The Canopus Revelation 

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Plantard: the pre-Priory of Sion enigma

Philip Coppens


Plantard and the Priory of Sion go hand in hand, so much so that no-one is paying any attention to how he first gained his notoriety - and I do not mean the alleged convictions of child abuse. Before focussing the world's attention on Rennes-le-Chateau, Plantard and Gerard de Sède had teamed up for the book Les templiers sont parmi nous (The Templars Are Amongst Us), in which de Sède tackled the mystery of Gisors and the bizarre claims of Roger Lhomoy. In essence, Lhomoy had stated that as caretaker of Gisors castle, he had stumbled upon an underground chamber. He had invited some people to witness this find, but then all hell broke loose, and Lhomoy was labelled a fraud - despite intriguing reference that his story might be true, and the claims of fraud were part of a carefully orchestrated disinformation campaign. However, these were the 60s and scepticism aimed at politicians had to wait another decade before Watergate made certain people's mind more aware of how the powers that are… were. Whether or not he was a bone of contention, de Sède wanted to discuss in this book. It is in the appendix to this book that de Sède introduces Pierre Plantard, who is "merely" introduced as an alchemist. There is no mention of Plantard being the Grand Master of the Priory of Sion, let alone that he is a Grand Master following in the footsteps of luminaries such as Isaac Newton or René d'Anjou. No, Pierre is just an everyday "Joe Alchemist", with an interest in Gisors, whose opinion, it seems, de Sède felt he should air as an appendix to his main work.

The appendix is definitely alchemical: various constellations are tossed into the alchemical soup, where Plantard makes them simmer for a number of minutes, before adding more imagery and magic squares to his alphabet soup. In the end, on first reading, it is not very comprehensible. For anyone with no alchemical interest or knowledge - no doubt 99.9 percent of de Sède's readers - this is gobbledygook. Without going into detail, Plantard had made his "alchemy soup" to try to "prove" that Gisors was really not just a castle, but was built with certain knowledge in mind, specifically knowledge concerning the stars, and how Gisors was located in accordance with stellar phenomena, thus making it a true "omphalos", a "sacred centre" of worship. In itself, this is not remarkable and fits well within the "1960s", where it would be argued that Montsegur was built to incorporate solar alignments to make it a "Solar Temple" for the Cathars, or Gerald Hawkins' endeavours to do the same for Stonehenge. Compared with these examples, it is clear that Plantard failed miserably in his attempt to lift Gisors above the crowd - and it should be stated that it is his own gobbledygook which is responsible for it.

For de Sède's next endeavour, the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau, Plantard would be transformed into the Grand Master of the Priory of Sion. A different tactic, but it is clear that Gisors was now forever abandoned. However, the appendix was precisely what caught the attention of two authors: de Santillana and von Dechend. Both were academics, writing an essay on star lore, Hamlet's Mill. The book itself has a chequered history: it was not published academically, but commercially, and though the book is quoted by the likes of Robert Bauval, Robert Temple and Graham Hancock, "serious academics" do not touch it with a bargepole. Again, it is because even though the book is not gobbledygook, it lacks clear focus and a central message. It is a collection of great source material, but not a "great read". The concept of saying what you want to prove, prove it, then state what you have just proven do not apply. Instead, it is a collection of "facts" grouped in various categories. Interesting, valuable, but ultimately suffering from the same faults as Plantard on his first outing. And this is where the remarkable happens: their apparently mutually exclusive worlds met, and Plantard became a footnote in the book.

"We should be glad to learn, moreover, where the archaeologist Pierre Plantard […] got hold of the information on "Canopus, l'oeuil sublime de l'architecte, qui s'ouvre trous les 70 ans pour contempler l'Univers." (p. 299)

The quote was from a de Sède's book: "The Chariot of the Sea, the White Ship of Juno with the sixty-three lights of which Canopus is one, the sublime eye of the architect, which opens every seventy years to contemplate the Universe, the ship Argo that transported the Golden Fleece, in Christianity the modest barque of Peter. It is the symbolic Ark where nothing profane can penetrate without incurring punishment: 'To the sacriligious a fall, to the thief death within a year.' Only those who are capable of working the cube of the wood of Mars - that magic 'die' entrusted to the vigilance of two children: Castor and Pollux - to perfection, in every sense, can enter there."

Trying to penetrate through the Hermetic as quickly as possible, the star Canopus was identified with the eye of God, who looked at the Universe every 70 years. Canopus is the second brightest star in the night's sky, but only visible South of 36 degrees North - hence completely invisible throughout France, let alone Gisors. Nevertheless, Plantard was saying that Gisors had been created with alignments to this star - which from an astronomical point was impossible; but from an alchemical point meant that Canopus and Gisors had a "subterranean connection". Canopus, situated South of Sirius, is the main star of the constellation Argo, the ship, and hence the numerous references to the Golden Fleece and the barque. In essence, Plantard describes it as a "star gate of the righteous", where the evil will fall or die, the righteous will… resurrect - though the latter is not specifically mentioned by Plantard. So where did Plantard get this from? - the question posed by de Santillana and von Dechend. It took me from approx. 1992 to 2003 to unravel this enigma; many people along the way, such as Wim Zitman and Clive Prince, tried to help, but in the end, it was something which was so remarkable and straightforward that I myself only realised it when the book had already been typeset - and hence had to go trough the entire process once again; pushing its publication from 2003 to 2004. To condense 100,000 words into a few paragraphs: Plantard had used knowledge from ancient Africa, which had been passed on to the ancient Egyptians, had been retained in the Hermetic writings, and had ended up with Plantard. This placed Canopus as the "Lighthouse of the Universe", who together with Sirius "regulated" the movements of the souls - at the same time, it was identified with the "centre of the Universe", the omphalos, from which Mankind had always aspired to reach Heaven and the Gods - a "star gate for the soul", for those hoping to end the cycle of incarnations and "become a God". Though on reading the above, it might seem difficult to realise, but - trust me - it is remarkable that Plantard in the 60s used this imagery to describe Gisors. And if you do not trust me, trust de Santillana and von Dechend, who expressed their amazement equally. What can we deduce from this? It shows that Plantard himself had "figured it out", or that he had friends who had told him - friends who had figured it out themselves, or had been part of the Hermetic tradition. The latter seems to be more logical. Furthermore, it suggests that this informal "passing on" of important esoteric lore - which, I believe, Plantard actually understood, though his wording might have specifically obscured the meaning - might have been the inspiration of the Priory of Sion. After all, the Priory of Sion was a list of people who, in an organised framework, had passed on important information. Plantard himself never specifically stated what the nature of that knowledge was and it was left to the likes of Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln to create a modern urban legend of Mary Magdalene creating the "Horus child" - in itself, it should be said, imagery, when taken at a purely symbolic level, that fits perfectly within the Canopus mythology. After all, the star Canopus was identified with the encoffined Osiris, set out on the Nile, eventually found by Isis, who would use the deceased body to create divine offspring, Horus, which became identified with the Egyptian Pharaohs. The jump to Jesus, Mary Magdalene and child who are the rightful kings of France is minimal - though at the same time too wide, as it is clear that too many have crossed from the symbolical to the literal interpretation, without any supporting evidence.

Hence, it is clear that long before Rennes-le-Chateau, Plantard had all the seeds to sow the future myth of the Priory of Sion. I also believe that Plantard's specific goal was noble, but was soon hijacked by, well, in essence, Rennes-le-Chateau enthusiasts, and transformed into something which Plantard never thought it could come to. That his efforts to create some "sacred geography" for Gisors would result in the sacred pentagrams of Rennes-le-Chateau by Lincoln or David Wood seems to have flabbergasted Plantard himself, if we are to interpret certain interviews Plantard gave afterwards. But, in the end, it is perhaps true to say that Plantard himself never carefully looked at his own alchemical thinking: playing with Canopus can be dangerous, and those who are noble (an adjective specifically linked in Africa and Arabia with Canopus) will prosper; those who are not, will fail. But, in the final analysis, it probably happened just it was supposed to happen…