Nizier Anthelme Philippe (1849-1905), sometimes referred to as Monsieur Philippe, Maître Philippe or Maître Philippe de Lyon, was one of the most famous French thaumaturges and impressive clairvoyants of the 19th century.
Nizier was the son of Joseph Philippe (1819-1898) and Marie Vachot (1823-1899). A few months before his birth, his pregnant mother visited the Curé d’Ars (a saint named Jean-Marie Vianney) who revealed to her that her son would be a very high being.
From a very young age, he was known for his “strange powers”. Mastering his powers came naturally, and from a young age; there is no evidence that he ever studied with or under anyone to refine or control them: “I was not even six years old and already the village priest was worried about certain manifestations, about which I was not yet aware. At the age of thirteen, I acquired the powers to heal, even though I was still incapable of taking account of the strange things that went on inside of me.”
Maître Philip cared for thousands of people free of charge, without asking for anything; except for efforts to do good. Many of his healings were considered miracles. He said that he healed through the power of prayer and command, and explained that he was using a force absolutely unknown on earth, a force beyond all understanding, which Christ himself used to perform many of his miracles. He called this force “the fourth pole of magnetism” and described it as follows: “It is not a current, but rather a Light; it represents the union of ‘Love one another’… no initiate knows it”.
Maître Philip received various attacks from the media, doctors and politicians in France and Russia; some of his detractors accused him of using witchcraft to heal people. He nevertheless aroused the admiration and received the friendship of Tsar Nicholas II, the King of Italy, the Emperor of Austria, the German Emperor Wilhelm II, the King of the United Kingdom Edward VII among others, and also of several of the most important members of the esoteric scene of the early 20th century, including Doctor Gérard Encausse (Papus), Doctor Emmanuel Lalande (Marc Haven), George Descormiers (Phaneg) and Yvon Leloup (Sédir). Sédir was so much influenced by Maître Philippe that he later abandoned all esoteric studies and dedicated himself exclusively to living and spreading the Gospel.
Nizier Anthelme Philippe was born on April 25, 1849, in a hamlet of Loisieux, district of Chambéry, in the kingdom of Sardinia, which was not attached to France until 1860. Eldest of a family of five children, his parents were Joseph Philippe, a small owner and cultivator, and Marie Vachod. According to the legend, Philippe would have healed and relieved from his youngest age, and according to his own testimony to a journalist in 1905, he would have made his first healing at the age of 13.
After his first communion in May 1862, his parents sent him to work at L’Arbresle as a boy-tripper. A few months later, he became an apprentice butcher with his maternal uncle at La Croix-Rousse, a hill in Lyon. He stayed there for a short time and it is precisely there that he publicly showed for the first time his healing abilities.
The first ‘healing’
When he cut the tendons of his thumb and index of the left hand while gutting an animal, he repositioned the thumb that was partially severed, bleeding profusely, and began to pray. He asked God to reconnect the thumb back to the hand; a few moments later, the blood coagulated, and the miracle occurred. When a doctor inspected the wound in hospital shortly afterwards, he merely applied a protective bandage, noting the wound was not likely to infect. But despite such miraculous healing, when he enlisted for war in 1870, it is known that he did not remain an active soldier for long, because of this injury. The miraculous healing of this injury soon spread throughout the quarter, and the young butcher was solicited for the smallest of accidents. It meant that he had to choose in which direction to take his life forward, and after a series of “séances”, in which he healed the sick, in 1872, he decided to open a cabinet, in his adopted town of Lyon, where people could come to consult him on an individual basis. The career from butcher to healer had a further advantage: he had wanted to study, but had not been allowed; now, he wanted to recommence his studies, and train in medicine.
The money he earned allowed him to enrol in the institution Sainte-Barbe, held by Abbot Chevalier, where he obtained a grammar certificate. In 1870, during the war between France and Prussia, Philippe relieved the sick he received in the Perrache district of Lyon. During the same period, he is said to have saved the young Jean Chapas, 7 years old and victim of meningitis, who would then become his disciple in 1883.
Studies and marriage
In 1872, Nizier Philippe opened a consulting room in the Brotteaux district. From November 1874 to July 1875, he deposited four registrations for health officers at the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy in Lyon. He was denounced for care activities deemed illegal and his fifth registration was refused in 1875. This was probably because medicine, then as now, was modern medicine, focusing on diagnosis and the prescription of a cocktail of pharmaceuticals to help the patient. Nizier was closer to the “primitive shamans”, who conformed to an “old vision” of healing, in which the task of the doctor was to literally restore health, rather than diagnose and prescribe. As such, Nizier was able to heal better than most doctors, but through unconventional methods. Unsurprisingly, this caused jealousy with fellow students and assistants, if only because their “science” – their methodology – was clearly not present in such miraculous healings.
Still, his formal education added a new dimension to his healing skill: Nizier would become an even better analyst. When a young woman complained that she was short of breath, suffered violent pains on her side and could hardly stand, everyone in his class was unable to diagnose her. But Nizier stated she suffered from a double pulmonary embolism – a very scientific proclamation – followed by the almost biblical “Stand up, now you are healed”. The patient stood up, and immediately no longer felt any pain
Rather than praise Nizier for his diagnostic and healing capabilities, he was blamed for having treated someone without having the proper degree; his licence to work at the hospital was revoked, noting as reason that “he performs occult medicine and is a veritable charlatan”.
After this incident he interrupted his studies and became a self-taught “chemist”. It seems that his laboratory activities were first linked to dyeing for the silk industry and then they evolved towards the creation of “remedies”. In 1879, his first patents related to the ‘Philippine’, a water and ointment to keep one’s hair, and the ‘Philippe Toothpaste’, in powder and liquid.
On October 6, 1877, Philippe married Jeanne Julie Landar, a former patient and the daughter of a wealthy deceased industrialist from Lyon; the marriage brought him financial ease. On September 11, 1878, Victoire Jeanne Philippe was born. A second child, Albert, was born on February 11, 1881, but he died only a few months old.
In 1884, he obtained by correspondence the title of doctor of medicine from the American university of Cincinnati in Ohio. His thesis dealt with the “Principle of hygiene to apply in pregnancy, childbirth and the duration of childbirth” and he used the pseudonym Philippe d’Arbresle. It seems that two health officers at his service, Radiers father and son, intervened in the writing of the manuscript. In 1886, the Royal Academy of Rome gave him the honorary title of Doctor of Medicine. However, back at home, on November 3, 1887, he was condemned for illegally practicing medicine; a second condemnation followed in 1890.
The cabinet in Lyon
From 1883, Nizier Philippe opened a magnetism practice in his private mansion at 35 rue Tête-d’Or in Lyon. Every day, he would heal the souls and bodies of dozens of people who came to ask for healing and relief. Even though he had his licence revoked for treating someone without having the proper degree, it was about all the authorities could do. Maître Philippe seldom touched his patients, so they could not go for more outlandish claims of malpractice, if not worse. Rich and poor would have benefited from his services for more than 20 years and Philippe had the same behaviour with everyone. Whether one was well-off or in precarious situation, he asked everyone to make an effort not to speak ill of his neighbour or to “return good for evil”.
From 1882 to 1888, Philippe was involved in the social life of the commune of l’Arbresle, where his in-laws lived, becoming town councillor and deputy mayor. He was also appointed fire captain of the commune, a title that he kept even though he was not re-elected, and for this reason the press of the time published hostile articles.
One of his admirers, Mathilde Theuriet, introduced him to her future husband, Papus, pseudonym of Gérard Encausse, a doctor and occultist. The two men became friends and Papus, who soon considered him his spiritual master, introduced him to the most important occultists and esotericists of the time, some of whom would also become disciples of Philip.
Although, the meeting of Papus and Maître Philippe was very peculiar. At the beginning Papus thought that Nizier exercised “some illicit fascination” over his fiancée. He then tried to perform an occult ritual of gypsy magic trying to defend her, but according to Sédir, the ritual backfired when he tried to attack Nizier. Papus believed that he was victim of telepathic suggestions from Nizier; he had prepared a magic circle and when he was about using his magical sword to astrally defeat he supposed enemy… “He raises his arm, and his sword was torn from his fist, while he collapsed crying. He was in that state when I arrived half an hour later, as was my custom. From then on, and until 1897, he remained silent about M. Philippe”.
What has been described in details by Sédir (of which I haven’t translated the full story here) seems to be a dangerous operation of gypsy magic, certainly not theurgic. I believe that Papus, at the beginning of his studies, was perhaps in danger of following a dangerous path, probably because he was studying by himself and didn’t have a ‘Master’. It was not a coincidence that he then met what he described as his “spiritual master”, Master Philippe, who in my opinion distanced him from some deviant forms of ceremonial magic.
In 1894, it is said that Maître Philippe introduced John Chapas in a meeting and announced that he would be his successor in the healings. Chapas became his assistant in the service to the sick .The prediction would have occurred the following year when John Chapas would have developed the gifts of a healer.
In 1893, Hector Durville founded a School of Magnetism in Paris, with the help of Papus as assistant director, who wanted Maître Philippe to open a similar school in Lyon, which he did in October 1895. However, many sources report that this “school” had little to do with magnetism and that it was largely Philippe doing what he did before: his own specific way of healing. Indeed, it is unclear why Papus would have insisted that Philippe practiced something that might help some with no native abilities, but which would obviously have limited Nizier in using his own abilities. Alternatively, perhaps Papus was hoping that with Maître Philippe’s help, magnetism might become a more powerful method of healing than it was, thus bringing about “medicine that would heal”.
In 1896, Papus proposed to his friend doctor Emmanuel Lalande, better known as Marc Haven, to come to Lyon to assist Philippe. Emmanuel Lalande later married Nizier’s daughter Victoire on September 2, 1897. That same year, Philippe and his son-in-law set up a laboratory on rue du Bœuf in Lyon, where they would develop several medicines. In 1899, Philippe is said to have saved the life of Jean Chapas a second time, victim of typhoid fever.
Philippe’s fame reached the knowledge of the Grand Duchess Militza Nikolaevna of Russia, who introduced Philippe to Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in 1901. The Russian imperial couple, Tsar Nicolas II and his wife were in dispair of not having a male heir. Philip, who made a favourable impression, was invited to stay in Russia twice. His status as a healer was respected, the Tsar awarded him the title of Doctor of Medicine of the Imperial Academy of Military Medicine of St. Petersburg, with the rank of general in 1901, and is known to have sought out his opinion in all types of matters. In the same year Nizier announced to the Tsar the birth of a son in 1904, which would later be followed by a military defeat and the Revolution. All prophesies that later proved to be true.
The European press started to wonder about this new member of the court, as well as the police and the Church. The influence of what was wrongly called the “mage” had to be combated and all the weapons were good, including the secrecy of the confessional, where the court and the Emperor’s entourage were being manipulated to put an end to the foreign interference. Philippe returned to Lyon for the first time in 1902, unaware that his next trip to Russia will be his last.
During his last trip to Russia, the influence of the thaumaturge continued to be diminished by all means. Nizier had to face many pressures and attacks through the press. He lost the support of the Romanov family by supposedly giving “uncertain predictions”. The court took advantage of this to discredit him, laughing at the man who was not from the nobility. Everyone, without knowing it, were instrumental in preparing the arrival of a new “mage”: Rasputin. Faced with pressure, Philippe left Russia to return to Lyon, but the troubles continued.
The French government did not recognise the Russian title of doctor he obtained in Russia, the press published hostile articles and the police exercised an increased surveillance on him. In 1903, Maître Philippe announced in the sessions that his disciple Jean Chapas will succeed him in the cures until 1922.
The last years
Maître Philippe own death was preceded by great personal loss. In August 1904, his daughter Victoire Philippe fell ill and everyone in his immediate family obviously asked for him to heal her. He replied: “The will of the Heavens is that she leaves; nevertheless, to prove to you that Heaven can do anything, she will get better for two days, but on the third, she will return to the state she is in now.” Indeed, this happened; she died on August 29, 1904. During her burial, he said how he had to sacrifice his daughter, that he was denied the right to heal her and that she had gone over to “smooth the path”. “This death has crucified me alive.”
From February 1905 onwards, Philippe’s personal health deteriorated; he could no longer leave his home and when his predicted time of death came, he apparently stood up from his chair (those in the room not noticing as they were distracted by a noise outside), and collapsed on the floor, dead, apparently without a sound. Two years before, in February 1903, he had begun to make preparations for his departure, saying farewell to his inner circle, telling them that Jean Chapas would continue once he had departed. And, indeed, Chapas held séances until his own death in 1932.
The day after his death, La Dépêche de Lyon announced “Philippe was a brave man who, if he did not always recover, did a lot of good around him. His liberality was proverbial, and many poor people of fortune will mourn him”. His body is buried in the Loyasse cemetery, alongside his daughter. The tomb of the Philippe family has been continuously in bloom since this date.
Jean Chapas, is his closest disciple, was born on February 12, 1863, to a family of fishermen from the Saône river.
In 1870, Maître Philippe is said to have saved the life of Jean Chapas who died when he was only 7 years old. Jean-Baptiste Ravier, a close disciple of Maître Philippe, reported the resurrection of Jean Chapas by Maître Philippe as follows:
“After Jean Chapas had been declared dead by two doctors and just before the funeral, Maître Philippe was brought to the house of the deceased, which was full of family members and friends. Upon entering the room of the deceased where Jean Chapas had been dressed for his burial, Maître Philippe tried to find the mother of Jean Chapas and then asked her ‘Madame Chapas, will you give me your son?’. Not really knowing what was happening Madame Chapas answered ‘Yes’, so Maître Philippe went to the edge of the bed where Jean Chapas’ body was lying and resuscitated him saying ‘Jean, I give you back your soul’.
In 1878, at the age of fifteen, Jean Chapas was called by Philippe to join him in Lyon and he became a privileged disciple.
In 1895, in the school of magnetism directed by Nizier Philippe, he was lecturer in charge of the history of magnetism.
In 1897, Jean Chapas married Louise Grandjean, daughter of a carpenter.
In 1903, he took over from Nizier Philippe and officiated in the private mansion on rue Tête-d’Or.
In 1907, he was tried for the illegal practice of medicine and was acquitted. A few years later, he transformed the Clos Santa Maria, located in l’Arbresle, into a military hospital to receive the wounded of the First World War (1914-1918).
On September 2, 1932, Jean Chapas died. He lies in the Loyasse cemetery, two alleys behind the tomb of Maître Philippe.
It was only after his death that it was discovered that Maître Philippe was paying the rent of 52 families too poor to find housing. After this discovery, Jean Chapas, his faithful disciple and successor, continued to pay all the rents until he himself died. One of his relatives, Claude Laurent, described Maître Philippe as being uncategorizable, as belonging to no initiatory society, remaining an enigma for all.
Chapas was but one of a series of disciples, which also included Paul Sédir, Cyril Scott, as well as Jean de Rignies – even though the latter was only born in 1917 (he died in 2001). De Rignies, who was related to Papus, said that one day, the voice of Maître Philippe manifested himself in his spirit. De Rignies said that the manifestation was an awakening, the beginning of a quest, in which he had to find a lost valley with a spring, the traces of an old castle, an abbey, somewhere in the Aude region, and not far from Rennes-le-Château. In the end, he would find this location, in what is now known as the Domaine de la Salz, high in the hills above Rennes-les-Bains, near that magical mountain Bugarach. Why he should go there, has never been communicated; perhaps Philippe had a plan?
Some have chosen to leave Maître Philippe as an enigma, portraying him as a man with abilities he himself did not understand. But from his own words, which some took great care to record faithfully, a consistent framework can be constructed as to what he believed, and how he believed his healing worked.
“I am nothing, absolutely nothing”, often said Maître Philippe.