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Sacred Connections Scotland

The esoteric role of the Avesas – Spiritual Adepts of Longevity
Barry Dunford

There is an esoteric tradition which tells of the presence of spiritual adepts who have apparently lived for hundreds, possibly thousands, of years. The feasibility of this is borne out by the apparent extreme longevity of members of the Noachian dynastic lineage as recorded in the Old Testament. In The Flaming Door (1962), Eleanor C. Merry writes: “The mysterious accounts that exist everywhere of the ‘translation’ or disappearance of the great initiates of the world, the statements that they did not die and will come again, all point to a continuance of the secret wisdom, either in the Mystery Temples, or, when these came to an end, in the various secret brotherhoods even up to our own time. But, let it be understood, only in the real and genuine occult schools, not in those that have from time to time presented some kind of pseudo-occultism to the world.”

From a commentary on a 17th century treatise by the Abbé N. de Montfaucon de Villars, entitled Comte de Gabalis, the following illuminating exposition is provided: “In the Order of the Philosophers are enrolled the names of many Brothers who have feigned death in one place or who have mysteriously disappeared, only to transplant themselves to another. The burial place of Francis St. Alban has never been divulged by those who know. Lord Bacon’s death at the age of 65 is said to have occurred in the year 1626. It is significant that a rare print of John Valentine Andrea, author of certain mystical tracts of profound influence in Germany, appears to be a portrait of Lord Bacon at 80 years of age and bears a helmet, four roses, and the St. Andrew’s cross, the arms of St. Alban’s town…. In the higher degrees of the Order, a Philosopher has power to abandon one physical body no longer suited to his purpose, and to occupy another previously prepared for his use. This transition is called an Avesa, and accounts for the fact that many Masters known to history seemingly never die.” (Published by The Brothers – London, 1913).

Sir Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam (1561-1626?)

Sir Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam (1561-1626?)

This is confirmed in Francis Bacon’s Personal Life-Story (1949), by Alfred Dodd, where is to be found an intriguing 17th century portrait ostensibly of Johann Valentin Andrea, the purported author of several Rosicrucian tracts. The facial features look very much like those of an aged Francis Bacon. The portrait is surrounded by sixteen heraldic shields two of which frame the letters F and B respectively. On the bottom lower right shield appears the name ROSLIN and in the bottom lower left shield is to be found the name CURRER. Curiously, the heraldic crest of the Currer family incorporates an engrailed cross as does the Clan Sinclair of Roslin, associated with Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. Furthermore, in the 1660 edition of The Anatomy of Melancholy, a work attributed to Robert Burton, is to be found a curious footnote – “Joh. Valent. Andreae, Lord Verulam” which implies that Andrea and Francis Bacon (Lord Verulam) were one and the same person. A few years ago this writer was fortunate to see a copy of this 1660 edition in an antiquarian bookshop in Chelsea, London.

Portrait of Johann Valentin Andrea looking like an aged Francis Bacon. Note the two framed letters F and B separated by a shield with a court jester.

Portrait of Johann Valentin Andrea looking like an aged Francis Bacon. Note the two framed letters F and B separated by a shield with a court jester.

There have been a number of recorded instances throughout history of unusual human longevity. For example, an 18th century German physician, Dr. John Henry Cohausen (1675-1750), in his treatise entitled Hermippus Redivivus: or the Sages Triumph over Old Age and the Grave (1749, 2nd edition) provides the following interesting information from: “The Portugueze historian, Ferdinand Lopez de Castegneda, who was historiographer royal. He tells us, that in the year 1536, there was a man presented to the vice-roy of the Indies, Nunio de Cugna, who was near 340 years old.. The king of Portugal caused a strict enquiry to be made into this matter, and an annual account of the state of the old man’s health, to be brought him by the returns of the fleet from India. This long-lived person, was a native of the kingdom of Bengala, and died at the age of 370. This history is in itself very curious, founded upon good authority, and therefore transcribed from the authors I have mentioned, by many curious and inquisitive persons, who were also proper judges of cases of this nature, and who have none of them intimated any doubt or suspicion as to the matters of fact.” Cohausen subsequently comments on “The sage Artephius, whose writings are very famous among the hermetic philosophers.. in one of these treatises, this writer himself tells us, without either ceremony or circumlocution, that he was one thousand and twenty-five years old when he wrote it.. His writings, so far as we are able to judge about them, seem to have been composed about the beginning of the twelfth century; but who he was, or how he acquired his knowledge.. has not been hitherto so much as guessed at.”

In his treatise on longevity Dr. Cohausen also provides some intriguing information about the hermetic philosophers of old. He states: “I shall not treat the hermetic philosophers altogether so briskly as I have done the astrologers; because, without doubt, there have been amongst them, many very excellent persons. I cannot take upon me to say, when they began to lay claim to the universal medicine, by which they pretend to preserve life for many centuries, at least, of which they say Artephius was an instance, who lived by the use of it to the age of 300, or as some say, above a 1000. This is certain that the society of Rosicrucians openly claimed it as one of the privileges of their illustrious body.. It is however, well enough known, that these Illuminati asserted, that they had a power of prolonging their lives for many ages.”

Furthermore, in his esoteric and philosophical magnum opus The Secret Teachings of All Ages (1928) Manly P. Hall comments: “This theory asserts that the Rosicrucians actually possessed all the supernatural powers with which they were credited; that they were in reality citizens of two worlds; that, while they had physical bodies for expression on the material plane, they were also capable, through the instructions they received from the Brotherhood, of functioning in a mysterious ethereal body not subject to the limitations of time or distance. By means of this ‘astral form’ they were able to function in the invisible realm of Nature, and in this realm, beyond reach of the profane, their temple was located. According to this viewpoint, the true Rosicrucian Brotherhood consisted of a limited number of highly developed adepts, or initiates of the higher degrees being no longer subject to the laws of mortality; candidates were accepted into the Order only after long periods of probation; adepts possessed the secret of the Philospher’s Stone and knew the process of transmuting base metals into gold, but taught that these were only allegorical terms concealing the true mystery of human regeneration through the transmutation of the ‘base-elements’ of man’s lower nature into ‘gold,’ of intellectual and spiritual realization. According to this theory, those who have sought to record the events of importance in connection with the Rosicrucian controversy have invariably failed because they approached their subject from a purely physical or materialistic angle.”

Another historical figure who appears to fulfill the role of an Avesa is the enigmatic “Comte de Saint Germain” whose alleged demise has been given as 1784, and who has been linked with the “Wandering Jew” of medieval legend. The french philosopher, Voltaire, referred to Saint Germain as “the man who does not die”. Curiously, the “Wandering Jew” was said to have been a member of the Household of Pontius Pilate. In this regard, the writer Sax Rohmer, creator of the Dr. Fu Manchu books, and one time member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, records an interesting anecdote in his treatise The Romance of Sorcery, published in 1914. Regarding Count Cagliostro, an 18th century masonic occultist, he relates the following:

“Among the many anecdotes bearing upon this phase of his career, the following is worthy of citation, if only because so many versions exist, and for the reason that an episode almost identical is related of the celebrated Comte de Saint-Germain.

One day, then, whilst passing along the picture-gallery in the Louvre – so one account tells us – Cagliostro halted before the picture by Jouvenet, ‘The Descent from the Cross,’ and began to weep. Several of his companions questioned him as to the cause of his emotion.

‘Alas!’ he replied, ‘I shed tears for the death of this great moralist, for this man so good with whom I have had intimate intercourse. Indeed, we dined together at the house of Pontius Pilate.

‘Of whom do you speak?’ inquired the Duc de Richelieu, stupefied.

‘Of Jesus Christ. I knew him well!’

Cagliostro is said, too, at this time (again in imitation of Saint-Germain) to have had in his service a valet who, by his mysterious silence, considerably added to the impression created by his master.

M. d’Hannibal, a German noble, one day seized this fellow by the ear, and in a tone half jesting and half angry cried:

‘Rascal! You will tell me now the true age of your master!’

But the valet was not to be bullied; and after a few moments of earnest reflection he replied:

‘Listen, monsieur – I cannot tell you the age of M. le Comte, as it is unknown to me. He has always been to me as he appears to you; young, gay, buvant sec. All I can tell you is that I have been in his service since the decline of the Roman Republic; for we agreed upon my salary on the very day that Caesar perished at the hand of the assassin in the Senate! ‘ ” (my italics – BD)

It has been intimated that Cagliostro was one of a number of guises adopted by the enigmatic Comte de Saint Germain.

The Comte de Saint Germain (d.1784?)

The Comte de Saint Germain (d.1784?)

To return to the “Wandering Jew” enigma, in Observations on Popular Antiquities by John Brand, published in 1810, we find recorded the following information: “The story of the wandering Jew is of considerable antiquity. It had obtained full credit in this part of the world before the year 1228, as we learn from Matt. Paris. For in that year it seems there came an Armenian archbishop into England to visit the shrines and reliques preserved in our churches; who being entertained at the monastery of St. Alban’s, was asked several questions relating to his country. Among the rest a monk, who sat near him, enquired ‘if he had ever seen or heard of the famous person named Joseph, that was so much talked of, who was present at our Lord’s crucifixion and conversed with him, and who was still alive in confirmation of the Christian faith’. The archbishop answered, that the fact was true; and afterwards one of his train, who was well known to a servant of the abbot’s, interpreting his master’s words, told them in French, that his lord knew the person they spoke of very well; that he dined at his table but a little while before he left the east; that he had been Pontius Pilate’s porter by name Cartaphilus.. He lives for ever.. He remembers all of the circumstances of the death and resurrection of Christ, the saints that arose with him; the composing of the apostles’ creed, their preaching and dispersion; and is himself a very grave and holy person. This is the substance of M. Paris’ account, who was himself a monk at St. Alban’s, and was living at the time when this Armenian archbishop made the above relation.” Moreover, in writing about the “Wandering Jew “, the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould quotes from an early 17th century source which says: “Many people, some of high degree and title, have seen this same man in England, France, Italy, Hungary, Persia, Spain, Poland, Moscow, Lapland, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland and other places.” (my italics – BD)

The Comte de St. Germain is reputed to have been closely connected with the Scottish Jacobite movement. In The Affairs of Scotland, an historical contemporaneous account by Lord Elcho, a leading Scots Jacobite, who met St. Germain in 1744, in Leyden, Holland, Lord Elcho records that the Count claimed to have been present at the wedding feast in Cana mentioned in the Gospel tradition. Further, “Tradition has related that he [St. Germain] said he had known Jesus and been present at the Council of Nicaea” (The Return of the Magi by Maurice Magre, 1931). In his introduction (1983) to The Most Holy Trinosophia by St. Germain, Manly P. Hall asserts: “The Comte de St. Germain and Sir Francis Bacon are the two greatest emissaries sent into the world by the Secret Brotherhood in the last thousand years”.

According to Jacques Sadoul, in his work Alchemists and Gold (1972): “A well-known fortune-teller named Etteila even said that Eirenaeus Philalethes [a 17th century anonymous writer of alchemical works] and the Count de Saint-Germain were one and the same individual. He declared in The Seven Degrees of the Hermetic Philosophic Work, published in 1786, ‘M. de Saint-Germain unites in his own person a perfect knowledge of the three classical sciences, and is the true and only author of Philalethes’ Open Door into the Secret Palace of the King‘.” Sadoul also says: “.. there was in 1687 a certain Signor Geraldi in Vienna who bore a striking resemblance to the Count, and who for three years excited the interest of the inhabitants of the Austrian capital before vanishing suddenly. Then came Lascaris [an alchemist], who caught the attention of his contemporaries soon after Geraldi’s disappearance.. Personal descriptions of the three men are remarkably similar. All three were of medium height and middle aged; they all spoke several languages, and enjoyed talking above all else; all three would appear to have possessed the Philosopher’s Stone. True, Geraldi, Lascaris and Saint-Germain did not operate in the same surroundings, but the eclipse of one corresponded pretty closely with the irruption into fame of the next. All trace of Geraldi is lost in 1691, and Lascaris appeared two or three years later; in his turn he vanished between 1730 and 1740 just before the Count turned up in England.”

The German historian, E. M. Oettinger, author of a biography entitled Graf St.-Germain published in Leipzig in 1846, claims that St. Germain personally informed him that he was alive at the time of Christ. Manly P. Hall remarks: “The death of St.-Germain, like his life, is shrouded in deepest mystery.. No one would have doubted his death had he not been seen on several occasions, years after his supposed demise.” Commenting on St. Germain, a French writer Maurice Magre says: “He taught that man has in him infinite possibilities and that, from the practical point of view, he must strive unceasingly to free himself of matter in order to enter into communication with the world of higher intelligences.” Magre asks: “What happened to the Comte de Saint-Germain after 1821, in which year there is evidence that he was still alive?” He goes on to say: “An Englishman, Albert Vandam, in his memoirs, which he calls An Englishman in Paris, speaks of a certain person whom he knew towards the end of Louis Philippe’s reign and whose way of life bore a curious resemblance to that of the Comte de Saint-Germain. He called himself Major Fraser, lived alone and never alluded to his family .. ‘He possessed a marvellous knowledge of all the countries in Europe at all periods. His memory was absolutely incredible and, curiously enough, he often gave his hearers to understand that he had acquired his learning elsewhere than from books. Many is the time he has told me, with a strange smile, that he was certain he had known Nero, had spoken with Dante, and so on’.” Maurice Magre also says: “Between 1880 and 1900 it was admitted among all theosophists, who at that time had become very numerous, particularly in England and America, that the Comte de Saint-Germain was still alive, that he was still engaged in the spiritual development of the West.” (The Return of the Magi).

Another Avesa may have been an alchemist and monk of the Middle Ages named Basil Valentine. According to Kenneth Rayner Johnson in his book The Fulcanelli Phenomenon (1980): “It is not known for certain whether Valentine flourished in the 12th, 13th or 14th century but, as early as 1515, the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian I ordered a thorough search to be carried out in the Benedictine archives at Rome, but without finding even a trace of the mysterious friar’s existence. He is said to have been born in 1394 at Mayence (Mainz), to have joined the Benedictine Brotherhood and become Canon of the Priory of St. Peter at Erfurt, in Germany. Many historians of alchemy have supposed him to have been a fictitious figure, possibly the symbolic head of a particular school of alchemical thought under whose name various works were published by anonymous operators. But a History of Erfurt dated 1675 by Johannes M. Gudemus says that Valentine was at the Priory by 1413 and describes him as having a profound knowledge of nature.. The date of Valentine’s death is as uncertain as his identity.” Moreover, there is some reason to suppose that a french-speaking alchemist known as Fulcanelli, the subject of Kenneth Rayner Johnson’s book, may also have been an initiate of the Avesa Brotherhood.

Yet another curious enigma revolves around Thomas Vaughan, a 17th century welsh writer on hermetic philosophy, whose historical death has been given as 1665. Dr. John Henry Cohausen in his treatise Hermippus Redivivus: or the Sages Triumph over Old Age and the Grave (1749, 2nd edition) records: “This famous man, who certainly was an adept, if ever there was one, led a wandering kind of life, and fell often into great dangers, merely from his possessing this great secret. He was born, as we learn from his writings, about the year 1612, and what is the strangest part of his history, he is believed by those of his fraternity, to be yet living, and a person of great credit at Nurenberg affirms, that he conversed with him but a few years ago. Nay, it is further asserted by all the lovers of hermetic philosophy, that this very Philalethes, is the president of the illuminated in Europe, and that he constantly sits as such in all their annual meetings.” According to Manly P. Hall, Dr. Cohausen wrote the above comments around 1720.

In his book Folk-lore of the Holy Land (1935) the Rev. J. E. Hanauer writes: “One of the saints oftenest invoked in Palestine is the mysterious El Khudr or Evergreen One. He is said to have been successful in discovering the Fountain of Youth, which is situated somewhere near the confluence of the two seas (the Mediterranean and the Red Sea)… he never dies, but reappears from time to time as a sort of avatar, to set right the more monstrous forms of wrong and protect the upright. He is identified with Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, with Elijah the prophet, and with St. George.” Could this relate to the presence of an avesa in ancient Palestine?

It may be that some Avesa adepts of longevity were working within and behind the Celtic monastic fraternity. Marcus Keane M. R. I. A., provides the following intriguing information in his work The Towers and Temples of Ancient Ireland (1867, Dublin): “The longevity ascribed to many of the Irish Saints is another remarkable circumstance. We read in the Annals of the Four Masters, that Saint Sincheall [Senel, the Ancient God] lived to the age of 330 years – St. Mochta lived to the age of 300 years – St. Dairerca to the age of 180 years.. St. Liban, also lived to the age of at least 470 years – 404 years was the length of Saint Ibhar’s life. This name, Ibhar, I believe to be a corruption of Elbar, Son of God. The Irish word BAR, a son, has the same signification in the Irish and Hebrew languages. Other authorities inform us that St. Molaise (Molach) lived 160 years – St. Fechin 180 years. St. Ciaran lived to the age of 300 years. St. Brendan also, having lived to the age of 300 years was seen ascending in a chariot to the sky!”

The foregoing suggests that certain spiritual adepts, known as Avesas, have played a key role in ensuring the continuity of a long term programme geared to the spiritual evolution of humanity. For obvious reasons, as Manly P. Hall observes, “These men used every means in their power to obscure their identities and their activities.” (Orders of the Great Work – Alchemy, 1976).