The High Magic of Dr Fernand Rozier
Around the year 2000, a hundred years after Papus and his friends were coming to terms with the powers of Monsieur Philippe, a smart little publishing house – Le Mercure Dauphinois of Grenoble – came upon a lost Cours de Haute Magie (Course in High Magic) by a Dr Fernand Rozier (1839-1922). Dating from 1905 it took on board the mystical element that tended to be overshadowed by the scientific and intellectual approach of the early Papus and his G.I.E.E. lecturers and pamphleteers. They duly published it, with an introduction by the occult historian Serge Caillet (to whom the following biographical notes are indebted).
Gilbert Louis Fernand Rozier, the son of a lawyer, was born in 1822 in the small town of Ebreuil in central France. He was sent to Paris to go to school where he gained a baccalaureate in both science and letters plus a diploma in pharmacy, before qualifying first as a doctor of medicine and then of physical sciences. He was later taken on as secretary to the director of the Paris Observatory, the astronomer Urbain Le Verrier (discoverer of the planet Neptune in 1846) but feeling the call for more worldly experience, left to become ship’s doctor on a transatlantic liner until, after seven years at sea, settling down to a medical practice in Paris.
Along with his scientific career he was interested in occultism and as a seventeen year old met the great magical pioneer Éliphas Lévi, becoming one of his students from 1859 to 1870. At the height of the occult renaissance of the 1880’s he was familiar with Papus and his friends, mostly only half his age. At his home he played host to the producers of l’Initiation and Voile d’Isis, where he had installed a ‘laboratory’ in which, it was recalled, they performed some very curious experiments.
Contributing to various occult journals, including the alchemical Rosa Alchemica of the ‘hyperchemist’ Jollivet-Castellot, from 1900 to 1910, as well as running his course, he produced a series of publications on Curses and Enchantment; Prayer; The Astral Plane; Elemental Spirits; The Invisible Powers; Gods, Angels, Saints and Egregores; Saint Philomena; Inundations and Prophecies; and the Theory of Prophecies, including foretelling the great flood that swamped Paris in 1910.
Some of these titles suggest an interest in mystical well as occult dynamics, and it is significant that he claimed to teach ‘High Magic’ – an echo of Eliphas Levi’s choice of title for his main work Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magic (Dogma and Rituel of High Magic).
At his death in 1922, at the age of 83, Fernand Rozier had outlived most of the youngsters, and his obituary in Voile d’Isis regretted that he had not had time to write a great work on magic. He had however at least produced this Course, which was however lost until after many adventures, including confiscation by the Gestapo during the war, a copy was discovered among the post mortem papers of Papus’ son, Philippe Encausse (1906-1984), now safely lodged in the archives of Lyons Public Library.
The 200 page course begins conventionally enough, with a recap, largely based on Eliphas Levi, of suggested correspondences of Hebrew letters and Tarot Trumps with Paths on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. This is followed by a rundown of ways of categorising the inner planes of the universe and their correspondence in human and other forms of consciousness, from the simplistic duality of conventional church teaching, through the three circle system of the Druids and the four worlds of the Kabbalists, to the seven principles of Theosophy. He prefers a six-fold system himself, of Divine, Celestial, Mental, Kamic (i.e. feelings and forces), Astral and Physical.
The Divine plane he considered unique, the consciousness of God, beyond the created universe and arguably inaccessible to any created beings.
He regarded The Celestial or Heavenly as the highest of the created planes, formed before any of the lower ones, the realm of the most exalted forms of consciousness, such as the Christ and the Blessed Virgin, and including the angelic realms and also ‘evolved humanity’. The latter indicating that the whole scheme implies the evolution of consciousness through a process of reincarnation in time and space.
In the view of Serge Caillet this is a questionable point, on the grounds that reincarnation is a comparatively recent introduction to western esotericism, largely through the channels of the Theosophical Society. Classics of Western esotericism before the 19th century make little or no mention of it. In conventional Christian teaching there is no need for it, although some Christians seem to find no difficulty with it. Whether it is non-existent, or a universal phenomenon, or a special vocation taken only by some, remains a keen debating point that we will take a close look at later.
This aside, Fernand Rozier found no problem with it, and as his Course goes on to show, he was very much at ease with the dynamics of practical occultism, including different forms of consciousness, whether angelic or elemental, other than the human. And he nails his colours firmly to the mast in insisting upon a Christian approach to occultism – or occult approach to Christianity if one prefers.
But because he found himself the object of attacks from certain theological quarters he felt the need to explain himself, much along the following lines:
“If it is appropriate for me to say to which school I belong, I will willingly say that I belong to my own school, but I prefer a title that will astonish many theologians, who do not realise that in firing at me they fire on their own troops. I call my school Christian occultism – two words that may appear to clash when found linked together, but nothing could be more true.
“I am Christian because I believe completely in the Christian teaching, and I am an occultist because, instead of contenting myself with practising my religion, I study its hidden mysteries and seek to explain what priests perform but fail to understand. I study the invisible as it presents itself to me, just as when studying physics or chemistry, without concerning myself with other factors.
“I am a Christian occultist because I have studied much, have compared various initiations with each other, and have reached the certainty that all truth is founded on Christian doctrine. I know very well that what I say here may seem excessive and that I would have difficulty in making you accept it, or at least some of you. But if you like to take hold of an important fact: that which I call Christian doctrine corresponds exclusively with the teaching of Christ, you may perhaps believe me more easily.
“Does this mean that all other religions are a tissue of errors? That is what some fanatics claim but it is not true. What is more, I claim that it is impossible to understand Christianity completely if one does not know other religions. Paganism, Mazdaism, Hinduism for example contain precious keys. A day will come when our adversaries know us better and may bitterly regret the war they made on us, and understand what precious auxiliaries we have been for them – or rather, for Religion.
“We study hidden things and are accused of hiding our studies. We describe the nature of occult traps to warn the public of its dangers, and are accused of setting traps ourselves. We bring men to God and show the works of God in hidden things and are accused of limiting the powers of God or even of denying them. But there is no antagonism between religion and occultism; on the contrary, one completes the other. And as I find security only in Christianity, and only find complete truth in the words of Christ, the occultism I teach is Christian occultism.”
And as his course progresses we find it eminently practical with a dual approach of “the penetration of the invisible worlds onto the physical plane” in one direction and “ways of penetrating the invisible worlds from the physical plane”– concluding with different types of vision – imaginal, corporeal, intellectual and prophetic.
In the Spring of 1900, upon inner direction, he formed a group, La Fraternité de sainte Philomène (The Fraternity of St Philomena) insisting that it was not a secret society, had no statutes and required no oaths. It was a society whose foundation rested in the invisible, for which St Philomena herself (an early saint and martyr of obscure and evocative origin) chose the members. Those who had complete faith in her stood most chance of being admitted, the physical members of the Fraternity providing an etheric egregore of which the saint might be called the soul.
In my view a pattern that might be regarded as that of any valid ‘contacted group’ whoever the principal inner plane contact might happen to be, or claim to be, whether ancient philosopher or respected historical or legendary figure. In all of which there applies the acid test of “by their fruits shall ye know them.”