View Full Version : The Fulcanelli Conundrum

David Guyatt
10-03-2008, 10:51 AM
For decades countless people have striven to identify the real person behind the pen name Fulcanelli (likely a twist of the alchemical word "Vulcan" - the mythological Greek blacksmith god of fire and volcanoes).

I am pasting in below a long article by Christopher Boke and John Koopmans that appeared in the Alchemy Journal Vol.7, No.3 Winter 2006, that goes into considerable detail about this subject.

However, I don't doubt for a second that the conclusions of these two writers are quite wrong. But never-the-less read on because there is a real mystery involved, irrespective of the identity of the person or persons writing under the pen name Fulcanelli.

Juliene Champage, the Frenchman and alleged confidant and student of Fulcanelli who brought his masters two books to the world, stated in his introduction to the book "Le Mystere des Cathedrales" that the frontpiece (picture) contained the great secret of alchemy.

So I am pasting that picture here in case anyone is able to fathom the great mystery of the alchemists. what fun eh...


Now on with the article:


Fulcanelli's Most Likely Identity - Part I

By Christer Böke and John Koopmans

The Illustration above was drawn by artist-alchemist Juliene Champagne. It is from a 1926 French edition of Fulcanelli: Mystery of the Cathedrals

Editor’s Note: This article is being published in as a two part series. In Part I, the authors summarize what is known about Fulcanelli based on primary sources of information provided by his trusted confidant, Eugene Canseliet, establish an approach they will use to review whether or not several proposed candidates are in fact the true identify of the famous and mysterious Master Alchemist, and attempt to establish the date of his birth and “departure” or death. Part II of the article, to be published in the next issue of the Journal, reveals the authors’ belief about the likelihood of these candidates actually being Fulcanelli and presents their proposed answer to the question: Who was Fulcanelli?


The 20th century Master Alchemist, Fulcanelli, is well-known to the alchemical community through the two highly regarded books that bear his name: Le Mystère des Cathédrales (1926), and Les Demeures Philosophales (1930). Both these books, initially published in French by Jean Schemit, have since been translated into the English language. The actual identity of the intriguing, secretive man behind the name “Fulcanelli” has been very well protected by design or fate for 80 years by the very few close associates who knew him, since his first book was published in 1926.

Many theories have been put forward regarding the possible identity of Fulcanelli (see, for example Fulcanelli Devoilé by Genevière Dubois, Fulcanelli: Sa véritable identité enfin révélée by Patrick Riviere or Al-Kemi: A Memoir by André Vandenbroeck). Some of the more popular possible candidates for Fulcanelli’s identity include Jean-Julian Champagne, René A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Pierre Dujols, Eugène Canseliet, or even a “committee” of three: Pierre Dujols, Jean-Julien Champagne, and Eugène Canseliet. No doubt, all three of these individuals were closely involved with the arrangements undertaken to publish Fulcanelli’s works, but Canseliet himself emphatically stated that Fulcanelli’s identity was not Champagne, Dujols, or himself, or a committee, but that of a single individual.

The object of this paper is not to critique the current theories regarding Fulcanelli’s identity, many of which are carefully developed, based specifically on the particular assumptions as selected and presented by the authors. Instead, based on a number of observations and clues derived from sources closest to Fulcanelli, we are putting forward an alternative theory which we feel stands alone, not only in addressing most of the clues, but especially one of the most important of all clues, one which has consistently been ignored by other researchers to date.

We begin by examining the various pieces of reliable information that are actually known about the man behind the name, Fulcanelli, followed by an examination of the year of his birth as well as the approximate year of his possible death or departure. From the preceding, we then develop a profile of characteristics that we feel must be used to narrow the choices in selecting a logical candidate for Fulcanelli’s identity. We then briefly demonstrate why the choices presented to date by others do not match this profile. Finally we present a possible candidate which we feel matches the profile almost exactly.

What Is Actually Known About Fulcanelli?

There is very little biographical information available regarding the characteristics of the enigmatic man, Fulcanelli, primarily because those who knew his identity vowed to protect it. This they carried out very faithfully. Most of the sparse information that is known comes from a reliable source, and from one of the few men who actually knew (and protected) his real identity, Eugene Canseliet (shown at left).

Eugene Canseliet (born December 18, 1899; died April 17, 1982) as a young teenager, first met Fulcanelli in 1915, and by 1920 he continued to meet with him quite frequently. Because of this comradeship and sense of trust, in 1923 Fulcanelli entrusted the young Canseliet with his personal sealed notes for three manuscripts (Le Mystère des Cathédrales; Les Demeures Philosophales and Finis Gloria Mundi), two of which formed the basis of the two books subsequently published under Fulcanelli’s name (Fulcanelli specifically asked Canseliet not to publish the third manuscript). Canseliet was given the responsibility for the arrangements that would see the notes through to the final publication of the two books in 1926 and 1930. Canseliet’s other mentor, the artist and practicing alchemist Jean-Julien Champagne (born 1877; died 1932; shown at right), was given the task of illustrating the two books. Canseliet wrote the Preface to both books as well as the Prefaces to subsequent editions of the books.

Some of the reliable information that we know about Fulcanelli comes from the Prefaces written by Canseliet, while other information comes from such other sources as various interviews that were later conducted with Canseliet. It almost seems as though Canseliet deliberately left behind a number of tantalizing clues. Although he kept his promise to keep Fulcanelli’s identity a secret throughout his life, in particular, it must have been very frustrating for him to be continually confronted with the many popular and persistent suggestions that Fulcanelli’s identity was Champagne. He often openly expressed his strong disdain for those who continued to believe this false assumption. Thus he may have subconsciously left the clues behind in the faint hope that later researchers would finally discard this unfounded theory.

In his Preface to the First Edition of Le Mystère des Cathédrales, Canseliet (in the translated edition by Mary Sworder) wrote:

“For a long time now the author of this book has not been among us. The man has disappeared and I cannot without sorrow recall the image of this industrious and wise Master, to whom I owe all, while lamenting that he should so soon have departed.”

This was written in October, 1925, so certainly by this time, and actually a “long time” before, Fulcanelli had “disappeared” or “departed.” Although it is immediately tempting to interpret this as the time of Fulcanelli’s death, upon closer examination, we found that Canseliet is not specifically clear on what he actually means by the word “departed.” We will have more to say about this interpretation later in this paper when we discuss Fulcanelli’s date of death.

In his Preface to the Second Edition of Les Mystère des Cathédrales, Canseliet (in the translated edition by Mary Sworder) wrote:

“We must say, certainly, that this man of another age, with his strange appearance, his old-fashioned manners and his unusual occupations, involuntarily attracted the attention of the idle, the curious and the foolish.”

Thus we have a partial description of Fulcanelli’s appearance and mannerisms. He was eccentric in appearance, was engaged in unusual occupations and was old-fashioned in mannerism.

Further on in the Preface, Canseliet wrote:

“Fulcanelli, like most of the Adepts of old, in casting off the worn-out husk of his former self, left nothing on the road but the phantom trace of his signature – a signature, whose aristocratic nature is amply shown by his visiting card.”

Here we are clearly told of Fulcanelli’s aristocratic background. Thus we can expect the man behind Fulcanelli to be a man of titles, perhaps even a French Count. Canseliet also hints that Fulcanelli took measures to erase the traces of his former self in the same manner as the Adepts of old. We will have more to say about this unusual practice below.

The following quote is from Canseliet’s Preface to the second edition of Les Demeures Philosophales, which he wrote in February, 1958:

“Then the Master commented, his dignified and noble face bathed in long gray hair…”

This again indicates Fulcanelli’s “noble” and “dignified” nature, but adds a new physical characteristic: his face “bathed in long gray hair.” This indicates that he must have had noticeable facial hair, perhaps a long beard and mustache.

On the following page in this same Preface, Canseliet writes the following:

“…concluded Fulcanelli, drawing this quotation from his prodigious memory with the benevolence of his beautiful smile, his hand raised in a habitual gesture where, that evening, the baphometic ring, was shining, carved in transmuted gold and which had reached him from the Templars of the Commandery of Hennebont in Brittany.”

Thus Fulcanelli possessed a “prodigious memory”, had a “beautiful smile” and wore a “baphometic ring” of transmuted gold and of Templar origins.

Based on the contents of Fulcanelli’s two books, it is readily obvious that he was very knowledgeable about the practice of chemistry and that he had far more than a passing interest in and knowledge of, architecture and its deeper principles and symbolism. His first book was a hermetic study of cathedral construction, detailing much of the symbolism hidden in the construction of the porches, bas-reliefs, facades and other components of various Gothic cathedrals in Europe. This tradition was continued in his second book where he expanded on his hermetic and alchemical investigation of architectural features and symbols.

Another important piece of information concerning Fulcanelli’s background is that he participated in the war between France and Germany (1870-1871) under the commandment of the famous architect, Violett-le-Duc. This is another very interesting clue that, astonishingly, no other investigator has paid any attention to. During the time of the war Fulcanelli would have been in his thirties. Canseliet tells us how Fulcanelli made a return visit to his former commander after the war and it is likely that they had much to share during this visit as Viollet-le-Duc like Fulcanelli himself had a strong passion for medieval gothic architecture.

But one of the most astonishing clues to the elusive identity of Fulcanelli was given by Canseliet in the context of Fulcanelli’s war memorials when he “au passé” reveals Fulcanelli’s true profession (our emphasis):

“Trois ans après la malheureuse insurrection de la Commune, Fulcanelli, jeune ingénieur qui avait participé à la defense de Paris, sous les ordres de Monsieur Viollet-le-Duc, rendit visite à son lieutenant-colonel.” (La tourbe des philosophes, number 11, 1980).

Roughly translated this states:

“Three years after the pitiful insurrection of the Community, Fulcanelli, a young engineer who had participated in the defence of Paris under the commandment of Monsieur Viollet-le-Duc made a return visit to his colonel lieutenant.”

Thus we gather another clue of fundamental importance: Fulcanelli was an Engineer. As we will see later in this paper, it is a mystery in itself how this most important fact could have been passed unnoticed by the researchers who claim to have investigated this matter in depth, since it leads to a perfect match with Fulcanelli’s identity as both an Engineer and a Chemist, an obviously rare combination.

When Was Fulcanelli’s Year of Birth?

We realized that if we were able to determine Fulcanelli’s year of birth and approximate year of death (within a year or two), we would have a most reliable tool in which to narrow down various possible candidates who matched some of the other identified characteristics.

We now come to the most important clue of all: when was the year of Fulcanelli’s birth? Strangely, this clue has all but been ignored by the many authors who have speculated on who Fulcanelli may have been. Again, the confirmation of when Fulcanelli was born comes from the most reliable of sources, one who was trusted by Fulcanelli – Canseliet.

This clue is found in the interview between Robert Amadou and Eugene Canseliet in Amadou’s book Le Feu du Soleil. On page 67 of the 1978 Jean-Jacques Pauvert edition we find:

E.C. - Ah! son âge, j'en étais sûr. Alors que je faisais une course auprès de Champagne, de la part de son père, j' arrivai avenue Montaigne à l'hôtel particulier des Lesseps. C'était en 1919. Fulcanelli était là, sans que je m'y attendisse. Il m'a dit qu'il était content, puis il remarqua que je portais, comme c'était l'usage, un brassard noir. «De qui êtes-vous en deuil? », me dit-il. Je lui répondis que j'avais perdu ma grand-mère que j'aimais beaucoup. «Dommage, me dit-il, mais quel âge avait-elle?» Je lui répondis qu'elle avait quatrevingts ans, très exactement. «Ah tiens! fit Fulcanelli, juste mon âge. » Il n'y a pas de raison de croire qu'il ait menti. Il est donc né en 1839. C'est ainsi, par exemple, qu'il a pu connaître l'archéologue Grasset d'Orcet.”

Roughly translated, this states:

E.C. [Note: Eugene Canseliet] - Ah! I was sure of his age. While I was making a trip with Champagne, on behalf of his father, I arrived at Montaigne Avenue at the private mansion of the Lesseps. It was in 1919. Fulcanelli was there, without my expecting it. He told me that he was content, then he noticed that I carried, as was the custom, a black arm-band. "Who are you in mourning for? ", he asked me. I told him that I had lost my grandmother whom I loved very much. "What a pity, he told me, but how old was she?" I answered him that she was exactly eighty years old. "Ah wait! said Fulcanelli, my age precisely". There is no reason to believe that he lied. He was therefore born in 1839. That is why, for example, he could have known the archaeologist Grasset d' Orcet.”

This is an extremely important clue that cannot be disregarded. Here we have a clear and specific affirmation that Fulcanelli’s true identity was born in the year 1839 and not decades later as other researchers have consistently suggested.

When did Fulcanelli “Depart”?

Earlier, we mentioned that Canseliet had stated that Fulcanelli had departed “a long time” before October 1925. Thus we know that his death or “departure” had occurred some time before this date. To further our investigation of Fulcanelli’s identity, we were left with the challenge of establishing a more precise time for this stated departure. If we could accomplish this goal then, combined with the information that we discovered earlier concerning his year of birth, we would have the necessary tool that we had been searching for that would permit us to narrow the scope of several possible candidates matching some of the other characteristics. In order to find an answer to this question, we turned to several sources, but primarily to the helpful interview that Robert Amadou conducted with Canseliet.

Based on Eugene Canseliet’s account in his interviews and, as mentioned by Walter Lang in his Introduction to Le Mystère des Cathédrales, Canseliet performed a transmutation during September 1922 in a laboratory at Sarcelles (near Paris). We know from his interview and from the Introduction that Julien Champagne, the chemist Gaston Sauvage and Pierre Dujols were all present during the transmutation, and that the transmutation was “based on instructions by Fulcanelli.” This doesn’t really confirm that Fulcanelli was also actually physically present since the instructions could have been given in a written rather than an oral form. However, from another source we have confirmation that Fulcanelli was indeed physically present at the transmutation. This is found in the interview between Robert Amadou and Eugene Canseliet in Amadou’s book Le Feu du Soleil. On page 64 we find:

R.A. - Donc, en 1922, la transmutation se passe sur les conseils de Fulcanelli.

E.C. - Il était présent, puisqu'il me disait ce qu'il fallait faire, et c'est dans une petite cheminée, qui était excellente, que j'ai exécuté l'opération.

Roughly translated, this states:

R.A. [Note: Robert Amadou] - Therefore, in 1922, the transmutation occurred on the advice of FulcaneIli.

E.C. [Note: Eugene Canseliet] - He was present, since he told me what it was necessary to make, and it is in a small chimney, that was excellent, that I have executed the operation.

Thus Fulcanelli was still seen alive near Paris, in September 1922. However, there is additional confirmation for an even later date which indicates that Fulcanelli was still alive some time during 1923. Again, this is found in the interview between Robert Amadou and Eugene Canseliet in Amadou’s book Le Feu du Soleil. On page 72 we find:

R.A. - Quand Fulcanelli vous a-t-il remis les notes?

E.C. - J'avais trois paquets. Il me les a remis en 1923.

Roughly translated, this states:

R.A. - When did Fulcanelli give you the notes?

E.C. - I had three packages. He gave them to me in 1923.

It is therefore documented that Canseliet received three packages from Fulcanelli in 1923. These packages were sealed in wax and contained the manuscripts for Le Mystère des Cathédrales, Les Demeures Philosophales and Finis gloriae mundi. Canseliet alone was responsible for their subsequent publication, with the exception of Finis gloriae mundi which Fulcanelli later withdrew.


The year 1923 is therefore the latest reliable date that we could find to indicate that Fulcanelli was at least still alive until then, although he wasn’t necessarily “seen” at that time by his associates. Further literature research may yet locate a later date, or at least a specific month during 1923 when Canseliet received the packages.

There is yet another indication that Fulcanelli “departed” soon after the date of the transmutation. On page 61-62 of Le Feu du Soleil Amadou asks Canseliet if Fulcanelli took him on as a pupil. Canseliet replies that he was Fulcanelli’s student for six years, from 1916 to 1922, not as someone working directly with him in a laboratory, but by receiving advice as well as a specific selection of alchemical books to study. Canseliet then mentions the transmutation that was performed in Sarcelles during 1922. Amadou asks Canseliet if that was the year that he was with Fulcanelli again, and Canseliet replies that 1922 was also the year that Fulcanelli departed. Obviously, Canseliet received the packages from Fulcanelli during 1923, so what seems to be implied is that after September 1922 Canseliet no longer was in direct contact with Fulcanelli, at least until his official death which we will return to later in this paper.

Did Fulcanelli “Depart” or Die?

We now have two extremely important clues. Fulcanelli was born in 1839 and died or “departed” either in 1923 or 1924 (it should be noted that the early part of 1925 – a “long time” before October - is also possible but unlikely, since it is difficult to imagine a “long time” representing something less than 10 months). This narrows the search considerably, particularly since few men (especially during the early 1900’s) lived to the ripe old age of 84 or 85.

Earlier, we mentioned that Eugene Canseliet was not clear on his use of the word “departed.” Ordinarily, one would assume that he meant “died,” but other curious documentation seems to imply otherwise. The interpretation of these seemingly contradictory and unusual findings presented us with some challenge although, in the end, we feel that they do not necessarily prejudice our overall theory. For interest’s sake, we present below some of these findings and offer some possible explanations.

Earlier also, we mentioned that Canseliet received three packages from Fulcanelli during 1923 which were the manuscripts for Fulcanelli’s three potential books and that Canseliet was given the responsibility of publishing two of them. Before Canseliet published the first book, Le Mystère des Cathédrales in 1925, he sent the final draft to Fulcanelli, who then made a few corrections. Oddly, Canseliet admits that he did not see Fulcanelli in person during this time, nor since 1922.

How then did he manage to get in touch with Fulcanelli and exchange the draft document with him? On page 71 of Amadou’s Le Feu du Soleil, we find the answer. Canseliet explains that the exchange was made through the assistance of a certain Mr. Devaux. We will mention this name again later in this paper. What is important to note at this time is that Canseliet reports having exchanged information with Fulcanelli during 1925 and that it was not direct but through a third party. At the same time, Canseliet seems to contradict himself by stating, in his Preface to the First edition to Le Mystère des Cathédrales, that Fulcanelli had “departed” long before this time.

The timing and nature of Fulcanelli’s departure becomes even more confusing when we examine another interview that Frater Achad conducted with Canseliet on August 17, 1976 (published in Parachemy, Volume IV, Number 4, Fall 1976). Canseliet said:

“Fulcanelli left in 1930, the year when “Demeures Phlosophales” (Dwellings of the Philosophers) was published.”

This clearly seems to contradict the statement in the Preface to the First Edition of Le Mystère des Cathédrales in which he stated that Fulcanelli “disappeared” or “departed”, “a long time” before October 1925. There seems to be an unaccountable five-year discrepancy between these two years.

How can this discrepancy be explained? For a possible answer to this we must return to the earlier quote in which Canseliet said:

“Fulcanelli, like most of the Adepts of old, in casting off the worn-out husk of his former self, left nothing on the road but the phantom trace of his signature – a signature, whose aristocratic nature is amply shown by his visiting card.”

To understand this statement, it is necessary to know that there is a recurring tradition amongst alchemists that Adepts who had produced the Philosophers Stone often found it necessary to “fake” their death and live a secret, secluded life, free from the avaricious exploits of those who would stop at nothing, including murder, to wrest the secret from the Adept. Further, according to these traditions, the Adept was able to use their discovery of the medical properties of the Philosophers Stone not only to extend their own lives by at least several decades, but to regain a more youthful appearance and demeanor.

Thus it is possible that what Canseliet was saying was that he believed that Fulcanelli, in the tradition of Adepts, had removed all trace of his former life by actually “faking” his physical departure. The death of the person behind the Fulcanelli identity would have therefore been an elaborate and deliberate charade which would allow Fulcanelli the opportunity to live the protected and healthy life of the reclusive Adept he had become. This view is supported by another statement made by Canseliet in the interview with Frater Achad:

“In 1922 he visited me several times in Sarcelles. When he left in 1930, he was an old man (un vieillard) but when I saw him again in 1952 he looked hardly 50 years old.”

Whether or not there is any validity to this belief by Canseliet does not necessarily affect our argument of who Fulcanelli may have actually been, but helps explain why Canseliet himself may have believed and said what he did. He obviously believed it very deeply, and there are other arguments which may support his extraordinary belief that someone who looked and acted like Fulcanelli may have lived some time after he “disappeared” in 1924, give or take a year (for example, the account by the French researcher, Jacques Bergier in his Morning of the Magicians). It is not our intention to explore the validity of these arguments within the scope of this paper, nor do we feel that it is necessary in order to defend our theory.

Thus, in summary, Canseliet says that Fulcanelli “disappeared” or “departed” within a year or so of 1924, at least until the first book was published. He then “left” again in 1930, the year that his second book was published. Thus he (or someone who looked and acted like him) must have returned to visit or contact Canseliet again after his orchestrated death, and sometime between October 1926 and 1930. After this, Canseliet claimed that he didn’t see him again until more than twenty years later in 1952 (incredibly, Fulcanelli would have been about 113 years old at this time). In any event, regardless of whether Fulcanelli continued to survive after the official “death” of his identity or not, we can now logically assume, for our argument, that “officially,” the real identity behind Fulcanelli likely “died” in 1924, give or take a year, possibly in the vicinity of Paris.

... continued in Alchemy Journal Vol.7 No.3: