To Seek the Nature of Things, Irene Hillel-Erlanger, ‘Voyages in Kaleidoscope’

Primordia Quaerere Rerum

During the Dark Ages, countless healers and philosophers found expression in the secret science of alchemy. Known as ‘adepts’, these pilgrims sought through the physical and spiritual rigours of the ‘Great Work’ to attain the ‘Philosopher’s stone’ – a substance capable of transforming the subatomic structure of matter, of enriching or ‘ennobling’ the common elements of the periodic table, and of transmuting lead into gold – producing the elusive ‘Elixir of Life’.

In 1919, Editions Georges Cres in Paris published a curious book by a wealthy socialite, Irene Hillel-Erlanger, entitled ‘Voyages en Kaleidoscope’ (Voyage in Kaleidoscope). Irene was a poet (using the pseudonym of Claude Lorrey) and literary innovator, as well as one of the first cineastes. She was born into the wealthy Parisian banking family, the Camondo’s. When she was twenty-four, she married the well known composer, Camille Erlanger. They had one son, Philippe (who went on to organize the first Cannes Film Festival). After ten years, Camille had an affair with his lead soprano, Marthe Chenal, and the marriage was over. A scandalous divorce ensued. After, Irene became a patron of the Dadaist movement, counting Andre Breton and Louis Aragon (whose surrealist erotic novel Irene’s Con was rumored to have been based upon her) amongst her friends and fellow writers. In 1915, she began making films with the avant-garde, feminist director, Germaine Dulac, for H-D Films. In late 1919, Voyages in Kaleidoscope was published, and by March of 1920, at the age of 41, Irene was dead. Subsequently, all copies of her book were ‘pulped‘ and destroyed.

Voyages en Kaleidoscope, written in an avant-garde manner, tells the story of Joel Joze, the naïve, yet brilliant inventor, who studies the occult sciences. He invents an odd device (a kaleidoscope) that, through a dizzying process of chemical synthesis (including mysterious fluids, salts and precious metals (platinum pellets)), makes the unseen world seen. It allows the viewer to discover the hidden meaning of all things, offering a new vision of the universe – a vision to the true nature of how things are animated. In a doomed love triangle, Joze is torn between his infatuation with the darkly sensual, Countess Vera, star of the Paris ballet, and his love for the discreetly veiled, Grace. Joze chooses Vera, leading to his eventual downfall as she exploits both him and his miraculous device. In the end, Grace appears at Vera’s house to save poor Joze from the clutches of the Countess. He then discovers the two women are sisters: Vera is reality, and Grace is truth – they are two aspects of the same person, or a double emanation of the unseen – signifying both time and eternity. The Countess Vera flies into a rage. Lifting her veil, Grace reveals a white diamond in her forehead that has the power to detonate a thousand bombs. With a current of electricity, she destroys the kaleidoscope, creating a catastrophe that razes the neighborhood. Afterwards, Vera returns to her stage career, and the half paralyzed Joel returns to Grace, abandoning his ambition for power, money and worldly success. The book is narrated by Joze’s secretary, Gilly, the ‘loyal servant‘, whom Irene sagely describes as, ‘the salt of the earth‘, or whom some may recognize as saline, the first solvent in alchemy.

At first glance, Voyages seems like a lightweight romantic farce. But closer examination reveals the subtext, or hidden meaning within the text. Like carvings from the Gothic cathedrals of old, inside the story exists a certain ‘spoken cabala‘ or ‘cant‘ –  “a language peculiar to all individuals who wish to communicate their thoughts without being understood by outsiders.” (Fulcanelli) Irene elucidated further in Par amour (In Litterature, n°10, December 1919 – her last published work before her death) when she stated, “enigmas, signs, you are everywhere, if only we: knew how to read, how to see, but then we are carnal readers and blindly presumptuous.” There were rumors that within the pages of Voyages she exposed the process defining ‘the Great Work‘. Others said, she gave away the identity of the master alchemist who had successfully transmuted ‘the Great Work‘. And while there is no proof Irene was a practicing alchemist, she was well entrenched within the occult community of La Belle Epoch (including such luminaries as Fulcanelli, Jean-Julien Champagne, Pierre Pujols de Valois, Eugene Canseliet and Louise Barbe, to name a few). A community that traveled throughout high society who, for the most part, funded their efforts.

After Irene died all traces of her work would have been eradicated if not for a tight-knit group of alchemists who had held her in high regard. In 1945, Eugene Canseliet mentioned in his book, Deux logis alchimiques, en marge de la science et de l’histoire, that he had been ordered (by Fulcanelli) to find a copy of Les Voyages en Kaleidoscope in 1919, managing to do so before they were destroyed. He also wrote of a model who posed for a painting done by Jean Julien Champagne at the request of Fulcanelli in 1910, whom often “frequented the house of Mme. Erlanger”. He went on to say his master (Fulcanelli) had been surprised to see the level of like-minded symbolism hidden within the text of Voyages.

In the secretive community of alchemists there is a  rule strictly adhered to – ‘silencium‘. Perhaps it is best described by the motto of alchemist, Jacques Coeur (1395-1456), “JOIE. DIRE. FAIRE. TAIRE”. (About my joy, say it, do it, be silent). The alchemist, Georges Starkey (1628- 1665), whose pseudonym was Eyrenee Philathe, in his 1740-54 treaty,  ‘L’Entrée ouverte au Palais fermé du Roi’ (The entrance is open in the closed palace of the King) wrote, “I know several people who own ‘the art’, and who hold the real keys: all want the most rigorous about her silence. For me, I hope in my God made me think otherwise, and that is why I wrote this book, none of my brothers Followers (with whom I am in daily reports) knows nothing.” Quite clearly he knows he is breaking the rule of silencium, while protecting his adepts so they will not be ostracized – or worse.

In the subtext of Voyages, Irene may have broken the rule of ‘silencium’, but was the infraction worth her life? Since the advent of the internet, stories have circulated that Irene was poisoned by oysters at her book launch (Voyages makes much wordplay on oyster cocktails) for betraying the secrets of ‘the Great Work‘ within the ten ‘voyages‘ described in her novel. Unfortunately, there’s no proof for this conjecture.

Much of the murder speculation centers around a curious diagram for a ‘thermo maitre‘ (thermometer) by painter, Kees Von Dongen, that supposedly divulged the ‘temperature scale‘ of ‘the Great Work’. But perhaps the drawing, along with the characters of Vera and Grace, were meant as an allegory. In The Kybolian (1910), by the ‘three initiates‘, chapter II, The Principles of Polarity, states, “Heat and Cold, although “opposites,” are really the same thing, the differences consisting merely of degrees of the same thing. Look at your thermometer and see if you can discover where “heat” terminates and “cold” begins! There is no such thing as “absolute heat” or “absolute cold”–the two terms “heat” and “cold” simply indicate varying degrees of the same thing, and that “same thing” which manifests as “heat” and “cold” is merely a form, variety, and rate of Vibration.”

Having been born into a wealthy banking family, it is no stretch of the imagination to say Irene’s artistic pursuits were something of an embarrassment. First, the scandalous dissolution of her marriage. Of course, funding the rebellious Dadaists of her day whom she openly invited into her house, making movies and keeping occult company, didn’t exactly thrill them either. Irene’s uncle, Solomon Camondo, had married into the wealthy Pereire family who owned the infamous financial institution, the Banque Transatlantique, whose monetary pursuits covered the globe. It is evident from the wording in the ‘4° voyage‘ (Voyages in Kaleidoscope) titled ‘The Octopus‘ (pages 77-81 version Allia, 1998) Irene didn’t approve of the merchant banking business.

the octopus
However eats, digests, and Devours
everything it has…”

“Money is nothing here
if it’s not GOLD
Gold is nothing
if it is not

Different sources of power (or force material) in the early 19th century were jealously guarded. It is no coincidence that in the history of the Banque Transatlantique “the banque’s largest undertakings began at the turn of the century when the new gas and electricity industries created a demand for distribution.” Most alchemists of the time worked under the guises as scientist and chemists. Some of them, like Eugene Caneseliet, worked for years at the Sarcelles gasworks. Film director and adept, Walter Lang, writes in his introduction to the second edition of Fulcanelli’s,  Mystery of the Cathedrals (1977), “Alchemy is the total science of energy transformation... The decay of radium into lead with the release of radioactivity is alchemy. The explosion of a nuclear bomb is alchemy…

In Voyages, the inventor of the kaleidoscope bears the distinctive name, Joel Joze. People have speculated whether it was a pseudonym for Jean-Julien Champagne, the inventor, painter, alchemist, who was close to Fulcanelli, or the scientist, alchemist, James Joules, who created the ‘Joules effect‘, noted for his work on the first law of thermodynamics and kinetic energy. A straight line can be drawn from the work of James Joules to the work of Ernest Marsden, and Ernest Rutherford (the father of nuclear physics), when Rutherford managed an alchemical hat trick by using radium as an alpha source to probe the atomic structure of gold.

At the end of the ‘work‘ in Voyages, Grace discloses the ‘truth‘ when she lifts her veil to reveal the white diamond on her forward that has immeasurable destructive force. With the advances that were occurring in the science of energy of time was Irene Hillel-Erlanger trying to warn of the deadly potential of this knowledge? There might be another hint in her story. Joel Joze, unhappy within the established constraints of the academy which surrounded the positives science, namely physics and chemistry that he was hypnotized by, one day he found his answer within the masters of the Occult: namely, the Cabbala and the Bible.

Soon he (Joel Joze) became master of the fluidic forces which prevail in the world. And the secret was not entirely buried (hidden) since the Very-Sublime Antiquity. Docile to his commandments, these forces merged with their captive brothers; Rays. Radiant bodies. Fragrances. Electrics. Of which we know nothing. And of which we serve. These Great Princes-Prisoners under their metal armlets and glass masks.

Furthermore, in his introduction to Mystery of the Cathedrals, Walter Lang tells a curious story of how French researcher, Jacques Bergier, assistant to the noted physicist, Andre Helbronner, received a visit from an impressive individual who passed onto him a ‘strange and highly knowledgeable warning which had to do with the fact that orthodox science was on the brink of manipulating nuclear energy’. “The stranger said it was his duty to warn that this same abyss had been crossed by humanity in the past with disastrous consequences. Knowing human nature, he had no hope that such a warning would have any effect but it was his duty to give it.” Bergier became convinced the stranger was none other than the master alchemist, Fulcanelli.

Sadly enough, breaking the rule of ‘silencium’ is not what eliminated most of Irene’s legacy but instead, it was the greed of the octopus. Shortly after her death, her uncle Solomon Camondo, bought all of her work he could find and ordered it to be destroyed. His reasons for doing so remains murky. Whether she was an embarrassment to the prestigious family name, or she had touched upon secrets from Solomon’s ‘power‘ sector that were never meant for the public, we will never know. Her son, Philippe wrote that she, “she was considered and outcast who brought scandal to the family through her outspoken intellectual prowness.

Ahead of her time and in the ‘know‘, it seems death was the only way to silence Irene. But the underground stream always manages to surface and neither time, nor money, could erase her from memory. The ‘work‘ transcends and flows forth.

This time I will contribute a modest stone to the edifice of hermetic poetry by evoking an authentic, almost contemporary alchemist whom, I think, I am entitled to call an Adept, and whose writings are practically impossible to find. I mean Irene Hillel-Erlanger.” – poet heremeticist, Andre Savoret.

Special thanks to Richard Armin for his correspondence and for steering me in the right direction when it comes to the source material.

A different version of this story was written by Scarlett Amaris and Richard Stanley for The Heretic Magazine.

Gloraie to the End of the World (in the blink of an eye) – redux


Juan de Valdes Leal (1622-1690) was a Spanish painter of the Baroque era. His style was considered mature, often bordering on the macabre, with it’s flagrant brushstrokes. Most of his paintings dealt with the allegory of the transience of life and death. Two of his most famous works, Finis Gloriae Mundi and In Icti Occuli, translate roughly to ‘the end of the glory of the world in the blink of an eye’. With it’s subtle and apocalyptic overtones was there more to Leal’s work than what meets the eye?

Finis Gloriae Mundi was also the title of the master alchemist Fulcanelli’s unpublished third tome. The task of editing Fulcanelli’s books fell upon his adept, author and alchemist, Eugene Canseliet, who in his own words said, “it is only for Finis Gloriae Mundi that a few notes were actually written and they were not included in the parcel with the other notes. I don’t know why. I have used those texts, since they were outside, in order to get an idea of what the third book might have been like. What would it have been in actuality, I have no idea. But Fulcanelli wanted the parcel back and he took it from me. Perhaps there were very serious matters in there.” Canseliet continued, “the two texts that were published from these notes appeared in the second edition of the Mysteries of the Cathedrals and in Dwellings of the Philosophers. They are chapters dealing respectively with the cyclical cross of Hendaye and the paradox of the unlimited progress of sciences.”

Having personally read through these passages many times, one could easily say they contain dire warnings about the future of nuclear energy and the coming age of iron; the age of death.

The first edition of Mysteries of the Cathedrals was published by Jean Schmidt in 1926. Then, it was republished in 1957 with the added chapter on the cyclical cross of Hendaye. An account of the cross was originally written by Jules Boucher in 1936, but Fulcanelli took it one step further by identifying the base of the mystery cross with the four ages of a man: Creda Yuga, or the age of innocence, when innocence was firmly established on earth; Treda Yuga, corresponding to the age of silver; Trouvabara Yuga, or the age of bronze; and the age of iron, the fourth and last age, and the one that we currently live in, the Kuli Yuga, the age of misery, misfortune and decrepitude. These four ages in Hindu mythology can be attributed to the form of a cow that symbolizes virtue, and goes from standing on four legs, to a final and weakened state, barely able to balance on one leg.

Photo by J. Stabler.

Fulcanelli also left us with a mystery written on the cross, OXCRUXAVES PENUNICA, which could be read, ‘O crux ave spes unica’ (Hail, o cross, the only hope), but the translation should read unicus not unica. In using the ‘secret language of the birds‘ or the ‘green language‘, a phonetic wordplay with it’s origins in ancient Greek, by using a permutation of the vowels, Fulcanelli comes up with this sentence, ‘Il est ecrit que la vie se refugie en un seul espace’ (it is written that life takes refuge within a single space).


Juan Valdes Leal had a benefactor, Don Miguel de Manara, who was a knight of the Order of Calatrava, and who’s tempestuous life was rumored to be the inspiration behind one the many Don Juan myths of the time. Old Don Miguel even had an opera named after him, composed by Franco Alfano. The story goes that late one night, while stumbling home from a raucous party (or possible orgy), Don Miguel had a horrifying and life-changing vision. The vision consisted of a large funeral procession. When he looked upon the open casket, he realized the corpse inside was none other than himself — only as a dead man.  After this he cleaned up his act and became a benefactor to the Hospital de la Caridad in Seville (a place dedicated to helping the poor) as penance for his previous life. Atoning for his sins doesn’t seem to have have left its mark on him as his epitaph states, ‘here lies the bones and ashes of the worst person who ever lived on earth‘. His last will and testament contained the most humble of self accusations, not only as a ‘great sinner‘, but also an ‘adulterer, robber, and servant of the devil’.

Finis Gloraie Mundi

Finis Gloriae Mundi, the glory of the end of the world. The painting based off of Don Miguel de Manara’s vision of his funeral procession. Quite possibly, that is him lying with his eyes wide open, with no signs of decay, as though freshly dead — or undead. The herald of the Order of Calatrava readily visible on his arm and to his left lies the corpse of a bishop in a state of extreme decay, with bugs crawling all over it. In the background a female hand bearing the mark of the crucifixion, emerges from the clouds holding a set of scales: the words nimas (neither more) and nimenos (nor less) can be read together as ‘neither too many, nor too few‘. On the left set of scales there appears a snarling lamb of god (to me, it looks more like a puppy), and the skull of a goat, which could symbolize the ‘golden fleece’. This is interesting because Fulcanelli states the ‘art gotique’ or ‘argot’ was the secret language of the Argonauts, those who manned the Argo on its voyage to ‘the felicitous shores of Colchis‘. Hence, by the symbolic language, it becomes the vessel, the ‘argot‘, whereby the truth, symbolized by the fleece, is transmitted across the ages. Coincidentally, there was also an ‘Order of the Golden Fleece‘ that was closely connected to the ‘Order of Calatrava‘.

Also depicted in the painting is a toad (a familiar), a fan of peacock feathers (vanity), and a heart. Again a heart on the right set of scales, but with the initials IHS (Jesus Hominum Salvator), a closed book (subtext), a loaf of bread, and other religious adornments. Don Miguel appears to be staring glassy-eyed at the left set of scales. There is an ominous looking owl perched on the third of the seven steps that lead to the light, staring towards the bishop. The French word for owl comes from ‘chouette‘ from the old Occitan word ‘chòta’. In Greek ‘chous’ signifies the tumulus, or the mound above a tomb. In old Khem, ‘Shu’ or ‘Chou‘ is the light of the east that divides heaven and earth. The owl represents thought and consciousness. The nocturnal bird of prey also symbolizes Lucifer. In the painting its body is cast in the shadow of the stairway, while its head is in the light. Night is the symbol of death, and the head bears the light: the two aspects of Lucifer, at once the ‘guardian of hell‘, but also the ‘light bearer or light bringer‘.

In Ictu Occuli

In Icti Occuli, or ‘in the blink of an eye‘. The allegory of death presents the triumph of the grim reaper as he sweeps into the picture. He is an imposing figure, with one skeletal foot standing on the globe, while the other stands on armaments; the trappings of office and the insignia of power. Under one arm he carries a coffin and, in his hand, a scythe. His bony right fingers snuff out the life-light represented by the candle as he stares at the viewer from the depths of his empty eye sockets. The candlestick, and the bishop’s cross, form a radius over the bishop’s hat from where death puts out the flame. On the coffin rests pontifical robes, a bishop’s crosier, a papal cross and tiara. Close to the tiara two royal crowns rest on some purple fabric. From one hangs the chain of the ‘Order of the Golden Fleece‘, the pendant representing Saint Michael slaying the dragon. Notice the open book with the architectural drawing which looks to be the drawing of a cathedral? The same image is depicted in another of his paintings, along with images of open and closed texts: knowledge open and knowledge hidden. Printed on the spines of the three books are the words ‘history’, ‘science’ and ‘religion’ the vanities of the material world.

In Mystery of the Cathedrals, Fulcanelli writes about the coming rotation of the earth’s poles and warns that every 12,000 thousand years, under the sign of Leo or under that of Aquarius, Saturn brandishes his scythe and, with his foot, tips the earth on its axis. He is, in alchemical terminology, the secret fire which purifies matter. In Dwellings of the Philosophers, Fulcanelli sagely writes, “… human evolution expands and develops between the two scourges. Water and fire, agents of all material mutations, work together during the same time and each in an opposing terrestrial region. And since the solar movement – that is to say the ascension of the star to the zenith of the pole – remains the great driving force of the elemental conflagration, the result is that the northern hemisphere is, alternately, submerged at the end of one cycle and charred at the completion of the following… One must await with sangfroid the supreme hour, that of punishment for many, and martyrdom for others.”

Leyendo la regla de la Caridad

The curious portrait above, Leyendo la regla de la Caridad (Reading the rule of Charity), also hangs in the chapel of the Hospital de la Caridad. It’s quite possible the three together were meant to viewed as a triptych. Don Miguel ordered to have the painting done after his death in 1679. He’s featured once again sporting the emblem of the Order of Calatrava on his left arm. More open and closed books are shown – symbols of hidden or half-hidden knowledge (occult or esoteric). Then there’s the odd-looking child seated in the habit who seems to be saying, “shhhh – don’t tell anyone, it’s a secret, but I’ve been reading that somehow a 17th century Don Miguel knows exactly what a mushroom cloud looks like. In fact he’s pointing straight to it!”

And who would this potential new-born son of Horus, Harpocrates, whose feet are positioned on the black squares of a checkerboard floor, be to tell one to be silent? He who is the symbol of hope against the suffering of humanity. Perhaps the third painting was meant as the fulfillment of the  promise of first two, or a warning of how one could truly bring the glory of end the world in the blink of an eye. “Behold I show you a mystery; We shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed.” I Corinthians 15: 51-52

Gloraie to the End of the World (in the blink of an eye)redux, published in The Heretic Magazine Issue 10.

On the Trail of the Tetramorph

Tertamorph – derived from the Greek words tetra (four) and morph (to shape) it is a symbolic arrangement of four differing elements into one unit.

The Four Royal Stars

In an attempt to bring order and meaning into the structure of their daily existence, the first wise Persian astrologers appointed four royal stars in the sky, otherwise known as ‘the watchers‘, who stood over the universality of divine dominion. These stars were: Aldebaran, the watcher of the east, situated in the constellation of Taurus, corresponding the vernal equinox; Regulus, watcher of the south, situated in the constellation of Leo, corresponding to the summer solstice; Antarus, watcher of the west, situated in the constellation of Scorpio, corresponding to the autumn equinox; and Fomalhaut, the watcher of the north, situated near the constellation of Aquarius, corresponding to the winter solstice. Together they marked the four cardinal directions, the four fixed points of the zodiac, the four elements and the four seasons, or changes within the solar year.

Referenced in the ancient Mesopotamian poem, The Epic of Gilgamesh, were fantastical creatures known as the lamassu. Hybrids, composed from the bodies of bulls or lions, they possessed the wings of an eagle and the heads of men. They were said to have been symbols of the starry heavens and were considered to be protective spirits, because they encompassed all life within them. They were some of the first examples of physical manifestations of the heavens above, and were literal representations of the analogical Hermetic law of magic: that which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing, a concept possibly as old as human thought itself.


The lamassu appeared frequently in Mesopotamian art and mythology, either as giant statues that guarded the entrances to the royal palaces, or on engraven tablets that were buried under the thresholds to common houses, as they were considered to be the protectors who frightened away the forces of chaos and brought peace to the home. Every town worth its salt had pairs of the lamassu situated at the city gates set around the four cardinal points, protecting the denizens within against the demons outside with their strength, swiftness and intelligence. Another version of the lamassu were the sphinxes of ancient Egypt, Greece and Babylonia, with their composite physiques (usually a mixture of bull bodies, lion’s paws, wings and human heads), and other similar creatures found within the various early religions.

‘Ezekiel’s Merkabah’, by William Blake

Considering they were the most popular winged iconography at the time, the lamassu would have been known to the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel (famous for his seven visions) while he lived in exile amongst the Babylonians. In his inaugural manifestation, Ezekiel saw God approaching him from a cloud to the north (the north being the home of the gods in ancient mythology), riding upon a battle chariot (or merkabah), that was drawn by four creatures he called ‘cherubim‘ or ‘the four living creatures‘ (khayyot), which he described, “as for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. Their wings stretched upward; two wings of each one touched one another, and two covered their bodies.” Next to each of the cherubim was a tall wheel set within a wheel (ophanim), which had eyes covering the rims.

Once within shouting distance, God insisted that Ezekiel become the ‘watchman‘ of Israel. In the Bible the cherubim make their first appearance in the garden of Eden ‘guarding‘ the way to the Tree of Life, so the humans could not come back in (Satan was said to have been a cherubim before his rebellion). Early Semitic tradition also perceived the cherubim as ‘guardians‘ or ‘watchers‘, and only later did they receive their angelic status, being possessed of four wings covered with eyes which made them ‘all-seeing‘. Interestingly enough, in the Torah the cherubim were the first objects to be created in the universe, perhaps harking back to the thought of containing all life within them.

The cherubim, only with six wings like a seraph, and called ‘the four living beings‘, appear in John of Patmos’ vision chronicled in the book of Revelations as such, “The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within.” Although not included in the Bible, the book of Enoch tells a similar tale, possibly pre-dating Ezekiel’s vision by a century. “And I looked and saw a lofty throne: its appearance was as crystal, and the wheels thereof as the shining sun, and there was the vision of cherubim. And from underneath the throne came streams of flaming fire so that I could not look thereon.”



The Book of Kells

Although the attributions of the tetramorph to the four Evangelists were credited to Saint Jerome, they were fully realized by the Frankish Benedictine monk, Rabanus Maurus, who cemented their various layers of meaning during the Carolingian age. Matthew the Evangelist, the author of the first gospel, symbolized by the winged man, represented Christ’s human nature and stood for reason. Mark the Evangelist, author of the second gospel, symbolized by the winged lion, represented resurrection (possibly because it was thought lions slept with their eyes open, like Jesus in the tomb) and stood for courage. Luke the Evangelist, author of the third gospel, symbolized by the winged ox, represented Jesus’ crucifixion, as well as Christ being the High Priest, and stood for sacrifice. Lastly, John the Evangelist, author of the fourth gospel, symbolized by the eagle, represented Jesus the Logos (because it was believed eagles could stare straight into the sun) and stood for the notion of keeping an eye cast upon eternity. Of course, if one wanted to pull these four ideas together – nature (planting), resurrection (the crop), sacrifice (the harvest), and eternity (the never ending cycle of nature) – it is not that far of a stretch, based upon the findings of the predecessorial Persian astrologers (in which the meaning of the tetramorph functioned as a sort of agricultural clock) that Rabanus Maurus meant to interpret them as metaphorically sowing the spiritual seeds of Christianity.

In the late Romanesque period, images of the tetramorph fell out of favor and were exchanged for their human counterparts. But in the 15th century a new card game, known as the tarot (tarocchi), or carte de trionfi (triumph cards), came into fashion. In one of the earliest decks, the Sforza Castle deck, the tetramorph make an appearance on The World card XXI. On another deck, from the 16th century, the World card is depicted with a man standing on top of the world (mondo, which could also be read as universe) with symbols for the four elements divided within. A century later, on the same card, the iconography had changed, and man stood within the center of the world, the tetramorph appearing in the four corners surrounding it taking the place of the four elements. Curiously enough, the enigmatic Sola Busca deck from the 18th century depicts the World Card as Nabuchodensor (Nebuchadnezzar) fighting a dragon, which brings one back to Babylon.

In the 18th century began the great Tarot revival and, along with the popularity of the Marseille deck in Southern France, tarot changed from a mere card game to being used for divination as well (although there are sporadic accounts of it being used earlier for such). The occultist Papus (Gerard Encausse), the first to coin the term ‘The Marseille Deck‘ in his book Tarot of the Bohemians (1889), explained the symbology of The World card as thus, “a nude female figure, holding a wand in each hand, is placed in the centre of an ellipsis, her legs crossed (like those of the Hanged Man in the twelfth card). At the four angles of the card we find the four animals of the Apocalypse, and the four forms of the Sphinx: the Man, the Lion, the Bull, and the Eagle. This symbol represents Macrocosm and Microcosm, that is to say, God and the
Creation, or the Law of the Absolute. The four figures placed at the four corners represent the four letters of the sacred name, or the four great symbols of the Tarot (the sceptre, cup, sword and pentacle).” He goes on to explain the sceptre is ‘yod’, representing fire, the cup is ‘he‘, representing water, the sword is ‘vau‘, representing Earth, and the pentacle is the second ‘he‘, representing air. Formulated together they formed YHVH, the unutterable name of the God of Israel , or the tetragramatton, which in kabbalah pertained to the mystery of the four directions, the four worlds, and the potentiality of being. Papus also stated that the World card was the key to the year, philosophy (encompassing logic, epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics) and to the kabbalah.

Twenty years later, in his seminal book Pictorial Key of the Tarot (1911), mystic and scholar, A.E. Waite  (of the popular Rider-Waite deck) wrote about the World card thus, “It represents also the perfection and end of the Cosmos, the secret which is within it, the rapture of the universe when it understands itself in God. It is further the state of the soul in the consciousness of Divine Vision, reflected from the self-knowing spirit… But it is perhaps more especially a story of the past, referring to that day when all was declared to be good, when the morning stars sang together and all the Sons of God shouted for joy.

The tetramorph also appeared in the corners of the Wheel of Fortune card X in the Rider-Waite deck, along with a sphinx sitting at the top of a wheel. A.E. Waite described the card as, “the symbolic picture stands for the perpetual motion of a fluidic universe and for the flux of human life. The Sphinx is the equilibrium therein.” In this age, the tetramorph have been adapted from an earlier spiritual Christian function, to a metaphysical one; as a gateway between the conscious and unconscious mind, perhaps in an attempt to find the divine within the ancient rites of renewal once again. The morning stars singing together, and the sons of God shouting for joy, are a definite clue, given that each of the original four royal stars of Persia would have functioned as the morning star, depending upon the season, and in Medieval Judaism the sons of God were those individuals who possessed divine power by means of astrological knowledge, which bring one full circle. But that is the circumnavigational point of totality, in which the symbolism of the tetramorph and its other composite compatriots (the lamassu, sphinx, cherubim, etc.) are represented, isn’t it? Cycles of the harvest, patterns of existence, layers of meaning, to bring chaos into structure, and to make the unknown known. Perhaps those ancient, wise, Persian astrologers knew a part of our humanity was written in the stars after all.

On the Trail of the Tetramorph, published in Issue of 11 of The Heretic Magazine.

Mo(u)rning Views…

My friend, and often times co-writer, Melissa Saint Hilaire and I decided to take a spur of the moment field trip to the Mountain View Mausoleum in Altadena to scout locations for an upcoming enormously exciting not-so-secret-secret-project that has nothing to do with alternative religions. Little did we know what we were in for…

Melissa and I hadn’t gone exploring together since the Black Star Canyon ghost hunting fandango almost nine years ago, and although entertaining, it was a total wash out (except for the crazed rednecks waiting for us in their monster truck as we left the canyon at around midnight. Luckily, we scared them more than they scared us, but I’ve seen that scenario in a movie before, and it normally ends in either tears, death, or squealing like a pig).

Melissa doing a good job of being spooky
Part of the giant rose window

The ground floor of the mausoleum was dazzling with rose windows, murals spanning the ceilings, and lots of Italian marble and dead people. Quickly, we realized we had the place to ourselves and got down to investigating.

I was delighted to spy these eight-pointed stars on the second floor. Informally known as the Star of Isis, I used to come across the exact symbol etched into rock at the various mystery spots in the Languedoc region of the South of France where I lived for many years ( for those in the know, I think it was an attempt to mark out the points on David’s Wood’s original pentagram in Genisis. For those not in the know, David Wood wrote a bonkers book called Genisis back in 1986 which basically introduced the Rennes (Rennes-le-Chateau) pentagram, and an increasingly baffling system of sacro-sexual geometry hidden within the landscape — it’s a must read if only for the ‘Ass of Set’). Why the star of Isis? You’s have to ask the sorcerer who’s been carving them all of these years. I mean there are eight points to the Pagan Wheel Year, not to mention the seal of the prophets, and, of course, King Solomon — and all of his barking seals.

Eight pointed star – paging Isis, Inanna, Ishtar, Lakshmi & co
The Great Architect, the eye in the pyramid, part of the tetragramatton . 1, 3, 4,
The stained glass below was a shocker — the colors of the county of Foix, along with a three-tiered castle, which has to do with an Occitan prophecy, and not much to do with a mausoleum in Southern California. The timing is spooky because I’m waiting on one more map (which is on it’s way here) but I think I’ve come up with a fairly valid theory as to why Montsegur and some of the surrounding castles have a solstice effect. If I’m right it’s gonna throw the cat amongst the mystery & history loving pigeons.

No. No Masonic symbols here. Only a few geometrical and architectural themes…
 Not being well versed in Masonry, I don’t know if that’s the ‘high twelve’ in the plates above, or the ‘low twelve’ — or if it would be considered the twelve points on the fully expressed circle.
Il est difficile de vivre l’heure entre chien et loup
“Infinity like time without a friend. Who’ll sing the song if the melody should end?”

The third floor was fairly desolate. With scores of long-dead flowers, and piles of broken furniture hoarded into the corners, it was obvious no one came up there any more. While passing by a darkened alcove, Melissa and I froze in our tracks, both having felt an icy chilly emanating from it. Kneeling next to the enclosure using her iPhone as a torch, Melissa read the names from inside. “Elizabeth,” she said. “Eeelliizzzaaabethhhh….Shhhhh…..! something angrily whispered back. We high-tailed it down the stairs, laughing as we hit the bottom. Not gales of laughter, but nervous, adrenaline laced laughter. Afterwards, we jimmied the lock and checked out the chapel, but there was nothing to be found that wasn’t of the waking world. Calling it a day, we reckoned we’d probably more than worn out our welcome.

Until next time —
Much love from where the worlds touch.
S – xx


Beauty in Ruin

I’ve only got an hour but I wanted to share a couple things.

This is what happens when I am left to my own devices for periods of time. I’ve been house-sitting for a friend who had a family emergency. In the midst of my quiet time in the canyon, all hell broke loose. Fires raging from all sides, no sleep, high alert, ash raining down like snowflakes, the skies turning dark at midday — it was all quite biblical. I couldn’t leave, so I hunkered down with the animals and tested new electronic things to amuse myself. First, I taught myself to record and edit audio — the digital way — the 21st century way. I’ve needed to do this for quite some time. The last time I learned to record and edit audio was in the early nineties at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where I have hazy memories of being deep within the under recesses of the school, plugging cables into sockets and unwrapping and rewrapping miles of wires (last year an old friend told me he was the one who set up the miasma of audio equipment down there and we laughed while reminiscing how one could get stuck in those endless, winding, corridors editing for days, like troglodytes never seeing the sun, passing out in the hallways, and watching the cockroaches climb out of the vending machine one just bought coffee from. Chicago has its own brand of humor). Anyhow, I put together my first spoken work piece for Sisters of the Wasteland. This will not be the project’s final form, nor am I about to start writing poetry, or doing spoken word for that matter, but it’s a test. I will be doing a lot more audio like I used to do, but I suspect it will end up more as lyrics and songs. Also, I love to mix found sounds. Always have. I tend to listen to the world in an odd way. Ask anyone’s who’s ever been in the car with me as we go under a freeway underpass and motorcycles race overhead, and I’m transfixed by the distorted echo, wishing out loud they would do it again. Beauty in ruin. Generally, that’s about the time someone asks me if I’m tripping balls with a worried expression on their face, but I digress.

Here’s the link if you want to give it a listen:

I also did some test shots for the upcoming series, Lux in Tenenbris, on the seriously mysterious goings on in fin de siecle Paris, which will make it’s debut in the middle of August on Patreon (yes, it was originally scheduled for the beginning of August, but I missed the first window of filming thanks to the unscheduled arrival of the hellacious Sand Fire). These are actually the wrong contacts. I could have sent them back, but once I opened them — I had to give them a go. I know they’re a little much — but still…………..

Before I run, I wanted to share this as well as the ‘so-called real world’ is swimming in the zeitgeist and we step closer toward the black iron prison every day (of course, one could argue we’re already there. I might agree.) It’s a short film by my friend, director and writer, Eric Shapiro, called HOAX, which you can watch for free on Amazon – just press HERE

The hour has struck. Time for me to go.

Much love from where the worlds touch,

S – xx

p.s. Here’s the link to the Patreon page where the new series will be happening – Lux in Tenebris

Un rêve dans un rêve…

Nicola Samori, School of Pan, 2011

Often when I wake out of dreams the first thing I do is write down the fragments floating around in my head. The problem is if I don’t do so sometimes the dream scenarios become trapped and refuse to make way for what I need to be thinking about and working on. There’s about twenty or so ragged and dog-eared notebooks full of these which I revisit from time to time. I thought maybe I would start sharing some of them here because sometimes these scenarios blossom into bigger things. There’s stacks of them in the third Saurimonde book where I took written pieces of my actual nightmares, rearranged the elements of six or seven separate instances into one semi-cohesive supernatural nightmare sequence, then I added in the mythology and remixed them again (sort of a mild version of the cut-up technique). I think maybe that’s why when they work, they have resonance.

So here’s the fragment from this morning. I find the idea being trapped or lost within the cycles of incarnation is a theme which often permeates my subconscious.
“The room was lit by the muted television set and a haze of bluish smoke hovered in the air from the cigarette they shared between them. She didn’t think she had ever stared into someones eyes and seen herself so clearly before. The feeling frightened her because it spoke of other times and places where they had known each other. Stroking the plane from his eyebrow to cheekbone with her fingertips, she chose her words with care. “I know you.”
“So you are beginning to remember…?”

Burying her her head into the nape of his neck, she whispered against his skin, “You are not the only accidental guest on this darkened planet — I was never meant to be here either.

Will it go into the next book? Maybe. Speaking of the next book, I’ve got the outline down and it will center around the enigmatic north porch of Notre Dame de Paris, the Belle Epoch alchemists, signs, portents, and chance encounters — some of my favorite pet obsessions. Most likely it will be a supernatural thriller which I am kind of excited about writing. I feel the need to re-root myself back into the twenty-first century for a while, and put the puzzle pieces together in a different configuration. It might not work. One never knows. I loved the outline and the ideas behind Demon Priest, and it had a cracking opening, but three chapters in I realized I had made a fatal error — I’m not a strong enough writer to narrate a whole book from a male perspective. At least not that kind of book. But that is how you learn, and possibly I’ll use that first chapter for something else one day, or figure how to come at that story from another point of view when the time is right.

Here’s the prologue from Demon Priest: (another snippet of a dream).

“There was that noise again. The throbbing of drums echoed across the valley punctuated by faraway screams. Stirring, she opened her eyes to see the bright spots of firelight glowing like fireflies in the distance. Smiling to herself, she shifted on the ground near the mouth of the shallow cave. Let them celebrate me, she mused. Let them have this night to shout and dance and to make love under the stars. Soon they would be no more, like the others who came before them. She was tired now — so very tired. The time was near when she would retreat into the cool earth where she would slumber and dream in endless darkness. No one would find her there. She knew these lands like no other and indeed, she had been here before the mountains had been formed, when there was only a vast, endless ocean. Then, the tectonic plates crashed together and what was molten soon cooled as slow moving glaciers formed the first valleys. Like herself, the terrain changed and was born anew, only to become old again. The humans called out to her, shouting her name while waving their cups in the air. A giant effigy burned sending sparks flying out into the night sky as the smaller bonfires were extinguished. I will return, she promised as the weariness took hold of her again. I always do. These humans mean little more to me than insects now. Sighing one last time against the dirt, she murmured, But first, please grant me oblivion…”

There’s not a huge amount of news to be had. Currently, I’m finishing up a project I should have completed ages ago. It’s tricky and complicated and doesn’t want to follow any known set of screenwriting rules — but it is a challenge — and I do love a challenge. I only have a certain amount of time out here to get it completed so it’s been occupying most of my waking attention.

The sun is rising, the desert is stretching its sun-kissed skin, there’s coffee brewing in the kitchen, and I need to get down to writing for the day…

Much love from where the worlds touch,

S – xx

Through a Kaleidoscope Darkly and more…

Finally! Issue 6 of the highly regarded THE HERETIC MAGAZINE is out. For those of you interested in alternative history, lost civilizations and technologies, mysteries and conundrums, religion, the occult etc… this magazine is not to be missed! Plus — there’s an article co-written by yours truly on the fascinating life and mysterious death of the Belle Epoch alchemist, Irene Hillel Erlanger, author of VOYAGES EN KALEIDOSCOPE, who, rumor has it, gave away thermal secrets of the Great Work. 

To find out more and get your hands on a copy visit their website at: The Heretic Magazine

And now for something completely different ’cause that’s how we roll around here… Episode 4 of BETWEEN THE SHEETS WITH MELISSA AND SCARLETT is now live!

Between the Sheets with Melissa and Scarlett is a podcast about weird news, entertainment, pop culture, writing, sex, and more.

Our fourth episode is all over the place: After debunking a story from the previous episode we dive right into the gutter with insane sex toys, porn secrets, and pot!


Obviously, it’s been a wild week around here. Summer is in full swing and there’s been many late nights as the creativity and synchronicites continues to flow ever onwards.

Much love from where the worlds touch,

S- xx