Cannabis: The Philosopher’s Stone
Part 3: The Alchemist Monk Francois Rabalais
from Green Gold: the Tree of Life, Marijuana in Magic and Religion
by Chris Bennett, Lynn Osburn, and Judy Osburn
(published by Access Unlimited: firstname.lastname@example.org)
1. The Knights Templar and Cannabis
2. Sufi Alchemists and the Grail Myth
3. The Alchemist Monk Francois Rabalais
4. Medieval Alchemists and Cannabis
5. The Hashish Club
3. The Alchemist Monk Francois Rabelais
brave philosopher who dared to challenge the ban on hemp in medieval Europe
was the Benedictine monk and qualified Bachelor of Medicine, Francois Rabelais
(1494-1553). Rabelais was familiar
with the alchemical writings of the Sufi s, via Avicienna, as well as the
medieval Templars , referring to the good
knights of the Templar a number
of times in his works, indicating
he was most likely sympathetic with their cause.
the Templars , Rabelais suffered the harsh persecution from both the Roman
Catholic Church and the civil authorities.
The Papacy and political rulers were angered over the contents of his
famous books Gargantua and Pantagruel ,
which made a mockery of both church and state and also contained many
hidden references to things occult. We
are here more concerned with the books of good Pantagruel , which is based
around a parody of the Grail myth. The
books of Pantagruel also contain references to hemp which were written
Life of Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais is an esoteric work, a
novel in cant. The good cure of
Meudon reveals himself in it as a great initiate , as well as a first class
cabalist. — Fulcanelli, Master Alchemist, Le Mystere des Cathederales
20th century alchemist, Fulcanelli also referred to this language of cant,
as the Language of the Birds, echoing
the Sufi author Attar’s Conference of
Birds (see chapter 14, Moslem World),
a mystic ode to hashish . Author Kenneth Rayner Johnson comments on this
language of cant in The Fulcanelli
initiate s, Fulcanelli states, spoke in cant — including the masons who built
the cathedrals and who were the operative predecessors of today's speculative
Freemasons. Eventually he
maintains, the “language verte” or “green language” (green...being the
color of initiation in the secret societies referred to earlier) became the mode
of speech of the poor, humble and oppressed.
An indication of this fact can be discerned in the use of “rythming
slang” among London’s Cockneys, or in the jargon of “hip” or
“jive-talk” originally derived from American Negro blues artists and other
remains the language of a minority of individuals, living outside accepted laws,
conventions, customs and etiquette. The term voyous
(street-arabs), that is to say voyants
(seers), is applied to them and the even more expressive term, sons
or children of the sun….” —
Quoted by Kenneth Rayner Johnson, The Fulcanelli Phenomenon
particular interest to us must be the most oblique segments of Pantagruel
, Book III, chapters 49-52 [the chapters
concerning hemp ]. For long
periods these chapters were banned by the church, and in many modern
translations of Pantagruel they are omitted. —
Ben Price, “Where the Pantagruelion Grows”
years before he wrote his book, Rabelais was temporarily imprisoned in his
monastery, when he and another brother started studying Greek works.
At that time the Greek language was considered heretical because
conflicting New Testament material written by patriarchs of the Byzantine
Christian Church was written in Greek and opened up the possibility of criticism
of the Roman Catholic Church. Also,
Pagan and Gnostic texts were written in Greek.
It is not clear what the nature of the information in the original Greek
text was, but from what history has recorded, the church leaders must have felt
threatened by it. Rabelais managed
to obtain an indult (special exemption) from Pope Clement VII and went on to
write his famous Works. Unfortunately
little is known of Rabelais after his books were published.
He virtually disappeared in the midst of outrage from church and state
over their publication.
the introduction Rabelais gives readers the following hint of the hidden
information contained in his book:
the dog’s example, you will have to be wise in sniffing, smelling and
estimating these fine and meaty books; swiftness in the chase and boldness in
the attack are what is called for; after which, by careful reading and frequent
meditation, you should break the bone and suck the substantific marrow in the
course of it you will find things of quite a different taste and a doctrine more
abstruse which shall reveal to you most high “sacraments” and horrific
mysteries in what concerns our religion, as well as the state of our political
and economic life. — Rabelais , Pantagruel
a free thinker not willing to risk his cherished well-being in a society hostile
to what went on in his head, Rabelais chose to keep his thoughts private, but
not unshared. He shared them with rare individuals who, like himself, were
undaunted by their own irreverence, and who were capable thereby of
circumventing the rigid convention of literary and grammatical tradition.
Through an early form of surrealism, he conveyed his message to those who were
not too rigid in their perceptions to understand it. —
Ben Price, “Where the Pantagruel ion Grows”
Pantagruel , Rabelais gives a distinct description of hemp , which he
calls “The Herb Pantagruelion:”
leaves sprout out all round the stalk at equal distances, to the number of five
or seven at each level; and it is by special favor of Nature that they are
grouped in these two odd numbers, which are both divine and mysterious.
The scent is strong, and unpleasant to delicate nostrils.
goes on to describe the familiar applications of hemp pulp and fiber:
this herb, kitchens would be detested, the tables of dining rooms abhorred,
although there were great plenty and variety of most dainty and sumptuous
dishes of meat set down upon them; and the choicest beds also, how richly so
ever adorned with gold, silver, amber, ivory, prophyry, and the mixture of most
precious metals, would without it yield no delight or pleasure to the reposer in
them. Without it millers could neither carry wheat, nor any other kind of
corn, to the mill; nor would they be able to bring back from thence flour, or
any other sort of meal whatsoever. Without it, how could the papers and writs of
lawyers' clients be brought to the bar? Seldom is the mortar, lime or plaster
brought to the workhouse without it. Without it how should the water be got out
of the draw well? In what case would tabellions, notaries, copists, makers of
counterparts, writers, clerks, secretaries, scriviners, and such like persons
be without it? Were it not for it,
what would become of the toll-rates and rent-rolls? Would not the noble art of
printing perish without it? Whereof
could the chassis or paper windows be made? How should the bells be rung ?
The altars of Isis are adorned therewith; the pastophorian priests are
therewith clad and accourted; and whole human nature covered and wrapped
therein, at its first position and production in, and into this world; all the
lanific trees of Seres, the bumbast and cotton bushes in the territories near
the Persian sea, and gulph of Bengala: the Arabian swans, together with the
plants of Maltha, do not all of them cloath, attire and apparel so many persons
as this herb alone. Soldiers are now-a-days much better sheltered under it, than
they were in former times, when they lived in tents covered with skins.
It overshadows the theatres and amphitheatres from the heat of the
scorching sun; it begirdeth and
encompasseth forests, chases, parks, copses and groves, for the pleasure of
hunters; it descendeth into the salt and fresh of both sea and river waters, for
the profit of fishers; by it are boots of all sizes, buskins, gamashes, brodkins,
gambados, shoes, pumps, slippers, and every cobbled ware wrought and made
steadable for the use of man; by it the butt and rover-bows are strung, the
crossbows bended, and the slings made fixed; and, as if it were an herb every
whit as holy as the verveine, and reverenced by ghosts, spirits, hobgoblins,
fiends and phantoms, the bodies of deceased men are never buried without it.
tells us the hero of his tale, Pantagruel , a giant named after the said herb,
loaded for a voyage and, “amongst other things, it was observed how he
caused to be fraught and loaded with an herb of his called Pantagruel ion, not
only of the green and raw sort of it, but of the confected also.”
The confection Rabelais refers to is the edible Turkish delight — a
was so enamored with hemp that in his estimation it stood at the very pinnacle
of plant life: “in this pantagruel ion have I found so much efficacy and
energy, so much completeness and excellency, so much exquisiteness and rarity,
and so many admirable effects and operations of a transcendent nature....”
is interesting that Rabelais speaks of hemp ’s transcendent nature.
Rabelais was more than familiar with the alchemical literature that
circulated so covertly at that time, and he incorporated the secret language of
this hidden art into his writings. Alchemical
and occult literature often refer to connecting an individual’s feminine and
masculine aspects together in a unified force, as marrying your Goddess, or
the marriage of the sun (masculine, left-brain, analytical, rational) and the
moon (feminine, right-brain, analogical, creative).
This theme appears again and again in medieval occult literature, and
most likely has its roots in a much earlier tradition.
Francois Rabelais hinted at a connection between hemp and this spiritual
marriage. He ends one of the
chapters devoted to the herb Pantagruel ion stating that by means of this herb
mankind might discover an even more powerful herb and ascend to the heavens:
knows but by his sons may be found out an herb of such another virtue and
prodigious energy, as that by the aid thereof, in using it aright, according to
their father’s skill, they may contrive a way for human kind to pierce into
the high aërian clouds, get up into the spring head of the hail, take an
inspection of the snowy sources…; then it is like they will set forward to
invade the territories of the moon, whence passing thro’ both Mercury and
Venus, the Sun will serve them for a torch, to show the way to Jupiter and
Saturn. We shall not then be able
to resist the impetuosity of their intrusion, nor put a stoppage to their
entering whatever regions, domiciles, or mansions of the spangled firmament they
shall have mind to see…all the celestial signs together with the
constellations of the fixed stars, will jointly be at their devotion then…
Rabelais has repeated the planetary ascent in Mithraic initiation as well as an
ascent through the Cabalistic Sephira, and different levels of consciousness.
As can be see in Crowley’s Quabalistic Encyclopedia “777,”
and elsewhere. Rabelais has the
gods lament that should mankind succeed in this climb then they will surely:
“drink of our nectar and ambrosia, and take to their own beds at night, for
wives and concubines, our fairest goddesses, the only means whereby they can be
the identity of the herb which could be utilized by Pantagruel’s descendants
is alluded to in the chapter following Rabelais’ last comments, “How a
certain kind of Pantagruelion is of that Nature, that Fire is not able to
52 of Book III relates the amazing fable concerning “how a certain kind of
Pantagruel ion is of that nature that the fire is not able to consume it.”
First, it is noteworthy that Rabelais suggests different varieties of the
plant. Second, the statement that the plant will not burn is extraordinary
enough to tempt experimentation with the plant in the presence of fire.
Readers smitten by curiosity on this point were equally likely to be
smitten, finally and pleasantly, by the singular virtues of the plant Rabelais
called “Pantagruel ion.” A
happy discovery that would also, upon re-reading the author's words, unlock
their secret references and make their meaning plain.
— Ben Price, “Where the Pantagruel ion Grows”
light of Price’s comments concerning the Pantagruel ion that is not consumed
by fire, it is interesting to note that Rabelais was familiar with the writings
of Zoroaster , and he translated into French the Greek works of Herodotus, who
wrote about Scythians inhaling cannabis smoke to achieve ecstasy.
, in his fifth and last book of the series reveals to us quite plainly: “the
good Pantagruel ion which is hemp .” Rabelais
states that he felt it was time to reveal more plainly his cryptic message, and
get rid of the cipher that hid it: “Now, my friends, that you may put in for a
share of this new wisdom , and shake off the antiquated folly this very moment,
scratch me out of your scrolls, and quite discard the symbol of the old
with the golden thigh, by which he has forbidden you to eat beans,
that is, Pantagruel ion books.” (Which of course contained replete references
to the herb Pantagruelion, hemp )
this was some of Rabelais cryptic humor. Remember
Pythagoras was the philosopher with the golden thigh that taught his students
not to eat beans. Pythagoras was
the first sage to call himself a philosopher.
His golden thigh referred to shaman ic initiation.
He was initiate into all the secret mysteries of the ancient world and
had close friendship ties with the Hyperborean shaman priest of Apollo, Abaris
the Scythian. Scythian shamans
fumigated [purified ] and incense d themselves to ecstasy and revelation with
tells the reader that he had not revealed the secrets concerning cannabis
earlier because he wanted to have the opportunity to enjoy it himself for a
while, “for you may take it for a truth, granted among all professors in the
science of good eating, that he enjoined you not to taste of them for the
dunsical-dog leach was so selfish as to reserve them for his own dainty
was quite an old man at the time his books were published, and he knew it was
time to reveal his secret to mankind more plainly, lest it be lost forever.
He tells us that his great works (books) are finished.
“Now though we have in our mother-tongue, several excellent works in
verse and prose. I have made bold
to choose to chirrup and warble my plain ditty, or as they say, to whistle like
a goose among the swans, rather than be thought deaf among so many pretty poets
and eloquent orators. And thus I
am prouder of acting like a clown, or any other under part, among the many
ingenious actors in this noble play, than of herding among the mutes, who, like
so many shadows and cyphers, only serve to fill up the house and make up a
knew he would suffer the wrath of the Roman Catholic Church for debunking its
heresies. “To the heathen
philosopher succeeded a pack of capusions monks, who forbid us the use of beans
that none but their nasty selves might have the stomach to eat it, though their
liquorice chops watered never so much after it.”
also had an idea of what his fate might be for exposing these forbidden secrets,
as he states in the following comment, “Oh! they’ll cost me an estate in
hemp en collars. For I hereby
promise to furnish them with twice enough as much as will do their business, on
free cost, as often as they will take the pains to dance at ropes end,
providently to save charges, to the small disappointment to the finisher of the
law.” (He had given them enough
rope to hang him.) And so Francois Rabelais disappeared from history.
clergy, whether secular or myth bound, will feel threatened by a perceptual
tool which allows the common man to transcend conditioning and experience
unmediated clarity. This is what Rabelais knew would happen to the Medieval
priests if he openly discussed the remarkable qualities of the plant, Pantagruel
. It is the same fear-ridden reaction we see gripping Reaganite conservatives
and the beneficiaries of other perceptual pogroms when it comes to any frame of
mind that they have not included in the “official” scenario of reality. Any
transcendental short-cuts or non-prescription vehicles toward “feeling
better” undermine the reality-mediating role of the authorities. —
Ben Price, “Where the Pantagruel ion Grows”
Rabelais , we salute you our Brother, and dedicate the section on Alchemy to
your great and bold spirit. He had
“more strength in his teeth and scent in his bum” (to borrow a saying he
used), than any man in Europe at that time.
not, in hymns and paens,
myrrh, or ebony:
here a nobler plant to see;
carry home at any rate,
seed, that you may propagate.
in your soil it takes, to heaven
thousand thousand thanks be given
say, with France, it goodly goes
the Pantagruel ion
have suggested that the following quatrain written by Nostradamus referred to
present together with the past
by the great Jovialist
world tires of him at last
disloyal by the clergy
attributed his power of prophecy to a substance that could well have been
cannabis: “Seated at night in my secret study, alone, reposing over the brass
tripod.” He referred to the
“secrets that are revealed by the subtle spirit of fire.”
Nostradamus stated specifically in his will that his papers were to be
left to whichever of his sons, upon reaching maturity, “..has drunk the smoke
of the lamp.” Besides his
prophetic writings, Nostradamus also wrote on herbal recipes, cosmetics, food
people wanted to survive the Dark Ages and use cannabis they had better be
discreet in referring to it. Both
Rabelais and the medieval European farmers used the word “bean”
in conjunction with hemp . The
Europeans used the term in a celebration, King and Queen of the bean, done in
the hopes of having a tall hemp crop.
if you will the tale of "Jack and the Beanstalk."
Jack is “the widow’s son.” This
term is often used to refer to an initiate starting out on the path.
For example, it is used in reference to Jesus, Parzival in the famous
Grail Romances, and it was a cherished designation in Freemasonry.
The cow that young Jack trades for the beans is his sacred cow that he
must sacrifice if he wants to discover the truth of things.
A parallel can easily be drawn between Jack’s reluctant trade of the
family cow and the of the Magi saviour Mithra s, who slew the sacred bull
and obtained the sacred vine of the mysteries.
The beans are hemp seeds which will enable him to climb to the place of
the Giants. The angry Giant is a
manifestation of Jack’s personal demons that have been exposed and magnified
by his climb up the beanstalk, or more precisely by his ingestion of hemp.
Although this journey is fraught with danger, young Jack has the chance
to hear the heavenly music of the Golden Harp, cast from the fine Gold of the
true alchemists. And if the young
hero is able to overcome the Giant, who represents his own lower nature, he will
be able to return home and share the music of the Golden harp with his widowed
mother and the rest of humanity.
similar cryptic reference to the magnifying potentials of cannabis as that
provided in Jack and the Beanstalk,
can be found in The Conference of Birds,
where Sufi author Attar uses the parrot as a hidden reference to hashish.
Attar writes of the parrot's arrival: “Welcome, O Parrot! In your
beautiful robe and collar of fire, this collar is fitting for a dweller in the
underworld but your robe is worthy of Heaven. Can Abraham save himself from the
fire of Nimrod? Break the head of
Nimrod and become the friend of Abraham, who was the friend of God.
When you have been delivered from the hands of Nimrod put on your robe of
glory and fear not the collar of fire.” 
information hints at a secret tradition of cannabis use in medieval Europe,
wisdom that had to be transmitted
esoterically to avoid prohibitions and persecution from the Roman Catholic
In 1615, an Italian physician and demonologist, Giovanni De Ninault, listed hemp as the main ingredient in the ointments and unguents used by the “Devils followers.” — Ernest Abel, Marihuana; The First Twelve Thousand Years
 Psychedelic Monographs and Essays Vol. 4, summer 1989, Thomas Lyttle, Ed. (Rabelais also mentions the Amanita muscaria mushroom, referring to “the good Fly Agaric” at least twice.)
 The term “pantagruelion” of course being used to avoid persecution from the church which had placed a ban on hemp.
 Author Ben Price commented that “through exaggeration” Rabelais, “made it clear that he was writing satire: It endangereth bad and unwholesome blood, and with its exorbitant heat woundeth them with grievous, hurtful, smart and noisome vapours.' In other words, Rabelais was gaffing, smoking grass will give you gas and make you fart!" (Ben Price, “Where the Pantagruelion Grows,” Psychedelic Monographs and Essays, Vol. 4,1989). Hemp isn’t known for giving you gas, but beans most certainly do.
 Rabelais used the bean as a symbol for his dear herb “Pantagruelion.” In 16th century Europe we find “[y]et another quaint custom related to hemp growing involved the election of King and Queen of the Beans on the twelfth day (the Epiphany, January 6).” (Abel) This celebration commenced with the hoisting of the King and Queen on to the shoulders of the participants so that they could make crosses on the beams of houses to protect them from evil spirits. This celebration was believed to give the participants a glimpse into the future at next years crop. If the man was taller, then the male hemp plants would be taller; if the lady was, then the female plants would be taller. (The Europeans felt they got a better fiber from the male plant.)
 Farid ud-Din Attar, “The Conference of the Birds,” translated by C.S. Nott, Shambala Boston, 1993.
 “Devils followers” refers to anybody who challenged the strict Catholic dogma of the time and practiced herbal medicine.
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