Monday, July 14, 2014

The Archeometer & Alexandre Saint-Yves

Alexandre Saint-Yves, Marquis of Alveydre (1842 – 1909) was a French occultist. His ideas were adapted by Papus. He developed the term Synarchy—the association of everyone with everyone else—into a political philosophy. His Hermetic Metaphysics associated everything with everything else.

Saint-Yves used the term Synarchy in his book La France vraie as a political response to the emergence of anarchist ideologies and movements; Synarchy, as opposed to anarchy.  Saint-Yves hoped for a European society whose government would be composed of three councils, representing the economic, the judicial, and the scientific; a metaphysical chamber bound the whole structure together. These ideas were also influenced by works such as Plato's The Republic and Martinism.

Alexandre Saint-Yves d'Alveydre, gave an important role to esoteric societies which are composed of oracles and who safeguarded the government from behind the scenes. He was involved with a number of Freemasonic and other groups who claimed descent from the Knights Templars.

After Saint-Yves's death, portions of the writings he left behind were compiled into a volume entitled l'Archéomètre. The title was taken from Saint-Yves's name for a color-coded diagram he developed, showing symbolic correspondences between elements in astrology, music, alphabets, gematria, and other things. This book has been translated into Spanish, and was translated into English for the first time in 2007

Saint-Yves's main disciple was the prominent occultist Papus who established a number of societies based on Synarchist ideas. Other followers included Victor Blanchard, Nizier Anthelme Philippe, René A. Schwaller de Lubicz and Emile Dantinne. Saint-Yves' works were also utilized in the development of Theosophy and Rudolf Steiner felt Synarchy to be a major influence.

Joscelyn Godwin is best able to offer some perspective on this massive effort:

"When one opens the heavy folio volume entitled The Archeometer: Key to All the Religions and All Sciences of Antiquity; Synthetic Reformation of All Contemporary Arts, something tells one that it may not quite live up to its ambitions. Unfortunately the work of Saint-Yves d’Alveydre which bears this resounding title is not even the work of his own hand: it is a collection made by Papus (Gérard Encausse) and other “Friends of Saint-Yves” of some fragments from the universal synthesis that the great esotericist was putting in order when death interrupted him in 1909. Although it would be churlish to underrate the devotion of this group, and particularly that of its leaders, Papus and Dr. Auguste-Edouard Chauvet, it must be said that they were worried, up to the last minute, about the principles and the coherence of their compilation. Thanks to the patronage of Count and Countess Keller, Saint-Yves’ son- and daughter-in-law and his heirs, for the elegant edition of L’Archéomètre, with its many illustrations and colored plates.

Nevertheless, the serious scholar will know to refer to another explanation of the system, also called L’Archéomètre, published between 1910 and 1912 in twelve numbers of the short-lived review La Gnose: the periodical that also carried the astonishing articles of the 21-year-old René Guénon. The articles on the Archeometer are signed “T,” the pen-name of the journal’s editor, Alexandre Thomas (also known as “Marnes”). They are thought to be based on information furnished by F.-Ch. Barlet (= Albert Faucheux), another friend of Saint-Yves who had evidently parted company from the official “Friends.” Guénon supplied some very erudite notes, mostly on the Hindu tradition. But all in all, one is at a loss to find any indications of the original source of this imposing and ambitious scheme. Should one regard it as traditional doctrine, as independent revelation, as pure fantasy, or as an inextricable mixture of all these?

For Papus, the work of the man he acknowledged as his “intellectual master” went, like much else, without criticism or question. 

Here we are concerned solely with the enigmatic figure of the Marquis himself, and in the circumstances which led him to construct so profound and so personal a system. There was a time when one might accept some individual’s system as an infallible dogma; but we have seen too many of them! All the same, the Archeometer remains a true summation of the intellectual and esoteric currents of the nineteenth century, just as Saint-Yves himself—more than Papus, Stanislaus de Guaita, or Péladan—is the archetypal “universal man” of the Symbolist (and “decadent”) period. He is the supreme Hermeticist of his epoch.

There is fortunately a third primary source for archeometric studies: Saint-Yves’ own manuscripts, willed by Papus (died 1916) to some public library, and eventually deposited by his son, Dr. Philippe Encausse, in the Sorbonne Library in 1938, as part of the enormous “Papus Bequest” (including several hundred books, many of them from Saint-Yves’ own collection). Our interest here is not in the heap of papers concerning the posthumous edition of L’Archéomètre, but rather in the scruffy school notebooks in which Saint-Yves recorded and worked out his systems, philosophy, schemata, and visions. Sometimes written in a fine, flowery hand, sometimes in a scarcely legible scrawl, these notebooks reveal a part, at least, of the events that preceded the elaboration of the Archeometer as it is found in the printed sources.

The life and work of Saint-Yves have not yet been described adequately in English, which is a pity since he is often mentioned superficially. The reader of French needs only to be referred to Jean Saunier’s indispensable book. We meet him in 1885, aged 43: the author of a mystical book on Life, Death, and the Sexes (Clefs de l’Orient), a huge historical study ( des Juifs), and a few other books on politics and poetry. He was living in a fine house near the Etoile with his aristocratic wife Marie-Victoire (born de Riznitch), his senior by fourteen years; dreaming up developments of his theory of ideal government which he called Synarchy; and beginning to study Sanskrit. At this point, the Archeometer did not exist. We will follow its progress through a series of six “revelations”—for that is how they seemed to Saint-Yves, whether given by more or less mysterious Orientals, by the soul of his wife (who died in 1895), or in response to his prayers and meditations. They are:

1. The Vattanian Alphabet (1885)
2. The Aum (1885-86)
3. The cosmic correspondences of Vattan (1885-86)
4. The Definition of Life (1896)
5. The table entitled “The Heavens declare” (1897)
6. The Triangle of Jesus (1898)"

I will not deign to offer an opinion on this work other than to say that it is as mind boggling as it is fascinating. As Joscelyn Godwin states best, it is "something tells one that it may not quite live up to its ambitions" and it appears "in a form more fit for admiration than for comprehension."

Still, as I said, it is fascinating, and I cannot fail to share it. Take from it what you will. I know that I will give it all my best shot.

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