A Casual Visit to Rennes-le-Chateaux on October 22, 2003
I had a wonderful four days at Rennes-le-Chateau (RleC), although I missed the opportunity to visit William Theaux, a Lacanian Psychoanalyst with whom I have been discussing the history of Akhenaten, Moses and Oedipus. He lives in Le Puy, along the autoroute, but my mother and I flew directly to Carcasonne. Over the past 20 years or so I have read many books on this Languedoc region in general (the Cathars) and this village in particular. So have a million other people, and RleC has become both a tourist village and a focus of pilgrimage.
The tourist aspect is evident everywhere: in the cafés and supermarkets more people speak English than French.
The pilgrimage aspect is also evident in that many of the 'tourists' carry one of many books written about this area, sit in clumps around tiny coffee tables and heatedly discuss whether Jesus' body was secretly spirited out of Judaea and carried to and buried in the Languedoc; or how the Jewish kingdom that was established there after the Romans exiled all Judaeans in 66 AD became amalgamated with other local kingdoms (Merovingians) and eventually their bloodline mixed with bloodlines of the French Kings; or how the Knights Templars protected the Cathars and left evidence of their presence everywhere.
I spent an hour with a couple of Italian writers who are working on a book about Rennes le Chateau. They see all sorts of Egyptian symbols in the work that Abbé Sauniere, the local priest who found some sort of secret at RleC in the 1890s and became rich overnight, built into his church during the major renovations he commissioned with his newfound money. Unfortunately these Italians spoke neither French nor English, so I learned nothing. But the coffee was good and strong, the way I like it!
Many of the local inhabitants are English or German and they contrast visibly with the indigenous French people who still speak a kind of patois I could not make sense of. One of these English people became my guide (I encountered her in the US where she was a speaker at the same conference where I spoke three years in a row). Together with an American family we traveled to a few places, but mostly spent time having lunches and dinners with local luminaries. A current, active Knight Templar (KT) who is the KT Commander of the entire Languedoc region owns one of the houses at RleC.
Thursday afternoon, as we were conversing after lunch, a telephone call came: Henry Lincoln was sitting at the Abbé's Café waiting for us. Lincoln was the one who put RleC on the tourist map for the English-speaking world. I had bought his latest book, the Key to something or another, so I grabbed it and off we went in several cars racing along these narrow, serpentine roads up and up into the mountaintop village of RleC. Sure enough, there was a lone old man in the walled Café gardens in traditional 'explorer' clothes (durable cotton khakis and olive drabs with pockets sprouting everywhere, many of them with zippers, some with maps and papers hanging out). Along this studied dress code came the wide-brimmed hat and Lincoln's personal eccentricity: being barefoot in open sandals.
Since I, also, was wearing a wide brimmed Tilley hat, we recognized the 'explorer' signature in one another. My guide introduced us and I had one of the livelier conversations during this short trip to France. Lincoln is fact oriented, something I became aware of while reading his book, so I questioned some of his speculations (interpretations, fantasies) and then offered some of my own about an Egyptian connection. I proposed that Poussin's 'tomb' (now destroyed), being across the road from a standing stone, and containing the word 'Arcadie' is nothing less than a code for Sakkara, the great cemetery near Memphis, in Egypt, which has been known under the 300 year old French administration as Arcadie. The road, then, would represent the Nile River, and the standing stone the obelisks of Heliopolis. I proceeded to introduce Lincoln to William's theory that Akhenaten=Moses=Oedipus and these three were eventually remembered as Hermes Trismegistus (AMO=H3).
There is an Ashmounein connection. Hermopolis Magna, across the Nile river from Akhetaten, according to the local Coptic (Egyptian Christian) lore, was the place Jesus visited when his parents took him out of Judaea to escape Herod. Jesus tried to re-present the simplified version of Moses to the Jews, and just as the Jews rejected Moses (God did not allow him to enter the promised land, so, according to William, he went on to Greece and became Oedipus) a thousand years before, they rejected Jesus also. Lincoln was all ears, admitting that the idea had potential and he needed to think about it.
At 5:00 PM the Café closed and the Church opened. Lincoln took us into Sauniere's opus magnum and proceeded to point out the anomalies the Abbé had built and painted into it. One of these was Joseph on the left of the altar, and Mary on the right, each holding a baby in their arms. These, Lincoln said, were twins, Jesus and Thomas. "Why Thomas?" I asked. Because, he answered, Thomas was not a personal name before Jesus was born. It was a Hebrew word for 'twin'! In the New Testament, one of the Apostles is called Thomas Didimus, and even Didimus, which means 'twin' in Greek (John 11:16). But then the name 'Thomas' also means 'twin' (Matthew 10:3)! So Lincoln pointed out that someone in the New Testament (John 11:16) went out of their way to say ‘twin’ and Sauniere, also without saying it aloud, built the twins right into the church sculpture.
Lincoln proceeded to show us a dozen other anomalies, things that were not quite the right biblical translations, paintings that contravened Hebrew customs and, therefore, meant something else than what they depicted. Finally he showed us a square column in the church gardens with a statue of Jesus on top. It had four inscriptions. Three of these were normal Christian paeans to Christ: Christ saves, Christ rules, Christ commands. But the fourth was unusual. The carving was Christe AOMPS Defende, AOMPS is not a Biblical subject. It is most likely the Ancient Mystical Order of the Priory of Sion. This inscription is behind the sculpture. And that was our connection with the book, 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail'!
We ended up in the Blue Apple restaurant at RleC where I already had two wonderful dinners and where all the local and visiting Cognizanti gather. A French writer, M. Feral, was also there, the man who painstakingly worked for many, many years making a model of the RleC church. His model included all the hidden crypts under the church and showed that Sauniere's design of the church gardens exactly matches the design of these crypts!
Even my B&B host was connected to the history and myth of the area. Her father was the Mayor of RleC in his time, her grandfather knew Sauniere, and she gave me a local history book (there is a society in Carcasonne that publishes local historical research papers and books) that went back to Roman times. When the Visigoths came to rule this area c. 400 AD they had a city where RleC is today that was as big and as important as Carcasonne. It was called Rheda. Rheda in Visigoth means Chariot. The book was called The City of the Chariots (in French, of course) and it was a fascinating read.
Some of the minor events included the presence of a ghost at the Blue Apple restaurant as everything turned icy cold for a moment and a door slammed shut. There was no wind. Tony, Le Patron, confirmed that this ghost was a 'regular' at his establishment. Between 11:00 PM and midnight (the time I usually returned to my B&B (lodgings) there was a mad looking woman on the road every night near La Maurine, making terrible faces at the passing cars. I am sure she was a local inhabitant out walking, merely shielding here eyes from the glaring headlights, but others who have seen her claim she is an apparition.
I heard more history than I can recount in one sitting, one version more interesting than the other. I wish I could have heard William's version in person. It can be read at www.akhnaton.com . But that perhaps another time.
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