Close Encounters of the Alchemical Kind

“There is nothing new except what has been forgotten.”

˜Mademoiselle Rose Bertin, French milliner and dressmaker to Marie Antoinette

UFOlogy is a senile discipline. By this I’m not referring to its age, or how after more than 60 years it hasn’t seemingly come any closer into solving the enigma which spawned its existence. What I mean is that UFOlogy as a field has the terrible tendency of narrow-sightedness, and of forgetting the valuable lessons from the past. Some of our critics on UFOs: Reframing the Debate, for example, complained we weren’t really saying anything particularly original compared to the thinkers and ideas of the late 60’s and early 70’s; our defense was we weren’t actually trying to be novel so much as remarking what was pointed out by the true mavericks preceding us, but hasn’t been paid attention to enough by the newer generations… to the detriment of the study of unidentified flying objects, and the intelligence(s) in control of them.

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Take for instance the controversial topic of the Contactees: Most people believe it was in the 1950’s when common citizens like George Adamski or Truman Bethurum began claiming to be in contact with extraterrestrials hailing from Venus, Jupiter –or far more exotically-named planets like Clarion– and the main concern of our Space Brothers was the proliferation of nuclear weapons in our world, and the threat they posed to the survival of Humanity… or even to the stability of the entire Cosmos. Psychologists have tried to explain the sociological phenomenon of the Contactees as stemming out of Cold War anxieties, and a religious need from saviors from on-high repackaged for the consumption of the Space Age.

But those psychologists –and even most UFOlogists– would be surprised to learn warnings against a nuclear Armageddon can be traced back before the start of the Cold War and the Space Age –before even the fission of the atom had been experimentally achieved for the first time by German chemist Otto Hahn in 1938! And these warnings didn’t come from long-haired Venusians on board silvery saucers, but from a secretive individual who claimed to be in possession of a powerful legacy of knowledge, assembled from the scattered remains of a lost civilization.

These warnings came from an Alchemist.

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The story I’m about to tell can be found on a book I consider to be indispensable reading by anyone interested in these topics: Le Matin des Magiciens (Morning of the Magicians) by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier. Alas, this gem is barely known among most English-speaking UFO circles for three main reasons: It was published in 1960 (strike one); its main topic is not UFOs but philosophy and secret knowledge (strike two) and it was written by two French men (strike three! You’re out!!).

Louis Pauwels (1920-1997) was a writer and journalist with a life-long interest in Eastern mysticism and the philosophy of Gurdjieff. In 1954 he met Jacques Bergier (1912-1978) whose life is probably more deserving of a motion picture than any lazy 80’s remake: Born in Ukraine and of Jewish descent, he was a writer as well as a chemical engineer who became a resistance fighter and spy during the German occupation of France, was later captured and sent to the Mauthausen concentration camp. After the Liberation he played a key role into the discovery of the Nazi nuclear program, and how far they have gone into the development of atomic weaponry.

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Bergier was credited by his friends for having a prodigious intelligence and encyclopedic knowledge. When he was 6 years old he saw an ancient woodcut illustration of two old alchemists working on their lab, which sparked his interest in the forgotten lore of Alchemy. To him the modern discoveries about radioactivity and the composition of the atom held the promise of unlocking the true secret behind the transmutation of the elements, and creating a bridge between the Past and the Future.

But his contemporaries not only considered Alchemy a superstitious nonsense (the way we still do to this day) but even nuclear energy was still regarded a ‘fringe’ subject in theoretical physics, with no possible applications in real life (just like electricity and magnetism in the XVIIIth century). In 1933 Bergier is scolded by a teacher of his –one of the best chemists in all of France– for wasting his time in such ‘infantile’ interests as nuclear physics, and admonishes him to pursue a ‘sensible’ career in the sugar refinement industry instead.

Thankfully to us Bergier was not only smart; he was also stubborn, bless his heart. He disregards the advice and continues his ‘reckless’ studies in both cutting-edge physics and ancient Alchemy. From 1934 to 1940 he became a collaborator of the eminent physicist and chemist André Helbronner, who was among the first scientists trying to unravel the secret behind atomic energy, before he was murdered by the Nazis in 1944.

It was at the behest of Helbronner that Bergier had a strange meeting with a mysterious individual on June of 1937, two years before Germany invaded Poland and WWII began. The meeting took place in an empty testing lab owned by ‘Gas Society’ of Paris. The strange man started the conversation by saying he knew Bergier assisted Helbronner in the quest of the atomic secret, and mentioned their recent success in unleashing radioactivity in polonium.

“You are very close to success, as are many other contemporary wise men,” said the stranger (remember Hahn’s experiment in ’38) “but the work you and your peers are doing is terribly dangerous. And it is not only you who are in peril, but the whole of Humanity.”

The man explained to Bergier the liberation of nuclear energy was easier than what was believed at the time, and the resulting superficial radioactivity could poison the entire planetary atmosphere in just a matter of years. He also warned that atomic explosives could be manufactured using only a few grams of metal and they would have the power to vaporize entire cities. “We Alchemists have known about this for a long time.”

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Before Bergier could protest or ask any questions, the man continued: “I know what you are going to say –that Alchemists didn’t know the structure of the atomic nucleus, didn’t have electricity or any detection methods. Therefore they could never release the nuclear energy. I shall not try to prove what I am about to tell you now, but I beg you to repeat this to monsieur Helbronner: It only takes certain geometric assemblies, without the need for electricity or a vacuum medium. And now I will limit myself to reciting a few lines…”

The man took from over a desk a book written by Frédéric Soddy: L’interpretation du Radium (The Interpretation of Radium), found a passage and read:

“I believe there existed in the past civilizations who knew the energy of the atom and were totally destroyed for the misuse of that power.”

The man closed the book and continued his exposition, asking to an astonished Bergier to entertain the possibility of partial techniques of such ancient knowledge being able to survive throughout the ages. That knowledge had been kept in the safe hands of men who tempered their experimental curiosity with moral and religious concerns; whereas our ‘modern’ physics in his opinion was a “Science without Conscience,” having been born during the XVIIIth century for the amusement of “lords and libertine rich men” –here the Alchemist was no doubt referring to the Royal Society of London, founded in 1660 under the auspice of King Charles II, which saw considerable expansion in the late 1700s.

The strange man kept explaining to Bergier he had tried to warn other researchers like him about the dangers of their work… to absolutely no avail.

Bergier finally managed to ask a question: “If you yourself are an Alchemist, monsieur, I cannot believe you employ your time in the attempt to make gold, like Dunikowski or Doctor Miethe.” –Dunikowski was a Polish engineer who had announced in Paris he had discovered a new kind of radiation capable of transmuting quartz into gold, but was found to be a fraudster; Dr. Adolf Miethe (not to be confused with Richard Miethe, a name often mentioned in the swampy subject of Nazi-made flying saucers) of the Photochemical Department at the Berlin Technical High School claimed to have found small deposits of gold inside the mercury vapor lamps used on his lab as a source of ultraviolet light. In 1924 he claimed to have changed mercury into gold in a high-tension mercury vapor lamp. Alas, he had produced approximate $1 worth of gold… at a cost of $60,000 due to the staggering amount of energy employed in the process.

Bergier continued: “For around a year I’ve tried to document myself on the subject of Alchemy, and have only stumbled upon with either charlatans or interpretations I find ludicrous. Could you, monsieur, tell me what your own investigations consist of?”

The Alchemist replied: “You are asking me to summarize in 4 minutes 4,000 years of philosophy and the efforts of my entire life! You are also asking me also to translate in clear language concepts which do not admit any plain explanation. I can, nevertheless, tell you this: Surely you are aware that in the official Science now in progress the role of the observer is evermore important. Relativity and the Uncertainty Principle show just how much the observer intervenes in natural phenomena” –Let’s remember the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics was proposed in the late 1920s.

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“The secret of Alchemy,” the man revealed to Bergier, “is this: There is a way to manipulate matter and energy in such a way that it produces what contemporary scientists would call a ‘force field’. This field acts upon the observer and places him on a privileged position in the Universe. From this vantage point he has access to Realities that space and time, matter and energy tend to hide from us. This is what we call The Great Work (Magnum Opus).”

“But, what of the Philosopher’s Stone?” asked Bergier. “What of the making of gold?”

“That is nothing more than applications, particular cases” answered the Alchemist. What’s essential is not the transmutation of metals, but that of the experimenter himself. It is an ancient secret which few men will find throughout the centuries.”

“What do they transform themselves, then?” questioned Bergier.

“Perhaps, one day, I shall find out,” were the final words of the mysterious man.

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Bergier never saw the Alchemist again. As for his true identity, it remains unknown to his day. Bergier himself was convinced the man was none other than the mythical Fulcanelli, the pseudonym of an anonymous individual who was the author of  two books which are highly regarded as among the best in the whole Alchemical bibliography:”Le Mystère des Cathédrales” (The Mystery of the Cathedrals) and “Les Demeures Philosophales” (Dwellings of the Philosophers). Fulcanelli had a protegé, Eugène Canseliet, who was the one entrusted by his master to publish his books in the 1920s. Pauwels and Bergier were convinced Fulcanelli had survived the war but had gone into hiding, never to reveal anything more about his hidden knowledge.

It is said the last time Canseliet met Fulcanelli was in Spain during the 1950s, and he had gone through an incredible transformation. Instead of being an old man, like his pupil remembered him, the Alchemist had miraculously rejuvenated and acquired an androgynous appearance, proof that he had managed to complete the Great Work, and the reward was a total physical –and spiritual– metamorphosis. The caterpillar had been changed into a butterfly.

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What to make of this wonderful, and yet unprovable story? We only have Bergier’s word that the meeting between himself and the man (possibly Fulcanelli) took place. The source for the account is a book that was published in 1960, 15 years after the reality of nuclear energy had been proved in the most horrendous way possible, with the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

What I personally find fascinating about this pre-WWII warning about the dangers of nuclear weapons, is not only that it preceded ALL of the similar admonitions given by the so-called ‘Space Brothers’ to the Contactees in the 1950’s and 60’s –and isn’t it interesting how those ‘superior beings’ were often described as having androgynous features?– but also that, if it really happened as admitted by Bergier, all of the things declared by the Alchemist were essentially true: In 1986, the radioactive cloud produced by the Chernobyl nuclear plant literally covered the entirety of Europe. The Hiroshima bomb contained only 141 lb of enriched Uranium –not “a few grams” like the Alchemist had claimed… although maybe there are methods to further amplify the destructive power of fissible material we (luckily) haven’t discovered yet. And after the Allies defeated the Nazis they discovered Heisenberg’s rudimentary Uranium battery, consisted of extremely pure substances placed together on an specific geometric disposition –the Germans hadn’t placed it on a vacuum, just like the Alchemist had ‘predicted’.

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But I guess what has fascinated me the most about Alchemy, ever since I read Morning of the Magicians in my early teens, is the idea of an ancient knowledge which parallels our current understanding on the nature of energy and matter, and perhaps even surpasses it. And yet, unlike our modern times, the men who’ve possessed that knowledge knew they had to keep it away from kings and rulers, lest it would be corrupted –or worse, used to unleash a power capable of wiping out our entire civilization… as it might have happened before.

Werner von Braun said that “Science does not have a moral dimension. It is like a knife. If you give it to a surgeon or a murderer, each will use it differently.” Perhaps so; or perhaps these are words meant to acquiesce the conscience of a man who had no qualms in killing innocents in his selfish pursuit to achieve his dreams to conquer the stars. “The rocket worked perfectly except for landing on the wrong planet,” von Braun is credited of saying with regards to his V-2 rocket bomb launched against London. “If we don’t do it first, somebody else will” have been the words used to justify everything from the creation of bacteriological weapons to automated killing drones. Science without Conscience, indeed…

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In Morning of the Magicians, the authors tried to interest their peers in the hidden treasures buried beneath the dusty manuscripts and codices written by the ancient Alchemists, which managed to survive into our era –thousands of volumes, and yet a pittance when compared to all the scrolls turned to ashes in Alexandria. They argued that chemists, engineers, and even nuclear physicists should team up with historians and symbologists in order to crack the codes of those treatises, and see if they contained techniques and processes which could be of any use in our modern industries and laboratories. A fool’s errand, some might think, and yet Pauwels and Bergier claim that after the war in Europe was over, there were many American agents trying to get their hands on any alchemical book their could find. Bergier also narrated how when he was collaborating with the French government in the study of the nuclear capabilities of the Germans –something nobody paid any attention to in Europe… prior to Hiroshima and Nagasaki– he was asked to meet with an anonymous American commander, whose real interest was not the Nazi nuclear program, but finding the whereabouts of Fulcanelli.

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Given how Dr. Jacques Vallee’s recent studies with UFO’s ejected material seem to point out to a reengineering of seemingly common metals which are almost suggestive of a bonafide alchemical transmutation —the way I speculated upon recently at The Daily Grail— perhaps it is not unreasonable to assume the art of Alchemy is one of the key pieces missing in the UFO puzzle, and that someone in the high echelons of power may be in hot pursuit of the alchemists’ ancient secret.

And yet, if they are, then I suspect they will never find it. Because if Alchemy is the true Science with Conscience, as Rabelais –and our anonymous Alchemist– maintained, then the ultimate goal of this ancient art goes far beyond the gaining of material wealth and power. And the Great Work can only be fulfilled by men of ambitions tempered in the melting pots of their laboratories, through years and years of indomitable hard labor. Until they find themselves transformed from common humans into… something more.

…Perhaps the Philosopher’s Stone is the true Red Pill.