Papus: Magician, Martinist, And Medical Hypnotist
During the latter half of the nineteenth century, the medical profession of Europe had begun to take an interest in mental conditions, especially Hysteria and Tabes. Notably, Jean-Martin Charcot, the founder of modern neurology, only began taking an interest in the subject after 1870, when he took charge of the Delasiauve service, which brought him into contact with hysterics and epileptics, whom he treated using hypnosis.
In France, at the same time, there was a general interest in the “animal magnetism” of Franz Anton Mesmer, himself a hypnotist of the eighteenth century. As such, there was, considerable room for experimentation and for overlap between the medical profession and more mysterious methods, such as those associated with magic, healing, and seances.
Gérard Encausse: Medical Hypnotist
One of the most prominent figures of, simultaneously, France’s medical establishment and occult scene was Gérard Encausse (1865 – 1916). Best known by his nom de guerre Papus, today, he is remembered as the founder of modern Martinism (a Gnostic Christian, esoteric, initiatic movement with several extant, and sometimes competing, Orders) and as an author of numerous books on magic. (We will look at this later on.)
Yet, Encausse was also a respected medical practitioner, experimenting with hypnotic cures and the author of numerous books on medical treatments (especially hypnotism), including Du Traitment Externe Et Psychique Des Maladies Nerveuses: aimants et couronnes magnétiques, miroirs, traitement diététique, hypnotisme, suggestion, transferts, (The External and Psychological Treatment of Nervous Diseases: magnets and magnetic crowns, mirrors, dietetic treatment, hypnotism, suggestion, and transfers), published in 1897.
Professionally, Encausse worked with with the pioneering neurologist Jules Bernard Luys (1828-1897) and the two men also co-authored a paper published in the Annales de psychiatrie et d’hypnologie (Annals of Psychiatry and Hypnology) in 1891.
By the time he met Encausse, Luys had already made several significant contributions to the fields of neuroanatomy and neuropsychiatry. Notably, he discovered the brain’s subthalamic nucleus — and his first writings on the subject were published in 1865, the year of Encausse’s birth. (A testament to the importance of Luys’ discovery, the Swiss neuroanatomist Auguste Forel (1848 – 1931) later named the subthalamic nucleus corpus Luysii (Luys’ body), a term sometimes still used today.) Then, in 1873, Luys published the first photographic atlas of the human brain in Iconographie Photographique des Centres Nerveux.
The work of Encausse and Luys enjoyed widespread recognition. Published in New York, in 1893, Hall’s Journal of Health (Volume 40, p. 116) included an entry on a medical procedure, conduced by Luys and Encausse at Hospital de la Charité. As the journal noted, the procedure had already been widely reported in Paris.
Hall’s Journal of Health reported that:
On the first of last February, Eugenié B –, a young lady of twenty years, entered the hospital to be treated for a nervous disorder. She was besides afflicted with an enormous purple-colored blotch which extended from the left ear to the collar bone, and covered completely on one side of her neck and one-half of her left cheek. Dr. Luys and his assistant, Dr. Gérard Encausse, conceived the idea of employing hypnotic suggestion to remove this disfiguring blotch.
The young lady was accordingly put to sleep by the usual method, and then the suggestion was made to her not to have any longer this stain upon her face and neck. Three days after the first suggestion there appeared on the neck, in the middle of the blotch, a white spot nearly a centimeter square. In this place the skin had recovered its natural color. The suggestion was repeated each day, and on the 28th of February the white spot in the neck had increased considerably in size; moreover the skin of the ear had become entirely white. Day by day the blotch grew smaller; it seemed to melt away, attacked at once in its center and on the edge, the skin gradually resumed a natural tint, and, what is the essential point in the experiment, it remains so.
Papus: The Magician
In 1890, Papus was made the head of the laboratoire d’hypnologie at a Charité. However, via Encausse, the influence of hypnosis wasn’t limited to the medical profession. The “experiments” of Luys say Bogousslavsky, Walusinski, and Veyrunes in the journal European Neurology, were “used by his chef de clinique, Gérard Encausse (also known as ‘mage Papus’), in parallel, and successfully, for occult practices in secret societies.”
Significantly, while he would explore the subject for years to come, Encausse’s la Magie et l’hypnose, recueil de faits et d’expériences justifiant et prouvant les enseignements de l’occultisme (Magic and Hypnosis: a collection of facts and experiences justifying and proving the teachings of occultism) would also be published in 1897. This, of course, was the same year as his Du Traitment Externe Et Psychique Des Maladies (exploring the use of hypnotism and magnetism in medical treatments) was published. Again, in 1888, Encausse co-founded the journal L’Initiation and became editor in chief of the Revue d’hypnologie.
In other words, at exactly the same time, Encausse was as involved with, and prominent in, the medical profession as he was in the magical world. Indeed, in Encausse’s own mind, there seems to have been little distinction between magic and medicine. Translated by Eliphas Levi as “physician,” his magical nom de guerre “Papus,” was taken from the “Nuctemeron of Apollonius of Tyana,” printed in the 1855 edition of Levi’s Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (Dogma And Ritual of High Magic). For Encausse, the connection between the medical and the magical was a direct one. And that connection was hypnosis.
A member of several esoteric spiritual organizations during his latter years, Encausse joined the then influential Theosophical Society in 1887. He would go on to join the Hermetic Order of The Golden Dawn and the fringe Masonic Rite of Memphis-Misraim, among others.
More significantly, in 1888, Papus co-founded the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose-Croix and, only a few years later, in 1891, he founded the Martinist Order, for which he is still largely remembered today. The latter was intended to convey the teachings of Martinez de Pasqually (a practitioner of Kabbalah, and founder of the esoteric and magical Christian Order of the Élus Coëns, who died 1774) and his disciple Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin, often known as “the Unknown Philosopher.”
The system developed by Papus consisted of four degrees (or stages of initiation, with corresponding initiation rituals):
- Unknown Superior (S::I::/Supèrieur Inconnu)
- Unknown Superior Initiator
Orders of Martinism existing today include the Ordre Martiniste of North America, the Martinist Order of Unknown Philosophers, and the Ordre Martinistes Souverains, among many others. (And, of course, there are also numerous similar organizations, each claiming to possess particular initiatic secrets.) Through the Martinist degree system, for example, members are introduced to symbolism, Kabbalah (originally a Jewish theosophical system, later Christianized), concepts of reincarnation, and meditation.
However, the life and work of Gérard Encausse (AKA Papus, “physician”) is a reminder that even for one of the founders of a modern esoteric tradition, rituals and Orders were only half the story, at most. What mattered more, perhaps, was the mind or spirit, which could reach new heights through hypnosis.
Results may vary from person to person.