Paris, the 1920’s. An unusual book called The Mystery of the Cathedrals written under the pseudonym Fulcanelli starts making an appearance in esoteric circles. This book explores in great detail the idea that European Gothic cathedrals are in fact alchemical texts, criptically written in stone.
The introduction to the English edition read: “It has long been believed that the Gothic cathedrals were secret textbooks of some hidden knowledge; that behind the gargoyles and the glyphs, the rose windows and the flying buttresses, a mighty secret lay, all but openly displayed.”
One of the most enigmatic occult figures of the 20th century, Fulcanelli was a French alchemist and esoteric author and his identity is still unknown. His name seems to be derived from the ancient Roman god of fire, Vulcan and El, the Canaanite name for God. Besides his seminal work on the cryptic purpose of cathedrals, Fulcanelli is also mentioned in several mysterious instances.
In 1937, Fulcanelli paid a visit to Jacques Bergier, a Russian-born chemical engineer. At the time, Bergier was involved in nuclear research with noted physicist André Helbronner. When Bergier asked Fulcanelli to explain the nature of his work, the alchemist replied:
You are asking me to summarize in four minutes four thousand years of philosophy and my whole life’s work. Furthermore, you are asking me to translate into plain words concepts for which such a language is not intended. All the same, I can say this: you will not be unaware that in present-day official science the part played by the observer becomes more and more important. Relativity, the principle of indeterminacy, demonstrate the extent to which the observer today intervenes in all these phenomena. The secret of alchemy is this: there is a way of manipulating matter and energy so as to create what modern science calls a force field. This force field acts upon the observer and puts him in a privileged position in relation to the universe. From this privileged position, he has access to the realities which are normally concealed from us by time and space, matter and energy. This is what we call the Great Work.”
It is clear that Fulcanelli was describing aspects of quantum mechanics that the world’s greatest scientists at the time were only beginning to grasp. He told Bergier that the ancient knowledge he possessed had been passed on to only a handful of people every century. Fulcanelli said that scientists were on the verge of succeeding in their nuclear endeavors but he also warned him about the dangers of splitting the atom. He also said the alchemists have known about this for a long time.
Understandably, Bergier was impressed with Fulcanelli’s vast knowledge.
The last person said to have seen Fulcanelli was his former pupil, Eugène Canseliet. In 1952, Canseliet was summoned by his master to a castle in the mountains of Spain, where he was surprised to see Fulcanelli looking twenty years younger than he did the last time they met.
Although many have attempted to locate him in the following years, none succeeded. The identity of Grand Alchemist Fulcanelli remains a debated subject and does his work. Some say he was just a brilliant mind thinking ahead of his time. Perhaps he was indeed the recipient of the all-but-forgotten esoteric knowledge of the alchemists. Nonetheless, those who might shed light on the issue have locked their lips.