The French Gnostics

The Gnostic Church is something that has been the subject of a lot of debate and controversy over the years. We have been outlining some connections to the gnostics and how they relate to Mary Magdalene and the regions of southern France. It seems the Cathars were an expression of this early gnostic tradition that held veneration for Mary and her relics which were the source of some controversial episodes in history. So it’s interesting that there was this opinion that takes shape that almost paints the Cathars or the people that held Mary Magdalene in high regard as a sort of death cult. When you are worshipping the bones of someone for some reason that is not in line with the official state religion it’s natural that this could lead to controversy.

Whether it’s these stories of Dogebert II or Mary, France has been home to some interesting things that happened over the years. It’s not clear if it’s the area that is predisposed to this kind of thing since it links back to more ancient topics like druids and crazy forest people doing pagan rituals or if it is something that is more modern. In this article, we are going to look at the more occult and fringe aspects of French history. Out of it, we might be able to reveal a theme that has naturally emerged over time.

Let us first consider someone like Gilles de Rais. He is thought to be among the first serial killers in history. He was a military leader and companion-in-arms of Joan of Arc. Quite the contrast to that of Joan is that she was made a Saint, yet Gilles was put to death in 1440. He was accused of trying to summon a demon named Baron and he thought that the only way to do this was if he offered the demon mutilated children in a jar. It’s probably best to leave out some of the more gruesome details of this guy’s life, but he’s mentioned here to note the clear line of sadist occult thought that was present in France from an early period.

Francis Bacon was a Rosicrucian steeped in the lore of the occult and was known to have spent time in the French courts studying various topics. It was out of the Grail romances that we get this modern fairy tale storytelling genre that emerged. It’s worth noting that it was after the period of Bacon in France that we see this boom in Shakespearian theater that ultimately served as a kind of propaganda for the Crown. One interpretation of the Grail mysteries that come out of France is that they serve as a kind of glue for the teaching of the Gnostic Church in many ways. A kind of mystery propaganda that spawned organic grassroots interest in the religion of the day. The troubadours of France would sing lyrical poetry on the themes of courtly love and other topics which would fall in line with some of the themes that we see with these early Cathar-based belief systems that venerated Mary.

The veneration of Mary could be seen as an expression of the hieros gamos or the divine marriage. Wiki has this to say on the topic.

Hieros gamos or Hierogamy (Greek ἱερὸς γάμος, ἱερογαμία “holy marriage”) is a sacred marriage that plays out between a god and a goddess, especially when enacted in a symbolic ritual where human participants represent the deities.


The notion of hieros gamos does not always presuppose literal sexual intercourse in ritual, but is also used in purely symbolic or mythological context, notably in alchemy and hence in Jungian psychology. Hieros gamos is described as the prototype of fertility rituals.

During the medieval era, hieros gamos became entrenched in European occult alchemical traditions although it is a much older and possibly ancient concept with roots that seem to indicate an origin in eastern cultures although it seems to have been adopted by European gnostics.

Within the gnostic tradition, there is a gospel that was found along with the other gnostic texts in Nag Hammadi called the Gospel of Philip, which is thought to be a probable Valentinian text. This is another one of these early gnostic texts from around the 3rd century that defends the idea of Jesus and Mary having more than just a “friendship” kind of relationship which is parallel with the line of thinking that comes out of Southern France. Within this particular gospel, there seems to be an emphasis on something that is called a nymphon, or bridal chamber. It’s thought that the bridal chamber might have something to do with an initiatory ritual within Gnosticism although it’s not known exactly how the bridal chamber in these terms was applied specifically and this point has become a matter of debate.

The Lord did everything in a mystery, a baptism and a chrism and a eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber.

Another portion of the text reads:

There were three buildings specifically for sacrifice in Jerusalem. The one facing the west was called “The Holy”. Another, facing south, was called “The Holy of the Holy”. The third, facing east, was called “The Holy of the Holies”, the place where only the high priest enters. Baptism is “the Holy” building. Redemption is the “Holy of the Holy”. “The Holy of the Holies” is the bridal chamber. Baptism includes the resurrection and the redemption; the redemption (takes place) in the bridal chamber.

Another key feature of the Bridal Chamber is that it was said to have been decorated with mirrors. It would be through this ritual and the reflections that were observed would the initiate be able to bring children into the world in the sense of a creator. The Gospel of Philip ends with:

If anyone becomes a ‘son of the bridechamber’ he will receive the Light. If anyone does not receive it while he is in these places, he cannot receive it in the other place. He who receives any Light will not be seen, nor can he be held fast. No one will be able to trouble him in this way, whether he lives in the world or leaves the world. He has already received the Truth in images, and the World has become the Aeon. For the Aeon already exists for him as Pleroma, and he exists in this way. It is revealed to him alone, since it is not hidden in darkness and night but is hidden in a perfect Day and a holy Night.

Much of the Gospel of Philip deals with the discussion of marriage as a sacred mystery, and there are two passages that directly refer to Mary Magdalene and her close relationship with Jesus:

There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each Mary.


As for Wisdom who is called “the barren”, she is the mother [of the] angels. And the companion of the […] Mary Magdalene. [… loved] her more than [all] the disciples [and used to] kiss her [often] on her […]. The rest of [the disciples…] They said to him, “Why do you love her more than all of us?” The Savior answered and said to them, “Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in the darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness.

One might wonder where this idea of sexual rituals gets intertwined with Christianity and if it’s something that was ever actually practiced by Jesus and Mary within the sense of a divine marriage or if it was just a later gnostic perversion of the original message of Christ. For a clue, we might need to consider the missing years of Christ and the idea that he could have spent some time in India early on. Could this be a tantric practice that was westernized through Jesus and Mary?

Within Buddhism and more specifically the tantric tradition there is something that is known as “yab-yum” which is a sexual ritual that has to do with a male deity in a tantric union with a female deity as his consort. In a symbolic sense, it is significant and is associated with the Anuttarayoga tantra in that the male figure is usually linked to compassion and skillful means while the female partner is associated with insight. Therefore, yab-yum is generally thought to be a representation of a mystical or primordial union of wisdom and compassion.

There is also the Sanskrit term maithuna, which is most often translated as a sexual union within a ritualistic context. The word itself is associated with the union of opposing forces. It’s a popular icon in ancient Hindu art. Traditionally it’s in relation to Tantric sex in that the goal is the retention of sexual fluids. Instead, it’s a practice to prolong the sexual climax for as long as possible. The couple becomes for the time being an embodiment of the divine. The female is a representation of Shakti and the male being a representation of Shiva. They confront the ultimate reality through the experience of bliss in the union. It is the most important of the five makara and constitutes the main part of the grand ritual of Tantra variously known as Panchamakara, Panchatattva, and Tattva Chakra.

So we are talking about a group of people that essentially hold sex in high regard religiously speaking. Which would later become a theme in the occult tradition and how they would leverage sexual encounters in various ways whether it be for a more holistic approach or more dubious reasons like blackmail. Aleister Crowley and the OTO would have many sexual practices associated with the initiatory system of their order, and to understand the history of that order we have to look at the occult traditions that come out of France. In many ways, the sexual ritualistic practices vary greatly from east to west. Opposed to what was just described there seems to be a more violent aspect that came with the rise of Christianity in the West due to sexual repression. This could be linked to other older more ancient traditions which were later Christianized. One may be the sexual rituals that were associated with the goddess Inanna or Ishtar.

Inanna is an ancient Mesopotamian goddess that has been traditionally associated with love, beauty, sex, war, justice, and political power. She would later be worshipped by the Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians by the name of Ishtar. Known as the “Queen of Heaven” she would later be associated with the “Whore of Babylon”. Her cult was associated with several sexual rites. She is alluded to in the Hebrew Bible as an influence for the Phoenician goddess Astoreth, who in turn influenced the Greek goddess Aphrodite.

She has also been associated with the history of dominatrixes. Ancient cuneiform texts like the “Hymns to Inanna” have been examples of a powerful sexual female displaying dominating behaviors forcing Gods and men into submission of her. The rituals have included cross-dressing, and various other aspects that allude to pain and ecstasy. Her cult has been associated with sacred prostitution, a practice that has been known by various names such as temple prostitution, cult prostitution, and religious prostitution. Modern pagans have associated these practices with sex magic. It’s thought that the temples that were dedicated to these early goddesses of sex had in their temple a high priestess that would engage in the act of ritualistic prostitution. It was from this practice that the legends associated with the Whore of Babylon arose.

By the 1700s, France was a major hub of “Satanic” literature. This included fictional novels like Justine to grimoires with instructions on making a deal with the devil. In Marquis de Sade’s novel Justine, we get fictional accounts of crucifixes and holy relics being defiled as well as one of the first mentions of a Black Mass that included a description of a satanic ritual including a 12-year-old girl. Napoleon Bonaparte would eventually have de Sade arrested for this controversial work and he would spend the last 13 years of his life in jail. Then in 1891, Joris-Karl Huysmans published a Satanic novel called La-bas which included a detailed description of a Black Mass. Some have suggested he came to know this information first hand because of Black masses that were carried out by Abbé Étienne Guibourg in Paris at the time.

A Black Mass is something that is practiced by satanic groups and became popularized in French literature. It’s very much a continuation of these sex rituals of the past in they ascribed sexual activity to some sort of ritualistic religious context. It’s an inversion of the traditional Catholic Mass but with various perversions.

Early Church Fathers began to note heretical groups that began to practice their own version of mass that was often incorporated with perverse sexual aspects. The Eucharist can take various forms. The Borborites for example for a gnostic sect that were accused of smearing their hands with menstrual blood and semen consuming them as the blood and body of Christ. There are also descriptions of people drinking menstrual blood from women of the Church. They were even accused of extracting fetuses from pregnant women and consuming them particularly if the woman accidentally became pregnant during a related sex ritual.

One of the most influential occultists in history comes out of France by the name of Eliphas Levi. He would come to be known because of his rendition of Baphomet as a satanic goat. Levi is mentioned here not because of his status as an occultist but because of his association with this iconic figure.

After all, it was in 1307 that many templars in France were burnt at the stake for supposedly worshipping an idol they called Mohomet, which is a translation of Baphomet. This has caused Templars and their tradition to be associated with Satanism by some, although it would later be revealed that Templars could have actually been venerating a skull of Dogebert II who was a Merovingian king that they would refer to as Mahomet. A word meaning veneration. So there is a connection here that still remains unclear, but in modern times we are somewhat able to piece together the puzzle.

The Gnostic Church would be reinvented in France in 1890 by Jules Doinel. It would become known to us as the Gnostic Church of France. It was technically a neognostic organization and the first modern gnostic group. Jules Doinel was an esoteric freemason and was versed in various aspects of the occult world.

While working in a library he found a manuscript from 1022 relating to pre-Cathar gnostic doctrines. Much of the information was related to the Orléans heresy alluding to practices ranging from asceticism, celibacy, or vegetarianism to more extreme accusations such as Eucharist made of human ashes, sex orgies, spitting on the cross, and Devil worship. Considering how polarizing the accusations were or how benign they could have been, we can see how these early gnostic Christians of France might have run into some issues with the Church. Doinel claimed that he had a vision of Christ and in this vision, he was instructed to establish a new Church. He also had attended a séance in the oratory of the Countess of Caithness, who was a contemporary of Helena Blavatsky, where he thought he was visited by spirits of the Abigensians encouraging him to create this new gnostic church. He would take on the name of ‘Valentinus II, Bishop of the Holy Assembly of the Paraclete and of the Gnostic Church’ after the early Christian gnostic Valentinus who had links to the sexual rituals relating to bridal chambers, etc. In 1892 he would consecrate the founder of Martinism, along with several other Martinists.

Martinists have an interesting connection to the Rennes-le-Chateau mystery as we have outlined in previous articles. In 1908 there was a schism within the church that Doinel had founded when a bishop of Lyons, Jean Bicaurd, renamed his branch to the Catholic Gnostic Church. It would change names again becoming the Universal Gnostic Church and would become the official church of the Martinist Order and the ecclesiastical arm of the O.T.O. Martinism emerged in France stemming from earlier traditions it’s considered a form of Christian mysticism as a kind of esoteric Christianity, and thus shouldn’t be directly associated with the more satanic things that have been mentioned. Martinism as it’s known could be thought of as a “good” esoteric order and deals with the “reintegration” or illumination of the initiate. It was passed on through high-degree freemasons and officially established around 1740 in France by a Martinez de Pasqually. It would later be split into some different forms by his two students Louis Claude de Saint-Martin and Jean Baptiste Willermoz.

The term Martinism as we have come to know it today comes from the reorganized “Martinist Order” which was founded in 1886 by Augustin Chabosaeu and Gerard Encausee. This has caused the term to be used quite loosely and the founding of the true tradition to become obfuscated. It can be thought of in three main branches. Elus Coëns, which is Hebrew meaning “the elect priest” or “the chosen”. The Elus-Cohens were founded by Martinez de Pasqually, who was Saint-Martin’s teacher but was likely a continuation of some branch of the Rosicrucian tradition.

The highest degrees of the Order of the Elus-Cohen were known as the Shrine. The Shrine itself consisted of three more degrees of which the highest was the Master Reau-Crois, where evocations of entities belonging to the Divine Plane were carried out in white magic rituals there were done in an attempt to combat black magic. This makes the distinction that at this level it would be a magical order not just a mystical one. The main evocation that was used was of “Mender”, Jehoshua, and the methods to do this were of the Key of Solomon, including the use of circles, names of angels, planetary hours and symbols.

Another branch is that of the Scottish Rectified Rite or Chevaliers Bienfaisants de la Cité-Sainte (CBCS). Originally a Masonic rite connected to the Order of Strict Observance, this is a reformed version of an even older order that is controlled by a group of “unknown superiors”. This group functions as a group of people that essentially practice nudge theory, keeping initiates “on the path”.

Then the last and most known branch of Martinism is the one that has been associated with its modern founders a secret society of a select group that focused on an emphasis on meditation and inner spiritual alchemy. Saint-Martin did not consider his path as an “order” per se, but more of a small circle of students around him where he could transmit teaching and pass along messages. This has traditionally been known as the “talking circle“.

One very influential Martinist and Freemason was an Anglo-German tantric occultist named Theodor Reuss. In 1880, in Munich, Reuss participated in an attempt to revive Adam Weishaupt’s Bavarian Order of the Illuminati. In 1885 he would join the Socialist League in England but would be expelled in 1886 when he was outed for being a police spy being paid by the Prussian Secret Police, which has historically come to have a bad reputation as it would be the model for which the later Gestapo would be founded. In 1895, he began to discuss the formation of Ordo Templi Orientis with Carl Kellner. He would also be known by his neo-Gnostic bishop title Carolus Albertus Theodorus Peregrinus.

While Reuss was spending time in England, he became friends with William Wynn Westcott, who was the Supreme Magus of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia and also one of the founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. In 1888 he would again try to revive the Order of the Illuminati. Westcott would provide Reuss with a charter dated July 26, 1901, for the Swedenborgian Rite of Masonry and a letter of authorization dated from February 24, 1902, to found a High Council in Germania of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia. Gérard Encausse, the Martinist, provided him with a charter dated June 24, 1901, designating him Special Inspector for the Martinist Order in Germany.

Reuss would later go on in 1910 to make Aleister Crowley VII° of O.T.O. because of Crowley’s having been given the 33° by Don Jesus Medina in an irregular Scottish Rite lodge in Mexico City, and in 1912, he conferred upon him the IX° and appointed him National Grand Master General X° for the O.T.O. In 1913 Reuss became the Grand Master of the Rite of Memphis-Misraim, which was a masonic group that had included the revolutionaries Louis Blanc and Giuseppe Garibaldi amongst its ranks. As well as even possibly Bérenger Saunière of the Mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau. He would later go on to charter the Swiss O.T.O lodge in 1918. On July 17, 1920, he attended the Congress of the “World Federation of Universal Freemasonry” in Zürich, which lasted several days. Reuss advocated the adoption of the religion of Crowley’s Gnostic Mass as the “official religion for all members of the World Federation of Universal Freemasonry in possession of the 18° of the Scottish Rite.”

From that point in history, Switzerland would then be associated with all sorts of strange acts that people would question. Mainly a somewhat questionable organization called the Sankt Gallen Mafia. According to the Alta Vendita, which was a branch of the Italian Carbonari who used the book to lay out their plan to spend decades overthrowing the internal structure of the Vatican and eventually control the Pope. The book was issued to every Carbonari lodge under the signature of “Nubius”, which was thought to be the pseudonym of the supreme leader.

The document details an alleged Masonic plan to infiltrate the Catholic Church and spread liberal ideas within it. The Sankt Gallen Group essentially functions in a similar manner in that it covers for much of the corruption involved in the Church and has had influence in selecting a Pope. They are even known to hold snuff film parties like described in the video here. So as you can see there is certainly an interesting history in the line of this gnostic tradition that came to be associated with the modern church. It’s been subject to much controversy over the years and will likely continue to be so going into the future.


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