In 1925 a strange book took its place at Parisian book shops. It’s title was “The Mystery of the Cathedrals”. It was written by an operative Alchemist writing under the pseudonym of Fulcanelli. The introduction was signed by his disciple Eugene Canseliet (1899-1983), the pictures by the painter Jules Champagne.
The book was showed the bas-relives which decorate some of the most impressive Gothic monuments of France: Notre Dame de Paris, Notre Dame D’Amiens, the Lallemant Building in Bourges, the Croix d’Hendaye.
Gifted with an encyclopedic knowledge, Fulcanelli compared the ornamental themes presented there and showed how they could be considered the ideal pages of a “mutus liber”, representing the Great Alchemic Work.
In the book preface, the disciple Canseliet informed the reader that Fulcanelli has been a member of a very ancient alchemic school, called “Heliopolis Brotherhood” and he had terminated the Great Work reaching both spiritual and physical immortality.
The book deals with themes of great esoteric interest but still it is hard to understand the reason why the limited edition copies were sold in a few days so that in the following years a flourishing business of second hand copies developed, each sold at amazing cost.
In the book Fulcanelli was blaming, with firing words, those having practiced Alchemy in the past in order to get rich, having as the main purpose the gold manufacture. In great disdain he was shortly describing, in two pages only, the very successful process they used.
The myth of Fulcanelli and the Heliopolis Brotherhood was born and it became even stronger in 1929 when he published a second equally splendid book, ”The Philosophical Homes”, according to the same technique used by the ancient alchemic authors. In both books Fulcanelli had disseminated at random, all the information necessary for the achievement of the Great Work: it is the duty of the disciple to put them together in the right order, as pieces of a gigantic puzzle.
But this is not enough to achieve the Great Work, according to the “dry way” practiced within the Brotherhood. Rather solid information about chemistry and metallurgy, accumulated during centuries by many generations of Alchemists is needed.
For those who are interested, the only thing to do is to contact the Brotherhood directly. It is still operating in both France and Italy, even though without a doubt, it represents the most difficult western transmutatory school to enter.
As for the mystery around Fulcanelli’s identity, some saw him as Canseliet himself (author of a very pleasant book on Alchemy), others as the painter Jules Champagne, even Robert Ambelain, the famous French Hermetist and one of the re-founders of the Order of Elected Cohen. In spite of these attributions, sporadic apparitions of unknown people multiplied in Paris over the last century. He looked like a very old man, but juvenile as well, leaving an unforgettable impression in whoever had the chance to meet him and showing alchemic knowledge almost beyond human possibilities. The same mysterious person stayed in contact for many years with the French physic Andre’ Helbronner, making him aware of the dangerous possibilities of nuclear power research.
One afternoon, in 1953, the famous Parisian journalist Louis Pauwels (1920-1997) received a phone call. The person he had to meet at Cafe’ Procope, declared to be 35 years old, but in spite of the young and vigorous look, had white hair and wrinkled skin.
They discussed Alchemy for a long while and due to his indications, Pauwels decided to include in his book “The Morning of the Wizards”(1960) the first attempt to describe the Great Work in scientific terms.
We quote almost the whole passage, considering it as the most beautiful heritage the mysterious Fulcanelli has left the world, even if through someone else’s pen.
"Our Alchemist starts preparing a mix of three elements in an agate mortar. The first 95% is a mineral: an arseno-pyrite for ex., an iron mineral also containing impurities as arsenic and antimony. The second one is a metal: iron, lead, silver or mercury. The third one is an acid of organic origin: tartaric or citric acid. By hand he will reduce these elements to powder and will mix them for five or six months. Then he heats it on a crucible. He gradually increases the temperature and keeps the operation lasting for around ten days.
He must be careful since toxic fumes exhale from it: mercury steam and arsenious- hydrogen have killed more than an Alchemist since the beginning of the work.
He finally melts the content of the crucible with an acid. By looking for a solvent the Alchemists in the past have discovered acetic acid, nitrate acid and sulfuric acid. The solution must be made under a polarized light: or a dim sunlight reflected by a mirror or on moonlight. Today we know that polarized light vibrates in one direction only, while regular light vibrates in all directions around an axis.
Then he evaporates the liquid and brings the solid to a high temperature. He will repeat this operation a thousand times for many years. Why? We don’t know.
Perhaps he is waiting for the moment when the ideal conditions will gather: cosmic rays, terrestrial magnetism, etc, maybe with the purpose of obtaining a “tiredness” of the matter in deep structures we still ignore. The Alchemist talks about “sacred patience”, of a slow condensation of the universal spirit. Beyond this kind of religious language there is certainly something else(…)
We continue our description: after several years of a continuously identical work, day and night, our Alchemist considers the first phase ended. He then adds an oxidant to his mixture, potassium nitrate for ex. In his crucible he has sulfur coming from pyrite and coal coming from organic acid: during one of these manipulations ancient Alchemists discovered gun powder.
During months and years the Alchemist, waiting for a sign, will melt and then heat at the highest temperatures without interruption. Alchemy books give different meaning to the nature of that sign, but perhaps because many phenomena are possible. That sign comes right when a solution is obtained. According to a few Alchemists it consists of a star shaped crystal formation on the liquid surface. Others see a veil of oxide on the surface of that liquid, then it breaks, showing the shining metal in which the Milky Way and the Constellations seem to reflect on a smaller scale.
After having received this sign, the Alchemist takes the mixture off the crucible and “lets it ripe” away from air and humidity, until the first day of the following spring. When the operation starts again, what in the ancient books is called “the preparation of the darkness”(...) will happen. The mixture is poured on a rock- crystal transparent glass vessel, closed in a special way. We have little information about such closing, called Hermes closing or hermetic.
The work consists in heating the vessel dosing temperatures with maximum care. The mixture inside the closed vessel, always contains sulfur, coal and nitrate. This mixture has to become incandescent but avoiding explosion. Many are the cases of Alchemists severely scalded or killed. The explosions produced are particularly violent and reach unexpected temperatures. The purpose is to obtain an “essence ”or “fluid” inside the vessel, called by Alchemists “wing of the crow”.
Let’s explain this point better. This operation has no equivalent in physics or modern chemistry but it has a few analogies. When a metal like copper is melted in liquid ammonia, a dark blue color tending towards black in the big concentration is obtained. The same happens, when under pressure, hydrogen or amine-organic is melted in liquefied gas of ammonia so to obtain the unstable compound NH4. It has all the properties of an alkaline metal and for this reason has be called ammonia.
Probably the blue-black coloring of the Alchemist's liquid, similar to a “wing of a crow” is the same color of the “electronic gas”. What is the electronic gas?
According to modern scientists it is the whole of free electrons forming a metal and ensuring it its mechanical, electric and thermal properties.
Today the Alchemist calls it “The soul” or even “the essence” of metals. It is this soul or essence bursting out in the hermetically closed vessel patiently heated by the Alchemist.
He heats it, cools it, heats it again for months
and years, observing through the rock-crystal the formation of what is
also called the “alchemic egg”, the mixture changed in a blue-black fluid.
At last he opens the vessel in the darkness, on the light of that fluorescent
liquid only. By contacting the air, the fluorescent liquid solidifies and
He would therefore obtain completely new substances, unknown in nature, having all the properties of chemically pure elements, that is to say indivisible. Some slag is left. He will be washing this slag for months in distilled water for three times. Then he will keep that water far from the light and temperature variations. That water would have extraordinary medical and chemical properties. It’s the universal dissolvent and the traditional long life elixir, Faust’s elixir(…).
Other substances deriving from the alchemic manipulation would be even more surprising. One of them would be soluble in glass, at low temperature and before its fusion point. This substance, by touching a lightly softened glass, would disperse in the inside giving it a ruby red coloring with light purple florescence if seen in the darkness.
It’s that powder obtained by crumbling the modified glass in the mortar which Alchemy texts call ” powder of projection” or the philosophers’ stone”(...)
The Great Work is therefore completed. A transformation occurs in the Alchemist himself, according to the texts, but we are unable to describe it, since we only have a few similar hints about it.(…) He experiences a few changes, his life seems longer, his intelligence and his perceptions reach a higher level. The existence of such “mutant” men represents one of the fundamental points of the Rosy Cross tradition.
The Alchemist moves to a further state of being. He discovers himself being the only one awake while the other men are still sleeping. He escapes the ordinary human, as Mallory - on the Everest - disappears having enjoyed his moment of truth.”