an alchemically conceived marriage is not only borne out by its coincidence with the published text of Adam (the text was completed in August 1926 and the Lubiczs were married at Suhalia in 1927), it was during this general period that Schwaller’s wife appears to have taken the mystical name Isha (a form of the name Eve, thus conforming to the mythological topos of Adam l’homme rouge and its alchemy of mystical eroticism); henceforth Jeanne Germain Lamy would be known as Isha Schwaller de Lubicz.

At Suhalia, many matters central to Schwaller’s mature work would manifest for the first time, to include an intensification of his collaboration with Champagne on the stained glass œuvre. By the turn of the 1930s, however, the financial support for the enterprise at Suhalia drew to a close.[44] Had it lasted longer, Schwaller’s Station Scientifique de Suhalia may well have taken on a prominence similar to that of Steiner’s Goetheanum. Be that as it may, Isha’s inheritance from her former husband allowed them to secure a villa in the South of France at Plan-de-Grasse, which Isha dubbed ‘Mas du Coucagno’. It was here, in 1931-1932, that the stained glass œuvre was finally accomplished with the assistance of Champagne, shortly before the latter’s death.

Schwaller’s library and laboratory, which were preserved at Mas du Coucagno for some years after René and Isha’s death, contained all the resources of a practicing alchemist. His library contained not only alchemical texts but also serious, scientific sourceworks; his laboratory contained numerous mineralogical, metallic and chemical specimens, as well as ovens, furnaces, crucibles, mortars and pestles of various sizes, a large assortment of glassware, and scores of alchemical medicines prepared during the Suhalia period. The laboratory was also notably equipped with a spectrometer in order to study the spectral lines given forth from metals, attesting to the fact that the colour phenomenon continued to be crucial to his alchemical work.

 

GLASS STAINED IN ITS MASS
WITH THE VOLATILE SPIRIT OF METALS


North Rose Window of Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. The stained glass of the oldest gothic cathedrals was believed by the alchemists of the Parisian alchemical revival to have been coloured using esoteric methods lost to the modern world. Between 1913 and 1932, Schwaller and Champagne worked exclusively on achieving these mysterious blues and reds. Their efforts pivoted firstly on the animation and isolation of the volatile spirit of metals, and secondly on marrying this sulphuric lustre to a body of molten glass. Panoramic photograph, Julie Anne Workman, 2010.

Basing himself on ideas that had been with him since Matisse, and inspired by a mysterious manuscript that Champagne allegedly found in a volume of Newton’s alchemical writings (and which Schwaller claimed was influenced by Goethe’s Farbenlehre), de Lubicz developed an intriguing colour theory as a symbolic key to the work on stained glass. For Schwaller (and Goethe), colour is essentially a ‘neutralisation reaction’ between an ‘acid’ (light) and a ‘base’ (darkness) forming a ‘salt’ (the colour phenomenon).[45] Into the Goethean paradigm, however, in which every colour evokes its complement to provide an essentially symmetrical system (red/green, orange/blue, yellow/violet), Schwaller brought the ‘vexing presence of indigo’[46] to reconstitute the Newtonian septenary—and thus the traditional Hermetic correspondences to the planetary metals. This sevenfold system enabled Schwaller to explore the relationship between the three alchemical principles (sulphur, mercury, salt) and the four elements (fire, air, water, earth) in a way that visually demonstrated the participation of the corporeal in the non-corporeal.

Inverting traditional colour-mixing theories, Schwaller not only identified the composed colours (orange, green, violet) as the three primaries (sulphur-mercury-salt), he defined the ‘pure’ colours (red, yellow, blue) as secondaries. He then added indigo as a fourth secondary and placed it in an anomalous position after violet to suggest that violet decomposes not into blue and red, as would be expected, but into blue and indigo.[47]


The alchemical colour theory of René Schwaller de Lubicz. In the Hermetic tetraktys, unity divides itself into the primordial polarity of warmth (red-orange-yellow) and coldness (blue-violet-indigo), which merge to form the temperate colours (yellow-green-blue). The interaction of the two poles creates the primordial triads of the alchemical tria prima—sulphur, mercury, salt—(orange, green, violet). The interaction of the triads forms the four elements—fire, air, water, earth—(red, yellow, blue, indigo). Diagram by A. Cheak.


The alchemical triads: sulphur, mercury, salt. Each triad is headed by a principle (composed colour) that is the synthesis of two non-composed, elemental colours: sulphur (red-orange-yellow); mercury (yellow-green-blue); and salt (blue-violet-indigo). The first two triads are in a sense ‘perfect’: the principial colour is in fact the proper mean term between the elemental colours: red + yellow = orange; yellow + blue = green. But the third triad presents an anomaly: it ‘should’ be blue + red = violet. The red that ‘should’ be there—the impulse that is equivalent to the culminating note of the octave, is not there. Indigo is. Diagram by A. Cheak, 2014.


Indigo’s secret fire. The fire that must be joined to water in the alchemical opus is to be found not in ordinary fire (under sulphur), but in the fire of the earth, under the ægis of salt. This mysterious lustre, this ‘call of fire’, is the arcanum that links the end of the spectrum to its beginning. Diagram by A. Cheak.

Schwaller’s whole point with this anomaly centres on his insistence that indigo is not a simple melange of blue and violet, as would be expected from its ordinary position in the spectrum. ‘Indigo is indigo’; it has a ‘sombre luminosity unlike any blue’.[48] The red fire sought at the end of the colour octave is actually hidden inside indigo, inside the element ‘earth’. This ‘fire of the earth’ is no less than the ‘secret fire’ that the alchemists constantly sought, the fire that they strove to unite with water in the great coincidentia oppositorum. In the metallurgical work, this fire indicates the lustre of the metal, which they likened to a sulphuric seed. The fiery metallic seed had to be first dissolved and animated by placing it in a mineral womb. Thus awakened, the metallic ‘spirit’ was then isolated, and finally married to the purified mercurial ‘body’ of the metal, to create the alliance of fire and water. Just as sulphur coagulates mercury to form a crystalline salt (cinnabar), so too does the seed of metals coagulate the unformed mercurial matter into a specified metallic entity. Depending on whether the metallic spirit was ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’, this would result in alchemically pure silver or gold. In the stained glass œuvre, however, the alchemist sought to capture the volatile spirit of the metal not in a purified metallic body, but in a body of moltenglass. To this it imparted the sombre blues and ruby reds of the famous Gothic cathedrals.

The operative details of the œuvre appear to hinge on a process closely related to ruby-gold glass, an extremely refined technique dating as far back as Roman times but known since the seventeenth century as ‘Purple of Cassius’. Ruby-gold glass is now understood as a form of colloidal gold—a solution of gold nanoparticles dispersed in a solid medium. As Hereward Tilton points out in his lucid study of the alchemy of ruby glass, colloidal gold was a tightly-guarded trade secret in alchemy, and its production was intimately linked to the alchemical method of dissolving gold using ‘royal water’ (aqua regia or Königswasser, a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acids able to dissolve the royal metals).[49] The chloroauric acid solution that resulted from the dissolution of gold in aqua regia could be reduced with the aid of tin, creating a distinct purple colour in the process. Precipitation of the solution into a red crystalline gold salt was obtained through a reaction between gold chloride and tin chloride, creating a powerful powdered pigment or tincture (compare the Greek xērion, ‘powdered elixir’, whence Arabic al-iksir). Alchemically speaking, this process renders the metal ‘open’, and it was this awakened or enlivened gold in the form of precipitated gold salts—alchemically dissolved and vivified through aqua regia—that corresponded to the spirit or ‘fixed sulphur’ of the metal. When added to glass in its molten state, the red-purple gold powder permeated the mass with nanoparticles of gold, creating a colloidal solution; when the glass was cooled and reheated, the nanoparticulated gold was ‘activated’, thus transfiguring the glass into a brilliant ruby-red hue.[50]

In connection to Purple of Cassius, there is a revealing scene in VandenBroeck’s memoir in which Schwaller, in an unusually exuberant gesture, takes his reluctant disciple to his laboratory at Plan-de-Grasse to show him ‘real gold’. This, Schwaller specifies, is not the ‘dead body in the coin’, but ‘live gold’, the metal ‘as it is in the mine’.[51] Red in the mass and softer than graphite, it appeared ‘quite golden’ when spread thinly on the finger.[52] The presence of a powdered, living red gold in Schwaller’s laboratory is thus a key indication that a tincture derived from (or at least similar to) Purple of Cassius is integral to the glass œuvre that he completed at Plan-de-Grasse with Jean-Julien Champagne.

 

SYMBOLIST EGYPTOLOGY AND THE TEMPLE OF MAN

 

In 1934, the Lubiczs set out on the Mediterranean on a hydrodynamic yacht designed by Schwaller. In the same year they settled on the Spanish island of Majorca in a hospice dating to the time of Ramon Lull (1232-1315), and a period of isolation ensued. In 1936 however, with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the Lubiczs were forced to move on and their affinities drew them to Egypt, where they would remain for the next fifteen years. In Egypt, Schwaller had a crucial impression that crystallised the connection between Egyptian civilisation and the Pythagorean-Hermetic tradition, thereby bringing his alchemical quest directly into contact with its perceived Pharaonic sources.

The experience occurred in 1936 in the tomb of Ramses IX, where Schwaller beheld an Osirian mural depicting Ka-Mut-Tef, the ‘bull of his mother’. Here the Pharaoh is shown as the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle, simultaneously embodying both the masculine-generative and the feminine-gestative power of the cosmos. This theme—in which an ‘agent’ becomes both the father and mother of itself, lay at the very heart of his alchemical metaphysics—the Trinitarian theory of sulphur-mercury-salt. From that moment on, Schwaller knew he had found the true symbolique of his magnum opus: Le Temple de l’homme (The Temple of Man, 1957-8), a work that gestated over a dozen years of on-site measurement, decipherment and study of the temple of Amenemopet at Luxor, Upper Egypt, confirming for Schwaller that this lineage was indeed the font of the Hermetic, Pythagorean and alchemical tradition of which he was already a seasoned—and practicing—adept. In order to devote himself to this tradition, Schwaller and his entourage set themselves up in a wing of the Winter Palace on the Nile at Luxor—where, over a period of twelve years, he was able to live in daily contact with the Egyptian temples.[53]


Kamutef (‘the bull of his mother’), Tomb of Ramses IX. Reproduced from R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, The Temple of Man: Apet of the South at Luxor. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 1999. In this image, Schwaller saw the Pythagorean principle of tri-unity. In Egyptian theology, ka (‘bull’, ‘spirit’) indicates the active masculine force in the triad; mut, the ‘mother’, represents the feminine receptive force; while the child or son represents the product. The paradox that binds the three aspects of this lineage into a triangular unity lies in the fact that the son, by recapitulating (indeed reincarnating) his father, becomes thereby the bull (spirit and inseminator) of his mother. In short, he is the father of himself. Rather than being a simple ‘product’, he exists both in a primary state, ‘before’ the separation or differentiation into gendered polarity (male-female) and in an ultimate state, ‘after’ the two poles have been differentiated and then recombined (the alchemical conjunctio or cohabation).

Schwaller’s alchemical reading of the French cathedrals—long understood as architectonic images of Christ—Hermetically disposed him to approach the New Kingdom Egyptian temple as a codification of the incarnation of god as man—the mystery of the anthropocosmos.[54] Against the fine grain of conventional Egyptology, Schwaller provided an elaborate symbolic reading of the temple of Amenemopet. He maintained that the foundational teaching underpinning every symbolic detail of the temple, governing and shaping its entire structure at every level, from its foundation and its axes to its material substances and its form, was ‘the doctrine of the anthropocosmos’. In no uncertain terms, Schwaller calls the temple at Luxor ‘the temple of man’. This is not merely because the structure of the temple could be correlated with the biometrical proportions of the royal corpus—the image of the pharaoh—but because the Egyptian divine temple itself, like the pharaoh, is the structure that supports the incarnation of divinity. The temple of man corporifies the divine functions or principles (neteru), both as a physical edifice created according to divine proportions of gnomonic growth, and literally through the embodiment of the divine in man, which was in fact the raison d’être of Luxor temple.[55] For Schwaller, human physiology is a physical product of metaphysical principles; as such, the organs of human perception, from the physical to the subtle, are at the same time the instruments of divine self-perception. Overall, Schwaller emphasised how a profound anthropocosmic philosophy was encoded in every physical aspect of the construction of the Egyptian divine temple, and, more than this, that a profoundly intuitive, arational intelligence, superior to our own divisive rationalism, lay at the heart of Egyptian civilisation.

These views clashed dramatically with the attitudes of contemporary Egyptology. Despite this, the sheer gravity of Schwaller’s research and the compelling originality of his interpretations attracted a significantly high calibre of support from both the academic and artistic communities. Schwaller’s key associates during this period became known as Le Groupe de Louxor (not to be confused with the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor). Among others, Luxor Group was comprised of Egyptologist Alexandre Varille, Architect Clément Robichon, and the official guardian of the Valley of the Kings, Alexandre Stoppeläre. The Groupe de Louxor supported and participated with Schwaller in the generally unknown but virulent polemic that transpired during this period between the ‘symbolist’ approach to Egyptology (represented by Schwaller and Varille) and the hostile climate of conservative Egyptology headed by the highly influential Catholic abbot, archaeologist and Director of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo, Étienne Drioton. In 1949, avant-garde dramatist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau entered this milieu and, perceiving the significance of the symbolist method, popularised de Lubicz’s cause in the French literary media. Figures such as André Rousseaux, Raoul Jahan, Pierre Rambach and François Hébert-Stevens followed suit, and as a result of this, Schwaller would be invited to present at André Breton’s Congrès de Symbolistes (1956-1959) upon his return to France.[56] Although scholars such as Arpag Mekhitarian called for a balanced appraisal of the actual evidence to resolve the impasse, the appeal was treated with a front of silence. Ultimately, despite being reviewed and published in the most prestigious of Egyptological journals, Schwaller’s work was tacitly ignored by mainstream Egyptology.[57]

Tragically, in 1951, Alexandre Varille died in a car accident, and without the support of their chief academic spokesperson, the symbolists were forced to secede.[58] Notable works published by the symbolists during this period include Varille’s Dissertation sur une stèle pharaonique (Dissertation on a Pharaonic Stele, 1946), alongside two short works by Schwaller: Le Temple dans l’homme (The Temple in Man, 1949), a short ‘preface’ to the three-volume magnum opus of 1957; and Du Symbol et de la symbolique (On Symbol and Symbology, 1951),[59] in which Schwaller articulates his concept of symbolique.[60]
 

IMMORTAL MINERAL REMAINS
 

The Lubiczs returned to France in the early 1950s, retiring to Mas du Coucagno at Plan-de-Grasse. In 1952, on the day of St. John the Baptist, Schwaller penned an intriguing text entitled Verbe Nature (Nature Word), perhaps one of his most deeply revealing works.[61] The subtitle of the work is: Quelques réponses de la Nature et de ses Sages aux questions de l’auteur, porte-parole des inconnus (Some responses from Nature and her Sages to the questions of the author, spokesperson of the unknown). Bearing the distinct stamp of Schwaller’s mysterious daimon, the premise of the text is the transcription of a series of answers given by ‘Nature and her sages’ to questions posed, but not recorded, by Schwaller. It is thus composed solely of responses. One of the more important features of the text is the insight it gives into Schwaller’s broader theories of biological and spiritual transmutation. Nature Word makes the startling claim that there is a fixed alchemical salt—an immortal mineral ‘nucleus’ that neither fire nor putrefaction can destroy—residing in the human femur.


Moriendo renascor (‘In dying I am reborn’). Bone, vine, and phoenix represent the palingeneses of the vegetable and animal kingdoms from their mineral foundation. For Schwaller, the human femur—the largest bone in the body—was the repository of the fixed alchemical salt, the immortal mineral remains that neither fire nor putrefaction can destroy, ‘the last in corruption and the first in generation’ (Steeb). The incorruptible ashes or salts were regarded by Schwaller as the passive register that preserved an entity’s acquired consciousness, and the agent of all mutations between kingdoms and species. Photograph, A. Cheak, Èze-sure-mer, 2005.

With unusual specificity, Schwaller held that the incorruptible salt in the human femur is the mineral ‘register’ upon which the most vital moments of human consciousness could be permanently ‘inscribed’. This salt or nucleus was, in comparison the chromosome,  ‘extremely fixed or even indestructible’.[62] Schwaller regarded it as more permanent than DNA and accorded it a key role in his esoteric theory of evolution (genesis). Contrary to the Darwinian theory (where only the characteristics of the species are able to be preserved through genetic transmission), Schwaller maintained that the fixed salt located in the femur is the precise mechanism by which individual characteristics—the vital modes of consciousness—are able to be preserved and transmitted beyond the death of the individual. This salt was therefore central to the alchemical process of rebirth (palingenesis). Within the wider framework of Schwaller’s cosmology—in which material genesis is conceived as the visible index of the evolution of consciousness—the alchemical salt forms the ‘magnet’ that draws primordial matter through the existential vehicles of the mineral, vegetable, animal and human kingdoms towards the ultima materia (or telos) of ‘spiritual concretion’. As such it formed the hidden link—the invisible bond in the chain of continuity—in the otherwise apparently discontinuous process in which the generation and corruption of evolving forms is situated.

In 1956, Schwaller published Le Roi de la théocratie pharaonique (The King of Pharaonic Theocracy), a work which, among other things, traces the deviation and distortion of Egyptian consciousness through Greek rationality, highlighting the Egyptian rather than Greek basis of the intellectual ‘miracle’ than transformed antique civilisation. In this work, Schwaller reveals important insights into the alchemical process of ‘qualitative exaltation’, a term he compares to the occurence of ‘teratological proliferation’ (mutational phenomena) in plants. Pointing to the images of the proliferous lotuses depicted on the ‘Botanical Gardens’ of Thutmose III at Karnak, he reveals how authentic alchemical mutation emerges not from the purification of the material body of an entity, but from the intensification of its spirit or consciousness.[63] In short, consciousness shapes form, and it was precisely the qualitative exaltations of consciousness that were registered in the immortal mineral remains (the fixed salt) and carried over between kingdoms and species, thus forming the Ariadne’s thread in de Lubicz’s esoteric theory of evolution.

It was in Plan-de-Grasse, however, that Schwaller finally completed and published his three-volume magnum opus, Le Temple de l’homme (1957-8), the magisterial synthesis of his many years of on-site study in the temples of ancient Egypt. On the eve of Le Temple, Schwaller presented some papers at the Congrès des Symbolists in Paris.[64] Just after his chef d’œuvre appeared, a Belgian-American by the name of André VandenBroeck encountered Schwaller’s work and, over a period of eighteen months, became his last, and perhaps most important, ‘disciple’. The account that VandenBroeck left of this period (1959-60), published some twenty-seven years later on the centenary of Schwaller’s birth (Al-Kemi: Hermetic, Occult, Political, and Private Aspects of R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, 1987), remains the single most important memoir of Schwaller de Lubicz to date.

The final book published by de Lubicz was Propos sur ésotérisme et symbole (On Esotericism and Symbol, 1960), a short text actually written during the Christmas of 1947, and dedicated to his ‘friends from the Luxor group’. Propos sur ésotérisme et symbole distils many of the themes explored in the wealth of notes and unpublished papers that Schwaller wrote throughout the 1940s, and remains one of his most concise meditations on metaphysics, containing specific insights into the Hermetic mystery of salt.[65]

 

DEATH AT PLAN-DE-GRASSE


Aor at Plan-de-Grass, 1960. In 1955, Raoul Jahan described Schwaller as ‘bearing an astonishing resemblance to Einstein’. He recalls how ‘for three hours he spoke, answered our questions and smoked three packets of Gold Flake without interrupting himself’. Reproduced from André VandenBroeck, Al-Kemi: Hermetic, Occult, Political, and Private Aspects of R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz. Inner Traditions/Lindisfarne Press Uroboros Series v. 1. Rochester, Vermont: Lindisfarne Press, 1987.

In his final years Schwaller made a brief trip to his birthplace in Alsace, and on 7 December 1961, René ‘Aor’ Schwaller de Lubicz died. ‘With the destruction of form’, he writes, ‘the fixed and the volatile are separated. This is what we call death. At this time of separation, the energetic influences of the environment, such as light or sound, are able to act and create impressions, the form no longer being an obstacle’.[66]

Schwaller was survived by his wife by one year, and his final moments were recorded in her biography, Aor.[67] Absolved to the intelligence of the heart, Schwaller encountered and overcame the ‘mental presence’ that he acknowledged as his life-long enemy. ‘I knew he was the obstacle, but I had never recognised all his tricks, all the forms that he could take in order to deflect me from the path’. This vanquishing of mental consciousness was, for Schwaller, no less than victory over the primordial source of doubt and fear. Symbolically equivalent to ‘slaying the dragon’, and to gaining ‘gnosis of the language of the birds’, Schwaller’s final conquest allegedly enabled him to ‘progressively enter a radiant state of light for over three hours’, after which he passed away.[68] Consistent with his life’s philosophy, he entered the invisible light of ‘Aor’, of which René Schwaller was but a refraction. For ‘each and every form is merely a passing instant, a transient aspect of the divine light’, he wrote in a posthumously published note. ‘This is why things only die in their form and why every death is the source of new life. Only the divine light is deathless, because it is bornless, and therefore fixed and eternal.[69]

 



NOTES
 

  1. R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, The Temple in Man, translated by Robert Lawlor, Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 1977, p. 28. All translations are my own unless otherwise stated,
  2. R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Apet du sud à Louqsor, 3 vols, Paris: Caractère, 1957-1958, vol. 1, p. 61;The Temple of Man: Apet of the South at Luxor, Translated by Robert and Deborah Lawlor, Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 1998, p. 31 (emphasis per original).
  3. The chief sources for the biography of Schwaller are that of his wife: Isha Schwaller de Lubicz, ‘Aor’: R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz—sa vie, son oeuvre, Paris: La Colombe, 1963, and André VandenBroeck’s memoir, Al-Kemi: Hermetic, Occult, Political, and Private Aspects of R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Inner Traditions/Lindisfarne Press Uroboros Series v. 1. Rochester, Vermont: Lindisfarne Press, 1987; a useful survey is provided in Erik Sablé, La Vie et l’œuvre de René Schwaller de Lubicz,Paris: Éditions Dervy, 2003, but by far the best biographical and critical apparatus to date has been provided in 2006 by Emmanuel Dufour-Kowalski’s two compilations of Schwaller’s material:Schwaller de Lubicz: L’Œuvre au rouge, Lausanne: L’Age d’Homme, 2006; and La Quête alchimique de R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz: Conférences 1913-1956, Milan: Arché, 2006. Dufour-Kowalski avails himself of the significant documentary evidence preserved in the Ta Meri Archives, Schwaller’s Nachlass. This body of material has seemingly passed to Dufour-Kowalski’s care after previously being tended by Olivier Robichon and Thérese Collet. My doctoral dissertation, Light Broken through the Prism of Life: René Schwaller de Lubicz and the Hermetic Problem of Salt, Dissertation: University of Queensland, 2011, provides the first comprehensive biography of Schwaller in English.
  4. Dufour-Kowalski, L’Œuvre au rouge, p. 17; Sablé, La vie et l’œuvre, p. 13.
  5. Christopher Bamford, ‘Introduction’, A Study of Numbers: A Guide to the Constant Creation of the Universe, Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 1986, p. 15.
  6. Dufour-Kowalski, L’Œuvre au rouge, p. 9.
  7. Isha Schwaller de Lubicz, Aor, p. 14.
  8. VandenBroeck, Al-Kemi, pp. 198-99.
  9. Isha Schwaller de Lubicz, Aor, p. 14.
  10. VandenBroeck, Al-Kemi, pp. 200-1.
  11. Fulcanelli, Les Demeures philosophales et le symbolisme hermétique dans ses rapports avec l’art sacré et l’ésotérisme du grand-œuvre, Paris: Jean Schmidt, 1930.
  12. VandenBroeck, Al-Kemi, p. 201.
  13. Dufour-Kowalski, L’Œuvre au rouge, p. 17; cf. Isha Schwaller de Lubicz, Aor, p. 14. Dufour-Kowalski notes that it was in Asnières, a municipality near Paris, that Schwaller secured his identity papers; this is why his birth location is officially listed as Asnières when in fact he was born in Strasbourg (he completed his premières humanités at the lycée de Strasbourg in 1904). His identity papers would later list his profession as ‘ingénieur chimiste’.
  14. Dufour-Kowalski, L’Œuvre au rouge, p. 18.
  15. For Bergson, ‘consciousness was coextensive with life’; contrary to teleology (finalisme) and mechanism, Bergson’s élan vital offered a vital and creative explanation of evolution, holding that life ceaslessly creates increasingly complex forms in an unpredictable fashion; see Bergson,L’Évolution créatrice, Paris: Les Presses universitaires de France, 1907. For Matisse and Bergson, see especially Hilary Spurling, Matisse the MasterA Life of Henri Matisse: The Conquest of Colour, 1909-1954, Hamish Hamilton: London, 2005, p. 45.
  16. VandenBroeck, Al-Kemi, pp. 76 ff; Genviève Dubois, Fulcanelli Devoilé, Paris: Dervy, 1996;Fulcanelli and the Alchemical Revival, translated by Jack Cain, Destiny Books, Rochester, Vermont, 2006.
  17. For the account of the Cathédrales theft: VandenBroeck, Al-Kemi, pp. 78-81.
  18. Pierre Dujols directed the rituals of the Ordre du Temple Rénové founded by René Guénon in 1905; Dujols provided Jean-Julien Champagne with the Hermetic philological material that would appear in the two books published under the name Fulcanelli. Under the pseudonym Magaphon, Dujols was the author of Mutus Liber and Hypotypose. See especially Dufour-Kowalski, L’Œuvre au rouge, p. 47; and Dubois, Alchemical Revival, pp. 31-42. Later editions of the Cathédrales text, including the English translation, have replaced Champagne’s original illustrations with photographs.
  19. ‘Letter from Rene Schwaller to Unknown Recipient’, reproduced in Dubois, Fulcanelli Dévoilé, p. 137; on ‘certain aspects of Buddhism’, cf. Schwaller’s article, ‘Manas et Bouddhis’, Le Théosophe (25 mai, 1916), no. 131 = Dufour-Kowalski, L’Œuvre au rouge, pp. 33-35.
  20. Dufour-Kowalski, L’Œuvre au rouge, p. 22 n. 2.
  21. Dufour-Kowalski, L’Œuvre au rouge, p. 20; Isha Schwaller de Lubicz, Aor, p. 15.
  22. Letter reproduced in Dubois, Fulcanelli Devoilé, 114-19.
  23. Louis Allainguillaume, ‘Hiérarchie! Fraternité! Liberté!’, Conférence faite à Paris, Octobre 1920; Isha Schwaller de Lubicz, Aor, pp. 21-23.
  24. While such a provenance is difficult to verify, it is consistent with Schwaller’s work on French military uniforms.
  25. Pierre Mariel, L’Europe païenne du XXème siecle, Paris: La Palatine, 1964, 178.
  26. I address the issue of de Lubicz’s anti-Semitism in more detail in Light Broken, pp. 188-205.
  27. Letter published in Revue Bozawola (décembre 1990), p. 27, cited in Sablé, La Vie et l’œuvre, p. 90.
  28. R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Verbe Nature, §56, in Isha Schwaller de Lubicz, Aor.
  29. Among the various works on Milosz, see in particular Alexandre Charbonnier, Milosz, l’étoile au front, Paris: Dervy, 1993, pp. 301-45, with Appendix 5.
  30. O. W. de Lubicz Milosz, Ars Magna, Paris: Alice Sauerwein, 1924; L’Œuvre au rouge, pp. 59-63. The content of the poem justifies the translation of connaissance as ‘gnosis’ rather than, strictly speaking, ‘knowledge’.
  31. Dufour-Kowalski, L’Œuvre au rouge, p. 49.
  32. O. W. de Lubicz Milosz to René Schwaller, 10 January 1919.
  33. Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, ‘Warum ich so gute Bücher schreibe: Also Sprach Zarathustra’, §1.
  34. F. Nietzsche to Resa V. Schirnhofer, August 1884.
  35. R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, La Doctrine: Trois conférences faites a Suhalia noël 1926, édition Privée, Officina Montalia: St. Moritz, 1927, p. 135.
  36. Isha Schwaller de Lubicz, Aor.
  37. R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, ‘Le Naos dans le jardin’, Notes et propos inédits, vol. 1, p. 200.
  38. Schwaller de Lubicz, L’Appel du feu, pp. 48-49.
  39. St. Moritz: Éditions Montalia, 1926.
  40. I was fortunate enough to obtain a copy from the Universitätsbibliothek Basel in 2005, and am presently undertaking a more detailed study and translation of its contents.
  41. See Aristophanes’ speech in Plato, Symposium, 189A-193E.
  42. ‘The Gospel According to Philip’, in Bentley Layton, ed., Nag Hammadi Codex II, 2-7: Together with XIII, 2*, Brit. Lib. Or. 4926(1), and P. OXY. 1, 654, 655: With Contributions by Many Scholars, Nag Hammadi Studies, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1989; further (70. 10-22): ‘If the woman had not separated from the man, she would not die with the man. His separation became the beginning of death. Because of this Christ came to repair the separation which was from the beginning and again unite the two, and to give life to those who died as a result of the separation and unite them. But the woman is united to her husband in the bridal chamber. Indeed those who have united in the bridal chamber will no longer be separated. Thus Eve separated from Adam because she was never united with him in the bridal chamber’.
  43. Schwaller de Lubicz, Adam l’homme rouge, p. 89.
  44. In all likelihood, the marriage of René and Isha soured the patronage of their financier, Louis Allainguillaume.
  45. Goethe, Beiträge zur Farbenlehre, §696.
  46. VandenBroeck, Al-Kemi, p. 132.
  47. In regards to the colour theory, I explore Schwaller’s sources and theories in detail in Light Broken, pp. 264-327, with translations of key texts at pp. 450-62.
  48. VandenBroeck, Al-Kemi, p. 132.
  49. See especially Hereward Tilton, ‘Of Ether, Entheogens and Colloidal Gold: Heinrich Khunrath and the Making of a Philosophers’ Stone’, in Alchemical Traditions, pp. 355-420.
  50. I discuss the history of stained glass and its relation to the operative alchemical work in Alchemical Traditions, pp. 471-92, as well as in Light Broken, pp. 332-55.
  51. VandenBroeck, Al-Kemi, p. 135.
  52. VandenBroeck, Al-Kemi, pp. 135-36.
  53. The colonial era Winter Palace, so-named for being the winter residence of the Egyptian Royal Family, subsequently became host to a wealth of illustrious visitors. Notable for its mix or archaeology and mystery, Agatha Christie’s famous Death on the Nile (1937) was written at the Winter Palace.
  54. The broader premise is that the temple at Luxor provided the model of the Greek temples/churches that consequently formed the basis of the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages.
  55. This point is in fact consistent with the views of the late Lanny Bell, the foremost modern scholar of Luxor temple. See L. Bell, ‘Luxor Temple and the Cult of the Royal Ka’, JNES 44, no. 4 (1985): pp. 251-294; ‘The New Kingdom ‘Divine’ Temple: The Example of Luxor’, in Temples of Ancient Egypt, pp. 127-184.
  56. Jean Cocteau, Maalesh: Journal d’une tournée de théâtre; Rousseaux, ‘A Louksor, la guerre froide est déclarée entre symbolistes et historiens’, Le Figaro Littéraire, 8 avril (1950); ‘La querelle des Egyptologues’, Le Mercure de France, July 1951; ‘Présence de l’ancienne Egypte’, Cahiers du Sud50, no. 358 (Décembre 1960-Janvier 1961): pp. 323-26; Rambach, Jahan and Hébert-Stevens, Du Nil au Gange a la découverte de l’Inde; Mekhitarian, ‘A propos du « Temple de l’homme »’, Cahiers du Sud 50, no. 358 (Décembre 1960-Janvier 1961): pp. 327-47. See extracts in Dufour-Kowalski,L’Œuvre au rouge, pp. 156-73.
  57. Cf. Bothmer, ‘Le Temple dans l’homme by R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz’, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. 2, no. 2 (1952): pp. 151-52; Schwaller de Lubicz, ‘De la Mathématique pharaonique’,Chronique d’Égypte 37, no. 73 (1962): pp. 77-106. The one exception to the ‘front of silence’ is the critique by Mayer-Astruc, ‘A propos du papyrus mathématique Rhind’, Chronique d’Égypte 35, 69-70 (1960): pp. 120-39, to which Schwaller’s 1962 paper is a (post-humously published) response.
  58. Cf. Mekhitarian, ‘Alexandre Varille’ (Nécrologie), Chronique d’Égypte 53 (1952): pp. 143-44.
  59. Alexandre Varille, Dissertation sur une stèle pharaonique, Le Caire, Schindler, 1946; Schwaller de Lubicz, Le Temple dans l’Homme, Le Caire: Schindler, 1949; Du Symbol et de la symbolique, Le Caire: Schindler, 1951.
  60. For a detailed explication, see my study, ‘The Juncture of Transcendence and Concretion:Symbolique in René Schwaller de Lubicz’, in Lux in Tenebris: The Visual and the Symbolic in Western Esotericism, edited by Peter Forshaw, Leiden: Brill, forthcoming.
  61. Given the day of its composition, the title clearly indicates the logos of John 1:1 (en arche ēn logos); the standard French translation of logos is Verbe.
  62. Schwaller de Lubicz, Temple de l’homme, vol. 1, p. 66; Temple of Man, p. 34.
  63. Schwaller de Lubicz, Le Roi de la théocratie pharaonique, pp. 292 ff; Sacred Science: The King of Pharaonic Theocracy, translated by André VandenBroeck, Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 1982, pp. 240-42; cf. Nathalie Beaux, Le Cabinet de curiosités de Thoutmosis III: Plantes et animaux de « Jardin botanique » de Karnak, Peeters: Leuven, 1990, p. 60. Schwaller’s alchemy of biological evolution is discussed in detail in Cheak, Alchemical Traditions, pp. 492-503.
  64. See R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Notes et propos inédits, vol. 2, pp. 9-38.
  65. For the previously unpublished essays, see Schwaller de Lubicz, Lettres à un disciple de R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Le Tremblay: Ordre de la Rose-Croix, 1990, and Notes et propos inédits,Apremont: M.C.O.R/La Table d’Émeraude, 2005-6, two volumes.
  66. Schwaller de Lubicz, Temple of Man, p. 36.
  67. Isha Schwaller de Lubicz, Aor, pp. 118-20.
  68. Isha Schwaller de Lubicz, Aor, pp. 118-20.
  69. Schwaller de Lubicz, Lettres à un disciple, pp. 172-73.

Aaron Cheak, PhD, is a scholar of comparative religion, philosophy, and esotericism. He received his doctorate in religious studies from the University of Queensland in 2011 for his work on French Hermetic philosopher, René Schwaller de Lubicz. He is the author and editor of Alchemical Traditions: From Antiquity to the Avant-Garde (Numen Books, 2013), and founding director of Rubedo Press.